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The Way of El Cid

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On the quest of an 11th-century knight

Have you heard of ‘The Song of El Cid’? It is a famous Spanish poem from the 12th century that tells the story of the legendary knight Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, 'El Cid Campeador', or Cid the Outstanding Warrior. We suggest reliving his adventures in an exciting way: by travelling to Spain and following the route that appears in the book itself. The idea is that you follow a tourist and cultural route that brings you to eastern inland Spain, passing through the lands of Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Aragon and the Region of Valencia.World Heritage sites await you in this itinerary, as well as examples of Romanesque, Mozarabic, Moorish, Islamic and Gothic art and more than 70 protected natural areas. Although they are actually interconnected routes between 50 and 300 kilometres, together they total 2,000 kilometres of roads and 1,400 kilometres of marked trails. Below you will find more detailed information on each of the main sections:

First section: Exile

The 'Song of El Mío Cid' tells of El Cid's exile in 1088, at the hands of King Alfonso VI. Accompanied by his family and a handful of loyal knights, he abandoned Castile. This first part of the route along the Way of El Cid covers the journey made by the famous knight from Vivar del Cid (Burgos) to the town of Atienza (Guadalajara).

 

Distance:340km Journey: By car / Duration: 4 days Journey: Walking / Duration: 15 days Journey: Bicycle / Duration: 5 days

This section passes through the provinces of Burgos, Soria and Guadalajara. It covers 341 kilometres by road and 285 kilometres along paths divided into different stages. If you are travelling by car, we recommend taking four days to visit the sites at your own pace. The option for walkers takes about 15 days, and five for cyclists.The route begins at the birthplace of the protagonist, Vivar del Cid. You will cross landscapes of fields, mountains and forests, and discover historic towns and villages and important heritage buildings. Visit the tourist offices in each location so that you don't miss a thing.

Statue of El Cid in Burgos

Interesting places

Burgos is worth stopping off in. The remains of El Cid and his wife, Lady Jimena, are found in the Cathedral, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, there are many other monuments to see in this city, including the church of San Nicolás and the Monastery of las Huelgas Further along, don't miss the Monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña where El Cid left his wife and his daughters when he went into exile.After passing Covarrubias, you can go in search of another must-see religious complex, the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, a congregation to which El Cid donated some land. Its famous cloister is a genuine treasure of Romanesque architecture. The churches of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Castillejo de Robledo, with its wall paintings, and San Miguel and Nuestra Señora del Rivero in San Esteban de Gormaz are also Romanesque.Before arriving at Gormaz, home to the caliphate castle where El Cid was governor, you should stop in El Burgo de Osma to visit its Gothic cathedral and its old town centre. Berlanga de Duero is another notable town on the route of El Cid - King Alfonso VI made him its feudal overlord in 1089. Its attractions include a castle with a Renaissance layout, and a collegiate church.The final stop of this section is also quite interesting: Atienza. Its streets are lined with noble houses and Romanesque and Gothic churches. There are also outstanding views to be had from the castle.

Calle de Atienza, Guadalajara

Second section: Borderlands

The second section of the route continues through locations that once formed the border between the Muslim and Christian domains. This was the land from which sprang the legend of the warrior known as El Cid Campeador. It begins in Atienza (Guadalajara) and ends in Ateca (Zaragoza).

Distance:267km Journey: By car / Duration: 3 days Journey: Walking / Duration: 12 days Journey: Bicycle / Duration: 6 days

The route is 267 kilometres long, both along roads and trails, without counting the Algarada de Álvar Fáñez branch, which is an additional 80 kilometres, going from Villaseca de Henares to the city of Guadalajara. To enjoy it at a leisurely pace we recommend taking three days if travelling by car. Those wishing to do the stages on foot should leave 12 days, while cyclists will need six days.Along this route you'll discover castles from various periods, small charming villages and examples of Romanesque, Mudéjar and Islamic art, sometimes in the same place, reflecting the changing frontiers of the area. Visit the tourist offices in each place to make sure you see everything worth seeing.The landscape you observe is marked by diversity and contrasts: from the Guadalajara Mountain Range we go to the Barranco de Río Lobo Natural Park or the lunar landscape of the Vega del Jalón.

