Once part of the ancient Roman province of Lusitania, Extremadura, along with neighboring Portugal, is an old-world land in southwestern Spain with a rich layering of ancient cultures whose stories are rarely written in guidebooks. Today, from one city to the next, there is plenty for one to see, from cutting-edge contemporary art, chic shops, ancient ruins, and more.
Places of note: In the city of Cáceres, be sure to try the dining room at Atrio Restaurante Hotel, where chef Toño Pérez’s two-Michelin-starred cuisine is matched by a stellar wine list that Wine Spectator has ranked as one of the world’s best. Seasonal produce also stars in the dishes at Restaurant El Almirez in the city of Hervás, while the dining room at Plasencia’s 15th-century convent turned inn Parador de Plasencia, turns out regional specialties like honey-roasted lamb and pickled partridge.
Stay at El Jardín del Convento a former manor house in Hervás that is now a charming seven-room inn. Another historical conversion is Plasencia’s atmospheric Hotel Palacio Carvajal Girón, a 16th-century former palace where 28 rooms and suites offset exposed stone walls with plush furnishings; the restaurant here is also worth seeking out.
How to get there: From Madrid, rent a car and head southwest along the A-5 freeway; the 290km drive to Hervás, near Extremadura’s northern border, should take about three hours.
When to go: As its name suggests, Extremadura’s climate runs to the extreme, with sweltering summers and frosty winters. The milder seasons are a better time to visit. In the spring, the region’s flora and fauna put on a spectacular show, while in the fall, the area is blanketed in a palette of autumn colors.