Route of the "Journey to the Alcarria"
Santa María la Mayor or “de la Fuente” Cathedral. Guadalajara
Infantado Palace. Guadalajara
Royal Cloth Factory of Charles III. Brihuega
Zorita de los Canes Castle
An enjoyable literary-themed route
This route follows the itinerary taken in 1946 by the writer Camilo José Cela, the Nobel Prizewinner for Literature. The fruit of those ten days spent travelling around this region was his book entitled "Journey to the Alcarria". In the past the mystic poets Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Jesus chose these lands as the place in which to found their convents and monasteries. The Tagus river flows through this landscape of plains and farmlands which produces one of Spain's most highly-esteemed honeys.
We begin our route in the city of Guadalajara. Its oldest remains are the ruins of the Alcázar Real fortress, the towers of Álvar Fáñez and El Alamín (13th-14th century), and a bridge over the Henares river of which a part dates from the time of Al-Andalus. The Mudéjar style can clearly be seen in the pro-cathedral of Santa María la Mayor, which is predominantly Gothic (13th-14th century), although it was reformed in the Baroque period (17th century). However it is the transitional period between the late Gothic and the early Renaissance which endows Guadalajara with its unique personality. Two palaces are particularly outstanding: the Infantado Palace, the work of Juan Guas in partnership with Enrique Egas; and the Palace of the Mendoza family, considered the first fully Renaissance Spanish building. Once we leave Guadalajara, the second part of our route will take us one or more days to give us time to make the most of all its rural tourism attractions. The next stop, about 18 kilometres away, is the town of Torija, presided by its historic mediaeval castle. In the 15th century it was occupied by the poet and nobleman the Marquis of Santillana; and in the 19th century during the Peninsula War, the famous Spanish warrior known as 'El empecinado', ('the undaunted') demolished it with dynamite to prevent it from falling into the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte's army. After restoration, it today houses the Museum of the Journey to the Alcarria, and the visitor centre for the province of Guadalajara. Further on, an 18-kilometre detour will take us to Brihuega, otherwise known as the 'Garden of the Alcarria', a historic-artistic site with numerous features of interest, including several large Renaissance houses and its castle, defensive wall and mediaeval gateways. It is also home to the churches of Santa María de la Peña, San Miguel and San Felipe, all dating from the 13th century, as well as the Royal Cloth Factory. After continuing on for 22 kilometres to Masegoso de Tajuña, we then turn towards Cifuentes. Places to visit here include the 13th-century church of El Salvador, the porticoed Plaza Mayor square and the mediaeval castle built by the Infante and poet Don Juan Manuel. We go on to Trillo with its waterfall and the Casa de los Molinos building, while the surrounding area contains the ruins (not open to visitors) of the old monastery. From this point we follow the course of the Tagus river for about 30 kilometres past the Entrepeñas and Buendía reservoirs (known as the 'Sea of Castile') to the village of Sacedón. The remains of the Cistercian monastery of Monsalud (13th-16th centuries) can be seen in the district of Córcoles, about six kilometres away. We then head for Zorita de los Canes, about 21 kilometres away, to see the ruins of its mediaeval castle and the Recópolis Archaeological Park, an old Visigoth city. Back on the road, we make for the last stop on our route: the ducal town of Pastrana, about 12 kilometres away. Its main monuments include the Renaissance-style ducal palace dating from the 16th century, where the Princess of Eboli was held prisoner and spent the last days of her life. It is also home to the Franciscan Conceptionista convents of El Carmen and San José, founded by Saint Teresa of Avila. Another of Pastrana's attractions is its ducal festival which takes place in mid July in a mediaeval and Renaissance setting.