Photographer and explorer of 75 countries and counting
My article is a guide to a few activities that I have done myself and really showed a different side to visiting Spain.
Spain deserves its title as one of the all time most popular holiday destinations. You could spend a lifetime visiting and still not have seen all the natural and cultural beauty this country has to offer! Despite its popularity there are still some lesser-known destinations that feel a world away from the high rise hotels of the Costa del Sol, so here are my five must-do experiences to make the most of a holiday to Spain..
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5 must do’s of Spain
1.Hire a Boat on the Costa Blanca
On the east coast of Spain is the stunning, rugged scenery of the Costa Blanca. It has its fair share of resorts, including Benidorm and Alicante however I would recommend heading north to the lesser-known coastal area around Xabia. The region boasts stunning rural scenery, dotted with small traditional towns where tapas can be eaten al-fresco late into the night with an accompaniment of Spanish guitar.
Give yourself a day of the superstar lifestyle by heading to the seaside town of Denia and hiring a boat with a skipper for a few hours, to enjoy the views of the imposing pale cliff-faces from the ocean. This stretch of coastline boasts some spectacular cliff top mansions, worthy of a Bond villain, and it’s easy to while away an afternoon speculating about the lives of the people who live there. The cliffs are peppered with underwater caves and your skipper should drop anchor regularly to allow you to snorkel off the boat and enjoy the crystal-clear waters and exotic sea life. Swimming can be thirsty work so sure you pack a cool box of beers and snacks, as well as some portable speakers to get the party started at sea!
2. Rent a Villa
If you are travelling with a group of friends then renting a villa is a really cost-effective choice for accommodation in Spain. I would always advocate avoiding the resort hotels and instead finding a little patch of paradise to call your own for the week. Spanish supermarkets are packed with fresh produce and excellent wine at bargain prices, so what better way to spend your evenings than sharing a home cooked meal with friends on the terrace of your own private villa? If you’re visiting in the summer make sure you opt for a villa with a pool, however, as you’ll need a way to cool off in the ferocious Spanish sun.
3. La Tomatina
La Tomatina is the annual tomato throwing festival that takes place in the small town of Bunol, near Valencia. Legend has it that the festival began in 1945 after a fight broke out at a parade and locals began pelting fruit and vegetables at each-other, pinched from nearby market stalls. Since then the tomato throwing has been an annual fixture, which has begun attracting increasing numbers of tourists from overseas.
There’s a great party atmosphere and, after the tomatoes are thrown, the whole town square gets hosed down by fire trucks but visitors are left to find their own ways to clean off. I was lucky enough to be lent use of a hose by a kind local, but lots of festivalgoers end up jumping in a nearby river. Don’t expect to just turn up with a bag of tomatoes and join in though, you now have to have a ticket booked in advance to take part.
4. Climb Naranjo De Bulnes
In the north of Spain, near the city of Bilbao is the mountain peak Naranjo De Bulnes. It can be climbed in a couple of days, but is pretty challenging so only more advanced climbers should attempt to reach the summit. The Naranjo de Bulnes, or Picu Urriellu as it is known by the locals, is the most iconic mountain in Spain. Is your up for the challenge you can hire a guide and bag a truly iconic mountain. For non-climbers there is a much more accessible hiking trail around the base, which takes in the spectacular scenery in the shadow of the imposing and mysterious mountain.
5. Visit La Sagrada Familia
As one of the most popular cultural attractions in Barcelona, the unfinished cathedral La Sagrada Familia definitely isn’t lesser known but it’s so spectacular I just had to include it! It was designed by local architect Antoni Gaudi, who is famous for his unusual, highly decorated buildings which can be seen all around Barcelona. Construction on the cathedral began in 1882, and unbelievably it is still not complete but when you see the detailed decoration inside you can understand why its construction has been such a monumental project. I particularly loved the bright stained-glass windows which cast a spectrum of colours onto the stone interior.
After visiting the cathedral make time to enjoy the famous nightlife of Barcelona. My favourite spot to kick off an evening with friends is the bar Espit Chupitos which offers a mind-boggling array of shots at bargain prices. Their theatrical concoctions are a great backdrop for meeting locals and seeing where the night takes you!
Ready to book a Spanish vacation? With the help of our dedicated team at Travelisto, we can help you plan your escape to the beautiful country. Travelisto can build a package to suit individual needs.
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