Our guest writer today is Will Peach who is one of the site editors over at Gap Daemon, the gap year travel community website for backpackers and gap year travelers. Enjoy!
Despite having a reputation as one of the “cheapest” parts of Spain, Extremadura isn’t quite as popular with frugal travellers as you’d expect. In the summer, due to its proximity with the tourist-heavy Andalucia, it can be quietly eerie. Perfect for a budget trip!
From music to monuments, ancient cities to art, Extremadura’s filled with cheap and easy things to do. Where to start? Check out these top picks:
Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, Mérida
Head to Mérida (the present day capital of Extremadura) and check out the striking monuments left over from its heyday as the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania. Stop at Mérida’s Museum of Roman Art, built next door to the splendid Roman theatre. The museum is a modern wonder. Its use of natural light breathes through its galleries and its hanging mosaic walls. The huge marble bust of Augustus Caesar is reputed to be the best in Europe too!
Free on Sunday evenings (4pm-9pm) and Saturday mornings (9am-2pm).
Irish Fleadh, Cáceres
Who’d of thought you’d stumble upon an Irish folk music festival in the heartland of Spain? The Irish Fleadh, a free annual 3-day festival showcasing the best in Celtic and Irish culture, is bags of fun. Nip into the many bars and pubs in Cáceres and join the impromptu packed concerts. Or head to the big stage in Cáceres’ beautiful plaza of San Jorge and get your jig on.
Free. Usually takes place on the first weekend of November.
Iglesia de Santa Maria, Trujillo
The town of Trujillo, home to the American conquistadors of the past, is steeped in history. This rich past is best exemplified in the magnificent two-towered monument of the Iglesia de Santa Maria. A former Muslim mosque later bestowed with Catholic riches, its beautiful vaulted ceilings give it must-see status alone. But you’d be more of a fool to miss out on the wood ornamentation altar, completed by the famous Castilian painter Fernando Gallego. A true sight to behold.
Free throughout the year.
Monfrague National Park
Hop on a train and get off on the popular stop of Monfrague and you won’t be disappointed. Just north of Trujillo, this UNESCO recognised wonder is home to a long mountainous ridge, oak woodlands and dense scrub. Gaze up at the skies above and you’ll see vultures (its home to the largest breeding concentration of the Eurasian black), eagles and stalks. A nature lover’s paradise, deer and wild boar also roam the grounds below.
Free throughout the year.
Puente de Alcantara
The tiny town of Alcantara, close to the Portuguese border, is home to the Puente de Alcantara, a perfectly preserved Roman bridge dating back to 101 and 106 BC. This six-arched wonder, comprised entirely of granite, is also home to an amazing old temple on the overlooking hill. It’s here the bridge’s engineer Cayo Julio Lacer is buried.
Free throughout the year.
Salvatierra de Santiago
This tiny village might only be home to 355 people but its packed full of Spanish charm. A long kept secret of the locals, and those making the trip from Montanchez to Mérida or Trujillo, Salvatierra de Santiago is right in the heart of the Extremaduran countryside. Make sure you try the famous and inexpensive Extremaduran migas (fried breadcrumbs) as Salvatierra de Santiago is said to be where the dish originated!
Another of Cáceres cultural delights, WOMAD, the world music and dance festival, comes to the ancient square of Extremadura’s second largest city, Cáceres, every year. Since beginning in 1982, having been founded by Peter Gabriel, WOMAD has gone from strength to strength. This Spanish version (said to be the best of the two), brings together artists from all over the globe while also staying faithful to the local culture.
Free. Usually takes place in mid-May.
Feria de San Juan de Badajoz
Extremadura’s biggest city Badajoz puts on a bash like no other at the end of June to welcome in the coming summer. The Feria de San Juan kicks off with a morning parade through the streets (expect lots of drinking!) before winding up in a glorious series of concerts, dance performances and fireworks in honour of the cities famous saint. Probably the best time of year to head to Badajoz – there’s not much to see otherwise!
Free. Usually takes place in the last week of June.
Punto Romano and Acueducto de los Milagros, Mérida
Where you’re expected to stump up the dough for the resplendent Roman theatre and Alcazaba, some of Mérida’s enchanting Roman sites can be seen completely for free. The best? The Punto Romano, the ancient bridge stretching over the Guadiana River, that is still accessible on foot. Also check out the Acueducto de los Milagros, a ruined aqueduct from the time of the colony of Emerita Augusta, and take a turn through the park below. You don’t have to spend money to enjoy this great city!
So there you have it. Next time you’re travelling through Spain do yourself a favour and ditch the beaches for the breathtaking scenery and sites of Extremadura. Just don’t tell that many people. We don’t want it spoiled by the crowds!