La Vera, El Jerte and El Ambroz

These are three different yet closely related rural areas that can be found near Plasencia in northern Extremadura.

A key point in common is their greenness, a surprisingly mild climate for Extremadura and a relative abundance of water. You'll encounter streams, waterfalls and swimming pools created by dams in rivers excellent for freshwater summer bathing. As the areas' popularity with visitors grows, so does the supply of accommodation, and there are perhaps more Casas Rurales (see the Where To Stay section) here than anywhere else in Extremadura.

La Vera is famous for being the area chosen by Carlos I of Spain (also V of Germany!) to spend the last year of his life, specifically at the Monasterio de Yuste. The Monastery can be visited and was largely rebuilt in the 20th century. However, for the foreign visitor most interest focuses on the gorgeous scenery and villages. There are countless gems, but a personal favourite is Garganta la Olla, nestled in the mountains with lots of examples of local architecture.

One of the most famous foodstuffs from Extremadura is Pimentón de la Vera. This paprika has a characteristic delicately smoky flavour that works well with countless dishes and is even available in the U.K. It's definitely worth trying.

As for El Jerte, it's synonymous with cherries. The U.K. imports them every spring/early summer and their quality is renowned throughout Spain. However, el Jerte is most famous among visitors for the few days each spring when the valley is covered in cherry blossom. The views are spectacularly incomparable.

Due to climate change, the dates are shifting year on year, so it's impossible to plan such a visit more than a short time ahead, but you're in luck if you happen to be there during this period.

Perhaps one of the prettiest larger villages in northern Extremadura can be found in El Ambroz. Herv├ís is lovely, with a sizeable Jewish quarter. Most Jews were forced out during the Inquisition. The story goes that other people took over their houses after they locked up and left, often cutting small doors in the huge existing (and locked) ones. The Jewish families carried the keys with them as symbols of their exile and these keys are supposed to have worked when subsequent generations have returned to explore their origins! This might be just a myth, but Hervás' beauty is real. I recommend a visit.

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