Cercedilla: a mountain town to escape the hustle and heat of Madrid

Summer is here—it’s hot and getting hotter.

Want to get away?

Shave a few degrees off your summer temperatures and enjoy the forest and the fresh air in Cercedilla. If you’re looking for a place to escape from the hustle and heat of Madrid this summer, look no further.

While still within the Community of Madrid, this town of some 7,000 inhabitants might as well be in another world. From the north side of town, at almost 1,200 meters above sea level, the pines slope up towards Siete Picos, before making a gradual descent down to the high plain of Castilla y León on the other side.

Cercedilla is well-known by hikers and snow enthusiasts in Madrid, but since it’s a bit farther away than La Pedriza, a lot of people don’t make the effort to go. It’s a pity, because it’s one of the few places in the Comunidad where it stays a bit cooler in summer and you can wander around all day under the pines.

What to do in Cercedilla

There are several areas of interest to the north of town. The most famous is the Calzada Romana, a footpath built by the Romans about 2,000 years ago. If you walk out of the train station and go straight, you’ll get there eventually. Just follow the yellow arrows—you’re also on el Camino de Santiago.

In medieval times, there were lots of different roads to Santiago. Pilgrims didn’t have the luxury of catching a train up to Roncesvalles to start walking, so they started where they were. El camino madrileño starts in the center of Madrid and goes through Cercedilla to get to Segovia, before continuing north. It’s a dry, treeless route for most of the way across Castile, and few people recommend actually doing the whole thing. But if you come across the yellow shell logo in some of the outlying villages, that’s why.

camino de santiago outside cercedilla spain

A milepost on the Camino de Santiago, outside Cercedilla.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can walk all the way up to el Puerto de la Fuenfría, a mountain pass at 1,796 meters. Just keep following the Calzada or the Camino and you’ll find it. The last couple of kilometers are pretty hard, especially if it’s a hot day. Figure six or seven hours for the hike from Cercedilla to the pass and back, at a slow-to-normal pace.

If you want to do some more serious mountaineering, I highly recommend you get a map of the area. There’s a pretty good one made by Editorial Alpina, which shows all the well-known routes in the area. You can get all sorts of maps in mountaineering shops around town, for example, Librería Desnivel at Plaza Matute, 6, just off Calle Huertas.

A couple of other options

Hípica la Vaqueriza organizes tours on horseback. You can call them at 637 80 90 35 for more information. There’s also a park where you can go zip-lining between the trees, called Aventura Amazonia.

There’s a restaurant called Casa Cirilo in Las Dehesas, a few kilometers out of town where you can have a beer or get some lunch. It’s closed on Mondays, and anyway, you should bring a sandwich and a couple liters of water for any sort of hike.

If you have some more time, you can think about catching the train even farther up the mountains. There’s a little two-car train that runs a few times a day on a narrow-gauge track up to the ski areas at Puerto de Navacerrada and Puerto de Cotos. In summer there’s no snow, but you can climb up La Bola del Mundo or Peñalara, the two highest mountains in the community.

How to get there, places to stay, and more

The Cercanías (Line C-8) departs about once an hour, all day. The trip takes an an hour and twenty minutes from Atocha, or just over an hour from Chamartín. The return trip is until about 11:00 p.m. You can find the exact times at Renfe.com.

If you want to spend the night, there are a few hostels in town. Check out Hostal Aribel, which is just across the street from the train station. It’s pretty basic, but the people are nice and it and allows you to spend more time in the mountains. Call them at 918 52 15 11 for a reservation.

There are also some decent restaurants and bars in the town center. It’s not Malasaña, of course, but you can get some good food at good prices at several different places in town.

There are many other routes you can do if you have the time and energy. Camino Schmid is a classic, and the views from Carretera de la República are spectacular. Remember to take a map!

Yours,

Daniel.

P.S. What’s your favorite route around Cercedilla and the Sierra? Let me know, right here in the comments…

P.P.S. Check out my article about 9 ways to beat the heat for more summer fun!

Daniel
 

How did I end up in Madrid? Why am I still here 12 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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