Did you know there are 332 castles only in Extremadura? Despite the big size of the region, it’s still an impressive number, don’t you think? And the best thing is that you can visit most of them for free, like the one in Alange.
Alange is a small town barely a 30-minute drive from Mérida. It’s located by a reservoir with the same name (Embalse de Alange), which serves as the local beach in summer. The main tourist attraction are its thermal baths, built on the remains of former Roman baths dating back to the 3rd century. However, Alange has another good reason for you to visit it – its castle; or rather, the views from its castle.
The castle, the walk and the views
The castle was built on the 9th century by the Moorish, and later given to the religious and military Order of Santiago. It was abandoned during the 16th century and today, only the tower keep remains. It’s located on a hill 485m high just outside town and it offers 360 degree views over Alange, the reservoir, and the surrounding area.
Walking up from Calle Castillo, on the eastern part of town, to the castle remains, takes approximately 40 minutes. It doesn’t seem like a long walk, but it can be a bit challenging for amateur walkers, especially in the heat or if you don’t wear a pair of good walking shoes.
There are signposts indicating the route, so there’s no real chance of getting lost here. Half way up you’ll reach a viewpoint, which is a good opportunity to take a 5-minute break. The views to Alange town and the reservoir are amazing, but wait until you get to the top!
The last part of the hike is very steep. The abundance of stones and quartz rocks makes the rugged terrain slippery. Make sure you wear walking boots that protect your ankles. Speaking from my own experience, trainers are a big no-no (I slipped several times on my way down and hit my ankle with a rock).
Once you reach the top, you can freely walk around the tower keep and observe the surrounding area from every angle. The landscape around is mainly flat, with some hills and mountain ranges emerging in the distance. You can spot, not only Mérida, but also Hornachos (a small town in the hills which also has a castle and great views).
Where to eat
I think it’s a great idea to pack from food and drink and have a picnic up on the hill. As an alternative, you can try one of the few restaurants in the town centre. Mesón Restaurante Trinidad (Calle Castillejo nº 3) is a good option, as it offers an affordable 3-course set menu under €15 which includes several traditional Extremeño dishes. The restaurant is part of a big building that also offers accommodation (Apartamentos Trinidad).