Portugal vs. Spain: Do you want to spend your vacation in Spain or Portugal? Aren’t you also reminded of Mallorca, Tenerife, or the Algarve?
Most likely not in Extremadura or the Serra da Estrela. After deciding on our hiking study trip, “Iberian Impressions from Madrid to Lisbon,” I had to admit that I had to take a quick look to see where my path would take me.
Portugal Vs. Spain: Why Not Both?
A journey between the capitals of Spain and Portugal beckons… To describe all of the experiences of this incredibly diverse journey would be beyond the scope of this article.
As a result, I’ll limit myself to a summary of the most striking impressions; please forgive me, my fellow travelers. But, first and foremost.
Madrid Is a (Not Only) Art Lover’s Paradise!
We had completely escaped the German autumn weather after a three-hour flight. Our tour guide, Andreas, greeted us at Barajas Airport in bright sunshine and a pleasant 25 degrees.
The next day was all about the metropolis, after a fun evening of introductions in the centrally located Hotel Coloso.
Isabel, our city guide, gave us a warm and charming tour of “her” Madrid. For every sight, she had at least one suitable anecdote prepared. At your fingertips, the Spanish capital!
Some of my fellow travelers were infected by Isabel’s enthusiasm for Madrid’s cultural background and chose the “museum triangle” for the following free afternoon.
There are three world-renowned art collections to choose from: Prado, Reina Sofa, and Thyssen-Bornemisza. In the most beautiful weather, I walked alone through the charming old town.
There are so many small, shady spots beyond the Plaza Mayor and Gran Va that invite you to a café con leche… not to mention Retiro Park, the city’s green lung with its own lake.
The original Spain: Toledo and Extremadura
The contrast could not have been greater after two days in the big city. Extremadura, our next stop, is widely regarded as one of Spain’s most beautiful regions.
The landscape is defined by the dehesa, which are large oak groves that are home to free-roaming Iberian pigs. The sparsely populated area west of Madrid is visited by only one in a thousand visitors to Spain.
The current travel literature only mentions this region in passing, so we were eager to see what lay ahead of us in the coming days.
We begin with a trip to Toledo, a medieval city perched atop a hill overlooking the Rio Tajo. Gloria, our city guide, was waiting for us here, and she guided us through Toledo’s turbulent history with an Austrian accent and a lot of humor.
Her slightly mocking nickname for Spanish King Alfonso VI, who once liberated the city from Moorish occupation, “Fonsi,” in particular, brought a smile to our faces on a regular basis.
In the shadow of the mighty cathedral, I used the following lunch break to try some local delicacies with two fellow travelers in a rustic tapas bar.
We then continued on to Hervás, a small town in Extremadura’s interior. We stayed in a former monastery for the next three nights. It has been transformed into the welcoming four-star Hospedera Valle del Ambroz.
After the varied cultural impressions of the previous few days, it was time to lace up your hiking boots and head out in Hervás!
Even though the weather didn’t cooperate this time – rain showers and much colder temperatures set in, mirroring our first hike – hiking was still a lot of fun.
We discovered sleepy villages, almost deserted areas, and partly alpine vegetation along easily walkable paths.
The vulture rock, Salto del Gitano, lived up to its name, which was one of my personal highlights. The rugged cliffs served as a resting place for many of the majestic birds of prey…
It was also necessary to pay a visit to the charming town of Plasencia, which boasted impressive city walls. Due to the weather, we only postponed the picnic that was originally planned for the trip to the warm and, above all, dry bus.
Let us travel to Portugal
Following that, the region’s cultural treasures, typical nature and culture, took center stage once more. On our way to Portugal, we made a pit stop in Cáceres, a town that both surprised and impressed us.
The medieval old town has been used as a backdrop in a number of historical films due to its excellent preservation.
For example, only a few street signs were masked off during the recent filming of a remake of “Romeo and Juliet,” and medieval Verona was ready.
We discussed our impressions of the previous few days over lunch in the grandiose, sunlit Plaza Mayor. Then it was “Adiós, Espana!” and our bus drew ever closer to the Portuguese border…
Is it better to visit Spain or Portugal? In the second part of my travel report, you’ll find out what awaited us in the direction of Lisbon in the next few days, as well as whether we had better luck with the weather on our next hikes.
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