Responsible tourism in Extremadura, Spain
This is a guest post by Aida Cercas, the face behind http://www.mikasamola.com
Extremadura in Spain, is a perfect destination for those who want to experience responsible tourism. Located in the southwest, at the border with Portugal, it is not especially well-known. Here, local communities preserve carefully both their material and immaterial heritage. You can find the tourism board web site here
1. What to see, main cities? Extremadura´s main cities – Caceres, Guadalupe and Merida – are all UNESCO World heritage sites. Both Caceres and Trujillo have beautiful architecture that originates from the Middle ages and from the Renaissance. In Trujillo´s main plaza there is a sculpture of Francisco Pizarro – the ‘Conquistador’ of Peru – which commemorates all the local people who helped form Columbus famous fifteenth century expedition. In Merida, every summertime locals and visitors alike, enjoy the festival of Roman Theatre. This provides a fitting tribute to what was the capital city of Spain, during the Roman epoch. Furthermore, there is ‘The National Museum of Roman Art‘, built by Francisco Moneo. It holds Europe´s largest archeological collection, in a part of the world vibrant in artefacts and history. On the other hand, unique Contemporary Art collections are based in Extremadura: The Vostell Museum in Malpartida de Caceres, and the gallery Helga de Alvear in Caceres. The Fluxus movement founder, get in love of Malpartida de Caceres creating a museum there.
The tapestry of Extremadura continues in the form of its landscape. ‘Fincas’ can be rented to experience ‘La Dehesa’; the distinctive landscape of Holm Oaks. ‘Paradores Nacionales’ is a high quality accommodation network which combines conservation and tourism., and It is possible to sleep in some historic sites as you enjoy them. You can rest or dine in the same rooms where The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V decided to be retire in 1556 at the Hieronymite Monastry of Yuste for example. This Monastry is located in “La Vera” and indeed, Extremadura is unique in that there are so many walks to enjoy in its warm micro-climate. First we can consider a walk at la Dehesa. Some fincas at La Dehesa, offer horse ridding and wildlife observation. It is the pigs that are fed all year round to produce ‘Jamon Serrano’ and ‘Chorizo’ – products of worldwide renown – that are most emblematic of the environment. For bird watching check ‘Monfrague´s Natural park’ website.
We can walk Extemadura by –Via the la plata-; ancient roman ways or vias were used by shepherd to cross Extremadura. Norwadays are well preserved walking routes. There is a big accomodation offer in form of rural hostels along them. At Baños de Montemayor there is a balneary of curative water. Baños de Montemayor´s water had been well known since Roman Empire when the main pile was builted; it is very are popular between Spaniards too. It is an attraction highly recomended. Borderline regions are gateways for many community and cultural influences. Hervas at “Sierra de Hervas” was originally a jewish village, built using a mix of straw and clay ‘adobe’. This fragile legacy lives-on and the town is still inhabited. Do not miss the chance to explore this ancient building technique and the unique rural landscape. Brotherhood with Portugal is represented by Olivenza. This small village is adorned by the ornate Portuguese tiles for which the countrymen are famed.
2. What about local food? Enjoying the region responsibly means exploring the local markets and gastronomy. The ‘Jamon Serrano’ is the most popular local product from Extremadura but not the only one. ‘Torta del Casar’ cheese and the ‘Sweet Pimenton’ – a spicy condiment – are also well-known products. Nowadays the Pimenton is used by prestigious chefs from all over the world. Owing to its biological origins and hand made production method, it has become very popular. ‘Higos con chocolate’ fig with chocolate, ‘Membrillos’ quince jelly and a variety of sweets influenced by Arabic and Roman past. This is a ‘must buy’ when shopping in the local markets in Extremadura. 2015 is a special year for Extemadura´s gastronomic agenda; Caceres was designated the gastronomy capital of Spain 2015 by the Spanish Hotel and Catering Trades Federation and the Spanish Tourism Writers and Journalists Federation.