Intricate faces sculpted into the natural facade of the environment merge with the already-beautiful and symbolic landscape of the swamps of Buendia in a place known as the Ruta de las Caras. The name translates to "Route of the Faces," where a series of hiking trails or "routes" take visitors along a cultural and artistic journey of spiritual discovery.
The Buendia swamps are thick with dense pine forests and sandstone rock, into which some 18 sculptures and bas-reliefs have been carved. Several artists have combined over the years to create the impressive collection, which features works ranging from 1 to 8 feet high.
Art and nature lovers alike come from miles away to enjoy these sculptures, which break the bounds of traditional museums and leave more commonly artistic urban areas behind for the quiet serenity of the forest. The art serves to explore and magnify the deeply complementary relationship between sculpture and nature, forth both artist and viewer.
Reflection on this symbiosis is enhanced by the spiritual nature of the art, as the faces have a mystical-religious meaning. The concept of human forms written onto natural contexts, fully integrated into sandstone in this case, is a notion deeply rooted in the human condition. Cultures have always considered our relationship with the wider world by trying to integrate the two, often through artistic sculpture, found all the way from Pharaonic Egypt to these modern-day statues.
Buendia, Spain is a municipality in the province of Cuenca, near Madrid. This was a perfect location for such a sculpture park, as Cuenca and Guadalajara already offered an ideal environment for hiking. Hiking trails include some for children, taking over 1 scenic hour to complete but having a lower difficulty as hikes go, and flanked by unique artwork all along the way.
For the more advanced, the Buendía swamp and other nearby trails along the Sierra de Altamira offer long-distance views and lovely scenery. Some of these trails are developed to connect the town directly with the Route of the Faces, surrounded by the incomparable landscape of the Sea of Castile, which in times of drought is more like a swamp. In either case, the landscape offers waterways where one can practice watersports, sailing, jet skis, motorboats, fishing and even bathe in its waters, as so many locals do on their way to end from enjoying the faces oddly, yet comfortingly, set in stone.