Extremadura just received a coveted spot on Lonely Planet's top ten list of European destinations you need to see in 2016. You've heard of Venice, Paris, and Berlin, but chances are you haven't given a thought to exploring this region near Portugal along Spain's western frontier.
The Local brings you five irresistable reasons why you must visit Extremadura this year:
Extremadura hosts three of Spain's biggest festivals this summer
A crowd around a bonfire in San Juan. Photo: Contando Estrelas/Flickr.
The Feria de San Juan is a week-long, annual fiesta held in cities across Spain to celebrate the summer equinox. In Badajoz, Extremadura, the festival takes place between June 20th-24th with music, huge bonfires, a folklore parade, and spectacular firework displays.
If you prefer something a bit more high brow then head to the Festival Internacional de Teatro Clásico. Held in Mérida's Roman theatre from July to the end of August, it features both Greek and more contemporary plays, along with music and dance performances.
But to let loose we recommend the WOMAD (World of Music, Arts, and Dance) Festival, a free three-day festival that takes place annually within the medieval walls of the historic city of Cáceres.
It's famous for some of the finest ham in the world
Ham and cheese tapas. Photo: Hideya HAMANO/Flickr.
The Spanish are known for their delectable jamón. Extremadura sources its ham from Monesterio, a Spanish town that serves as one of the most popular suppliers of ham to other regions across Spain. It's not only the ham that draws food lovers to Extremadura, but also the thirteen ‘gastronomic routes' across the region for foods such as cheese, wine, and freshwater fish.
Its offers a glimpse of Roman Spain
El Puente Romano, Cáceres, Extremadura. Photo: Miquel González Page/Flickr.
Magnificent Roman architecture can be found across Extremadura's capital Mérida, including the Arch of Trajan, the Acueducto de los Milagros (Aqueduct of Miracles), and the Anfiteatro (Amphitheatre). Mérida's residents still use the Proserpina and Cornalvo Roman reservoirs, which date back to the 1st or 2nd century AD as well as the Puente Romano, the longest surviving bridge from ancient times.
The architecture is spectacular across the region
Plaza Mayor in Trujillo. Photo: Juan de Dios Santander Vela/Flickr.
It's not only ancient Roman monuments that draw visitors to Extremadura. It's also the beautiful castles, cathedrals, and plazas, such as the Plaza Mayor in Trujillo and the Real Monasterio de Santa María in Guadalupe.
It's paradise for nature lovers
Parque Nacional de Monfragüe. Photo: Angel Díaz Rueda, Flickr.
The Parque Nacional de Monfragüe is one of Spain's national parks and home to 175 bird species, including raptors and the Spanish imperial eagle. While the park itself is a delight for birdwatchers, the trails surrounding it, such as the Ruta de Isabel la Católica, are perfect for walking and hiking.