Walking in Spain’s southernmost region combines exotic landscapes and romantic culture with superb food and a warm Andalucian welcome. Stay in friendly fincas along the way – many guesthouses produce their own organic olive oil, wine or fruit; food is fresh and has travelled metres rather than miles.
Las Alpujarras boasts the imposing backdrop of the Sierra Nevada. There are lakes fed by mountain streams, lush valleys, roman ruins and tiny pueblos. Stay in a whitewashed village in Almeria, shopping at the local market and trekking the surreal landscape of the Sierra de los Filabres. Come in spring for wildflower carpets and bird watching. Nearby, the coastal desert of Cabo de Gata has several walking trails through the Nijar National Park, beloved of botanists and photographers.
Trail notes make self-guided vacations easy, and many routes start from the front door of your guesthouse – driving is not essential. If you do hire a car, however, you can also enjoy a day at the beach – or at the Alhambra Palace.
At the other end of the country, the 2,650m high Picos de Europa has popped up on surprisingly few hikers’ compasses. The limestone massif is frequently snow-draped, and shelters chamois goats, bearded vultures, wolves and even bears. And you’re still just 10km from the craggy Costa Verde.
Many professional teams base themselves in Spain, training across a variety of terrains. Novices shouldn’t be put off by the mountains; these offer some of the most relaxing rides as you start at the top and freewheel all the way down. Catalonia has some of the best cycling vacations; the region’s Greenways (Vias Verdes) are only open to cyclist, walkers and horse riders, allowing you to explore sights and scenery out of reach from drivers.