9 plans to explore Albacete, a province yet to discover

There are some places we simply reduce to their most famous spots. For example, the Quixote made people picture La Mancha as a landscape of wastelands and windmills. However, those who look into Albacete’s eyes will find brown and russet colours, but also shades of green and blue. They might even want to stay there for eternity.

Besides, they will learn that this province has a wide variety of tourist and cultural attractions, like carpets filling the streets with colours, spectacular paths blending sculptures in the landscape, ancient monuments with many an interesting story to tell… Hence, on this journey we will look at the eyes of Albacete, a land we have yet to discover.

The best plans to explore Albacete

Visiting a winery with Denominación de Origen

A vineyard

A vineyard in La Manchuela. | APEHT

If there is something those who know Albacete tend to highlight, it is probably the fact that it is a land of contrasts. The plains of La Mancha blend in with both mountains and rivers, or even deep, steep valleys and salt water lakes. We could not miss another colour in this province’s palette: the purple shades of the vineyards. Indeed, in the mid-20th century, vineyards occupied almost three quarters of Albacete. It is no surprise that enotourism is still a big attraction of the province.

Albacete keeps five wines with Denominación de Origen (DO): D. O. de la Manchuela, D. O. Jumilla, D. O. Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, D. O. Almansa and D. O. La Mancha. Denominación de Origen de la Manchuela, to the north-east of the province, lies between the Júcar and the Caribel rivers, and it was recognised as such in 2000. They all offer different activities for wine lovers, like visiting wineries, wine bars, wine museums, etc.

Visiting the cave of Montesinos, straight from the Quixote

A cave on reddish rocks

The cave of Montesinos. | Wikimedia

The mancomunidad of Sierra de Alcaraz and Campo de Montiel, altogether with the municipality of Ossa de Montiel, keeps a small hole on the ground. Dark, mysterious and narrow, this cave is famous for having staged the magnum opus of Cervantes: Don Quixote. Montesinos is a karst cave with a depth of 18 metres, and home to a remarkable colony of bats. The cave of Montesinos lies next to the lagoons of Ruidera, which renders it a good first stop for visiting the natural park later.

The sawdust carpets of Elche de la Sierra

Colourful pictures made with sawdust

Feast of the sawdust carpets of Elche de la Sierra. | APEHT

Year after year, every Feast of Corpus Christi, Elche de la Sierra wakes up dressed in bright colours. 30 sawdust carpets dominate the streets: 30 artworks with religious or geometrical themes that turn Elche into a giant open-air canvas for a few hours. However, short after their creation, the Corpus Christi procession will walk over them, sweeping away the illusion.

This event is called Fiesta de las Alfombras de Serrín de Elche de la Sierra (“Feast of the Sawdust Carpets of Elche de la Sierra”), and it first started in 1963, when a citizen of Elche learnt about the flower carpets they created in Barcelona for another festivity called La Octava del Señor. The carpets are created on Saturday night and they step on them the next morning, even though they actually start working on them months prior to the event. It is a National Tourist Festivity that gets more original every year, and one of the best plans to enjoy in Albacete.

The taste of Albacete and its haute cuisine restaurants

A dish of square sweets

Miguelitos of La Roda. | Wikimedia

As we said before, Albacete used to be a land of vineyards in the past. Therefore, wine is doubtlessly its star product. Another history-related activity in the province would be the one of the wool cattle, which has derived in some of the most typical dishes of Albacete: Manchego cheese and lamb. The migas ruleras, the famous miguelitos of La Roda, pisto manchego and the atascaburras are also typical dishes in the area.

With such a rich and varied gastronomy, there is a good number of haute cuisine restaurants in the province, some of which are after a Michelin Star. One of them received not long ago, in 2021, the record of the best ham croquette in the world. One can see and walk through Albacete, but tasting it is also an interesting way of experiencing the province.

