Three-day route through Albacete: a province to stay in

Unknown, underestimated. This is Albacete, a jewel we have yet to discover. And this is the best part of it, that there are places in our own country that can still surprise us. Every time someone crosses Madrid to go to the Valencian Community or to Murcia, they must necessarily pass by this province of La Mancha whose name we definitely care to remember. Its excellent connections are only one of its many advantages. 

Albacete is a transit point, but it is also a place to stay in, to see cave paintings like the ones in the cave of Minateda, to walk through natural landscapes like the source of the Mundo River or to visit such old buildings as the aqueduct of Albatana, of Roman origin. In these lines, we will take you through a three-day route where we will explore the most beautiful corners of the most underrated provinces of Spain. First stop: the valley of the Júcar River.

Three-day route through Albacete, day 1: the valley of the Júcar River

With a length of more than 500 kilometres, the Júcar River is born on the hill of San Felipe, in the province of Cuenca, and it flows into the Mediterranean Sea in the province of Cullera. There is a section near the comarca of La Manchuela where the river follows a 90º curve and changes direction eastwards. This is where the stream creates its deepest meanders, between Jorquera and Alcalá de Júcar. There we can find the stunning valley of the Júcar River. 

Alcalá de Júcar, one of the most beautiful villages in Spain

Alcalá del Júcar

Alcalá del Júcar. | Shutterstock

An undeniable star of this lovely landscape is the village of Alcalá de Júcar, considered as one of the most beautiful villages in Albacete, or even in Spain. On one side of a slope, watching over from the heights stands the castle of Alcalá de Júcar, a fortress of Muslim architecture. On the other side, there is the river. And in the middle, the white houses with red tiles, which blend in with the landscape just as if someone had willingly placed them there. We cannot forget about the access point: the Roman bridge that is not actually of Roman origin. There is no better welcome. 

The streets of Alcalá de Júcar cross an old town that is full of interesting spots to visit: the shrine of San Lorenzo, the church of San Andrés, the square of the bulls… These streets take us to a cluster of houses carved in natural caves. Nowadays, many of them have been turned into leisure establishments. 

Hiking to gaze at the valley of the Júcar River

Júcar river

Júcar river. | Shutterstock

If we really want to enjoy the valley of the Júcar River, our visit should go beyond the village itself. We should go for a hike, either by bike or by foot. The options here are endless. The shortest alternative is known as the trail of El Corciolico, a circular path spreading for only five kilometres which is still quite impressive. This path starts and ends at the same spot, and it goes up the mountain slope until it reaches Casas del Cerro, where we can walk down crossing deep ravines. 

The path of Batán is longer, but also simpler. It goes on for 14,5 kilometres, crossing fields, pine forests, valleys and ravines. This route has perhaps the best the best views of the valley. Another path that will let us get to know the area is the route of Morrón, a path connecting the municipalities of Alcalá de Júcar and Tolosa along the river. 

Three-day route through Albacete, day 2: visiting the unique corners of the capital

Obviously, a route through Albacete had to involve a stop in its capital city, located midway between the valley of the Júcar River and the “Switzerland of La Mancha”—the third stop in our journey. One of the things that will surprise the traveller more is probably the wide range of cultural activities one can find in Albacete’s streets

Even though the cultural activities concentrate on the very famous Fair of Albacete, one of the oldest fairs in Spain, which takes place between the 7 and 17 of September in honour of the patron saint of the city: Virgen de los Llanos. During these days, the place known as La Sartén (“The Frying Pan”) is full of activities and stands celebrating the culture of Albacete. When the fair ends, the festivity is not over yet: the building is still there. La Sartén is, in fact, the only permanent fairground in the world

Pasaje de Lodares, an Italian style modernist gallery

Pasaje de Lodares, an Italian style modernist gallery. | Shutterstock

Nonetheless, La Sartén is not the only interesting place in Albacete. The traveller cannot leave without visiting the cathedral of San Juan Bautista. Its exterior looks might not be as impressive as other buildings of the kind, but its interior will not disappoint you. Moreover, the square of Altozano, the heart of the city, hosts a good deal of Albacete’s cultural elements: places such as the gardens of Altozano, a museum, the courthouse or the film archive. 

Likewise, another main attraction of Albacete is the Passage of Lodares, a commercial gallery of modernist architecture that was declared one of the most beautiful streets in Europe. A skylight with an iron structure and glass plates covers lines of thick Renaissance columns. Another modernist building that is worth mentioning would be Casa del Hortelano, which currently holds the Cutlery Museum. As we can see, modernism filled in with colours the streets of the city during the 20th century—another aspect of Albacete many seem to ignore. 

Three-day route through Albacete, day 3: the Switzerland of La Mancha

It has already been two days of exploring the landscapes of Albacete. Two days which have been quite different. By now, we have probably seen this place in Castile-La Mancha from a different perspective.  However, said perspective can change even more, since today’s schedule will take us to Aýna: the Switzerland of La Mancha. Comparisons might be odious, but this one has given Aýna a positive kind of fame. The film Amanece, que no es poco also contributed to its popularity


Aýna. | Shutterstock

This film, directed by José Luis Cuerda in 1988, shot many of its scenes in Aýna: up to 14 of them took place in its streets. Some were recorded in other villages in La Mancha, such as Liétor, Los Molinicos, or the city of Albacete. Hence, one of the things to see in Aýna is a sculpture built in memory of this film. 

If the traveller should only have one day to spend in Aýna, perhaps they are only able to walk through the streets of the municipality, passing by great spots like the balcony of Las Mayas, the ruins of the castle of La Yedra or the church of Santa María de lo Alto, among others. Nevertheless, the Switzerland of La Mancha has many other corners to explore.

Located in the mountain range of Segura, deep in the gorge of the Mundo River, Aýna stands near places like the cave of El Niño, the greatest landmark of cave painting in Albacete, or the canyon of the Mundo River. Logically, the surroundings provide endless hiking adventures. Climbing and biking are other examples of the sports one can enjoy there. 

A change of perspective

The sun will rise in the morning like any other day. At night, when the golden star is already concealed, the stars will shine over Aýna like nowhere else; indeed, we will be admiring one of the clearest skies in Spain, according to Starlight. After this three-day route through Albacete, the traveller might see the province through a different lens now. Perhaps they have even come to the conclusion that it is a place worth staying in.

This article was written in collaboration with APEHT.

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