With around 79,500 km² of surface area, Castile La Mancha (Castilla-La Mancha in Spanish) is the third largest region of Spain after Castile-Leon and Andalusia. Situated in the centre of Spain, Castile La Mancha is bordered by Castile-Leon and Madrid in the north, Aragon and Valencia in the east, Murcia and Andalusia in the south and Extremadura westwards.
In Spain, Castile La Mancha has the ninth largest population of approximately 1.8 milllion people living in its five provinces: Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara and Toledo.
Its capital city is Toledo, which counts its Alcázar, city walls and Cathedral as major sights for visitors. Other cities of note are:
- Ciudad Real – the setting for Miguel de Cervantes’ novel, Don Quijote de la Mancha
- Cuenca – famous for its Hanging Houses (las Casas Colgadas)
- and Guadalajara – home to the historic Palacia del Infantado.
Castile-La Mancha became one of Spain’s Autonomous Communities in 1982. Its official language is Castilian Spanish.
The landscape of Castile-La Mancha has two distinguishing features: an expansive plateau with few mountains and a mountainous area that encircles the plateau around the borders that Castile-La Mancha shares with its neighbours.
While the plateau is very flat, it is penetrated by mountain ranges such as the Toledo Mountains (los Montes de Toledo). Located in the more mountainous terrain surrounding the plateau are the Iberian Mountains (el Sistema Ibérico), Sierra Morena and foothills of the Central mountain range (el Sistema Central).
Three important rivers run through the region. The Tajo winds its way westwards through Madrid, Extremadura and on to the Atlantic Ocean via Portugal. The Guadiana heads west through Extremadura and Portugal also en route to the Atlantic. Finally, the Júcar river runs eastwards for 500km to the Gulf of Valencia (el Golfo de Valencia) and on to the Mediterranean Sea (el Mar Mediterráneo).
Castile-La Mancha’s climate is Mediterranean and continental. Its mountainous areas have a more meditteranean feel with plentiful rain, which becomes snow in the higher mountain peaks. The northern part of the central plateau has a more continetal climate. However. the lower part of the plateau in the south though is more Mediterranean, having longer summers and more mild winters.
The economy of Castile-La Mancha is largely driven by agriculture: chiefly cotton, grapes, wheat, saffron, sunflowers and livestock.