Miguel de Cervantes died four centuries ago, but he’s still well alive. Not only was he one of the most celebrated writers in Hispanic literature, but also a universal genius. The windmills of La Mancha, among other things, have been part of the collective imagination for quite a while. Why don’t you follow us in a Cervantine journey through this Spanish region?
Puerto Lápice: a typical Manchegan village
Our journey begins at Puerto Lápice, one of the many typical Manchegan towns we’ll stumble upon during our trip, with its blazoned buildings, white walls and lots of ornamental bars placed in the facades. Several inns in Puerto Lápice pay tribute to the story and characters of The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha. Once you’re there, make sure to visit La Sierrecilla, where you’ll be able to see two windmills that have been rebuilt.
Consuegra: La Mancha’s viewpoint
Consuegra, the headquarters of the medieval Order of Malta, has one of the best viewpoints in La Mancha. This town, which also hosts several historical commemorations, is an essential stop in the route of the big windmills, that are located just a few kilometers away. You’ll find 12 dispersed windmills with Quixotic names as Espartero, Rucio o Sancho at Cerro Calderico, where there is also a castle with great views.
You might be wondering why there are so many windwills on this region. The answer is simple: the people from La Mancha had to take advantage of the resources they had. As water was scarce and wind abundant, especially on the Manchegan plains, many hills had their own windmill. Inventiveness made up for the absence of rivers -where water wheels could be built, as in La Hiruela or Zújar- and windmills were used to grind wheat with the help of windpower. The 12 windmills in Consuegra are part of one of the most unique views you’ll come across in this Cervantine journey.
Alcázar de San Juan: the Hospitalarios’ headquarters
Located in the center of the region, this town has it all: windmills, stories of priors and knights, Cervantine memorabilia, good cheese and exceptional wine. Alcázar de San Juan is located at a crossroads; that’s why it has lots of sighseeing spots as the Roman mosaics in the Museo Municipal or Santa María Square. You’ll get to see a group of well-preserved windmills on the Cerro de los Molinos, right outside of the town when you head to Tomelloso.
On Don Quixote, a luscious feast called “Bodas de Camacho” is described. This event was set on this Manchegan town. According to Cervantes, the guests had a wedding stew that you can still order at Alcázar de San Juan. Food wise, this is one of the most traditional stops in our Cervantine journey: you will be able to taste Manchego Cheese with a Designation of Origin, La Mancha’s wine with P.D.O. and purple garlic from Las Pedroñeras, a common seasoning for dishes at this town.
The wind giants in Campo de Criptana
“En esto descubrieron 30 o 40 molinos de viento que hay en aquel Campo…”
(Start of the 8th Chapter of Don Quixote)
Campo de Criptana is a humble farming town of Muslim origins that became popular due to the fight that the Quixote had with the famous windmills. Sara Montiel was also born here. This is a very important stop in our Cervantine journey, as Campo de Criptana has one of the best windmill groups in Spain. When you head to the windmills, you’ll be able to gaze at the picturesque typical houses built on steep slopes. Some of them are even dug in -as Casa de Tres Cielos-. Take Fuente del Caño street to reach the windmills. There are around ten of them in which you’ll find small crafts and farming tool museums.
Here, in Sierra de los Molinos, you’ll find the only three windmills in the Iberian Peninsula that are still operated with their 16th century machinery. The three of them –Infanto, El Burleta and Sardinero– can grind wheat as it was done centuries ago.
El Toboso: Dulcinea’s touristic hometown
“Media noche era por filo, poco más a menos, cuando don Quijote y Sancho dejaron el monte y entraron en el Toboso. –Sancho hijo, guía al palacio de Dulcinea […] Guió don Quijote, y habiendo andado como doscientos pasos, dio con el bulto que hacía la sombra, y vio una gran torre, y luego conoció que el tal edificio no era el alcázar, sino la iglesia principal del pueblo. Y dijo: –Con la iglesia hemos dado, Sancho”.
El Toboso means Don Quixote: each corner of this town reminds us of Dulcinea and Alonso Quijano. This is what makes this town a popular touristic destination, apart the remarkable attractions as the Casa Museo de Dulcinea and the Convento de las Clarisas -a convent with a well-preserved Baroque dome-. An indispensable stop in our Cervantine journey!
Belmonte: where Don Quixote succeeded
One of the greatest lyrical Spanish poets, Fray Luis de León, was born in Belmonte. However, there’s hardly any trace of his legacy here… and the most compelling attraction now is its magnificent castle, where Juan Pacheco, Eugenia de Montijo and (perhaps?) Don Quixote left their marks. Truth is, having a real castle in the story could be odd after having the knight believe that an inn was a castle just in the previous episode!
The intellectuals “fixed” this problem as follows: according to their version, Don Quixote spent a night on the outskirts of Belmonte, where a combat against the Caballero del Bosque (Knight of the Forest) took place. This is one of the few adventures in which Don Quixote succeeds and, oddly enough, it is hardly the only event where his dreams appear to look like reality itself.