Up until the disappearance of the caliphate at the beginning of the 11th century, Atienza, Guadalajara and Medinaceli were places of much importance in Andalusia: they were highly militarised and responsible for defending the border and ensuring supplies for the Andalusian troops, who launched their attacks from there on the areas colonised by the Christians. Between 1085 and 1104, they succumbed to the attacks by the kingdoms of León and Castile. However, set in huge areas with low population density occupied by thieves and armed bands of a wide variety of origins, they remained dangerous places.
At the beginning of the 12th century, Medinaceli separated the lands of Castile from the Taifa of Zaragoza, a brilliant Islamic court governed by the Hudi dynasty of Yemeni origin since 1036. The Hudi were hosts to El Cid on more than one occasion and remained independent from Zaragoza until they were conquered by the Almoravides in 1110. In 1120, the Aragonese King Alphonse I the Warrior took Calatayud and the basin of the River Jalón. However, the land kept its border character and was the scenario of conflict between the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile.
Evidence of this conflictive past can be found in the many castles, walls and watchtowers travellers will come across on this section. They date from very different periods and are in various states of repair. Of particular interest are the castles of Atienza, Jadraque, Pelegrina, Sigüenza, Medinaceli, Montuenga de Soria, Monreal de Ariza and, especially, at the end of the journey, Calatayud: one of the most important examples of Islamic walls in Spain. The route also passes through four towns declared historical and/or artistic sites that are well worth a stop-off: Atienza, Sigüenza, Medinaceli and Calatayud, as well as small, peaceful country villages (only 10 of the 52 villages on this route have more than 400 inhabitants) where it is easy to feel safe and sound. Interestingly, on this section, on the river plains of El Jalón in Zaragoza, you can see the early examples of the Aragonese Mudejar style, declared a World Heritage Site.
The route is characterised by the diversity of the land, starting in Serranía de Atienza at 1320 m above sea level and ending on the river plains of El Jalón in Calatayud at 536 m above sea level. In general, the route follows valleys formed by the Henares, Dulce, Tajuña and Jalón rivers, passing through spectacular sections with gorges and narrow valleys, which alternate with scrubland and crop fields. After Medinaceli, the countryside is more arid, typical borderland which, depending on the sections and time of the year, will make you think you are in a medieval Western: large plains that turn into a fertile river plain, that of the Jalón, and, finally, a near moonscape of hills of gypsum and clay in Calatayud. The route crosses five protected natural areas: the Gorge of the River Dulce (an impressive limestone gorge with numerous birds of prey); the High Moorlands of Maranchón and Layna (extensive countryside with a wide variety of steppe birdlife, including Dupont’s lark and the juniper forests and riverbanks of the Jalón.
Get the most current information: en.caminodelcid.org
This is the official track of The Way of El Cid managed and maintained by The way of El Cid Consortium.
You can dowload the lastest guides, tracks, maps and info in the web: www.caminodelcid.org
For hikers, the Way is signposted along the entire route with two red lines (in sections where the Way of El Cid is not certified as a GR, in other words, a long distance track) and a red and white line in sections where it is certified as GR 160 Way of El Cid or coincides with another GR (long distance track). Both the maps and the route guides indicate the type of signposts you will find. You will also find information panels at the beginning and end of the stage, as well as posts with arrows indicating the way and markers.