One hour 45 minutes from Valencia. 50 minutes from Albacete.
The Júcar river has carved out a narrow valley here amongst these limestone cliffs where many people have created cave dwellings by carving into the cliffs themselves. In Alcalá del Júcar, these dwellings begin on one side of the crag and continue all the way through.
The Drive: When you approach the river valley, the land is flat for miles. It may seem that you’re lost, but within minutes of Alcalá del Júcar, it’s still completely invisibile sunken down in the valley, so that you won’t have any idea it’s there until you reach the edge where the road slopes carefully down along switchbacks. The main roads are good. Narrow in some parts, so drive carefully especially along the curves. Locals take the roads fast. The road to the castle is narrow and a bit steep at the end, but was passable with a minivan.
2 Euros to enter/children free. The remains of the castle are nice enough. Two rooms still exist upstairs in the tower and the rooftop are is open as well. You can also venture down to see a couple lower rooms. The views are beautiful and if you’re lucky (or not), you may see one or two of the resident bats sleeping (or not) in the stairwell.
The Village: It’s a 5-10 minute walk from the castle to the river below through the narrow picturesque streets of this village. You’ll see many signs for “cuevas.” These will lead you to the entrances of a few of these cave dwellings that begin on this side and go all the way through to the other. Only a handful of these homes are open to the public. All along the river you’ll see many private cave homes in use today.
The church is open, but currently undergoing renovations. The frescoes are nice, but there is very little else to see.
Across the Roman bridge from the older part of town is the shopping are where you’ll find an ATM, a nice park, a playground under large shade trees, and several restaurants and ice cream kiosks. A souvenir shop on the corner also has information for cave tours, rafting trips, and paintball among other things.
If you continue to the hill on the other side, you can visit the Plaza de Toros, unique for it’s oval shape.
Above: The view from above the town.
Below: The view from across the river at the village, the castle and the Roman bridge. Look to the left to see doors and windows in the rocks – evidence of the cave homes within.
Above: The inside of the church at the moment.
If you drive along the river, you’ll discover an old fortified cave, a tiny “ermita” and this amazing town called Jorquera.
This entire area is absolutely beautiful with surprises at every corner. Another one on the long list of “we have to go back.”
Discovered in: DK Spain (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide
My Experience: http://estrogenpalace.blogspot.com/2010/06/alcala-del-jucar.html