Statue of El Cid on the Way of El Cid

Interesting places

In Jadraque there are 17th and 18th century mansions, a castle known as Castillo del Cid, and a church with a painting by Zurbarán and a sculpture by Pedro de Mena. Another impressive fortress is that of Sigüenza, which has been converted into a Parador hotel. You can also visit its Cathedral to see the tomb of Martín Vázquez de Arce, a famous nobleman of Sigüenza.As you pass through Anguita, note its striking watchtower of Islamic origin, known as the Tower of the La Cigüeña. In Medinaceli you will find the remains of another fortress, as well as the only Roman arch in Spain with three openings, and historic buildings such as the Ducal Palace and the Collegiate Church of Nuestra Señora.Santa María de Huerta and its Cistercian monastery is another site not to be missed. Here you can admire the mingling of architectural styles in the cloister, and the refectory vault. En route to Ateca, the end point of the route's second section, you will find Alhama de Aragón, famous for its thermal waters. From here it’s worth taking a detour to Monasterio de Piedra, about 20 kilometres away, a monastery in a beautiful natural setting with many waterfalls.

Monasterio de Piedra, Zaragoza

Third section: The three 'taifas'

El Cid succeeded in raising a substantial and numerous army, which moved freely about the area of the taifas (Arab kingdoms) of Toledo, Zaragoza and Albarracín. The third section runs between the towns of Ateca (Zaragoza) and Cella (Teruel), and passes through villages which were once part of these territories.

Distance:322km Journey: By car / Duration: 3 days Journey: Walking / Duration: 13 days Journey: Bicycle / Duration: 6 days

The itinerary of this third section of the Way of El Cid passes through the provinces of Zaragoza, Guadalajara and Teruel. It has 289 kilometres of trails in different stages (13 days on foot, 6 days by bike); while the route by car is 322 kilometres and takes three days at a leisurely pace.Also in this itinerary you will find two other alternative circular routes. One, the Gallocanta ring, part of the town of Daroca, is a 47-kilometre long route where you can visit the Gallocanta lake, one of the most important wetlands in Spain. The other leaves from Luco de Jiloca and is called the Montalbán ring.On the way from Ateca to Cella you will pass through the Valley of Jiloca, the region of Alto Tajo and the Albarracín mountain range. The best idea is to visit the tourist offices in each place to find out all about the activities and points of interest on offer.

Stone Bridge and Basilica of El Pilar, Zaragoza

Interesting cities

Calatayud is one of the must-see destinations of the trip. Founded in the 8th century, as well as the remains of the Islamic fortress, it is worth seeing the Mudéjar historical sites, especially the Collegiate Church of Santa María la Mayor. Further along, you should also stop in Daroca to admire its impressive walls and visit its Romanesque and Gothic palaces, churches and other buildings.Another important stop on this route is Molina de Aragón. On a quiet walk you can enjoy its rich heritage: the castle, its medieval quarter, religious buildings, stately homes and more.Following the itinerary you will arrive at another interesting spot: Albarracín. In addition to its walls and evocative historic centre, it is notable for its Roman aqueduct, connecting the town with the end of the third section of the Way of El Cid: Cella. This construction follows the road, and can even be walked on some of its stretches.

Ayub Castle in Calatayud

Fourth section: The conquest of Valencia

'Any man who wishes to come with me to lay siege to Valencia… I will wait for him for three days at the Cella canal'. According to the Song of El Cid, Cella was the place chosen by the famous knight to gather an army with which to conquer the city of Valencia. This fourth section of the Way of El Cid recreates that adventure which began in Cella (Teruel) and ended with the taking of Valencia.

Distance:228km Journey: By car / Duration: 3 days Journey: Walking / Duration: 12 days Journey: Bicycle / Duration: 5 days

It is 245 kilometres by trail or 228 kilometres by road. At a leisurely pace it takes 12 days on foot, five days by bike, and three days by car. For information about all the activities available in the area, the best idea is to visit the tourist offices in each place.There are also two alternative circular routes: the rings of El Maestrazgo and Morella. The first runs through the region of El Maestrazgo, between the towns of Rubielos de Mora (Teruel) and Montanejos (Castellón); and the second starts in La Iglesuela del Cid and passes through Morella. You'll also find the Castellón branch, between Sagunto and Castellón de la Plana: a stretch of 48 kilometres following the defensive line established by El Cid along the Mediterranean coast to protect the city of Valencia.

