A journey in the Footsteps of Saint Teresa of Ávila
We suggest a route including 17 cities to discover the figure of Saint Teresa of Ávila, a 16th century female icon. She was a leading literary figure and mystic who dedicated her life to reforming the Christian Order of the Carmelite nuns.
The route includes the convents founded by her, known as "The Footsteps of Saint Teresa". We have divided it into two different routes lasting about a week each, so it's easier for you to get organised. We start off in the city of Madrid, which has excellent international connections, and a fantastic railway and road network that links it to the rest of Spain.
Southern Route: Castile-La Mancha, Murcia Region and Andalusia
- 1 DAY 1 - PASTRANA & VILLANUEVA DE LA JARA
- 2 DAY 2 - CARAVACA DE LA CRUZ
- 3 DAY 3 - GRANADA
- 4 DAY 4 - SEVILLE
- 5 DAY 5 - BEAS DE SEGURA
- 6 DAY 6 - MALAGÓN & TOLEDO
- 7 DAY 7 - TOLEDO
Day 1 - Pastrana & Villanueva de la Jara
How to get there: It takes less than an hour and a half from Madrid to Pastrana by car. From there it takes another two hours by car to get to Villanueva de la Jara.
Pastrana and its two convents
It is the only place in which Saint Teresa founded two convents. These are the Convent of San José, for women, and San Pedro (current El Carmen) for men. It was a request from the prince and princess of Eboli. The second one houses the Museum of Saint Teresa and of Natural History. When the princess of Eboli became a nun she came into conflict with Saint Teresa and this resulted in the convent of San José being reconstituted with nuns of the Franciscan congregation. A visit to the Ducal Palace, where the saint lived with the prince and princess, is also interesting. The Convent of the Discalced Carmelites was founded in Villanueva de la Jara in 1580. Inside you can visit the tomb of Sister Ana de San Agustín, whom Saint Teresa made head of the convent on her departure.
DAY 2 - Caravaca de la Cruz
How to get there: Caravaca de la Cruz, in the Region of Murcia is just over 200 kilometres, two hours and a half by car, from Villanueva de la Jara, in Castile-La Mancha. Caravaca de la Cruz was also part of Saint Teresa's life. In fact, in Brussels there is a two-barred cross (the city's religious symbol) that Saint Teresa of Ávila carried with her for years. It is also one of the few places in which both Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross founded monasteries. The convent she founded is situated on Calle Mayor and is currently unoccupied, but it houses beautiful images, paintings and a fantastic organ.
DAY 3 - Granada
How to get there: It takes just under three hours to get to Granada from Caravaca de la Cruz by car. In Granada we find the 16th monastery founded by Saint Teresa of Jesus – the Monastery of San José. It is situated in the neighbourhood of Realejo and its most interesting feature is a small room in which Saint John of the Cross held mass while he stayed there. You can visit the convent as well as the main attractions in the city, like the Alhambra, the Generalife and the Cathedral, which are not too far away.
DAY 4 - Seville
How to get there: You can go by car or by train and it is approximately three hours from Granada.
Seville and Saint Teresa
Saint Teresa founded her 11th monastery in Seville, and in order to do so she lived in the city for about a year. The current Convent of San José (Las Teresas) is not the original one founded by the saint. It was transferred there later on, and Saint John of the Cross took part in this transfer. It is in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, near the Real Alcázar palace. Inside you can find several relics, like the only portrait that was made of the saint while she was alive, and the original manuscript of her work "The Mansions". Saint Teresa's influence on Seville can also be found in La Cartuja Monastery and the Castle of San Jorge, which was the Inquisition Tribunal back then.
DAY 5 - Beas de Segura
How to get there: Beas de Segura is situated in Sierra de Segura Mountains, in the province of Jaén, about four hours from Seville. You will discover a town full of white houses set in the typical landscape of Jaén, dotted with olive trees. The Saint described the city as "delightful with a fine climate". The Convent of San José del Salvador was the first that Saint Teresa of Ávila founded in Andalusia. Inside there are important relics of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa. The town's Visitor Centre is also worth a visit, as there is a space with information on both the saints.
DAY 6 - Malagón & Toledo
How to get there: Malagón is in the province of Ciudad Real (Castile-La Mancha), about 185 kilometres from Beas de Segura. It only takes an hour by car to get to Toledo from there. The convent in Malagón was the third one Saint Teresa founded. The altarpiece on the high altar stands out, and it is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the Spanish late Baroque style. You can arrive in Toledo, a World Heritage City, in the afternoon and go for a walk round the historic quarter.
DAY 7 - Toledo
The southern route of the Footsteps of Saint Teresa finishes in Toledo, which has excellent transport links to Madrid by train (about half an hour) or by car (about an hour).
A place to relax
Saint Teresa of Ávila spent quite a lot of time resting in Toledo. She founded her fifth convent in the Jewish quarter in 1569. A year later it was moved to its current location in the square named after the saint, very close to El Cambrón Gate. It is said that Saint Teresa wrote most of her literary works in Toledo. For example, here she continued writing "The Book of Her Life", and she started her popular book "The Mansions". Saint Teresa first arrived in Toledo in 1562, when she was sent to assist an important lady in the city. Back then she lived in Mesa Palace, which today houses the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and Historic Sciences of Toledo.
Tips and interesting facts
- There is a Pilgrim's Passport that you can get if you cover the route. You only have to visit a minimum of four cities in at least two Autonomous Regions (choose from Andalusia, Murcia, Castile-La Mancha, Madrid and Castile-León), and finish your route in Avila, where you can collect your distinction at the Pilgrim's Office (Visitor Reception Centre). You can download the passport here. This route takes you to the regions of Castile-La Mancha, Murcia and Andalusia. To get the Pilgrim's Passport you have to travel to Ávila and show stamps from at least three other cities. Ávila is less than two hours from Toledo.
- Bear in mind that many of the monasteries and convents are cloistered and the places to visit may be limited.
- There is a wide range of tourism companies and travel agencies that organise tours of the "Footsteps of Saint Teresa" cities.
How to get there and get around
You can travel by car but bear in mind that some of the journeys take around three hours. For more information, check the sections on "Driving in Spain" and "Transport" . Madrid Airport, where the route starts, has air connections with cities all over the world. The southern route includes an important international airport – Seville – and another one with domestic flights – Granada. If you decide to travel by train, there is an interesting option for foreigners: the Renfe Spain Pass, a pass with 4 to 12 train journeys on high-speed and mid-distance trains. It includes free short-distance connections.
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