The beautiful Valle de Lozoya is way up in the northern part of the Sierra: the only bad thing I can say about it is that it’s so far from Madrid.
Stepping off the bus in Lozoya is like entering a parallel world, it feels like stepping back in time—it’s lightyears from Puerta del Sol, even though it’s still within the boundaries of the Madrid community.
The town of Lozoya has only 670 permanent inhabitants, with a few more people arriving on weekends to enjoy the small town vibe.
In the mornings, people come to set up a market in the Plaza Mayor, selling bread or fish or household goods from folding tables and the backs of trucks. After they leave, the Plaza Mayor is totally empty most of the day.
There are several bars and restaurants, a couple of supermarkets and a tourist information office but barely anything else in the village.
Routes for walking Valle de Lozoya
The reservoir (Embalse de Pinilla) is quite large, and has a system of trails around it. Just cross the highway from the bus stop and you’ll find a map informing you of some of the routes.
There are two excellent routes: one to the east, past the dam and out along the river to Puente del Congosto, where you can relax in the rocky areas near the water; and one to the west, through the villages of Pinilla del Valle, Alameda del Valle, Orteruelo del Valle, and finally on to Rascafría.
In Rascafría there is quite a bit of activity, with many bars and rural tourism. You can check out the natural swimming pools of Las Presillas and Monasterio del Paular, about 4 kilometers south of the village (you can walk on a shady path next to highway M-604.)
Everything is pretty cheap. The area is known as the Sierra Pobre because it doesn’t attract as much tourism as other areas and so there is generally less money going into the villages. But the natural beauty and simplicity more than make up for it.
Once again, the only difficulty is getting there and away using public transport.
How to Get to Lozoya and Rascafría
Both Lozoya and Rascafría are accessible by bus. Catch Bus 194 from Plaza Castilla, there are only 3 or 4 buses per day. (More information and schedules are available on the Consorcio de Transportes website. The ticket only costs about 4 euros, but the trip takes over two hours.)
Where to Stay in Rascafría and Lozoya
I’ve always stayed in Hospedería La Rosa, just off of Plaza Mayor in Lozoya. It’s part of the restaurant called El Rincón de Paulino. You can rent a whole apartment, with kitchen and bath, for 45 euros a night. There are other options – I once stayed in a “casa rural” in Rascafría, but I can’t remember the name.
Where to Eat
The typical toast and jam Spanish breakfast in El Rincón de Paulino is great, but that’s all I’ve eaten there. I usually eat in Restaurante Fernando, right next to the bus stop in Lozoya. The hamburgers are good and cheap, and in season the mushrooms (Níscalos and Boletus) collected high up in the mountains are amazing, if a bit expensive.
Want more? Check out Cercedilla. It’s closer to Madrid, and also very nice.