For centuries, this exotic region has been the target of gossip—a punching bag for tabloids, literature, and even cinema. A place whose history has been marked by a black legend of geographical isolation and poverty lingers in the memory of the Hurdanos. Its isolation turned the area into one of those authentic natural landscapes that are increasingly difficult to find.
About Las Hurdes’ black legend, Unamuno, who never believed in it, said that visitors came to either corroborate or deny it. Buñuel’s famous documentary did a great disservice to the region, showing an extremely poor and miserable Hurdes, as did King Alfonso XIII’s historic trip. The monarch came, alarmed by illustrious Doctor Marañón’s warning about the severe health problems, specifically goiter and cretinism that many of the inhabitants of Las Hurdes had.
Beyond legends, this region’s magic lies in its sea of mountains. It hides in the steep curves of its five rivers, caressing the slate of its peculiar black architecture, surviving in villages and farmhouses, or the smells of heather and rockrose flowers, the honey of the dishes served in the typical taverns.
The region of Las Hurdes sits on the very north of the Cáceres province. Embraced to the west by Sierra de Gata and the east by Tierras de Granadilla, it has the province of Salamanca to the north. In fact, Las Hurdes was part of La Alberca for centuries. At the beginning of the 19th century, when the manorial regimes were dismantled, the Hurdanos became lords and masters of their own land.
Las Hurdes occupies a mountainous extension of approximately 500 km² populated by a little over 6,200 inhabitants. Of its 44 villages, only six head the community of municipalities: Pinofranqueado (the largest), Casar de Palomero, Casares de Hurdes, Caminomorisco, Nuñomoral and Ladrillar.
These head over thirty small villages, referred to by the Arabic name of “alquerías” (hamlets), characterized by their scarce population, black slate architecture, and for being forgotten kingdoms that encapsulate the concept of the remoteness and inaccessibility that the writers of yore tried so hard to describe.
The natural splendor of flora and fauna
The word nature blooms in Las Hurdes. Here it offers itself generously to visitors’ surprised eyes intoxicated by virgin landscapes, torrents of young waters, clear blue skies, and a singular architecture that coexist harmoniously with the environment.
A glance at its landscapes destroys the idea of it being a barren land, especially in spring, when the fields turn mauve thanks to the heather, its flower par excellence. Everything seems to explode in those days. The deep valleys full of olive and cherry trees, the scattered orchards worked by those strong and determined people (so far from those malnourished beings), who are tremendously warm and kind.
The fauna is comprised of foxes, mountain goats, wild boars, rabbits, salamanders, etc. One can also find some protected species such as black storks, golden eagles, wild cats, or otters in these majestic lands. It also has a ZEPA area (special bird protection area) of 27,000 hectares and an SCI area (site of community interest) that coincides, almost entirely, with the ZEPA area. This land is mainly located in the municipalities of Ladrillar, Casares de Hurdes, Nuñomoral, Caminomorisco and Pinofranqueado.
The most breathtaking view
Riomalo de Abajo welcomes travelers from the north. Here lies the most spectacular view: the meander of Melero, which draws the outline of the Alagón river and can be enjoyed in all its splendor from the Mirador de la Antigua.
Here, at the river’s most complex turn, is a scene that ranks among the most beautiful in Spain. As it turns back on itself, the river engulfs a small island, so green, it seems to belong to the Cantabrian heights.
Trekking lovers will find their personal paradise through 34 hiking trails, grouped on the Las Hurdes community’s website, that run between junipers, holly trees, and strawberry trees. And the foodies will find delight in gastronomy that is little-known yet delicious—stews of seeds and cabbage, juicy river trouts, and the exquisite Extremadura assortment of sausages.
THE PARADOR OF PLASENCIA
Plasencia is an excellent starting point to explore Las Hurdes. The Parador sits in the old town, a place with a history of trade and pilgrimage known as the Silver Route. It occupies the Monastery of Santo Domingo, built in the 15th century.
Thick stone walls, vaulted ceilings, and suggestive decoration await you in the Gothic-style interior. The Parador is the ideal place from which to explore the city and the surrounding natural landscapes.
Discover the remains of Plasencia’s medieval walls, towers, and fortified gates, including the Puerta del Sol (Sun Gate) and the smaller Postigo de Santa Maria (Santa Maria Gate). Walking through the center of town, arrive at the Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas), a must-see during the Martes Mayor celebrations, a national tourist attraction. The city also has one of the most representative sets of historic buildings in the area, formed by the Romanesque Old Cathedral and the New Cathedral, with Gothic and Renaissance elements.
ORIGIN OF THE TERM
The most commonly accepted belief by those who have studied the region is that the name Hurdes comes from the word urdes, which means heather, a shrub abundant in the area.
MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF THE HURDES
The Encorujá is a mythological being of the hurdana culture. It is an evil woman with the appearance of a witch who lives in the most inhospitable places of the Hurdanos valleys.
THE JAMPÓN ELF
The Duende Jampón is a mythological being from Extremadura, related to the Castilian Zamparrón. This small creature is characterized by its small size and voracious appetite.
THE STEEL CHANCAS
Many Hurdanos claimed to have seen a strange humanoid robotic creature dragging its metallic body through the night in the last century.
THE MACHU LANÚ
It is perhaps the most sinister being of the Extremaduran bestiary. It is a mythological creature that has many similarities with Satan himself. His body is hybrid: half-goat, half-human.
THE GIANT ENTIGNAO ELF
The Entignao or Entiznáu is a goblin the size of a giant, blackish in appearance, wearing a black frock coat and a top hat. He lives high up in the mountains of La Gineta (Hurdes). He is usually seen at dawn or dusk and always appears rolling or smoking cigars that he offers to the shepherds.
LA GENTI DE MUERTI, HORSEMEN ANNOUNCING DEATH
This phenomenon takes the shape of two spectral individuals who seem to come from beyond the grave. Their purpose is to announce the death of a mortal who will die that same night.