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The Silver route is a must for Spain aficionados. It leads you across Spain, from north to south, or vice versa. On the road, you will find eight hundred kilometres of gorgeous nature, UNESCO world heritage sites, silver and gold.
The Ruta de la Plata
The route starts in southern Seville in Spain and winds to northern Gijon. From this coastal city, the road continues west as a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela (+350 kilometres). The trail follows a two-thousand-year-old path of Roman origin. Along the way, one crosses four regions. Andalucía, Extremadura, Castilla y Leon, Galicia and seven provinces.
Silver Route Spain
Large stretches of the original Roman road are preserved along the motorway (A-66). It is an ideal long-distance route for cycling or walking as it is relatively flat. Some of the main attractions along the route are listed below.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is a university city, the capital of Galicia and has UNESCO World Heritage status since 1985. The city is located in the northwest of Spain. This is the crossroad where all the pilgrimage routes from France, Portugal and Spain come together at the cathedral, located in the city centre. Besides the imposing cathedral it has different (religious) sites. For more about the tourist attractions visit the website of the town.
The scallop is widely recognised as the sign of a pilgrim. Even far Santiago pilgrims get offered a place to sleep or offered a meal, sometimes a good conversation. So walk at least 100 kilometers, bike or go two hundred three hundred kilometers on horseback and you are the eye of the (Catholic) God as good as new.
Hotels in Santiago de Compostela
If your budget allows you to do so, book a night in the Parador hotel, also known as Hostal dos Reis Católicos. The hotel is located in the middle of the city centre, next to the cathedral. The fifteenth-century building is one of the finest in the Parador Chain.
This coastal city is located on the Atlantic Ocean in the autonomous province of Asturias. I should add that I have never been in Gijon and thus know little about the town. But since this city is the official end point, or if you want the start of the Silver Route I have to mention it anyway. Luckily the website of the Tourist Board of Gijon is packed with useful information in Spanish, English, French and German.
When in the area, then make a trip to the Picos de Europa, a beautiful mountainous area that I did visit. I loved it so much that after spending a couples of days in these mountains I decided to come back in my next life as an Asturian cow, really one has to see it to understand why.
Foto © Verkeersbureau Gijon
The next stop on the itinerary should be Salamanca, halfway down (or up) the route. This is a city where the sandstone monuments turn into gold with sunset. It is also a city with a special history and a small but pretty old centre. Of course, it is a UNESCO heritage site, since 1988 in fact.
Here you will not only find the oldest university in Spain, today it is one of the main language centres in the country. Every year thousands of international students flock to the city to learn Spanish.
Hotels in Salamanca
The Parador hotel in Salamanca is located just outside the city and has a breathtaking view overlooking the Roman bridge and the cathedral. The hotel has comfortable rooms, a swimming pool and very friendly staff. This is the ideal location to wine and dine al fresco, even if you decide not to stay overnight.
Foto © Parador
One of the most picturesque villages along the Silver Route is the regional capital of Cáceres in the remote province of Extremadura. This town was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The old city centre is small, well preserved and virtually free of unsightly advertising.
Parking is just outside the city centre in one of several well-marked car parks. The Tourist Office in Valhondo building at Plaza Mayor is a useful place to start your exploration. It has parking for buses, cars and of course lots of tourist information.
Near the city is Los Barruecos, a natural monument.
This natural monument (since 1996) is located approximately fourteen kilometres away from Caceres in the town of Malpartida de Cáceres. This is a unique landscape with granite boulders, water, and a large number of storks. In fact so many that in 1997 it was declared the European village of storks by the European ‘Natural Heritage Fund´.
The capital of Extremadura is Merida. A relatively small city with several impressive Roman monuments. The absolute highlight of the city is the Roman Theatre, one of the best preserved of the Roman world. In summer a theatre festival is held here. On the grounds are the ruins of a Roman house, an amphitheatre and gardens. These are located just outside the centre.
In the centre is the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress next to the Roman bridge, el Puente de Guadiana, the largest bridge still in use from ancient times. In the city, you will also find the Arc of Trajan, the Temple of Diana and the home del Mithraeo where beautiful mosaics and Pompeian frescoes can be found.
Hotels in Merida
The Parador hotel in Merida is housed in a former monastery dating from the eighteenth century, in the town centre. It has a small pool, spacious rooms, great atmosphere and a stork on the roof.
The southern endpoint of the Silver route is the Andalusian capital of Seville. Now it’s time to rest, perhaps to enjoy a boat ride on the Guadalquivir, watch a flamenco show, eat tapas or sit on a terrace with a nice cold glass of wine.
- Metropol Parasol
- Plaza España
- Giralda tower
- The tomb of Christoffer Columbus
- Real Alcazar (the royal palace).
Weather When planning your trip keep in mind the high temperatures in July and August, especially if you go biking or hiking. Extremadura can be extremely hot and desolated. In the winter months it might rain and even snow in central Spain, autumn and spring are by far the best months to follow this route.
Water and sunscreen Even in winter it can be deceptively hot and the sun still burns. Always make sure you carry plenty of water and use sunscreen with a high protection factor (SP50 +).
Cycling This website describes several routes (off and on road)
Walking The GR100 is an official hiking trail that follows part of the Ruta de Plata. The main part is signposted. More detailed hiking information you find on this website.
Paradores The hotels mentioned in this blog are all part of the Parador chain, a hotel group managed by the Spanish government. I am a fan of these hotels because they are typically Spanish, often located in beautiful places or in historic buildings. Usually, the restaurant serves regional cuisine. In the Merida and Salamanca hotels, I have slept. Due to budgetary constraints, I only visited the Parador in Santiago de Compostela, without spending the night.
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