For all the lovers of Undiscovered Spain – let´s explore the top things to see in Cuenca. After my previous post full of magical rock formations from The Enchanted City of Cuenca, I just couldn´t stop revealing more of the unrevealed Spanish region of Cuenca.
Where is Cuenca?
For those hearing about Cuenca for the first time: it is the capital of Castilla La Mancha Province in Central Spain. Despite some unique national landmarks, secret villages, and amazing nature, central Spain can barely compete with the coastal regions of the country in terms of international fame. Spain used to be known for its amazing beaches, but travelers just don´t settle on this any longer. We all crave for more, aren´t we?
Alongside Teruel, I often call the province of Cuenca one of the Spanish big unknowns. Although Cuenca borders with a few well-known Spanish regions, like Madrid, Toledo, or Valencia, it is still quite in the shadow.
Cuenca´s biggest advantage
Nevertheless, Cuenca´s untold story is its biggest advantage in my eyes. I know, I keep saying it all the time – but I feel like every year tourism in Spain grows significantly (and statistics is on my side here). There are fewer undisclosed places on the map of Spain with every new year.
Personally, I´ve been postponing a trip to Catalonia forever. There are still so many pretty little towns and adventurous hikes I haven´t seen in the region. But it just seems like the concept off-season simply doesn´t exist there any longer. Crowds of people in a constant search of fiesta and sangria hardly add wanderlust to any trip, or at least that´s not working for me. Besides, my last family getaway to Cambrils was seriously on the edge of a complete disaster. You can check the full story here (*this post is currently being updated) – I don´t want to go into details again.
On the other hand, thanks to the touristy side of Spain, I´ve learned to appreciate places off the beaten path. Even though those often end up being not the best choices in terms of price/quality. For instance, it was much harder to find nice hotels and restaurants in Cuenca than it was in Cadiz. Note, Cadiz is the lesser-known part of Andalusia, I´m not even talking here about Malaga or Marbella.
When to visit
Cuenca is one of those regions in Spain with hot days and chilly nights in summer. I´d suggest avoiding a visit in July or August. The temperature might rise to 30-35°C during the day, but you won´t have a fresh Mediterranean breeze to cool you off. It honestly feels really hot during the day, especially as the region has many plain areas and there´s nowhere to hide. At night you might have 10-15°C during the summer months, which is quite of a drop if you keep in mind the daily average. In winter, the temperature mostly rolls around 10°C during the day and 0°C at night.
So my favorite time is April-May and September-October. But that one really depends on your preferences. I´m more partial to moderate cold rather than extreme hot. To put it simply: Seville with 50°C, despite its undeniable charm, is a big no for me in summer.
How to get
By car: Cuenca is a more or less 2hrs drive from both Madrid and Valencia. Therefore, it could even be a day trip idea. However, I´d suggest you leave a few days for this off the beaten track voyage. Another big city nearby is Zaragoza, but here we are talking about 3-4 hours.
By train: There are a few train options from Madrid´s Puerta de Atocha running on a daily basis towards Cuenca Fernando Zobel train station. The best one is a high-speed AVE train, but that´s also the most expensive one. It will take you only 1 hour to get from Madrid to Cuenca with Ave (ticket cost: 25-40 euro one way). While with the regional train you´ll have 2h40min and 15 euros respectively. The train alternatives from Valencia to Cuenca are the same, like the ones from Madrid, except that you have fewer trains per day to choose from.
Also read: Top Valencia Day Trips by train
By bus: Visiting Cuenca by bus is more budget-friendly than traveling by train. The Madrid-Cuenca route is run by Avanza bus company, and Valencia-Cuenca by MonBus. Tickets cost from 12 to 20 euros.
What to see and do in Cuenca
Following our recent weekend getaway, I´m sharing with you a brief recap of things to see in Cuenca. Note that by Cuenca I don´t only mean the capital city of Cuenca, but the region of Cuenca itself. We traveled by car, so it gave us the flexibility to drive around the whole proving in search of the lesser-known gems. If you travel to Cuenca by public transport you might want to see just the first two places from my list.
1. The Hanging Houses of Cuenca or Casas Colgadas
One of the top things to see in Cuenca are the Hanging Houses of Cuenca ( or Casas Colgadas in Spanish). It is the most famous Spain´s national landmark in Cuenca and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only three of the Hanging Houses remain nowadays, carefully restored in the 20th century. You get the best view of the Hanging Houses from the San Pablo bridge (especially impressive at night).
Artsy visitors can check the Spanish Abstract paintings at Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, located inside one of the Hanging Houses.
2.Cuenca´s City Center and Santa María la Mayor Cathedral
Cuenca is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Spain. A walk through its cobblestone streets is simply a must. Despite many beautiful cathedrals built in Spain, Santa María la Mayor Cathedral absolutely deserves your attention. Built-in 12-13th centuries it is a unique mix of Gothic and Norman architecture. By the cathedral, you can find Palacio Episcopal housing cathedral´s impressive art collection, including a few paintings by El Greco.
Another building right across the San Pablo Bridge you can´t miss in Cuenca is Convento de las Carmelitas. It was home to the Carmelite order in the 17th century. Although, the building currently houses a modern art gallery, called Fundacion Antonio Perez.
3. The Enchanted City of Cuenca
Once you are done with your city explorings – set your eyes on The Enchanted City of Cuenca. It is one of the most fairytale places in Spain and also one of the coolest sights to visit with kids. There´s even more to the story here – this place also has a fascinating Spanish legend behind it.
Although it´s not fully adopted for baby strollers, we used a front carrier. While many locals would still opt for the stroller – I don´t know how they managed it with the occasional stairs, but I clearly saw quite a few around.
This natural phenomenon is located 28 km from the city of Cuenca. The Enchanted city rises almost 1,500 meters above sea level. It is a circular route full of impressive rock formations, sculpted over the centuries by ice, wind, and water. You can check the full story and photo gallery from our visit here.
4. Ventano del Diablo / The Devil´s Window
You might already know that Spain is full of mysterious local legends and haunted places. How about a viewpoint with a touch of magic? – The Devil´s Window is one of the top things to see in Cuenca. It is a natural cave with views of the Jucar river. Ventano del Diablo is located close to the Enchanted City of Cuenca.
Also read: Must-See Magical Forests in Spain
According to the local legend, Devil practiced his magic and witchcraft here. He also threw to the river all those who dared to look out of the windows at the viewpoint. Not as creepy as the Bride´s Jump Waterfall I visited recently, but still, there´s something alarming about this place.
5.The source of Cuervo River
I know what you´re thinking right now… A rock, seriously? One of the best things to see in Cuenca? – Well, this was supposed to be a beautiful waterfall. In Spanish, this place is called Nacimiento Del Río Cuervo. Just google it right now – looks amazing, especially in winter, right?
Unfortunately, in our case, it´s been a while since the last rain, so there was no water (and I don´t really like using photos that are not my own). So check it online or trust my word, your choice!
Other interesting things to see in Cuenca (not included in this post) are Route of the Faces or La Ruta de las Caras in Spanish (one of the coolest hikes in Spain) and The Castle of Belmonte, one of the most beautiful castles in Spain. Also, history geeks can´t miss Segobriga, one of the coolest Roman ruins in Spain. But that´s already another blog post story I´ll share soon! Stay tuned and subscribe for the updates to be the first one to savor the details.
For more travel tips, stories, and ideas about Spain check my Pinterest board – Travel to Spain.