There has always been a conflict between those who want to go to the coast or the mountains in their free time. A holiday dilemma that moves between jokes and reality in equal parts. In any case, both environments have exceptional locations, many of them still undiscovered. Places that in the mountains become a perfect mixture between natural beauty and isolation. Moreover, they allow you to get away from the heat of the beach areas and go on hiking trails until you are fed up. That is why we bring you eleven mountain villages worth discovering this summer.
The Alpujarra unfolds in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada, between Granada and Almería, forming a spectacular whole both historically and aesthetically. Its whitewashed villages are one of its distinguishing features. Also its position today privileged, in a mountainous environment but at a short distance from the Mediterranean. Pampaneira takes advantage of all these factors to perfection. It took refuge from the Muslims after the fall of the Nasrid capital, the Arab features survived in spite of repopulations and conflicts such as the rebellion that took place in the region in the mid-sixteenth century.
Such a past is reflected in its Santa Cruz church, which despite being from the 18th century shows Mudéjar features. The handicraft of the jarapa, a typical material of the area from which blankets or carpets are made, adds a notable touch of colour. In addition to taking routes around the area or simply strolling through its streets, there are nearby destinations that allow for day trips. Trevélez, Motril, Salobreña, Castell de Ferro, Almuñécar… The possibilities are endless.
Located in the Aragonese Pyrenees, Broto is part of the entrance to the Ordesa Valley. It is very close to a better known town, Torla, as well as to Fanlo. Mondarruego peak overlooks the place, whose main attraction is in any case the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park. It spreads out around the river Ara in two districts, Santa Cruz and Los Porches, like many of its neighbours. Also, like them, it was damaged during the Civil War, such as the blasting of its medieval bridge.
Its popular architecture seems to be quite similar, although the milestones it displays are from different periods. From the 16th century are the church of San Pedro or the prison, with its strange engravings. Very close to the village, barely five minutes away, there is a Romanesque bridge linked to the most typical natural area of Broto. It is the Sorrosal waterfall. It reaches 50 metres and has a via ferrata attached, a passage with additional support elements. The low degree of difficulty makes it ideal for beginners.
Although today the place name “Ancares” is associated with a large Natural Park between El Bierzo and Galicia, in the past it was assigned to a small valley. Very isolated in the heights of El Bierzo, the municipality of Candín includes the territory that was linked to that name. The other two classic ancestral towns are Balouta and Suárbol. The latter was badly affected by a fire in the mid-twentieth century. This destroyed the traditional pallozas, which were replaced by the present dwellings of stone and slate. Hórreos did survive, which are another architectural link resulting from the proximity of Galicia.
Around this village and its neighbours there are wild and pastoral places. The breñas, areas of high shepherding, are combined with forests. Roads connect the mentioned towns among them and with other equally outstanding ones, such as Campo de Agua and its pallozas. The valley is also home to some of the most important species from the north of Spain, such as the brown bear and the capercaillie. After walking or climbing one of the surrounding peaks, you can enjoy the typical gastronomy of El Bierzo with Galician influences. Especially notable are the trout and meat products.
This small village is located next to one of the most amazing road candidates in the country, in Asturias. There are 23 legendary turns that make up some three kilometres of vertigo. With a more than pronounced slope and reduced angles, it climbs up to a small group of houses. On the way, more houses are scattered, typical and perfectly matching the prevailing green tones. A small temple dedicated to San Juan is the only noteworthy building. However, Casielles does not need large buildings as an incentive to be in the Natural Park of Ponga.
The imposing zigzag is reached from the N-625 as it passes through the Beyos gorge. This passage is produced by the Sella and generates a landscape at the height of gorges like the Hermida, the Caminito del Rey or the Cares. The route between Oseja de Sajambre and Rañes leads to consider how one of the most beautiful roads in Asturias and León could be built. Meanwhile, the Foz de Víboli or the Foz de los Andamios serves for both canyoning and hiking.
You have to go into the Natural Park of Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche to find this town, which borders on Extremadura. Its surname is not free, since it was one of the bridgeheads of the Knights of Santiago in the 13th century. Then the Encomienda Mayor de León was created, of which it was a part, controlled from the Leonese monastery of San Marcos. A historical curiosity that is reflected for example in the invocations of its churches, in this case Santa Marina. In this way, it has a great relationship with Fuentes de León, which has some very interesting caves, or Segura de León, with an imposing castle, both in Badajoz.
This Huelva town has another characteristic that makes it unique. Instead of the main square, it has a huge artificial lake that collects water from a nearby fountain. The coolness it provides means that in summer it is usually very busy. It is also visited by pilgrims on the Southern Way to Santiago, who arrive from Aracena after having left Huelva. This route passes through some of the nearby paths, which are an attraction based on the agricultural character of the place. Between the plots of land, you can see pastures, a key forest for pig breeding. A delight that rises as the great gastronomic value of the area. Not in vain, not far away are Campofrío or Jabugo. It is worth mentioning that on the other side of the border there are interesting night viewpoints in the surroundings of Fuentes de León.
At the other end of the border of Extremadura, falling on the side of Salamanca, is La Alberca. It is one of the places of reference of the Sierra de Francia, one of the massifs that separate the territory of Salamanca and Cáceres. Its main attraction is the popular architecture it shows. Not in vain, thanks to it and since 1940 the town itself is considered a Historic-Artistic Monument. Its balconies, with flowers according to the period, or the wooden elements on the facades give a very characteristic aspect to its houses.
