Spain Snapshots: Garganta la Olla, the gorgeous extremeño pueblo you’ve never, ever heard of

There was only one real reason why we stopped: it was sunny and just about 1pm, which meant it was beer hour. Snaking down the one-lane highway that led from the Monastery of Yuste, where Holy Roman Emperor Charles V retired to die, we decided to stop in the next town for a while.

That town was Garganta la Olla, a blip of a pueblo that has a larger-than-life legend. The woman behind the bar graciously served us a heaping plate of cured meats and cheeses with our beer as she hummed and wiped a few glasses clean. Garganta la Olla is home to just over 1000 inhabitants, making it yet another sleepy hamlet in the Cáceres region of Extremadura.

I tugged the Novio’s hand as I led him down the main road towards town hall. The wood and stone thatched houses looked like they’d been haphazardly constructed – kind of like the way the sticks fall in a game of Pick Up Sticks. Carvings in the doors mark just how old the village is – some of the constructions date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, when Garganta la Olla was in its heyday, although it’s believed to have been inhabitant for nearly 2000 years. 

The houses reminded me of the sort I might have seen in Haro, La Rioja or even outside of Spain. We walked beneath balconies supported by wooden pillars that housed humble homes. Within 30 minutes, we’d seen the whole of the center leisurely, including the artificial beach of Garganta Mayor, a nice sojourn after Yuste disappointed us (both in price and museum – not worth it!).

As for the legend of La Serrana de la Vera, it’s said that a scorned woman took up residence in the nearby Garganta, or mountain crevice, from which she seduced men and then killed them exacting her revenge against the Archbishop of Plasencia, who broke up their engagement and sentenced her family to a lifetime of dishonor. Miguel de Unamuno, a celebrated Spanish author, penned her legend, which is also accompanied by demon and serpentine figures that make up local lore. Día de la Serrana de la Vera is celebrated each August, and the city retains its medieval feel.

And if you’re into it, there’s also an Inquisición Museum that shows medieval torture tools and a former brothel that now houses a shop with products from the area – cured meats, sweet paprika and sweet breads.

Garganta la Olla is located in the La Vera region of Cáceres, at the foothills of the Sierra de Gredos. It’s about 45 minutes east of Plasencia and two hours north of Badajóz. 

Have you ever spent time in Extremadura? What are your favorite small towns in Spain?

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

Comments

  1. Ugg I’m kicking myself for only staying 2 nights in Mérida last June when I could have seen Badajoz, Cáceres, some villages, etc. Oh well.

    “Throat Pot” looks like a charming, ancient rural village—thanks for sharing it with us!
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..Gathered Thoughts From a Trip to PortugalMy Profile

  2. Nice photos of a typical Spanish back road village, there are so many of them I feel one can spend nearly a lifetime enjoying them all.

    Happy Easter

  3. This seems like a really charming village. Thanks for sharing, Cat! If I’m ever (when I am), in Extremadura I’ll have to keep this in mind.
    Mike of Mapless Mike recently posted..Auxiliar de Conversación Application TimelineMy Profile

  4. Pedro says:

    lovely village!..you always show the real Spain, something to be glad and to thank!….if you ever get citizenship i would do my best so you can be our next Spanish ambassador to the USA or any other country…..you certainly would be better than many of us :-)

    the name of the town is simply beautiful, one of the beauties of Spain are the medieval names of places, many of those names are laborious and odd.

    the name Garganta refers to a narrow of a river, a mount, a hill, etc so the village must have either of them, but this meaning is dying out, that’s why people, including Spaniards, may think of a “throat” instead of a narrow.

    some of my favourite small towns are located in Murcia, but no one cares about our region.

  5. paddy waller says:

    Nice one Cat. Garganta La Olla is a lovely spot as are so many of the villages round there.I went walking in Los Gredos and through loads of villages in the area for 4 days about 8 years ago. I must get back some time to redo La Ruta de Carlos V.It was spectacular but it poured with rain all day making it a long hike through the mountains starting in Tornavacas.
    paddy waller recently posted..La FamiliaMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Hi Paddy. We walked by the end of the Ruta de Carlos V, and I would have loved to walk. Unfortunately, the Novio doesn’t take kindly to walking after so many forced hikes in Air Force school!

