Google Cuenca and you'll find a page of entries about the Ecuadorian capital, but on my short trip to Spain I discovered a different Cuenca - one that's highly underrated!
Standing proudly over two deep river gorges, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is an unusually well-preserved medieval fortified city built by the Moors in the 8th Century. UNESCO world Heritage Site? So why haven't you heard of it? Bloody good question actually!
Roman ruins, gothic towers, impressive cathedrals, delicious restaurants and hanging houses - there's a lot going for Cuenca - perched halfway between Madrid and Valencia, it's a fascinating place to spend a day or two.
You want to drive straight through the "new town" and continue up hill to the old town - cobblestone streets will signal your arrival and soon you'll find yourself atop a craggy cliff edge. You've made it. I met up with my parents at the city's Parador - an old monastery converted into a fairly fancy hotel (one of a chain of hotels in Spain, off of which boast either a historical or architectural story - each one of them different and worth checking out).
If you're not staying at the Parador, it's worth a visit from the old town, if not only for it's main access - an old bridge suspended high above the river below making, it's a small thrill for anyone even mildly scared of heights!
The view to the other side is something out a fairytale. Do tourists in little cities get any cuter?
Crossing the bridge, you'll see the hanging houses straight away. They're actually what gave Cuenca it's UNESCO status - there were quite a few of these house along the border of the old walled city. Today, however, there are only a few of them remaining and the three most well known welcome you into the old city.
We spent our short stay wandering the narrow streets, marvelling at the old architecture and dramatic natural landscape surrounding it - stopping every so often for a glass of "tinto di verano" (like sangria but not as sweet and just generally better - ideal if it's a bit toooo early for a glass of wine, like 11am. No judging. You're in Spain AND on holiday.)
The Cathedral is a show stopper. It blows my mind that places like this exist in Europe - hardly anyone knows about them, yet they're only an hour away from major cities and have riches like this:
I caught the train from Madrid to Cuenca - it took 1 hour and I upgraded to first class for an extra 2 euros and was served a full breakfast. Tickets are as cheap as 9 euros if you book far enough in advance and go for up to 35 on the day. Taxi's from the station to the old town are approximately 10 euros. It's a really comfortable and easy journey and I cannot recommend it enough! Whether you're visiting Madrid alone or you're travelling from Madrid to Valencia add it to your itinerary and let me know what you think!