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Cuenca, Spain

In the Region of Castile-La Mancha, between the Júcar and Huécar river canyons, you will find this city with the UNESCO World Heritage designation for its wealth of monuments. Its historic centre looks out over rocky canyon walls in the heart of the Cuenca Mountains. The Cathedral, Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses) and cobbled streets charm the most hardened traveller. A former Dominican convent houses the Cuenca Parador Hotel, where guests can rest and enjoy the region's most traditional recipes. One of the best times for visiting the city is during the Religious Music Week, a festival of International Tourist Interest. Art, history, adventure sports, spas and hunting are some of the opportunities offered by this province in Castilla-La Mancha.

Cuenca’s old town has the UNESCO World Heritage designation, and the city spreads out from atop a promontory overlooking the ruins of its Moorish castle, the ancient Kunka fortress. Meanwhile, below, the modern city grows on the Júcar plain.

The “upper city” - the medieval streets that give the city its character - begins beside the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Luz, next the San Antón bridge. Here begins a tour of the hills, steps and viewpoints which provide beautiful views.

The first stop might be the church of San Felipe Neri, a sober construction which becomes a focus at Easter, with the singing of the traditional "Miserere" on its steps. Inside it is decorated with Baroque and Rococo motifs. On the other side of the Plaza del Carmen you can climb to the Plaza de la Torre Mangana, a former watchtower for Cuenca and one of the symbols of the city, visible from any other point. Very nearby is the Science Museum.

Medieval street pattern

Before reaching the Plaza Mayor, you walk through the Plaza de la Merced, where you can see good examples of Cuenca Baroque in the church and convent of La Merced, and in the great seminary of San Julián. In the Plaza Mayor stand the arches of the Town Hall and the Gothic Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de Gracia, built on the site of a former mosque. Its structure alternates Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements, the result of a long period of construction. Its unfinished monumental façade accompanies the wooden balconies and wrought iron grilles of the square's aristocratic houses, whose ground floors are occupied by inns.

Behind the church a street begins leading to the Casas Colgadas, symbolic monuments in the city, which date from the 15th century. One of the houses contains the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, one of the best in Spain. The wooden balconies of the Casas Colgadas hang over the course of the Huécar, but you have to cross the river to get one of the best panoramic views. On this bank, you can visit the city's Parador de Turismo the former convent of San Pablo. The chance to stay here can only be compared with the chance to taste the mouth-watering Conca recipes offered by its restaurant. "Zarajos" (roast lamb tripe), "morteruelo" (a kind of pâté served hot) or ajoarriero (cod stew) are some of the local dishes, to which can be added vegetable stews, roasts and river fish. Almonds, honey and figs are included in all kinds of imaginative cookery and make up the dessert known as "alajú" (a cake made of honey, figs and almonds).As for drinks, wines with the La Mancha Denomination of Origin and "resolí", a liqueur made with coffee, sugar and orange peel, are outstanding.

Returning to the Cuenca urban layout, here you will find corners full of charm where there are fountains, little arches and narrow streets. Between the Cathedral and the Casas Colgadas we can also visit the Provincial Museum, the Casa del Curato, the Diocesan Museum and the Bishop's Palace.

On the way to the highest point in the city, interesting religious buildings like the churches of San Miguel, San Nicolás and San Pedro, and the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias await. It is worth doing this tour when it is already dark and the whole city is lit up. Another possibility is to walk around the Rondas, paths offering the best views of the gorges and the city, integrated into the natural environment.

Places of Interest

A good time to go to Cuenca is during the Religious Music Week, a Festival of International Tourist Interest, which takes place at Easter. Music scholars, performers and enthusiasts come to the chosen venues like the Cuenca Auditorium, the church of San Miguel and the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art.

Cuenca is only one of many points of interest in the province. Some 30 kilometres from the city you will find the first hills of the Cuenca Mountains, home to the unique landscape of the Enchanted City, made up of weird and wonderful formations, reminiscent of objects, animals and human forms, that water and wind erosion have carved out of the huge limestone rocks. This unusual place is open all year round, from 10am until dusk, and it takes about two hours to see it. Although it is easy to see the similarities, there are notices with the names of each of the rocks (the “Boats”, the “Toboggan”, the “Elephant”, “The Sea of Stone”, the “Diplodocus”…).

Further to the north you will find the El Hosquillo Hunting Reserve and the Solán de Cabras Thermal Spa Resort,, famous for its medicinal spring waters. Mountain villages serve as a guide for discovering the source of the River Cuervo, a spectacular landscape of waterfalls. You can also go to the county of La Alcarria, where you will find interesting places described in “Viaje a La Alcarria” ("Journey to La Alcarria"), the work of the Spanish Literature Nobel Prize-winner Camilo José Cela.

South-east from Cuenca, nature and popular architecture make up a unique landscape, where streams, waterfalls and lakes give way to places like Selva Pascuala, Cañete or Moya. Renaissance convents, cave paintings and monumental sites, made up of fortresses, walls and Gothic churches are some of its attractions. Further south, the Hoces del Cabriel Natural Park forms rocky cliffs of a high natural landscape value.

The western part of the province offers us a historic route on which Tarancón, Uclés are Saelices (with its Roman ruins of Segóbriga), are some of the points of interest. The southern area is called “Wet La Mancha”, where the journey takes us to the windmills of Mota del Cuervo and the spectacular castles of Belmonte and Alarcón. The Parador de Turismo at Alarcón is in this 8th century fortress, an unusual place to stay.

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