A small village in a rural area, no jobs, people move to big cities, and the village becomes a ghost town. This might be (in short) how small places end up empty. It doesn’t apply to this Extremadura town I’m talking about today, though. The case of Granadilla is different and sadder.
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Granadilla, located in northern Extremadura, was founded by the Arabs in the 9th century. Although originally called Granada, it changed its name to Granadilla (‘little Granada’) in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs conquered Granada, to avoid any confusion. During the Middle Ages Granadilla grew to become the main town in the area, which included 17 other towns and villages.
By 1950 more than 1,000 people lived in Granadilla, many of whom where farmers. By 1964 everyone had left. Everyone.
How did that happen?
Well, it didn’t happen because everyone just decided to leave. They were actually forced to. In 1955 Dictator Franco’s government decided to build the Gabriel y Galán reservoir and declared Granadilla a ‘flood zone’.
A Council of Ministers ordered the expropriation of most of the land. Five years later, a government representative informed locals the town now belonged to the State. Locals were now squatters in their own town. Some people started to leave and many of those who stayed for a bit longer had to rent their own houses. How awful that must have been!
The town was actually never flooded, but people couldn’t work on the land anymore. Getting there became a difficult task. Water surrounded the town and flooded all access roads but one. Even today, the only way to get there is via a pot-holed road from Zarza de Granadilla or Abadía.
The last families left in 1964 and for some years Granadilla was a target for looters. They even stole the main altarpiece from the local church. Some people moved to Alagón del Río, a new town built to take in people from Granadilla. Others moved to bigger towns and cities.
In 1980 they declared Granadilla a Historical-Artistic Ensemble. Soon afterwards they included it in a list of ghost towns to be restored. Since then, many student groups have come here to take part in educational activities. They also help restore buildings and take care of vegetable gardens. Some 15-20 houses around the main street and the square have been restored. Granadilla has recovered part of its lost charm with a touch of colour.
Castle and city walls. The current castle was built 1473 on what they think it was an Arab tower. It deteriorated badly after people left and at the end of the seventies it underwent its restoration process. Although small in size, the tower offers incredible views over Gabriel y Galán reservoir. It also gives you a good idea of how big the town was. The entire town is within the city walls, which allow you to have a nice circular walk back to the castle.
Church. Built in the 16th century, it is the only building in town that wasn’t expropriated, due to the bishop’s opposition.
Main street (calle Mayor). The town had two main gates connected by this street via the main square. Most of the houses here have been renovated and they are occupied by builders and gardeners.
Plaza Mayor. The main street leads to the square, where you can find some interesting buildings. The picture below shows the former local bar (the house with the columns) and the biggest house in town called Casa de las Conchas (House of the Shells).
Things you can do during your trip:
- Water activities. In the Gabriel y Galán reservoir you can swim, fish and practice water sports, such as kayaking.
- Birdwatching. It’s part of a bird protection area, so you may want to bring binoculars if you like birdwatching.
- Visit other nearby towns. Granadilla is a 40-minute drive from Plasencia and a 35-minute drive from Hervás. Plasencia is the biggest city in the area and a good place for a cultural city break and to enjoy tapas and nightlife. Hervás is a picturesque town with one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters in Spain.
|Opening times. (Winter) Tue-Sun from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00. (Summer) Tue-Sun from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 17:00 to 19:00. Mondays closed.
How to get there. Granadilla is only accessible by road (CC-168) from Abadía or Zarza de Granadilla. The road is a single carriageway at times and a single-track road at others. We arrived to Granadilla from Hervás (via Abadía) and stayed the night in Ahigal.
Distance: 292 km from Madrid, 116 km from Cáceres and 41 km from Plasencia.
Granadilla on a map
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