Writing to you from the USA, this post is dedicated to the thousands of people who I’ve had to explain what and where Extremadura is.
“But why are you moving THERE??” The young Spanish lady asked me as she was reviewing my visa paperwork.
It was 2014, and I was at the Spanish embassy in NYC, a month before my departure to Spain. Eager to discover something about this unheard of place I was moving to (other than Google results of farmland), I couldn’t wait to ask the Spanish people at the embassy questions about the region.
“I was placed there to teach English!” I told the lady, who was from Valencia. “So, do you know anyone who has visited Extremadura?” She gave me a kind smile and said, “nope.”
What did I continue to learn by talking to people?
Most Spaniards have never visited the region, and most non-Spaniards have never even heard of the region. Sure, it might not have the beaches of Andalucia, or a bustling metropolis like Madrid, or the lush dramatic landscape of Galicia, or the fancy cuisine of Basque Country…
But it’s got its own, truly unique, Spanish charm. Any of you who know anything about my adventures in Spain, knows that I’m 100% PRO Extremadura. And I think you should be too. So, why don’t we give Andalucia’s forgotten next door neighbor a little love?
First off, let’s understand where it is on the map:
Great! Now that we’ve got the geography lesson out of the way…
Why in the world should you visit Extremadura?
1. CASTLES… everywhere.
If you’ve always dreamed of stepping into a scene of Game of Thrones, pack your sword and armor… this is your chance! Every historically important village in Extremadura has a castle, most of which are still perfectly (and surprisingly) intact. You’ll find some town castles proudly perched on top of a dramatic hill overlooking its village valiantly, while others are the central focal point of all village social events. Take Fregenal’s castle, for instance: on Halloween it turns into a haunted house, on Tuesdays it turns into a fresh fish market, and on Saturdays the castle plaza turns into the village playground, with adults drinking cañas and kids playing tag.
2. The beautiful landscape
Ahhhhh yes, the Extremeño campo. How I miss those barbeques in the midst of the endless green countryside, and the daily runs I used to go on through the rolling hills and past the abandoned medieval cottages, lost in the green abyss. You’ll see horses grazing on hay, Iberian pigs munching on acorns and the signature Encina and olive trees for as far as the eye can see. Oh, and THE SHEEP. If you wanna feel like Mary Bo Peep, this is your spot.
3. It’s jamón heaven.
I know, you’ve heard me talk about Extremadura’s jamón 27293829 times. But I can’t help myself! It is jamónlandia. It’s where Spain’s finest Iberian pigs eat the finest bellotas (acorns), die and go to cured heaven. Jamón Iberico is Spain’s edible gold, and Extremadura is one of the best places to eat it. Ask any Extremeño, and they’ll tell you that it is THE best, and the only place to eat it. You might be able to find great quality jamón in other parts of Spain (like Salamanca and Huelva), however, it’s often sold at twice the price for the tourists. Guess what? In Extremadura, there are virtually no tourists, so no tourist prices! In addition, all of the jamón is locally sourced, usually from its own village. Travel anywhere around Spain and read the label of your jamòn de bellota, and there’s a good chance it’ll come from a village in Extremadura.
4. Those quaint, charming villages.
Fairytale villages lost in the middle of rolling meadows? Check! If you want a medieval pueblo made of stone, go to a village in the northern province of Caceres. Or, if you love those classic southern Spain white villages, go to a pueblo in the southern province of Badajoz. Either way, you’re sure to get a taste of Spain in its most pure and traditional form. Below are some villages and cities I recommend checking out:
5. You’ll see España “Profunda”. Not that touristy stuff.
Did you know that Spain is the 3rd most visited country in the WORLD? Check out the stats by World Atlas. Tourists are like ants in Spain; anywhere you go, you’ll find them. That is, except in Extremadura. You won’t find any overpriced tourist restaurants, no kitschy souvenir shops, no sun burnt white dudes with Hawaiin shirts and fishing hats on…none of it. Just you and España profunda.