Scenic Spain: Madrid’s Best Nature Escapes
When you imagine a visit to Madrid, you may picture yourself strolling through its cobblestone lanes, sipping wine over a plate of tapas, studying the masterpieces of Dalí and Goya, or admiring the city’s stately architecture. If natural beauty is your cup of tea, you’re likely to turn to remote regions rather than a major urban area, but, when it comes to Madrid, you don’t have to go far.
While the capital’s man-made delights are certain to impress, Madrid is also a fantastic city for outdoor escapes: hiking trails, scenic views, peaceful parks, and adventure opportunities abound in the city and its surrounding areas. Here are just a few of Madrid’s best natural destinations.
Explore the flora of Senda Ecológica de Canencia
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in a natural botanical garden and get up close and personal with Madrid’s wide variety of tree and bush species, head to the Senda Ecológica de Canencia (Canencia Ecological Trail). The 6.5-kilometer route will take you about two hours and is mostly flat and easy to walk.
Arriving by car is ideal, although the 194 or 195 buses will get you from Plaza Castilla to the town of Canencia or the 725 to Miraflores de la Sierra, and you can find a ride from there. The trail is charming year-round, but the waterfalls are at their best in the spring.
Cycle around Madrid’s city parks
You don’t need to leave the city center to find peace and tranquility in Madrid. Spain’s capital is chock-full of green spaces, ranging from beautifully manicured gardens to sprawling grasslands, many of which can be easily reached by metro, bus, walking, or even, in some cases, cable car. Or why not rent a bike in Madrid and spend a day exploring its public spaces? Through donkey.bike, you can find bicycles all around the city to be picked up at any time.
El Retiro is Madrid’s most beloved park and can’t be missed, Casa de Campo, the city’s largest park, has more of a natural feel in places, including a large lake that’s great for picnics, and easily-accessible Parque del Oeste contains monuments, fountains, and the Egyptian Templo de Debod …Just to name a few.
Hike Parque Natural de Peñalara
You’ll only need to travel ninety minutes by bus from the center of Madrid to reach Parque Natura de Peñalara, but you’ll feel light-years away from the city. Located in the northwest outskirts of the comunidad autónoma of Madrid, this natural park includes meadows, pine forests, and lakes and makes for a beautiful day of hiking. And there are tons of benefits to hiking and spending time outdoors!
I visited Peñalara after the region had been hit by a snowstorm, and the winter wonderland was absurdly stunning and like nothing I ever thought I’d experience in sunny Spain. Whether you’re seeking a break from Madrid’s heat in the summer or a snowy paradise in the winter, Parque Natura de Peñalara is a perfect natural getaway year round.
Check out the rock formations of La Pedriza
The great nature spots in Madrid’s northwest don’t stop there. La Pedriza is well-known for its striking rock formations and is a popular place for both hiking and rock climbing/bouldering. Simply take the 724 bus from Plaza Castilla to Manzanares el Real (the cute village and its castle are also worth exploring!) and begin walking from there.
One of La Pedriza’s major summer draws was its natural pools, and unfortunately swimming in them is now prohibited, but the region’s geographical features still make it a great escape from the city.
Climb above Patones de Arriba
The hillside village of Patones, northeast of Madrid, may have a population of just over 500 people, but it’s one of the most picturesque spots in the entire Comunidad de Madrid. Its buildings are constructed almost exclusively in black slate and are fantastic sights for fans of medieval architecture.
After exploring the town, if you’re in the mood for a bit more of Madrid’s great outdoors, follow the eleven kilometer trail to the summit of Cancho de la Cabeza. From there, you’ll have spectacular views of the reservoirs below and Pico del Lobo mountain. Though the entire trek will take you about three and a half hours, it’s a fairly easy trek with incredibly worthwhile rewards.
It’s no secret to my regular readers that, after living in Madrid for two years, I am completely obsessed with the city. Its vibrancy, food, people, plazas, architecture, climate, and nightlife make it an unforgettable place. The city itself deserves to be explored in depth, but go beyond and experience its nature and green spaces. You’ll quickly understand why Madrid is my favorite city in the world.