Sights

The main tourist centre of the Sierra de Francia is La Alberca. Having your own car enables you to immerse yourself in quiet villages such as Mogarraz, east of La Alberca, which has some of the most evocative old houses in the region. It's also famous for its embutidos (cured meats), as well as the more recent novelty of over 300 portraits of past and present residents, painted by local artist Florencio Maíllo and on display outside the family homes. The history of this extraordinary project dates from the 1960s, when poverty was rife and many locals were seeking work, mainly in South America – they needed identity cards and it is this that inspired the portraits.

Miranda del Castañar, further east, is similarly intriguing, strung out along a narrow ridge. But San Martín del Castañar is the most enchanting, with half-timbered stone houses, flowers cascading from balconies, a bubbling stream and a small village bullring at the top of the town, next to the renovated castle with its historic cemetery (there is also an interpretation centre here). Villanueva del Conde is another lovely hamlet.

The main natural attraction of the region is the highest peak in the area, Peña de Francia (1732m). Topped by a monastery and reached by a sinuous 12km climb from close to La Alberca, it's a stunning place with views that extend east to the Sierra de Gredos, south into Extremadura and west towards Portugal.