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  • Castles, palaces and windmills of Castile

    Parque del Retiro, Madrid

    Madrid Palace

    Hotel Villa Real Madrid

    Hotel Villa Real Madrid

    Hotel Villa Real Madrid

    Segovia Alcazar

    Segovia Aqueduct


    Palacio San Facundo

    Palacio San Facundo


    Parador de Avila


    Parador de Toledo

    Parador de Cuenca

    Parador de Cuenca

    Parador de Cuenca

    Castles, Palaces, and Windmills of Castile

    Fly-drive Tour - 7 nights and 8 days
    Take in some of the famous sights of central Spain with this short touring holiday, which allows you to discover Madrid, as well as four more towns and cities which are only a short distance away from the capital.

    Begin this luxury tour with a two-night stay in Madrid. With the contemporary Hotel Villa Real Madrid as your base, venture out to explore the many palaces and impressive buildings of Madrid, sampling the artistic treasures as you go. Next, drive on to Segovia and the Palacio San Facundo, and begin your investigation into the Castile Castles in earnest. Such imposing, but beautiful structures, as the royal El Escorial, the fairy-tale Alcázar, and the red-brick Coca Castle await. Your next stop is the Parador de Ávila, from where you will be in prime position to begin appreciating the famous Mudéjar architecture, as well as the outstandingly well-preserved mediaeval town walls. Take this opportunity to also visit Salamanca, the capital of the region. Your fourth stop on this touring holiday is the Parador de Toledo. This impressive city, hemmed in by the winding waters of the River Tajo, is home to a vast array of multicultural monuments. Trace the city’s history via the keyhole archways of its Arabic buildings, and the old Moorish town walls and Alcántara Bridge. Finally, move on to the Parador de Cuenca, just a short distance from the enchanting Ciudad Encantada, where the rock formations seem to resemble a living, breathing town. Nearby, Consuegra introduces you to the windmills of this tour: the very same mentioned in Miguel de Cervantes’ ‘Don Quixote'. Return to Madrid on your final day for your return flight to London.
    Click here to download a pdf with details about this touring holiday.

    Prices start at £1,540 per person.

    What’s included:
    • Scheduled flights with British Airways, from London to Madrid return
    • Group C car hire for 6 days
    • 2 nights bed and breakfast in a Double Room at the Hotel Villa Real Madrid
    • 2 nights bed and breakfast in a Double Room at the Palacio San Facundo in Segovia
    • 1 night bed and breakfast in a Double Room at the Parador de Ávila
    • 1 night bed and breakfast in a Double Room at the Parador de Toledo
    • 1 night bed and breakfast in a Double Room at the Parador de Cuenca

    Click the tabs above to view our suggested day-by-day touring itinerary and to find out more about the hotels featured.
    Click here to find out more about how our touring holidays work.

    Castles, Palaces, and Windmills of Castile

    Day-by-Day Itinerary

    DAY ONE: Arrive in Madrid, and spend two nights at the Hotel Villa Real Madrid
    Begin your touring holiday by flying into Madrid, where you stay for two nights at the five-star Hotel Villa Real Madrid, located alongside the the Plaza de las Cortes. The next two days in Madrid give you plenty of time to explore the city, with its many attractive plaza and museums.

    DAY TWO: Madrid
    Three world class art galleries adorn the streets of Madrid: the Prado, which exhibits pieces by the likes of Goya, Rubens, and Murillo, and specialises in art from between the 12th and 19th century; the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which is one of the best private collections of 13th to 20th century works, housing the works of Goya, Degas, Renoir, and Kandinsky, and must be booked in advance; and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia which specialises in 20th and 21st century works, and houses Picasso’s ‘Guernica,’ along with an abstract film created by Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel. In Old Madrid, visit the Plaza Mayor, the arcaded square at the centre of the city, and the Palacio Real de Madrid, considered to be the official residence of the royal family. This palace is often open to visitors, allowing you to observe the expertly crafted Spanish marble, the stucco carvings, the frescoes painted by Giaquinto, Tiepolo, and Bayeu, and explore the Royal Armoury and the Royal Pharmacy. Outside the palace, the Plaza de Oriente is lined with statues of the Gothic Kings. You may want to visit the palace in the evening, though interior tours are only available in the day, to see the dramatic lighting that turns the intricately designed and dynamic palace to gold when the sun sets. Perhaps also visit the Real Basílica de San Francisco el Grande, known for possessing one of the most impressive domes in Spain. Its circular central chamber glows golden, with atmospheric lighting that seems to take you back in time, though the domed ceiling is painted with beautiful blue and green scenes. Less than three-quarters of an hour north of Madrid is the Castle of the Mendoza, otherwise known as the Castle of Manzanares El Real, believed to be one of the most beautiful castles in Spain. Appearing quite traditional in design, with an essentially square shape and circular towers at each corner, this castle is one of the last remaining, but best examples, of Castilian military architecture, and dates back to the 15th century. Built over six storeys, and with a central courtyard, there is a lot to explore. The Gothic Gallery on the first floor is considered to be one of the most remarkable and rewarding in Spain. The Hotel Villa Real Madrid is a wonderfully elegant property, housed within a 19th century property, but with a unique blend of old-world and present-day style. On your two evenings in Madrid, either locate one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants in the city, or dine at the gastronomic East 47 Restaurant, named after Andy Warhol's New York stdudio, back at your hotel. Either dine inside surrounded by pop art prints and contemporary Spanish art, or on the terrace overlooking the square.

