Spain’s biggest roundabout becomes a natural monument

by Lorraine Williamson
roundabout natural monument

PROVINCE OF BADAJOZ – It’s a sight to behold, a spectacle unlike any other – the ‘Magic Mountain’ nestled in the heart of Extremadura. A site that boasts Spain’s largest and most picturesque roundabout. Now, this stunning marvel of nature has been declared a Natural Monument. 

This remarkable hill, ‘Cerro Masatrigo’, located in Esparragosa de Lares (Badajoz), a modest town with a population of just 883, has now been officially recognised for its unique beauty and significance. The government of Extremadura has taken this step in a bid to preserve the area and its natural splendour. The aim is to find a balance, a harmony, between traditional uses of the area and the development of activities that respect and protect its inherent natural value. Activities that span the scientific, cultural and tourist domains. 

Hiking and cycling 

Two hiking trails grace the hill – one encircles the hill, while the other provides a challenging yet rewarding ascent to the top. For those who prefer two wheels to two feet, it’s also a delightful cycling location. But the appeal of this roundabout extends beyond nature lovers and fitness enthusiasts. The unique shape of the mountain and the whimsical surroundings have made it a popular backdrop for advertising campaigns of various car brands. 

Unique geological formation 

Cerro Masatrigo is not merely a picturesque location – it’s a unique geological formation in Extremadura, an “almost perfect cone” sculpted into a peninsula by the waters of the Zújar River. Standing 528 metres above sea level and rising 176 metres above the water surface of the La Serena Reservoir, the hill is capped with erosion-resistant quartzite material. The hill’s unique geomorphology is the result of continuous erosion processes and its strategic location near a meander of the river Guadalemar where it flows into the river Zújar. 

New road necessary after construction of the reservoir 

The hill’s history is as interesting as its geology. Until the 1980s, the area was used for sheep farming. However, the construction of the La Serena Reservoir led to the land being expropriated by the Guadiana River Basin Confederation (CHG). The waters of the reservoir flooded the old road between Puebla de Alcocer and Cabeza del Buey, necessitating the construction of a new road, the EX-322. This road traverses the narrow strip of land to the north of the hill, encircling it in a perfect –and very big- roundabout before crossing the reservoir via a bridge. 

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Reference point 

In the 1990s, the CHG undertook a series of actions to enhance the surface of the mound, including replanting with pine trees, opening different access roads, creating recreational areas along the road and hiking trails, routes and viewpoints. These efforts have transformed Cerro Masatrigo into a “geological and landscape reference point for the regions of La Siberia and La Serena”, according to the Extremadura government. 

The area is home to a well-preserved oak forest, interspersed with olive trees – a characteristic feature of the region’s potential vegetation. A rich shrub and herb layer adds to the area’s biodiversity. 

The natural beauty surrounding the town of Esparragosa de Lares is truly breathtaking. As you drive along this picturesque hill, or rather, roundabout, you’ll be hard-pressed to describe the awe-inspiring beauty that greets you. This captivating beauty has propelled this road to the top of a unique ranking of the most beautiful and largest roundabouts in Europe. 

Hidden gem waiting to be discovered

Extremadura, a relatively unknown region, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. The landscape is expansive, undulating, desolate yet captivating. Esparragosa de Lares is nestled east of the city of Mérida in an area renowned for its sloping meadows adorned with holm and cork oaks. 

In conclusion, the declaration of Cerro Masatrigo as a Natural Monument is a testament to the exquisite beauty and unique geological significance of the area. It’s an affirmation of the importance of preserving such unique natural treasures for future generations, all while maintaining a balance with traditional uses and development activities. So whether you’re a nature lover, a fitness enthusiast, or a motorist with an appreciation for scenic drives, the ‘Magic Mountain’ of Extremadura is a destination that’s sure to enthral. 

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