As the name already suggests, Miguel de Cervantes’ legendary book, Don Quixote de La Mancha (published in 1605) was set on the windswept and sparsely populated plateau region called Castilla-La Mancha.
There on La Mancha, Don Quixote—a delusional old man who’s lost his mind from reading too many books on chivalry—goes to battle to defend the honor of a princess called Dulcinea. But Dulcinea isn’t really a princess—she’s a farm girl. The enemies Don Quixote battles aren’t really giants—they’re windmills. And what Don Quixote thinks are castles aren’t really castles—they’re roadside inns.
But La Mancha is really La Mancha, even four centuries later. The landscape of La Mancha that served as Cervantes’ backdrop hasn’t changed all that much in 400 years. Castilla-La Mancha remains Spain’s least populated region, and EF groups passing through can see authentic windmills of Cervantes’ time along the horizon.
Best of all for EF groups is a lunch stop in Puerto Lápice (Lápice is pronounced “LAH-pee-say”), a tiny town named specifically in the book. Here, Don Quixote confuses the roadside inn for a castle, and the inn keeper—Don Quixote thinks he’s the lord of the castle—takes pity on the old man and pretends to make him a knight.
Today, the inn keeper won’t take pity, but he will take a few euros for a simple but classic Spanish sandwich. Before getting back on the bus to finish the trek through La Mancha, groups can have their pictures taken around a stirring statue (above) of the fictional character that put this town on the map.
Puerto Lápice is a stop-de-rigueur for groups traveling on EF Educational Tours itineraries that incorporate a bus trip between Andalucía and Madrid.