SIERRA DE BEJAR AND RUTA DE LA PLATA
From Salamanca, the visitor has the chance to travel to the South of the province via one of the oldest lines of communication in the Iberian Peninsula, the so-called Ruta de la Plata (Silver Route). Used by the different peoples that have inhabited or passed through the Peninsula, the route's strategic and economic importance in times past has made it a cultural and tourist itinerary of the first order, thanks to the relevance of the wayside cities, towns and villages that have sprung up through the years. Heading South out of Salamanca, the Silver Route coincides with the N-630/E-803 national road, the selfsame route any modern-day traveller would take to get Béjar. After twenty kilometers or so, turning-off to the left leads to a town any sightseer would be well-advised to visit, Alba de Tormes.
The town boasts four churches, all built in the 12th century in Romanesque-Mudejar style and all subsequently modified to varying degrees: St. James' (Santiago), St. John's (San Juan), St. Michael's (San Miguel) and St. Dominic's (Santo Domingo). Equally noteworthy are the Convent of Santa María de las Dueñas (also known as Santa María de las Benitas), the Convent of Santa Isabel, St. Leonard's (San Leonardo) and the Convent of the Discalced (i.e., barefoot) Carmelites, founded in 1571 by St. Teresa. The Carmelite Convent is where Teresa died and where her saintly relics are preserved, making Alba de tormes a key Catholic pilgrimage site. The Armoury Tower (Torreón de la Armería) stands as a reminder of the old palace belonging to one of Spain's most powerful dukedoms, that of the Duke of Alba. After this short detour, the traveller rejoins the Silver Route (N-630/E-803) as it continues southwards to Béjar (60 kilometers). At the halfway mark, a road branches off to Gijuelo, a town of some interest in that it has given its name to the official Seal of Origini affixed to the cured ham made hereabouts, one of this locality's most delicious specialities.
CAMPO CHARRO, CIUDAD RODRIGO Y SIERRA DE GATA
Other places in the Province of Salamanca that travellers with a bit more time on their hands should get to know are Ciudad Rodrigo and the Sierra de Gata Range. Both are situated in the South-west corner of the province of Cáceres and Portugal. From Salamanca take the N-620/E-80, which runs to the monumental city of Ciudad Rodrigo through one of the area's most typical stretches of terrain, the Campo Charro. An immense, slightly undulating plain tells one that this is indeed Castile, yet the colouring is somehow different. The meadows hereabouts are not yellowed by waving seas of wheat. Instead they are dotted with holm oaks, those still and silent witnesses to a distant and better time in the life of Spain's once vast mainland forests. These expensive pastures are vital to the animal that most typifies Spain, the toro de lidia or fighting bull, for which this is an earthly paradise. The world's most renowned breeders are based in this province.
SIERRA DE FRANCIA
Lying to the South of the province is another district not to be missed. To get there from Salamanca, take the N-620/E-80 in the direction of Ciudad Rodrigo. After driving for approximately 49 kilometers, turn left down the C-525. From here onwards, close attention must be paid to the road signs, because after a further 19 kilometers one has to branch off to El Cabaco and thence to La Alberca. If travelling from Ciudad Rodrigo, head for Béjar along the C-515 and go as far as El Cabaco (at the 38-km. mark), from which point the SA-204 covers the remaining 19 kilometers to La Alberca.