Castillo de Calatrava la Nueva

Top choice in Castilla-La Mancha

This magnificent castle-monastery looms high in the sky some 35km south of Almagro, from where it once controlled the path into the Sierra Morena and Andalucía. A steep cobbled road takes you to the top, where you can alternate gazing at expansive views with exploring this extraordinary castle-cum-monastery in closer detail. Highlights include the vast basilica, a lofty watch tower and the grinding mill, which was turned by horses (the original drinking troughs are also present).

The chapter hall has fragments of 13th-century murals (two horsemen jousting) but remains closed for long-term restoration.

The complex was once headquarters for the Calatrava Knights, Spain’s oldest military order, founded in 1158 to challenge Moorish power in Iberia. Their original base was Calatrava La Vieja, located 60km to the north, a castle twice snatched audaciously from the Moors. As the Christians pushed further into Moorish territory following Alfonso VIII’s victory in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, the Calatrava Knights commissioned this newer citadel in 1217 built using the labour of prisoners caught in the battle.

On weekends, a guided tour in Spanish (included in the price) is offered at 11.30am on Saturday and 6pm on Sunday (4.15pm from October to March).

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