Frank repopulations gave origin to the current population, which is reflected in the name of the mountain range where it is located. Also in the most important religious landmark of the same one, the Peña de Francia. An image found in the place in the mid-fifteenth century originated a strong devotion that remains today. For a long time, pilgrims on the Vía de la Plata made a detour from the Béjar pass to visit it. An 18-kilometre route from La Alberca to the site and back again makes it possible to go there. Many other hiking trails mark the environment. Also, not far away await Ciudad Rodrigo, Hervás and Plasencia. Also the medieval ruins of Granadilla or the Roman ruins of Cáparra.
It is now time to go to the centre of the peninsula, specifically to Madrid. Lozoya sits next to the Pinilla reservoir, near the Segovia Navafría. It is part of the upper course of the river from which it takes its name. A little further on, this waterway supplies one of the best known towns in the community, Buitrago. Typical mountain town, in its town centre the fountain of the Cuatro Caños and the church of El Salvador catch the attention. Meanwhile, in the surrounding area, the only juniper tree in Madrid thrives. Areas with specks of oak trees and low vegetation are mixed with more densely wooded areas. El Reajo Alto, on whose slopes the population rests, or the port of Navafría are the most notable mountains in the surroundings of Lozoya.
Sallent de Gállego is one of the main towns in the Tena Valley. Located in the upper part of Huesca, between Ordesa and the Western Valleys, at its feet is the Lanuza reservoir. Together with the Bubal reservoir, they are fed by the Gállego river and overlook the lower part of the valley. Stone houses and remains that are even associated with the Romans, such as the most outstanding local bridge, are the focus of attention. Especially noteworthy is the church of La Asunción, of Gothic style. The importance of this town has been great during the Middle Ages and Modern Age. During this time it headed one of the quiñones of Tena, administrative divisions into which the territory was divided.
Lanuza, a small village that refused to die under the waters of the swamp to which it gives its name, is one of the closest external tourist attractions to Sallent de Gállego. The Balaitús or the Infernos set the altitude, being among the most outstanding peaks of the Pyrenees. In the sides of the fluvial course, gaining height, are located glacial lakes or ibones that compose routes of great beauty. Meanwhile, Formigal and Panticosa are towns that give their name to one of the country’s best known ski resorts. Finally, there is the entrance to the valley itself. The Santa Helena gorge can be reached from Biescas. It has exceptional landscapes, a sanctuary with cave and fountain, dolmens and even a modern fort, which defended the passage to France.
Between Madrid, Segovia and Guadalajara awaits the Sierra de Ayllón. Falling on the side of this last province is El Cardoso de la Sierra. Apparently in the middle of nowhere, it stands out for its strategic position to enjoy the mountains that surround it. For example, if you cross the Jarama and decide to tackle the Madrid mountains, La Hiruela or Montejo with its beech forest are exceptional options. Somosierra and the A-1 are waiting nearby. Crossing the port of La Quesera you advance to Segovian lands, with Riaza and La Pinilla.
Finally, if you decide to continue in the mountainous territory of Guadalajara, there are two outstanding elements to attend to. On the one hand, the Tejera Negra beech forest. Together with Montejo, they are a World Heritage Site. Cantalojas is the town of reference to visit, which also gives rise to a linear route walked to Riaza, through La Quesera, of great interest. However, it is complicated and requires return transport. On the other hand, there are the black towns of Ariac. Majaelrayo or Campillo de Ranas are among the best known. As far as ascents are concerned, the Lobo Peak or the Ocejón are some of the most popular options.
The Babia region brings back feelings of relax and isolation. A tranquility that can be perceived in one of its villages, Torre de Babia. Part of the municipality of Cabrillanes, whose population is dispersed in a myriad of small towns, is part of León and borders with Asturias. The same town can also be seen stretched out, with the houses spread out over the area of meadows that it overlooks. Its church of San Vicente is the most important in Bibiano territory, with 17th century frescoes still to be discovered. The remains of its medieval tower also stand out. From the 10th or 11th century, it formed part of a defensive line that extended through the nearby towns.
High peaks surround Torre de Babia, a place where livestock became especially important with the Mesta. Because of this and the influence of transhumance on the place, there is an ethnographic museum on the subject. In nature, the Laguna de los Verdes is the greatest attraction. Surrounded by mountains but accessible, the shade it acquires especially in summer justifies its name. A somewhat demanding route reaches it leaving from the very center of the town. The reward is an environment that justifies staying indoors.
Place names tend to repeat themselves, a common occurrence that always harms the little one. Thus, if we say Carmona, our thoughts will go to the remarkable town of Seville and its magnificent Alcazar. Far to the north, in Cantabria, the Andalusian city has a namesake. This is a diametrically opposed town. It has barely 175 inhabitants and lives on the banks of the Quivierda, a tributary of the Nansa. In the valley of the same name, near that of Saja, this charming example of mountain architecture survives, with the typical houses of the area at the head. These houses associated with the rural nobility of the 17th and 18th centuries still maintain their stately character. The palace of the Díaz Cossío y Mier family is the best example.
Almost next to Carmona is the district of San Pedro. From both centres it is easy to take routes that run along this side of the Nansa Valley. Thus, you can go to the sanctuary of the Virgen de las Lindes, from the 17th century. Another alternative of great interest is to go to the Collá de Carmona, the space that delimits the valleys of Nansa and Cabuérniga. Likewise, there are several viewpoints around the village, such as the Asomanda del Rivero.
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