    DAY THREE: Collect your hire car and drive north to Segovia, where you will spend two nights
    In the morning of your third day, collect your hire-car and drive northwards towards Segovia, visiting the imposing El Escorial en route. This vast castle complex is a stunning site among the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, and consists of a Royal Pantheon, a monastery, a royal palace and a library. The interior, just as much as the formidable alabaster exterior, is defined by the attention to detail in its design and decoration. Each room is unendingly aesthetically pleasing, with arched ceilings adorned with frescoes, and walls covered by dark wood bookcases. After arriving in Segovia, check into the Palacio San Facundo for two nights, a centrally located hotel with an unassuming exterior that hides elegant bedrooms.

    DAY FOUR: Segovia
    Segovia is a beautiful city whose old quarter is a World Heritage Site, as is the spectacular Roman Aqueduct which dates back 2000 years. Another much-photographed sight in Segovia is the hill-top Alcázar, a fairy-tale fortress with pointed turrets and towers which served as inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle. Approach the Alcázar via the zigzagging pathway that leads up the rocky hillside to the building’s perch. Its unusual shape makes it perfectly suited to its environment, and also adds an element of intrigue to any visit. Navigate the labyrinth, and wander the hallways to see the informative and historic exhibits. Less than an hour northwest of Segovia is the Coca Castle. This brick built castle was once part of an important defensive square, along with the castles of Cuellar, Arevalo, and Olmedo. The outer and inner enclosures are shaped by both polygonal and semi-circular turrets on every wall and tower, giving the castle a unique aspect. Around its base, runs a 40ft deep moat. Hours can be leisurely and pleasurably passed climbing the narrow staircases that lead up to the ramparts or down to the moat, and then following the panoramic views around the circumference. Slightly further on is the Castillo de la Mota, which originally dates back to mediaeval times, but has been reconstructed more recently. This castle bears a similar imposing façade to the others mentioned on this tour, with wide towers and a shady inner courtyard. Its history is gloomy, serving as an arsenal, the Royal Archive, a school, and a prison at various points in history. Back in Segovia, visit the Cathedral. Built at the highest point in the town, this Gothic cathedral was the last one of its kind built in Spain, and dates back to the 16th century. Its watchtower is possibly its most striking feature, as it is the most immediately visible from all over Segovia. Enter the main building through one of its three main entrances, and navigate through the 23 chapels, appreciating the magnificent examples of Spanish religious art as you go. The unusual shape of the semi-circular presbytery and ambulatory aids the acoustics of the interior, and has a very pleasing effect on the tiered exterior. In the evening, take a drink in the central indoor courtyard of your 16th century noble house, before returning to the town centre for dinner.

