The Council of the Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara has recently establish new ambitious goals to mantein the title of UNESCO Global Geopark awarded in 2011. The current title will expire next year, so the Direction of the Geopark held a meeting in february to establish a working plan.
The main objective is to boost the participation of the population. The first step was to raise the Unesco flag in all the town halls as a “symbol of hard work and the strong consensus among the 19 municipalities located in the Geopark”, the president Charo Cordero said.
Apart from investing in constructing new interpretation centers and refurbishing rural roads and hiking itinerarys, the Geopark is utterly determined to rise its influence on social media and increase expenses in touristic promotion in order to attract more tourism after getting 34.886 visits last year.
The GGN presentation was run by its president, Nickolas Zouros. He flagged up that UNESCO geoparks celebrate the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, and therefore they must make a significant contribution to sustainable development in 2017. At the same time, Zouros praised the people who «add value of a rich geological heritage» because «this is not only about rocks», he added.
Moreover, the spanish geoparks network took advantage of this event to launch “Geoparques”, the first publication that gather the 11 geoparks in Spain. The book offers a totally different way of tourism consisting on a mixture of the traditional rural tourism with the knowlege of the origin of the Earth.
On the table: one glass of crianza red wine “Carabal” and one plate full of pieces of cheese and slices of ham. It was what I encountered going into the front-yard of my grandfather´s house during my last visit to Alía. Nothing is better than being with family.
That moment led me to write this post to explain My Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara is not only an ideal place to go hiking, look for fossils and enjoy its landscapes, but it is also an area to delight a wide range of excellent local wines.
These products have been advertised very heavily by the Government of Extremadura. Both commercials ” The Ribera del Guadiana wine route” and “The cheese route” are two examples of an intensive advertising campaign quite well developed. These videos were produced by a friend of mine, the sole owner of A.S. Producciones. The wine route was largely filmed at the Carabal winery, in Alía.
Moreover, the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark is a source of inspiration. In Berzocana is located “El Brezo rojo“, a comfortable restaurant with innovative dishes created by its chef Pedro Galán. I recommend the sandwich named “El Geoparque” with one big sirloin steak seasoned with a special Ibores cheese salsa. However, if you opt for a filling meal, I would order the roast lamb with honey and couscous. Simply delicious!
Roast lamb with cuscus
Pedro Galán at El Brezo Rojo
By the way, speaking about honey, the following video filmed by my childhood friend Abel Moyano (@AMoyanoPrieto), from Alía, is well worth a minute of your time. I am sure that most of you have never seen the honey being extracted from a beehive.
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: