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By Nina Derham in Madrid—
If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, you’re in luck. Spain’s capital is flanked by mountain ranges including the Sierra de Guadarrama, Sierra del Norte and the Sierra de Gredos, all of which offer city dwellers some well-needed respite from the urban grind.
Day tripping to the mountains
Most trips to Madrid’s mountains are easily doable in a day and are highly enjoyable in any season. Why not go skiing during the winter, savor the crisp mountain air in fall, admire the flora and fauna in spring, or escape the heat of the city at a natural mountain swimming pool in summer?
For the walkers among us there are many different routes for all levels. The most experienced hikers and climbers will be challenged, while those wanting a gentle walk through beautiful surroundings and some wholesome rural food will also be happy.
Do-it-yourself mountain trips
Most Madrileños seem to have an innate knowledge of the different mountain ranges and often disappear off for the weekend to the Sierra. However, for foreigners it can seem like a mysterious world outside the city that is completely inaccessible without a car.
Wrong. Tourists, too can explore la Sierra! Cercedilla, Cotos and Manzanares El Real are all easily reached either by train from Atocha station or by bus from Plaza Castilla. A round-trip ticket costs less than €10.
Mountain trips with a group
Alternatively, if you want to reach lesser-known parts of the Sierra you can go with a group led by experienced hikers.
I decided to give this a go and booked with specialist tour company Tierra de Fuego. For just €18 I opted for the beginners level (there are three levels to choose from) and took a six-hour walk through the Dehesa de Somosierra and Horcajo de la Sierra.
I joined my group on a coach in Plaza España and we traveled for about an hour before starting the walk. The group was predominantly Spanish and ages ranged from 20-65, including groups of friends, couples and individuals, all in search of some fresh mountain air.
It was one of those beautiful crisp, blue autumnal days and we were treated to some stunning scenery–vast expanses punctuated by craggy mountains, majestic auburn pine forests and beautifully preserved little villages. As we sat at the highest vantage point eating our packed lunches and gazing out at the view, I couldn’t believe it was possible to find such peace and tranquility just a stone’s throw from Madrid.
However you decide to go, Madrid’s mountains are a very affordable way of taking a mini break and should certainly rank high on any Cheapo’s “to-do” list.