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Nature, culture and history are brought together in the villages of this area located in the northwest part of the Region of Madrid, with the Manzanares River as the backbone and the river flow of the crystal waters that go down the mountains of the Guadarrama Range.
The Regional Park of the Upper Manzanares River Basin is located in a privileged environment with a great ecological value. The Park covers from the Cuerda Larga (Long Rope), the high mountain of Madrid, until the forest of the El Pardo Mountain, and it was included by the UNESCO in the Wolrdwide Network of Biosphere Reserves. El Yelmo, Canto Cochino, El Tolmo, el Cancho de los Muertos or Cuerda Larga are beautiful places where we can hike, climb or refresh in the Charca Verde (Green Pond) or in the Tranco. Here you can have lunch or a snack in the banks of the river or in the picnic area close to Canto Cochino. In the Piluca Pastureland you have a refugee with the best sights of La Pedriza.
In the East, in Hoyo de Manzanares, there are many cultural and urban values with great interest that you cannot miss like the buildings, built with granite, and the three cemeteries: one Visigoth, a municipal one, where the last executed by Franco regime are buried, and a Hebrew one. In the surroundings there were filmed films like "For a few dollars more", "A Fistful of Dollars", "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", or Spanish TV shows like "El Internado". The 9th September is hosted the Party of the Caldereta in Hoyo de Manzanares around the cauldrons of stew of bull's tail.
In the North and from Colmenar Viejo we find the spectacular side of the Pedriza Mountain that encourage us to walk around its remote eroded landscapes over the centuries. This village is one of the biggest of Madrid. IN its historic centre it is located the Abastos Market (Food Market), built with stones from Colmenar. One of the oldest archaeological sites of the region is located here: the one of the Encinilla, where there have been found fossils from the lower Miocene.
It is worth to participate on the Party of the Heifer, which is from the 13th century and rememorizes de ancestral job of translating the livestock.
Continuing our tour until Soto del Real, the Santillana reservoir is pictured like a sea surrounded by great natural and architectonic beauty. This town, typically mountainous, is an ideal place to spend the weekend surrounded by nature and with many places to have lunch, dinner or sleep. A centenary church and a modern hermitage show us the connection between ages.
Here you have one of the towns with more history and cultural legacy of the Region of Madrid. Here there are many civilizations that have left their footprint since the prehistory. You will find the rests of the Cave Paintings of the Aljibes, from the Bronze Age.
But all Manzanares revolver around the Castle of Mendoza, the best preserved Castle of the Region of Madrid. Tie in your visit to the town with a visit to the ruins of the Old Castle and the Church of our Lady of the Snows, from the 14th century.
La Pedriza is an impressive granite massif that together with the mountains of Cuerda Larga, create the landscape close to Manzanares el Real. The erosion of the rocks left an indelible footprint over time, creating a picturesque landscape that can be walked of cycled.
There are routes that line the Manzanares River especially for children. These routes initiate the children to the mountain world and hiking.
However, climbing is one of the most outstanding activities in La Pedriza, having turned into a reference place in the Region of Madrid. There are possibilities everybody. But you must take the necessary security measures for practicing this sport.
A walk around Arboreto, the Small Pedriza or the Jardín de Rocas (Garden of Rocks), will approach us to the animal and vegetable species and the unique morphology. The Manzanares Cente has permanent and temporal expositions that guide us into the range through paintings, photography and audiovisual media. The Visitor Centres propose us many routes for everybody (mycological, coniferous forests...), games with clues for the youngest ones, workshops about amphibians, legend paths or explore the towns close to it.
In the North extreme of the Upper Manzanares River Basin there are two town located in the foothill of the Canencia and Morcuera mountain ports: Guadalix de la Sierra and Miraflores de la Sierra. It is a quiet area where you can spend your weekend with your family. In Miraflores you cannot miss a visit to the Cavern of Our Lady of Begoña, surrounded by beautiful gardens and with an outdoors chapel, from where we can delight watching the ravine of Río de la Luz. In the centre of the municipality there is a centenary elm tree surrounded by typical mountainous buildings.
Few kilometers later we arrive to Guadalix, where the famous Berlanga movie was filmed: "Welcome Mr. Marshall". It is famous due to the meat and since it hosts a fishermen paradise in the Pedrezuela reservoir (called el Vellón).
The Soto de Viñuelas is a ZEPA (Special Bird Protection Area) declared are, where the existence of the Iberian Imperial Eagle. Take the binoculars and have a relaxing day watching these spectacular birds.
A curious fact: in the entrance of the park stop for a while in the spectacular architectural ensemble of the Castle of Viñuelas. You can take great pictures.
The gastronomical resources of the area have many products of great quality, such as meats with Protected Geographical Indication Meat of Guadarrama, seasonal ingredients, wild fruits and the Boletus Edulis.
If you want to spend some days of the weekend, you have a great variety of hotels and rural accommodations in the whole are, perfect if you travel alone, with your couple or more people.
If you want to learn more about the activities of the Regional Park, you can do it in the Centre of Environmental Education of Manzanares. The centre organices workshops, theme tours, family leisure and walks along the paths in the surroundings, as well as visits to a permanent exposition.
Image credits: ©Hugo Fernández. Region of Madrid