Dehesa landscape in Extremadura. Photo by: Matías Costa/©ICEX
The Autonomous Region of Extremadura is located in southwestern Spain, bordering with Portugal, and comprises two provinces: Cáceres and Badajoz. The region has a total area of 41,634.5 sq kilometers / 16,075 sq. miles and a population of 1,108,130 inhabitants. The capital city is Mérida.
The land in Extremadura yields an extraordinary number of crops: there are extensive plantations of vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, rice, carrots and asparagus. Extremadura competes with Andalusia as a producer of table olives.
This region also has a long tradition of excellent meat and dairy products. The meticulous care taken in the feeding of its animals has given rise to pork products of an outstanding quality: Ibérico hams, pork shoulders, cured pork loins, chorizos (pork sausage), morcilla (black sausage), salchichón. Its herds of goats and sheep provide the milk for cheeses such as Torta del Casar, Serena and Ibores.
Extremadura has one Designation of Origin for wine, the DO Ribera del Guadiana, covering areas in the two provinces (Cáceres and Badajoz) that are close to the Guadiana river. Both native and well-adapted imported varieties are grown.
Read more: Wines from Spain.
Extremadura was visited by 163,118 foreign tourists in 2012.
The following sites in Extremadura are included on the UNESCO World Heritage list: the Old Town of Cáceres, the Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida and the Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe, the origin of one of Spain';s most important gastronomic products, Pimentón de la Vera .
The National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida (Badajoz) houses a significant collection of Roman art. The province of Cáceres is home to some beautiful towns with a great historical past such as Trujillo and Valencia de Alcántara.
Monfragüe National Park, declared in 2003 by UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is an excellent example of the environmental richness of this Autonomous Community beside The Cornalvo Nature Park.
To the south of the province of Badajoz is one of Spain's most important dehesas. This is a landscape of holm and cork oaks, used as grazing land for Iberico pigs, the source of Spain's outstanding jamón ibérico.
In 2013, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) awarded Playa dulce de Orellana la Vieja beach with one blue flag.
More info: Turismo de Extremadura.
Extremadura is home to some of the most beautiful Roman ruins in Spain, such as the aqueduct and theatre in Mérida. Many of the cathedrals and monasteries built in Extremadura are closely linked to the colonisation of America, as this is the land of the great explorers: Núñez de Balboa (1475-1519), Francisco Pizarro (1475-1541), Diego de Almagro (1475-1538), Hernán Cortés (1485-1547), Francisco de Orellana (1490-1546), Pedro de Valdivia (1498-1554). The great painter Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) was also born in Extremadura.
The Museo Extremeño e Iberoaméricano de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Extremaduran and Latin American Art, MEIAC) in Badajoz is a present-day expression of this bond between Extremadura and Latin America.
Carantoñas, January 20 in Acehúche (Cáceres), where the villagers dress in animal skins and bizarre masks.
La Encamisá, June 16, Navalmillar de Pela (Badajoz) - bonfires are lighted all through the town and men on horseback parade through the streets.
Carnaval de Villanueva de la Vera (Cáceres): This is a popular festival held at Carnival in which the Peropalo, a life-size rag doll is paraded round the town for several days then finally burnt on a bonfire on the last day of celebrations, the Tuesday of Carnival.
Many gastronomic fiestas celebrating traditional products and dishes take place throughout the year all over the region.
The gastronomy of Extremadura is flavourful and varied, in which the Ibérico pig plays a major role, thanks to the quality of the processed meat products made in the region.
Roast, stewed lamb, a variety of freshwater fish and game dishes are examples of the sobriety of Extremaduran cuisine.
The vegetables produced in this region are also of widely recognised quality, particularly the asparagus and thistle greens. Among the fruits, apples, peaches and cherries from the Jerte Valley are worthy of special mention.
Extremadura produces a type of cheese that is unique in Spain, the so-called tortas. With two Designations of Origin, PDO Torta del Casar and PDO Queso de la Serena, these are cheeses with a light, creamy texture and powerful flavor, some of Spain's most unusual.
Honeys, dried fruits and pastries such as perrunillas (sweet biscuits made with anise) or técula-mécula (a rich almond cake) are all magnificent desserts from Extremadura.