Updated: Nov 29, 2022
Ever thought of traveling with your canine friend but never knew how to approach this ?
In the end of February we adopted Luna, a 3-year old border collie, from the pet shelter and one month later she was already boarding onto a camper van trip with us.
We opted for local Rumbo Tierra camper due to them being a pet friendly camper van company with pickup and drop-off point located in Madrid. In this post I will describe a 2-week itinerary.
We knew it was a blooming season of cherry trees and Jerte Valley is the most known place for blooming cherries in Spain. At that time stormy weather was passing across all Spain and exactly in Jerte Valley the weather was favorable and we didn't think twice. We made our overnight stop in Cabezuela del Valle village in a quiet parking by the river, close to the tourism office.
Garganta de Los Infiernos
It's recommended to start this hike in the early morning. Due to its popularity, the trail gets crowded very fast during the day. We had a cloudy but still a pleasant morning start walking through the forest.
We were still in the process of discovering Luna's posing skills.
Los Pilones is the most attractive spot in the trail. These are natural swimming holes cascading in layers along the curious rock formations. It must be quite refreshing in the hot summer.
I did some exploration around to find various angles for shooting and soaked my tripod generously in the river.
Luna's Photo Session
In the afternoon we found a spot with rows of cherry trees close to the village and planned our evening shooting session with Luna.
She was happily running back and forth in exchange for the treats.
Our next morning in Jerte Valley we wanted to explore terraces of cherry trees and went in the opposite direction from Garganta de Los Infiernos trail. My main guide was location of the sunrise, other than that it was a very random direction choice. But as there are many rural paths in the area, you can't go wrong with them and will always encounter beautiful views.
In our walk we met elegant white horses and ... crazy beagle. Due to Luna's past, she is not very sociable with other dogs and always feels discomfort when they approach here. This beagle started with bugging me first, staring at me for a moment, then starting to bark and next thing he was attempting was pulling my pants at the ankle level (in a friendly manner).
Observing horses is more contemplative than interacting with persistent beagles. :)
Finding my soul at peace in these rural surroundings. Simple joy of the simple moments.
We found out about this trail in the village and decided on it for the evening hike.
It's located near Navaconsejo that also had camper van parking but we had the camper parked in Cabezuella del Valle and walked to the trail from there. It takes about 40 minutes to walk until the trail. The trail itself is mostly ascending up and has 7 waterfalls along it! It must be one of the most exciting routes we've hiked.
Leaving the trail we witnessed terraces with cherry trees once again.
Next morning all of us (including Luna) slept a lot after the long and tiring hike. The weather forecast wasn't too favorable either. In the afternoon we did however pay a visit to yet another waterfall.
Caozo Waterfall (Cascada Bonal)
The sky took a greyish tone, that always looks overexpose in the phots. The best I could attempt was bracketing the exposures to get the exposure more or less even. Metallic viewpoint construction was under maintenance and forbidden to walk on. Next time anyone of you is visiting this place, make sure to check the sign with a note before entry. There are other spots around the waterfall to enjoy the view from and no Instagram shot is worth an accidental fall.
Here we decided it was time to hit our next destination. It had to be Cáceres where we haven't been since the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic hit the world.
When to go to Jerte Valley
The blooming of cherry trees usually falls into the period between late March and beginning of April, and continues for about 2-3 weeks.
We arrived at Cáceres late in the evening and it already started raining by then. Our overnight parking spot was near El Principe park. I still set my alarm for the sunrise, constantly checking weather forecast and it was supposed to stop raining within the morning blue hour window. I came with Luna to the viewpoint in Infanta Isabel park and exactly at this moment rain resumed and I couldn't even take my camera out.
It continued raining cats and dogs until afternoon. Which meant longer sleeping, chilling in the van and editing photos. In the afternoon it cleared and we even had a decent sunset. The viewpoints were The Most Beautiful Bench of Caceres (I kid you not it even had a sign saying that! ) and Cerro del Amparo.
Where to Eat in Cáceres
When not in the wild outdoors, you'd want to explore the city and find something to eat. locally instead of cooking in the van.
There is a dog friendly restaurant Mahalo Poke with a good variety of poke meals, including vegan and vegetarian. This place is good for lunch or afternoon snack.
