Valle del Ambroz / Tierras de Granadilla-Cáparra
para el Valle del Ambroz / Tierras de Granadilla-Cáparra
Location and access
The Valle del Ambroz is in the centre-north of the province of Cáceres, bordered by the spurs of Gredos to the north and south and by the River Alagón to the west. The River Ambroz, which gives it its name, crosses the region diagonally, from the northeast to the southwest. The marked contrast of altitudes favours the presence of many ecosystems, from dehesa to plains to high mountains.
There is good access to all of the Valle del Ambroz, as the region is crossed from north to south by the A-66 motorway, also called the “Autovía de la Plata”, as it runs parallel to the historic Roman road of this name. The A-66 enters the north of Extremadura through the picturesque Puerto de Béjar and leaves through the Valle del Ambroz in the south, in Plasencia.
Description of the route
The route suggested here has two separate parts: one is the Puerto de Honduras, a mountain route starting in Hervás, and the other is the dehesa between the Roman ruins of Cáparra and the Gabriel y Galán Reservoir. The ascent up to Puerto de Honduras mountain pass is along a narrow road, with a lot of bends and little traffic, so you can drive slowly and easily and safely stop on the curbs. You go up from Hervás, at 700 m, to the mountain pass, at 1430 m, crossing different types of vegetation, from the oak and chestnut tree groves of Hervás to the broom thickets at the top. The route starts in Hervás, from where you should take the road towards Cabezuela del Valle, staying on it at all times. The species you can see are mostly forest species (Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Northern Goshawk, European Honey Buzzard, Hawfinch, Golden Oriole, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, European Nuthatch, Eurasian Jay, Mistle Thrush, Pied Flycatcher, Western Bonelli’s warbler), species of rocky places (Griffon Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Eagle, Rufous-tailed Rock and Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Rock Bunting) and scrubland species (Common Whitethroat, Dartford Warbler, Ortolan Bunting, Black-eared Wheatear, Woodlark). You can complement your ascent by car by covering sections on foot in forest areas or at the peaks. Once you have gone up the mountain pass you can return to Hervás or go down through the Valle del Jerte, through similar landscapes, but without the chestnut tree groves.
The second part goes through a very different habitat: dehesa. It starts at the A-66 exit leading to Guijo de Granadilla and Gabriel y Galán Reservoir, next to the disused train station of Villar de Plasencia. You must pay attention to the access signs to this small road, as the entry isn’t direct. Once you have started the route you will cross a typical dehesa, where you can see Common Crane in winter and Azure-winged Magpie, Hoopoe and other species throughout the year. There are many White Stork and Raven nests (sometimes occupied by the Common Kestrel) on the electricity pylons, although the electricity companies have recently started to get rid of them. The European Roller is also present, although scarce, normally found perched on electricity cables or rural buildings. 4.4 km from the start, to the left, another road starts, which leads to a livestock pool (be careful, as just before it there is another road to the left, which you don’t want to take). You are now in an area of ash tree groves where you can see Black Stork throughout the year; Spoonbill and Great White Egret on passage; Northern Lapwing, Common Crane and Golden Plover in winter and European Roller and Rock Sparrow in spring. However, the presence of many of these species is irregular and occasional. Returning to the previous road continue towards the Gabriel y Galán Reservoir, passing by the ruins and Roman Arch of Cáparra. Next cross the River Ambroz and you will enter a treeless area, where you can see Stone Curlew and Golden Plover in winter, as well as Common Crane and Black-winged Kite. Keep on the same road until it ends in the EX-205, next to the Gabriel y Galán Reservoir. We recommend you watch from the dam (there’s a large car park on the right), where, downstream, there is a colony of Grey Heron in the black poplars, also the winter roosting area of Great Cormorant (if you are lucky you might see Black Stork and Osprey) and, upstream, you can see the large expanse of water of the reservoir. The best area to watch water birds is the southeast end of the reservoir, with the peninsula, where the Club Náutico is located, being a good site (recently reconverted into a sports centre). This is an excellent spot to see Common Crane and gulls returning to their roosts, and to watch ducks, geese and Great Crested Grebe in winter. The Eurasian Black Vulture breeds to the north of the reservoir, and is easily seen, and it was the best site for the Iberian Lynx in Extremadura.
The diversity of the Valle del Ambroz means that you can see forest, mountain, scrubland, dehesa, farmland and aquatic birds all within a small area. In general, it is an area little visited by birdwatchers, mainly as it is unknown. The area doesn’t have large populations of emblematic species, but does have great diversity, and also offers the possibility of discovering its rich monumental heritage and enjoying its beautiful scenery.
Best time to visit
The suggested routes can be visited at any time of the year, complementing each other. The ascent to the Puerto de Honduras mountain pass is best undertaken in spring and summer, between March and September, with the best time being between May and July. On the other hand, winter is the best time to cover the dehesa, and in particular, to see Common Cranes and water birds on the reservoir.
Other environmental and cultural interest
The Valle del Ambroz offers visitors many areas of beautiful scenery, including the surroundings of La Garganta gorge, the pine forests of Granadilla and the dehesa of Oliva de Plasencia. There are many special trees in the region: the birch grove of Puerto de Honduras (near the top, on the northern slope), Acarreadero oak in Cabezabellosa (the biggest in the region), the enormous chestnut trees of Casas del Monte and Segura de Toro and La Fresneda cork oak in Aldeanueva del Camino.
Monuments of interest include the ensemble of Hervás, particularly its Jewish quarter and churches; the Roman ruins of Cáparra (with a centre of interpretation); the Palace of the Duques de Alba in Abadía; the spa complex of Baños de Montemayor; the town of La Garganta; and the abandoned walled town of Granadilla, now converted into an educational centre (it is advisable to check visitor opening times). Well-known typical products are cherries and chestnuts, Casas del Monte strawberries, kid goat meat, trout, sausages and the traditional pitarra wines. “El Otoño Mágico” (Magical Autumn) is a notable festival, which is celebrated in November throughout the region. Several towns and villages have colourful carnivals and theatrical works of Jewish origin are performed in summer in Hervás.