A bike ride around the European Appalachians

At last I had time to dust off my mountain bike and took a ride around the Global Unesco Geopark Villuercas Ibores Jara. I was looking forward to trying one stage of the “Ruta de Los Apalaches” -the Appalachian trail” in English.

That is the name of the annual Mountain Bike Race that takes place in Alía in september, organized by Alía Extrema Cycling Group. This sporting event goes through some of the Geopoark’s highest summits from where to admire the so called appalachian relief.

Although the Appalachian mountain range is in America, there is a link with this area of Spain.

It turns out that the Geopark mountains are aking to the Appalachian of America; that is the reason why the Geopark Villuercas belongs to the well-known International Appalachian Trail organization-IAT

To my view, what makes this cycling route appealing is that you can get to stunning sites hidden from the tourists eyes.

On this occasion, one of Alía Extrema members, Fermín, joined me in this adventure.

We started the route from Alía early in the morning. Immediately, we went up -better said “climbing” – a two kilometres steeped hill which trail ended in the picturesque Peña Amarilla geosite – Yellow rock in English-. After a brief momment to take a breath and some photos, we took a well marked trail that drove us to the Guadarranque River. Once crossed, I saw myself “climbing” again a tough slope that drove us to Puerto de San Vicente, just in the Castilla La Mancha’s border.

Right there is located, without a doubt, one of the best Geopark’s sights: the Altamira viewpoint, from which to admire the outstanding appalachian relief I mentioned at the begining of this post. After taking some photos, we rode down through out a rugged path to get to the Guadarranque River again and get back to Alía.

Finally, we had completed 45 km! Superb morning! Though, it was too much for me. I was exhausted, but at the same time, eager to do another route around the Geopark and tell you all about it.

Marmitas de Gigante: the relentless Geopark water erosion

There is an appealing Villuercas-Ibores-Jara´s geosite often overlooked by tourists.

Most of the visitors who arrive from the north –from Madrid for instance- don´t notice that there is an interesting place to stop halfway between Navalmoral de la Mata and Castañar de Ibor, nearby Bohonal de Ibor.

The Marmitas de Gigante is located 3 km going past Bohonal de Ibor, along the road CC-19. You can park your car just before the big bridge you come across and then walk along a short trail to the river.

Ibor River- erosion
Spherical holes carved into the rocks at Ibor River

Apart from the amazing landscape, this part of the river Ibor deserves a visit to find out the large number of spherical holes carved into the rocks caused by water erosion. That elements were provoked by the intense action of small stones drilling into the rocks over several millenia.

Geopark Villuercas Ibores Jara, Extremadura, Spain
Geosite Marmitas de Gigante

Moreover, this is one of the geosites I highly recommend for families. In fact, I went there with my 5 years-old son, who really enjoyed throwing stones and pretending he was the most adventurous pirate that had ever set foot on this land.

old watermill, River Ibor, Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara, Extremadura, Spain
Old watermill


Food matters in Villuercas Geopark

Menu at Parador de Guadalupe, food in the Villuercas Geopark

On top of its geosites, food is another appealing aspect of the Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara. The famous Spanish tapas and innovative recipes, which make our mouth water anywhere and at any time, are savored much more intensively in this heaven of peace and tranquility. In addition, this region is also renowned for providing some of the best products and ingredients to the culinary Spanish tradition. As food really matters in Villuercas Geopark, I recommend a route which combines food and learning in this post.


Our first stop is the Cooperative Santa Catalina in Alía, a local olive oil industry which produces the distinctive variety “Virgen Extra” from the ancient olive trees surrounding the village. It is advisable to arrange a visit (+34 927 36 60 68 – coopsantacatalina@gmail.com) to taste its excellent range olive oil.

Thanks to the touristic push of the Geopark, this agricultural cooperative has reshaped its business model from distributing the production exclusively among their members to launch the new brand “Villalia” and export part of the production. Moreover, It joined the Geofood project leading by the norwegian Magma Geopark.

The company´s international sales are focused mainly in China.

After testing that wonderful and healthy olive oil in Alía, it is time to check how it is used for cooking. One of the best place to do that is the Parador of Guadalupe. Villalia is among the vital ingredients used by chef Francisco Moreno. He considers that cooking with local products and raw materials from the Geopark as olive oil, honey, cheese and meat is superb”.

meal at Parador de Guadalupe, Food in Villuercas Geopark
Starter at Parador de Guadalupe

The menu we had consisted of one small bottle of gazpacho, one smoked salmon toast with blackberries, two pieces of black pudding, one glass with Spanish potato salad and another glass filled with strawberry paté for starter. The main course was Iberian carpaccio dressed with the olive oil Villalia we already tested before in Alía. Its mixture of flavours was out of this world! Simply delicious!

By the way, we enjoyed this meal of kings at the cozy inner courtyard full of oranges trees of the Parador de Guadalupe.

Villuercas Geopark, most valuable touristic zone in 2017

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.


Table of cheeses from the Denomination of Origen Ibores
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.

Gates of the Geopark Visitor Centre in Cañamero

One year to revalidate the title of Global geopark

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.


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Family photo of the Council of the Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara in Deleitosa. Photo: Diputación de Cáceres.


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.



Birding in the Geopark of Extremadura

Birding has become the engine for the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark. The number of ornithological tourists who opt for birding in the Geopark of Extremadura, specially from center Europe, have risen for the recent years. This activity generates profits of 6 million euros per year in this region of Spain.

The first step for birdwatching around the Geopark is to know where to go and which species of birds we can see in that period of the season. That is why I called Henk and Lisbeth, a Dutch couple experts in birds, who settled in Berzocana eight years ago and run “Discover Extremadura”, one of the Geopark guides site.

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Henk shows me the hide built in his property

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Special glass to not being seen by birds

I came over Lisbeth and Henk´s property in Berzocana to interview them. They live in a rustic villa overlooking the astonishing wall “Cancho de la Sábana” where usually nests griffon vultures and black vultures. Apart from their house, one small and discreet wooden cabin has been built there. It is a “hide”; a construction with just two seats inside and perfectly camouflaged with the environment to avoid being seen by birds. They have taken this photos from there:

European Roller

Golden Oriole

Black vulture


The Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara is an outstanding site for birding due to its vast territory and the variety of ecosystems – wetlands, steppes, dehesas…- where seeing the wider range of birds in Spain, more than 350 species.


This is a video on birding in the Geopark from Canal Extremadura TV (subtitles in English):

Guadalupe: an appealing Spanish pilgrimage place

It would be a deadly sin to be around the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark and not to visit Guadalupe. This holy village is the most important pilgrimage center of Spain, along with Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Thousand of pilgrims get to its imposing Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe – especially on September and October- to venerate the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe.

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Santa María de Guadalupe processionning along the cloister of the Monastery on 8 September.

My last visit to Guadalupe was on 8 September, day of Extremadura -the Spanish region where this village is located-. It is said that September 8th is “The Big Day” of this village due to the anual procession of the image of Santa María de Guadalupe throughout the basilica and the cloister of the Monastery of Guadalupe.

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The Cloister of the monastery packed with pilgrims

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The Monastery was declarated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

Apart from the Monastery, Guadalupe is an appealling touristic place where enjoying its picturesque streets, full of colourful plants, and its traditional food (based of pork products) with cheese and wine elaborated in the Geopark.

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Main square of Guadalupe

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Tourists in the terraces at the main square of Guadalupe

Finally, to complete the visit to Guadalupe, I recommend going up “La Villuerca”, the highest place of the Geopark (1.600 meters) or going for a hike to The ark of water, another geosite of wich I already wrote in this blog.

The Ark of Water, a journey back to the Middle Ages

The Ark of Water is an hydraulic construction dated from the 14Th Century. It is still operated with its original pieces and works to lead water to the Monastery of Guadalupe (Extremadura, Spain).

Although this instalation is not opened to visitors yet, the council of Guadalupe has already prepared a draft report that includes a touristic route inside the Ark. However, it is worth getting there due to the amazing landscapes that surround it. In fact, this place is one of the “geosites” in the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark.

This is my report on The Ark of Water for Canal Extremadura TV,  the TV station of the Spanish region of Extremadura (subtitled):


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My workmate filming one of the ark´s numberous natural springs.

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The arch, where water turns into potable

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Ancient inscription we came across along the galleries

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Original ceramic pipe. The water network dates from 14Th Century

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Entrance to “the mine”, where water is collected (left), and the access to “the arch”, where water is decanted (right).

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Slope where The Ark of Water is hidden. La Villuerca peak is in the background


Drive along the EX 118 road until “Hermita del Humilladero” junction. Take the only rural road you come across. Drive carefully until getting to the next junction. Leave the car and keep on walking along a path for over ten minutes. The problem is that there are not any indication to locate the Ark of Water.


Roman vestiges, historic routes and more from Alía

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).

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Rest area “Molino del Guadalupejo”

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).

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One of the signs of the path of Las Villuercas

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.

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Roman bridge

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

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The geopark Villuercas with kids

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 behind his cousin enjoying the nature.

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.

The Geopark is an ideal place to go for a walk with children

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.

Peña Amarilla in Alía. Obviously you will not get into the eye of the rock with children, but the view from the lookout point deserves a visit.

Track located in the area of the Guadarranque´s bridge. Totally safe for going hiking with the family.

Brand new bridge over the Guadarranque river

My son throwing stones to the river. We had a good time there.

On our way to the Caves of Castañar de Ibor after visiting its interpretation center. It is always a delicious walk with all the tracks recently refurbished