More than 1,000 years old, enchanting Avila, Spain, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The surrounding region, known as the Tierra de Cantos y de Santos (Land of Songs and Saints), is associated with Spain's St. John of the Cross and Santa Teresa de Jesus.
Lying 55 mi/85 km west of Madrid, Avila's main attraction is its medieval wall, which measures 1 mi/2 km in circumference and completely encircles the old part of town. The ramparts have nine gates and 88 towers, many topped with stork nests. Walk along the top of the wall's two accessible sections, or stroll entirely around the outside. Just inside one gate is the Convent of St. Teresa, with a small church built over the saint's birthplace.
Avila also has interesting narrow streets, intimate squares and many churches both inside and outside the walls—including an intriguing fortified cathedral and the Monasterio de Santo Tomas (the summer home of Ferdinand and Isabella).
If possible, plan an overnight stay at the Parador de Avila, a palace-turned-hotel. We recommend dropping by and soaking up the atmosphere at the parador even if you can't spend the night.