  6. Val says:

    Loved the article! I’m missing España so much right now! (I was an auxiliar last year.) My fave villages are Mijas Pueblo and Frigliana/Nerja (although Nerja is pretty well known.)

  7. corinne says:

    I love the Extremadura region, so many gorgeous little towns…and great pigs~
    corinne recently posted..R is for Russia (A-Z Blogging Challenge)My Profile

  8. Tom Bartel says:

    A charming description of what seems a charming place. Extremadura is the only part of Spain I haven’t been to. Now you make me want to go even more.
    Tom Bartel recently posted..Ardennes American Cemetery, Near Liege, BelgiumMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      You must, Tom. Extremadura is really an uncharted destination – Roman ruins, Golden Age opulence, outdoor activities. Or, you could walk the Vía de la Plata to Santiago through it!

      • Tom Bartel says:

        Already done the Camino Frances from St. Jean Pied du Port. That’s enough walking for a lifetime, Cat. The trip through Extremadura will be by car, I’m sure. Although I have a friend who was in a car accident in Caceres and spent two days in jail because the guy who hit him (yes, it was the other guy’s fault) was the mayor’s cousin, or something like that. He ended up getting out with the help of the American consul and had to flee to Portugal to avoid buying the other guy a new car.
        Tom Bartel recently posted..Judy Mahle Lutter: An Exceptional TravelerMy Profile

      • Cat Gaa says:

        Yikes!! An American friend? Geez, the enchufe that exists around here is just insane and makes it impossible to do anything productive!

      • Tom Bartel says:

        Yes, enchufe and mordita are two words I recommend that anyone who thinks of living in Spain learn immediately.
        Tom Bartel recently posted..Tulip Garden, Brussels, BelgiumMy Profile

  9. Kaley says:

    The name is great. This is one of those fun ones to literally translate, this game I do with Mario when we’re bored on the metro.

    Anyway, I love little villages like these! You get the BEST food/drinks in places like these. And the people are usually great.
    Kaley recently posted..So You’re Dating a Spaniard—HillaryMy Profile

  10. Dan says:

    Thanks & enjoyed this. My Spanish wife has family in Extremadura…. great region. saludos!

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Thanks, Dan. It seems that most visitors don’t even know it exists, and I think you can agree that it deserves some love (and tourist dollars!).

  11. amelie88 says:

    I’ve been to Extremadura twice actually! First time back in 2004 (nearly 10 years ago which was my first time to Spain!!) when I did a high school exchange program and during a puente when I was an auxiliar in fall of 2012. There isn’t a whole lot to see in Extremadura apart from the Roman ruins in Merida but I really enjoyed the trip because we were pretty much the only American tourists there, everybody else was Spanish. It really felt like we were totally immersed in the country and it was a great feeling.
    amelie88 recently posted..Guest Post: After Korea: A Contemporary Education LessonMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      I’d disagree that there’s not much to see in Extremadura – Cáceres and Trujillo are lovely, there’s a UNESCO site at Guadalupe and the hiking and outdoors activities seemed promising. I saw a few other Americans in Trujillo, but nothing compared to walking down the street in Seville. You’re right – it was refreshing!

  12. Laura says:

    The natural swimming pool in that town is well worth a look, amazing for a dip in the summer!

    • Cat Gaa says:

      It was still chilly when we went last month, but it looked so enticing! The natural pools in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla are wonderful, too.

  13. Lisa Duque says:

    The husband’s family is from the Valle de Jerte. I love spending time there with family because the villages that dot this valley and the river that runs through it are so charming and not a tourist in sight! This is the famed Valle that the wonderful cerezas come from! It seems like every family member has a hand in the cherry business. I want to retire there!!!

  14. Cat, I love your website. Can’t wait to visit Seville when I walk the Via de la Plata. Buen Camino! :)

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Likewise, Randall! When are you starting? Would love to meet up, pre-Camino, and have a drink and chat.

  15. new says:

    Thanks for sharing I love Spain I am a Spain fan

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  1. [...] small towns in Spain? Tell me about your favorites or read a bit more on ones I love: Garganta la Olla (Cáceres) // San Nicolás del Puerto (Sevilla) // Carmona (Sevilla) // Osuna (Sevilla) [...]

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