    DAY FIVE: Drive southwest to Ávila, and stay overnight

    Perhaps, on your journey to Ávila, use this opportunity to make a detour to Coca Castle to see that outstanding example of Mudéjar architecture if you have not already. When you reach Ávila, check in to the historic Parador de Ávila, which is set amid the cobbled streets of the town centre. Spend the rest of the day in Ávila, where well-preserved mediaeval walls enclose the centre of the World Heritage City. Visitors can stroll along the ramparts and enter the cathedral, which is integrated into the distinctive colourful stonework of the town walls. On your travels around the town, you may wish to stop off at the Church of San Juan Battista, the beautifully refined Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Gracia, and the Cuatro Postes on the town’s edge, all of which are tied into Ávila’s history with St Teresa of Jesus. You will also notice the lasting influence of the Mudéjar masters, as well as the abundance of granite in the architecture of the town, which gives the Cathedral a very austere look. The Basílica of San Vicente is an example of the unique Spanish Romanesque style, with wonderfully measured grey pillars and tan brick walls. Just over an hour’s drive west will bring you to Salamanca, the capital of the Castile region, and known for its impressive sandstone architecture. Tour the surprisingly peaceful streets, from the Cathedral of two parts (the New Cathedral with its individualistic carvings and the Romanesque Old Cathedral), to the Plaza Mayor, and the Convent. Dine on refined local cuisine at the Parador de Ávila in the evening, and then relax in the warmth of the cosy rooms, which look out over the red rooftops of the town.

    DAY SIX: Drive southeast to Toledo, where you will spend one night
    Today from Ávila you drive approximately two hours southwards to Toledo, where you stay for one night at the Parador de Toledo which stands overlooking the city. Toledo is a fascinating, historic destination known as the City of Three Cultures due to the co-existence of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism which has been essential to its prosperity. Its picturesque appearance comes from its rising spire and its situation, built as it is into a wide meander of the River Tajo. The former capital of Spain, it is home to a spectacular Gothic cathedral alongside synagogues and mosques, and was the home of El Greco, a Greek painter who lived in the city in the 16th Century. The Gothic cathedral is tightly nestled in between Toledo’s narrow streets, and at ground level seems to emerge quite suddenly. It was originally built in the 13th century on the site of a Muslim mosque. Now, it houses a breath-taking interior and a rich collection of paintings by the likes of Rubens, Raphael, and Titian in its sanctuary. Visitors must enter through the Puerta de Mollete, named after the Spanish word for ‘Muffin’ because it was here that food was traditionally distributed to the poor. The 88 interior columns ensure that your first impressions of this building are striking, and the beautiful stained-glass windows, some of which date back to the 13th century, add a splash of ethereal colour. If you have more time in the cathedral, perhaps visit the marble tombs in the Capilla de Santiago, or the ‘retablo’ of New Testament scenes in the Capilla Mayor. For a taste of multicultural Toledo, spend time in the Cristo de la Luz, wandering through the keyhole archways and admiring the colourful stone, or in the Santa María la Blanca. The Iglesia de Santiago del Arrabal is one of the most stunning examples of Mudéjar architecture in the city, with dark brick and curved, indented walls; while the Puerta Vieja de Bisagra is the only remaining section of the Moorish town walls. There are too many excellent historic sights in Toledo to see in one day, so you may wish to extend your stay in order to visit the 13th century Moorish Puente de Alcántara, the Iglesia de Santo Tomé, which resembles the Minarets of Morocco, and the simple yet charming Castillo de San Servando. Before leaving Toledo, browse the damascene metalwork in one of the small shops, and pick up some of the delicious local marzipan.

    DAY SEVEN: Head east to Cuenca, and spend one night

    From Toledo it is approximately 45 minutes’ drive south to Consuegra, where you will find the iconic windmills described in Miguel de Cervantes’ stories about the fictional ’Don Quixote’. Of the white windmills which are found throughout Castile la Mancha, those that stand along the Cerro Calderico ridge are some of the best preserved. Then, drive for about two hours eastwards through the rolling countryside of La Mancha to Cuenca, where you stay at the Parador de Cuenca for one night. This luxury hotel occupies a former Dominican convent and offers its guests stunning views over the ravine. The historic centre of this World Heritage City is set on a ridge between the Júcar and Huécar river canyons, where the wooden balconies of the famous Casas Colgadas (hanging houses) appear to hang over steep cliffs. On this street, in one of the intriguing houses, you will find the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, which is one of the best in Spain. The old part of the city’s position on the promontory gives it views over the ruins of the ancient Moorish Kunka fortress, while the more modern district has begun to sprawl on the distant plain. The Cuenca Baroque style can be seen in the church and convent around the Plaza de la Merced, while the rest of the city is an eclectic mingling of architectural styles. Other points of interest within the city include the Gothic cathedral, which was built on the site of a former mosque, a number of interesting museums and the charming Plaza Mayor, on to which the arches of the Town Hall, and several cosy inns, open. The restaurant at the Parador de Cuenca is the perfect place to sample some of the region’s best cuisine on your last night in Spain. To finish off your experience of Cuenca, take an evening stroll from the bottom of the old town to the highest point in the city, passing the Church of San Miguel, the Church of San Nicolás, the Church of San Pedro, and the hermitage of the Nuestra Señora de la Angustias on your way.

