Finca al-manzil: A special place to stay in Extremadura, the secret province of Spain
`Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar....`. This famous quote by Antonio Machado translates as: `traveller there is no path, you make the path by walking`. To me, this sums up our journey - when we found our wonderful finca it was wild and beautiful, it still is but now you can experience it, live within the atmosphere.
We have built super comfortable, ecologically sound houses which do not disturb nature. We live with nature completely off -grid but with the important things in life; good food and wine, pure water, lovely pools for swimming, distraction by choice provided by hundreds of books, cds and dvds, definitely no television and very importantly, birdsong from every tree. We found what looked liked a good path and have created it. Come and see!
We discovered the finca 13 years ago, totally inspired by the magical views up to higher peaks and sweeping down to the olive groves. There were only atmospheric ruins on the land but how could we resist such a very special place? It was love at first sight. The challenge began. We renovated and extended two barns and the main farmhouse, the cortijo, built a swimming pool set into the contours of the mountain and improved the paths into the sierra. We now offer holiday accommodation for up to 6 in the cortijo and for 2 in either of our barns.
The whole finca is off-grid running on a powerful and modern solar system. It’s such a pleasure to live from renewable energy, everything running smoothly with the power of the sun. Our water comes from a deep borehole which brings up the purest water from deep underground streams. We decided right from the start to build ecologically sound houses designed for the climate, cool in summer and cosy in the short winter months. Local builders and craftsmen used local materials to create cool spacious interiors; one barn and the cortijo have double height sitting rooms, all the spaces are airy and light.
The carpentry from Montanchez was made by a family of 4th generation carpenters using seasoned chestnut wood. The interior decoration is a fusion of antiques and well made modern furniture with objects, paintings and rugs from our travels in Morocco, the Middle East and India, and some of the paintings are by me, I always have one or two on the go. There are well stocked book shelves and collections of dvds and cds in all the houses. We wanted the atmosphere to feel like an interesting and welcoming home not the average holiday rental.
The houses sit peacefully in the landscape, they are all in their own grounds and cannot be seen one from the other, nature is very close with old holm and cork oaks creating shade. Bird song is a constant theme. Immediately around the houses are charming terraces, patios and verandahs full of pots growing flowers and aromatic herbs. There are special spots for sun or shade all day, watching the moonrise or the sunset.
The cortijo has a wonderful roof terrace with the best view of the mountain peaks. The bigger barn has 1 hectare of its own private grounds with a copse of holm oaks in the middle of the meadow, perfect for outside dining or lazing in the hammocks.
Habiba, the smaller barn has a roof terrace on a level with the treetops and an especially dramatic rock formation, a great viewing point for the bird life.
This will be ready for booking in spring 2018.
Dinner can be ordered in any of the houses. There are lots of varied menus depending on the season with inspiration from those travels, especially Moroccan cuisine and of course wonderful Extremeno dishes made with the ingredients which are produced locally. We have trail bikes and can arrange horse riding for experienced riders.
And what of the surroundings? Finca al-manzil covers 20 hectares in the Sierra de Montanchez, Extremadura. It’s a perfect capsule experience of this wonderful sierra where life still follows the seasons depending on planting, tending and harvesting, donkeys still plod to places with no roads. On our finca there are lower pastures where horses graze, dense woodland, huge rock formations and on the higher reaches, wild and secluded places, havens for wildlife and especially birds of prey, protected by the astounding rocks and crags, there are Eagle Owls nesting up there.
The whole finca is connected to an ancient network of paths from Moorish times which lead to the most remote areas within the sierra. The characterful village of Montanchez is the central hub, famous for its Moorish castle, jamon and quaint fiestas. The rhythm of life is still very much agricultural; iberic pigs in the woodland, ancient olive groves, vineyards, chestnut woods, fig groves and cherry orchards.
Staying at the finca gives a choice of total tranquility and relaxation within the grounds and by the pool, or venturing out into the sierra for hours of walking, usually never meeting another person, just nature and spectacular views as one wanders further into the higher peaks. Although the finca is a paradise for nature lovers there are superb distractions in our local world heritage historical towns, all 40 kms on excellent roads. Trujillo, a little know gem of conquistador architecture with one of the most stunning plazas in Spain; Caceres, a perfectly preserved medieval town, used as a setting for Game of Thrones in 2017; Merida, the European city with the most Roman remains after Rome, a treasure house of Roman culture with an iconic museum designed by Moneo.
As we have been working and living in Extremadura for 13 years we can help with suggestions for fascinating visits to out of the way places either for a good walk or to explore some culture and architecture in the many historical towns and villages, unique fiestas and musical events, there’s always something going on. We can also recommend local restaurants and bodegas, the best places to buy wine , jamon, cheese and other delicious local specialties.
The finca is in a world of its own with its very special romantic, out of time atmosphere, somewhere to discover and enjoy with friends or family at the cortijo or just for two at the barns. We have made good friends with so many of our clients who have returned over and over again, especially the bird watchers and walkers. People so often ask us how we found this little slice of paradise and comment on how quiet it is. We're so happy we did find it!
Pippa Sharman is the owner of Finca al Manzil, and both the cortijo and the barn are advertised on One Off Places. The cortijo has three bedrooms and costs from €1300 per week. The barn has one bedroom and costs from €650 per week.