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Trip Report

Spanish Castles & Mountains Around Madrid Spain

10 days in October exploring the most beautiful villages, Spanish castles, and the Guadarrama Mountains, Spain, all just 45 minutes from Madrid.

by alextigheAbout Me:I'm an American who decided to jump off the rat wheel in order to follow his dreams in Spain. I spent the last five years working as an ESL Teacher until recently going full-time with my copy editing, content writing, and translation busin... read more

EuropeSpain10 days / October 2019

Highs & Lows

Touring the Royal Monastery in San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Mushroom hunting in Valsaín.

Having no room for dessert after the home-cooked Spanish tortilla and craft beers in Manzanares el Real!

Itinerary Overview

Our itinerary starts just 45 minutes north of Madrid in Manzanares el Real before zig-zagging through some of the most scenic villages in the Guadarrama Mountains. Highlights of this region include Spanish castles, palaces, royal monasteries, unique nature experiences, and traditional cuisine from central Spain.  

Since the Guadarrama Mountains are literally a stone's throw from the Madrid city center, you can turn any of these excursions into an easy day trip. If you're traveling on a tight budget or don't want to hassle with a rental car, most of the villages can be accessed by public transport.

Along with the crisp autumn colors and brisker temperatures, visiting the Guadarrama Mountains in October allowed us to plan activities that are only possible during the fall months. Even though Lucie and I live nearby, this trip turned out to be a picture-perfect [and romantic] getaway from the daily grind.

Our only regret wasn't not having enough time to visit Buitrago de Loyoza, Rascafría, and Pedrezuela...but I guess that means we'll have to come back again soon!  

  • 4 Nights: Manzanares el Real
    Spanish Castles & La Pedriza National Park
  • 2 Nights: San Lorenzo de El Escorial
    Royal Monastery & Phillip II's Chair
  • 2 Nights: Real Sitio de San Ildefonso
    Royal Palace & Mushroom Hunting
  • 2 Nights: El Tiemblo
    The 'El Castañar' Chestnut Forest

Q & A

  • What would you have changed?

    We regret not planning an extra day or two to visit Buitrago de Lozoya — a small village surrounded by fortress walls constructed by the Arabs and the Lozoya River. At least we have a good reason to go back!

  • How was the food?

    In Manzanares el Real, you'll find a variety of excellent restaurants at affordable prices. Don't be fooled by the worn-down appearance of Kiosko El Peñote (near the El Tranco parking lot) — this small, family-owned bar serves up home-cooked food made to order. Their Spanish tortilla is not to be missed! Down in the village, Restaurante La Jara has excellent burgers, and PizzaReal knows how to whip up great pizzas. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the 'La Pedriza' craft beers...brewed locally using water from nearby rivers! Over in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, La Taberna del Corcho serves fantastic rice dishes (paellas) as well as food typical from the Sierra de Guadarrama. Plus, their wine menu is long enough to last a lifetime!...Read More

  • What tips would you give a friend?

    While many people believe it's 'always mild & sunny in Spain,' this is not always the case for Madrid. Summer temps can sore to unbearable levels (+100°F), and winter temps can easily drop below freezing...not to mention the wind! For the best weather, plan your visit for early autumn or late spring. This should give you the best chance to avoid rainy periods and enjoy 't-shirt & jeans' temperatures.

  • Packing tips?

    A good pair of boots or shoes for hiking is a must for this itinerary. You should also keep in mind that temperatures tend to be 8-10°F cooler in the mountain villages than in the Madrid city center...maybe more if you decided to go for a hike near water or into higher elevation!

  • Transportation Tips?

    When it comes to visiting small villages, renting a car will always give you the greatest amount of freedom. If you aren't 100% comfortable with a stick shift, make sure to ask the rental agency for an automatic car. Some of the roads around these villages can be steep and narrow! Alternatively, you can reach many of the villages by public transportation coming from the Madrid city center.


  • We recommend Hostel La Pedriza for their friendly service and inexpensive accommodations. Other options include camping, Airbnb, or making this a day trip from Madrid.

  • Hotels in San Lorenzo de El Escorial typically run on the expensive side, but you can usually find an affordable Airbnb. Turning this into a day trip from Madrid is also an option!

  • There are a variety of rural cottages offering individual rooms and entire apartments. Alternatively, this could be a day trip from either Madrid or Segovia.

  • This village is the furthest from Madrid, so we recommend staying in a rural cottage. The area is home to a plethora of options at all price levels!