Milestone on the Way of El Cid

Interesting places

From Cella you can begin a route leading you through historic villages and towns steeped in mediaeval charm. An essential stop on the route is Teruel, where you can admire its Mudéjar architecture, making up a UNESCO World Heritage site with beautiful towers and churches. You should also pay a visit to the castle and the historic centre of Mora de Rubielos. The neighbouring town of Rubielos de Mora is another place well worth a visit for its picturesque noble houses and religious architecture.Further on, in Montanejos, you will have a chance to enjoy the thermal waters and its beautiful natural surroundings; and from there on to Jérica, one of the sites in the Levante region conquered by El Cid. There are still a couple of stops before reaching Valencia, the final destination of this section: Segorbe, with its cathedral, defensive walls and historic centre; and Sagunto, whose highlights include the castle grounds and the Roman theatre.

Arches in Teruel. Castle of Mora de Rubielos and Silk Exchange in Valencia

Fifth section: The defence of the south

The fifth section of the route known as the Way of El Cid takes a look at the castles and fortresses built by El Cid to defend the territory conquered in Valencia from attack by the Almorávids. The route leads you from the city of Valencia to Orihuela, the southernmost point of the area of influence of the celebrated medieval knight.

Distance:259km Journey: By car / Duration: 2 days Journey: Walking / Duration: 11 days Journey: Bicycle / Duration: 4-5 days

It goes through the provinces of Valencia and Alicante and covers a distance of 244 kilometres along trails divided into stages and 259 kilometres by road. In order to complete the route at a leisurely pace, walkers are advised to set aside 11 days. Those travelling by bike should estimate between four and five days, while motorists will need two days. It is of course a good idea to visit the various tourist offices along the way for information on all there is to see and do in each place.

Valencia

Interesting places

It starts in Valencia, the city which El Cid succeeded in conquering in 1094. Today, its rich architectural heritage (the Cathedral, the Miguelete tower, the Silk Exchange, the Central Market, etc.) is complemented by avant-garde buildings in the City of Arts and Sciences and the Exposición bridge. Following the route you will continue on to places such as Alzira and Xàtiva, each with an interesting historic centre and heritage buildings (palaces, churches, fountains and more).Ontinyent and Bocairent are also on the list of places where it is well worth making a stop. In the first you can see sites such as the charming La Villa neighbourhood, and the great bell tower of the church of Santa María. In the second you can take a pleasant stroll around its ancient medieval neighbourhood, the streets of which still display reminders of the Islamic era.During this trip you will also be amazed by the imposing turrets of the castles of Villena, Sax and Petrer. Another highlight on the route is Elche, where El Cid spent the winter of 1088. The Basilica of Santa María (every year the venue for the staging of the play 'The Mystery of Elche'), the Vila Murada and of course the Palm Grove of Elche, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, are just a few of its many attractions.Finally, Orihuela, the end of the route, not only offers the chance to enjoy this monumental town with buildings such as the Cathedral of El Salvador and the Convent of Santo Domingo, but also to visit the birthplace of the poet Miguel Hernández and see the house-museum dedicated to the writer.

Tips and recommendations

  • The Way is divided into five sections according to the different chapters narrated in ‘The Song of El Cid’.
  • You can do each section on foot (mostly along trails and rural roads), by mountain bike (also mainly along trails and rural roads), by classic bike (if you're a cyclist who prefers asphalt) or by car or motorbike (on secondary roads and some highways).
  • Please note that other small thematic routes begin from the main path. They are the so-called 'rings', with circular structures, that begin and end in the same place; and 'branches', linear paths that deviate from the route for historical reasons.
  • If you decide to do the Way of El Cid, you can obtain a credential called the Salvoconducto, on which you can receive stamps from the different towns on the route. The credential is free of charge, offers discounts on more than one hundred accommodations and, if you get more than four stamps, you can obtain the accrediting document for the Way of El Cid.
  • On the official website of the route you can also find 'topoguides' for walkers and cyclists, and georeferencing tracks for the routes by type (motorbike, hiking, mountain biking, cycle touring on roads, etc.).

When to go on the route

An interesting fact: in Burgos an El Cid weekend is organised in October. The city goes back in time to the Medieval era with open-air performances, tournaments and medieval markets, street theatre shows and more. Lots of fun!

What to do

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