A-5, the unknown secrets of the road to Extremadura

The A-5, also known as the Extremadura road or Autovía del Suroeste, is one of the six radial motorways in Spain. As it is part of the European Road Network, part of its route is included in the European Network, i.e. E-90. Thus, the Extremadura road passes through the Community of Madrid, Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura. However, it actually ends in neighbouring Portugal, namely in Lisbon. On this occasion we will make a tour of the towns through which the Extremadura road passes and we will learn some of their secrets.

Practical map of the road to Extremadura

What you cannot miss in Madrid (kilometres 13, 18 and 31)

The first of our visits in this road trip through the A-5 takes place at kilometre 13. We are talking about Alcorcón, a city that is often underrated. With more than 170,000 inhabitants, this municipality has a lot to show. If we park the car and take a walk, we can see the Church of Santa María la Blanca.

Santa María la Blanca Church. | Photo: Zarateman

According to tradition, the temple was built on the site of a medieval mosque. However, no remains of the Islamic period have been found on the site. The oldest date that can be found in the church is a tombstone from July 1595. It has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest. As a curiosity, in 2015 some restoration work was carried out and the original floor of the church was found.

Castle and Museum. | Photo: Zarateman

Another building to see in Alcorcón is the Museum of Contemporary Art in Glass, located in the unique Castillo Grande de San José de Valderas. The fortress was requested by the Marquis of Valderas in 1917 to be his residence-palace. Of a neo-Gothic-Saxon style, it was eventually abandoned until it became the property of the Alcorcón Town Hall. The building is now the headquarters of the museum where you can see unique pieces made of glass. It is located in the Parque de los Castillos.

Nuestra Señora de los Santos Hermitage. | Photo: Zarateman

We continue the road trip until we make another stop at kilometre 18, in the city of Móstoles. Here it will be interesting to see the single-naved hermitage of Nuestra Señora de los Santos. It has an 18th century altarpiece with images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary on either side. The church has very characteristic details, such as 17th century mirrors, paintings with carved frames and cornucopias.

Finca Liana Park. | Photo: Zarateman

If it is a sunny day we can enjoy it in the park of Finca Liana. With 14 hectares, the park is considered one of the lungs of Mostoles. Its fountains and gardens brighten up the route.

Plaza de Segovia. | Photo: Dirección General de Turismo. Comunidad de Madrid

The last town we will visit on this tour of the Extremadura road is Navalcarnero, kilometre 31. Here it is essential to visit the Plaza de Segovia, which has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest, as well as the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, which has been catalogued as a Historic-Artistic Monument. The construction of the church began at the beginning of the 16th century and it was built with a body of three separate naves. Its style is Renaissance, although the bell tower has touches of Mudejar and has a Baroque capital. 

Castles, fortresses and monuments on the A-5 (kilometres 73, 118, 147 and 252)

Maqueda Castle

As far as castles and walls are concerned, the A-5 has many interesting examples. One of them is the castle of La Vela, in Maqueda, belonging to the province of Toledo, kilometre 73. It is a castle with curious battlements located on one side of the ancient wall of Maqueda. Although it can only be visited from the outside, it is quite impressive in its whole and dimensions. On the main door of the castle of Maqueda there is a heraldic coat of arms belonging to the Cardenas-Enriquez family, a couple who ordered the reconstruction of the fortress in the 15th century. The castle is built on top of another of Muslim origin, the latter on top of an old Roman watchtower. It should be noted that Queen Isabella the Catholic lived there for some time. It can also be seen from the motorway.

Talavera de la Reina walls

Still in Toledo, it is worth making a stop at Talavera de la Reina, kilometre 118. Although there is much to see in Talavera de la Reina, its walls are one of its great attractions, a complex that previously protected the city. The city had three enclosures. However, a large part of the first and considerably less of the second have been preserved. With several watchtowers, the complex has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest.

Oropesa Castle

We continue to another of the monumental fortresses to be seen at kilometre 147, in the town of Oropesa, Toledo. Here we find Oropesa Castle, which dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. It is believed to have been built on an earlier Roman building. The first ones in which Oropesa Castle is named date from the 13th century, during the reign of Alfonso X The Wise.

Oropesa Castle consists of an old and a new building. The old construction dates back to the time of the Arabs in the town. The new one, however, was begun by order of a branch of the House of Álvarez de Toledo, who later, in 1402, became Counts of Oropesa. Although both have a rectangular plan, their towers are different. The large square located inside the castle is striking.

Trujillo Castle

Once in Cáceres we stop at kilometre 252 in the municipality of Trujillo. Here we must see the castle of Trujillo, a fortress built between the 9th and 12th centuries. The castle is located at the top of the city, made of ashlar granite blocks. Around it there are some characteristic defensive towers. Two of these towers defend the entrance door, which has an image of the patron saint of Trujillo, the Virgin of Victory. The oldest remains kept in the castle today are two Arab cisterns.

At the same time, the walls of Trujillo are of great importance. At the beginning they consisted of seven gates, but today four of them have been preserved. The old quarter of the town is how the space inside the walled enclosure is known.

Curiosities on the A-5 (kilometres 42 and 289)

For the fans of the most curious infrastructures, the A-5 holds a couple of surprises. One of them is in the municipality of Valmojado, in Toledo, kilometre point 42. However, no references have been found to prove its milling function. The Valmojado windmill draws a visual line with the remains of another building of identical characteristics in the town of Casarrubios del Monte.

