The sky of Extremadura is so clean that it invites aficionados to enjoy a “Landscape of Stars” (Paisaje de Estrellas), which is the name of the guide published by the Directorate General of Tourism of the Government of Extremadura. This guide invites the public to visit ten unique lookout points across the region, to get the most out of the comparative advantage of the Extremeño sky.
The guide was presented during the 2017 FITUR International show in Madrid and it includes all the coordinates of the referred vantage points. Extremadura is a region in Spain, which is west of Madrid and is close to neighbor country Portugal.
From North to south and from east to west, Extremadura is proud to have a clean sky to view the stars. We even have the largest mobile planetarium in Spain. It has twelve meters in diameter and can host up to fifty people per session. It is generally located at the Convent of Saint Francis in Trujillo. While and increasing number of tourist agencies dedicate resources to the development of astro-tourism at the most incredible places.
Monfragüe, “Starlight” destination at Extremadura
The Monfragüe National Park has the ”Starlight” certified touristic destination with several key-visiting places that include the astronomical observatory of Torrejón. Others, in the outdoors, are the top of the Castle of Monfragüe or the mythical “Salto del Gitano” (the Gypsy Waterfall) that join the “Portilla del Tietar” with its rocky walls that are much loved by birds and offer an idyllic view of the Milky Way.
From Sierra de Gata to the sky
In the northwest of Extremadura, closer to Portugal than to the Spanish city of Badajoz, there are places in the middle of nature such as “Almenara de Gata” that are so grand and offer a unique vantage point to contemplate the Milky Way during the summer. Or historical places, such as the Castle of Trevejo, surrounded by genuine “Slow Ways” of Extremadura. Where people can enjoy the roads and also stop to look at the sky. Some of these ways will lead to natural overlooking sites such as the “Sierra de Dios Padre”.
Watch Orion from Valencia de Alcántara, surrounded by dolmens
The best-preserved megalithic complex of Extremadura are at the “Sierra de San Pedro”, located in “La Raya” at the Spanish-Portuguese border. This is a place that leads us to contemplate Orion, the precious constellation of winter. To view Orion among dolmens becomes a unique experience. The dolmens at the “Mellizos de Valencia de Alcántara” (Twins of Valencia de Alcántara), on the road toward Portugal, lead us to ponder about the interpretation of the sky during pre-historic times. But also, the “Tapada de Anta” or the menhir of “Cabezo” awakens our imagination during a clear night, in the midst of cork trees and beautiful scenery.
Astro-tourism at Tierras de Granadilla
North of Extremadura at “Tierras de Granadilla” you can see starry skies from places as historic as the Roman City of Cáparra and the medieval village of Granadilla. Also, in the middle of nature, at the Reservoir of Gabriel & Galan or at the Center for Sports Innovation “El Anillo” sky observation is wonderful. You must keep in mind that these are very extensive places that allow for all kinds of observations.
From Castro Capote to Andromeda
“Castro Capote” at “Higuera la Real” awakens our imagination and makes us picture how the ancient populations idolized the firmament, perhaps with good reasons. Today you can take amazing photographs of the colors projected by the stars due to their surface temperature. You can also view the neighboring Galaxy of Andromeda, at this strategic place, with clear horizons toward all directions. Also, the nearby pastureland of “Fregenal de la Sierra” provides a very bucolic place to view the stars.
The red stars of the Pastureland Of Oliva de la Frontera
The pasturelands of “Oliva de la Frontera” in the southwest mountains on Badajoz allow us to see reddish clouds of stellar gas and cosmic dust. This is a place in the middle of nature, but also has historical sites such as the Castle of Salvatierra or the “Pozo de las Nieves” and the swamp of “Barcarrota” next to the beautiful meadow landscapes that invites us to see the infinite and beyond.
Astro-tourism on the Extremadura appalachian relief
The Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark is the only place in Extremadura with an Appalachian land relief, where high and flat interspersions give rise to natural formations that explain the geological evolution. This is a wonderful complement to open sky viewing at considerable heights, such as from the “Risco La Villuerca”. The wonderful views are combined with clean skies that allow all kinds of observations.
The sky reflected on the Alqueva swamp
The Alqueva Swamp is the largest marshland in Europe and a magical place to watch the sky, the land and the water. It is located in the southwest of the province of Badajoz. The region gathers a number of bordering municipalities with Portugal: “Alconchel”, “Cheles”, “Olivenza”, “Táliga” and “Villanueva del Fresno”. In fact the wharf of “Villanueva del Fresno” is the most spectacular open-air vantage point of the region.
The Port of Tornavacas brushes against the sky
The entrance to Extremadura from Avila in Castile, Spain is the Port of Tornavacas. This place treasures the most spectacular view of the nebula of Orion. Curiously, in spite of the light of the various towns in the Valley of Jerte and Plasencia that can also be seen from this vantage point, the quality of the sky is superb. There are also many other places to view the sky, such as Piornal, the highest town in Extremadura and Peña Negra or the paradise like Cascade of Caozo, which is easily accessible.
The Corral de los Lobos and the lovely sky of Ambroz
The place called the “Corral de los Lobos” (The Wolves Den) at “La Garganta” has the most pampered sky of the region for observation all year around. Even the Sumer Triangle, composed of Altair, Deneb and Vega, can be seen from this magnificent spot for astro-tourism. This region that opens Extremadura from Salamanca, through “Baños de Montemayor” has many other interesting observation spots, such as: “Pozo de Nieve”, also located in La Garganta and “Puerto de Honduras” or “Hervás”.
Original article by Merche R. Rey
Translated by Susana Windt
Published on August 2017