Photos courtesy of Parador de Alarcón
Double rooms: 181–267 euros
Single rooms: 80% of double room
Rates include tax
Open: all year
Alarcón is at the halfway point on the main Madrid-Valencia highway—IV. A signpost marks the exit. The town is not practical to reach by public transportation.
Nearby: fishing; hiking; canoeing; hunting; horseback riding; visits to the hanging houses at Cuenca; Enchanted City (Ciudad Encantada); stroll through the old village of Alarcón
If any Spanish castle can be described as completely authentic, the Parador de Alarcón is that place. Everything a castle buff might look for is here: ramparts, gateways, a keep, a great hall, and slender crenellated watchtowers.
Its setting on the plains of La Mancha, just a few miles from the main Madrid-Valencia highway is spectacular, and the approach from the valley up a narrow, winding road through stone archways is unforgettable.
With its imposing presence atop a rocky rag surrounded by the Júcar River, you wonder how an army could ever have laid siege to it. Today’s parador maintains the aura of an ancient fortress and is the best-preserved in the provence of Cuenca.
A complete renovation several years emphasized the austerity of the building. Paneling came down and the original stonework was brought out. Also added was a fine collection of paintings.
True to its original defensive nature, you won’t find big picture windows in the guest rooms. A few still have the original arrow slit windows recessed into the thick walls. For an extra splurge, go for a room with a canopied bed.
You’ll find the dining room in the former great hall, with a menu specializing in meat dishes such as local game, lamb, and goat.