I’ll forgive you if you’ve never heard of Monfragüe – we had not until the woman at the Officina de Tourism gave us a brochure on the new Monfragüe National Park, about an hour north of Trujillo. We decided this would make a good day trip, with the bonus of spending time in our air-conditioned car; temps were forecast to be in the upper 90s that day. So off we went.
Driving north showed how hard this land is. No crops growing, just livestock, including the famous pigs that eat acorns and are prized for the flavor from that diet.
Now, one of the things that intrigued us in the brochure was a castle named Castillo Monfragüe, in the park. We wanted to see that and when we reached the place where a road went up to the castillo, we found…a large parking lot, and a sign saying the mini-bus arrives every hour to take folks to the castle. Fortunately, our timing was good and we waited about ten minutes when, sure enough, a mini-bus arrived. We boarded and up the mountain we went.
The site of Castillo Monfragüe is amazing. Situated on a high point of land overlooking the Tajo River, it has controlled passage down the river for thousands of years. There was a fortified site here when the Romans arrived two centuries BC. The Romans fortified it further, as did the Visigoths, the Moors and the Spanish armies. Then the Catholic Church built an ermita here – a site of worship dedicated to Santa Clara. So this place has it all!
Here’s why this castillo could control passage of opposing armies for thousands of years.
The Ghost Town of Monfargüe
After leaving the castillo of Monfargüe, we wanted to take a back road returning to Trujillo. I’d found one on Google Earth that looked interesting so down it we went. Unfortunately, after about a mile it turned to gravel and dirt and we definitely did not want to drive 40 miles on that. So I screeched to a halt, turned around and out of the corner of my eye noticed an unexpectedly large and older building a few hundred yards away. Since we were in the middle of freaking nowhere, I wondered what that building was. I found a road which led to it. What we discovered was a ghost town.
The rest of the “town” is deserted homes and apartment buildings, all built in the same style and likely at the same time. My surmisal is that this was a home for railroad workers and their families, and at some point the railroad closed it down and moved them somewhere else. What remains is truly a ghost town, with just a couple houses on the outskirts that appear to still be occupied.
The main Madrid-Extremadura-Portugal railroad line runs through this station, so at one time it was an important and active place. Now, not much at all. The trains still roar through, but none stop.