The Way of El Cid: 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 into the interior of the country, passing through the lands of Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Aragón 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. 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.Click any of the 5 links below for more detailed information on each of the main sections.
The Way of El Cid. 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.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.
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 La Exposición bridge. Following the route you will continue on to places such as Alzira and Xàtiva, both home to an interesting historic centre with a number of monuments (palaces, churches, fountains and more).Ontinyent and Bocairent are also on the list of places worth stopping to see. 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, whose streets 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 interesting facts
- 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. Here you can find more information on how to get it.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, cycling on asphalt, etc.).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!