Travel tips and photography of Spain continues with Extremadura, a region of Spain that is recognized as the source of the conquistadores (explorers and settlers of America). Extramadura literally means “harsh and extreme land.” The land in the area is difficult to live off of and is no doubt what pushed the conquistadores to travel and settle elsewhere.
I traveled to three of the main cities in Extremadura, all of which can be reached by car from Madrid.
But first a little history of the area… The main city in this region is Mérida. I do hope to visit Mérida at some point as there is a great Roman Amphitheatre to see and the wonderful National Museum of Roman Art.
Some of the most famous Spanish conquistadores (conquerors) came from Extremadura. A few of the most notable are:
– Hernan Cortés – who explored Mexico and is one of the main perpetrators who caused fall of the Aztec Empire.
– Francisco Pizarro – who conquered the Incan Empire and founded Lima, Peru.
– Pedro de Valdivia – who founded Santiago, Chile.
– Vasco Núñez de Balboa – who crossed the Isthmus of Panama in 1513 and founded the settlement of Santa Maria la Antigua del Darien in Colombia.
To read more about each conquistador and the region of Extremadura click here.
The first stop on my trip to the region of Extremadura was Oropesa. The town is small and rather sparse but it has a lovely Parador, it is part of the town castle that was built in 1366 and was later restored in 1402. You can literally spend a night in a castle! The Parador is lovely and you can be the first one at the castle in the morning and climb the castle towers, walk along the castle walls, and explore the courtyards. For admission prices and visiting hours for the castle see travel tips below.
From Oropesa I drove towards Guadalupe with a few detours into small towns known for their ceramics. These small towns have stores filled with stacks of hand-painted plates and bowls, flower pots, jugs, and more. And in one town I was invited to tour a small studio and watched as the craftsman painted a bowl with delicate flowers.
Guadalupe is located in the low mountains of the region. Guadalupe is home to a 13th century monastery that houses the shrine to “Our Lady of Guadalupe” and is the main site to see. The Royal Monastery of Guadalupe is a UNESCO World Heritage site and contains many small museums and rooms of liturgical robes, illuminated manuscripts, paintings, and more. All of the rooms are impressive and the courtyard in the cloisters is magnificent, and of course you must see the patron saint of Extremadura, Our Lady of Guadaloupe. I saw the monastery and church in a few hours and then drove on to Trujillo.
1 – What to eat in Spain and tips for Vegetarians traveling in Spain: I recommend that in all these cities, when possible, have lunch and or dinner at the Paradores. The Paradores always serve excellent food! Plus they have a vegetarian option and it is hard for vegetarians to find a square meal in a restaurant in Spain but the Paradores are incorporating this into their menus and they are one of the few places you will find this option available. Go for the “menu del dia” option which includes an appetizer, an entrée, and desert and coffee for a flat price.
More Information and links on Extremadura: