Ayna is a small village about an hour’s drive south of Albacete. It really is Castile – La Mancha’s Switzerland if you believe the signposting you see everywhere. Its ever declining population of less than a thousand inhabitants is spread along the northern banks of a steep valley formed by the Rio Mundo, but don’t be fooled by its size. It is a truly stunning location and it is hardly surprising that its numbers swell over weekends and holidays.
Beautiful topography was not what brought us to Ayna though. Some time ago we were watching a travel programme on Spanish TV and the village was featured. They kept going on about a film that was made there. Amanace, que no es poco (Sunrise, no small thing) was a slapstick comedy released in 1989. It’s only in Spanish and I have looked hard for a subtitled version to no avail. All around the village there are screenshots outside people’s houses with pictures of the children who were in the film. There are also a few scenes from the film recreated such as a motorcycle and sidecar, and a photo opportunity where you too can be the man in the butternut squash field! Other scenes were filmed in Liétor and Molinicos, and both are a picturesque morning out.
Of course, with such stunning scenery all around you, don’t forget your hiking boots. The views from the Mirador del Diablo, as you come down the mountains from the north, are truly breathtaking. The valley floor is an easier walk though, and we loved the mixture of Mother Nature’s creations alongside man’s vegetable patches! The roads are also popular with cyclists and motorbikes so there really is something for everyone.
Whether exploring the town or the valley, there are wonderful sights everywhere. Alongside the river we stumbled across lots of dragonflies who sat still for the camera. We never did see any trout or otters in the water though, but signs suggest they are there. Don’t forget to call into the church either. The altar is beautiful.
As usual, you can track the route we walked on Strava!
We stayed in the wonderful Miralmundo Hostal Rural which, despite its name, is very much a hotel. Everyone there was so friendly and helpful, and we even left with a copy of the film to watch. We will get around to it soon! Juan Ángel and Carolina, both grown up now, were children in the film and their pictures are proudly displayed outside. The views from our room were amazing, and the breakfast room has similar vistas. Their parents were really nice too, and their father produced a huge cut-out for a photo opportunity!
For a hotel with a swimming pool and an incredible terrace (perfect for lunch, dinner, or just a drink!) head to the Hotel Felipe II. We couldn’t get in there as they were full, but it all turned out well in the end. The big problem is that many of the handful of bars and restaurants in Ayna are only open on weekends and holidays. On the Saturday we couldn’t get in anywhere for dinner. Absolutely every table in the entire village was reserved. Even our pleas that we could be done and dusted in time for a 10pm reservation to take their table fell on deaf ears. Carolina at the hostal got straight on the phone to her friend in nearby La Dehesa, a ten minute drive with NO lighting on the roads) and we were soon feasting on freshly cooked local delights. If you are going to stay in Ayna at the weekend, it may be an idea to book ahead somewhere!
That’s not all, either. Time your visit right (surprise, surprise, we didn’t!) and there are guided tours available from the tourist information office. It would have been nice to have seen the cave paintings in the Cueva del Niño, so if you get around to doing this, please share the experience with us.
I’ll confess now that throughout this blog I have been using the wrong spelling of Ayna. It should in fact be Aýna. Can you see the difference?! The Real Academia Española, who control the Spanish language, have said that the name of this beautiful mountain town must be written with an accent on the letter Y and to pronounce it as a trisyllable word. That means we have been pronouncing it wrong too! They say that the word Aýna is a “precious orthographic archaism”, since its letter y is nothing but a leftover from the old Castilian spelling, in which its use is similar to the letter i (Ygnacio, Ysabel, reyno, etc.) . Therefore, Aýna must be written with an accent even if it is written entirely with capital letters (AÝNA), since the spelling standards of the Spanish language have never allowed, nor do they allow, to omit the accent in words written with capital letters that must carry it. There you have it! Them’s the rules and who are we to say differently. Finding ý on a UK keyboard is a different matter though. Luckily on a Spanish keyboard it is straightforward – just hit the apostrophe key followed by the y!! Aýna is possibly the only Spanish word with this. Correct me if I’m wrong!