Days 1-2: Madrid - Trujillo - Cáceres.
We leave from Madrid and head to Trujillo in Extremadura. Trujillo's true magnificence lies in the stories we'll tell about its famous sons: We'll recount Conquistador Pizarro's hardships and triumphs, including his journey across the Isthmus of Panama to discover the Pacific Ocean (1513) and his travels to Ecuador, where he took possession of Atahuallpa, whose ransom of twenty-four tons of gold filled the entire room where the Indian chief was held captive. You'll also hear about fellow Trujillans Diego Garcia de Paredes (known as the Hercules of Spain, who with one finger stopped a mill-wheel in full motion), and Francisco de Orellana (who accomplished the first descent of the Amazon River). We'll walk the sun-drenched village from plaza to battlement tower, admiring Trujillo's old Alcázar fortress, concluding our morning with lunch in one of the oldest restaurants in town.
We'll continue on to Cáceres, whose old city is one of the finest and best-preserved ensembles of monuments in Europe. Cáceres was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1986. On our second day we'll enter the old city of Cáceres, feeling as if we have traveled back to the Middle Ages. As if waiting for historical figures from other eras to appear at any moment, we'll learn of the city's fabled past, being sure to taste the torta del Casar, a soft, ewe's milk cheese which was commonly used in the 12th century as a means of payment.
To get to the pilgrimage town of Guadalupe we'll hike Isabel la Católica's route, arriving the same way that kings, soldiers and bandits did for thousand of years. We'll pass thousand year-old trees and cave paintings on our way to Guadalupe, whose Royal Monastery stands brilliant and daunting at its midst. It was here, on the banks of a hidden river, that an apparition of a Black Virgin appeared, making the town a spiritual center revered like no other in Spain, save Santiago de Compostela in the north.
We'll rest our feet in the cascading gardens and swimming pool of the Parador of Guadalupe, which overlooks the entire town and surrounding mountains. We'll spend our second day here visiting the sanctuary and monastery, still considered one of Spain's greatest museums for its relics, paintings, and sculptures. While learning stories of the wise shepherds and queens who traversed the hills to visit this holy site, we'll learn why countless women from Argentina to Peru carry the name of Guadalupe.
Days 5-6: Mérida - Villa Viciosa - Elvas.
Mérida, whose origins date back to Neolithic times, was the bastion and showcase of the Roman Empire. We'll visit the well-preserved Roman Theater, Amphitheater, San Lázaro aqueduct, and one of Europe's finest museums of Roman Art. Ancient Mérida will come to life as we recount the stories of Augustus Caesar's Silver Road, the first century BC highway built to join the seas of the north and the south. In the afternoon we´ll visit the charming village of Alange, and relax in the Roman thermal baths.
In the morning we'll cross the frontier into Alentejo, Portugal, a region renowned for its cork plantations. In Vila Viciosa we´ll visit the Palace of Dukes and admire the village's flowered and Medieval Castle. In the afternoon we´ll discover the ramparts, gateways and historic old quarter of Elvas, rightly considered the main Portuguese frontier post of the 14th century.
Days 7-8: Olivenza - Madrid.
Olivenza was founded by the Templars in the 13th century and today it preserves the historical and artistic heritage of civil, religious and military architecture in the most refined and beautiful Spanish and Portuguese styles. We´ll spend our morning visiting this fascinating village, its churches, castle and its curious ethnographic museum.
We´ll spend our last day on an authentic ranch, overlooking rolling hills of oak and cork trees and a stunning view of Portugal and Spain. We´ll see Spain's famous fighting bulls pasturing peacefully and hear seldom-told stories about this country's controversial national sport. Our hosts are your guide Gloria´s family, fourth generation rancheros. Their farewell flamenco party and homemade specialties will provide the perfect ending to your unforgettable week in Spain.
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Europe Spain Portugal Local Culture Cultural Journey