Walking in the Sierra de Gredos
Just west of Madrid, the Sierra de Gredos is Spain's secret heartland; a vibrantly contrasting montage of mountainous peaks, thundering waterfalls, verdant plains, fragrant fruit orchards and glacial lagoons.
This region offers a wealth of varied walking routes from your base in the northern half of the Sierra in the tiny village of Hoyos del Espino, nestled on the edge of the Gredos Regional Park and against a breathtaking backdrop of jagged granite peaks. Choose from gentle meadow strolls through the flower-filled river valleys, or comfortable higher level hikes (the park is at 1800m), where you're likely to meet wild goats and spot huge griffon vultures soaring overhead. In order for you to really get to know the entire region, we have included complimentary car hire as well as detailed route notes for optional day walks in the southern half of the Sierra; a contrasting cluster of tiny Mediterranean-like villages tucked away among terraces of olives, figs and vines. The beautiful historic cities of Avila, Toledo and Salamanca are also easy day trips.
You'll eat well on this holiday, our luxurious rural retreat, the stylish Hotel El Milano Real offers outstanding gastronomic menus and a la carte picnics on all walking days. In the evenings, expect mouth-watering temptations such as venison with wild berries or beef carpaccio with foie gras shavings and mustard vinaigrette. With an extensive bodega of more than 500 Spanish wines your hosts, Teresa and Paco will introduce you to some of those available; we've included wine on the first evening to give you a taste of what's on offer! There are fabulous views from the hotel itself and the excellent Aguas de Gredos spa centre is just next door, great for aching muscles and offers a 15% discount to Headwater customers.
The walks are on varied terrain. Walking boots are essential, and walking poles recommended as there are several long descents. The itinerary page describes just a selection of the many excellent walks possible in this area. Some of the higher walks may not be possible in early season due to snow.
Read more about this holiday on the travel blog.
Day 1 - Arrive in Hoyos del Espino
You arrive at Madrid airport where you pick up your hire car. It's then a 1 hour 50 minute drive to El Milano Real, your luxurious base for the next 7 nights, tucked away in the northern foothills of the Sierra de Gredos. Your host, Teresa, will welcome you with a glass of champagne as she discusses your week's walking options with you before dinner.
Day 2 - The Seven Springs Walk 14km/9mi/4hr
A pine carpeted track takes you first to the peaceful River Tormes then, ascending gently past wild strawberries and pink crocus, you enjoy incredible 360o views of the jagged Gredos mountains. Ibex goats cluster in the luscious pastures peppered with springs and fountains. Returning to the village, time for a drink in one of the friendly local bars before a gourmet dinner in the spectacular dining room.
Day 3 - La Laguna Grande 13km/8mi/4.5hr
This magnificent walk takes you up to the impressive Laguna Grande set between the majestic Morezon and Almanzor peaks - the latter being the highest in the Gredos at 2,592m. The wild and dramatic glacial bowl is a fantastic picnic spot - look out for sure footed ibex silhouetted against the skyline. Above, red kites and huge griffon vultures soar on the thermals.
Day 4 - Navarredonda 9km/6mi/2.5hr or 16km/10mi/4.5hr
A great day for enjoying the diverse landscapes of the Northern Gredos. Wend your way across the broom-covered hillsides with long distance views to tiny white villages nestled in the vines. There are shady pine woods, and flower-filled meadows where black Avila cattle graze as you pass to reach idyllic picnic spots by the river.
Day 5 - Optional visits to Avila or Salamanca
We've left today free for independent exploring, however we strongly recommend the 50 minute drive to the historic Spanish city of Avila. Set against a backdrop of the Gredos Mountains, this walled city - many sections of the walls are still intact - dates back to C11, and its 88 towers and 9 gates are the most complete in Spain. Alternatively, Salamanca, arguably the country's most graceful city with its dual Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals, is just 90 minutes away.
Day 6 - The Morezon 13km/8mi/3.5hr or 14km/9mi/4.5hr
If the air is clear today, you'll feel you can see forever! It's not unusual to have 70km views south all the way across the plain to the Toledo Mountains - especially if you climb to the top of the Morezon (2392m). A real 'on top of the world' experience shared only with wild goats!
Day 7 - Waterfalls and Meadows 14km/9mi/3.5hr or 16km/11mi/4hr
If you choose to stay close to home, today's relaxed walks explore the valley of the River Tormes. You'll amble past stunning waterfalls, looking out for dippers, and then through the shady forests and alpine meadows reminiscent of Switzerland. Alternatively we provide a selection of walks in the more Mediterranean southern Gredos, just a 45 minute drive away.
Day 8 - Leave Hoyos del Espino
Drive back to Madrid to drop off your car, perhaps choosing to spend some extra nights in this fabulous city.
Where you stay
This single-centre holiday is based at the following hotel. If you'd like to extend your stay here, or upgrade your room, just let us know at the time of booking. You can call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 to discuss accommodation options.
Hotel El Milano Real, Hoyos del Espino (5 Acorn)
The Hotel El Milano Real is a beautiful 21-room hotel situated in the tiny village of Hoyos del Espino in the north of the Sierra de Gredos national park.
Each of the rooms at the hotel is individually styled, and all have en-suite facilities, satellite television, direct dial telephones, minibar and hairdryers. Headwater guests are allocated the standard rooms, which are beautifully decorated. It is possible to upgrade to a suite for a supplement.
There is a wellness spa next door to the hotel and Headwater guests receive a 15% discount.
Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.
Extra nights and stop over hotels
If you'd like to extend your trip with extra nights at the start or end, or if you'd like to arrange a stop off point en-route, then we recommend the following hotels.
Hotel Petit Palace Londres, Madrid (3 Star)
The Hotel Petit Palace Londres enjoys an excellent position just off the bustling Puerta del Sol Square, which is considered one of the central spots in Old Madrid. The hotel itself lies just off the pedestrian area to the north where the famous Corte Ingles department store is located. You are ideally situated for exploring all of Madrid's famous sights.
The hotel has a charming turn of century façade and many of the rooms have wrought iron balconies from which you can sit and watch the world go by.
The 75 rooms are furnished in a modern style with laminate flooring and crisp white décor. All are double glazed and air-conditioned and are equipped with mini bar, satellite television and direct dial telephone. The bathrooms are well appointed and many have hydro massage showers.
Further details on the hotel website, and independent reviews on Trip Advisor.
Tour only prices exclude flights, but include Group B air-conditioned hire car which you collect from, and return to, Madrid airport.
Please call our sales team on 1-800-567-6286 or email email@example.com to arrange connecting flights.
Everyone who goes on a Headwater holiday will be emailed a link to our post-holiday questionnaire where they can give us an honest assessment of all aspects of their holiday - everything from how quickly we answer the phone to how clean the hotels were - plus, of course, an overall rating and comments about their holiday.
Any feedback collected is posted straight to our website - totally unedited. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of our holidays, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.
Reviewed by Mr Gagnon on 27/09/2015
This holiday was superb. The scenery was unspoilt mountainous terrain and pastoral along the river valleys. Well away from tourist areas. A good variety of walks ranging from easy to quite challenging, with very accurate walking notes. We did Rio Tormes, Laguna Grande, Villages of the South to name a few. Saw 45+ species of birds. Weather in September was cool at night but got into low twenties in the afternoons. Typically 7 degrees warmer on the south side of the Sierras. We took the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander and drove down - very pleasant. The hotel was great and Teresa was a wonderful hostess.
Reviewed by Mr Smith on 26/09/2015
A fascinating area of Spain with varied landscapes from rugged mountains, to terraced hillsides with vineyards and fruit trees, gently flowing streams, Pine woods and open flat plains with Evergreen Oaks. Also abundant wildlife with dozens of bird species, wild mountain goats, Black cattle, and horses. Ancient walled cities and quaint villages. All within two hours of Madrid.
