Let me finally share with you all the details of my Extremadura road trip. Yes, it took me a while to wrap it all up. But I promise you – for the fans of the lesser-known regions in Spain it will be worth the wait.
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I should admit that it took me way too long to wrap up this post. It´s curious how travelers and places always connect in different ways… My spontaneous trip to Madrid took place 2 months later (than this Extremadura road trip) yet somehow the post was out immediately.
However, in the case of Extremadura, I felt like I needed more time to process and evaluate everything I had experienced on the road. I guess, the fact that after 10+ expat years in Spain, Extremadura was still the only region I did not get a chance to visit in a long while, actually had a lot to do with it. I felt like it was some sort of personal closure. From now on my Spanish road trips will always be about returning somewhere, as with Extremadura I´ve officially covered every region across the Iberian Peninsula. Although I´m sure that my trips will still be focused on discovering new places. One just can´t run out of bucket list locations when it comes to a country like Spain.
Also read: The Most Beautiful Villages in Teruel, Spain
So, the Extremadura road trip was something I wanted to live for so long and now can finally share with you my honest impressions. While there were some things I did not like (don´t worry, I´ll fill you in below), numerous things from my list of Favorite Spain Travel Experiences of 2022 actually took place during this Extremadura road trip. So, you can already imagine that this journey to the lesser-known Spanish region of Extremadura was totally worth it.
Note, that my road trip lasted 4 days (we only had a long weekend for this getaway), but you can easily turn it into a 7-day itinerary by simply spending more time in every single place that I mention. In fact, that would be much more comfortable and even necessary, in order to discover each stop fully. For instance, we did not get to see it all in Merida ( otherwise you´d need a few days for the city itself). Also, I´ll leave for you more epic locations at the end of this post, so that you can cover as many local landmarks, as you wish (especially if having some extra time on this Extremadura Road Trip).
For those of you, who´ve never heard of Extremadura, let´s discuss the basic information about the region first.
Where is Extremadura
The Extremadura region is composed of two provinces – Caceres and Badajoz, while its capital city is Merida.
What is Extremadura known for
Some of the most iconic Spanish landmarks can be found in Extremadura – Teatro Romano de Merida, the Old Town of Caceres, Guadalupe Monastery, and the cherry blossoms of Valle del Jerte.
Fans of Spanish food might already know that Extremadura produces some of the best jams and cheeses in Spain: Jamon Iberico (con Denominacion de Origen Dehesa de Extremadura) and Torta de Casar (a popular local creamy cheese). Famous local delicatessen also include pimenton de la Vera, migas, gazpacho extremeño, chanfaina, zorongollo, cojondongo. If you have a sweet tooth, keep in mind that Extremadura has the largest number of hives and beekeepers in Spain, so consider bringing back home a local food souvenir from Spain.
Moreover, the region of Extremadura was once home to many explorers of the New World, like Hernan Cortes, Francisco Pizarro, and Vasco Nunez de Balboa.
Flamenco lovers can start searching for local spectacles, as Extremadura has its own flamenco style – flamenco extremeño.
How to get to Extremadura
The best way to cover the top touristic sights of Extremadura is to travel by car.
The closest airports are Seville and Lisbon (Portugal). Madrid has quite a few bus/train options connecting it with Extremadura. Another alternative is the Airport of Badajoz, but it only offers regular flights to Madrid and Barcelona, plus a few seasonal flights to some other Spanish cities.
When to visit Extremadura
Anytime. However, try to avoid public holidays in Spain, as Extremadura is a popular getaway for large groups of retired Spaniards.
Due to the kids and school, we are often tied to public holidays for traveling. Therefore this Extremadura road trip took place during a long weekend in October (and the national holiday of Dia de la Hispanidad, Oct 12). The region was loaded with buses of retired Spaniards. Generally, the level of life and prices in Extremadura are lower than in most of the Spanish coastal destinations. So, I guess, this fact adds to Extremadura´s popularity as a budget destination.
Extremadura Road Trip: Best Places to Visit in Extremadura
Day 1: Merida and Medellin
Merida is an absolute highlight of any Extremadura Road Trip. While embracing its ancient roots, Extremadura´s capital city teleports its visitors back to the times of the Roman Empire in Spain. Back then, this region was called Lusitania, and its capital city of Merida – Augusta Emerita.
Even though Merida has enough peculiar landmarks to keep history geeks busy for several days, we opted for a few main sights only. Mainly because I initially planned to visit the nearest small town of Medellin as well.
So, we set our eyes on one of the Top Spanish National Landmarks – The Roman Theatre of Merida and one of the most epic Spanish museums – The National Museum of Roman Art. On the way to have lunch, we also made a few stops at the Temple of Diana, The Pórtico del Foro, and Plaza de España.
The Roman Theatre of Merida
The Roman Theatre of Merida was one of the highlights of this trip for me. This place was constructed in 16 BC by the order of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a General of Emperor Augustus. It was meant to house 6,000 spectators and was remodeled several times, the last one between 330 and 340 AD. If traveling in summer – don´t miss Merida’s Classical Theatre Festival, Festival Internacional de Teatro Clásico de Mérida.
Our tickets also covered a visit to The Roman Amphitheatre, located right next to the Roman Theatre. This one was built in 8 BC to set the popular gladiator games and hunts of wild beasts. The approximate capacity was around 16,000 spectators.
The National Museum of Roman Art
While the magnificence of the Roman Theatre was something I totally expected before setting off on this Extremadura road trip, The National Museum of Roman Art took me by surprise.
Since our trip to Murcia and its impressive Roman Forum of Cartagena, I was somehow convinced that I could barely find a higher concentration of unique Roman objects and artworks anywhere else. Well, I was wrong.
The National Museum of Roman Art is the place. It ended up on my list of Favorite Spanish Places of 2022 – ready to return anytime. I loved everything about this museum – the large number of ancient and unique objects, the interior design, and the free entrance (which made this place available to every single person).
Remember how years ago I was impressed with the Roman mosaics in Paphos, during my trip to Cyprus? Well, the huge mosaic panels set on the walls of The National Museum of Roman Art are the next level – absolutely unbelievable.
Merida City Center
After visiting the museum we walked around Merida City Center and made stops to marvel at the Temple of Diana, The Pórtico del Foro, and the central square Plaza de España.
Our lunch in one of the top-rated restaurants was far from perfect. Despite booking in advance we waited 40 mins to get seated, and then the service was terribly slow as well. During the wait, we tried calling any other places nearby to switch, but everything was full.
Also read: Spanish Eating Habits – Almuerzo in Valencia
Not to give it any more importance through this blog post – the dining experience was the worst part of this Extremadura road trip. Not because of the food, but due to the poor service. One out of two. Either it was indeed a reflection of the restaurant industry in Extremadura, or simply our bad luck.
Only within a 30-minute drive from Merida, you´ll find the cute small town of Medellin with its very own Roman Theatre.
It was such a beautiful ending to our first day in Extremadura – walking along the ancient walkways and Roman stones at sunset. Unlike the very touristy Merida, in Medellin, we barely encountered a few people. So, we could almost enjoy it all to ourselves.
I loved this small town, even though I admit that before this Extremadura road trip, I had no record of its existence (could have sworn by the fact that the only “Medellin” could be found in Colombia).
Day 2: Frenegal de la Sierra, Jerez de Los Caballeros, Badajoz
The 2nd-day of our Extremadura road trip was meant to be entirely dedicated to the region of Badajoz.
First thing in the morning we headed to the beautiful small town of Frenegal de la Sierra. Although on the way we made a quick stop at El Capricho de Cotrina, the peculiar local building created by Francisco Gonzalez Gragera for his daughter Cotrina. Locals often joke that it´s the Gaudi of Extremadura. Even though this place was closed, we could still enjoy the vibrant fairytale architecture for a few minutes from behind the fence.
Frenegal de la Sierra
The small town of Frenegal de la Sierra is part of the route of the White Villages of Extremadura (or Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos de Extremadura in Spanish). If you previously visited Andalusia, you might already know quite a few whitewashed towns like Mojacar or Setenil de las Bodegas. Well, Extremadura doesn´t stay behind its famous neighbor. The main white gems here are – Frenegal de la Sierra, Zafra, Ducado, Olivenza, Fuente del Maestre, Llerena, and Jerez de Los Caballeros.
The most interesting and unique place of Frenegal de la Sierra is its XIIth century Templar Castle with a bullring inside (built-in 1781). Although we´ve spotted quite a few stunning “patios” (e.g. courtyards) while wandering around the old town – you can check them via my IG Highlight Extremadura.
Jerez de los Caballeros
Next, we drove to another beautiful village of Extremadura – Jerez de los Caballeros. I´ve set an eye on it ever since I got a new coffee table book of Spanish villages (you can check the books via this IG post). This small town has a rich cultural past, as it was once inhabited by the Romans, Phoenicians, Arabs, and Visigoths. You can make a stop at El Dolmen de Toriñuelo to touch an ancient past.
