Just north of Madrid lies one of Spain’s best kept secrets. Rolling foothills and high peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama make the perfect destination for Madrid trekking holidays. Expect world class hiking, charming villages, friendly locals and picturesque mountain scenery.
Located almost in the exact geographical centre of Spain, its capital Madrid is one of the largest cities in Europe. Its three and a half million inhabitants live in a bustling, vibrant metropolis that’s famous for its food, culture and football. However, trekking holidays in Sierra de Guadarrama mountains offer the perfect contrast.
Madrid is a great base for a trekking holiday, with the neighbouring provinces of Toledo, Avila, Cuenca and Guadalajara having great hikes just an hour’s drive from the capital. However, it is undoubtedly the impressive Sierra de Guadarrama that is the highlight of Madrid trekking holidays.
With so many beautiful parts of Spain to explore, what makes this mountain range so special? Forming the eastern half of the Sistema Central, a mountain system that sits in the middle of the Iberian peninsula, the Sierra runs southwest to northeast towards Avila and Segovia.
The whole chain is approximately 80 kilometres in length and has peaks that stand well over 2,000 metres. Part of the charm is that it remains relatively undiscovered for trekkers. The Pyrenees in the north and beautiful sun-baked hills of Andalusia are well worn. Yet, despite the proximity to the capital, the trekking holidays in Sierra de Guadarrama mountains remain something of an undiscovered secret outside Spain.
With a number of mountains standing over 2,000 metres, this is no walk in the park. However, some treks really stand out. Not least La Cuerda Larga, an eighteen kilometre route that involves 1,200 of ascending.
The route follows the ridge between Puerto de Navacerrada and Puerto de la Morcuera, including a massive eight 2,000-plus metre summits along the way. This is a must for any serious trekker visiting the area in either summer or winter.
Down on the lower slopes you can find La Pedriza, a unique and fascinating geological feature. It’s located on the southern slopes of the Sierra, and is characterised by huge granite ranges complete with some stunning scenery, streams and meadows. It’s great hiking territory and feels very different to the higher slopes.
The mountain valley of Hoya de San Blas is worth an explore, as is the peak of Pico Colgadizosn, which is more like a plateau with great views. Peña Citores is the highest peak in the range with many hiking options, Cabeza Líjar is much easier but gives great views of the three provinces that converge in Madrid.
There is accommodation all over the Sierra de Guadarrama range. It can get busy during Spanish holidays but most of the year it is relatively quiet and a nice trekking climate. The main towns to look for accommodation are San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Navacerrada, Cercedilla, Guadarrama, Manzanares el Real and Miraflores de la Sierra.
On trekking holidays in Sierra de Guadarrama mountains the proximity to Madrid makes it a must to at least spend a couple of nights in the capital. Why not bookend your adventure with a couple of nights there to soak up the culture?
You’ll find that there is still plenty of reasonably priced accommodation on offer in the city, of course there are also upmarket options. Although Madrid is very much an outdoors kind of place, with people out and about at all hours of the day and night, it’s always nice to know you have somewhere comfortable to go back to when it’s time to recharge the batteries.