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Madrid is the perfect place to start a Central Spain road trip and explore some of Spain's most interesting historical sites. Ever since King Felipe II moved the Spanish capital from Toledo to the more centrally-located Madrid in the 16th century, the city at the heart of the Old Kingdom of Castille has blossomed under its crossroads condition.
Toledo, Avila, Segovia and Salamanca are all full of history and boast some of the most stunning old architecture in the country. Besides historical sites, Madrid lies to the east of Sistema Central, a beautiful mountain range worth exploring and sadly (or luckily?!) ignored by many.
On this magical road trip itinerary, explore the historical heart of Spain and visit some of its most breathtaking mountains and natural landscapes in the process.
Toledo is known as the City of the Three Cultures because for many years Christians, Jews and Muslims lived peacefully together in its narrow hilly streets. The old city sits on a mountaintop surrounded on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River. As your campervan approaches the city, its view from the distance are unforgettable.
A one-hour drive from Madrid, make Toledo the first stop on your Central Spain road trip. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, the city is packed with medieval churches, synagogues and mosques worth visiting.
The old city walls and gates still stand, as do two stunning bridges over the river: the Roman Alcántara Bridge and San Martin Bridge.
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from Madrid pick-up center
Do not miss its impressive art collection
Mirador del Valle
Great views of Toledo across the river. Selfie time!
Mosque Christ of Light & Synagogue Sta Maria la Blanca
one of the oldest religious buildings in Spain
Good traditional tapas
Try Carcamusas, a local delicacy
Parking de Safont
Free parking close to city centre
Camping El Greco
Outisde the city by the river
Surprisingly Spain is, after Switzerland, Europe's most mountainous country. Many associate Spain only with beach holidays despite offering a wide range of unmatched natural landscapes.
Sierra de Gredos, still unknown to many Spaniards, is a gorgeous mountain range west of Madrid and home to the Iberian Ibex, the Spanish wild goat.
As you leave Toledo on your Central Spain road trip, drive towards Talavera de la Reina and from there to Arenas de San Pedro, a perfect place where to take a rest or have lunch. One of the main attractions of Sierra de Gredos is the hike to its glacial lake, Laguna de Gredos. From the Plataforma Gredos parking, it takes around two hours to hike to the lake.
The trail is well marked and gentle, though stony at times. Spotting wild goats from the trail is normal, particularly during off-peak season.
There are many trails to explore in Sierra de Gredos. For experienced and fit hikers, one of the most beautiful is the one to Cinco Lagunas (Five Lakes). The return hike is 25 km long, so start very early if you want to complete it in one day, or spend a night camping by one of the lakes.
Sierra de Gredos
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Laguna de Gredos
Gorgeous views on mountain hike to this glacial lake
Tough and long hike that is worth the effort
La Mira de Gredos
Great food, great views of the mountains
Parking Plataforma Gredos
Perfect location for exploring the mountains
Another of Spain’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites, Ávila is famous for the walls that surround the old city. Started in 1090, the walls have a perimeter of 2,516 metres (~8,255 feet), an average height of 12 m (~42 feet), and a total of 9 gates.
It’s possible to walk on the walls themselves for half their circumference. It’s also said that the walls are the largest fully illuminated monument in the world. — so why not try a night walk on the walls?
Don’t just admire them from outside the city but adventure inside them and walk around this small cute city full of history. An impressive collection of old churches, monasteries and museums will teleport you to medieval Castile.
And while all are worth a visit, pick the main cathedral and the Monastery of Saint Thomas if you’re sticking to the Central Spain road trip itinerary and only staying for the day. If you do, leave Ávila at night to head for your final destination, Segovia.
from Sierra de Gredos
The cathedral of Ávila
Magnificent gothic architecture
The walls of Ávila
Admire them from outside the city before traversing them
Avila is famous for its beef. Get a steak!
Great quality local food
Palacio de Congresos
Public parking outside the walls
Camping Valle de Iruelas
In the mountains near Ávila
Segovia’s main symbol is its Roman aqueduct, still used today to deliver drinking water to the city. Due to its length, beauty, and location it’s considered the most impressive Roman structure in all of Spain.
Built with 25,000 granite blocks held together without any mortar, it spans 818 meters (~2,684 feet). With more than 170 arches, the highest being 29 metres (~95 feet) high, the aqueduct is an imposing engineering wonder.
Besides the aqueduct, Segovia is also well known by the Alcazar, the Royal Palace that Walt Disney used as inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle, and its stunning gothic cathedral. Do not miss the chance of tasting Segovia’s main dish, roasted suckling pig, the perfect closing meal to your Central Spain road trip.
And if you’re still in the mood for more exploration before driving your campervan back to Madrid, it might be worth heading to Pedraza, a well-preserved medieval village considered one of the most beautiful in the whole of Spain.
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The Alcazar and the cathedral
Impressive with Disney qualities
Medieval village at 40 km (~25 miles) from Segovia, worth the detour
Area de Segovia Parking
15 min on foot to city centre
Try the suckling pig
Another great place to have suckling pig
Camping El Acueducto
In the city outskirts