Reviewed by Mr Huddart on 27/05/2015
The warmth of the welcome at El Milano Real was exceptional. Teresa was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the area and the walks. She advised us about matching walks to the weather. The food was outstanding in quality and presentation. The route notes were exceptionally accurate. This was one of our best walking holidays ever.
Reviewed by Mr Newmarch on 12/05/2015
A great week from start to finish. Excellent hotel. In particular Teresa the hotel owner, whose local knowledge, weather reports and enthusiasm were invaluable. A beautiful location to explore with varied and interesting walks.
Reviewed by Mrs Clifton on 12/05/2015
A holiday for not-too-serious walkers but definitely one for foodies.
Reviewed by Mr Williams on 12/05/2015
Very good holiday, we were made to feel very welcome at the hotel El Milano Real. Good mixture of walking options, some fairly challenging. Worth visiting the south side of the Sierra de Gredos for quite different climate and flora.
Reviewed by Mrs Darwin on 30/04/2015
Wonderful location with excellent and varied walks; lots of interesting birds and flowers; the hotel observatory was a bonus. Teresa's local knowledge and advice were excellent
Reviewed by Mr Smith on 29/04/2015
A really good holiday. Excellent Hotel and walking in a very quiet area. Will email some more detailed commets direct.
Reviewed by Mr Dunn on 24/04/2015
A really excellent holiday in a relatively unknown but attractive location, with a superb hotel and a very helpful and knowledgeable hostess, and a good choice of walks. But for goodness sake improve the return directions to the airport - saying 'reverse the outward route' is hopelessly inadequate for negotiating the motorways of Madrid!
Reviewed by Mrs White on 25/10/2014
This was our first walking holiday since we were teenagers and our first holiday without children. It was an excellent introduction. Good quality accommodation, a beautiful area and well guided walks. Sometimes the notes were a little unclear and we deliberately avoided a couple of walks that other travellers had said were difficult to follow but we only lost our way on one of the walks and think this was because there had been substantial recent tree felling and logging that obliterated the tracks. Our host Theresa was excellent and took her responsibilities very seriously in ensuring we were safe and happy. We also had the pleasure of meeting other headwater guests and spent some meals and walks together which was an added bonus. In summary, a well organised and enjoyable holiday.
Reviewed by Mrs Cole on 22/10/2014
I did find the notes back to the airport from the Gredos mountains very difficult, as it said 'reverse your original notes from Madrid Airport'. I thought this very lazy as we were taking many motorways and A roads and they were not clear to start with. There was plenty of space on the page and it felt as though we were being ignored at this stage.
Reviewed by Mr Curwen on 18/10/2014
The Gredos is a wonderful location for walking holidays and Milano Real provides and excellent base. This holiday offers lots of walking options from dramatic high level mountain views to idyllic river valleys resounding with tinkling cow bells and trickling streams. We had a fascinating day in Salamanca when we fancied a change from walking and the journey through the mountains added to our enjoyment of the day. Last but by no means least, Teresa and Paco were superb hosts and nothing seemed to be too much trouble to make sure we enjoyed our stay. We will definitely be back.
Reviewed by Mr Lewis on 17/10/2014
The combination of a fine hotel location, dramatic countryside and superb food made this a unique holiday which brought us new and welcome experiences. We chose walks that ranged from beautiful countryside rambles to testing mountain ascents. In view of the excellent local advice, it is easy to tailor the nature and difficulty of the walks to your own abilities and inclinations. In addition, the gastronomy was first class.
Reviewed by Mr Wood on 18/09/2014
Lovely location, great hotel, wonderful support from hotel staff in our 'hour-of-need, varied walks and opportunity to visit an historical Spanish city.
Reviewed by Dr Worthy on 02/09/2014
El Milano Real walking holiday was the perfect combination of fantastic walks, outstandingly delicious food and a warm welcome. The service and level of advice was great. A beautiful place with some stunning walking in the mountains.
