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Extremadura, the interior Spanish province with the greatest amount of water, extends from the Gredos and Gata mountain ranges all the way to Andalusia, and from Castile to the Portuguese border. The region has a varied landscape of plains, mountains and meadows. Cortes, Pizarro, Balboa, De Soto; the Conquistadors, all left this vast, beautiful and little-visited region to conquer the New World. Fortunes made in the Americas financed elaborate family mansions and churches inthis region that earlier as enjoyed by legions of the Roman Empire. Extremadura is an outdoor lover´s paradise with popular sports including hunting, fishing, hiking, horse-riding and many water-sports available here.
Leave Madrid and continue west to Plasencia, that contains the largest Cathedral in Extremadura, and still has preserved the ramparts to the aqueduct. From here visit Bejar and see the Arab Ramparts and the Roman Milestone.
Make your way to Caceres. Declared World Heritage by UNESCO and surrounded by Moorish walls, Caceres is splendidly preserved. Its handsome ochre-coloured mansions – belonging to the noblemen of the 15th and 16th centuries who fought against the Moors and journeyed to the Americas as conquistadors – line the maze of twisting streets and small plazas. Plaza Santa Ana forms the hart of the old city, and the provincial museum´s excellent exhibits of regional archaeological finds and ethnographic displays are housed in the Casa de las Veletas. Beneath Veletas you descend by a stone staircase into a splendid cistern, left from the days when the building was a Moorish Alcazar (a fortified palace).
Leave Caceres and continue east to Trujillo and Guadalupe:
Guadalupe: famous for the Monastery of Guadalupe, with a 14th century church and a mudejar cloister. Pilgrims come here to worship the Black Virgin in the storybook cathedral.
Trujillo: It´s lively Plaza Mayor sits beneath the statue of Francisco Pizarro, whose family palace is also on the plaza. It´s uphill from the square to little churches and noble mansions, and the 12th century Arab fortress of El Castillo.
Drive to Mérida, accommodation at the parador in Mérida.
Today enjoy visiting Merida.
The Roman ruins in Merida particularly the amphi-theatre are outstanding, as is its award-winning Museum of Roman Art. Also Merida boasts the world´s largest Roman Bridge, and other Roman remains including the Arch of Trajano. Merida has been declared by UNESCO Heritage of mankind.
Accommodation in Merida. Parador of Merida.
Leave Merida and continue south to visit Zafra , with a fine old quarter declared a Spanish National Historic Monument. Visit the Plaza Grande 18th century and the Plaza Chica 16th century.
Leave Zafra and continue to Seville.
Seville is the capital of Andalusia and has a chequered history having been ruled by the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors before the Christians finally reclaimed it in the 13th century. The city’s character reflects this particularly in the architecture of Moorish, Mudejar, Renaissance and Baroque style, which can be seen.
Seville is a compact maze of narrow streets with an incredible choice of places to visit. The medieval Jewish quarter and the Barrio Santa Cruz are fascinating by day or night with flower-lined streets, houses adorned with exquisite wrought iron and seemingly endless restaurants and taverns. In Santa Cruz, Seville’s old Jewish quarter, we find the Cathedral, occupying the site of a great Mosque built in the late 12th century and the adjacent Giralda Tower actually a minaret from the original Mosque. Nearby is the Reales Alcazares, royal residence of Spanish kings for centuries.
In the area of el Arenal is one of Spain’s oldest bullrings, the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza which dates from the 18th century. Also the 13th century Torre del Oro (Gold Tower), built in Moorish style to protect the port and now containing a small maritime museum. Further to the south of the city is the magnificently tiled Plaza de España which is surrounded by the lush gardens of the Maria Luisa park.