Looking for a rural destination for a day trip from Mérida or Cáceres? Then get in the car and head to Montánchez, one of my latest discoveries during my winter break in Extremadura.
Montánchez is a little town halfway between Cáceres and Mérida, set on the slopes of its castle and overlooking the dehesa. Its origins date back to pre-Roman times, but the oldest historical references date from the 11th century, when Montánchez was under the dominance of the Moors.
Today, the town is known for three things: its jamón, its castle and its cemetery.
How to get there—directions
|From Cáceres (avenida de las Arenas): Get on the E-803/A-66 and continue on the A-66 for 29.5 km. Take exit 582 for N-630 toward Rincón de Ballesteros/Casas de Don Antonio. Take CC-147, CC-69 and EX-381 to Calle Virgén del Castillo in Montánchez.
From Mérida (avenida Vía de la Plata): Follow A-66. Take exit 590 from A-66 toward Alcuéscar/Montánchez. Take EX-382 to Calle Virgen del Castillo in Montánchez.
If, by any chance, you are in the Don Benito-Villanueva de la Serena-Miajadas area, you may want to do the same route we did, via Almoharín and Valdemorales. Then take the single-track road Extrarradio Rivera Robledo up to Montánchez to enjoy a nice drive through the dehesa with zero traffic.
Once in Montánchez, you won’t have any trouble finding free parking space. We left ours just outside the San Mateo church (GPS coordinates: 39.225532, -6.153391).
Just behind the church (which was closed the day we went) there is a nice wee park with incredible views of the town and the countryside. Make sure you check it out.
Make your way up to the castle via Calle Castillo, which is the continuation of Calle Sánchez Martín, where the church is located. Before reaching the castle you’ll see a small park on the right and the local cemetery just in front of you.
Montánchez’s cemetery has become a local attraction after being named Spain’s best cemetery last year in a national competition organised by a Spanish cultural magazine. Set against the castle and located over 700 metres above sea level, it’s a unique sight well worth a visit. Read more about it here.
Now walk the last stretch towards the castle, stop at the entrance and look back to take a few snaps of the town down below. The entrance to the castle is free, although you can’t visit the castle as such. It’s in a deteriorated condition and the access has been boarded up. A real pity. There are so many incredible castles in Extremadura in the same situation and I always think they should charge an entrance fee (even if just a couple of euro). Currently, it’s impossible to calculate how many visitors they receive. If they did, they would have more chances to push for public funding to restore the castle. Just a thought!
You may now wonder why the hell did you walk all the way up here if you can’t actually visit the castle. Well, it’s a beautiful sight from outside anyway, and there are more things to see within the castle walls.
Walk inside the little church on your left (free entrance) and look up to watch its beautifully painted ceilings.
Then cross the square until you reach the wall and get ready to be impressed by the views.
The day we visited Montánchez last December there was a thick fog but, far from ruining the view, it made it even better. The castle was completely surrounded by the fog as if floating in the sky.
Take your time to enjoy the views from every angle possible and walk around. You’ll find Arab cistern on the lowest part that is pretty well preserved. You’ll also see a little house opposite the church. It must belong to some kind of church/castle guardian. I cannot think of a better ‘house with a view’, really.
After visiting the cemetery and the castle it’s time to walk down, visit the main square and wander around its little street. When hunger hits you, it will be time to head to a local restaurant and try its famous Iberian ham.
Where to eat: Mesón La Posada
There are not many restaurants to choose from in Montánchez. We wandered around the main square and decided to ask a local for suggestions. She said La Montanera was definitely the best, but Mesón La Posada had good food too. As La Montanera was still closed (we went after 13:00 and they left a sticker on the door asking customers to give them a call…) we decided to go to Mesón La Posada, and the experience was generally good.
Mesones are tavern-looking restaurants with a rustic decoration and terracotta floor tiles. The first impression I got once inside was just an ‘it’s ok’, but after trying the food, I can say it’s totally worth a visit.
The barman is also the waiter, and he was attentive and kind. After having a look at the menu we decided to go for the traditional tasting menu, which included 3 starters and 3 mains to share, desserts, bread and water for only €20 each.
These were the dishes included in the tasting menu for three:
Starters: cold meats and cheese board (Iberian ham, chorizo and loin, and mature sheep cheese), roasted peppers and tomato salad and patatas revolcás (hearty and slightly spicy potatoes with peppers, garlic and paprika).
Mains: cochifrito (piglet cooked in wine and fried with garlic and bay leaf), caldereta de cordero (lamb stew with wine and paprika) and secreto ibérico (braised Iberian pork cut).
We all went for coffee-flavoured cheesecake for dessert and they treated us to a classic acorn liqueur shot.
Address: Plaza del Altozano 15
Distance: 59 km from Cáceres; 45 km from Mérida; 302 km from Madrid.
Tourist Office: plaza de España 1
Montánchez Tourist Office on Facebook
Montánchez on a map
Have you been in Extremadura? Share your experience below in the comments section.