The white villages of Extremadura: walking through wooded pastures
Whitewashed walls and green holm oaks. Rivers, reservoirs and birds. Delicate Gothic churches and Baroque towers. These are a few of the things you’ll find in and around the white villages of Extremadura, in inland Spain. Following the local hiking paths is a good way to enjoy the region’s unique nature and rural charm. Let’s get moving!
Extremadura boasts rare and very diverse wildlife. Our suggestion today is to explore a part of the territory known for its white-washed villages. This area borders Badajoz to the south by south-west, and is notable for its vernacular architecture: cobbled streets, white-washed single-storey houses, and the beautiful scenery of the mountain ranges in the background. There are several different ways to explore the natural attractions of this peaceful region, defined by sparsely wooded pastures and streams, and forests of holm and cork oak. Here are a few suggestions.
The Dehesas of Jerez de los Caballeros. Dehesas are the sweeping pastures lightly wooded with holm and cork oaks that define the region, carefully conserved and a shining example of sustainable development. They are used by the cork industry and pig farming, although these areas also offer special protection for birds. The most representative species is the black stork, with the largest gatherings in western Europe in the mating season. Visit the Cuncos reservoir (in Villanueva del Fresno, 71 kilometres from Jerez de los Caballeros, a drive of about an hour and a half) to see a wide variety of waterfowl from the permanent birdwatching hides, especially in April and May for the spectacular courtship rituals of the great bustard. Also, if you follow the course of the River Alcarrache, you can walk or cycle the route across the Dehesas between Villanueva del Fresno and Higuera de Vargas. And while you’re in the area, be sure to admire the majestic Baroque towers, churches and castle of Jerez de los Caballeros.
Llanos de Olivenza. This area includes the Sierra de Alor mountain range, where you can take the route that starts in the village of San Jorge de Alor. On the 10.5 kilometre route, you can see typical mountain plants and hillside scrub, where holm oaks merge with olive groves and other crops. Along the path are chozos, old shepherds’ huts built near their grazing lands. The route is very straightforward and not at all difficult, and the scenery is worth the trip. We recommend also visiting the town of Olivenza, less than 7 kilometres from San Jorge de Alor, with notable heritage buildings, especially the pretty churches.
Fregenal de la Sierra is another of the whitewashed villages scattered among the pasturelands of this area of Extremadura. It boasts a Templar castle with a bullring and food market inside it. Most of the village is involved in producing Iberico ham.Caves in Fuentes de León. These caves are 42 kilometres from Jerez de los Caballeros. The space is formed by five natural grottoes. Inside, there are rock engravings on the cave walls, a lake more than 200 square metres in size, and of course, stalactites and stalagmites up to two metres long. These caves are also very important for the colony of bats living in them. To visit them, you will have to apply for permission from the Nature Visitor Centre at Fuentes de León, or via this website.
These are just a few of the surprises awaiting you in inland Spain, in the peaceful landscape of the white villages of Extremadura.