Extremadura summers have been described in British and US media as ‘Arizona-hot’. Now, not having visited Arizona myself, I can tell you that summers are unbearably hot. I try my best to avoid travelling there from June to October.
But maybe you like hot summers. Or that’s the only time you can visit Extremadura, when your children are off school, or you are off work. Whatever the reason for your Extremadura summer trip, here’s a tip: look for natural pools.
Natural pools are the best way to fight the heat, and there’s plenty of them across all areas in northern Extremadura: (from east to west) La Vera, Jerte Valley, Ambroz Valley, Trasierra-Tierras de Granadilla, Las Hurdes and Sierra de Gata.
In this article, I share four good options for swimming in Sierra de Gata.
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San Martín de Trevejo
With a population of just over 800, San Martín de Trevejo is Sierra de Gata’s biggest town and main travel destination (check my article below to read about what to see and do). Water is an important element in San Martín, where streams run through many streets, and fountains abound.
The local pool – U Chafaril – is located to the east of the town centre, over river Arrevises. It’s a good-size pool of 20 x 6m and 2m deep surrounded by trees. That means the whole area is pretty much in the shade all day, making it a good place to escape to during a hot summer afternoon. There are also stone benches where you can sit and put your towel and bags, and a snack bar.
Tip: trying to get there by car is a nightmare. At least three or four of what I would consider different streets are called Avenida del Chafaril. Some of them are steep, no entry or one-way only. We spent a good 20 minutes driving around before deciding to park the car and walk. I suggest you do the same.
This town is a 16-minute drive from San Martín, and has three natural pools (piscinas naturales) over river Eljas – Piscina de Arriba (25 × 5m), Piscina del Medio (30 × 6m) and Pozo de las Monjas (12 x 6m). They’re all connected by a path.
We visited the area in early September and the two big pools were already half empty, so I could only have a dip in Pozo de las Monjas. For a good two hours, we had the place all to ourselves, until another couple joined. You can leave your towel on the flat big rocks on the shore. There are also some rocks in the shade, although the area is not too big.
Eljas pools are a good half an hour walk from the town centre. Directions are not particularly helpful, so use Calle Currieira as your reference point until you are out of town and then simply follow the paved road until you see the signs. It’s a pleasant walk with amazing views of the mountains and the nearby towns. There are parking spaces available, so you could go by car. If you brave crossing the town by car first, that is. After the experience in San Martín, we decided to leave the car outside the centre (in Calli as Parras, where there’s free on-street parking) and walk.
Valverde del Fresno
Valverde is Sierra de Gata’s westernmost town, barely a few kilometres away from the Portuguese border. The local river pool, called U Petril, can’t be spotted from anywhere in town; it’s easy to find, though, as there are signs on the main road. And here’s another piece of good news – there’s free parking spaces very near the pool.
U Petril is quite a big pool (8 x 40m), as deep as 2.5m in places and it was full to the brim. You can’t leave your things right outside the pool, as it’s enclosed. You need to ‘establish your base’ a bit further out, where there is a restaurant.
Acebo is some 25 minutes by car from San Martín de Trevejo. It’s a beautiful little rural town hidden in the mountains, which you can’t see until you’ve arrived. It also has three pools, which are the biggest and best around, and that means you should expect easy access, parking spaces, and tourists.
The pools are on river Cervigona, north of Acebo. They’re located one after the other, creating three huge swimming areas with equally huge grass areas to sit on. We chose the pool located in the middle, where there were fewer people. The water is freezing cold, as it is always to be expected from rivers in northern Extremadura, even on days at over 35 degrees. The mountain views are spectacular so, if you’re looking for a place to swim with a view, this one is for you.
Do you like wild swimming?
The book Wild Swimming Spain has tons of suggestions of places to swim in Spain. Check the Extremadura chapter to find my personal suggestions on where to swim in Extremadura.
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