The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is surely the most famous literary work to come out of Spain. When Miguel de Cervantes was writing it, I doubt that he had any idea that he was composing a piece that would be known throughout the world 400 years after his death.
The story of a chivalrous madman, Don Quixote, and his simple peasant sidekick Sancho Panza, sees them ride through La Mancha engaged in crazy adventures. The best known of their exploits is tilting at windmills where the hero of the story believes humble windmills to be evil giants.
You will need a car to go chasing after the giants yourself. The windmills which so inspired Cervantes are spread far and wide around La Mancha, but these four sites will certainly sate your appetite for chasing Don Quixote around the plains.
Consuegra is possibly the most visited of the windmill locations. Set high on a hill above the town, they are signposted once you get there but you have to keep a keen eye out as you snake through the streets. 12 windmills and a castle can be found on top of Cerro Calderico and they can easily be seen from miles around. Park at the bottom and walk up, but if you are there for sunset remember to take a torch with you for the way down! You can drive all the way up but we only discovered that after walking!! The first restored windmill you reach, Bolero, is open for visitors for a small fee and doubles as a tourist information office. There you can see how windmills work, producing flour harnessing the power of the wind.
Alcázar de San Juan
We only stayed in Alcázar de San Juan because it was so much cheaper than staying in Consuegra. It turned out to be a great location, and the windmills on the edge of town seem to be scarcely visited. Indeed, we had the hill to ourselves as we marvelled over just how flat the plains of La Mancha are. There are four windmills to admire and when the air is crisp and clear, the whole world seems to open up before you.
Campo de Criptana
When you reach the outskirts of Campo de Criptana, you know that you are in Don Quixote country. Even the roundabouts have quixotic imagery to enchant you. It’s worth pulling over to admire the statues but they haven’t exactly made it easy for pedestrians to get a good view.
10 windmills wait for you on the Sierra de Molinos but the signs take you on a less than direct route to them. It would be easy to get lost without them though, so keep your eyes peeled. It is a glorious sight when you get to the top, as long as a busload of tourists hasn’t just arrived. Luckily for us they were just leaving and tranquillity was soon restored to the hilltops. Just wandering among the giants was a pleasure, and the tourist information office inside one of the windmills was very helpful. If mother nature calls, there are welcome facilities just below that windmill. leave the hilltop behind and go exploring the whitewashed (with sky blue trim) streets. The rewards are plentiful with views that those tourists on the bus will never have had.
Mota del Cuervo
Just when we thought we’d seen enough windmills, our route home took us past yet more of them! Mota del Cuervo bills itself as the balcony of La Mancha. It was a very pleasant unexpected bonus as once again we had the windmills to ourselves. A further bonus was the collection of metal structures of figures from Cervantes’ greatest work which made great additions to the photos.
Perhaps you would like to explore Don Quixote country further. There are TEN routes in total, and you can download a guide here, but it is only available in Spanish.
“Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is nobel, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth.”
“What giants?” Asked Sancho Panza.
“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”
“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”
“Obviously,” replied Don Quijote, “you don’t know much about adventures.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote