The Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara became the most valuable touristic zone of Extremadura in 2017, getting the best rating given by tourists, 8,46, according to a survey relesed by the Touristic Observatory of Extremadura.
This study is based on the result of hundred of satisfaction questionnaires distributed to all the touristic information offices and interpretation centers located across the lenght and breadh of Extremadura.
Although the Spanish geopark is not nearly one of the most visited sites of the region, It is gaining visitors along the years who widely recognize having had an amazing experience.
Hospitality was the aspect of this zone of the province of Cáceres that more attracted the attention of tourists getting the best mark, 9. Moreover, the Geopark gastronomy was head and shoulders over the rest of touristic sites, with an 8,4.
In general, the Extremadura touristic sector got the average rating of 8.
Guadalupe, in the heart of the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara geopark, has won the national contest “Luce tu Pueblo” being named “the most beauty and good village of Spain”. The second pilgrimage site of the country got the first place in an online polling organized by the chocolat chain Ferrero Rocher, rewarding Guadalupe an imposing Christmas illumination.
The recognition comes after being announced this historic village of the Caceres province is going to become new member of the prestigious Association of the Most Beautiful Villages in Spain from 1 January 2018 on thanks its architectural beauty, cultural heritage, valuable traditions and natural enviroment.
The Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe is the crown jewel of the village. I have already wrote about it in “Guadalupe: an appealing Spanish pilgrimace place”. Tourists are not just astonish by the Monastery, but also the local gastronomy and the geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara. La Villuerca (1.600 meters high) and The Ark of Water are some of the must-see geosites just a few minutes driving or some hours hiking from Guadalupe.
The explorer team: four boys and girls, from 3 to 7 years old, and 5 adults. Destiny: Guadalupejo River, nearby Alía. We had to take two 4×4 because the rural road was not suitable for my berlina. However, the path is perfect for hiking and biking. After 10 minutes driving we got to the rest area called “Molino del Guadalupejo” (Guadalupejo´s mill).
This rest area is part of the Natural path of Las Villuercas, 60 km from Logrosán to the regional border with Toledo province. That route is the reminiscence of an abandoned and never opened railway from Villanueva de la Serena (Badajoz) to Talavera de la Reina (Toledo).
After hanging out at the rest area and playing with the kids by the river, we took an old and nearly vanished path downstream that led us to a roman bridge. The bridge is partly destroyed due to its disuse; however, it is easy to cross carefully. Undoubtedly, I could catalogue this place as one of the ten must-see sites in the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark.
The roman bridge is one of the principal attractions of this place along with the old mills in ruins we came across during the route. All of them tell about of the ancient story of Alía
At last I had the opportunity of testing my brand new Kodak Pixpro AZ525 around the Villuercas-Ibores- Jara Geopark. As I am a newcomer in photography, this kind of camera “bridge” – halfway between compact and reflex- fits perfectly with my needs because enables me to practise easily with a wide range of functions (manual, automatic and Wi-Fi connection). The best of all is its price, significantly lower than the same category you can find of Canon and Nikon.
First stop, The Ibor River. I lost count the number of photos I took by focusing and defocusing. I really loved it. Focusing allow you to obtain powerful and meaningful photos, big deal better than pics with just good composition (Pic 1). Getting good results is easier with the 52x optical zoom of my camera. However, it was disappointing when I attempted the “silk effect”, which means getting the water to look misty and smooth. (Pic 2) It was impossible. A tripod is needed among others settings. I´ll keep on trying!
The following photos were taken with the automatic functions “Black and White” (pic3), the “Image color option” which emphasizes one color of the scene (Pic 4), the “Landscape mode” (pic 5) and the function “water reflections” (Pic 6)
Finally, drinking a refreshing beer at one of the bars in Castañar, in which the time seems to stand still – both for its pieces of furniture and the regulars – was the best way to finish our photography trip. Good drink, company and the Rolling Stones sounding in the radio was a good end before falling back into monotony of our day to day in the city.
It is said that Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark is a huge theme park on geology, archeology, wildlife and plants. I agree with that simile and I would add, for the relief of parents who travel with kids, it is also an immense playground for children.
My son´s passion when we spend the weekend in Alía or Castañar de Ibor is to go away the urban center, run around the dirt roads and observe animals. The time I spend in the countryside by seeing my 3-years-old enjoying the Geopark is by far better than go hiking or biking for hours alone or in company with others.
Although this geopark is a newcomer, most of its geosites are safe. Hundreds of rural roads have been refurbished along with the improvement of signals and the installation of safety fences.
So, I recommend a visit around The Peña Amarilla and The Guadarranque´s bridge in Alía and the interpretation center of Castañar de Ibor. All the pics of this post were taken in my last visit to both places.
Nature did a great job in the Spanish region where I live by leaving us ancestral rocks, high mountains, the deepest valleys and a wide range of minerals and fossils. The problem was that nobody had been brave enough to boost and make attractive the outstanding Villuercas-Ibores-Jara landscapes that we have always had before our eyes for thousands of years. Until now.
2011 marked a point of no return. It was when this vast area located in the province of Cáceres was declared “Geopark”. My dreams then came true because I had always been convinced that this zone needed some kind of environmental protection to have a brighter future. The Villuercas county had endured a harmful emigration by the late ´80s. Since then the increasing lack of jobs, due to many factors, has made a deep dent in the local economy. In the aftermath, my family (including myself) and all my friends had to move from Alía whose population plummeted from 5.000 inhabitants to barely 1.000 inhabitants in just one decade.
Nowadays the Villuercas Geopark is both a challenge and a chance. Tourism is predicted to become bread and butter for this area in the coming years overtaking the traditional farming sector. But at the same time, I do believe that those who will guarantee a better future for this often neglected zone in Spain are still at school. The Geopark is playing a central role at the schools of this area. I was fascinated when I visited the Cañamero local school “Fausto Maldonado” where the teachers familiarize the students with terms like “Trilobite“, “cloudina” and “cruziana“. Both students and teachers are crucial to enable this area to remain alive forever.
Without a doubt, having landscapes like “The gorge of the Ruecas river” at just a 10- minutes-walk from the school of Cañamero help the teachers succeed in their educational programs and, on the other hand, discourage the students from leaving their villages.
This place is well worth a visit, so I suggest the following route: