monfragüe national park, spain

After spending a day in the Jerte Valley and Plasencia, we drove to Monfragüe National Park, home to the largest and best preserved Mediterranean forest in the world.  While in the park we went to a few overlooks, drove on most of the roads that go through it (there's not many, and the majority of the park is closed to visitors anyways for the protection of the land and animals), and climbed to the top of Monfragüe Castle (don't visit just to see the castle though - almost nothing of the 9th century Arab construction remains, so use it as a way to get a good view of the park).  

We also realized that the rumors I'd heard about Monfragüe being a birdwatching hotspot were no joke.  At one viewpoint, in particular, overlooking the Salto del Gitano (the big rock above the Tajo River), we couldn't make our way to the front of the herd - especially since we were feeling a bit inadequate with our puny point-and-shoot amidst everyone else and their binoculars-the-size-of-my-head and camera-larger-than-my-torso.  We were able to see, just with our own eyes, some pretty cool raptors flying around the river and the rocks though.

D - It may have been a bit embarrassing for Shannon, but I just had to snap some photos of the birdwatchers.  Their equipment was beyond hardcore.     

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We weren't in Monfragüe more than an hour and a half, but it was still refreshing to be out of manmade towns and cities for a while...definitely worth a stop if you're in Extremadura and not to far away, although be aware that I don't think there's loads of hiking available.  

See the rest of our long weekend trip - our first stop at the palace in La Granja, our day in Salamanca, our drive through the Jerte Valley, and afternoon and evening in Plasencia.