Extremadura is the go-to destination for Spain lovers searching for a different experience. Are you a first-timer in Spain’s wild west? Then keep reading to discover the 10 things you’ll experience during a trip to rural Extremadura.
You’ll be eyed up by locals
Don’t take it badly. You’ll probably be the only foreigner in town. They’re just visually assessing your appearance (in an unabashed way) and asking each other whether you’re the butcher’s cousin who moved to the city years ago. Nah, you can’t be. Those freckles and that hat reveal your foreign origins. You’re what they call a forastero. How on earth did you end up in the middle of nowhere?
You’ll know what silence is
Make the most of the (Spanish) afternoon (3pm-6pm) to wander around empty towns in spring or autumn. Businesses close at 2pm, so you’ll have a good few hours to enjoy a quiet walk and take as long as you want to take photobomb-free pictures.
In small villages silence may be disrupted by the odd barking or bleating, and further out in the countryside, you’ll be able to sleep listening to cricket chirping. If you take pleasure in silence and nature, Extremadura is a great destination to switch off.
You’ll learn how different sheep behave here
It’s more to do with the weather than cultural differences, but one thing is clear–Extremadura sheep don’t behave as UK sheep do. UK sheep in general, and Scottish in particular, are more independent. They’re free spirits hippies who don’t care what the others do. They graze on their own, many yards away from each other, and you rarely see them in big groups. You can even see them on the side of the road, chewing grass and won’t even raise an eyelid at the sight of a car.
Extremadura sheep are easily frightened and don’t separate from the flock. They even depend on each other to enjoy a bit of shade in summer. The shade from holm oaks and cork oaks isn’t big enough; the flock will simply stand still as if they’re glued to each other, with their heads down. This is their natural response to the summer heat–enjoying their own shade. From outside it will look like a cloud to you.
You’ll spot cars that haven’t been on the market for decades
The production of Renault 6 in Spain stopped the same year I was born (1986), but I’ve seen several of them during my recent trips to Extremadura. Perhaps the fresh air helps cars live a long and healthy life, who knows. The truth is you can expect to see more than a few oldies like the Renault 6 and Renault 5 in small pueblos.
You’ll struggle to get by with English only
If your Spanish is far from fluent, a small dictionary or phrasebook will certainly come in handy. Online apps may help too, but you can’t rely on your internet signal in rural places. Most people here can’t speak English. If you need directions, teenagers and twentysomethings are the ones most likely to have a basic command of the language.
When visiting monuments, expect poor English translations (if any) that don’t make much sense. Unfortunately, this is something widespread in the region, from small villages to even touristic destinations like Cáceres of Mérida. I recommend doing a bit of research and reading in English before your trip.
You’ll eat only local food…
In a region with such a strong culinary tradition, there’s no place for foreign foods, at least in the rural areas. So don’t expect to find any burritos, sushi or curries. This is great if you’re a foodie who loves to immerse in the local culture when travelling. Picky eaters will have a tough time trying to take a break from traditional food, though. And so will vegetarians and vegans. Waiters are usually happy to adapt dishes to your liking, but be ready to explain what you want in Spanish.
… and will pay peanuts for it
You’ll be surprised how little you’ll pay for good-quality food and drinks. You can easily find 3-course menus (drink and bread included) under €15. Expect to pay €4 for huge bocadillos (sandwiches served on a baguette or local bread), €1.10 for a coffee and under €2 for a soft drink. As drinks never come alone, enjoy free aperitivos (anything from nuts to olives, meatballs or Russian salad) with your favourite drink.
You’ll learn to live without wifi
You’ve been to eco-hostels in Costa Rica and remote bungalows in Vietnam with free wifi. How is it possible there are still places in Spain with no wifi?
Although some hotels and casas rurales have wifi, this is not the norm. Here’s an example: during my last trip to Extremadura I stayed in three different accommodations and I could only use wifi in one of them. The connection at one of the places was so bad checking my emails was a real struggle; the other property didn’t even have internet connection. Bars and coffee shops with free wifi are non-existent here. You’d better forget about social media for a few days, and enjoy a digital detox.
You’ll visit lots of incredible places for free
I remember moving to the UK and thinking ‘My goodness. In this country you need to pay for absolutely everything!’. In Extremadura (outside the main cities) we’re used to only spending a little during sightseeing. For example, you visit the Inquisition Museum in Garganta la Olla for €3 and the castle in Puebla de Alcocer for €2.
Many other places are free. The impressive Castillo de Luna, in Alburquerque, not only is free, but it also includes a guided tour. Other free monuments worth a visit are Badajoz’s Arab citadel, San Benito convent in Alcántara (guided tour included) or Montánchez castle.
You’ll bump into Iberian piggies
No trip to rural Extremadura is complete without spotting the black pigs the region is famous for. If you drive around Badajoz province, you’ll either spot (or smell) pigs roaming free in the dehesa from your car window. Pigs are social animals, and you’ll have them running towards you if you get close to the fences.
Have you been to Extremadura? Share your experience below!