Spain´s most beautiful castles
Vast plains and evocative castles and mills… This could well be the portrait of Castilla. There are in fact 2 Castillas in Spain. Castilla Leon, mainly North West to Madrid and Castilla La Mancha, South of Spain´s capital. Madrid and its regions is somehow an island in the middle of these 2 large Castillas. Castilla´s name is due to the Castillos (Castles) and it actually means land of Castles.
The name of Castilla la Mancha has an arab origin. La Mancha (stain in Spanish) has in this case an arab origin from “Al-mansha” plain land and with no rivers.
The case of Castilla Leon (Lion in Spanish) is probably derived from “Legio” from the roman legions that founded the city of Leon in Castilla.
Why go to Castilla? There are many reasons why any of the 2 Castillas is worth a trip. A very valid one is for sure found in its imposing and many times isolated castles.
Many of the castles found in both Castillas have a roman (this would apply more to Castilla Leon) and arab origins. The Reconquista (reconquest) is that period of Spain in which Christians progressively re-conquered the territory of Spain. The period was long, almost 8 centuries! And throughout this long process castles were erected, reinforced, destroyed and rebuilt, normally at those areas that served as borders in each phase of the reconquering process.
After this sort historical introduction we go ahead with our list of 10 favorite castles in both Castillas.
Alcazar de Segovia
This is one of Spain´s most famous castles. Many say it was used by Disney to inspire the Disney castle…. The name of Alcazar means fortress in Arabic.(similar name to the also famous Alcazar in Toledo). The Alcazar´s unique silhouette and its really privileged location is admired by any visitor to the City of Segovia. We always spend a good amount of time during our tours to Segovia. at some of the spots which offer the best views over the Alcazar (and the aqueduct). It does not matter how many times you visit Segovia: the views are so impressive! We have had cases of some of our customers asking us to stay longer… and longer… and
The old castle was destroyed and what we see today is a reconstruction of the original.
This castle is very famous in Spain. It has the shape of a ship and it is actually one of Spain´s longest castles (and also one of the most narrow ones). The image of the castle is seen from a long distance. Peñafiel is home to some of the wineries we visit during our Ribera del Duero wine tours. We always get fantastic feedback about this castle. From the castle you get excellent views over the region and over the city of Peñafiel and its fantastic Plaza del Coso.
You may recongnise this castle. It has been used for many movies, including Charlton´s Heston The Cid. Castles should look like this: an impressive and dominating position over the village, turrets and, in case it were not enough, views over some windmills. We visit Belmonte during our La Mancha and Don Quixote tours.
Less well-known than the castles mentioned before, the Castle of Cornatel is located in the wine región of El Bierzo, near el Camino or Saint James Road. Built originally on the IXth century, the castle offers a fantastic shape. This is a very romantic castle, full of history and a good example of castles that lost their importance and were neglected for many years. Local investment has made it possible to rebuild part of the castle and make it safe for public visits.
This is another impressive castle, different to all others in the sense that this Castle was built with Mudejar style which means, among other things, that is built to a large extent with bricks. The Castle is located in the province of Valladolid (land of the white wines from Rueda) and it is situated on a plain on the banks of the rivers Voltoya and Eresma. It is a good example of a late medieval castle–palace.
Chinchilla de Montearagon
This ancient village located not far from Albacete is set at the top of a hill. The castle dominates the plains of this part of Castilla la Mancha. As many other local castles, it origins date back to arab times and was restored during the XVth Century . Many other fantastic surprises await those visitors who find the time to get to Chinchilla de Montearagon.
Peñaranda de Duero
The village of Peñaranda de Duero is located 20 kilometers east of Aranda de Duero (many visitors to Spain that use the AP1 motorway from France to Madrid and South of Spain may be familiar with Aranda. Peñaranda (as well as Aranda) as the names suggests is located by the banks of the River Duero. Peñaranda is a small and charming village and its castle dates back to the 1oth Century. It holds certain resemblance with the castle of Peñafiel and, with this one and many others it formed at times of the Reconquista a line of castles to defend and protect the border set by the river in Castilla Leon.
Mombeltran castle is located in the province of Avila (Avila is a Unesco heritage site famous for its Walls). We have chosen this castle because we love its location in the middle of a mountain range, and also because it is not as well-known as other castles we have included in the list. Its defensive appearance is similar to the image of castles portrayed in many children´s pictures! Fantastic indeed.
Today and industrial City, Ponferrada is part of el Camino or Saint James Way. Before that, it was a very important Roman location as well. At the start of the 12th century the Templar knights established in the castle. They developed it and reinforced it. Today the castle has regained most of its past splendor. It serves as a permanent research library on the history of the Templar knights.
This is probably the smallest castle in our list. Located in Castilla La Mancha, it is yet another castle which origins date back to arab times. The castle is today a hotel that belongs to the Paradores National hotel chain. The castle was conquered by the Christians on the 12th century, and had been originally built on the 8th century by the Muslims. Its location oversees the fertile valley of the river Jucar.
There are many other castles in both Castillas we have not included in the list. Castillo de la Mota in Valladolid, Pedraza in Segovia, Arenas de San Pedro in Avila, Ampudia, Villafranca del Bierzo, Medina del campo in Valladolid, Almansa in Albacete, Calatrava, Sigüenza in Guadalajara, Juadraque…