A few days ago, I went to “La Tienda Verde” in Madrid, to look for some topographical maps of the Gredos Mountains. I found this wonderful guide about our region. With the kind permission of the author, I reproduce part of the chapter dedicated to the Sierra de Gredos and La Vera.
Gisela Radant Wood
The Sierra de Gredos and La Vera
“The Sierra de Gredos lies on the north-eastern border of Extremadura with Castile and León and much of it has been declared a regional park. Its highest point -Pico Almanzor, at 2,592 m – lies outside Extremadura in Avila province. The highest peaks within Extremadura lie to the north-west of Tornavacas on the border and attain heights of over 2,400m.
With the mountains comes the valleys, carved out by fast-flowing rivers in beds of granite boulders worn smooth over thousand of years. These rivers do not run dry because in the summer months they are fed by melt waters from snow drifts which can lie on the Gredos for up six months of the year. The rivers are known as gargantas which can be translated as “throat” but also as “torrent” or “narrow pass between mountains” The rivers, in their high-sided, tree-clad valleys set against high mountains are one of loveliest features of the area. Many rivers have natural pools and these are wonderful for observing nature, but popular swimming places during the summer.
Two of the largest rivers, the Ambroz and the Jerte, have carved out deep valleys that offer excellent walking experiences and more on that later. La Vera, translated as “edge” or “border”, is a distinct area in the Sierra de Gredos. It lies north of the River Tiétar and on the north-eastern edge of Extremadura. It has many small, historic villages, some as Garganta de la Olla, with perfectly preserved 17th century houses. Many villages and towns in the area have de la Vera (of the Vera) added to their names, proud of their location within such a special region.
You will find much to delight you if you are a lover of birds, wild animals, lush spring flowers, plant life trees and, in autumn, glorious foliage in yellow, orange and red. Walkers tied to July and August for holidays can walk each day, early or late, and spend the hotter hours by the cool waters of a river, or plan an all-day walk in the deep oak and pine forest, or climb up into the breeze that blows on the higher paths. It’s a wonderful place to walk.
On a historical note the area is associated with Charles V (of the Holy Roman Empire) and I (of Spain), ruler of half the word, 1500-1558. Charles became old and gouty before his time and decided to retired, without actually abdicating, living his son, Phillip II, to rule Spain, The Netherlands and the New World while, Ferdinand, the younger brother of Charles, got the Holy Roman Empire. Charles retired at Yuste Monastery but before the monks were ready for him he traveled from Tornavacas, over the mountains, to wait in the castle at Jarandilla for nine months. He then traveled from the castle to the monastery where he died within two years. These two journeys are commemorated every year in celebration walks complete with re-enactments and historical costume. Thousands of walkers join in from all over Europe.”
© Gisela Radant Wood