Traveling to Extremadura is traveling back to the origins of part of my family. My grandpa and grandma had to leave this beautiful place looking for opportunities and they found them in the host land of Catalonia. However, that blood and nature link is still alive and when I breath the fresh air of Los Baños in Valdecaballeros or hike through the Risco mountain it makes me feel like home.
Last summer we traveled again to Extremadura and spent some days between nature, family encounters, culture and gastronomy. One of the must-do activities in Valdecaballeros is to hike to El Risco mountain. Located in the middle of La Siberia county, a vast land full of oak trees, yellow pasture lands and beautiful towns with white houses and medieval castles, Valdecaballeros is a perfect place to stay.
It is compulsory to bring with you good binoculars, as you can spot wildlife from many viewpoints. Wear also a good pair of hiking shoes and a lot of water in summer. Temperatures can rise up to 40ºC in summer. For this reason we recommend to do this hike early in the morning and finish it before midday.
Consider 2 to 3 hours to hike to El Risco from the town. However, there is the option to take a 4×4 and reach a closer point to the peak, which allows you to reduce the hike time till 1h. From the top of El Risco you can see also the never finished nuclear plant, infinte solar plants, Iberian porks, flocks of sheep, …
In El Risco you will find also the ruins of small forts built during the Spanish Civil War between 1936 an 1939. From those forts at the top of the mountain, the soldiers could watch and attack the enemies. We counted a total of 4 forts all along the way between the town and the end point of the hike.
From El Risco you can spot an important Neolithic structure: the Tholos del Cerro de la Barca. It is a funeral structure built in a circular way with huge vertical stones. It is possible to crawl through a dark corridor to reach the centre of the structure, which nowadays is open to the sky, but it had a kind of dome when it was built some millenia ago.
Close to the tholos you can also find a complete pre-Roman Iberian village with its walls and ceramic remains. Nowadays these ruins could be isolated within an island in the water reservoir when it is full. However, if it is summer you may decide to swim towards it as this water reservoir of Guadiana river is a place where locals enjoy some swimming and fishing during summer.
After hiking, swimming and discovering ancient ruins we were hungry. We heard of an incredible restaurant called Algo Así. Located in the middle of nowhere, close to Cañamero small village, this restaurant is managed by a Suiss couple, Frank and Susana Sinzig, who have brought to this land their personal and untransferable signature.
The restaurant is full of art everywhere, surrounded by trees and water in a dry land. Algo Así, which can be translated as “Something like that” is considered by The Guardian as one of the 10 best restaurants in rural areas in Spain. The atmosphere that this Suiss couple has created in Algo Así has arrived to the ears of many people around the world and it is not a coincidence.
They work with a closed and unknown menu with a fixed price of 33€. Frank welcomes you once youare already sitting and explains you how the food is going to be delivered. Then the party starts, and one dish after another come to the table bringing a mixture of flavours and textures, well maridated with a special and homemade sangria. High quality meat, cheeses, fruit, wine, cold soups, fish… We promise: you will enjoy and will end the day with the stomach full.
The day after, still with a nice hangover due to the amount of good food and wine of the night before, we decided to go to Villuercas mountains to breath fresh air from the top. Villuercas mountains are part of an European Geopark and they are full of nice hikes, hidden gorges to swim and beautiful towns, like those called Ibor villages. The military fort at the peak of Villuercas, which can be reached by car, has incredible views from 1600 m high.
We ended our tour through Villuercas with a stop for lunch in Guadalupe, a must-see town in Extremadura with one of the most important monasteries in Spain, devoted to Guadalupe virgin, another black virgin like the one we have in Montserrat in Catalonia. Before reaching the town, there is a small hermitage, the Ermita del Humilladero, which was declared as a National Monument in 1931 and was built in the XV century with the same Mudéjar style like the monastery.
Guadalupe monastery attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. One of the pilgrims, who stopped first in Ermita del Humilladero, was Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra, who came here from Algiers to leave his shackles. Miguel de Cervantes is the author of Don Quijote de la Mancha, the most famous book ever written in Spanish dating back from 1605.