Extremadura is the “Land of the Conquistadores” with many historical sites. This is considered the wild west of Spain, and is based on the Portuguese border. It is an almost forgotten region that is often overlooked. It is overflowing with rolling hills and wide open spaces. There are forests crammed with chestnuts and truffles, fertile valleys and hillsides packed with olives and vineyards among a volatile backdrop of its past.
Here are the best places to visit in Extremadura.
The city of Badajoz is well known for their misfortunes throughout history. Originally founded by the Moor Abd-al Ramman Ibn Marwan in the year 875, the city was conquered by the Christian army of Alfonso IX in the 1200s as well as being used as a military base by Felipe II against the Portuguese in the 1500s, stormed and destroyed by British troops in the 1800s and bombed by the Germans during World War II.
Despite all these setbacks, the city has risen to the occasion and picked itself back up many a time.
The fortress of the city Alcazaba de Badajoz was declared a National Heritage Site in 1931.
The fortress also boasts a very impressive wall which is crowned by ramparts. The Towers of the Alcazaba are somewhat separated from the wall and connected to it via small arch or bridge.
The perfectly preserved watchtower Espantaperros Tower stands at a height of 90 feet with eight sides. It is akin in design to The Torre del Oro (Golden Tower) in Seville and was used as a model to Badajoz’s watchtower.
Within Alcazaba de Badajoz is the 16th century Palace of the Dukes of La Roca. It had been converted into the Provincial Archaeological Museum housing a collection of about 15,000 pieces from archaeological sites from the city, organized into different eras from pre-historic to the Medieval Christian.
The town of Merida was founded by Augustus, the son of Julius Caesar. In fact, Augustus had named the land after himself which was then called Augusta Emerita. The settlement was built primarily to serve as protection in between the passing points of the Guadiana River but it didn’t take long for it to grow into the capital of Lusitania as well as one of the most respected settlements in all the Roman Empire.
After the inevitable fall of the Romans in the 700′s, the settlement passed hands from the Visigoths to the Moors and finally, the Christians. By the time the Christians had taken Merida for themselves, the settlement was long past its glory days.
Today, the settlement is a popular tourist attraction which features many fun activities to do for historian buffs around the world. Most people visit Merida to see the (beautifully restored) Roman ruins, the most famous of which is the remains of the Anfiteatro Romano. Holding more than 14000 people, this amphitheater, thought to be built in the 1st century. It served as home to many novel events including gladiator fights and mock naval battles. The site holds the privilege of being a World Heritage Site.
Another good place to look for tourism in Spain is the Casa de Las Veletas (House of the Vanes) at the town of Caceres. The house, another World Heritage Site as well as a Place of Historical Interest in 1942, holds a large amount of historic artifacts from all of the invaders who successfully took over the area.
The current name of the town is derived from the Arabic word lcázares (meaning fortified citadel) but when it was first founded in the first century Before Christ, it was called Norba Caesarina and soon became a melting pot for all other cultures that assimilated themselves into the town.
The house itself wasn’t built until the 16th century, although it was based on an earlier structure built 4 centuries prior. The house’s sober façade hides the enormous archeological museum with prehistoric and Roman artifacts as well as an authentic ‘alijibe’, a type of well used by the Arabs. The patio and paneling have been left untouched by progress, appearing as it would have in the 17th century.
Overlooking the surrounding countryside between the Tagus and Guadiana rivers.
The town of Trujillo is not without its attractions as well and dates back with a full plate of history 600 years before Christ. The Romans, Visigoths and the Moors all settled here until the Re-conquest by the Christians in 1232 AD.
This site’s main claim to fame is the Palacio de la Conquista, located south of the large town plaza.
Trujillo is where the famous Conquistador Pizarro, who conquered the Inca Empire was born. The main square is also a beautiful sight and the medieval castle is a must-see for its natural beauty and historical aspect. The palace was built under the orders of Hernando Pizarro in the 1560s. Hernando Pizarro was in effect the only male family member not to be killed in South America after serving a 20 year prison sentence, apparently for murder.
The Palacio de la Conquista features numerous and striking carved portraits of Pizarro along with his lover Inés Yupanqui, (the sister of the Inca emperor Atahualpa).
Located nearby them is a portrait of their daughter, Francisca Pizarro Yupanqui as well as her husband, Hernando Pizarro.
Higher up from the family is the Pizarro coat of arms (a pine tree surrounded by two bears), Pizarro’s ships, the walls of Cuzco, the land he conquered (which is known today as Peru) and a group of Native American chiefs.
The stunning and beautiful town of Guadalupe has a famous historical treasure of its own. While it also contains a gorgeous monastery which holds a large amount of art, including four centuries worth of the greatest Spanish religious architecture, the crown jewel of the town is the shrine of Santa Maria de Guadalupe.
Located in the previously mentioned monastery, this shrine is dedicated to two different events that shaped the world in the way we know it today in the year 1492. One of these events is a tribute to the conquest of the Spanish peninsula by the Catholics and the other is the discovery of America by famous explorer (and supposed Spaniard) Christopher Columbus. The Statue of the Virgin later became a symbol of the spreading of Christianity in the New World.
But that’s not the only thing the monastery has to offer; it boasts a wonderful view on the iron forged gate, the eye popping Mudejar cloister built at the tail end of the 14th century and the lovely but small Camarin chapel dating from 1405.