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Skip The Crowds! This Hidden Spanish Region Is Like Tuscany & Full Of Fairytale Towns

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Though it's often considered one of Europe's friendliest countries, owing to its hospitality and warm Hispanic culture, Spain has been rocked by a number of anti-tourism protests lately.

Locals in the popular resort island Tenerife have even told visitors to ‘go home'.

Some Spaniards believe overtourism is to blame for their rising living costs, and between Airbnb restrictions in central Barcelona and crazy fines for swimming at certain hours or sleeping on beaches, we don't blame visitors for feeling they're being chased out of Spain.

That being said, not all of Spain is keen on reducing tourism levels:

Famous Windmills Of Castilla La Mancha In Spain, Iberian Peninsula, Southern Europe.jpg

One region in particular actively hoping to attract more guests, and if you love the vineyard-dotted hills of Tuscany and ancient cobbled towns that look as if they could belong in an illustrated storybook, Castilla-La Mancha is right up your alley.

This Is What Spain's Forgotten Middle Looks Like

Located in the middle of Spain, it's a flyover country of the sorts: it borders a number of far more developed, economically-important regions, like Andalusia, Aragon, Castile and León, and even the capital Madrid, yet it's typically bypassed by a majority of tourists.

Vineyard In Castilla La Mancha, A Wine Region Of Spain, Southern Europe.jpg

It does not straddle the Mediterranean nor the Atlantic coasts of Spain, being characterized instead by vast natural parks and open plains, so you're unlikely to come across the usual hordes of British and German vacationers you would typically find in Sitges, Malaga, and the like.

Much like Tuscany produces several of Italy's best-renowned wines, Castilla-La Mancha is one of Spain's capitals of wine, with a significant concentration of ‘bodegas', including the award-winning Domino de Casalta, Hacienda Vallarta and Alto de Pioz.

Vineyard In Castilla La Mancha, A Historic Region In The Middle Of Spain, Southern Europe

Wine-tasting tours are a huge draw for oenophiles going off the beaten track, and starting from Madrid, which is a short one-hour drive away, you can explore the territory's highlights, including a stop at a vineyard, from only $69 on Get Your Guide.

Castilla-La Mancha is a huge province, however, Spain's third-largest, at that, and you'll want to dedicate more than a single day to exploring its hidden gems if you want to truly do it justice:

Historic Medieval Towns That Are Still Perfectly-Preserved

A Young Woman Sat On A Lookout Admiring Toledo, A Small City In Central Spain, Iberian Europe, Southern Europe

If you're arriving from Madrid, you're likely to pass through Toledo first: the regional capital, this ancient city perched on a high hill overlooking La Mancha's plains has a preserved historic center, still surrounded by walls, and a wealth of Arab and Christian monuments.

For those of you who aren't aware, Spain was ruled by a succession of Arab dynasties for several centuries until being reconquered by Christian kings, and alongside Seville and Granada, Toledo is one of the finest examples of Muslim city-building in Europe.

Village Of Pastrana Near Guadalajara, A Historic City In Castilla La Mancha, A Region In Spain, Southern Europe.jpg

Other important cities include Cuenca, yet another walled settlement resting on a vertiginous limestone formation, Albacete, dominated by a well-preserved medieval castle; Guadalajara––the original one, not the one in Mexico––founded as early as the Roman period, and Ciudad Real:

Outside Toledo, the ‘Royal City' of Castilla-La Mancha is probably where tourists are spending the most time in: it is home to a Baroque Old Town, a Quixote Museum, celebratory of Miguel de Cervantes' magnum opus of a novel, and Gothic churches richly-decorated in Moorish motifs.

This Is Where Those Iconic Spanish Windmills Are Located!

White Windmills In Castilla La Mancha, Spain, Southern Europe

Speaking of Don Quixote, the most easily-recognized symbol of La Mancha are the white windmills scattered across an arid hinterland, featured on the Cervantes classic; in order to see them, you'll need to drive one hour south of Ciudad Real to Consuegra.

The quaint settlement is famous for having inspired the infamous scene when the wayward knight mistakes Consuegra's 12 windmills, distributed along a ridge for an army of giants, and sets off to combat them.

Windmills Of Castilla La Mancha, Spain, Southern Europe

The mills are a near-perfect state of preservation, with some of the stone walls and blades dating back as early as the 16th-century, and much like Toledo, they can be easily visited from Madrid if you're booking a Quijote Windmills day tour, with prices starting from an affordable $62.

La Mancha Is Far Cheaper To Visit Than Other Parts Of Spain

Other than being a cultural hotspot of the first order, and Spain's response to Tuscany with its sleepy villages and family-owned vineyards, Castilla-La Mancha is generally far more affordable to visit than other Spanish destinations that are trendier and, well, coastal.

Aerial View Of A Cobbled Historic Town In Castilla La Mancha In Spain, Southern Europe

On average, tourists spend $42 per day on meals, as there's an abundance of inexpensive restaurants where a lunchtime menu costs from $15, including a starter and a main dish, or a main dish and dessert, as well as a soft drink, and a tapas appetizer in a snack bar average $6.

Hotels are fairly cheap, too, at least for European standards: in central Toledo, Hotel Sercotel Alfonso VI costs $65 to book per night this summer, and it goes even cheaper at Hotel Carlos V, with room rates starting from $55.

Woman paying for her hotel room at the front desk

Overnights in Ciudad Real fall within the same price range: Hotel Santa Cecilia will set you back $62 per night, and even four-star Exe Doña Carlota is a very-reasonable $59, or $73 if you're including breakfast.

Overall, you're looking at a travel budget of $928 for a one-week trip to Castilla-La Mancha, based on Budget Your Trip estimates.

And The Best Part Is… La Mancha Wants You To Visit

If you're sold on the idea of skipping Barcelona altogether and heading here instead, you'll be thrilled to learn that Castilla-La Mancha in fact wants more tourists, placing it at odds with a majority of sunny Spanish destinations:

Medieval Castle In Castilla La Mancha, Spain, Southern Europe

In this era of growing ‘tourismophobia', the President of Castilla-La Mancha, Emiliano Garcia-Page, has reiterated the importance of visitors to the region and vowed that the tourism sector ‘will not stop growing' in the coming years in spite of adverse reactions elsewhere in Spain.

Garcia-Page went on to say the industry is not a threat, but an opportunity for the territory, and went as far as calling it ‘essential': last year, La Mancha hosted a 2.8 million tourists, a regional record, but less-than-impressive figures compared to other communities in Spain.

Female tourist in Toledo, Spain

In other words, overtourism is far from being a major concern for authorities here, and if anything, they're encouraging visitors to come and see it for themselves:

No, it does not have a beach, and resorts are certainly not at the front of the tourism offer, but the Mediterranean coast of Spain does not have La Mancha's gorgeous natural scenery, amazing wine, UNESCO-listed Toledo, the fairytale villages and postcard-perfect windmills, either.

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