8 holiday ideas that will help you discover Extremadura's natural beauty

One of Extremadura's big tourist attractions, besides its incredible gastronomy, its historical cities and its rural atmosphere, is its beautiful nature. The valleys, the rivers and marshes, the mountains, the meadows and the never-ending, scenic landscapes enchant all travellers. Here are eight great ideas to spend an unforgettable holiday surrounded by the astounding nature that Extremadura has to offer.

1. Hiking and swimming in the Garganta de los Infiernos Natural Park

los pilones, garganta de los infiernos
 
Our first suggestion is to make a trip to the Jerte Valley and to enjoy a fun day of hiking with afterwards a swim in the Garganata de los Infiernos.
 
This Natural Reserve offers five hiking routes of different lenghts, so you can choose the one that fits you and your company the most. However, we recommend to take the long circular route (a hike of five hours), but to walk it in the opposite direction, crossing the Largo bridge in Jerte and starting the route going uphill. That way you will avoid the crowds that may form between the Centro de Interpretación and Los Pilones, big holes (known as giant's kettles in geology) formed by the water that forcefully flows along erosive rocks. They are a big attraction of the natural reserve.
 
If you take this hike in spring the water in the natural pools may be bit too icy for a swim, but you will be able to see the spectacular blooming of the cherry trees.

2. Canyoning in the Valle del Jerte

There are plenty of ravines in Jerte, making it a perfect place to go canyoning. We have two routes with a different level of difficulty for you: the Ravine de los Hoyos and the Ravine de los Papúos
 
The Ravine de los Hoyos is a perfect route for those without any canyoning experience. The route has a low difficulty level and takes about three hours to complete. If you have already been canyoning, pick the Ravine de los Papúos, where the route includes drops of 30 metres (to be descended by rope) and five ziplines. The guys of Guia2 in Jerte organise canyoning trips along these routes.

3. Swimming in the natural pools of the north

garganta de cuartos, losar de la vera
 
The north of the Casares province is a true treasure chest of natural swimming pools. They are the perfect way to cool down during the hot summers of Extremadura. You can enjoy a dive surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes! It's impossible to list them all, but here are some of our recommendations:
 
In La Vera: Lago de Jaraíz, Piletillas (Garganta la Olla), Garganta de Cuartos (Losar de la Vera), Garganta de Jaranda (Jarandilla de la Vera)
 
In the Sierra de Gata and Las Hurdes: the natural pool of Acebo, Charo la Hoya (Hoyos), Charo de la Olla (Las Mestas), the natural pool of Pinofranqueado.

4. Bird watching and more flora and fauna in Monfragüe National Park

The Monfragüe Park attracts a lot of ornithologists (professional and aspiring) who visit the park to catch a glimpse of the Egyptian vultures, black storks, eagles, griffon vultures and many other species. During winter you can also observe flocks of cranes which travel from North Africa to Extremadura looking for meadows. But you can't only watch birds in this park: walk along any of the four walking routes and you can enjoy the best of Extremadura's flora and fauna.

5. Exploring the Tajo River by boat

río Tajo, Alcántara
 
The International Natural Park of Tajo is located on the border of Spain and Portugal in the southeast of the Casares province. Barco del Tajo offers three different routes on the Tajo River of more or less two hours (with the possibility to reserve a meal as well), a perfect activity at any time of the year, especially for families with children. Click here for more info about the routes (website in Spanish).

6. Relaxing at the Embalse de Orellana, the beach of Extremadura

Although Extremadura is not located at the coast, it boasts the first and only inland beach in Spain that has been awarded a Blue Flag. The Embalse de Orellana, located near the village Orellana La Vieja, has everything one could wish for to enjoy a relaxing day at the beach. After a refreshing dive in the reservoir you can have a bite at one of the restaurants or bars. If you like water sports this is the place for you, with possibilities to go fishing, sailing, waterskiing or kayaking.

7. Hiking along historical routes

monasterio de yuste
 
There are numerous hiking routes in Extremadura, but two of those are worth taking not only because they are amazingly beautiful, but also because of the history that is attached to them. We are talking about the Ruta del Emperador (the Emperor's Route in La Vera) and the Ruta de Isabel la Católica (the Route of Isabel the Catholic in Las Villuercas), both in the Cacares province.
 
The Ruta del Emperador follows the same route that Charles V once took. You can walk in the Emperor's footsteps from Jarandilla to the Yuste Monastery, where he died in September 1558. The route is ten kilometres long and starts at the Parador de Jarandilla. When it crosses the Parral Bridge it goes through dense oak forests, passing through Aldeanueva de la Vera and Cuacos de Yuste before reaching the monastery. Every year in February the journey of Charles V is commemorated with a musical and culinary festival.
 
The Ruta de Isabel la Católica, which is 13 kilometres long, starts in Cañamero and ends in Guadalupe. This is the same route that was taken by the Catholic Kings (Fernando and Isabella) whenever they went to the Granja Palace, situated a couple of kilometres outside Guadalupe. This hike covers some hilly terrain but is suitable for hikers of every level. Along this route you can visit the cave paintings of la Cueva de la Chiquita, and you also walk past the Castaño del Abuelo (Grandfather's Chestnut Tree), one of Extremadura's protected 'Árboles Singulares'.

8. Visiting the Cornalvo Natural Park

parque natural de cornalvo
 
About ten kilometres from Merida you can visit the Cornalvo Park, a perfect place to explore on foot or by bike. It offers seven routes in total, and all of them are great for walking or cycling. One of them is even wheelchair accessible. The reservoir in the park stems from Roman times, when the Roman conquerors constructed a dam in the Albarregas River to provide water to the city that now is Merida. We recommend the circular route that runs between the cork trees next to the Cornalvo Reservoir and the bird observatory of the Muelas Reservoir.

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