Ornithological tourism in the lagoon of Pétrola

A lake with flamingoes

The lagoon of Pétrola. | Shutterstock

Even though this plan might not be as popular as the previous ones, visiting the lagoon of Pétrola is also an interesting thing to do in Albacete. Now we are talking about one of the most important salt lakes in the country, which stands out for its rich bird population. It belongs to the drainage basin of the Segura, in the comarca of Monte Ibérico-Corredor de Almansa.

The lagoon becomes a transit point for migratory birds in autumn and winter, whereas it is the perfect place for spotting Anatidae in spring. Besides, the lagoon of Pétrola is one of the few places in Spain where flamingos are born. For all these reasons, it is not allowed to sail there.

To “dar la turra” in the Carnival of Tarazona de la Mancha

People celebrating the carnival

The Carnival of Tarazona de la Mancha. | Wikimedia

Cardoard boxes on the head, cloths masks in the face, and in one’s hand, weird… fly swatters? A group of people walks wearing this costume through the streets of Tarazona de la Mancha. They get close to different people, and what they do is “dar la turra”: that is, they annoy everyone. This tradition has prevailed in the Carnival of Tarazona de la Mancha since the Middle Ages. These strange costumes known as “mascarutas” are the traditional costume of the celebration, although everyone can really dress as they please.

A journey to the past in Tolmo de Minateda

An archaeological site

Tolmo de Minateda in Albacete. | APEHT

We have already mentioned the cave of Montesinos, but actually, the most important archaeological site in Albacete is the Tolmo de Minateda Archaeological Park, which keeps the precious cave paintings of Minateda and Tolmo de Minateda. Experts believe that the paintings date back to 5000 BC, whereas the archaeological site of Tolmo de Minateda was inhabited since the Bronze Age until the 10th century. This ancient building complex rests on top of a spectacular rock from which one can observe the roads connecting Albacete, Murcia and Alicante.

In addition, visiting Tolmo de Minateda provides an excellent chance to explore the municipality of Hellín, the second most populated one after its capital. Here, the visitor will find an old town from the reign of Al-Andalus that emerged surrounding the hill of the castle. Nearby we will find the volcanic plug of Cancarix, a natural monument that is considered the best example of a volcanic pipe in Spain.

The route of the sculptures in Bogarra

The sculpture of an eye surrounded by nature

One of the sculptures in Bogarra. | Flickr

Once a year, the municipality of Bogarra in the mountain range of Segura holds an interesting sculpture event that attracts artists from many different places. Those days, the sculptors leave their traces on a path that spreads along the Madera river. Apart from said sculptures, the traveller will be able to admire Charco del Cojo, a natural pool that is perfect for swimming on hot summer days.

The route is smooth, without slopes, and it is only 1,5 kilometres long; hence, it can easily be enjoyed by kids and families. Nevertheless, the route of the sculptures can also be longer: we can go on for eight and a half kilometres until we reach the waterfall of Batán de Bogarra. All this itinerary belongs to the trail of GR67, which connects the towns of Hellín and Riópar.

Active tourism in Albacete

A person canyoning in a rock wall

Active tourism in the Segura. | APEHT

We could not possibly end this list without discussing all the different ways one can enjoy active tourism in Albacete. They are just infinite. As we already said before, Albacete is a land of contrasts; consequently, its land adapts to a different activity in every area, because active tourism is inevitably linked to the setting. This way, the quiet water of the lagoons of Ruidera provide the perfect scenery for kayaking, whereas the wild streams of the Júcar and the Segura invite us to go rafting or canyoning.

The mountain range of Yeste, in the Calares del Mundo y de la Sima Natural Park, makes up the perfect landscape for biking or caving. The swamp of Fuensanta also stands out in this area. In fact, its turquoise waters are constantly crossed by sailboats and kayaks. As for climbing, this activity is particularly popular in places like Aýna. Of course, we also have plenty of routes for hiking. All in all, active tourism in Albacete is a rich as all the other kinds of activities one can enjoy there.

This article was written in collaboration with APEHT.

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