travel in Spain?
The country is soaked in history (conquistadors,
the empire, the inquisition...),
colourful culture (bullfighting, Flamenco, Carmen, Don Quixote...),
Art ( Picasso, Goya, Velasquez...), wacky visionaries (Gaudi, Dali...),
grand architecture (Moorish in the south such as Seville, Baroquish up north in Madrid, twisted in Barcelona and
recently there's Bilbao...) and of course plenty of sun, sand and
A Gaudi balcony on Casa Battlo, Barcelona
- Prices are hardly cheap.
- The coasts are overbuilt with supremely unattractive high rise resorts and apartments,
while Spain's beaches heave with north European heavyweights
fighting for towel space.
- Petty theft such as picking pockets and bag-snatching is not uncommon. Try not to look like a tourist and take precautions, particularly
Best tourist season: April-October, tho' the coasts and islands are
often fine and fairly warm in winter; the north and mountains are cool and
less crowded in the summer.
OK: July and August are crowded everywhere and extremely hot in southerly areas such as Andalusia.
can be bitterly cold (below zero) in north/central Spain - including
Madrid - and the rain in Spain doesn't just fall on the plain, Andalusia gets it too.
Hiking in El Torcal Nature Reserve, near Antequera, Andalusia
Spain mostly attracts beach bums or culture vultures or both as coasts are lined with good sized beaches and inviting hotels for sun-starved north Europeans who occasionally need some cultural input during their stag dos, romantic get-aways or family holidays in Spain. But there
are many other activities available:
Hiking: Spain has masses of great walking
tours from the mountains north of Madrid to the Pyrenees and Picos de
Europa, Asturias. Also the Balearics and Canary Islands have great hikes.
The classic pilgrim's route and a fantastci hiking experience, El Camino de Santiago (The
Way of St James), runs
from Navarra to Santiago de Compostela.
Biking: hire to be found in many tourist
areas, but roads can be busy, hilly and hot. Stick to minor roads
if possible and consider a pro bike tour with full support if the wallet fits. In English hooked on cycling or cycling country may be able to help you on yer bike.
White Water Rafting: Aragon and Catalonia, especially Sort village in the Pyrenees.
Golf: available just about everywhere so pick a location to suit your other interests. If the budget is low head for the Costa de la Luz, if it's a mid-winter break try the Canaries or if you want the best selection of courses take a holiday in the Costs Brava. Whatever you need, golf breaks in Spain will deliver.
Sailing: widely available, check locally. For board surfing etc. see below.
Tarifa beach, southern Spain, near Gibraltar
Wind/Kitesurfing: at most beaches but
aficionados head for pretty and always-windy Tarifa, near Gibraltar or for endless awesome windy beaches head for the Canary Islands.
Surfing: good waves along the Atlantic
coast of the Basque Country (Pais Vasco), Costa de la Luz and off the Canaries but very little on
Fishing: check with Federacion Española
de Pesca for information. No website.
Climbing: plenty of serious rocks around
and the Federacion Española de Montañismo has full details of options,
but not in English.
Hang/Paragliding: Castilla y Leon and
Castilla-La Mancha have some internationally famous sites for hanging
around, while Para people like Valle de Abdalajis, North of Malaga.
Downhill skiing: from Dec-May, especially
at Vall d'Aran in Catalonia, Sierra Nevada Ski Station 32 kms north of Granada and Sierra
de Guadarrama north of Madrid. Cross -country skiing also.
Fearless firework festivals, especially in Valencia in March
February-March, Carnival time. Especially wild in Madrid, Barcelona,
Sitges and Tenerife island.
March, Las Fallas, Valencia. A crazed week-long street party based on fire and fireworks, lots of both.
March- April, Holy Week (Semana Santa) - majestic, pointy-headed parades
and some music. Especially vibrant in Seville, Granada and Malaga.
Late April, Feria de Abril, Seville. More wild, horse-oriented celebrations in this lovely
city, but this time less restrained - to put it mildly...
July, Bull Running (Sanfermines), Pamplona. Don't be bored, be gored.
August (last Wed), La Tomatina, Buñol (Valencia). The famous
tomato street battles.
some precise dates see: European
Festivals or Arts
Language: As usual a tourist's relationship with locals - not to mention ability to haggle politely over prices - will improve dramatically with a few words and phrases of the local language. Fortunately Spanish is a particularly easy language to learn, in fact many regard it as the easiest major language in the world. In addition, think how many countries use it, including California and Florida! So it's well worth making an effort to learn Spanish.
EU citizens do not need visas, nor do many other country residents
- including USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, for visits
up to 90 days.
Spain electric sockets are mostly 230v and take 2 round pin plugs.
Spanish pharmacists usually speak good English and have wide powers
to prescribe medicines. i.e. try them first for small medical
problems. The sign is a fat illuminated green or red cross.
A very hammy Madrid restaurant
Spanish foods tend to be full-flavoured, rich and leans towards
heavy protein content.
Popular with travellers are paella (sea food with rice, frequently overcooked), gazpacho (cold tomato++ soup, yummy) and varied chorizo (spicy sausages). Tapas (small tasty
snacks served with drinks) used to be free but rarely are these
days, but are still a good way to eat on the cheap.
Lunch and siesta occupy much of the heat of the day, while dinner
is eaten either late or very late by locals.
See Tourist Attractions for
Spain's best destinations