Camino del Cid route
Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar rode across more than the Castilian steppe – ‘dust, sweat and iron’. It was the city of Balansiya (now Valencia), taken by the Almoravids after a long siege, which saw the crowning moment of his ‘glory’. Many years following his death – which was quite a bit more mundane than that depicted in film by Charlton Heston – victor in the final battle after dying, he achieved eternal fame with the greatest of the medieval chansons de geste: The Song of My Cid.
The legend absorbed the real figure, a frontier knight who would accommodate any lord who required his skills on the battlefield, whether Christian or Muslim. The cinema did the rest. Today, the shadow of Rodrigo – Sidi, Campeator (Champion) – has grown long. And astride his trusty steed Babieca, alternately brandishing Tizona and Colada, it has bequeathed us a route out of legend that allows us to follow his trail: Camino del Cid route.
This route, which runs between the provinces of Burgos and Alicante, goes through Soria, Guadalajara, Zaragoza, Teruel, Castellón and Valencia, following the adventures of the mythical warrior, those attributed to him by both tradition and official historiography. Valencia and nearby towns are home to some of the greatest attractions associated with El Campeador.
Because of its length (some 1,400 kilometres of trails and 2,000 kilometres of roads), the Camino del Cid route is divided into themed sections ranging in length from approximately 50 to 300 km. They are linked together, allowing you to adapt your journey to your available holiday time. There are four different options for travelling the Camino del Cid route: walking, mountain biking on paths and trails, cycling secondary roads, or driving. Whichever option you choose … welcome to the adventure!
LETTER OF SAFE CONDUCT
Following the exploits of El Cid is more gratifying with the official Letter of Safe Conduct for the trail. This free document is available at Visit Valencia tourist offices and allows you to keep a record of your own adventures along the proposed route.
You can also get your letter at any tourist office on the Camino del Cid route. The Letter of Safe Conduct can be stamped at more than 500 points along the route. We encourage you to take a moment to have your passport stamped and find out about the connection between the stamp and the location. Some designs are linked to the historic or legendary figure of El Cid, others represent a heritage element from that place.
In the end, you will have a nice souvenir and can receive the official certificate, provided that you obtain at least four stamps from each of the eight provinces crossed by this tourist and cultural trail. Additionally, you can take advantage of discounts on accommodations participating in the initiative, as well as periodic promotions and gifts.
In short, the Letter of Safe Conduct is a nod to the age of El Cid, a time when free passage between the Christian kingdoms and Muslim taifas was only possible if one could show a
special document, which at the time was very difficult to obtain. Luckily, today it is quite easy and available to all. What do you say?
THROUGH THE TERRITORY OF VALENCIA
The Camino del Cid route offers two themed trails that run through the territory of Valencia, allowing travellers to visit castles, wilderness, wetlands and marshes, small medieval villages or population centres that had already become important by the 11th century, and which formed part of the life and legend of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar. One, The Conquest of Valencia, alludes to El Campeador's great military aim, and follows the route he took to besiege and conquer Arab Balansiya. The other, Defending the South, traces the lines of an area of skirmishes and troubles El Campeador encountered after his disagreement with Alfonso VI, resulting in the second exile of his lifetime. It also departs from that much-desired city, Valencia.
THE CONQUEST OF VALENCIA
THE CONQUEST OF VALENCIA
This route begins in Cella (Teruel) and enters the Valencian Community via Castellón, following the course of the River Palancia and stopping at such points of interest as Jérica and Segorbe. The latter town is well worth a visit during its famous Bull and Horse Droving Festival, listed as a Festivity of International Tourist Interest and dating back to the 14th century.
In the province of Valencia, it runs through the towns of Alfara de la Baronía, Algimia de Alfara, Torres-Torres, Quart de les Valls, Quartell, Estivella, Albalat dels Tarongers and Petrés, just before visiting ancient Sagunto – Murviedro in the Middle Ages – with its walled section and Roman theatre as the main attractions.
From there it goes on to Puçol, La Pobla de Farnals and El Puig, home to Cebolla Castle, taken by El Cid in 1092 as a prelude to his final victory. From there, the road to Valencia is clear, including the villages of Massamagrell, Albalat dels Sorells and Alboraia, birthplace of the famous horchata (tiger nut milk).
Download materials for The Conquest of Valencia:
DEFENDING THE SOUTH ROUTE
DEFENDING THE SOUTH
This route is more closely based on historical events than the legend of El Cid. The key event for the route is the second of El Campeador’s exiles in 1088. It was decreed by Alfonso VI in 1088, while Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar was in the territory of Alicante. During that period, El Cid had established himself as the protector of the Muslim taifa (kingdom) with its capital in Balansiya (now Valencia), and he had to contend with the assaults of the Almoravids from the south. Departing from the Cap i Casal (as Valencia is popularly known), the first stages of this route run through a green agricultural area of Muslim origin, l’horta, and Valencia’s great wetland, l’Albufera. Sedaví, Benetússer, Alfafar, Massanassa, Catarroja, Albal, Beniparrell, Silla, El Romaní, Almussafes, Benifaió and Algemesí are the stops along this first stretch.
The route then comes to the city of Alzira – with such noteworthy historical sites as a section of wall from the time of El Cid – Carcaixent, Cogullada, La Pobla Llarga and Manuel, before stopping to admire the lovely Xàtiva, birthplace of the Borgia dynasty, with its spectacular castle and beautiful old quarter with a medieval street plan.
From there, it is just a short stretch to Ontinyent, first going through Bellús, Guadasséquies, Sempere, Benissuera, Alfarrasí,
Montaverner and Bufalí. The last town on this route in Valencian territory, before it enters Alicante, is the jewel of the region, the stunning Bocairent. It is worth setting aside time to visit so you don’t miss the many historical remnants, including the medieval quarter and the group of cave dwellings known as Covetes dels Moros. And once you enter Alicante, you can enjoy the many castles along the route, Elx (Elche) and its World Heritage Site, before reaching the end in Orihuela.
Download materials for Defending the South:
EL CID’S VALENCIA
The city of Valencia still retains many vestiges of the age of El Cid. Perhaps the most noteworthy is the Arab wall of 11th-century Balansiya. One section with a fortified tower, hidden among modern residences, and the remains of the Serpent Gate (Bab Al-Hanax) have been preserved in El Carme neighbourhood. The ruins of another section have been found near the Lonja (Silk Exchange), a Gothic building listed by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Nearby, where the cathedral now stands, El Campeador found the Arab mosque, which he did not hesitate to have consecrated as a church suitable for Christian worship.
He is not likely to have found Roman vestiges of the founding of Valentia, which we can enjoy today at the La Almoina Archaeological Museum, although they date from long before his arrival. Nor would he have been able to admire the Visigothic crypt where St Vincent was imprisoned. But we can be absolutely certain that Arab Balansiya offered El Cid’s contemporaries numerous examples of hammams.
Today we can see what they were like, thanks to a later example that has survived from the early 14th century: the Almirante Muslim Baths. If the figure of El Campeador surrounds you and your belly sets to rumbling after a long walk, never fear. Valencia offers an endless variety of Mediterranean cuisine, with paella as its great contribution to international gastronomy. If you consider yourself a purist, you may opt
to pay a visit to Balansiya, a restaurant dedicated to recalling the culinary riches of Al-Andalus. Even El Cid himself would have polished off a nice quail tagine!
There is no better way to conclude this journey through time than gazing at the equestrian shape of Rodrigo Díaz, the work of Juan de Ávalos, who copied the original by Anna Hyatt Huntington, found in the gardens of the Hispanic Society of America, in New York. For the figure of El Cid transcends all borders.