Miajadas. | Photo: Egavilan

In the province of Cáceres, kilometre 289, is the municipality of Miajadas, known as the “European capital of tomatoes“. This is indicated by the huge sculpture of a tomato that can be seen from the motorway. The importance of this food can be seen in its local cuisine in its different recipes, as well as in activities around it, such as the tomato festival or the “Tomate Rock” festival.

Cities where to spend more time (kilometres 118, 252, 342 and 393)

Nuestra Señora del Prado Basilica

On this route we come across cities where it is impossible to focus on just one element. For example, this is the case of the already mentioned Talavera de la Reina, in Toledo, kilometre 118. Discovering all the corners that this city has to offer could well take us a morning. An essential temple to see in Talavera de la Reina is the Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Prado, where the city’s patron saint is located. Philip II described it as the Queen of the Hermitages, although it is popularly known as the Sistine Chapel of ceramics. Another temple to contemplate is the Church of Santa María La Mayor, with its characteristic Gothic cloister built around 1469.

Puente Romano

But if Talavera de la Reina is known for anything, it is for its bridges. The most important ones are the Iron Bridge, the Roman Bridge and the Castilla La Mancha Bridge. The Roman Bridge is the oldest, and its name seems to indicate that it has a Roman origin, although it is not conclusive.

Plaza Mayor de Trujillo

After this stop, continue along the A-5 until you reach Trujillo, at kilometre 252. Despite the fact that we have already mentioned this town, there is much more to see in Trujillo. An unmistakable feature is the Plaza Mayor of Trujillo. Here is the equestrian statue from 1929 representing Francisco Pizarro. It contains buildings in which important figures of the Modern Age lived, as well as the Church of San Martín de Tours. It was carried out on top of a medieval building that was demolished during the War of the Castilian Succession.

Also not to be missed is the majestic Church of Santa Maria La Mayor, in late Romanesque style. The extension of the temple was completed in the Gothic style. For its part, the Church of San Francisco is the work of the Trujillo architect Francisco Becerra, formerly a Franciscan convent.

Juan Pizarro Palace

In the municipality of Trujillo the palaces are also an important part of the heritage. With its own splendour, you should not miss, first, the palace of the Marqueses de la Conquista located in the Plaza Mayor where you can see the coat of arms of the Pizarro family. Secondly, the palace of Luis Chaves el Viejo in which the Catholic Monarchs stayed. You cannot miss the palace of Juan Pizarro de Orellana, the palace of San Carlos and the palace of the Marqueses de Santa Marta.

Roman Theatre

However, if you have to choose a single kilometre in which to stop on your way to Badajoz this is, without doubt, 342. Can you imagine which city in Badajoz we are referring to? Of course, the splendid Mérida, known for its Roman monuments. The amphitheatre and the Roman theatre are a must see. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it is surprisingly well preserved. The Augusta Emerita colony, as Mérida was called in Ancient Rome, was inaugurated between 16 and 15 BC.

Los Milagros Aqueduct

Another infrastructure not to be missed in Mérida is the temple of Diana. This is the only religious construction that maintains its original location in the city. The Roman bridge of Mérida and its 62 arches is another visit that is not optional. The reality is that to enjoy a complete visit we will need at least one day to be able to attend to all the details. 

In this route through Mérida we must add as visits the Moorish citadel of Mérida, the aqueduct of Los Milagros (extraordinary example of Roman civil engineering), the aqueduct and the thermal baths of San Lázaro, the Basilica of Santa Eulalia and its crypt, the Roman circus of Mérida and the house of Mitreo.

Plaza Alta, Badajoz. | Photo: César Vielba

Although the A-5 continues to Portugal, with which it borders, our last stop in Spain is in Badajoz, kilometre point 393. Extremadura is one of the great unknowns of Spain, and Badajoz is a city that still has much to prove. As one of its gems we have the Plaza Alta, one of the most spectacular squares in Spain due to its striking colours.

Giralda

In the highest part is the Moorish citadel, a Historic-Artistic Monument. It is a very important defensive structure due to its dimensions. Thus, the walled enclosure is the longest in Spain and the city’s alcazaba is considered the largest in Europe. In this context we can name the Tower of Espantaperros or Tower of La Atalaya, symbol of the city. 

The hermitage of La Soledad is actually a reconstruction of the bombed 17th century hermitage destroyed by the French during the War of Independence. In 1935 the chapel was inaugurated, which we now include in this route on the A-5. In this temple is kept the image of the Virgen de la Soledad, that is, the patron saint of Badajoz. On the other hand, the cathedral of Badajoz has an unmistakable sober style.

The Giraldilla or Giralda of Badajoz is located in the old town, a very singular building. It used to house the Almacenes La Giralda, which have now disappeared.

Parks where you can reconnect with nature

Monfragüe National Park

If you are a nature lover in Extremadura there are several parks perfect for disconnecting and stretching your legs with a walk in which you can breathe pure air. On the one hand, the Monfragüe National Park, on the A-5 motorway towards Navalmoral de la Mata, taking exit 185.

A 30-minute detour by car but worth it to visit one of the 15 national parks in Spain. This natural park of Cáceres is crossed by two rivers, the Tiétar and the Tajo. It is also a Biosphere Reserve. In addition to its rich fauna, the panoramic view from the castle of Monfragüe stands out.

Cornalvo Natural Park

If you have chosen to visit the city of Mérida, 30 minutes by car (10 kilometres) you will find the Cornalvo Natural Park. Located in this natural environment is the Roman dam of Cornalvo. Located on the Albarregas stream, the Romans used it to supply water to the colony of Augusta Emerita. The construction is catalogued as a National Monument whose reservoir is still in use today. 


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