Going to Cuenca and not going to see the Casas Colgadas is like going to Paris and missing the Eiffel Tower. It is, without a doubt, its most representative monument. I am one of those people who believe that it is one of those monuments that you see better from a distance, since it allows you to appreciate how the houses have remained through time, as well as that they are standing on the edge of a ravine, like the one in Huecar River.
In order to see them, I recommend moving through the ravine, along its roads and viewpoints, as to appreciate the verticality of these buildings. You shouldn't let the heights impress you when you cross the bridge across the gorges, which moves with the flow of the tourists, and should take the opportunity to take a few pictures of the Casas Colgadas from there.
The balconies make one dream of the period in which the houses were built, around the 15th century. Throughout history they have been the place for numerous activities, but nowadays you can find there a restaurant as well as the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, a curious fact that always strikes me because of the contradiction in concepts. I'm sure you understand to what I'm referring to.
There are many interesting spots in Cuenca. The city itself is lovely, and so is the Ventano del Diablo, the source of the Cuervo River and, of course, the Enchanted City: its best kept secret. It consists of a group of really impressive natural rock formations.
In order to see it all there is a 3 kilometers long and signposted road, where one can see formations in different shapes: the boats, the dog, the face of the man, the seal, the slide, the turtle...
It was declared as a Natural Site of National Interest in 1920 and, since then, has been one of the most popular attractions in Cuenca and in all Spain.
My visit was a lovely one, even though I recommend going when it is not too hot or too cold, because it can be quite harsh. Oh! And take your camera, there are many things worth snapping!
This cathedral is beautiful. Only a stone's throw away from the Casas Colgadas and located on Cuenca's Plaza Mayor, it is a definite must-see during your visit of the city. On the same square you will be able to have a nice meal for about 20€ each but with very generous portions of typical dishes that will get you going for the rest of the day!
The source of the Cuervo River is located in the mountainous region of the Province of Cuenca (Serranía de Cuenca), at about 80 km from the city of Cuenca. It is very close to the Vega del Codorno, a place we visited on our motorbike trip through the Serranía de Cuenca. From Cuenca and Villalba de la Sierra, one can get there via Uña and La Toba; from Teruel or Guadalajara, via Tragacete and Beteta.
It is a spot of great natural beauty that is inside the mountainous region, with waterfalls falling in between cornices and creating great contrasts in the forest landscape and near the source. In order to get to the cave where the water pours out and to the source of the Cuervo River, one has to walk from the mountain path that goes through the woods and along the bank of the river until it ends at about 1,500 meters away from the parking lot, where the spring is to be found.
The best season to go there is Spring, and it is recommended to wear good shoes in order to avoid slipping on access paths. Next to the parking there are bars and restaurants to recharge batteries with good local food.
Right after passing the Enchanted City, in the direction of Cuenca, the traveler encounters what at first sight seems to be a mere road viewpoint in the middle of a sinuous path. But don't let appearances deceive you: The Ventano del Diablo (Devil´s Window), whose name alone makes the stop worthwhile, offers spectacular views, including a cliff and the descent of a river that will mark you for its beauty. By the way, same as in all the other places of the area, it is completely free of charge. It is a quick stop on the road, on the curb, but it is so busy that some peddlers come to sell souvenirs of the area.
The most famous bridge of Cuenca is made of iron, has a reddish color and rectilinear lines and is located on the Huecar River, very close to the Casas Colgadas and from where you can take some of the best pictures of the city. This place is better than any other to see and feel the architectural elements, the urban development and the symbolic content of this city-landscape: the river, the slopes of the ravine...
The current bridge was built in 1902, following the architectural tendencies of that time, and measures about 100 meters long. It is made of five arches and very high columns. If you suffer from vertigo you should cross without looking down too much. This bridge replaced an old one made of stone that was built between 1533 and 1589 and which collapsed. It was located at the same place, connecting the San Pablo Convent and the urban area on the ravine of the Huecar River.
Cuenca's Plaza Mayor is one of the most beautiful and monumental squares of the city: the nerve center of its upper part, the central space of urban life, a perfect place to take a break on the route through Cuenca and to have a drink on one of the terraces. It is a great place to grasp the atmosphere of the city and to observe its most important architectural works.
It is also one of the best places to buy traditional craftwork of the area as well as gastronomic products. On the Plaza Mayor you can find the City Hall, a Baroque style building built in the time of Charles III and that has three round arches of the year 1762, the Convento de las Petras (Petras Convent) and Our Lady of Grace Cathedral(Nuestra Señora de Gracia) of the 12th century. Moreover, adjacent to the Cathedral lies the Episcopal Palace where you can find the Diocesan Museum.
Alarcón is one of those places one can't understand why it isn't better known. It is a village with a fantastic history, in most cases linked to the castle. It's bathed and protected by the Jucar River and it has one of those peculiar silhouettes that every photographer dreams of.
The castle is preserved in a spectacular way and one cannot help but think of battles and armors. Alarcón had a period of great splendor followed by one of the complete opposite. Luckily, the building of the National Parador of Tourism (state-owned hotel) helped a lot and, since then, Alarcón slowly got back the significance it deserves. The other highlights are the churches and, above all, the mural of Jesús Mateo, a spectacular piece of work.
If you feel attracted to Ancient Rome then this is a definite must-see. The Roman ruins of Segobriga, lost in the middle of Castile-La Mancha, brings us centuries back while walking the streets and imagining how life would be back then. The theater and amphitheater stand out since they are the best preserved. It is hard to imagine how it was possible to create all of this in the middle of nowhere. You can also visit the museum, where recreations of the city in the old days are displayed as well as various statues and mosaics found during the excavations.
Between the Enchanted City and Cuenca, you will find the village of Uña. Just next to the Embalse de la Toba and in front of the lake which made it famous. The lake of Uña is a natural spot you only see in movies. An ecosystem almost exclusively of flora and fauna which created one of places with the best views in the area. It is a very interesting place for the animal species living there by the way. There is also a fish farm nearby. Seeing it when it gets dark is an unforgettable experience.
Cuenca has been a World Heritage Site since the 90s. The town is on a hill surrounded by rivers and Huecar Júcar until the San Anton Bridge that divides the city between the old city to the new part of the city.It is a great place to escape the city and the tapas are delicious.
In the middle of the Serranía de Cuenca, at about five kilometers from the Enchanted City, you will find this beautiful little village. Although the locals assure that the village turns into frenzy during the summer, in the springtime you can feel an incomparable atmosphere of calm and peace. The village is surrounded by the cliffs of the Serranía, and it also has a lovely pond in the center: the real star of the village. The square is a very nice place where you can spend some time after lunch, by the shadow of the fruit trees in bloom.
If you want to stay there you have two options: a rural cottage for a good price and a hostel/camping for an even better price. The village also has two bars, where you can buy local wine, and a grocery store on the shore of the lake.
The best of Uña is, without a doubt, its privileged enclave. It is really easy to walk from there to the Enchanted City and to go on excursions to the Cuervo River. I highly recommend it!