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1st Trip to Spain in October 2020 - Thinking Madrid and Extremadura

Hello- I'm in the early stages of trying to plan my next trip to Europe after traveling to Japan and Korea this past March. My last few Europe trips have been mostly big cities so I would like to get some time in a quieter area this time. I'm interested in Spain as I had studied Spanish in school, although obviously it's been many years and I love the food. From Minneapolis, I would need to fly into and out of Madrid so I was thinking of starting with a couple of nights there and then renting a car and heading to the Extramadura region for the rest of my trip. The only other stop I was possibly thinking about adding was possibly Salamanca? I will have 14 nights total not including my arrival or departure day.

I definitely want to spend time in Calceres, Merida, Jerez de los Caballeros, Zafra, and Trujillo. I also want to see the Monastery Santa Maria de Guadalupe and visit the Monfrague parque. I'm interested in not only enjoying food, but also in how it is produced as I work in the industry. Is there anywhere where I can learn more about the production of jamon iberico? I'm also interested in the Roman ruins in Merida, medieval history and nature. Will I run out of things to do?

Posted by
19160 posts

I don't think you'll be bored. I'm sure there are some other interesting places in the area, and with a car you'll be able to reach them if you have time. I was limited to public transportation. One place I liked that's not on your list is the walled town of Ciudad Rodrigo, which gets a few Portuguese tourists but seemingly no American visitors. It's west of the as-the-crow-flies route from Caceres to Salamanca. I don't know how much extra driving time that would be. Just west of C.R. is the attractive Portuguese town of Guarda.

Salamanca has a large historic district, plus the university, so it might require more time than you expect. On the other side of the coin, Merida has worthwhile sights (good archaeological museum) but is otherwise not an especially attractive place. It's not a place I'd choose to put an extra night.

You also have a lot of places often thought of as side-trips from Madrid that you could include if you feel you itinerary is a bit thin: Toledo, Segovia and Alcala de Henares. The latter is reasonably near the Madrid airport. I was seriously underwhelmed by Avila, but you might be driving right past it.

Posted by
2259 posts

Hi! good on you for choosing Extremadura, an underappreciated and undertouristed region of Spain, steeped in history and culture. I think that October will be a fine time to travel there. As these are smaller towns and countryside, I agree a roadtrip is the best way to see this region.

Lucky for you Lonely Planet has a great article on Extremadura and places to see!: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/unexplored-spain-roadtripping-around-extremadura

I would probably adapt their itinerary somewhat to include some things of your travel wishlist + plus my own picks:

Fly in to Madrid
Madrid (2 nights)
-Rent car and drive to visit Segovia & Avila
-Continue to
Salamanca (2 nights)
-Drive south and stop at Monasterio de Yuste (where HRE Charles V retired)
-Continue to Monfragüe National Park for the day
Cáceres‎ (2 nights) - day trip to Trujillo & Guadalupe Monastery
-Continue south to
Merida (2 nights)
-Drive south to
Zafra (2 nights) - Day trip to Jerez de los Caballeros
-Continue south to the town of Monesterio for the Museo del Jamón
-Finish driving to
Sevilla (3 nights) - drop off car here
-AVE High speed train back to Madrid
Madrid (1 night)
Fly out of Madrid

PS: October 12th is our National Day in Spain, so you will probably encounter closures of shops and restaurants in the small towns.

Posted by
104 posts

acraven- Ciudad Rodrigo looks beautiful. I think I need to map out my itinerary and figure out drive times. I think you are right about giving a bit more time to Salamanca.

Carlos- I've ordered the Lonely Planet Spain book since Rick's book was a bit light on the Extremadura region. I did see that article on their website. I really like your updated itinerary. I think that will work perfectly for me. On October 12th, would things in Madrid or Sevilla be open? I would probably try to time my trip so I was in one of the major cities on the holiday.

Thank you both for the suggestions.

Posted by
2259 posts

Hello, glad I was able to help :)

Regarding the October 12th holiday, yes more things will be open in Sevilla and Madrid, certainly most restaurants and larger stores. Mérida, the capital of Extremadura may also have a good amount of options available. Most large tourist sites will still be open, but I would double check smaller ones like the Museo de Jamon in Monestario.

Public transport will run, but in Madrid, there is a huge military parade with the King of Spain, showing off some of the historic military units, that marches down the main thoroughfare of the centre of Madrid, this will have an effect on public transport and the busyness/traffic of the city. Sevilla may also have some events that I would double check when you get closer to Oct 2020.