We tour the province of Salamanca in search of those small towns that preserve a traditional atmosphere that takes us back in time, and whose rich heritage has earned them the title of World Heritage Site.
Six of them (La Alberca, Mogarraz, Miranda del Castañar, Sequeros, San Martín del Castañar and Villanueva del Conde) are located in the Sierra de Francia, declared a Biosphere Reserve together with the Sierra de Béjar. In the latter we will discover Béjar, Candelario, Montemayor del Río, and Puente del Congosto. Near the border with Portugal, once a place of contention, Ciudad Rodrigo and San Felices de los Gallegos appear. And finally, the Historic Sites closest to the city, Ledesma, Alba de Tormes and Peñaranda de Bracamonte.
They all have something in common… you’re going to fall in love!
1. ALBA DE TORMES
Less than 20 km from Salamanca, this town is steeped in history. It is known for housing the relics of Santa Teresa de Jesús, guarded by 10 keys. The Convent of the Annunciation or the Carmelite Museum house a rich artistic and spiritual heritage. But it is also worth noting the fact that it is the cradle of the House of Alba, whose castle is still preserved.
The ancient Roman Bletisa mixes history, gastronomy and nature. Its stately homes, cobbled streets and the church of Santa María la Mayor will not leave you indifferent. Come to its Roman bridge (Puente Mocho) on a simple hiking route for all audiences. And of course… don’t leave without trying their traditional donuts!
3. CIUDAD RODRIGO
Its walls enclose rich buildings, both civil and religious, highlighting its Cathedral, where you can see the bombings of the War of Independence. Walking along its walls you will discover a beautiful view of the surroundings, and of all the monuments it houses. The Castle, now a Parador, has been the scene of multiple battles and wars.
4. SAN FELICES DE LOS GALLEGOS
At the foot of the Arribes del Duero, its strategic location made the Portuguese and Castilians fight over it. Dionis de Portugal or Leonor de Aragón (grandmother of Fernando el Católico) are some of the monarchs who have resided in it. But not only its castle is a jewel… its natural enclave houses a great scenic beauty. Do not miss its Oil Museum! This old mill earned him the Europa Nostra restoration medal.
5. LA ALBERCA
Probably one of the most famous towns in our province. It has the honor of being the first town in all of Spain to be declared a Historic Site, in 1940. Its traditional mountain architecture, the tradition of the San Antón pig, and the dozens of hiking trails that start from the town make it one of the most visited in Salamanca.
6. MIRANDA DEL CASTAÑAR
Its unusual enclave has created a unique scheme in the towns of the Sierra de Francia. It is located on top of a hill, dominated by an imposing castle. At the foot of it you will discover one of the most curious bullrings in Spain.
This town is one of the few Jewish quarters that converted to Christianity, and which remains practically intact. Although probably the best known today are the portraits of the ancient inhabitants that populate the facades of the houses. “The town of a thousand faces” is the nickname with which the town is called.
8. SAN MARTÍN DEL CASTAÑAR
Next to the Francia river, the old Roman road, its hermitages, and the 15th century castle stand out. It is home to the Interpretation Center of the Sierra de Francia-Béjar Biosphere Reserve. From it you will see the entire environment of the Sierra de Francia.
The sanctuary of the Virgen de Robledo in this town is one of the most important points in the Sierra de Francia. In it rest the remains of Simón Vela, who discovered the dark Virgin of Peña de Francia. Equally noteworthy are the wineries that preserve the secret of mountain wine.
10. VILLANUEVA DEL CONDE
The characteristic that makes this town unique is the distribution of its houses. They form a closed enclosure, forming an interior space called “huertitas”. To access it, you must go through the houses, or through three small streets, which allow you to cross the town without detours.
In addition to its Jewish quarter, talking about Béjar is talking about the Dukes of Béjar. They lived in the castle, and built the Renaissance Historic Garden of El Bosque de Béjar. They were so important that Cervantes dedicated the first part of Don Quixote to these dukes.
At the foot of the Sierra de Béjar mountains we find this beautiful town. Its architecture is very particular: the batipuertas of the houses protect from winter, and their wooden balconies helped to cure the products of the slaughter. But probably its most peculiar characteristic is its network of channels of crystal clear water that run through the town, coming from the snows of the mountains. The noise of the descent of the water and the peace of the place will dazzle you.
13. MONTEMAYOR DEL RÍO
This small town has been a pass for royal glens, and is located next to the Ruta de la Plata. Its castle stands out, which is very well preserved, and the Chestnut Interpretation Center, where you will discover the art of traditional basketry. And it is that Montemayor is known as the “Villa del Castaño”. The nature around it is spectacular. The mycological trail between Montemayor and Cerro will take you into its beauty and tranquility.
14. PUENTE DEL CONGOSTO
The last town in our province to be declared a Historic Site, in 2019. Its historic center bears witness to the passage of history: its bridge was built by the Catholic Monarchs, the Dávila Castle controlled access via the Tormes River, and the shells attest to the hundreds of pilgrims who for centuries followed through this town one of the branches of the Camino de Santiago from Levante.
15. PEÑARANDA DE BRACAMONTE
In the 16th century it was the capital of the county and lordship of the Bracamonte family. From this period you can discover the Convent of the Carmelite Mothers, several of its squares with arcades for the market and part of the church of San Miguel.