Avila lies in the northern part of central Spain, within the region of Castil-Leon, about
112 km/70 miles north- west of Madrid. It is the highest city in Spain and, because of the altitude, is an area of extreme temperatures – hot, dry summers and long, extremely cold winters.
The history of Avila dates back to 700 years BC and the city is now a mixture of Roman, Moorish, Jewish and Christian influences. The old town of Avila, with its medieval city walls, ancient monuments and architecture was declared "A Heritage of Mankind" by UNESCO in 1985.
Avila is surrounded by its famous 11th century walls (Las Murallas). Approximately 1.5 miles long and 10 feet thick, they are considered the best preserved in Europe. Built right into the structure of the City Walls is the remarkable Gothic/Romanesque Cathedral of San Salvador, which is also part-fortress.
The city’s strong religious background has always attracted pilgrims and this has been more evident since the 16th century, due to its association with Saint Theresa of Avila. As well as the religious buildings which have been dedicated to her, there are many other churches and monasteries with magnificent interiors and artefacts. Several museums, public buildings and hotels were once palaces or mansions and offer visitors the opportunity to appreciate the historic grandeur of Spain. The Provincial Museum of Avila displays work by El Greco and collections of fine art, as well as the region’s important archaeological finds. The highlight of these is the “Verracos”, a group of roughly carved granite sculptures of bulls and pigs, which date to between the second and fourth century BC.
Avila hosts many festivals throughout the year, celebrating its heritage of religion, culture, music, dance and literature. Visitors will find plenty of shopping areas, arcades, cafes and bars, as well as fine restaurants offering traditional Spanish dishes, particularly roast meats, pulses and fried trout.
All grades of hotels, hostels and boarding houses are available in Avila and the surrounding picturesque villages. The nearby Gredos Mountains Reserve is an area of “outstanding natural beauty”, which, as well as being an established winter sports centre, offers facilities for climbing, mountain biking, and fishing.