With its wide open spaces and empty roads, Extremadura is perfect for a road trip. Planning it is not an easy task, though. That’s why I thought I would share some useful practical info of my recent 5-day road trip to northern Extremadura.
Where to flight to
I always fly to Madrid when going home, as flights from London to Madrid are more frequent than to other destinations and so are buses to Extremadura. On this occasion I also chose flying to Madrid because it was the nearest destination to our starting point: Jaraíz de la Vera, in northern Cáceres province.
Hiring a car
We hired a car at Madrid airport. Europcar was the best option for us for the dates we wanted 30/03-04/04) and for our final destination being Cáceres. Enterprise also offers one way car hires, so does Avis, although with Avis you can only drop off at Mérida and you can’t book online (you need to give them a call).
The car we hired was a bit of a disappointment, I’m not going to lie. We went for a “Fiat 500 1.2 or similar” and got a Smart, which proved to be very easy to park, but struggled a lot going up winding mountain roads.
I found this a bit sneaky. We were only told we would get a Smart after saying the number of passengers was two. Next time I’ll say we are three!
We paid €309 to hire the car for four full days, €60 one-way fee included.
Our route started in Madrid and ended in Cáceres. We drove, in total, around 600 km.
Places where we stayed the night: Jaraíz de la Vera (B), Jerte (H), Hervás (J) and Ahigal (K).
Day 1: Madrid – Jaraíz de la Vera
Day 5: Ahigal – Robledillo de Gata – Cáceres
(If you can’t see the places properly in the images above, just click on the link below to see a bigger map).
The roads. The roads are generally in very good condition, no matter the type of road you drive on. That said, we went for secondary and winding mountain roads to enjoy the scenery. Mountain roads are very narrow, to the point that if you encounter a car going the opposite direction you may need to move to the side of the road a bit.
The weather. I was a bit afraid of the weather not being good enough, as rain is very common around Easter time. However, we were very lucky and enjoyed sunny days and temperatures of 24-27 degrees.
Avoid a road trip from mid-May to September if you don’t fancy high temperatures. Walking in the mountains for hours under the sun with 32-38 degrees isn’t something you will enjoy. I must say, however, that summertime is great for swimming in one of the many natural pools scattered all over the north part of the region. The water runs directly from the mountains and it’s freezing.
Money. I would recommend carrying a decent amount of cash with you. You can pay by card in restaurants, but not in many small local shops. In some places you can find cash machines, but they will charge £4 to get €20, which I find abusive. In some other places cash machines are inside the bank, so they are not available when banks are closed (remember everything closes from 2 pm until at least 5.30 pm).
What to expect
If it’s your first time in the area and don’t know if this is for you, here are some things you can expect from the destinations from our trip:
- Small towns and tiny villages. The biggest town we visited had roughly 7,000 in habitants, the smallest 190.
- Quirky architecture. Many villages in northern Extremadura display traditional architecture in buildings where they used local-sourced materials such as chestnut tree wood beams, adobe or slate in their construction.
- Quiet roads. I found the roads near Jerte quite busy, but we visited the area during the Cherry Blossom festival (end of March-beginning of April), which is the most popular period in the year for visitors.
- Cheap and good food. We didn’t pinch pennies on food and just went to local restaurants that looked good. On average, a 3-course daily special menu costs €12-15 and having a 2-course meal à la carte costs €20-25. Sharing platters is also a good option, especially if the weather is good and you can eat outside on a terrace.
- Impressive scenery. The landscapes in the north of Extremadura are varied and you will find snow-capped mountains, valleys, forests, streams of water running down the hills, reservoirs…
- Kind local people… with no English. Extremeños are very fond of our region and are eager to show you the best spots. Don’t hesitate to approach locals for advice and directions. You’ll struggle to find people that are fluent in English, though, so don’t forget to take a Spanish phrasebook with you!
- Free parking spaces. It’s free to park in many places in Extremadura. In cities such as Cáceres or Badajoz you may need to resort to paying spaces if you want to park in the centre, but that won’t be the case in the north. Free parking spaces everywhere. Tip: you may want to park in the shade if you don’t want to find your car boiling hot when you are back from exploring a place.
- Many options for trekking lovers. The areas we visited (La Vera, Valle del Jerte, Valle del Ambroz, Tierras de Granadilla, Sierra de Gata) offer many opportunities to explore them by foot. We decided to do a 5-hour circular tour in Garganta de los Infiernos Nature Reserve, which I certainly recommend. A dedicated blog post about it will be coming soon.
- A relaxing holiday. Even though we did our trip in high season (Easter), we enjoyed chilling out in a truly rural environment.
- Cheap entry tickets. Prices for monuments and museums are cheap. The most expensive monument we visited was the Yuste Monastery (€9 per person), but we visited a few museums for less than €3 per person.
Where to stay
We spent the first night in Jaraíz de la Vera at a friends’ place and booked accommodation for the three other nights with Booking.com, which has a greater selection of accommodation in Extremadura than most other sites. Hostels have not yet landed in Extremadura, so you can go for hotels, guesthouses, rural houses or country cottages.
These are the kind of places we booked:
One-bedroom apartment in Jerte. Price for one night (2 people): €64
Double room in a 3-star hotel in Hervás. Price for one night (2 people): €70. Breakfast not included.
Double room in a countryside villa in Ahigal. Price for one night (2 people): €70. Breakfast not included.
|Expenses for a 5-day road trip in northern Extremadura (2 people)|
|2 return flights from London Gatwick to Madrid: £168.96 (€236.71) (one checked-in piece of luggage)
Car hire: £220.56 (€309)
Accommodation (3 nights*): £145.60 (€204)
Petrol: £43 (€60)
Sightseeing: £19.27 (€27)
Food and drinks: £143 (≈€200)
Total: £740.39 (€1037)
*We stayed with friends on the first night