Any Spaniard will tell you that it is in their pueblo where you eat, drink, and live the best. And they’ll go to great lengths to explain emphatically why theirs is the best.
But in the 1500s, a Spanish king chose his favorite part of Spain for a different reason: his health.
The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the Hapsburg King of Austria, also known as “Carlos I” of Spain, chose to return to Spain to rest and recover from his ailments after a tumultuous and long reign. Of all his European Empire, King Charles chose the southern foothills of the Gredos mountains of Western Spain, Extremadura, known as “La Vera”, for its climate and natural beauty. It turned out he would never recover as he was dying of a fatal illness, malaria.
Unlike the rest of Extremadura, which is dry and arid, La Vera is nestled in the green foothills north of the Tietar River. Natural spring water fountains erupt between rock and thyme bush, eventually forming deep gorges or “gargantas” of crystalline waters at the bottom of narrow valleys. Medieval and Roman bridges still stand over the rushing waters and rounded granite boulders.The soil is fecund and fertile. Berries and fruit trees of every sort grow effortlessly, and green pastures feed the herds of goat and lamb.
Charles V sailed from Flanders to Laredo in northern Spain, then south over land to Jarandilla de la Vera’s “Castillo de Oropesa” where he waited a few months for his palace near the Monasterio de Yuste to be completed. The Jeronimo monks at the monastery cared for him for a year and a half before his passing in 1558.
Today, the Emperor’s path to Yuste, or the “Ruta del Emperador”, can be followed from many places north, through the Gredos mountains, into Yuste. The castle where he stayed in Jarandilla is now the “Parador Nacional Carlos V,” a fantastic hotel that’s part of the national patrimony.
The region of La Vera is certainly out of the way for most tourists. But if an ailing Emperor was determined to live out his days in this hidden paradise, it must be for a reason. Come to La Vera and be warned, you are sure to fall in love with it.