Castilla is an important region in terms of size, located in central Spain. It made up of Castilla y León region in the north and Castilla La Mancha in the south, with Madrid encompassed between them.
Given its size, the largest in Europe, Castilla y León naturally offers an enormous variety of landscape. The permanent snowy caps of the highest peaks provide a background of eternal beauty, while the deep valleys pass from leafy green to gold with the change of seasons, perpetually shielded by hills on whose crests old castles watch over the passage of man and time. Valladolid, the capital city of Castilla y León can easily be reached from Madrid (1 hour trip) thanks to the AVE high speed train.
Castilla La Mancha is one of the least populated regions of Spain. The diversity of the region is such that visitors will have the opportunity to discover flat, undulating plains of henna-coloured earth striped with olive groves, wheat fields and grape vines complemented by the drama of hilltop castles and deep canyons sliced into the landscape. However the region is mostly known for the story of the famous Spanish novel, Don Quixote.
Madrid, the capital of Spain, is the gateway to both regions thanks to the high speed AVE trains.
With over one thousand years of history, Madrid is one of the Spanish cities that best reflect the mixture of cultures that have passed through it. Start in Old Madrid to see the imprint of the Royal House of Habsburgs at the Plaza Mayor (main square). Over time, the square has served as market place, outdoor theatre, bullring and even a place for executions. From the Plaza Mayor, walk through the southern arch (Arco de Cuchilleros), to arrive at the Calle de Cuchilleros. This street symbolises the Old Madrid, with old-fashionned shops, old bull-fighting posters and bodegas (wineries). Look out for the oldest restaurant in the world, Sobrinos de Botin. Continue to Plaza de Segovia Nueva, passing in from of the San Isidro cathedral, before arriving at Plaza de la Cebada, southward. Next to it is the Latina district, famous for its market and tapas bars. Take the Carre San Fransisco street to reach the Basilica San Francisco, before walking northward on Calle Bailen to reach the Cathedral of Almudena and the Royal Palace. From this place, you will get the best view of Madrid.
One of the things that most characterises Madrid is its intense social life. There are countless options for having a good time : going for a beer and eating tapas, enjoying a tasty cocido (typical stew), a concert or a show… And of course, this city offers interesting museums such as the Thyssen Bornemisza museum, if you like impressionist paintings from painters including Van Gogh, Matise, Monet and Pissarro.
Madrid > Valladolid > Segovia
Take the AVE to travel from Madrid Chamartin railway station to Valladolid, in the heart of Castilla León in less than an hour. Enter a land immersed in culture, castles, cathedrals and endless plateaus. Valladolid is the region’s capital and an indisputable wine tourism destination. With five denominations of origin (Ribera del Duero, Toro, Rueda, Cigales and Tierra de León), you cannot leave without tasting one of its prestigious wines accompanied by a dish of succulent lamb or some of its many pinchos (appetizers). Valladolid is not simply a delight for the palate but for all five senses. Discover genuine architectural jewels such as its cathedral, its university or its churches, and enjoy an intensive cultural agenda visiting its museums, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art or the house museums of Cervantes, Zorrilla, or Columbus. If what you want is to relax, nothing beats going down to the Pisuerga river ; a cruise or a stroll along its banks will leave you feeling utterly refreshed.
Continue to Segovia with the AVE train (30 min trip), to discover its Roman aqueduct, medieval streets, the Alcázar (fortress) and its Romanesque churches, together with the contrast of its landscapes. Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a unique destination where you will have an absolutely worthwhile trip, and be able to savour a unique traditional dish of roast suckling pig.
Head back to Madrid to spend the night.
Madrid > Cuenca > Ciudad Real
Taking the AVE train from Madrid Atocha railway station, you will discover all the secrets of Castilla La Mancha, a magical land rich in wine and windmills. A land that inspired none other than Cervantes and that gave birth to Don Quixote !
In Cuenca (30 min trip), a UNESCO World Heritage site, medieval and modern architecture go hand in hand and can be seen through the symbol of the city : the hanging houses, but also in the narrow streets. Take a stroll through the main square or the Plaza de la Merced, including the cathedral and the City Hall.
Another of the main cities of La Mancha is Ciudad Real (1h15 trip), founded in 1255, and immersed in history and in the Don Quixote culture. The Gothic churches of San Pedro and of Santiago are spectacular, as well as the cathedral of Santa María del Campo, the Puerta de Toledo, the museums, and of course the figure of Don Quixote in the streets and squares. Its gardens, the archaeological park of Alarcos and the volcanic lagoons in the Calatrava country side are unparalleled sites, while hiking is another of its attractions.
Ciudad Real > Puertollano
Spend your last day in Castilla La Mancha to visit Puertollano (15 min trip), a city which boasts a mining heritage and medieval past. The church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Assumption) and the Paseo de San Gregorio are landmarks not to be missed. If you enjoy good food and drink, Castilla La Mancha is the place for you. Taste the exquisite cheeses, the ajoarriero (typical dish made with potatoes, garlic, eggs and oil), and of course its lamb accompanied by wines from the region. Several denominations of origin are protected here, such as Dehesa del Carrizal, La Mancha, Jumilla, Ribera del Júcar or Manchuela.
Madrid > Toledo
Toledo is a city located in central Spain (30 min trip by the AVE train from Madrid). It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a great cultural and monumental wealth. Known as the City of the Three Cultures due to the legacy of the Christians, Arabs and Jews who inhabited within its walls, Toledo is a real open-air museum with preserved mosques, churches and synagogues that will amaze all who visit it. Toledo is also a city linked to deep popular traditions. The annual procession of the Most Holy Corpus Christi, a festival declared of International Tourist Interest, is a clear example ! Many famous people and artists were born or have lived in Toledo, including Al-Zarqali, one of the leading astronomers of his time ; Eleanor of Toledo, a Spanish noblewoman ; and Alfonso X, a former king of Castilla.
Take some time to lose yourself in Toledo’s maze of medieval streets in the Old Town. Start in the north of the Old Town to discover the Bisagra gate, which forms the main access to the city. Built in 838, the magnificent gate is presided by a great imperial shield and includes a central courtyard. Less than 300 metres away are found the Santiago del Arrabal church and the mosque of Cristo de la Luz. Head to the town centre to visit one of the marvels of the city – the Toledo Cathedral, one of the masterpieces of Gothic art. Inside, the choir stalls, located in the building’s central nave, are outstanding. The Cathedral Museum houses a rich collection of works by painters like Goya, El Greco, Lucas Jordán and Van Dyck.
Next, go to the west of the Old Town to visit church of Santo Tomé. Not far is the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, a flamboyant Gothic style building. Afterwards head to the south to visit the Museo Del Greco. The museum houses some of the best works of the El Greco, a painter who made the city world famous.