After months of no rain, Extremadura looks like a yellow desert in summer. A desert full of oases, though, be it rivers, streams, natural pools or reservoirs. With over 1,500 km of freshwater coastline, the possibilities for swimming in Extremadura are many, but there’s one place that stands out – the Orellana reservoir.
The Orellana reservoir (pantano de Orellana) is located within a special protection area for birds and is the only inland ‘beach’ in Spain to have been awarded the Blue Flag. It is one of the biggest reservoirs along River Guadiana and a great place for a day out.
Playa Costa Dulce, as the bathing area is popularly known, offers all the facilities you’d expect on a ‘proper’ beach – parking spaces, umbrellas, a kiosk, toilets and several bars/restaurants. When choosing your spot, there are two options: a concrete area near the water with umbrellas or a shadier one under the trees with a decent-size, towels-only spot with grass.
If you are one of those weirdos who don’t like swimming, there is a good spot under the trees further along the coast you can enjoy. The water there is quite muddy, so it’s best for simply relaxing in the shade.
Swimming isn’t the only thing you can do here. The reservoir is a popular place for fishing, and professional fisherman Carlos Labrador recommends it on this interview for the blog. You can also practice canoeing or take up a sailing course.
Are you a biking or a bird-watching lover? Then check this out…
Route Casas de Don Pedro – Puerto Peña (≈ 15 km)
Drive to Casas de Don Pedro on the N-430 and surround the town on BA-107 towards the reservoir. Before reaching a bridge you’ll see a track that runs along the canal (which, in turn, runs parallel to the reservoir). The route ends on the neighbouring García Sola (Puerto Peña) reservoir, and offers many birdwatching opportunities. At the end of the summer you can spot rare black storks, so get your binoculars ready!
Swimming in the reservoir was a very pleasant experience. The water isn’t particularly cold, although that changes as you swim. The water is constantly moving, so you go from ‘oh, so nice’ to ‘s**, it’s a bit cold’ within seconds. The bathing area is well marked out by buoys, and lifeguards make sure you don’t go too far out and stay safe.
Tip: Wearing flip-flops to the shore is a good idea, as walking on concrete may hurt your feet. Use the mats provide to get into the water, as there’s a lot of seaweed and it’s quite slippery.
The reservoir has become quite popular, and is no longer the wild beach it used to be. Parking is now charged (€2.50 for the whole day), and so is using the roofed picnic area (€6 per table). That said, it’s still a nice place to swim, so make sure you pop by, even for just a quick dip, if you’re in the area. During high season (July and August) it’s best to go on a weekday, as families and big groups tend to go during weekends or holidays. Bear in mind locals don’t really swim outside the high season, so June and late September are the perfect time to enjoy a quieter experience.
Location and how to get there
The beach area is located in Orellana la Vieja. This small town within the Siberia area in Badajoz province, is 83 km east of Mérida and 67 km south of Trujillo.
How to get there from Mérida: follow A-5 for 16km and take exit 316 for N-430 (toward Ciudad Real); continue onto N-430 for 20 km, take 3rd exit at roundabout and stay on N-430 for 27 km; turn right onto BA-105 (signs for Acedera/Orellana) and drive for 8 km until you reach Orellana.
How to get there from Trujillo: EX-355 for 28 km, turn right onto N-430 and continue for 2 km; turn left onto BA-105 (signs for Acedera/Orellana) and drive for 8 km until you reach Orellana.
Once you reach Orellana La Vieja… take the second exit at the roundabout and continue on Calle Cruz and Calle Real; turn left onto Calle Convento, and then right onto Calle Colón; continue onto Calle Reyes and Camino Piscifactoria to arrive to the beach (7 min.)
Facilities: parking (€2.50 for the whole day), picnic area (€6 for the whole day), umbrellas, kiosk, toilets, bar, restaurant
The reservoir on a map
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