In Miguel de Cervantes’ most famous work, and arguably the most esteemed novel to come out of Spain, Don Quixote details the adventures of a self-made knight traversing the region of Castilla-La Mancha, located in central Spain and southeast of Madrid. Cervantes’ legendary knight explored this landscape with an enviable imagination, mistaking windmills for giants along the way.
Luckily for all you Don Quixote fans, or those of you merely seeking an adventure like the fictional knight, these stops in the province present some legendary places in Spain where you too can tussle with windmills and bask at medieval castles along the way. Saddle up your horse, or rather car most likely, and explore these stops in Don Quixote’s footsteps.
Stop #1: Consuegra
Due south of Madrid, an hour and a half drive will bring you to Consuegra — the first stop on any Don Quixote tour of Castilla-La Mancha. The town is easily identified by its medieval castle and its dozen windmills dotting the hillside. These are the windmills many believe Cervantes was referring to when his knight wanted to fight the giants. Some of the restored windmills still retain their complete mechanism. And while the windmills and castle of Consuegra weren’t mentioned specifically by Cervantes, it’s hard not to imagine Don Quixote riding on his horse with his squire Sancho Panza by his side, ready to fight these windmills standing in the shadow of a castle.
Stop #2: Campo de Criptana
Heading east out of Consuegra, roughly 47 kilometers will bring you to Campo de Criptana. Perched on top of a hillside, lording over the northside of town, are 10 windmills, seemingly drawn up right out of the pages of Don Quixote. In addition to the windmills at Consuegra, it’s believed that these windmills, or at least some of them, are what Don Quixote comically mistakes for giants. Some of these “giants” hail from the 16th-century while others date back to the 1900s. Many of the windmills contain various exhibits as well. But, without a doubt, the “wow” factor here is marveling at these perfectly white structures and imagining Don Quixote going toe to toe with imaginary giants.
Stop #3: El Toboso
An hour and a half from Toledo and 19 kilometers from Campo de Criptana, Don Quixote fans will need to make a stop in the small town of El Toboso. Home to several historical buildings dating back to the 15th through the 17th centuries, the town is one of the few locales Cervantes specifically calls out in the novel. Surrounded by vineyards, El Toboso is the famous home of the fictional character of Dulcinea, AKA Don Quixote’s love interest. Set in a 16th-century traditional La Mancha home, you can tour the Museo Casa Dulcinea del Toboso. The museum showcases several tools from Don Quixote’s time and even includes one of the largest oil presses in the region. While Dulcinea wasn’t a real figure, the home is thought to be that of the woman Cervantes may have used as a model for Dulcinea. In addition to Dulcinea’s house, El Toboso also boasts the Museo Cervantino, home to hundreds of editions of Don Quixote, including many translated into different languages and signed by notable figures. Before leaving town, you can head for the main square and admire the statue of the fictitious knight.
Stop #4: Ciudad Real
Heading southwest from El Toboso, an hour-and-a-half drive will bring you through the typical pancake flat terrain of La Mancha to the province’s capital, Ciudad Real. Don Quixote aficionados can’t conduct a road trip retracing the steps of the knight without a stop in Ciudad Real. The city is home to the Don Quixote Museum. Through a series of art and multimedia exhibits, patrons of the museum can experience the life of the famous Cervantes character. The museum even boasts a replica of a 17th-century printing press, displaying the process of how the novel would have been originally printed back in the day.
Love adventures in Spain like Don Quixote? Share your favorite stops with us in the comments below.