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December 20, 2018

Spain: Cuenca

Cuenca’s lower town

Roughly two hours by car to the east of Madrid Spain, the historic fortified city of Cuenca sits on a rocky spine above the Jucar and Huécar rivers. Spanish countryside is not always attractive, but this area of the country, particularly with the changing fall colors, is appealing. It’s a relaxing drive from Zaragoza, save the last section of twisty, difficult to navigate roads climbing up into the old town. Hill towns are generally not easy to drive in.

In 714 the Moors expanded north into the lower Erbo Valley and added the territory around present day Cuenca to the Caliphate of Cordoba. Recognizing the value of Cuenca’s location as a defensive position the Moors built a fortified city. The fortified city, Kunka, remained under Moorish control until the area was conquered by the Castilians during the Reconquista in the 12th century. Now part of Spain Cuenca became a royal town and bishopric. Several important buildings, including Spain’s first Gothic cathedral were constructed.

Cuenca’s cathedral

Dominican convent of Saint Paul

Today Cuenca is atmospheric. It is an unusually well preserved example of a medieval fortified city. Though it is popular with tourists the remote location keeps the numbers down.

In 1996 UNESCO inscribed the “Historic Walled Town of Cuenca” on its World Heritage list. The UNESCO listing usually comes with funding for restoration and preservation. The funds are a great boon to places like Cuenca and to the tourist who visit.


We stopped in Cuenca for two nights in early November 2017.

Inside the cathedral

Details of the ceiling vaulting

Gorge of the Huécar River

St. Paul Bridge

Hanging houses

An aisle in the cathedral

Looking up in the cathedral

Convento de San Pablo

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