    DAY EIGHT: Return northwest to Madrid for your return flight to London
    Depending on the time of your flight, it’s worth trying to incorporate a final interesting excursion to the Ciudad Encantada, or Enchanted City, just half an hour’s drive from Cuenca. This phenomenal beauty spot hidden in the depths of a canyon has been carved by water for centuries; the limestone has been eroded by ice, wind and water, leaving spectacular rock formations that resemble objects, houses, animals, and people behind. From here, allow about three hours for the drive north west to Madrid Airport, where you return your hire-car and catch your flight back to the UK.

    Driving times for this touring holiday:
    Madrid to Segovia: 2 hours 5 minutes
    Segovia to Ávila: 55 minutes
    Ávila to Toledo: 1 hour 45 minutes
    Toledo to Cuenca: 1 hour 50 minutes
    Cuenca to Madrid: 1 hour 45 minutes (2 hours 30 minutes via Consuegra)

    Click the 'Hotel Information' tab to find out more about the hotels featured in this touring itinerary.

    Castles, Palaces, and Windmills of Castile 2

    Hotel Information

    This is the variety of charming hotels that are featured in this concise touring holiday. Alternative hotels are available in some destinations – please contact us for full details.

    Hotel Villa Real Madrid

    The five-star Hotel Villa Real Madrid is a luxury hotel in a prime location in the very centre of Madrid, just walking distance from the sights of Parque del Retiro and Puerta del Sol. The building borders the triangular Plaza de las Cortes and sits opposite from the historic Congress of Deputies building. The atmosphere in this corner of the city is surprisingly peaceful. Hotel Villa Real Madrid is a classic among the luxury city centre hotels in Madrid, offering a traditional service with touches that hark back to a more stylish era. For example, each guest is welcomed to Hotel Villa Real Madrid by the doorman, who ushers guests into the welcoming atmosphere of the lobby. The hotel building itself dates back to the 19th century and interiors show a fusion of old-world and present-day style, owing to a contemporary revamp that saw the hotel upgraded from four to five stars. The lobby area for instance is furnished with sleek leather sofas, dark wood flooring and oversized windows allowing you to watch city life pass by. The eclectic combination of old and new style influences is most epitomised by the unique collection of artwork and archaeological artefacts on display in all public areas. Meanwhile, East 47 Restaurant & Bar shows a much more contemporary style; named after Andy Warhol’s New York studio, it houses a cosmopolitan vibe, with iconic pop art prints adorning the walls. This stylish venue is open to the public and accessible directly from the square itself. The menu offers guests and non-guests alike a selection of creative dishes centring on Mediterranean cuisine, while late risers will enjoy late-running breakfasts which are served until 1pm. East 47 is split over two levels and you can choose to dine on the terrace overlooking Plaza de las Cortes in order to best immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Madrid’s city centre.
    Find out more here.

    Palacio San Facundo

    At the head of a small plaza in the centre of Segovia, the four-star Palacio San Facundo might be overlooked on first glance. Yet its unassuming presence adds to the character of the property, which was once a noble mansion house and dates back to the 16th century. Just a short walk from the main square, and among the ambient back streets of the city, this is a cave of delights in which to disappear. The lobby is small but atmospheric, with high, beamed ceilings, dark wood and low lighting emphasising the intimate quality of the original room. An open space filled with light, the atrium is located at the centre of Palacio San Facundo, its glass ceiling a modern addition to what was formerly a traditional Spanish patio. This is the heart of the hotel, where age-old columns surround you while you enjoy a beverage or snack from the café. This is also the place where Palacio San Facundo most embraces a design style of old versus new, with a vibrant colour scheme and contemporary furnishings balancing against original features. There is no restaurant at the hotel, but this need not stop you from enjoying a pre-dinner drink before seeking the flavour of the night in the streets of Segovia. Palacio San Facundo offers a surprising 33 rooms and suites of varying shapes and sizes, though the standard of comfort is uniform across the board. With an accent wall adding a bright colour infusion to each room, you would be forgiven for forgetting the age of the property in which you are staying. Palacio San Facundo is an excellent four-star with a simple service, allowing you to take Segovia at your own pace.
    Find out more here.

