Barco de Avila
Barco de Avila is the gateway to the north side of the Sierra de Gredos Mountains. Gredos is part of the Sistema Central, a chain of mountains that cuts across the centre of Spain running in a Northeast to Southwest direction. They form a barrier between the Mesetas, the higher plains of northern Castile (now known as Castilla y Leon) and the lower plains of southern Castile (Castilla La Mancha) and Extremadura. The central area of the Sierra de Gredos forms Gredos Regional Park.
The village is very accessible, on the national road N110, two hours from Madrid and very strategically located. In half an hour’s drive you can reach either the core of the Gredos regional park and its glacial valleys or go down to the olive groves of the Extremadura plains. The options in between are endless. There are high peaks for the mountain enthusiast, but there are also plenty of walking and trekking routes which avoid excessive climbing and which are suitable for walkers of all abilities.
Area of Contrasts
The two faces of the Sierra de Gredos, the South and the North, are very different, having very different terrains, ecosystems and climates and hence offering different landscapes. The Sierra itself is a beautiful mountain range with peaks reaching up to nearly 2600m. The north side is the more rugged and remote of the two, the area being criss-crossed by fast flowing mountain streams which also flow through the small villages inhabited mostly by farmers.
The valleys offer a number of beautiful walks, through oak forests or pastures; exploring the ancient villages and water mills along the rivers of pristine waters, enjoying a fantastic variety of birds and flowers. On the low plains the benign climate provides the environment for olives, cherries, chestnuts and cork tree forests.
Spain has experienced a massive change in the last decades, and in most places people have caught up with and stress of modern life, always rushing everywhere.
All the villages of the area are picturesque and display its distinctive architecture. Their houses are built of stone with tiny windows to insulate them from the heat of summer and keep out the winter cold. This feature is also a reflection of the way of life of its people, isolated in this inaccessible nature that shapes their unique character. Here, time really stands still.
*Original article from Spanish Experience Nature Walks*