Things to do in Spain

Our top activities in Spain

Walk the far south – or the far north

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.

Cycle where the cars can’t go

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.

Trek the Camino de Santiago

This humble trail draws pilgrims from across the globe to share in the lush landscapes, hearty dishes and the very Spanish sense of “solidarity” that comes with the collective highs and lows of a lengthy trek. The “Way of St James” is a traditional pilgrimage to Santiago in Galicia, with various starting points and routes. The most popular crosses the interior of northern Spain, via Burgos, Leon and dozens of rural villages. A coastal route traverses Bilbao and Santander, and there are also routes that begin in Seville, Portugal and France.
Once the preserve of budget travelers staying in dorm rooms along the way, the Camino de Santiago has opened up to those who like a little more comfort after a long day’s trek, with guesthouses, luggage drop-offs and even transfers to and from the trail. Rouets are well-marked and you’ll be accompanied by many other walkers. The Camino may have lost its religious significance for many, but this is still something of a Holy Grail for hikers, and it seems that most return home feeling enlightened in their own way. Pick up your Camino passport and get it stamped along the way as a personal souvenir.

Get your tongue around

Combined language and activity vacations mean you can make the most of Spain’s language and culture – horse riding, walking the Camino de Santiago, rock climbing or dancing flamenco – learning the language as you go. Daily classes help you get by with more than just the basics, and learning in situ means you’re taking the language outside the classroom each day. Perfect for those with an aversion to textbooks and verb tables!
Photo credits: [Walking: Nacho] [Cycling: Juan Pablo Olmo] [Cookery language class: Tau Consulting] [Walking the Camino: José Antonio Gil Martínez]
Written by Vicki Brown
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Mathew MacQuarrie]
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