The countryside of Cornalvo looks like scenery from a fairytale. Nobody would be surprised if a grey gnome as in “Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter” leapt out from the oak holms of Cornalvo, or two hobbits with their rucksacks ran through the meadows. Cornalvo would also be the best place for wild animals to hold their council at one of the glades, like in the movie “The Animals of Farthing Wood”. Lions and elephants may not count among the animals in Cornalvo, like in the movie, but the meeting would nevertheless be as big and speciose as in any other park in Europe, owing to its 200 vertebrates.
The small Mirandilla also has a fairy tale setting and is located in the middle of the holms forests of Cornalvo. In the church some hikers have already in the 16th century prayed for safety on their way from the north to the south of Spain. And the Marquis de la Encomienda has built a residence in Mirandilla that can not be winked at. The artificial lake of Cornalvo is also remarkable. It was set out by the Romans to supply Merida with water from surrounding rivers. Because it is so old, Cornalvo decided to monopolise it and it is difficult at most places of the lake to figure out that it is man-made. Unlike other well-known European peers, the artificial lake of Cornalvo has become like its environment as if it had always been there.
The Cornalvo is also a superb hiking site. To prevent hikers from getting lost, the visitor centre provides not only hiking maps with a great deal of short and long routes, but also information for GPS appliances. We recommend guided tours, during which guests are introduced to the fauna and flora of the 10,000 hectares of Cornalvo by initiated guides. Foxes and deers have always lived in the park, which is only 10 kilometres away from Merida. A hiker who wants to go faster can rent a mountain bike and ride across mountains and valleys and along small runnels, which snake their way through Cornalvo. In Trujillanos’ visitor centre children get to know everything about the living environment of the animals and plants of Cornalvo, and can apply their knowledge during the subsequent visit to the park.
The national park of Monfragüe in the north of the country is particularly worth seeing. From Trujillo, follow the A-road EX 208 straight through the Dehesa and past countless farms northwards. Dark shapes loom on the horizon and approach kilometre after kilometre. The dark green far away behind the mountains seems to belong to a different world than the clear, flat Dehesa through which you drive, a world of wilderness: the Monfragüe.
The national park tests its guests before letting them enter its territory. Between Torrejon el Rubio and the parking area below the Castillo de Monfragüe, drivers go along a road downhill that snakes over several kilometres round narrow curves. Arriving below, they drive again a few minutes until they reach the parking area at the Peñafalcon, also called Salto del Gitano. The rock along which the road leads falls away sharply. Below flows the Tajo, calm and wide. It is known from the wine labels. At the other side of the river rises a huge rock from the surface of the river. The rock looks as if it bears scars of past battles, as if hundreds of projectiles were let off against it because of the significant number of large and small gaps, abrasions and rifts. Griffon vultures sit straight and sublime inside the small caverns and above the juts. They seem peaceful as long as they are sitting. However, once an adult griffon vulture breaks forth, everyone looking at it will automatically be convinced of what it is, namely a raptor. Its wings spread 2.5 metres and glide majestically through the air. The griffon vulture moves its head back and forth in order to keep watch. Its eyes, which can be seen from a short distance, look frightful. Griffon vultures sometimes do not fly back to their rock on the other side, but to another rock on the side of the guests. The spectacle of flying vultures always has the same effect on tourists, who crowd to the ship’s rail silent and impressed.
The Peñafalcon usually welcomes guests. But the griffon vultures are the ones that constitute the real greeting committee of Monfragüe. Anyone who drives on through the Tajo and the dense forest of the national park will reach the small mountain village Villareal de San Carlos, which is located on a plateau and offers a great outlook. It is possible in the visitor centre there to register for guided hiking tours or to get maps for a separate tour. Prices for guided tours are reasonable and it is worth hiking with a park ranger. He shows the visitors the best viewpoints where they can watch and marvel at red kites, black-shouldered kites and orioles. The Monfragüe also offers hiking tours or botanical walks, during which nature lovers get to know all about Monfragüe’s flora, such as the typical Iberian scrubland Mottoral. Monfragüe is also a suitable place for mountain biking. Members of park staff in Villareal gladly give information about tour programmes.
Whatever transportation means you use in Monfragüe, you will quickly be infected by its wilderness. Many visitors have indeed radically changed their holiday programme after visiting the park and came back again in order to re-experience the wild countryside of Monfragüe.