5 reasons why Extremadura should be on your bucket list

Experience one of Spain's most untouched regions, with its delectable food culture, Roman architecture, and beautiful natural landscapes.

5 reasons why Extremadura should be on your bucket list
Plaza Mayor, Cáceres, Extremadura. Photo: Tomás Fano/Flickr.

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

bonfires of san juan
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

spanish ham and cheese
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

roman bridge in 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
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 monfrague
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. 

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The 11 hippest new hotels in Spain this summer

The end of July marks the halfway point of the summer period - also known as the time to book a quick second round of beach holidays for August and September.

The 11 hippest new hotels in Spain this summer
The Finca Serena has just opened in Mallorca. All photos: Hotels own publicity.

And with the rate of hotel openings in Spain showing no signs of slowing down, it’s hard not to justify a weekend away, just to check some of them out. Here are some of the hippest newest hotels in Spain’s beach destinations to stay at this summer.

Finca Serena – Mallorca 

Provenance, authenticity, nature and calm are what define this new hotel located at the centre of the island. Its whitewashed stone buildings are surrounded by lavender gardens, olive groves and a 24-acre vineyard. The original structures of the site date back to the 13th century, which local architect Sergi Bastidas was tasked with remodelling. The interiors, which include 25 rooms, are decorated with natural fabrics, stones and woods, under the Japanese wabi sabi ethos of beauty in imperfection. 


Can Bordoy – Mallorca

Once home to the aristocratic Bordoy Blanes family in the 1500s, and one of the most historic and emblematic sites of Mallorca, Ohlab Studio was tasked with restoring the building to its original splendour, in an arduous 18 month restoration. The interiors have a watery colour palate, echoing the Balearic sea that surrounds the island. Avant-garde furniture pieces and artworks sit alongside locally crafted fabrics and materials. The hotel houses the largest private garden in the city of Mallorca, occupying 750 sq m, with a pool, a solarium, a pergola and a terrace to wine and dine on. The greenery of the garden also infiltrates the lush, fertile aesthetic of the hotel's interior design. 

INNSiDE Calviá Beach – Mallorca

The Meliá hotel group is looking to give Magaluf a makeover, investing almost €250 million over recent years in repositioning the area on the holiday map, and hoping to enhance the profitability and sustainability of Magaluf’s tourism industry. With 270 guest rooms, the new INNSiDE Calviá Beach hotel – located 10 mins drive from Palma – offers a spectacular rooftop area with restaurants, bars, and the largest transparent floating pools in Europe, with views overlooking the beachfront. The resort also includes 5000 sq m of retail space. 

Amàre – Ibiza

The adults-only resort is the latest arrival on the luxury party capital of the Mediterranean, housing 366 rooms, the majority of which look directly out over the sea. Following a recent trend for art hotels in the Balearics, Amare is aiming to expose the Ibiza’s clubbing and yachting clientele to contemporary art, displaying works by artists like Miguel Vallinas, Flóra Borsi, Leo Caillard, Kiko Miyares, Andoni Beristain and Maria Svarbova. The hotel will also run a rotating programme of temporary exhibitions, the first of which is being hosted in collaboration with Ibiza’s P|art Gallery. 

BLESS – Ibiza

BLESS opened its first establishment in Madrid this January – and now, make way for BLESS Ibiza, the second in this new brand of contemporary luxury hotels. The property is located in a picturesque cove to the north of the island, around the Santa Eulalia area. The designers cite Coco Chanel among the inspirations behind the hotel’s aesthetics. Dine in the restaurant catered by 10 Michelin starred Basque chef Martin Berasategui and take a dip in the infinity pool. Otherwise, if you find yourself in the capital this summer instead, and need some relief from the oven-like heat, pop up to BLESS Madrid’s rooftop pool, which has opened just in time for the summer. 

Five Flowers – Formentera 

This is Formentera’s first five star hotel, holding 79 rooms and suite, a spa and fitness club and a pool, located just a 250m walk away from the beach. Inspired by the boho chic vibe of this Balearic island, the decor is light, airy, warm and bright. Despite being a five star hotel, the space feels friendly, accessible and natural. The restaurant Kokoy is catered by Hideki Matsuhisa, Spain’s only Japanese chef with a Michelin star. There’s also a sky bar, complete with a piscina-jacuzzi and a 360º view of the island. Formentera is usually a day trip from Ibiza – but new hotels like this mean there’s more and more reason to settle into this island for a couple of nights of escape. 


Punta Cumplida, Canary Islands 

This 152-year-old lighthouse in La Palma was converted into an intimate guesthouse earlier this year. Its 34m-high watch-out terrace offers spectacular views across the Canary Islands, with the waves of the Atlantic crashing against the rocks that lie beneath. This intimate guest-house has just three suites, so this feels like is an exclusive, personalised and secluded experience. Each bed has a view of the ocean and there’s also an infinity pool. The project, now 3 years in the making, is led by Floatel, who have built hotels in a number of other lighthouses around the world – but this is their highest, oldest and largest site yet. 


Palladium Hotel Costa del Sol, Malaga 

This new four-star property in Benalmadena just opened in July. A 30 minute drive from Malaga airport, the hotel features 336 rooms, all with views over the Mediterranean. You can choose from three restaurants – one serving south-east Asian cuisine, another highlighting the best of Andalusian gastronomy, and the third opening out its seating onto the beach. There are also several bar areas, including the Nix Sky Lounge up on the rooftop. Try the hydromassage baths while you’re up there – or go and have a dip in the hotel’s outdoor pool that looks out to sea.


Room Mate Gorka, San Sebastian 

If you’re heading north this summer, it may well be to the Basque culinary capital. Those in search for a hotel with a fun, friendly, yet luxurious atmosphere could check out Room Mate’s first Basque outpost, which opened last year. The Spanish chain, now with 24 properties around the world, has made a reputation for hotels that burst with personality. Located in the emblematic Plaza de Gipuzkoa, the original historic facade of the building has been maintained. Inside, the design studio Cuarto Interior took care of the look and feel, which is homely yet sophisticated, combining contemporary decoration with neoclassic touches. Room Mate also has plans to open a new hotel in Mallorca in April 2020.  

Edition, Barcelona

This is perhaps one of Barcelona’s sexiest openings of recent years. Located in the creative historical district of El Born, Edition’s aesthetics were masterminded by designers Ian Schrager and Lázaro Rosa-Violán. Check out the building’s geometric glass facade, the sweeping marble and wood spiral staircases and the views over the Santa Caterina Market. Complete with a saltwater infinity pool on its 10th floor rooftop bar, this is the place to be for Instagrammers and the glitterati of Barcelona’s party scene. 

Nobu, Barcelona

This one isn’t open quite yet – but it’s definitely one to look out for. Expected to start welcoming guests from September, this will be Nobu’s third Spanish property, housing 259 rooms in the elegant neighbourhood of Eixample. Its restaurant on the 23rd floor offers panoramic views over the city. The design and architecture practice Rockwell Group is in charge of designing the spaces. The Japanese art form of kintsugi is said to lie at the heart of the aesthetic vision – natural, organic materials are used throughout, with traditional Japanese broken pottery applied as decoration to the walls and ceiling.


For more of Agnish Ray's writing, visit his website or follow him on Twitter