Extremadura

                                                                     EXTREMADURA - the "Land at the end of the River Douro "
 
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Extremadura is a very large autonomous region, and consist of two provinces, BADAJOZ and CACERES.  The jewel of Extremadura is the historic town MERIDA, the capital. It is a world of traditional Spanish living and customs, with hardly any foreigners very few tourists outside of the main towns and above al a land of glorious countryside. Monuments everywhere, three main Roman theatres, amphitheatre, museum, a Roman bridge, the longest in Roman Spain, now a footbridge, over the Guadiana river. Aqueducts over 5 miles running through Merida, the Alcazaba built in 835 from remains of a Roman fort is located near the roman bridge designed to protect, great views from the top. Temple of Diana right in center of town is a strange looking ruin consisting of several columns.

Badajoz is close to the Portuguese border and Badajoz city is the administrative capital of the province. The historic town of a  world of traditional Spanish living and customs, with hardly any foreigners very few tourist outside of the main towns and above all a land of glorious countryside.  and Merida is the capital of Badajoz.

Zafra and the surrounding area are like stepping back in time 30 years. A beautiful little town located at the base of the Sierra de Castellar Mountains, midway between Seville and Merida. Zafra is referred to as “Little Seville” with its narrow, winding streets and pretty plazas has a wealth of historical buildings and areas dating back to the 13th Century. The region is home to many species of wildlife especially birds and in particular birds of prey and storks can be seen nesting on many churches and other vantage points thought the area.

The whole area around Orellana is akin to the English Lake District but on a larger scale and with a lot less rain and virtually no tourists. The lakes (Orellana, Zujar, Garcia Sola and Serena) are among the largest reservoirs in Europe. Summers are long and hot but comfortable by a cooling breeze off the lake, winters tend to be short and cold in the mornings and evenings but with frequent sunshine, frosts are extremely rare.

Cacares founded in the 1st century was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the mix of cultures that can be found in the town. A perfectly preserved medieval old town which looks exactly as it did hundreds of years ago, many films have been made here. The heart of the old city between Plaza Santa Maria and Plaza San Mateo here you will see homes once in habited by nobility. Enclosed by massive ramparts you will see the walls that enclose the upper town, a mixture of Roman and Arab buildings. Their state of preservation is excellent, about 30 of the wall towers remain, heavily restored.

The Tajo-Salor region is so named as it is bordered by the Río Tajo to the north and the Río Salor to the south. The Salor runs into the Tajo on the Spanish/Portuguese border where the river becomes the Tejo and flows down until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean at Lisbon. The Monfragüe National Park which lies to the north east of the region and is a haven of wildlife and bird life. In fact UNESCO designated it a Biosphere Reserve. The rare Spanish Imperial Eagle can be seen here as well as the Black Vulture, which has its largest colony in the world here.

Trujillo is a beautiful walled medieval town with an imposing castle which overlooks the town and the surrounding countryside and can be seen from miles around. The town is of Roman origin dating from the 13th century and best known as the birthplace of many of the Conquistadors. The older part is virtually unchanged from that time with beautiful buildings and a main square that was voted the 4th prettiest in the whole of Spain. 

Las Vegas Altas del Guadiana – the high plains of the river Guadiana - is a region about an hour south of Trujillo, and lies about 350 metres above sea level in a land of low mountains and flooded valleys along the route of the Guadiana River.

In the north-west corner of Extremadura close to the Portuguese border, about 150 km from Trujillo, is the Sierra de Gata. This is one of the most beautiful areas of Extremadura with its own micro-climate classified as Mediterranean in spite of its distance from the coast. In the north-west corner of Extremadura close to the Portuguese border, about 150 km from Trujillo, is the Sierra de Gata. The whole region is dotted with a selection of quaint medieval villages, many of which still boast ruins of ancient castles and monuments dating back to Arab times, with the houses built from local stone. The countryside is incredibly beautiful and fertile, with an enormous range of wild life and vegetation, abounding in the indigenous oak and beech trees.

La Vera is situated in the north east corner of Extremadura on the south facing slopes of the Gredos mountains, the highest sierra in the region. It is an area of exceptional natural beauty encompassing wild mountain scenery, lush fertile valleys and the plain of the river Tiétar. The area has its own microclimate which makes it a paradise for those wanting to grow a bit of anything and everything. The higher terraced landscape is very picturesque and is famous for its profusion of cherries, raspberries, chestnuts, figs, kiwis etc while the river plain main crops are peppers (the paprika from La Vera is exported worldwide) and tobacco. La Vera is dotted with little villages, often with charming historic centres and a main square around which life tends to revolve.

The heart of Valencia de Alcántara is medieval and many buildings are at least 300 years old, including a Jewish section with an old synagogue which has been declared an area of historical interest by the EU. Situated just 10 km from the Portuguese border this area was well known as a smuggling area, mostly for coffee and now tourism is in its infancy.

The area to the south of the Guadiana is relatively flat although it becomes hillier as you approach the PORTUGUESE border. Between the rivers, (about 120 - 130 km), the countryside is very lush and beautiful and pretty much untouched by modern day farming methods. You will often see horses pulling a plough and donkeys being used to carry goods to and from the villages.

To the east of the central part are the hills of the SIERRA DE GUADALUPE and yet another WORLD HERITAGE SITE, the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe, the most important monastery in Spain for four centuries in the middle Ages. To the west are the hills leading to the Portuguese border and the pretty town of ALCANTARA with its famous Roman Bridge and another huge lake.

North of the TAGUS the country is hillier, sometimes even mountainous, ranging from the SIERRA DE GATA in the North West to the SIERRA DE GREDOS in the north east. Also in the north east is the Valle de Jerte, home of thousands of cherry trees and a riot of blossom in the spring.

Being such a large place, the weather varies across the region. Hot in summer but not unbearably so. If you live close to one of the lakes, or in the hills, you will generally find it slightly cooler than in one of the country areas as there will often be a gentle breeze. Rain varies quite a lot. In the north and in the hills generally there will be more rain than in the other areas but this will mostly be confined to winter, although a summer thunderstorm is not unknown.

In the rest of the area you can virtually guarantee no rain from May to October and when it does come in the winter it tends to rain fairly hard for a few days and then the sun comes out again. Snow and extremes of weather are virtually unknown here, although they do get some snow around Nalvalmoral de la Mata, and only the very occasional frost, especially in the lower lying areas.

The people can be summed up in one word, FRIENDLY. Outside of the main towns in the villages, people still live life the way they have done for many years. And although most people do not speak English or any other foreign language you will be surprised at how well you can communicate with the odd word of Spanish, a few hand gestures and lots of SMILES.

The road system here is excellent with a large network of main roads and a few motorways. Driving here is a pleasure not a chore! Madrid is often the closest airport, depending where you live, with other possibilities being Seville, Valladolid or even Lisbon. An internal airport at Badajoz has flights to other parts of Spain.

The whole of EXTREMADURA is a haven for wildlife. From the vultures and eagles, possibly even the rare IBERIAN LYNX of the Monfragïe National Park 30 minutes north of Trujillo, to the black storks that seem to nest on every available rooftop or pylon, everywhere you go you are conscious of how unspoiled the area is and just how much diverse wildlife lives here. Every year thousands of cranes arrive to fatten up on the acorns around the lakes of Las Vegas Altas before continuing their long journey to their summer home in Scandinavia. And if you are lucky you may even see the Great Bustards strutting their stuff just outside TRUJILLO. The lakes to the south of Trujillo in Las Vegas Altas are teeming with fish, but with very few fishermen!

EXTREMADURA is a rich and fertile land that has for centuries supplied much of Europe with fresh produce. The SIERRA MORENA rises in the south along the border of ANDALUCIAN provinces of Seville, Cordoba and Huelva. Local people use a specific Extremduran language which differs from Castillian. The countryside remains partitioned into Latifoundios, large estates which primarily farmed by landless day laborers. Sheep and pigs are chief livestock.

Roads stretch for miles into the distance that are a pleasure to drive on because of lack of traffic. Scenery that changes from fields where cattle and sheep graze to the hills covered with oak trees, to mountains of the SIERRA DE GREDOS in north, with magnificent valleys that are so fertile and where cherries and almonds provide stunning displays of blossom in the spring. Water everywhere with an abundance of lakes, rivers and reservoirs. Stars in the nights that look as though you could reach up and touch them.

To sum up, EXTREMADURA is a very quiet, peaceful, traditional part of Spain where life is lived at a slow place, pretty much in the same way that it has for hundreds of years. It is very beautiful, HISTORIC, uncrowded and likely to remain that way.