Reviewed by Mr Fairweather on 28/05/2014
The Hotel El Milano Real was an excellent base for a walking holiday as several walks could be done directly from the hotel. The food was usually good, sometimes excellent but occasionally disappointing: the wines were generally very good and also very reasonably priced. The weather during the week was unseasonably cold, which spoiled our enjoyment of the highest climbing - we were unable even to attempt Morezon - but the superb walk to the Mirador was completed in very pleasant conditions and we were glad it wasn't too hot. The area is rich in flora and fauna, and May is a good time of year for observing it.
Reviewed by Mr Daines on 28/05/2014
A great holiday in an off the beaten track location.
Reviewed by Mrs Wilson on 13/04/2014
I can't fill in the travel section because we were air/self drive. There are some comments I would like to make 1 The map situation was dire.You say in the walking notes that the map you provide is the 'Sierra de Gredos 1:25000. You gave us a map which was an area to the South West of where we were in Hoyos de Espina. We should have been given the correct map and it is 1: 50000 not the above. As you point out the other map (Parque Regional de La Sierra de Gredos) which is 1:25000 only covers the Plataforma area. 2 The spa was not open until the Friday of our stay and that should have been made clear in the notes/brochure. Otherwise we loved it, the hotel was lovely and food delicious (also v good wine list) and will probably book again next year
Reviewed by Mis Bursey on 02/04/2014
Only the weather let us down.... The hotel was delightful and the staff really helpful; the food was execllent and certainly pleantiful with the breakfasts well deserving of the description 'amazing'. Snow and rain prevented our walking as we had hoped and there is little else to do in the immediate vicinity but lots of beautiful places to see if you are prepared to drive (and the roads are surprisingly good).
Reviewed by Mr Hunter on 08/11/2013
Visit the Sierra de Gredos. It is a beautiful and unspoilt part of Spain
Reviewed by Mrs Mace on 10/10/2013
Great friendly hotel with excellent food - Theresa was full of local knowledge particularly on the weather (which wasn't brilliant when we were there in early October) where she was spot on. Good walking (particularly the higher walks) and the instructions for the walks excellent. We would recommend this holiday. One small criticism a map from the airport to the hotel would have been useful as the instructions were not very clear or take your own sat nav.
Reviewed by Mis Norton on 10/10/2013
We thoroughly enjoyed our week in the Sierra de Gredos, which is a beautiful, uncommercialised region that is excellent for walking. Teresa was a mine of information, not just on the walks but also on the weather in different parts of the region and even on what wine to have with dinner! The hotel staff were friendly and attentive. The food was wonderful and there was plenty of it! Overall, a great holiday.
Reviewed by Mr Hogarth on 29/09/2013
Excellent for walking with a good variety of walks at various lengths and levels of challenge. Hotel location and village very good. Food excellent and a vegetarian well catered for.
Reviewed by Mrs Barnish on 26/09/2013
This was a fabulous holiday in an area that was totally unknown to us. The landscape was stunning, the walks varied and the location ideal for visits to the cities of Avila, Salamanca, Segovia , Madrid and Toledo - all on empty, excellently- maintained roads. The hotel was exceptional with amazing food and service. We would thoroughly recommend this holiday for all the experiences it offers but would suggest booking a minimum of 10 days to ensure you able to fit everything in!!
Reviewed by Mr Woods on 25/09/2013
An excellent holiday. All the travel arrangements involving air travel and car hire were excellent. The Hotel El Milano Real was excellent and the food superb. Teresa was an excellent host. Scenery excellent. The waymarks on some of the walks need updating and an indication of the distances between waymarks would be helpful. Also distances on the route from Madrid to Hoyos del Espino would be helpful.
Reviewed by Mrs Ife on 25/09/2013
We have just enjoyed our second wonderful holiday at the Milano Real. The walks here are very varied, with scenery that ranges from green and leafy woods and meadows to impressive wild and barren terrain. The hotel is very friendly and welcoming and the food is superb, from the imaginative and unusual breakfasts, to the a la carte 3-course picnics to the tempting and varied evening menu, eaten while watching amazing sunsets. We strongly recommend this holiday!
