A Picasso museum and a chocolate factory in Madrid’s Sierra Norte

At the northernmost tip of the Region of Madrid lies one of its most unforgettable landscapes: the peaks and slopes of the spectacular Sierra Norte. Covering an area of 1,250 km2, this breathtaking destination is a rich trove of natural and cultural treasures. A land of waterfalls, massifs, forests and storybook villages, it’s got a few surprises nestling amid the rocky terrain, including a traditional chocolate workshop and a bijou museum boasting a handful of works by Picasso.

Peñalara Natural Park — Sierra Norte, Madrid

Join us on a tour of its most memorable landmarks, starting with Hayedo de Montejo. 

Located in Montejo de la Sierra, part of the Sierra del Rincón Biosphere Reserve, it’s the only beech forest in the Region of Madrid and one of the most southerly in Europe. Take a walk through this majestic ecosystem and feel the tension drift away. The forest was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

Step back in time 

A visit to the Monastery of Santa María de El Paular will spirit you back to a simpler time. This national heritage site is the architectural jewel of the upper Lozoya Valley. Remarkably well preserved, it was founded in 1390 by order of King Henry II of Castille. The cells where monks once slept now host temporary exhibitions, offering a glimpse into monastic life and the region’s artistic heritage. Just opposite the monastery is the Perdón de Rascafriá bridge, marking the start of a route that winds its way to one of the most celebrated sights in the Sierra de Guadarrama: Purgatory Falls.

Step back in time at El Paular Monastery

Sweeten your mood

Treat yourself to a visit to the San Lázaro chocolate factory, where the sweet-toothed will be walking on air. This traditional Rascafría confectioner still produces artisanal chocolate to the original recipe of its founders, Mari Feli and Carlos, for a taste that has gladdened the hearts of generations.

Embark on an adventure amid jaw-dropping scenery

If you have a passion for hillwalking, climbing or geology, you won’t want to miss our next recommendation. 

Peñalara Natural Park is home to Pico Peñalara itself (the highest summit in the Sierra de Guadarrama) plus three small cirques, two moraines and some twenty glacial lakes, including Los Pájaros and Laguna Grande de Peñalara. This thrilling landscape is a must for walkers and climbers alike. 

La Pedriza. A beauty spot of great geological interest on the banks of the Manzanares River, La Pedriza is a favourite with fans of adventure sports. This landscape of cliffs and smooth-buffed rocks in intriguing formations was once a refuge for outlaws living high up in the mountains. 

Chorrera de los Litueros. With a drop of almost 40 metres, Chorrera de los Litueros is the highest waterfall in the Region of Madrid. Visitors marvel at the exhilarating rush of water from its rocky lip, forming a spectacular torrent in the shape of a horse’s tail. To get there, follow a rough track from Puerto de Somosierra, passing through an ancient forest known as La Dehesa Bonita or “beautiful pastures”.

Discover a hidden realm of cultural treasures

There are three extraordinary places that showcase the very best of the region’s heritage, and that no visitor with an interest in art and culture should miss.

Patones de Arriba. Dotted with black slate houses, this area is one of the best places to discover the region’s famous vernacular architecture. It became so isolated, cradled among the mountains, that it had its own king until as late as 1770. Here we find the Church of San José, now an exhibition space, and the Romanesque-Mudejar Hermitage of Virgen de la Oliva. This is also the site where archaeologists unearthed a pre-Roman fortified settlement, Dehesa de la Oliva, and of El Reguerillo, the largest cave in the Region of Madrid, where you can see an eclectic display of stalactite and stalagmite formations.

Surprises await at Buitrago de Lozoya’s museum. Nestled in the curve of the Lozoya River, this medieval town boasts the most extensive walled centre in the Region of Madrid. Among its myriad treasures are a small and little-known museum containing more than 65 original works by Picasso (drawings, paintings, ceramics, heat engravings, photographs and more) collected by Eugenio Arias, the Malaga-born artist’s trusted barber.

Torrelaguna. Although possibly of Roman origin, Torrelaguna is better known as the site of a fortified Visigoth settlement on the banks of the Jarama river. This fascinating town was the birthplace of Santa María de la Cabeza — wife of San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid — and Cardenal Cisneros — founder of Alcalá de Henares University. It’s packed with architectural interest and has been a national heritage site since 1976. The Church of Santa María Magdalena, one of the region’s finest examples of Gothic architecture, is particularly worth a visit.

Church of Santa María Magdalena, Torrelaguna

Find your dream home in Madrid’s Sierra Norte

If you own an extraordinary property in Madrid’s Sierra Norte, we can help you find a buyer. Or, if you’re just starting your adventure in this fascinating region, we’ll help you find the perfect home for you. From superbly refurbished homes with heraldic crests to splendid country estates with panoramic views, our curated selection of unique properties could open the door to your dream lifestyle in the Sierra Norte.


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