If you like cultural trips, nothing is more authentic than planning a route based on Don Quixote. An itinerary in which to learn about the importance of Cervantes’ work, in which to remember the adventures lived by ‘the ingenious hidalgo’ and in which to get a little closer to its own author. But covering so much is not easy, so here we propose an option that brings together a little of everything so that you can set up your own Don Quixote Route, adapted to your ideal travel plan.
On the one hand, you can take a route to get to know Cervantes better, starting in Alcalá de Henares and ending in the fields of La Mancha. And on the other, visit some of the places where the adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza could have taken place. If you manage to combine one with another, the quixotic immersion will already be total.
Where to meet Cervantes, to meet Don Quixote
Perhaps, for many, the best way to approach Don Quixote is to start by getting to know its own author. And that means that this route has an indisputable starting point: Alcalá de Henares, birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes. There, in addition to passing through the square that bears his name and getting to know his University, it is essential to visit the Cervantes Birthplace Museum. From there we could go to Madrid, as there is evidence that the Church and Convent of the Trinitarias Descalzas de San Ildefonso is where Cervantes and his wife, Catalina de Salazar y Palacios, are buried. The Cervantes Society, also in the capital, is located where the first edition of Don Quixote was printed in 1605.
If we continue on our journey we will arrive at Esquivias, in Toledo, as it is the place where Catalina de Salazar y Palacios was born, where they married in 1584 and where they lived for a while. Here today you can visit the House of Cervantes. Without leaving the province we have Consuegra, where a good number of mills will remind us of Don Quixote’s adventures with the giants. Already in Alcazar de San Juan, in the province of Ciudad Real, you have at your disposal the Hidalgo House Museum and the Cervantino Interpretation Center. Less than half an hour by car is El Toboso, where you will find the House-Museum of Dulcinea del Toboso, which recreates a 16th-century manchego mansion, and the Cervantino Museum, where copies of the work are kept in up to 70 different languages. In the city of Ciudad Real itself, there is also the Don Quixote Museum – Cervantes Library.
Without leaving the province we also have Argamasilla de Alba, where the Medrano Cave is preserved in the Casa de Medrano, a place where Cervantes was imprisoned and, according to legend, began to write the adventures of Don Quixote. Although other theories also say that he started it in the Royal Prison of Seville, where he also spent a few months in 1597.
In the footsteps of Don Quixote de la Mancha
It is not easy to mark a single Don Quixote Route because, how could it be otherwise, the locations of the work move between reality and fiction. The itineraries followed by Alonso Quijano and Sancho have always been one of the great mysteries that came out of Cervantes’ fantasy, but the studies carried out over all these years have made it clear that there are several unavoidable points in the geography of La Mancha if we want to follow in the footsteps of the ‘gentleman of the sad figure’.
It was never clear what was that place in La Mancha whose name Cervantes did not want to remember, and although possibilities such as Quintanar de la Orden, Esquivias, Argamasilla de Calatrava or Villanueva de los Infantes are considered, the winning bet according to experts is Argamasilla de Alba , in Royal City. So taking that point as the starting point and taking into account the three departures that Don Quixote made, the first alone and the next two with his squire Sancho Panza, we can review some scenarios that could witness his adventures.
To mention a few, and thus know where to go to follow in the footsteps of Don Quixote, places of the first exit should not be missing such as Manzanares, in the vicinity of which he was knighted, Membrilla or La Solana. In the second departure between Argamasilla, Villarta de San Juan and Puerto Lápice, the ‘Windmill Adventure’, and then his itinerary continued through Villarrubia de los Ojos (Tablas de Daimiel), Malagón, Daimiel, Peralvillo, Ciudad Real and Miguelturra. The ‘Adventure with the barber, from whom he stole Mambrino’s helmet’, took place between Almagro and Bolaños de Calatrava, and later continued through places such as Valdepeñas, Almuradiel, Venta de Cárdenas, Castellar de Santiago, La Torre de Juan Abad and Villanueva of the Infants.
Already in the third exit, starting again from Argamasilla de Alba, we would pass through Tomelloso and Alcázar de San Juan, Campo de Criptana, Miguel Esteban and we would arrive at El Toboso, where Don Quixote lives the ‘Adventure of the villagers and find enchanted Dulcinea’. We could continue through Hinojosos, La Osa de la Vega, Belmonte, Villarobledo, Osa de Montiel, Ruidera, Socuéllamos, Las Pedroñeras and San Clemente. Although we must not forget that Don Quixote traveled to the Kingdom of Aragon and even reached Barcelona, where he was defeated by the Knight of the White Moon, from where he returned to his village shortly before he died. To delve into his entire itinerary, you can consult the Don Quixote Route website carried out by Tourism of Castilla-La Mancha.