When we look carefully at the photographs that were taken in 1922, when King Alphonse XIII visited Las Hurdes, we recognize the strength shown by each and every resident of this regions, in the north of Extremadura. The mountains were dense with vegetation and it was very difficult to advance on the road, either by foot or by riding a horse. This was a difficult situation for a king accompanied by ministers, photographers and a retinue accustomed to the comforts of modern scenarios. In Las Hurdes they found black stone houses, made with slate, which is abundant in the region. The locals were accustomed to struggle. The “jurdanos” gained every centimeter from the mountain, by making small terraces and planting the necessary crops for their survival.
King Alphonse XIII visited Las Hurdes prompted by a report from doctor Gregorio Marañón. Who made the king aware of a region with multiple sanitary problems, such as a complete lack of medical assistance for it’s population. We still have the black and white photographs that remember this visit. In them we can see a king walking on stones and riding on horseback. From that visit emerges a black legend, which for many years influenced the development a region that is really gifted by nature. Today, Las Hurdes is considered a wonder of the rural world.
Currently, Las Hurdes has good roads, hotels and rural houses full of charm. Also, many entrepreneurs that offer opportunities for active tourism and relaxation to a growing number of visitors that have discovered in Las Hurdes an ideal place for year round holydays. There is a great variety of lodging possibilities in Las Hurdes from the very beautiful Hospederia de Las Mestas to restored traditional peasant houses called chozos.
Every visitor that stays at Las Hurdes can enjoy the excellent local cuisine. Enjoy a lemon salad or start the day with a local breakfast of toasted bread and oil, which has a certificate of origin in Gata-Hurdes. All this will add to the wonderful sensations accumulated by visitors that choose Las Hurdes as their destination. In addition, the honey harvested from the local apiaries has a constantly increasing recognition. The attractiveness of the King Alphonse XIII road is not only interesting for walking, hiking and other wild life sports enthusiasts, but is also fun for families and friends.
For many years, now, the King Alphonse XIII road has turned into one of the most important attractions of Las Hurdes. This makes us think that a long road unites the region’s past with it’s present. Yesterday, combined with today and both together proves to be better than expectations.
The Way that labels the end of the road
The Way of King Alphonse XIII, has already celebrated its seventh edition. This event is organized by the “Mancomunidad de Municipios de Las Hurdes” , an association that unites all the municipalities of Las Hurdes. The Way follows the last 22 kilometers completed by the King during his visit, from Casares de Las Hurdes to Las Mestas. The trail is approximately seven hours long and includes tracks, paths, plains and secondary roads. It is basically a straight -line journey from one location to the other, with an inclination of around 2200 meters. It has beautiful scenery and sights. It is considered a path of medium difficulty, which makes it attractive to visitors, which increase in number every year.
The magic of Las Hurdes follows visitors through out the path. Many hikers state that you can enjoy the most beautiful sights, including a great variety of vegetation, such as fruit trees, pine trees and ferns… In Las Hurdes, during early springtime, you can even see the cherry blossoms. There is a zone called Azabal, with a path of 15 kilometers, where you can observe this beautiful tree. The Way of King Alphonse XIII can be enjoyed all around the year, in all four seasons.
The original path followed be King Alphonse XIII
The original road followed by King Alphonse XIII is approximately 150 kilometers. The Monarch and his entourage travelled in June 1922 from the 20th to the 24th. This route has also been identified and can be followed by car or walking, during a number of days, from Casar de Palomero —which is close to the Tierras de Granadilla, where the King spent the night at the home of Acacio Terrón— subsequently you follow the course of the Los Ángeles river, on its right bank until you reach Pinofranqueado, at the southern end of the region. On your way you will pass Azabal and Pedro Muñoz. The route is continued through El Mesegal and Caminomorisco. After, you head toward Cambroncino, where the Monarch visited the Santa Catalina Church. And he continued his path to Vegas de Coria.
On your return trip, you must follow the course of the Hurdano, this river will take you to town of Rubiano. And after, you will arrive to the town of Nuñomoral, where Alphonse XIII endowed the Factoría del Jordán. The road will then take you through the small towns of Cerezal, Martilandrán and Fragosa until you reach a village called El Gasco, which is known for the typical black architecture, characteristic of Las Hurdes. After, you should take the road to Nuñomoral, to get to Casares de Hurdes, where, the scenery will surely enrapture you. The path will then take you to Ladrillar by following a river with the same name. Finally, the visitor arrives to Cabezo and Las Mestas, where Alphonse XIII ended his journey. This road, even today sets the path for many people. There, you will find a Cedar tree, which is said to be many centuries old, and welcomes the visitors, as it also did in 1922.
Time has not stopped but this place continues to be the same, with its mountains full of trees and ferns, with its clear rivers that follow their stone beds. Maybe that is the reason that hundreds of visitors enjoy the surroundings, that today offer comfortable accommodations, while admiring the path and following the steps made by a king, almost a century in the past.
Original article by Marian Castillo
Translated by Susana Windt
Photografies by Andy Solé
April, 28, 2015