A most rewarding way to spend the day for a Madrid resident is to take a hiking trip outside of the city limits to one of the many beautiful mountainous landscapes surrounding the capital.
One such place is the enchanting and historic El Escorial, a picturesque
town about 28 miles (47 km) northwest of Madrid
By Stephanie Riley
Photos: S. Riley, Xauxa*
Madrid is such a beautiful, lively, and historic city. Ever-bustling it offers so much to the people who live in it and Spain as a whole. It is a very vast and diverse city, home to both the Spanish and thousands of people from all over the world. While the city hums with life and energy, sometimes, as in all big cities, the hustle and bustle can become overwhelming to some of its inhabitants and when this happens, what better way to appreciate a different side of the Spanish culture and beauty than by taking a day trip out of town?
There are several groups of people who organize day trips with different activities just outside of the city limits. And one of the most rewarding of these activities is a hiking trip to one of the many beautiful mountainous landscapes surrounding Madrid, particularly a hiking day trip that visits the enchanting and historic El Escorial, a picturesque town about 28 miles (47 km) northwest of Madrid.
The town is home to the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site monastery and some of the most beautiful hiking areas in the outlying Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range. The hiking trails in this area are very photogenic and have both calming sections of quiet forests and numerous impressive views of the town, monastery, and even the Madrid skyline as well.
Visiting this remarkable place in January also lends itself to captivating scenery of snowy forests during the hike and views of beckoning white capped mountain ranges, which can best be viewed from the famous lookout of Silla de Felipe II. The trek back down Mount Abantos is just as delightful as the ascent and the trails wind through some very lovely state parks on the way back into town.
The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, popularly known as the Monastery of El Escorial and consists of royal palace, basilica, Pantheon of Kings, and monastery, is a very grand and impressive sight. It is the most prominent building in El Escorial and is one of the main Spanish Renaissance monuments. Inside the Monastery, there is a Royal Library which houses many important illuminated manuscripts including the Ottonian Golden Gospels of Henry III (1045-46) and ancient codices among so many other priceless treasures. It is a beautiful sight to see and a historical gem of Spain that is definitely worth a day trip.
Between the history, the awesomeness of the monastery and the natural beauty of the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains and state parks, it is a memorable trip that will take your breath away. Living in the busy city of Madrid is an adventure of its own, but setting aside a day to have an adventure beyond the urban confines allows one to reflect on the different assets of Spain that are not necessarily visible from within the city.
Photo of the library of El Escorial by Xauxa Håkan Svensson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Escorial#mediaviewer/File:EscorialBiblioteca.jpg), CC BY-SA 3.0
All the other photos: S. Riley
Guidepost staff writer Stephanie Riley grew up in Texas but attended the University of Arkansas where, as a perennial of the dean’s list, she earned her Bachelor’s degree ahead of time. She currently lives in Madrid and enjoys living in the city and learning about its rich culture and history. In her free time, she loves to read as well as travel and learn new languages. She speaks Spanish fluently (apart from her native English, of course) and is currently learning French. Moreover, she plans to continue learning from others and experiencing all that life has to offer through different cultures and people.
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