La Mancha is a landlocked region of central Spain south of Madrid which is barren and wilderness-like. The name ‘La Mancha’ comes from the Arabic word ‘al-mansha’ meaning dry land.
The autonomous community is situated in central Spain encompassing of five provinces including Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara and Toledo. Contemplate architectural marvels from various periods, tour archaeological sites and explore more than 1,200 square miles of protected natural areas.
Here are the best places to visit in Castile-La Mancha.
Almonacid de Toledo Castle, Toledo
Toledo is designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The entire city recalls a time when Jews, Christians and Muslims coexisted throughout its labyrinth-like streets.
A walk through the cobbled streets of Toledo and out of the gates takes one to the ruins of Castle of Almonacid de Toledo. The defensive walls remain and rise majestically on its prominent hill. Its appearance is a polygonal shape with inner defensive walls. There are remnants of two squares and three round towers.
This castle was constructed by the Moors as a monastery and occupied by Moorish monks. According to history, the castle/monastery was not left unscathed and saw a brutal battle with the Emir of Cordoba’s troops and Christians from Toledo in 848. The Moorish governor was forced to concede a certain level of autonomy to them.
An allegory prevails with several versions of the castle’s name. Its name, Almonacid, is derived from Spanish and deciphers as “The battlements of El Cid”. Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar aka ‘El Cid’ was a real Spanish knight and a national hero of Spain. He is best known for playing a great role during the reconquest which means that this theory make sense to most.
However, it may have also been derived from the Latin word; “almonaster”, its meaning would translate as a monastery. The Moors called the castle a “ribat” which ironically also means monastery.
Bodegas de La Mancha, La Mancha
Spain is a wine country and no meal is complete without a bottle on the table. On special occasions, it means fine aged reserves but on a day to day basis a simple red is the one that is poured most often.
Add a delightful experience for all the senses and immerse into the world of wine-making by stopping in a bodega or two in La Mancha. Experience wine production and tasting from harvesting grapes to uncorking a bottle and sampling with a glass of locally produced wine.
There are approximately 300 wineries to choose from, making it a breeze in locating a tasting opportunity from Albacete to Toledo.
Red, rosé and white wines are produced in La Mancha, reflecting the natural conditions and potency of this exceptional grape cultivation and well defines its wine production due to the region’s environment.
The past image of La Mancha producing wine without any thought to its quality and considered as mediocre has departed. La Mancha has undoubtedly won their place among the world’s most prestigious wines and is served by sommeliers everywhere.
A total of 191,699 hectares covered with vines has given La Mancha the title as being the world’s largest wine producing region. Not only are the results served on tables in Spain but La Mancha wines are exported to the United States, Canada and South America.
Don Quixote Museum, Ciudad Real
Retrace the footsteps of the imaginary mismatched duo of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and embark on their journey in a museum in Ciudad Real.
Discover the exploits to the immortal character who famously fought the windmills he perceives as giants at the nearby Campo de Criptana. This museum is housed in modern quarters and combines art and multimedia exhibits. Right upon arrival, a sculpture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza graces the entrance way.
Not only is the Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece novel, ‘The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha’ immortalized but the museum contains a library comprising over 3,500 volumes on Cervantes-related topics. Many are glass enclosed because of their age and fragility.
The different exhibitions in the center include a multimedia segment of a conversation with ten characters from the novel.
One of the exhibits recreates the impression of being in a 17th century Madrid printing press at the time that the first edition of the novel was printed and then published. The exhibit continues with a short montage about the novel’s history.
There are also works of art on several Cervantes-related topics by the 19th-century illustrator, José Jiménez Aranda, considered as one of the best.
Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, Cuenca
Situated on the tall cliffs between two river gorges sits the “Old Town” of Cuenca, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is celebrated by its 15th Century Las Casas Colgadas which are “Hanging Houses” with the balconies virtually suspended over the cliff’s edge. Among these hanging houses, a world renowned modern art museum is featured and is tagged as the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art.
The museum is well known for its collections and was developed as a whim by a local artist.
In 1966, the Spanish artist Fernando Zobel took an enthusiastic initiative and placed his personal collection of abstract works as well as those of his artist friends for viewing in one of the houses. The concept behind today’s Museum of Abstract Art was clearly interlinked by this move.
The museum exhibits the most representative artists of the twentieth century at Spanish Abstract.
By 1980, the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art of Cuenca was already well-known and had received the attention of the international media as well as winning numerous honors and awards.
Since then, the collection has grown and it is considered prestigious for an artist’s work to be housed here. An unwavering collection is on-hand as well as touring exhibits for the visitor to view.
Recópolis Archaeology Park, Guadalajara
Offering an archaeological site of antiquity and the Middle Age, the Archeological Park of Recópolis is located in the hamlet of Zorita de Los Canes, within the province of Guadalajara.
Zorita de los Canes was built by Leovigildo Recópolis in 578 in honor of his son and became an important administrative center of the Kingdom.
The park offers an archeological abundance of a Visigothic city, its history, its natural setting and its culture. The park also contains a research center and a museum since 2005 which houses the remains unmistakable Visigothic style found through the excavations.
Recópolis was a city of 30 hectares and its value is great because of its historical importance. The ruins of the Visigoth kingdom and culture are still preserved.
There are various medieval societies represented. Close observation will have one recognize the left over pieces of Visigothic columns used in the fortification.
Recópolis may be more of an interest to the the archaeologist or historian rather than the art lover. The museum portion holds multimedia exhibits including 3D computer graphics to enlighten the visitor of the most important structures of the city.