In each blog post I will describe one of these five:
- Mogarraz (Salamanca)
- Guetaria (Guipúzcoa)
- Zahara de la Sierra (Cádiz)
- Cadaqués (Girona)
- Riomalo de Arriba (Cáceres)
If you’re in the mood for more, here are my runners up.
- Masca (Tenerife)
- Castellfollit (Gerona)
- Cudillero (Asturias)
- Morella (Castellón)
- Iznájar (Córdoba)
- Alquézar (Huesca)
- Frigiliana (Málaga)
- Olite (Navarra)
- Balmaseda (Vizcaya)
- Pedraza (Segovia)
1. Mogarraz (Province of Salamanca – 1hr 15 minutes from Salamanca and 3 hrs from Madrid)
Mogarraz is a 90 km drive, south of Salamanca. It is located in the Sierra de Francia Biosphere Reserve and has always rather been in the shadow of La Alberca, the very first village in Spain to be declared National Heritage, on everyone’s bucket list and as such, a little overrun. This is not to say that La Alberca is not worth a visit. On the contrary, I suggest you visit both places and decide which appeals most.
Mogarraz offers wonderful views of the Sierra de Béjar – no surprise then that it is home to a restaurant called Mirasierra, which is absolutely fabulous (more about that later. What else is special about Mogarraz? You will find large portraits of the village’s inhabitants from the year 1967, on every façade. These are part of the 2012 exhibition, Portraits 2/388 by local artist Florencio Maillo. In 1967 the photographer Alejandro Martín Criado had taken pictures of all the villagers so they could get an identity card and decades later Maillo reproduced these photos on huge canvases of recycled tin. There are many more than the original 388 images as the idea caught on and many villagers petitioned the artist to include their relatives in the collection a posteriori.
Take your time to enjoy a pleasant, leisurely stroll through town. The more energetic among you can embark on the Camino del Agua, a circular route for hikers that is about 7 km long that starts and ends in Mogarraz.
For lunch, the aforementioned restaurant, Mirasierra. For starters order the homemade croquettes, the area´s speciality “patatas meneadas”(mashed potato with paprika and port scratching) or some boletus wild mushrooms. The more daring shouldn’t miss out on another local delicacy “Limón Serrano”, an unusual but winning mix of citrus, red wine, chorizo sausage and egg. And for seconds, kid, suckling lamb, sirloin or T bone steak … all roasted in a wood oven. Portions are large so I recommend sharing. After lunch you can stock up on wines at their neighbouring bodega and wine shop, La Zorra.
Miranda del Castañar, San Martín del Castañar and Valero are also highly recommended stops. Let the locals explain where the name Sierra de Francia comes from. Try a wine made from the Rufete grape variety, which is very popular in this region. Interestingly the DO or Designation of Origin of this area is “Sierra de Salamanca”, a made up name, as people often assume Sierra de Francia must be somewhere in France.
A marvelous way to end a day trip in the Sierra is to enjoy the sunset from the Peña de Francia. And if you have time, the beautiful, sunny spa at the Abadía de los Templarios hotel complete with sauna, steam bath, large indoor pool and a flotarium is quite a treat.
One last tip: if you can choose when to visit, I recommend the season when the cherry trees are in bloom. It is quite a show. Get booking!
Other videos about Mogarraz: