10 amazing ways to see Spain
22 September 2016 • 5:08pm
No matter how many times you have been to Spain, there are always new ways to see the country. Game of Thrones
fans are currently flocking to the Spanish locations that have already
appeared in the series and will no doubt be heading to the Basque coast,
Cáceres in Extremadura and Itálica, the Roman site in Andalusia – just a
few of the places that will feature in Season 7 next year.
Pedro Almodóvar, the country’s best-known director, always showcases Spain in original ways. His latest film, Julieta, is set mainly in four very different settings: Madrid,
the fishing village of Redes on the wild coast of Galicia, the lush
green Pyrenees in Aragón and the countryside around Seville.
Mainland Spain covers an area of around 200,000 square miles (double
the size of the UK) and it is 600 miles from Santander on the north
coast to Málaga in the south, with a huge range of landscapes. It is a
wonderful country for touring holidays, however you choose to travel.
Taking an escorted tour with a planned itinerary saves a lot of time and
will spare you the headache of trying to devise a route.
It is tricky to advise on the best time to go, as the climate varies
so much around the country and obviously it depends on what you want to
do. Spring and autumn are the safest bets, however, particularly for
city breaks and activity holidays.
is becoming increasingly popular with cyclists in February, March and
November. You can usually sit outside during the day on the coasts of
Valencia, Murcia and Andalusia even during the winter months. If you
want to do anything any more demanding than lie on a beach in August,
stick to the north, where temperatures are pleasantly warm rather than
2016 Getty Images/Bryn Lennon
The suggestions below are just a few ways to explore mainland Spain
and the Balearics. There is no space for the Canary Islands,
unfortunately, which need a list of their own.
1. Andalusia by rail
Touring the great cities of Andalusia is made relatively easy with
fast, modern trains that cross mesmeric landscapes of undulating olive
groves, deep gorges and fields of sunflowers. Over 13 days, in between
trawling the tapas bars, you trace the region’s Roman, Arab and
Christian history through its astounding architecture, starting with
Seville. After a day in splendid Jerez, you travel to Granada to see the
Alhambra and finish up in the whitewashed passages of Cordoba’s Old
Town. There’s also time to visit Madrid and Barcelona.
Great Rail Journeys (01904 521 936; greatrail.com)
offers a 13-day Andalusian Explorer itinerary, with departures between
April and September 2017, from £2,895 including accommodation, some
meals and first-class rail travel, activities and guided city tours.
2. Experience the art and gastronomy of Valencia
The writer Gijs van Hensbergen, a leading expert on the art,
architecture and food of Spain, leads this tour through the Valencia
region on the east coast. In Valencia city, you get into the swing with a
workshop in the Art Nouveau market with Michelin-starred chef Ricard
Camarena and have an opportunity to see Santiago Calatrava’s astounding
City of Arts and Sciences. You will eat paella by the Albufera lagoon,
visit wineries in the hills and experience the cuisine of Quique Dacosta
at his three Michelin-starred restaurant in Dénia.
Martin Randall (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com)
is running the Gastronomic Valencia tour from November 7 to 14 in 2016
from £3,260, and May 12 to 19 in 2017 from £3,290, including British
Airways flights, accommodation and most meals.
3. Picos de Europa
Spain’s third-highest mountain range, the Picos de Europa is a
limestone massif strewn with forests of beech that stretch over hills
and mountain ridges, capped by the peaks of the Picos. An eight-day hike
from Exodus (details below) – based at the family-run Hotel
Torrecerredo – meanders through the Arenas de Cabrales range, with its
high pastures, wild peaks and limestone outcrops before ascending the
Pandescura peak the following day. There’s a hike on the Cares Gorge,
one of the most popular walks in Spain; a summit to Peña Main; and a
walk up to the twin summits of Moncondiu which offer views of the
Central and Eastern Massifs. Spend a free day caving, canoeing,
canyoning or simply relaxing on the coast.
Exodus (074 340 4587; exodus.co.uk)
has departures between October 2016 and October 2018, from £779
including accommodation, most meals, transport, activities and flights.
4. Family adventure in the Pyrenees
Your kids will never say they are bored during an active holiday in
the Pyrenees, staying in a hotel in Benasque, a beautiful town
surrounded by lakes, forests, glaciers and rivers. The seven-day tour
from Families Worldwide (details below) starts with a guided walk in
Besurta, taking an easy path along flat terrain to the Aigualluts Plain
where you can stop to admire the famous Forau d’Aigualluts waterfall and
the Aneto peak, the highest mountain in the Pyrenees. From here, you’ll
continue upwards through the Escaleta Valley to Coll de Toro, a pass
between the Benasque and Aran valleys used by shepherds. Other
highlights include a climbing course, rafting, canyoning and a bike ride
though Conques along ancient trails.
Families Worldwide (01962 737560; familiesworldwide.co.uk)
has departures between May and August 2017, from £1,029 (per child) and
£1,088 (per adult) b&b including activities and flights.
5. Rural cycling in Majorca and Ibiza
Take a bike ride on quiet back-roads in Majorca and Ibiza, past
medieval fortresses and secluded villages on this eight-day Balearic
Island boat-and-bike tour organised by Freedom Treks (booking details
below). Pedal through varied landscapes, from the green mountains of
Majorca to the white-sand beaches of Formentera. With accommodation on a
three-masted barque, this tour also cruises across the Med and stops at
remote islands. Highlights include the beautiful resort of Andratx; the
famous Carthusian monastery in Valdemossa; and a bike ride to the La
Mola lighthouse, described by Jules Verne as “the lighthouse at the end
of the world”, where, on a clear day, you can see as far as Africa.
Freedom Treks (01273 224066; freedomtreks.co.uk)
has departures on August 27, September 10 and September 24 2017, from
£1,357 half-board including bike hire and daily tours. Excludes flights.
6. Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
The Way of St James is the pilgrimage route to Santiago de
Compostela, where the remains of the apostle Saint James – the patron
saint of Spain – are purportedly buried. Staying at paradores,
characterful hotels located in converted castles or monasteries, you’ll
take in Argómaniz, Pamplona, Lerma, León, Vilalba and La Coruña on this
10-day The Way of St James tour from Titan Travel (booking details
below). There are wine tastings; cathedral stops, including the
Episcopal Palace by Gaudí; and a walking tour through the streets and
squares of Santiago.
Titan Travel (0808 163 5770; titantravel.co.uk)
has departures between May and October 2017, from £1,549 half-board
including excursions, BA flights and door-to-door travel service.
7. Walking around the coast of Ibiza
Toby Clarke grew up on Ibiza and now organises walking, yoga and
activity holidays on the island. Join him on an extraordinary hike right
around the coast, a challenging but exhilarating experience. You will
cover a distance of 130 miles in a fortnight, climbing up to headlands
and scampering down to hidden coves, camping under the stars and staying
in small hotels. The experience is all about switching off, getting in
touch with nature and gazing at the turquoise sea – while getting fitter
and quite possibly even “finding yourself”.
Walking Ibiza (0800 088 5499; walkingibiza.com)
is running the round-the-island guided walking tour from October 9 2016
and from April 30 2017 for €1,600 (£1,352), including camping and
hotels, most meals and luggage transfers. Book flights separately.
8. In the footsteps of Don Quixote
It is 400 years since the death of Miguel de Cervantes, author of the
epic Don Quixote, which is set in the vast region of Castilla-La
Mancha. Marvel at the famous windmills featured in the novel, stop at
the castle of Belmonte or Consuegra and sample wines at two local
producers in La Mancha. Other highlights include a visit to the royal
palace of Aranjuez and its gardens and lunch at a restaurant set in an
ancient cave, next to the windmills.
Wine Tourism Spain (0034 910145375; winetourismspain.com)
offers a 10-hour La Mancha and Don Quixote Mills group tour, with
regular departures, from €210 (£180) including hotel pick-up and
drop-off, visits, wine tastings and lunch.
9. Scooter road trip
Whizzing around the countryside north of Madrid on a Vespa will
definitely put a smile on your face. Don’t worry if you haven’t ridden a
scooter before as tuition is provided on this group trip. Head into the
hills on a circular route through the Guadarrama and Ayllón mountains
and the Duratón nature reserve, stopping off in medieval towns and
villages including Sepúlveda, Pedraza and Riaza and staying at small
hotels. Although aimed at 30- and 40-somethings, this trip attracts
participants of all ages, and singles are particularly welcome.
The Flash Pack (020 3051 1057; theflashpack.co.uk)
is running the four-day trip in June, July and September 2017 from
£1,099 per person, including half-board accommodation. Book flights to
10. Visiting the gardens of Galicia
Many of the pazos – granite manor houses – in Galicia in
north-western Spain are set in elaborately landscaped gardens with
superlative displays of camellias and other flowers, plants and trees.
Going on an escorted tour gives you access to private properties and
often a chance to meet the owners too. Staying in just two places – at
the parador in the coastal town of Cambados and in the heart of Santiago
de Compostela, makes things more comfortable, and the local food and
wine is outstanding too.
Ciceroni (01869 811167; ciceroni.co.uk)
has the Camellias and Caminos tour from March 16 to 22 in 2017, for
£1,995 per person, including flights, accommodation and lunch or dinner