Valencia de Alcántara is a very particular municipality in Extremadura (Spain)- it is the place in Western Europe with the highest concentration of megalithic monuments. That means that, around 5,000 years ago, the men of this region erected a lot of menhirs, cromlech, and dolmens. Most of them can be visited today following the existing routes that link them together. Valencia de Alcántara has done a great job at restoring them and granting access to them. In fact, they have been declared of National Cultural Interest. The result is amazing: a true journey to the past!
What is a dolmen? You might be wondering...It is a place where the important people of the tribe were buried in, during the Neolithic time, some 5,000 years ago. The word means literally stone table in ancient Breton. They used to look like the photo above, and they were made mostly of granite. Some of their stones can weigh several tons. Most of them were covered with earth, creating little artificial hills. There are dolmens in Europe, Asia, and Africa. As for cromlechs, their meaning is still a mystery to us, but menhirs are thought to be phallic monuments, probably to symbolize and bring fertility.
One of the main routes of dolmens goes around La Aceña de la Borrega. It is the most recommended route for its variety of landscapes. The hiker can start in the La Aceña de la Borrega village, and see the majestic El Mellizo, one of the best-preserved dolmens. The route is easy to follow through the signs. The next ones are Cajirón I and II. Though they have fewer stones, their view is impressive: a long valley going all the way to the city Alburquerque, with its high castle on the horizon. The best season to do this hike is spring, when this area becomes a beautiful painting: green grass, with red, white and yellow flowers, along with the blue sky. Next to the path, you will see cows, sheep, and horses. Nearby there is the water reservoir of Alpotrel, surrounded by round, huge rocks. Heading to the village Lanchuelas, you can see a cromlech, a circle made of stones. The most famous in the world is probably Stonehenge. Well, this one is not as impressive as its distant cousin, but still…
Heading back to La Aceña, the hiker will go through a stone canyon. You would think you are in a western movie, with vultures flying up in the sky, above your head, or looking at you from their stones, where they nest. You have to cross the canyon following a narrow path, with a creek running at your side. And then suddenly, the canyon opens, and there is a big, green valley, with two dolmens almost side by side: Data I and II.
This is the most recommended route, but in Valencia de Alcántara you can also hike through the dolmens at Fontiña, Miera, Zafra or Caminos del Agua (literally the paths of the water). In Fontiña you can visit the menhir “Porra del burro” (better not to translate it!). Here, there was a tradition going on in the XXth century: women used to come to throw a stone behind their backs. If the stone remained at the top of the menhir, it meant that they would have children. It is simply amazing that 5,000 years later, the liaison with fertility has not been lost! Some say that dolmens were placed in spots with special energy and that this energy can still be felt. Well, this is your chance to see whether it's true!
Cover picture © María Noelia Romo Botello
Like this story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.