As Extremadura’s capital, Mérida is a lively place with lots to see and do. I personally recommend dedicating two full days to visiting the city to be able to take in all the sights without feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.
If you’re planning to stay in Mérida for longer – maybe you’re attending the Classical Theatre Festival, a conference or a business event – you’ll probably want to use any spare days to venture out of the city.
Today, I’m sharing with you a selection of destinations and itinerary ideas to help you organise day trips from Mérida. The places have been divided into two categories: full day trips and combined trips. ‘Full day trips’ are places with enough to see and do to keep you busy for a full day, while ‘combined trips’ include two smaller separate places you can visit in a single day trip. To avoid spending too much time on the road, I’ve only selected places that can be reached by car from Mérida within 1 hour.
Full day trips
Distance from Mérida: 61km (43min)
Badajoz is a good option for a city break from Mérida. Its Alcazaba (Moorish citadel) is free to visit. Walk along city walls and enjoy some good views over the iconic Plaza Alta square and River Guadiana, before entering Badajoz Provincial Archaeological Museum, also located within the citadel. The city has other interesting museums, such as Museo de la Ciudad ‘Luis de Morales’ (City Museum) and MEIAC (Extremadura and Ibero-American Contemporary Art Museum).
Distance from Mérida: 73km (52min)
If this is your first time in Extremadura, Cáceres should top your list of places to go to. Its old city is one of the region’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a GoT filming location (seventh season). It’s also home to 2-star Michelin restaurant-hotel Atrio and a good number of good restaurants and bars scattered around medieval cobblestone streets and charming squares.
Distance from Mérida: 78km (53min)
Los Barruecos Natural Park is located just 16km from Cáceres. While seeing both on the same day is possible, I find it too ambitious and rushed, so my suggestion is to visit them on different days. Los Barruecos is a natural area full of enormous granitic rocks, which create an unusual sight for the visitor, and the home of one of Europe’s biggest colonies of white stork. Choose one of the six walking routes available, depending on your preferences and time available. Finish your visit at the quirky Vostell Museum.
Distance from Mérida: 89km (51min)
Trujillo has one of Spain’s most beautiful squares and is one of Extremadura’s most popular destinations. The Tourist Office (main square) organises several guided tours that will take you to the main sights, such as the Santa María church, the Arab cistern and Trujillo’s castle. Otherwise, you can simply wander around town but make sure visit the castle – just before dusk, if you can – for some fantastic views of the town and the surrounding plains.
☛Read: Day trip to Trujillo
Medellín + Cornalvo Natural Park
Distance from Mérida to Medellín: 45km (31min)
Medellín is a small town of barely 2,300 people with a surprising number of sights. There is an Arab castle, a fantastic Roman theatre built on the slopes, a church, a medieval bridge (of Roman origins) and a nice main square. Medellín is also home to one of the best restaurants in the area called Quinto Cecilio, which has a rooftop terrace with views to the castle and the river.
☛Read: What to see in Medellín
Zafra + Almendralejo’s Wine Museum
Distance from Mérida to Zafra: 63km (41min)
You could spend a whole day exploring Zafra but, since most of its sights are religious, I find going from church to chapel to cathedral a bit boring sometimes.
Zafra’s main sights are displayed on this map below:
During my last visit to Zafra I had lunch at La Artesa, in Plaza Grande, and really liked it. We shared a platter of Iberian meats and cheeses, ‘broken’ eggs with ham, a platter of grilled vegetables and had a glass of local wine and a coffee each. All that for under €40.
On your way back to Mérida, stop in Almendralejo for a quick visit to its Wine Museum (Museo de las Ciencias del Vino). Almendralejo is in one of the best wine areas in Extremadura, and this will give you the chance to learn a bit more about it. They didn’t have brochures available in English when I went (apparently, they ran out of English brochures and they were waiting for the new batch). It would be a good idea to contact them before your trip to enquire about guides or information in English.
Llerena + Regina theatre
Distance from Mérida to Llerena: 97km (1h)
Llerena is one of those charming little towns with a southern feel, with its whitewashed houses and big balconies. Check my article Southern charm: Llerena to know what to see there (map included). My suggestion for lunch would be the Hospedería Mirador de Llerena, located in a beautiful former palace just off the main square.
Regina is a former Roman city just outside Casas de Reina, a 10-minute drive from Llerena. It’s an absolutely gem yet to be discovered by many, even by fellow extremeños. According to archaeological research studies, Regina was a decent-size walled city, with dozens of streets and houses and several temples and civil buildings (only 20% has been dug out). Stop by to see the main attraction – the theatre, before heading back to Mérida.