As our schedule for the day was quite jam-packed, we only had time to walk around the center of Jerez de los Caballeros to enjoy the stunning towers Torres de Jerez de los Caballeros, the mind-blowing facade of Iglesia de San Bartolome, the walls of the Templar Castle, and the museum-house of the Spanish explorer Vasco Nuñez Balboa (as I am obsessed with Spanish house-museums).
The place that grabbed my attention along the way was a church-bar dating back to the XVII century La Ermita Bar-Restaurante. Since they had an event that day, we could not get in for a coffee. But that would be an unusual experience.
On the way to Badajoz, we made a stop on the road for lunch at a local restaurant Las Maya Barcarrota. I wish I could say it was “a quick stop on the road”, but this was not our case on this whole Extremadura road trip.
Well, at least the food was really good and we got a chance to taste local cheese&jam plates. Plus, the waiter was friendly and said he was sorry for the slow service. So, as much as I enjoy sharing with you secret Spanish bars and restaurants, this will be the only place I could slightly recommend from my personal experience.
Also read: The Ultimate Almeria Holiday Guide
As we arrived in Badajoz, we headed to its central square Plaza Alta to enjoy the unique architecture, then walked along a few local sights – La Alcazaba, Plaza de España, and Puerta de Palmas. While wandering around the city I had a strange feeling – it was almost empty… Maybe, this was all due to the holiday weekend. But I remember reading in the Spanish newspaper that the Extremadura region had lost almost 50000 inhabitants during the last decade. According to it, the main problems of the region were always low economic growth and a high unemployment rate. Additionally, till 2022 Extremadura, Teruel, and Almeria were fighting hard to get the highspeed-train connection with the rest of the country in order to stop being “islas ferroviales” (e.g. rail islands) on the map of Spain.
Nevertheless, the ending of our 2nd day in Extremadura was extremely beautiful too… The sunset spotted us walking through the beautiful bridge of Badajoz – Puente de Palmas. It was built between 1460 and 1511 and offers a magical outlook over the river Guardiana. You know how much I love sunsets, don´t you? – I mean, who does not? But this sunset from the main bridge of Badajoz ended on my list of favorite Spanish travel experiences of 2022.
Day 3: Caceres, Trujillo
There is no Extremadura road trip without visiting one of the most underrated cities in Spain – Caceres, and one of the most beautiful small towns in Spain – Trujillo. Both were recently featured on HBO´s TV show House of the Dragon, so I guess it will boost international tourism in the area in the near future
The Old Town of Caceres (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is one of the most beautiful architectural gems in the whole of Spain. It ended up being my second favorite thing on this Extremadura road trip, after the Roman Heritage of Merida. As we visited the city early in the morning, the tourists were not around yet and I had a magical feeling of time-traveling back to the Middle Ages.
You should start your walking tour at Plaza Mayor Square and walk through the 15th-century arch Arco de la Estrella.
Keep your eyes open along the way. You´ll notice on the walls the marks of the filming locations of House of the Dragon. Don´t miss Cuesta de Adana, el Callejon de la Monja, la Casa de los Solis, la Casa de los Becerra, el Palacio de los Golfines, Cuesta de la Compañia, Plaza de San Mateo
The local Museum of Caceres is known for its famous sculpture Genio Androgino, dating back to the first century. Another emblematic place of the city is Torre de Bujaco, a beautiful tower from the XIIth century with great city views.
Also read: The Borgia Route in Valencia
As the city of Caceres was full of delicatessen shops, we stocked here some unique food gifts for the family, including local jamon and Torta de Cazar.
Our next stop for the day was Trujillo, one of the most beautiful small towns in Spain.
Here, we were not lucky with the weather though, as it did not stop raining even for a second. The central square Plaza de Trujillo still looked stunning, as well as did the Alcazaba. Don´t miss the gorgeous facade of Palacio de los Marqueses de la Conquista, the arch Puerta de Santiago (which was once part of ancient medieval walls), the ruins of Convento de San Francisco, el Real Puerta del Triunfo (where the Christian troops solemnly entered the city after the Reconquista), and la Alberca (ancient water reservoir from the XIIth century).
While strolling down the magical medieval streets of Trujillo, I accidentally discovered a beautiful handmade embroidery shop – Artesania Bordado con Fieltro (here´s their FB page), where I bought some stunning handmade pieces.
Day 4: Monasterio de Guadalupe
On the 4th day of our Extremadura road trip, we only had a morning for sightseeing, as later on we were planning to hit the road back home to Castellon ( with a stop in the ceramic city of Talavera de la Reina).
