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Amid the snow and the white flowering cherry trees

When spring awakes, the Jerte valley in the province of Cáceres is transformed into a spectacular display of light and colour. Every year, the flowering of the cherry trees which clothe the sloping sides of the valley attracts an ever greater number of visitors. Starting from the historic and noble city of Plasencia, we can take a tour of some of the magical and fascinating towns and villages along the route.

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It's a good idea to set aside a whole weekend for this route. One idea would be to spend the first day exploring the city of Plasencia, and the second to touring the Jerte valley. It's well worth making your visit coincide with the 10 days of the flowering of the sea of cherry trees covering the slopes of the valley. Depending on the weather, this phenomenon tends to occur between the second fortnight in March and the first week of April. It is a spectacular display of nature and colour. But let's return to Plasencia. This monumental city is the capital of northern Extremadura (located in the heart of the Silver Route), and in mediaeval times was home to moriscos (converted Muslims), Jews and Christians, until it was reconquered from the people of Al-Andalus by the kings of León in the 12th century. Part of its walls and gateways still can still be seen. There are two cathedrals: the old cathedral, in the Romanesque-Gothic style (13th-14th century), and right beside it the new cathedral (16th century), in the Renaissance and Plateresque styles. This last building was the work of some of the best artists and craftsmen in Spain at the time: architects such as Diego de Siloé, Alonso de Covarrubias, Juan de Álava, Enrique Egas, Francisco de Colonia and Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón; Gregorio Fernández and Francisco de Rizi, among others, worked on the altar. The magnificent choir stalls are the work of Rodrigo Alemán. Plasencia has many more surprises in store. Churches dating from Romanesque times (13th century) such as those of San Nicolás and El Salvador; Gothic churches such as that of the convent of the Dominicos (15th century); examples of the Renaissance and Baroque styles such as the shrine of the Virgin of El Puerto (17th century); palaces, like the Marquis of Mirabel palace (Gothic-Renaissance, 15th century); manor houses, like the Carvajales-Girón house (Renaissance), and even a Roman aqueduct. On our second day, for our visit to the Jerte valley we need to take the N-110 road which follows the valley from south to north. After about 14 kilometres, a turning to the left takes us to two villages perched on the slopes of the Montes de Trasierra: El Torno (2.4 kilometres away), famous for its brandies and cherry liqueurs (kirsch), and Rebollar (4 kilometres away). We return to the N-110 and continue until we reach another local detour on the opposite side of the valley. We climb into the mountains of Tormantos until we come to Valdastillas (3 kilometres outside Rebollar), Cabrero, Casas del Castañar and Piornal, all villages with interesting popular architecture in a setting of cherry orchards and fruit trees. Piornal, the highest village in Extremadura, is famous for its Jarramplas Festival (19 and 20 January). We continue on up the valley. Now we can make out –this time in the centre of the valley on the banks of the Jerte river– the villages of Navaconcejo (10 kilometres from Piornal), Cabezuela del Valle and Jerte. These villages all contain farmsteads which are splendid examples of the traditional mountain-style architecture, particularly Cabezuela del Valle, which has been declared a Historic-Artistic Site. Jerte itself is the gateway to the Garganta de los Infiernos nature reserve. This is one of the numerous nature areas in the region, and has an abundance of streams, waterfalls, natural pools and wetland forests. We then come to Tornavacas, the last of the villages in the valley. It stands at the foot of the mountain pass of Tornavacas, the long-established route for the passage of people and cattle between Castile and Extremadura: it is also the traditional path of the annual cattle migrations. Of particular note is the Baroque parish church of La Asunción (17th century). This visit can be extended to include excursions to the regions of Ambroz and La Vera. The region of Ambroz is home to the village of Hervás (with one of the best conserved Jewish quarters surviving in Spain), the ruins of the convent of La Bien Parada (in Abadía) and the remains of the ancient Roman city of Cáparra (Oliva de Plasencia-Guijo de Granadilla). In the region of La Vera, places worth visiting include the Yuste Monastery, the last residence of the Emperor Charles V. Another good way of way of enjoying this route is to take part in some of its popular festivities. The festival of the Flowering Cherry takes place every year in a different town in the Jerte valley, and is timed to coincide with the flowering of the cherry trees (between the second fortnight in March and the first week of April approximately). In addition, the gastrononic events revolving around picota cherry are held between May and June. Finally it is also well worth catching the Festival of El Martes Mayor (Plasencia), which every year features a mediaeval market on the first Tuesday in August.



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