Dinner place we went to was Taperia La Tula - we had a nostalgy for it from 2 years ago and returned, they allow dogs at the exterior terrace. The food didn't disappoint as it didn't on our first visit.
Mirador Riberos de Monroy
I discovered this place through Google maps on our way to Cáceres and thought it would be a nice spot for aerial photography. We drove there in the early morning and...it was very hazy and sunlight didn't appear when it had to. We waited in the van for some time, had some coffee and once the sun rose higher, it started lighting up the green hills. The light was already quite harsh but I wouldn't be returning here any time soon, so I sent my drone up.
This was our last spot in Extremadura community and Cáceres province. Huelva province in Andalucia was our next destination.
Minas de Riotinto
This was an important mining district already since the Roman times, but the mines were acquired by the British mining company in 19th century whose mining activity lasted until 1954 when mines were returned to Spanish ownership, when they were already exhausted. What we see in this area is what was left from the British mining activity.
The parking is near the touristic mining train station close to Nerva village, from there the walking route starts. An example of the route we explored was based on Nerva-Berrocal trail although our agenda wasn't to make the full route, but rather to explore slowly and find interesting sceneries for the photo shoot. After all, our shooting location was found at Zarandas, about 1/3 of the route.
With the help of Google Earth I was looking for a place with interesting textures on the go. This way we found them in Zarandas where I could explore them from the air.
Walking along the abandoned mines gave us a slight post-apocalypse feel. Does something like "I Legend" movie come to mind ?
Our overnight parking was in the Minas de Riotinto village. It's totally worth exploring it during the day, as there are various historical facilities left from the British mining era, such as Casa 21, Juan Cobos Wilkins Cinema, etc.
Peña del Hierro
Morning was raining a lot, so we skipped the sunrise sleeping in the van. Sunset mission was targeted for rivermouth of Rio Tinto and Peña del Hierro which are also close to Nerva village.
Textures are one of the various subjects to photograph in the area. Of course, Luna had to step and pose on them :)
Here we were accompanied by dramatic weather and expressive sky.
Aerial perspectives are a must in this area. Especially with these skies!
Icing on the cake was this leafless tree on top of Peña del Hierro which added extra drama to the whole scene.
In other words, it was a spectacle!
The area is so versatile and offers infinite photographic opportunities. Photographer Manuel Gonzales dedicated a 365 day challenge to Rio Tinto on Instagram in 2021 where he posted 1 aerial photo every single day throughout the year, mostly shot at Rio Tinto. His work inspired me immensely to visit the place and look for my perspectives.
Our second night in the area we also spent in Minas de Riotinto village and went for a ride in the early morning, although didn't succeed to take any photos. After all we parked in Campofrio to fill the gas tank, have a walk with Luna and have our breakfast in the van. Our next destination was a canine beach near Huelva city.
When to visit Rio Tinto surroundings
Knowing that summers here can be extremely hot, the best time to go is in the spring or autumn. This way it's possible to enjoy both landscapes and the weather.
Only at certain beaches dogs are allowed. In Huelva province there are 7 of them: Playa del Vigia, Playa de La Estrella, extension of Avenida de La Marina in Punta Umbria, Playa de El Espigon (Isla de Saltes), Playa de la Gola, Playa Icona Pesmar (both in Isla Cristina) and in Paraje Natural de Canela. We went to Playa del Vigia where Luna enjoyed her day at the beach for the first time.
Where to Eat in Huelva
El Brujo - it's a small place but staff here is very friendly, dogs are welcomed at the terrace, and the waiter even gave some dog cookies to our Luna. We returned 2 times to this place because on top of that food was delicious too!
Overnight we stayed in the parking in Punta Umbria where I wanted to explore the Ribera trail of Punta Umbria in the early morning. However, I wasn't able to get up early and we twisted our plans around a bit to visit Isla Saltes in the middle of Odiel marshes in the afternoon. I'm so happy we did that, because it was an incredible experience.
The marshes are a home to many birds, flamingoes are some of them and we ran into an elegant group on our way back. For those who love to practice wildlife photography this will be an ideal place at both sunrise and sunset.
With such a perfect ending of the day we were ready to hit the road towards our next destination, Antequera in Malaga province...
To be continued in Part 2.