One of the world’s most visited countries, Spain offers gastronomic delights, cultural experiences and adventure activities for all tastes and budgets. The art and architecture, flamenco dancers, bull fights and beaches are the highlights in many a traveller’s stories. The locals always seem to be in good spirits, and it’s hardly surprising — Spain is the land of fiestas (which is essentially the Spanish word for ‘big party’) and you’ll find them happening regularly in most towns and villages.
Cities to visit
Barcelona - Spain’s second-largest city, located on the Mediterranean Sea and famous for its extraordinary architecture and sun-drenched beaches.
Granada - Home to the finest flamenco performances, winter sports at the Sierra Nevada Mountains and a relaxing day in the sun on its gorgeous beaches.
Madrid - Spain’s largest city and commercial hub, with museums for art lovers, football games and bull
fighting, and many historic and architectural sites.
Malaga - A popular destination for beach lovers, Malaga boasts interesting Arabian-influenced artefacts and structures.
Valencia - Famous for its stunning beaches, water sports, and orange groves — it’s also home to Europe’s largest aquarium and a theme park for art, science and technology.
La Tomatina Festival
Unleash your inner child and take part in the world’s biggest food fight! Held in August every year in Bunol, the party starts innocently enough with a huge feast. Then thousands of people armed with tomatoes fill the streets, and over one hundred tonnes of the fruit are hurled, tossed and squished everywhere until the town runs red. Once the ammunition runs out, the messy participants head to the bar to recount the day over jugs of Sangria.
Visit the Aqueduct
Built 2,000 years ago, the Aqueduct crosses the Old Town of Segovia from one side to the other. Its 800m long span and dramatic, architectural beauty have cemented it as Spain’s most impressive Roman structure. In fact, there’s no similar monument in Europe that matches its excellent state of preservation and massive scale. When you’re done sightseeing — and perhaps working up an appetite — head into Segovia and visit one of the town’s famous tapas bars.
Experience Camp Nou
You don’t need to be a fan of football to appreciate the experience of Barcelona’s famous stadium, Camp Nou. Completed in 1957, Camp Nou has hosted numerous international sports matches like the FIFA World Cup. By capacity, it is the largest stadium in the country and the atmosphere generated by 100,000 fans makes it worth a visit on game days. Match tickets can be purchased at the stadium office in the days leading up to games. There’s also regular tours that provide a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the venue, which includes a walkthrough of the stadium’s football museum.
Ski the Sierra Nevada Mountains
The world-famous resorts at Sierra Nevada have two things that you don’t normally find in close proximity — great skiing and sandy beaches. Meaning ‘snowy range’, the Sierra Nevada Mountains provide a variety of fun winter activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, bobsledding and ice climbing. A quick car trip down the mountain range takes you straight to the Mediterranean coast, where resort towns like Salobrena will captivate you with cobblestone streets and white-washed houses.
Foods to eat
Tapas - An excellent way to understand the variety of Spanish cuisine, these small snacks are served with drinks in bars all over Spain. They range from a simple plate of olives to gourmet canapés.
Paella - A traditional rice dish seasoned with saffron and served with a wide selection of seafood or meat, such as clams, calamari, shrimp, chicken legs, pork and rabbit.
Tortilla de Patatas - The famous Spanish omelette, consisting of diced potatoes, eggs and chopped onions.
Flan de Huevos - A sweet custard dessert made from eggs, milk, caramelised sugar and lemon rind.
It’s Spain’s top gig, and each year the Festival Internacional de Benicassim — commonly known as FIB — attracts more and more music lovers. The location is particularly enticing, and the nearby beaches are packed with partygoers during the day before the bands kick off in the evening. The festival is held in July, which is when the camping grounds open in Benicassim. The lineup features mainly electro, rock and pop music acts, and offstage entertainment includes art shows, fashion parades and short film screenings.
Garajonay National Park
Located at the centre of La Gomera in the Canary Islands, Garajonay National Park boasts dazzling scenery set in the midst of rocky vistas. Garajonay’s vegetation is often cloaked in a thick, white mist that envelops visitors as they venture beneath the leafy canopy. The park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986, and is a favourite with nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. There’s a system of well-marked trails and lookout points that are easily walked. Keen hikers can climb to the summit of Mount Garajonay, which rises 1,500m above the evergreen forest.
Road trip along the coast
With around 1,600km of stunning Mediterranean coastline, it’s little wonder that Spain’s seaside towns and beaches are so popular. One of the best ways to experience the different scenery and towns is by car, with a close second being the long-distance rail network. Numerous resort towns like Tarifa, Mundaka and Costa Del Sol attract watersport lovers and golfers. Travellers wanting to head off the beaten track should head east into pueblo blanco (white town) territory, to the quieter and charming villages like Axarquia, Frigiliana and Salobrena.
Sail to the Caves of Drach
Made up of four cave systems, the Caves of Drach on Majorca Island are an unforgettable subterranean experience. The caves have spectacular limestone formations, extending over 1km long and up to 25m high. And hidden within is Lake Martel, one of the world’s largest underground lakes. Visitors can take a boat trip across the crystal clear water, and the tour includes a classical music concert that makes the most of the natural acoustics.
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