La Vera – Mountain bike and natural pools in the “Extremadura Pyrenees”
Imagine a place surrounded by mountains, full of gorges and natural pools where you can cool off at any time, with trails and tracks to travel hundreds of kilometers sheltered by forests of chestnut, oak and meadows. That place is the region of La Vera, in the province of Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain. And you can’t miss it.
At the foot of the Sierra de Gredos
The region of La Vera is located in the northwest quadrant of the province of Cáceres, occupying the entire southern slope of the Sierra de Gredos with an east orientation. It is also known as the “Extremadura Pyrenees” due to the great altitudes that its mountains reach, exceeding in many points the 2000 m height. Its granite crests have all the character of high mountain areas. From there large gorges descend that serve to irrigate the entire Tiétar Valley.
These gorges are undoubtedly one of the main bathing areas in the Extremadura community. In the province of Cáceres they are well known for their enormous environmental value and at a tourist level they are recognized throughout Spain, undoubtedly being one of the main points of interest for bathing in inland areas.
The area has a great architectural heritage with reference to the municipalities of Villanueva de la Vera, Valverde de la Vera and Garganta la Olla. Other places of undoubted historical interest are the Monastery of Yuste, where he spent his last years of life under the Emperor Carlos V, and the Parador Nacional de Jarandilla de la Vera.
It is an area of great traditions and legends, such as the Serrana de la Vera. Legend has it that a beautiful woman with the appearance of an amazon and certain supernatural characteristics lived in the mountains and she took the men with whom she crossed to her cave to kill them, after getting them drunk and seducing them.
As far as riding is concerned, the area has endless tracks and well-groomed and properly marked paths. Trails are plentiful throughout the area, almost all of them shared by hikers, cattle, and cyclists. In the town of Jaraíz de la Vera you can find trails and circuits built by the local biker community, all of them very well cared for and of very good quality. (You can find more information at the end of the article)
Day 1: Jarandilla de la Vera – Guijo de Santa Bárbara
Like any adventure worth its salt, you always have to have a starting point, this time it turned out to be the Jarandilla de la Vera National Tourism Parador, a castle-palace where Emperor Carlos V stayed for months. His food It is quite popular in the area and even though I could only taste a coffee…
I could see how they prepared their star dishes: Extremadura crumbs, potatoes “revolconas”, tomato soup, suckling pig, kid stew or repápalos with milk and cinnamon. At that moment I realized that I had to get out of there quickly if I did not want to turn this MTB adventure into a gastronomic adventure.
In the morning we were visiting some roads located in the surroundings of Jarandilla de la Vera until we came across the Puente del Parral that solves the pass of the Jaranda Gorge. An impressive medieval bridge that hides the first natural pools of our trip, what better time than this to cool off a bit.
In the afternoon we went to Guijo de Santa Bárbara, where we decided to continue the ascent of the Garganta Jaranda. It is one of the main gorges that the region of La Vera has, it collects water from the snows of the Sierra de Gredos, it is located on its southern slope because the region of La Vera occupies practically the entire southern skirt of the Extremadura part of the Sierra of Gredos.
There El Trabuquete was waiting for us, which is the name of the route that goes up the entire gorge. The area is well known for its many pools for bathing and the trail is very fun although somewhat technical due to the stones that form it.
Day 2: Madrigal de la Vera – Villanueva de la Vera
For the second day we decided to change the area slightly, we headed (a few kilometers away) towards one of the great tourist attractions in this area, the Roman bridge that crosses the Alardos gorge. This gorge is the other great gorge that the region of La Vera has, it has the peculiarity that it serves as a boundary between the provinces of Ávila and Cáceres, thus being situated in the easternmost part of the region of La Vera. It is one of the most characteristic bridges in the region due to its height and dimensions.
After this visit we had to find the Cascada del Diablo that is located near Villanueva de la Vera. It is another of the points of main landscape relevance due to that very characteristic waterfall that forms the river in the Gualtaminos gorge, a landmark at water level in the region of La Vera.
Day 3: Valverde de la Vera – Jaraíz de la Vera – Garganta la Olla
We had been wanting to visit the historic center of Villanueva de la Vera since it is one of the best preserved in terms of traditional mountain architecture, this is the name given to traditional architecture in the Sierra de Gredos area. So we headed back to this town.
The mountain architecture is characterized by the use of granite and wood. A friendly and quiet town that falls in love as soon as you enter it. I remember the words that a married couple said to me who were interested in the bicycle and the cameras we carried. “We are from Madrid, but when we came the first time on vacation we knew we would live here, and we have been here for 30 years.” I understand what they felt when they got here.
Valverde de la Vera is another of the main architectural centers of reference in the region of La Vera. So we decided to take a walk through its streets, admire its balconies and beautiful houses. Hunger was already taking its toll so we decided to have a snack at a local tavern, bread with local cheese and some “porras” gave us enough strength to continue our journey.
In the afternoon we decided to do some tourism and head to Jaraíz de la Vera (known as the World Capital of Paprika), there are two places that you cannot miss if you are in the area. These are the German Cemetery of Cuacos de Yuste and the Monastery of Yuste.
The first dates back to the First and Second World War, in which many of the German soldiers, airmen and sailors who reached the Spanish coasts and lands due to shipwrecks or the downing of their planes are buried. The German government decided to gather in a single place the bodies of the German soldiers scattered throughout Spain.
And the second, the Yuste Monastery, is known above all for being the last dwelling place of Emperor Charles V, the place he chose to rest and meditate after a reign full of wars and political and religious conflicts. It is one of the most important tourist and historical points of interest in the La Vera region. It is located in a beautiful natural environment. The guided tour inside the Yuste Monastery is highly recommended.
In Jaraíz de la Vera, do not forget to visit the lake that, due to its size and services, is undoubtedly the main bathing area in natural gorges of the Vera region.
Our last stop of the day was in the town of Garganta la Olla, which together with Villanueva de la Vera and Valverde de la Vera are the three urban centers that best preserve traditional architecture.
Day 4: Jaraíz de la Vera and the trails
The last of the days promised to be a great riding day. The local riders of Jaraíz de la Vera have worked very hard and for many years to rescue old trails and make them 100% fun and cyclable. Dani (a well-known local rider) and his companions have designed different circuits on the Jaraíz hill. They will not leave you indifferent, they are of great quality, fast, fun, with jumps and slopes, but well thought out and safe.
And after a whole day of riding… what could be better than a bath !. Living life, relax.
– You can find information about this area on their website CÁCERES TURISMO (https://www.turismocaceres.org). In it you will be able to consult the activities that are offered in the surroundings, as well as options for lodging, gastronomic and cultural information, etc …
– If you are interested in doing guided tours, renting bicycles or E-bikes you can contact Bikes At Forest (https://www.bikesatforest.com), they are a specialized local company that operates throughout the region, serious and very professional treatment.
By David Cachon