Free alternative hiking trail in Spain: the walk where the walls (literally!) have ears

The Ruta de las Caras, or Route of the Faces, in Cuenca, Spain / Wikimedia commons
The Ruta de las Caras, or Route of the Faces, in Cuenca, Spain / Wikimedia commons
15 July 2019, Tom Beck

Spain is an excellent country for walking holidays and extreme hiking, with such famous walking routes as the Camino de Santiago and the challenging Caminito del Rey. But if you’re looking for something a bit lighter and easier in a lesser known part of Spain, you should check out the Route of the Faces in Cuenca.

Cuenca, a city in Castile-La Mancha just under two hours from Madrid, is probably best known for its hanging houses, but if you want to find something different to do in the region, head to the swamps of Buendía. This area of pine forests and rocky landscapes is a haven for walkers and hikers in Spain, with several great hiking routes. One of the most spectacular and artistic is the Ruta de las Caras, or the Route of the Faces (not to be confused with the Ruta del Cares in the Picos de Europa mountains!), where artists specialising in rock carving have made huge sculptures of faces and created a stunning open-air museum in a natural setting.

GonzaloMMD/Flickr
GonzaloMMD/Flickr

This hiking trail in the countryside of eastern Spain takes about an hour to walk around and has a low difficulty level, so it’s even suitable for children. In fact, the whole family will love taking a self-guided tour of this place and marvel at the eighteen carvings of faces in the rock. Ranging between 1 and 8 feet in height, the faces look out at hikers serenely and solemnly from the sandstone.

There is an incredible variety of different styles and types of faces on display on the Route of Faces. There are several Buddha faces, characters from other ancient cultures and even a skull. This is due to the fact that these sculptures have been created over many years by various different artists. Initially, the sculptures were inspired by pre-Columbian, indigenous art but later took on more influences from India and the east.

For anyone looking for free stuff to do with kids in central Spain, or people who simply love art and nature, a visit to the Faces of Buendía, Cuenca is a great option. Other hiking trails and good places for cheap, independent walks in the local area include Villar del Humo with its prehistoric cave art and The Enchanted City (La Ciudad Encantada), which has incredible natural rock structures that look like something from an alien planet.

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