Off the Beaten Path—Cuenca, Spain

One of the wonderful treats of traveling in Europe is exploring some of the small, beautiful towns that have hundreds (or in some cases thousands!) of years of history. On a recent weekend, we traveled to just such a place–the city of Cuenca, Spain. Having YiaYia (grandma) in town was the perfect excuse for an adventure.

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Cuenca is home to the amazing Hanging Houses, including one that doubles as a very interesting and kid-friendly modern Abstract Art Museum. Las Casas Colgadas are a series of houses balanced on the edge of a cliff, which are hard to miss from anywhere in town, but are best viewed from the famous Puente de San Pablo, a hundred-year-old bridge perched on half-millenium-old foundations. This combination of new and old is what makes small European towns so interesting. Here are a few tips for going off the beaten path.

Take the Slow Road: Small towns are, well, small. There may not be a lot to do, but strolling the narrow streets, enjoying the blend of scenery and centuries of city-scaping, and relaxing over good meals on no particular schedule is well worth the time. Wandering without a destination and eating deliciously random food under the shadow of the inevitable castle or cathedral is what it’s all about.

Take a Drive: If you are fortunate enough to have a car, take advantage of some free time with a lazy drive to nowhere—you never know what you will find. With not much to do on Sunday, we set out on a drive. The nearby Parque Natural Serrania de Cuenca was breathtaking, and by taking a different route in and out we stumbled upon a great surprise of an artist’s yard full of out-of-this-world natural wood sculptures.

When Something Sounds Intriguing: Go For It!! While driving, we saw a sign for El Ciudad Encantada (Enchanted City) and we couldn’t resist the curiosity. Sometimes these spontaneous excursions are a bust, but this one ended in a great private meal in a deserted hotel, and a fantastic opportunity to learn about the geological process of karst formation while admiring whimsical stone shapes straight out of a Road Runner cartoon.

Traveling doesn’t always have to be about the next big destination. Sometimes, the most enjoyable travel can be to a small town nearby, where you can take some time to slow down, learn a little local history, and discover your own special surprises along the way.

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Glen & Yiotula Shilland
Glen & Yiotula Shilland

Yiotula is a stay at home Mom who buys plane tickets and books hotel rooms. Glen is a working Dad who makes spreadsheets that leave no attraction uncovered. Together they are attempting to tackle Europe one country at a time. 20 countries and counting…

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