Major divided highways—the A1 through A6—radiate out from Madrid, making Spain's farthest corners no more than five- to six-hour drives, and the capital's outlying towns are only minutes away. If possible, avoid returning to Madrid on major highways at the end of a weekend or a holiday. The beginning and end of August are notorious for traffic jams, as is Semana Santa (Holy Week), which starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday. Side roads vary in quality but provide one of the great pleasures of driving around the Castilian countryside: surprise encounters with historical monuments and spectacular vistas.
If you're heading from Madrid to Extremadura by car, the main gateway, the six-lane A5, moves quickly. The A66, or Vía de la Plata, which crosses Extremadura from north to south, is also effective. The fastest way from Portugal is the (Portuguese) A6 from Lisbon to Badajoz (not to be confused with the Spanish A6, which runs northwest from Madrid to Galicia). The main roads are well surfaced and not too congested. Side roads—particularly those that cross the wilder mountainous districts, such as the Sierra de Guadalupe—can be both poorly paved and marked, but afford some of the most spectacular vistas in Extremadura.
Mileage from Madrid:
Madrid to Cáceres is 299 km (186 miles).
Madrid to Cuenca is 168 km (104 miles).
Madrid to Granada is 428 km (266 miles).
Madrid to Léon is 334 km (208 miles).
Madrid to Salamanca is 212 km (132 miles).
Madrid to Segovia is 91 km (57 miles).
Madrid to Toledo is 88 km (55 miles).
Madrid to Ávila is 114 km (71 miles).