Madrid Day Trips: Walking & Hiking in Cuenca

Skip the town, head to the trails

One drizzly day in Spain, we decided to drive to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cuenca from Madrid. I wish I knew then what I knew now, otherwise we wouldn’t have wasted time walking aimlessly around the pueblo. Of course when we got there (around lunch time), the Oficina de Turismo was closed. We had no idea where to go or what to eat, so we just winged it… never a good idea unless you have a lot of time and money on your hands.

As you might have noticed, it’s not that easy to find comprehensive English guides as to walks / hikes in Spain, so I hope this helps you avoid making the same mistakes we made.

See: Easy Hikes from Madrid – La Pedriza

Cuenca’s town isn’t the liveliest in Spain, but the natural beauty of the area is breathtaking

Cuenca is situated between Madrid and Valencia, in the third least populated region in Europe. The town itself is a world heritage site, built on the steep sides of a mountain.  (Wiki)

The many casas colgadas (“hanging houses”) are built right up to the cliff edge, making Cuenca one of the most striking towns in Spain

Oficina De Turismo

Get oriented. The office is right by Plaza Mayor and Los Arcos (the arches) – near the Cuenca Cathedral. Beware the siesta.

Plaza Mayor, Los Arcos (the arches) on the right
Cuenca Cathedral

Where to park

We made the mistake of driving up extremely tight and steep cobblestoned streets up to the Parador de Turismo and Las Casas Colgadas. Unless you a) have complete and absolute control of your car, or b) don’t care about your car at all, park at Calle Larga, across the Muralla (old wall) and Ruinas del Castillo de Cuenca (castle ruins). Do everything else on foot / public transportation.

Alternatively, you can take a bus (2 hours) or train from Madrid (1-3 hours depending on how fast your train is).

Cuenca is located across a steep spur, whose slopes descend into deep gorges of the Júcar and Huécar rivers

Where to eat

Right across the parking – which incidentally has fantastic views of the canyon –  are modern Spanish restaurants with spectacular vistas. To name some: El Panorámico, Mesón El Caserío, Asador María Morena.

We ate around Plaza Mayor, but the traditional restaurants there felt uneasily like tourist trap ripoffs 😦

Get on the trails

We didn’t know any better, so we did the short path from the Parador de Turismo to Mirador Cerro Socorro, the giant crucifix and statue of Jesus up on the hill, overlooking the old quarters.

Signposts, at least
Parador Nacional de Turismo, Cuenca

If you want a lengthier and more scenic hike, however, you should start from where I told you to park on Calle Larga and take the circular Ruta de la Hoz del Júcar y San Julián (7 kilometres).

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 4.21.22 PM.png

Park and eat around Calle Larga, Cuenca
The sun sets across the deep gorges of the Júcar and Huécar rivers

When the Muslim Arabs captured the area in 714, they soon realized the value of this strategic location and they built a fortress (called Kunka) surrounded by a 1 km-long wall. (Wiki)

There are many walks to explore from here
Another suggested trail (senda/sendero)

Don’t miss:

  • Puente de San Pablo (Bridge of Saint Paul)


Maybe someday I’ll get to return and do the hikes I was unable to do last time. I really hope this helps you enjoy Cuenca! Let me know how it goes 😉

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