Sierra de Gredos
The Cordillera Central Mountains cut east to west across the center of Spain like a spine, dividing its high and flat meseta into its northern and southern regions. If metaphor is the path to visualization, then this spine has three vertebrae, the Sierra de Gata to the west near Portugal, the Sierra de Guadarrama to the east in the Madrid province, and the central range known as the Sierra de Gredos south of Ávila. The Sierra de Gredos is less crowded than the Guadarrama and has better outdoor tourism facilities than Gata. From the River Tormes, fly fisherman catch the same trout you’ll find throughout the restaurants of Ávila. From a peak near Piedrahít paragliders set sail to join the country’s eagles – the Bonelli’s, the Spanish imperial, the golden and the booted – all of which are modestly represented in the range. Hikers find trails that lead to a clear glacial lagoon and to the spindly peaks outside of Guisando where the mountain climbers look like ants. The fall of snow means cross-country skiers plying the valleys and with spring an array of butterflies colors the sky. In nearly every village of the Gredos it is possible to saddle up a horse and explore what lies in-between.
The Sierra de Gredos claims the highest peak of the Cordillera Central with the summit of Almanzor (2,592 m/8,500 feet) and more Spanish ibex than anywhere else in Spain. At the turn of the 20th century as few as 20 of these long-horned, goat-like climbers were said to exist. Fearing the inevitable, King Alfonso XIII established the protected Coto Real de Gredos in 1905. Needless hunting was curbed and the park has since expanded to include some 23,000 hectares (64,000 acres) of protected space and, at last count, over 5,000 ibex.
The Castilla y León Destinations of Spain
It is a decidedly two-faced range. On the northern face, the land rises gradually from a valley laced with clear streams to foothills with a smattering of pines and then lazily upwards to the peaks. It is possible to drive east to west across this expanse on the C-500 and take in the full breadth of the mountains to the south in passing from one village to the next. The southern face, in contrast, falls steeply away, with severe cliffs and peaks that seem to want nothing more than to get down to the Tiétar Valley as quickly as possible. The geography on this face has fostered an almost Mediterranean landscape of vineyards, citrus trees and holm oaks.
The town of Arenas de San Pedro is the main hub for outdoor enthusiasts in the south while in the north a road leads to the area known as La Plataforma in the very heart of the natural park. From the Platform the park in all its diversity awaits with open trails.
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