    Parador de Ávila
    The four-star Parador de Ávila occupies delightful grounds at a privileged address within the Roman walls of the old city of Ávila in central Spain. Near the northern gateway to the old quarter, this elegant and luxurious Parador claims a wonderful plot among the jumbled rooftops, offering spacious grounds and ornamental gardens in which to wander. The historic architecture is sober from the outside, its uniform masonry speaking of the building’s origins as a noble mansion built in the early 16th century. Consisting of two main buildings and a charming courtyard, the structure is built against the Roman wall, meaning guests can step out in the early morning light for gorgeous views. You can also see the wall through from the dining room, so it is made a central feature of the Parador de Ávila experience. Within grey stone walls, interiors feature warm and comfortable reception areas. Cosy and charming, you will be surrounded by original features such as heavily beamed ceilings, ornately-carved stone walls, log fires and arched window frames holding latticed windows. Chandeliers, Catholic artwork and rich fabrics lend a regal air, while the reds and golds of the soft furnishings add a more contemporary touch. To provide comfortable and familiar surrounds, the guestrooms also embrace more modern influences to create fresh, light-filled spaces in which to rest. Restaurant Piedras Albas is where the tradition of the region is best felt through the offering of traditional Castilian cuisine such as stews and casseroles with mediaeval origins. With its collection of design influences, and its outstanding sense of space within the old Roman walls, Parador de Ávila is an excellent hotel for exploring the city.
    Find out more here. 

    Parador de Toledo
    Parador de Toledo is a 4 star converted monastery located about 4km from the centre of Toledo, separated from the city by the Tagus River and its lush banks. There is an evident sense of history in the hotel’s exposed bricks and wooden terraces humbly placed against the domed skyline of Toledo’s mosques and its tall spired cathedral. Set on the Emperador Hill, Parador de Toledo offers atmospheric views of the city that are particularly beautiful at night, earning the local name, City of Lights. There is an understated elegance about Parador de Toledo’s white washed walls and wooden beamed ceilings which retain a sense of the hotel’s monastic past. The walls act as a canvas for intricate pieces of art work and large spacious rooms contain modern, comfortable furniture. The 79 individually decorated rooms offer spacious accommodation with a neutral colour tone of creams and creams. Rooms have terraces with views of the outdoor pool and some offer four poster beds. The restaurant at Parador de Toledo places importance on local gastronomy and offers a selection of traditional dishes with venison and honey, roast lamb and pisto manchego, which is similar to ratatouille, all paired with La Mancha wine. The outdoor pool is surrounded by sun loungers where guests may swim and relax against spectacular views of Toledo. Parador de Toledo’s close proximity to the city makes an ideal location for sight-seeing excursions and trips into Toledo’s countryside.
    Find out more here.

    Parador de Cuenca
    A grand monument from all angles, the four-star Parador de Cuenca is an imposing sight in the heart of the World Heritage city of Cuenca in Castile La Mancha. In a craggy, hilltop home at the lofty heights of the city, the structure overlooks the Huécar Gorge below and confronts the famed Hanging Houses. From every aspect, enjoy dramatic and picturesque views that encompass the rough vegetation, the dynamic terrain and the city’s historic charm. A former monastery building, Parador de Cuenca’s façade boasts a mismatched amalgamation of refined, rustic and town-house style elements. At its heart is a courtyard, where a water fountain fills the space with a gentle trickle and towering cypress trees lend authentic charm. Facilities such as an outdoor pool and a tennis court lie outside the old walls, promising relaxing pastimes amid excellent views. Step inside and the design style is varied and interesting, with soothing, contemporary furnishings in some places, while others indicate the property’s age with exposed wooden beams and tiled flooring. Tapestries, mediaeval-style furniture and grand, arched window frames inhabit the lounging areas which line the courtyard, allowing sunlight to penetrate inside. Guestrooms are elegant and comfortable, with neutral hues accented by pastel shades and floral wall hangings, which contrast rich wooden furniture. Shuttered windows invite in the most spectacular views. The restaurant offers a more authentic atmosphere with a heavily beamed, dark wood ceiling contrasting vibrant purple walls. This is the setting for house specialities and traditional dishes of the Castile la Mancha region, while a summer terrace is open in the more clement months for al fresco dinners accompanied by live music.
    Find out more here.

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