On the top of the Cerro Calderico mountain in the quaint historic town of Consuegra, 12 white tower windmills crown the hill, surrounded by the sprawling plains of Castilla-La Mancha and backdropped by a striking medieval castle. These iconic towers are believed to be the windmills described by Miguel de Cervantes in his famous 17th-century novel Don Quixote.
Each of the Consuegra windmills has a unique name taken from the novel, in which Don Quixote de la Mancha mistakes the towers for giants and picks a fight with them in a particularly memorable scene that coined the term “tilting at windmills.”
Initially built to grind grain, the mills were modeled on the Dutch windmills of the 16th and 17th centuries, with a cylindrical tower and conical deck where the shaft and its four rectangular blades are housed. The interior is divided into three floors connected by a staircase along the wall. On the lower floor is the silo, where the ground grain was stored. On the second floor, there is a sieve to separate the flour from the bran. The third floor, the largest, houses the machinery, with the most striking element being the “Catalina” wheel. In the upper part of the wall, eight windows were opened to help the miller determine the direction of the wind and thus the orientation of the blades.
The tower mills were passed down through the generations until being retired in the 1980s. Twelve of the original 13 mills were restored and opened as a tourist attraction. In 2006, the windmills and the adjacent 12th-century Castle of La Muela were declared a cultural historic site.
Know Before You Go
Consuegra is just south of Toledo, about 87 miles (140 kilometers) from Madrid. The best way to get there is by car. Take the A-4 motorway road until you reach Madridejos. Then take the CM-42, and from there the exit 59 and the road CM-400 to reach Consuegra. From there, follow the signs. There is a small museum and visitors center at the site, and two windmills are still in working order so visitors can see the inner mechanisms of the mills.