Extremadura: Historic Towns, Gastronomic Trails, Natural Beauty

Words by Donna Reidy-Maguire


Authenticity and sustainability were at the forefront of my recent visit to the region of Extremadura, a stunning, widely untouched, diverse area of Spain that is now high on my list of travel recommendations. With delectable gastronomy trails, spectacular historical sites, untouched villages and unparalleled natural beauty, this expansive region next to the Portuguese border has plenty to offer for those looking for a more off the beaten track, authentic Spanish experience.

Landscape & Stargazing


Extremadura has a significantly low level of light pollution. Coupled with good weather and cloud free skies for a large part of the year, this makes the region a paradise for stargazers. We visited the Rural Hotel El Sosiego, a sustainable, serene hotel outside Villamiel. Frequented by ornithology lovers and stargazers alike, clear nights reveal the splendour of The Milky Way overhead. 


Another hotel with a focus on maximising their natural surroundings is the Aqua et Oleum Rural Hotel, a luxurious destination boutique hotel and gallery on the outskirts of Villamiel. Formerly an old olive oil mill, owner Joseph and his team have worked hard to create an oasis of calm in beautiful surroundings. With an emphasis on creating self-sufficiency  and being off grid, the hotel is powered by solar panels, and has a vineyard along with a variety of fruit and vegetable crops. 


Nestled within a breath-taking natural environment, the impressive International Centre for Sports Innovation (where their commitment to a sustainable development model is based on the creation of innovative projects and initiatives in the field of sport, sports and nature tourism) was the starting point for the Gabriel y Galán reservoir boat trip to Granadilla (a an abandoned village as a consequence of the construction of the dam), where we learned more about the centre, the reservoir itself (formed by damming the Alagón river waters) and the lure of this region for stargazers and ornithology enthusiasts. Our host also treated us to freshly picked, delicious cherries, a speciality of the area along with paprika, Iberian ham and olive oil as we meandered across our scenic route. 

Historical Sites

The region is stepped in history and visiting some of the landmarks, ruins and historical sites was a big highlight for me. We toured some beautiful towns and villages such as Plasencia, a walled market city on the bank of the Jerte River where we visited the main square Plaza Mayor in the old quarter where palaces, ancestral homes and significant religious buildings also reside due to the history of the city’s strategic location along the Silver Route, or Ruta de la Plata. 

Our trip to Coria and the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption (Catedral de Santa María de la Asunción) was made all the more enjoyable by the expertise of our guide Oscar. The Museum of Religious Art (Museo de Arte Sacro), located in the cloister of this Cathedral is home to what is considered one of the most important relics in Christianity – the sacred tablecloth of the last supper. 

Cáceres, declared a World Heritage City by UNESCO in 1986 is a must see for any Game of Thrones or House of the Dragon fans. The Gothic and Renaissance streets, towers and palaces were a perfect location for this fantasy TV series with instantly recognisable landmarks for eagle eyed viewers. The city was a perfect blend of modern meets medieval with romantic winding streets, friendly locals and great dining options (including Atrio – the much lauded Michelin star restaurant). 

Our visit to Mérida was a journey back in time to what was the second most important city after Rome during the Roman Empire. The impressive Roman Theatre built between 16 and 15 BCE could hold up to 6,000 spectators and is still in use today for many open air concerts and festivals. Their Roman Amphitheatre, older than the Roman Colosseum has been impressively preserved and is a must-visit.

Read the full feature in the Summer Issue of GalwayNow, on shelves now.

Image: Extremadura Tourist Board