Monastery of Santa María la Real de Huerta.

© Juan Carlos fotografia/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Santa María de la Huerta

Castilla y León

This wonderful Cistercian monastery 27km northeast of Medinaceli was founded in 1162, expropriated in 1835, then restored to the order in 1930; 20 Cistercians are now in residence. Before entering the monastery, note the church's impressive 12th-century facade, with its magnificent rose window. Inside the monastery, the Claustro de los Caballeros is the more beautiful of the two cloisters. Off it is the spare yet gorgeous refectorio (dining hall); built in the 13th century, it's notable for the absence of columns to support its vault.

The cloister itself is Spanish-Gothic in style, although the medallions on the 2nd floor, bearing coats of arms and assorted illustrious busts – such as that of Christopher Columbus – are a successful plateresque touch. In the vaults next to the cloister is a Spanish-language audio-visual display that touches on the history of the monastery but is more interesting as a window onto the lives of these cloistered monks. Next door is the unusual kitchen with its multi-storey-high chimney.

Up to two buses daily connect the village with Soria (80 minutes, €6.75). There are no services on Sunday.

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