Meadows are in many places in Spain and Portugal with a Mediterranean climate, up to an estimated total of five million hectares in our country alone. They go on for hundreds of kilometers in Extremadura or western Andalusia, they climb north to reach the Sierra de Gata, they settle without problems at the foot of the Iberian System or they spread their cloak over much of Castilla-La Mancha.

But all without exception provoke in the traveler the same sensation of peace and harmony. The meadow is the simplicity of lines brought to its maximum expression, the evolution forced by the man of the Mediterranean forest, an austere and simple scene modeled by the human hand, but without contribution of strange elements. As if the gigantic scissors of a mythological barber had trimmed some bushes here, carded other thickets there, to compose a clean, minimalist hairstyle, with huge clear grasslands on which the plump silhouettes of holm oaks, cork oaks, wild oaks, chestnuts or gall oaks like natural umbrellas spread out in the wind to protect the countryside from the rigors of summer. These are six popular areas that I recommend you visit:

The infinite beauty of the rugged landscape of Los Pedroches, Córdoba. paco nadal

Pastures of Sierra Morena (Córdoba, Jaén and Seville)

Sierra Morena stands as a raised barrier in which the thinning of shrub species created large meadows around Sierra Madrona or in the endless plains of the Alcudia valley, although other more western areas of the mountains suffered the terrible aftermath of politics. forest from the sixties and seventies, when the prosperous was to uproot natural Mediterranean forest to replace it with eucalyptus and pine. Los Pedroches, in Córdoba; the Andújar mountain ranges, in Jaén —a park with an immense wealth of deer, fallow deer and wild boar in which a community of lynx also lives— or the Sierra Norte de Sevilla natural park —which occupies 25% of the surface of the province— are good examples to enjoy spring in a meadow, a natural spectacle and an unparalleled sensory experience.

View of the Mediterranean forest that covers the banks of the Tagus river as it passes through Monfragüe. shutterstock

Monfragüe (Cáceres)

Something similar to that of Sierra Morena occurred in Monfragüe, one of the most ecologically rich parks in Extremadura, where Franco’s forest engineers terraced and cleared thousands of hectares of thick forest of gall oaks, holm oaks, strawberry trees, cornicabras, wild olive trees, majuelos and oaks to plant … eucalyptus! Fortunately, social and environmental pressure managed to stop the destruction and save 18,000 hectares from plunder that were protected under the figure of a natural park in a rectangle about thirty kilometers long parallel to the Tagus River, between the Salto del Gitano and the town of Miravete houses, although the relict Mediterranean forest is only preserved on the northern slope of the Sierra de las Corchuelas.

Cabañeros National Park is one of 15 in the network of National Parks in Spain. paco nadal

Cabañeros National Park (Ciudad Real)

The communal mountains of Cabañeros belonged since 1246 to the city of Toledo. Wood and cork were mined there, charcoal was made, honey was produced in the hives, cattle were grazed, and cereal was grown on the plains. This traditional use, together with the strict rules of use that included long shifts of rotation and fallow, control of felling and harsh penalties for the violators of the ordinances, allowed the conservation until the beginning of the 20th century of much of the native forest and of enormous pasture areas that began to be endangered as of 1950, when the rañas, the plains at the foot of the mountain that are so characteristic of Cabañeros, were felled and broken to plant cereal in them. Later, the Air Force insisted on setting up a firing range there, which was highly contested by all kinds of groups. From that fight came the declaration of Cabañeros as a national park.

Los Alcornocales Natural Park is home to the largest mass of cork oak on the Iberian Peninsula. paco nadal

Los Alcornocales Natural Park (Cádiz)

Los Alcornocales Natural Park is the largest area of ​​native Mediterranean forest in Andalusia. The last original jungle in southern Europe, where cork oaks, wild olive trees and gall oaks form a thick, green mantle that seems to stretch to infinity. There are areas of dense and primeval forest, especially around the port of Galis. But also large graced estates where traditional uses of grazing and grazing have been practiced since time immemorial. If we turn from the port of Galis along the narrow road that leads to Ubrique, we enter another world. The view is lost between the tops of the trees as the narrow strip of asphalt twists between endless cork oaks. There are no more trees, thousands and thousands of trees, and an understory of kermes oak, mastic, matagallo, ferns and strawberry trees.

Hiking in the Sierra de Aracena. paco nadal

Sierra de Aracena (Huelva)

Aracena is a privileged Mediterranean forest. Due to its proximity to the coast and the absence of mountain barriers that invites the humid Atlantic winds to discharge water on it, alleviating the climate and ensuring mild summers. To a layman, the park would appear to be a continuous, uniform blanket of trees. For a botanist, this succession of species is an example of a book on the different ecological levels that define the Mediterranean forest. Olive and fruit trees appear on the plains intervened by man. Then comes the oak pasture to give way later to the cork oak in the high and humid areas. Climbing higher, the chestnut trees appear. A botanical biodiversity that has had a good ally in the Pata Negra pig, one of the sources of wealth in the area, which fortunately for the forest needs it to feed on acorns unlike wool cattle, for whose grazing is more practical cut it down.

Jacobean signaling of the Vía de la Plata as it passes through a pastureland in Extremadura. Paco Nadal

The meadows of Salamanca and Cáceres on the Vía de la Plata

The old Roman road number XXIV, Iter ad Emerita Asturicam, that is, between Mérida and Astorga, known today as Vía de la Plata, offers one of the best historical itineraries through the Peninsula. Today it can be done on foot or by bike following the yellow arrows that lead to Compostela (it is one of the Caminos de Santiago), along the old N-630 or the modern A-66 motorway. The stretch of Extremadura, between the autonomous capital and the port of Béjar, which limits the provinces of Cáceres and Salamanca, becomes a true delight for the senses every spring. The wildest and most beautiful meadows of Extremadura, undulating terrain, fields fluffy with grass and domed by thousands of holm oaks that give life to that very special ecosystem that is the meadows. After the port of Béjar, the province is changed but not the landscape. The pasture continues many more kilometers through Salamanca, where cows of an autochthonous breed graze (the morucha, Salamanca par excellence), herds of Iberian pigs and herds of brave bulls.