The previous article was all about the hanging houses in Cuenca, which is a remarkable medieval city that instead of spreading out onto the plains below (which has happened in recent years), the population chose to remain in their town on a rocky cliff with rivers on two sides. And to create the space necessary for the growing population they began to build their houses out onto the cliff side, clinging onto the rock with wooden rods pounded into excavated gaps. Very close to Cuenca, and often enjoyed in the same trip, is the weird and beautiful forest where you can find the 'Cuidad Encantada' or 'Enchanted City'... cover photo credit @ Joe Thorpe
This was another part of the same trip to Cuenca with Happy Erasmus, the energetic travel company in Valencia that has helped me enormously to get out and see more of the area.
Before I get into the weird and wonderful rock formations that give the site the name, I wanted to first point out just how awesome it is to get out into the Spanish countryside. The sheer vastness of central Spain, and the space available and set aside for national parks and areas of natural beauty should be an inspiration for other countries in Europe.
Towering trees dominate the spaces not taken up by the rock formations, and although the site is just off the side of a fairly large road that runs through the area, it's impossible not to feel like you are in the most remote of middle of nowhere spots.
The site is all about the rocks - these were formed essentially by rain washing away softer surrounding rock and leaving the harder rock in place that couldn't be eroded by rain. Over millions of years these shapes have been further and further revealed, to the point where some of them are more than 20 metres high, and curve and slide in completely unique ways.
As you can see in the photo above and the one below, many of these rock formations have taken on anthropomorphic personalities, given by the countless people that have visited over the years. The above photo is called 'the elephant and the crocodile fight' - and to be fair, it does sort of look like the name, if you stare at it a while and lower your bar for what is believable in those common 'does that rock really look like an animal' situations.
It's easy to walk around this place, as the majority of the terrain is fairly flat, and the path are marked and well-worn. One thing to think about is that although the paths are clear and used, the actual direction you should take is absolutely not obvious. I consider myself a pretty strong navigator through army and dive training, but I got turned around completely with an oddly proportioned map. But having said that, I'm not sure it really matters where you actually are in the site, and it's hard to actually be lost, as the rocks stop and the forest starts in earnest. If you find yourself in the middle of the trees with no rocks around and no-one replies to your screams, you've probably gone too far.
If you find yourself in the middle of the trees with no rocks around and no-one replies to your screams, you've probably gone too far
There is also a legend that comes with this site, that says it was the place where the Spanish rebel leader Viriatus (who fought against the Romans in the 130's BCE) died. He was supposedly betrayed by his own men, and was killed next to the towering rock in the photo above.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.