Therefore, I was choosing between two famous monasteries of Extremadura to include in our itinerary – Monasterio de Guadalupe and Monasterio de Yuste. A quick confession – I´m not sure whether I made the right choice in the end… As Monasterio de Guadalupe is slightly more famous here in Spain, we decided to pay it a visit first and leave Monasterio de Yuste for our next trip to Castille- Leon (as the monastery is located relatively close to Avila and Salamanca)
While Monasterio de Guadalupe is definitely one of the must-see places in Extremadura, I have honestly had mixed feelings while visiting it… You can read more about its history in my post about secret and beautiful Spanish monasteries. Here, I´d only reflect on my impressions.
Also read: 8 Most Beautiful Cathedrals in Spain
The architecture and artworks inside of the Guadalupe monastery were beautiful, but their approach to visitors with the no-pictures-inside policy and guided tours only felt a bit too much. After that, you´d expect the place to be a hidden Vatican. And it was not. I mean, at least, it was October and my shoulders were covered, otherwise, I was already waiting for them to ask me to cover up (like it happened in Savona). Don´t get me wrong, I respect the rules of religious places. Yet some of them (usually the ones with the strictest rules) end up feeling way more touristy and commercial, than religious. So, if your focus is not being available to every human soul and bringing peace to the visitors (and you clearly focus on earning money with this) – then why make the visitors’ experience as complicated as possible?
At Guadalupe Monastery, you get inside with a guide and a large group, unable to explore things at your own pace. At the same time, some rooms do not even have enough space for the whole group. In addition to this, The Monastery of Guadalupe is very popular with large groups of retired Spaniards. The huge number of cheap souvenir shops and buses parked around ended up killing the magic for me.
So, I doubt I´d ever make time for another visit. But again, you should still consider visiting this landmark at least once.
I definitely recommend visiting the Spanish region of Extremadura.
Yes, the restaurants had the worst service I´ve seen in all of my Spanish Road trips together. The province itself was flooded with the buses of retired Spaniards (we visited in October during one of the long weekends). Yet, this part of Spain still makes a great match for my blog series Undiscovered Spain as it remains untouched by mass international tourism. Plus there were quite a few things that I absolutely loved in Extremadura. These made this trip so worth it for me.
Firstly, the Roman heritage of Merida was absolutely impressive – some of the best Roman Ruins in Spain, for sure. The National Museum of Roman Art in Merida ended up on my list of Favorite Spanish Places of 2022. I loved everything about it – the large number of ancient and unique objects, the museum´s design, and the free entrance (which made this place available to everyone).
Secondly, the town of Caceres had completely overcome my initial expectations, so I ended up including it on my list of Top Underrated Spanish Cities That Everyone Should Visit. No wonder Caceres ended up as a filming location for the HBO´s TV Show – The House of The Dragon. This city is such an eye candy.
Thirdly, Extremadura is an authentic treasury when it comes to secret villages in Spain. I really enjoyed the local medieval towns of Frenegal de la Sierra and Jerez De Los Caballeros. I´m already planning to return to explore more of the White villages in Extremadura…
More places to visit in Extremadura
As I try to do for most of my Spanish Regional Guides – let me leave for you more great places to visit in Extremadura. Four days for an Extremadura Road Trip is obviously not enough to see it all. Although with my itinerary you can definitely get the first glimpse and make your own impression of the region alongside its main tourist sights.
- Meandro del Melero and Pilones del Jerte ( some of the otherworldly beautiful Spanish landscapes)
- Los Baruecos ( one of the GOT Filming Locations in Spain)
- Monfrague National Park
- Monasterio de Yuste (one of the top Spanish Monasteries)
- more beautiful villages of Extremadura: Hervas, Granadilla, Plasencia, Zafra, Olivenza, Coria
- if you are looking for flower blossoms in Spain, don´t miss – Valle del Jerte and its cherry trees
- for the fans of Medieval Fairs in Spain, check Mercado Medieval (in Plasencia/ around October), Mercado Medieval ( in Caceres/around November) Mercado Morisco (in Cañamero/around April/May), Mercado Medieval (in Tornavacas/ around December), Festival Medieval (in Portesuelo/around April)
- Foodies in Spain can set their eyes on a few local Gastronomic Events – Fiesta de la Tenca, Fiesta de la Chanfaina de Fuente de Cantos, Día del Jamón de Monesterio, Matanza Didactica y Feria de Embutido de Llerena, Jornadas Transfronterizas del Gurumelo
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