So, here’s the final post from my family trip to Spain’s mythical Extremadura region back in late May. If you’ve been following my blog (and why wouldn’t you be? SUBSCRIBE HERE), you’d know that we started in Madrid, made our way NW over to the spectacular Walls of Ávila (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), continued 154 km SW to our first stop in Extremadura, the city of Plasencia, and then a short drive south through Monfragüe National Park, the largest and best preserved Mediterranean forest worldwide and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and then to the medieval city of Trujillo, a short 40 minute drive south. From Trujillo, we visited the Royal Monastery of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Guadalupe, and then drove south to visit the Roman Theatre in Mérida (yet another UNESCO World Heritage site) before ending up in the capital city of the province of Extremadura, Cáceres (and yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Our next stop was an “Oh, by the way” kind of trip to the Natural Monument of Los Barruecos. But first, a little history…
575 million years ago was when Spain was born. Well, the land mass that would eventually become Spain was born. Now, I’m not gonna bore you with the evolution of the Precambrian Era but let’s just say that over the past several million years there’s been a lot of molten rock which eventually cooled and became great masses of granite. Those great masses of granite were eaten away by wind, rain, and snow while others were progressively degraded over millions of years to create globular monolithic forms known as bolos, true sculptures molded by the hand of nature. One area of Spain managed to retain just a vestige of that original granite. You guessed right – Los Barruecos.
Los Barruecos is 575 million years old, formed at the time Spain’s bedrock solidified from the magma. It was declared Natural Monument (a designation that guarantees the protection of this space with the aim of preserving it for future generations) due to the nature richness it holds and because it is surrounded by spectacular landscapes. Water has played an essential part in creating this unique natural habitat. The many lakes provide a habitat for numerous animal species, such as white storks and the grey heron, which find this an ideal place for their colonies.
It was a short 20 minute drive west from Cáceres and we figured we’d stop there for a while before our almost three hour drive back to Madrid. We weren’t expecting much but this bizarre and beautiful place became one of our favorite stops on our trip. I’ll let the photographs speak for themselves on this one but needless to say that no trip to Spain’s medieval Extremadura region should be complete without a stop at Los Barruecos.
Yeah, even my teenage daughter thought it was pretty awesome…
As we were driving out, we had to wait on a herd of crossing cows.
Alas, we missed visiting the nearby Vostell Malpartida Museum which was founded in October 1976 by Wolf Vostell, a Spanish-German artist of recognized international prestige and a fundamental figure of peculiar postwar contemporary art. Vostell, who died in 1998 at 67 years old, was considered one of the early adopters of video art and installation art and in 1958 was the first artist in art history to integrate a television set into a work of art. The museum had already closed at 2:30pm the Sunday we visited Los Barruecos. Next time.
So our trip to Extremadura was now complete and our only regret in skipping the far more popular cities of Spain like Barcelona, Seville, Granada, Valencia and others, was that we couldn’t stay longer in this truly magical region of Spain. Extremadura is light on tourists but rich in history and charm. It won’t stay under the radar for much longer as more and more travel sites have listed this region as one of the hidden gems of Spain so get there now while it’s still one of Spain’s best kept secrets. Visit turismoextremadura.com (and yes. the site is in English) to learn more and plan your trip to this historic region.