Who hasn’t wished to visit the place whose name Cervantes did not care to remember? It’s already been 400 years since the renowned Early Modern Spanish writer breathed life into the memorable hidalgo from La Mancha, best known as Don Quixote. This novel remains incredibly relevant in our society, particularly so when it comes to culture and the actual locations mentioned in the book.
More than a decade ago, Castilla-La Mancha paid tribute to this legendary novel by creating the Don Quixote Route, which goes through all the different places where Don Quixote and Sancho landed on their adventures. Even though there are many different ways of approaching this route, and many days to spend walking through its paths, we will sum it up to you as if it were a weekend getaway. Thanks to this trip, we will be able to actually see the most emblematic spots in the founding work of Western literature, such as the windmills or the village of his beloved Dulcinea.
Anyone who has ever read Don Quixote has probably asked themselves how would all those sceneries actually look like, since reality and fantasy blend together in Cervantes’ fiction. Just like the psychology of his endearing knight errant, Cervantes was able to describe La Mancha in a unique, fascinating way, devising an anecdote for every village, and this way entering the international cultural landscape.
That’s probably the main reason why the government of Castilla-La Mancha created this itinerary. The Don Quixote Route spreads through 2500 kilometres, and it threads 148 different municipalities. It’s estimated to take 10 days or sessions, and it’s also perfect for a road trip, although there are other alternatives due to its great demand.
The route passes by well-known villas, livestock trails, paths drenched in history and nature reserves. Doubtlessly, this is a dream experience for those that love rural tourism and might want to explore La Mancha in a different way.
As we already mentioned before, the original itinerary was meant to spread for 2500 kilometres and it’s expected to take a week or so to finish it. Nonetheless, the fact that it was declared a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe made it possible for the route to adapt to the needs of all kinds of tourists. Hence, one can visit the most relevant and emblematic spots in regards to Cervantes’ epic novel in only two days.
Toledo is one of the starting points they suggest for undertaking the Don Quixote Route. This historical city, apart from encompassing the three main cultures in the Middle Ages, is also a key point in the lore of Don Quixote. For instance, we can visit a small window that is connected to the Spanish writer. To the north of the city, in Esquivias, we may also find a historic house museum dedicated to Cervantes. All these little references make up the perfect place for starting our journey.
Only an hour away from the capital city of Castilla-La Mancha, we will reach Consuegra. Considering they are still the main attraction of the place, most people go there to see the emblematic windmills that Don Quixote mistook for giants before the puzzled eyes of Sancho. Nowadays, one of them, called “el Bolero”, can be visited all year round.
After spending the day in Toledo and its surroundings, and watching the sun set on the famous windmills, on the second day we will travel 30 kilometres to stop in El Toboso. This village is full of little details and references to the love of Quixote’s life: Dulcinea del Toboso. We can even find there the Dulcinea Museum, and there are statues in the main square depicting the literary couple.
To end this journey with a good feeling, our last stop will be Argamasilla de Alba. This village is more or less 50 kilometres away from El Toboso, and definitely a must-see place in the route. In fact, many believe this is the place that inspired Cervantes to write his magnum opus. Most likely, the sentence “Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember” refers to this village. But why would that be? Well, the truth is, that here lies the cave of Medrano, the actual cave where Cervantes was held prisoner for months.
The fascinating Don Quixote Route is a great occasion for getting to know Castilla-La Mancha. Even better, we can use it to taste the region’s most emblematic dishes. Cervantes’ novel makes multiple references to some of those dishes which can be found throughout the route. Besides, it’s nice to appreciate the traditional dishes of the area, where agriculture and farming blend into a unique gastronomy.
One of the dishes that stands out in this novelesque gastronomy is “duelos y quebrantos”, whose main ingredients are eggs, chorizo, and bacon. We can’t forget to mention “migas manchegas” either. However, the ultimate stars here in La Mancha are cheese and wine, and both of them can be found in dairies and wineries all over the route.
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