Reviewed by Mr Wiblin on 21/09/2013
The owners of the hotel really went the extra mile to makes us welcome. Their service was excellent and the quality of the food was superb, dealing with one of our party with a wheat intolerance with ease.
Reviewed by Mr Brady on 12/09/2013
The Sierra de Gredos region of Spain is an outstandingly beautiful area of mountains, valleys and rural villages. It's an easy 2-hour drive from Madrid and the hotel El Milano Real in the village of Hoya del Espino can barely be faulted. In particular, the range and quality of the food on offer is of the highest order. Also, the views from the hotel of the Gredos range are breathtaking. The walking is varied from fairly demanding, to reach the higher areas with magnificent views, to idyllically rural along lovely river valleys.
Reviewed by Mr Horne on 11/08/2013
The Sierra De Gredos is a fantastic destination in July/August and the Hotel El Milano Real in Hoyos Del Espino is a perfect place to base the holiday. The weather on the north side was perfect for walking, blue skies all week - high 20's near the hotel and low 20's in the mountains. The food and service in the hotel was excellent and everyone was very friendly. This was our first Headwater holiday and I hope that the other destinations can live up to this one.
Reviewed by Mrs Jones on 03/08/2013
We particularly like Headwater holidays as they take you to unexplored regions of countries which are unspoilt by tourism and overcrowding. We extended our holiday and stayed in Segovia for a few days which we loved and we had the opportunity to go to Salamanca for a day.
Reviewed by Mr Glen on 30/04/2013
The Sierra de Gredos holiday was very enjoyable. The hotel's normal clientele are weekend visitors from Madrid; a bit like the Lake District for the Midlands. The food (breakfast, packed lunches and dinner) was excellent, though quite different from British food. The walking was very good, but we were glad we had come in April as there is very little shade.
Reviewed by Mr Barber on 13/04/2013
The Sierra de Gredos has something for everyone who enjoys exploring the outdoors - from river banks to pine forests; from open heaths and alpine terrain. To have these in such a small area makes for a wonderfully varied break. Combined with a comfortable and relaxing stay in the Hotel El Milano Real, we wondered why it took us so long to try this Headwater break!
Reviewed by Mrs McNicoll on 10/11/2012
This is a lovely one-centre holiday at a great hotel with lots of variety of scenery and terrain. The high routes may not be suitable for people with vertigo but there are lots of lower options that can be walked instead and Teresa is extremely good and can help with suggestions.
Reviewed by Mrs Brown on 30/10/2012
This was one of our best holidays with Headwater. Teresa and the staff at the Hotel Milano Real were very welcoming and informative about the area. The food was fabulous and the local wines excellent. There were sufficient and varied routes to keep us walking for the six days.
Reviewed by Mrs Horner on 06/10/2012
Teresa, the hotelier and Headwater representative, gave us superb advice on each walk and on additional activities to help us really enjoy the region and what it has to offer.
Reviewed by Ms Hammond on 24/09/2012
We loved all the walks we did on this holiday. There was a good variety of walks to choose from in terms of length, relative difficulty and the different environments of the area. The mountain walks in particular were fantastic. The El Milano Real hotel and its staff were also fabulous. We also really enjoyed all the local food, and tried almost everything on the menu and it was all superb, in presentation and taste. The 'tasting breakfast' deserves a special mention for being both unusual and outstanding.
Reviewed by Mr Howard on 07/07/2012
We had a wonderful holiday. A very unique experience, quite different to the other Headwater holidays we have taken, mainly because of the location.El Milano Real was superb, and we felt we were really well looked after. We did not cover all the recommended walks, so we would be happy to go back and repeat the experience.
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Self-guided walking, single centre. Managed locally by hotelier.
Selected Sundays from 15 Mar '15 to 21 Aug '16, for 8 days (7 nights). This holiday is totally flexible with regards arrival/departure day and can be lengthened or shortened as necessary - please call for details.
Gourmet breakfast, 5 a la carte picnic lunches and all evening meals.