If you are sightseeing around Extremadura, it is a “must” to pay a visit to its capital, Mérida. This city used to be the proud Roman capital of Hispania many centuries ago. However, after a day among Roman ruins, you may feel like going out to nature. Extremadura has plenty! In fact, you do not need to go far away: very close to Mérida, you cannot miss some rather unknown places. One is the huge dolmen of Lácara -seven meters high, older than Stonehenge- and the other, the Natural Park of Cornalvo. Inside, you will see a Roman dam and birds that you can find almost solely in this land. Let’s have a closer look!
The Natural Park of Cornalvo can be found only ten kilometers away from Mérida. At its core, there is a Roman dam that used to provide water to this city. It is used to this day. Around it, if you like birdwatching, you get to admire very rare species: black storks, honey buzzards, black-shouldered kites, black-headed gulls, cranes, and so on: there are 150 different species. As for the mammals, the more special one is the wildcat, which is in danger of extinction. There is also a kind of toad that you can only find in this region.
Everything is surrounded by 'dehesas' (pastures), a semi-natural landscape with cork trees and holm oaks. They are very typical in Extremadura.
Not far away from Cornalvo, a 6,000-year-old gem can be spotted: the dolmen of Lácara. Despite its excellent preservation, some pieces are missing: it used to measure five meters above the burial chamber! This dolmen was a huge achievement of engineering at the time. It used to be covered by earth, and a circle of stones was settled outside to mark its position. You can still see these stones.
Get inside and feel the power of these huge granite rocks: some people think that the dolmens were planted in places with special energy. I do not know about that, but it sure is impressive to feel stones that weigh tons above your head. Also, if you walk a bit further, you can see where these people got the stones: they were carved out straight from nearby rocks. This quarry is like a huge stone puzzle, where the missing pieces are to be found at the dolmen.
To get here, you just need to follow the signs. The Junta de Extremadura has done an excellent job putting these hidden treasures on the map. So there you go, a couple of ideas to keep you busy an extra day at Mérida. There are plenty of other things to do around: Alange, the only Roman thermae still working, Medellín, Badajoz… Extremadura is called- even in Spain- “the unknown region.” But I can assure you; it has a lot to offer!
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