Besides cultures and heritage, Spain’s magnificent highways also unlock the best and most picturesque natural and geographical features in the country. Plan a trip to Jerte Valley to watch cherry blossoms, or visit the Alpujarra Mountains in Granada, or relax on the beaches of Cádiz—the options are plenty.
Cherry Blossom in the Jerte Valley
The Jerte Valley (Cáceres) in Spain is synonymous with cherry blossoms, which is a spectacular sight. This 30-kilometre linear route follows the N-110, which runs parallel to the Jerte river, from Navaconcejo to the Tornavacas mountain pass.
One starts at Navaconcejo, a centre of cherry production, which is home to typical mountain wooden dwellings with overhanging balconies. Here, one also finds La Fábrica, formerly a 17th-century wool and fabric factory which is now a Cultural Centre. Cabezuela del Valle, your next stop, is officially designated as a Historical-Cultural Asset and is home to a Cherry Museum. Close to Jerte, one comes across the Garganta de los Infiernos Nature Reserve, with picturesque waterfalls and natural pools.
Tornavacas is the northernmost town in the Jerte Valley. From here, one can spot the source of the river that bestows its name and life upon this valley. Revel at the splendid Gredos and Sierra de Béjar mountain ranges. Or trek to the highest point in the Puerto de Tornavacas mountain pass, where a wonderful lookout point forms a ‘natural balcony’ with exceptional views of the Jerte Valley. This region is also renowned for the quality of its cold-pork offerings.
If one wishes to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, it is to be noted that the season for this varies from year to year. It is advisable to keep tabs on the official Valle del Jerte Tourist Office website and plan the trip accordingly.
Alpujarra Mountains in Granada
The Alpujarra Mountains in Granada is where you are likely to be the closest to experiencing that elusive moment of zen-like peace in Spain. The rugged mountains, whitewashed villages and olive groves only add to the peaceful vibes on this route through inland Andalusia. The starting point is in Granada, after which one follows the A-44 only to turn off towards Lanjarón, the gateway to the Alpujarra Granadina. The capital of the lower Alpujarra is at Órgiva, situated on the banks of the river Guadalfeo. The highlight is the Church of Nuestra Señora de la
Expectación and its amazing towers. One then rides along the A-4132 to reach Soportújar, a place with links to mystery and witchcraft. There’s also a Buddhist centre nearby for those seeking silence, meditation and tranquillity.
The next part of this 109-kilometre-long journey crosses the upper Alpujarra, passing through the Poqueira ravine. Three villages—Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira—enchant travellers with their architecture and places selling leather, pottery and textile handicrafts. Trevélez, one of the highest towns of Spain boasting of incredible views of the Sierra Nevada, also falls en route. Then come destinations that sell and serve excellent ham—Juviles, Mecina Bombarón, Yegen, Válor and Puerto de la Ragua. The return journey can be undertaken along the A-438, which lies further to the south—this route takes past through towns such as Yátor, Cádiar and the beautifully whitewashed village of Torvizcón.
A Journey to Explore the Beaches of Cádiz
Not surprisingly, the beaches along the Cádiz coast have long been a hit amongst holidaymakers and tourists. The quest for the perfect beach to unwind begins in Jerez del la Frontera, the capital of the Sherry region. It then continues along the Costa de la Luz with the Atlantic Ocean and places like Sanlúcar de Barrameda. During summer, the beaches here witness the longest-standing horse races in Spain. Cádiz itself is a bright, white city—the oldest in Western Europe. Its beautiful bay, narrow streets, neighbourhoods with ancient watchtowers, and the Baroque and Neoclassical cathedral are definitely worth exploring.
The dreamy Cádiz stretch continues with Conil de la Frontera, where one comes across the El Palmar beach, famed for its crystal-clear waters. For something more pristine and unspoilt, head over to the Roche cliffs with its interlinked coves, some of which are accessible only at low tide via stairways carved out of the same rock that forms the cliffs.
There’s a hint of Andalusia along this 204-kilometre route as well. Visit fishing villages such as Zahara de los Atunes for a true flavour of the Andalusian region. Must-try dishes include pescaito frito (little fried fish) and the exquisite net-trapped tuna fish, while the sheer variety of beaches here means that there is something that will appeal to virtually everyone. Pine trees and dunes of white sand await you in Playa de Bolonia, which can be reached by driving to Tarifa. And during the duration of the stay, plan a visit to the ancient Roman city of Baelo Claudia. The Playa de Valdevaqueros is recommended especially if you are into windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Travel further inland, and the spectacular setting of the Sierra de Cádiz comes into sight. This section takes one past 19 towns (such as Arcos de La Frontera, Algodonales, Torre Alháquime, Grazalema and Benamahoma), each with a Moorish legacy, the whitewashed walls of which often blend with the surrounding rocks.
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