Valle del Ambroz: forests and charming villages
Valle del Ambroz, or the Ambroz Valley, is a spectacular region in the north of the province of Cáceres. It lies south of the Sistema Central mountain range and borders Valle del Jerte. The landscapes here are stunning all year round, though they are particularly striking in autumn, when people come here to walk the Ruta mágica, or Magical Trail.
Mountains over 2,000 metres tall give way to meadows and pastureland cut north to south by the River Ambroz, and by the famous Roman road called the Vía de la Plata. Hiking enthusiasts will be in their element here, and the charming towns and villages in the valley will make you wish you could stay longer.
Valley del Ambroz: discover its natural beauty
Valle del Ambroz is a land of contrasts. The mountains called Pinajarro, Camocho and Valdeamor rise high above sea level, some exceeding 2,000 metres. Far below at just 500 metres lie gentle meadows and pastureland with gorges and rivers running through.
The landscape is home to oak and chestnut forest, as well as holm and cork oak. It’s a real feast for the senses. Tree enthusiasts come here to visit the Castaños del Temblar, five ancient chestnut trees between 500 and 700 years old. You’ll find them on an ancient allotment in the small settlement of Segura de Toro, next to the Temblar Stream. Other famous trees in the area are the Alcornoque de la Fresneda (a monumental cork oak) and the Abedular del Puerto de Honduras (wild birch trees).
There’s a spectacular climb to La Garganta, the highest settlement in Valle del Ambroz at 1,100 metres above sea level. On the way you’ll pass a well at the Corral de los Lobos (an ancient trap for wolves) which was used to capture snow in winter to supply water during the driest months of the year.
The 8 settlements of Valle del Ambroz
The Ambroz Valley is cut through by the Roman road called the Vía de la Plata, or the Silver Way. For centuries it was an important south-north route across the Iberian Peninsula, and transhumant livestock farmers once drove their animals through this area. Later came the railway, followed by modern roads. The Vettones, Celts and Jews have all left their mark on the area throughout the ages, weaving a rich historical and cultural tapestry.
The eight towns and villages comprising the association of municipalities in the valley are Abadía, Casas del Monte, Baños de Montemayor, Aldeanueva del Camino, La Garganta, Gargantilla, Segura de Toro and Hervás (the capital of this small region). Here are just a few reasons for stopping off in some of these charming places:
Hervás has one of the prettiest Jewish quarters in all of Spain
It’s one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters in the country and an Artistic Heritage Site in the Spanish heritage registry. The original structure from the 14th and 15th centuries is still intact, and the narrow sloped streets seem to obey no order. Many of the surviving houses are built from adobe clay and still have the typical wooden framework and second-floor balconies.
It’s also worth visiting the Iglesia de Santa María de Aguas Vivas. It was reformed several times between the 13th and 17th centuries though still has the original defensive tower and walls. You’ll get great views over the town and surrounding area too.
The Roman baths of Baños de Montemayor
The Roman baths in Baños de Montemayor date back to the 1st century AD. You’ll find them inside the ancient spa building from the 17th century, complete with original vaulted ceiling over the medicinal waters. You can treat yourself to some rest and relaxion in the new spa, where the waters from underground springs reach the surface at a temperature of 45 degrees.
More than 1 km of the Vía de la Plata runs through the area. Other interesting sites are the 16th-century Iglesia de Santa María and the 18th-century mill with reconstructed original machinery.
Segura de Toro, from the time of the Vettones
Segura de Toro is one of the oldest settlements in the valley. This tiny village with very narrow streets lies at the foot of the mountains. It dates back to the Vettones (a pre-Roman people of the Iberian Peninsula) and among its points of interest are a stone carving of a boar in the plaza next to the town hall, the remains of an ancient Templar castle and the Renaissance-style Iglesia de San Juan.
The trail to the Castaños del Temblar (see above) leaves from this charming little corner of Extremadura, with its views over the Ambroz Valley and its forests. The natural swimming pool on the way out of Segura del Toro is a great place for whiling away a hot summer’s day.
Natural swimming pools in the Ambroz Valley
The pool in Abadía, on the Ambroz River, is one of the largest. There’s plenty of parking space as well as a large riverside grassy area and a bar. Another of the most famous is in Casas del Monte, and Gargantilla has a designated bathing area in summer.
The Charco de La Tejea is a pretty pool on the way out of Hervás, along the road to La Garganta. If you go there on foot, you’ll cross a bridge on the right and skirt the edge of the river. Further along you’ll cross the railway line and follow the road until you get to La Tejea.
Make a date with autumn in Valle del Ambroz
The Ambroz Valley becomes even more beautiful in autumn when the landscape is coloured with different shades of ochre, yellow and brown.
There are several walking options for enjoying this explosion of colour. You could head to the Castañar Gallego, or Gallego chestnut grove, in Hervás, one of the largest of its kind in the south of Europe and a Protected Landscape. The trail is suitable for all levels. Also consider the Castañar del Duque, in Aldeanueva del Camino, or the Castaños del Temblar in Segura de Toro.
Through to early December, the entire area joins forces for the Otoño Mágico or Magical Autumn festival (it’s officially recognised as being nationally important for tourism). The different towns and villages organise various weekend activities suitable for all ages. Nature and hiking are the order of the day!