A Pyrenean parador
Here’s one of those secrets. Located in a relatively-unknown area of the Pyrenees, Monte Perdido National Park offers terrific walking. Easy hikes take in river meadows and spectacular waterfalls, while tougher, non-technical trudges promise plunging, pine-forested canyons and views into France. All are ideal for anyone who overdid the pintxos in San Sebastian.
Where to stay? The Parador de Bielsa has refuge-style lounges with log fireplaces. It’s the terrace’s 180-degree mountain vistas which really get the blood pumping, though, especially if eagles are circling overhead. The friendly staff can provide picnics, and hearty dinners star local fare like migas aragonesas (fried breadcrumbs with local sausage and grapes).
The real Costa Brava
Did you know that the Costa Brava is known as Spain’s wild coast? Head just an hour north from Barcelona and you’ll find frothy reaches between quaint fishing villages such as Calella de Palafrugell and Tamariu. Dali fans can stop at Cadaques’ museum-house, where the painter used to work, and his hometown of Figures.
Inland hide picturesque Catalonian hilltop towns like Begur, where a crumbling medieval castle peers over narrow lanes, and Girona: a great city for foodies courtesy of the feted El Celler de Can Roca restaurant. It’s possible to rent a villa and spend a week somewhere, or to undertake a more roving itinerary.
Tapas and flamenco in Seville
Seville’s tapas and flamenco scenes are no secret, but that creates a problem: there’s much dross amid the few gems, and Google won’t help you sort chaff from wheat.
We’ve enlisted local experts to provide guided (or part-guided) culinary adventure around the cities and its orange-tree streets. You’ll learn about the traditions of jamón iberico during an insider tapas crawl, then cross Rio Guadalquivir to the old gypsy district Triana for an authentic flamenco performance.
Moorish Crescent by rail
Conquered by Arabs and Berbers in the 8th century, Andalusia is rich in Moorish tradition and architecture – not just in the form of incredible monuments like the Alhambra palaces, but more subtly via customs, cultures and food. Travelling by train along a romantically scenic line, this
itinerary traces that heritage between Almeria and Algeciras, two ports where the Moors first arrived from North Africa.
Granada and that Alhambra also features, as do smaller, quieter towns: Antequera and its fortress, mountaintop Ronda, splendidly looking down a gorge and seaside Tarifa, all with fascinating stories of Moorish times to tell and show. An optional four-day extension to Morocco can be tagged on.
Cycling in Matarranya
Matarranya (or Matarraña) is a small area inside Teruel province, south-west of Barcelona. Despite sometimes being called ‘Spain’s Tuscany’, it is virtually unknown – which is fine with us. We’re perfectly happy to keep its beautiful gorge-climbing paths, swimmable river pools, medieval towns, tree-climbing goats and high-quality, British-run country hotels and their fine food all to ourselves!
One great activity here is cycling. Matarranya is also home to the Via Verde, a disused railway turned bicycle greenway passing lonely fincas (farmhouses) and bright-green barley fields. Pedalling along it is easy and relentlessly picturesque; better yet, we can arrange bike hire and transfers at either end for a great day out.
While single-property stays are most definitely the answer for short breaks and those preferring to stay stationary, we advise everyone else to consider a Spanish fly-drive. These are the trips which most allow us to demonstrate our passion for and knowledge.
Crucial to a fly-drive is pace. While seeing an array of sights is the aim, no-one wants to return home from a holiday feeling tired. You’re there to relax, to be intoxicated by Spain and its landscape, locals and lifestyle – and you won’t accomplish that by rushing about. Our focus is also permanently on small, personal accommodation options. Places whose owners will take perfect care of you, but without overdoing it.
Spain will always be a classic destination, from its classically popular destinations to its secret swathes of lovely, little-visited areas to discover.
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