Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Valle del Jerte, where nature springs to life!

With the passing of winter, what better way to welcome the new season than by witnessing the flora and fauna literally “spring” back to life?

Typically in March each year, a very special place in the terraced hills of Spain’s largest cherry production region turns white with thousands of acres of blossoming cherry trees. This place is called Valle del Jerte (approx. 2.5hrs west of Madrid), an enchanting valley between two mountain ranges, irrigated by the Jerte River.

Above: The first signs of spring.

This was when I visited during the last week of March, thinking that I could have already missed the cherry blossom season, while in fact, most of the trees were just beginning to bud!

Above: Young cherry plants being sold along the roadside of the town of Jerte.

The white flowers of the cherry trees are known to blanket the whole stretch of the valley for only about 10 days before they wither away. Catching this precious window is really a delicate balance between the weather and timing. This year, it happened a month later!

Finally, I managed to catch many trees in full blossom, in the 3rd week of April!

Above: An unlocked cherry tree orchard sure attracts alot of visitors...

Just when I thought the cherry blossoms were the only highlight of this region, there’s more than meets the eye. I found out there was so much more going on in this valley, hidden away from the uninformed passerby!

Above: An overview of the region.

A total of 11 small towns are located along the stretch of the valley from Tornavacas on the top right of the map down to Plasencia on the bottom left (on the main road N110).

From each of these towns, there exist various options of off-road hiking trails that can lead you to discover the hidden natural wonders of the valley and up into the mountains, from spectacular gorges and waterfalls, to natural pools and oak groves.

There are also 2 camping sites (Camping Rio Jerte & Camping Valle del Jerte) and even an adventure park built right in the heart of natural surroundings. What more could one ask for.

Above: From a scenic viewing point at Tornavacas (the starting point of the Jerte River), overlooking the entire stretch of the valley. At the right time of the year, there’ll be a blanket of white over the landscape for as far as the eye can see.

Above: Near the town of Jerte, streams of water from one of the tributaries flowing down to join the Jerte River.

Further down from Jerte is another town called Cabezuela Del Valle, seen here (above) with its single arch Roman bridge over the Jerte River. This town has been declared a historical and artistic monument thanks to its architectural characteristics. The valley's Tourism Office can be found here.

Another 3km down the road brings us to the next town, Navaconcejo.
From here, a foot trail up the mountain reveals one of the many spectacles of the valley.

Above: A 10-15 min trek up the trail that leads to the Nogales Waterfall hidden in the mountain in the town of Navaconcejo.

Above: This is the first drop of the waterfall, with the water cascading down to a plunge pool, followed by a second drop, below.

Above: The waterfall flowing from the steep sides of the mountains, down into the valley and eventually into the Jerte river.

Above: The terraced slopes of the surrounding mountains covered in Cherry Trees.

Above: Avian architecture of a multi-nest system, spotted somewhere near Plasencia.

In another month or so, many will return just in time to catch the next phase of the cherry tree cycle – the fruit picking season! Perhaps another chance to discover the rest of the off-road trails. Can't wait!

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