The Welcome Back Series

003: Spain

The Welcome Back Series
Editor’s letter


Dear colleagues and readers of ABTA Magazine.

We are delighted to be collaborating with ABTA Magazine on this Welcome Back guide to Spain.

We know it’s been a very challenging year for our sector but we hope that this guide helps to remind you of what awaits in Spain and the wonderful diversity that our country offers from its cities and beaches to its spas and gastronomy.

We look forward to warmly welcoming you and your clients back to Spain as soon as it is possible.

– Javier Piñanes, director of the Spanish Tourist Office (UK)

Turn over the page to read the most unmissable experiences in Spain


Get in touch with the team

The ABTA Magazine Guide to Spain is produced in association with the Spanish Tourist Office. Click here for more information about Spanish tourism

ABTA Magazine is produced by Waterfront Publishing on behalf of ABTA, The Travel Association.


Anthony Pearce, director
020 3865 9360

DJMWeb, The Studio

Nathaniel Cramp, Emily Eastman

Sales and partnerships

Sam Ballard, director

Bryan Johnson, senior sales manager
0203 865 9338
075 3270 9734

About ABTA

Waterfront Publishing is an independent publisher based in central London. It has an in-house magazines, Cruise Adviser, which is aimed at the travel trade. It has also produced magazines on behalf of ABTATravelzoo; and Emerald Waterways. Its design agency The Studio by Waterfront offers copywriting, proofreading and design for print, digital, advertising and branding.

Get in touch

Waterfront Publishing
Hop Exchange,
Southwark Street,
London, SE1 1TY
020 3865 9360

Three unmissable experiences

No visit to Spain would be complete without experiencing bucolic life in its most remote regions, a cultural tour of its great galleries and museums and a trip to one of its many food markets. These are some of the unmissable experience of Spain

Breathtaking trails

Extremadura, a region bordering Portugal and comprising the provinces of Cáceres and Badajoz, is often described as Spain’s best-kept secret. Although off the international tourist trail, the region, which is home to the wildlife-rich Monfragüe and Cornalvo natural parks, is an unmissable experience – and best enjoyed on foot. The Valle del Jerte in northern Extremadura is famous for its cherry blossom in spring, when more than two million trees colour the valley white. The area’s unique micro-climate has encouraged a centuries-long family custom in which cherries are grown in the traditional way on terraces carved out of the high mountainsides; in May, the area is busy with industrious hands packing the sweet fruit. But it’s beautiful at any time of year: in the summer heat, or in autumn, when the leaves colour the mountains an ochre shade and the Otoñada cultural and gastronomic festival takes place.

Aside from stunning vistas and an abundance of natural wonders, visitors to the Valle del Jerte should explore its quaint towns and settlements, including Baños de Montemayor, which is known for its Roman-built baths and mild climate, thanks to its location backing on to the Ambroz Valley. Nearby is beautiful Hervás, famous for its Jewish quarter, with its narrow, undulating streets and small houses made with adobe and chestnut-wood frameworks.

The region is particularly rich for towns with paradores – essentially luxury hotels, usually located in a converted historic building such as a monastery or castle. In Plasencia, for example, is a Gothic hotel in the former convent of Saint Domingo, founded by the Zúñiga family in the mid 15th century. In Trujillo is a stunning hotel in the former convent of Santa Clara; while in Guadalupe (pictured main), a hotel is situated in what was once the 16th-century palace of the Marquis de la Romana. It is connected to the former San Juan Bautista Hospital, a 15th-century structure which today serves as the parador’s courtyards.

One of the region’s best-known trails is Ruta de Carlos V, the final stage of a much longer route stretching from Laredo in Cantabria to Jarandilla de la Vera. The name is literal: it follows the path taken by Charles V on his final journey through Spain following his abdication in 1556, taking in Monasterio de Yuste, where he retired. There’s also the (considerably easier) route from Jerte to the Garganta de los Infiernos (called the Ruta de los Pilones), which is a 6km round trip. Some skip the hard work altogether and bathe in the natural pools in summer. Game of Thrones fans may recognise parts of Extremadura from season seven, with Los Barruecos Natural Monument serving as the site for the Battle of the Dragon.

For more about Extremadura, click here

Bilbao is rich with museums, including the Guggenheim


Culture capitals

Spain, the birthplace of Flamenco music and Pablo Picasso, is rich with cultural delights. For museums and art galleries, Bilbao, the largest city in the province of Biscay and in the northern Basque Country as a whole, is a good place to start. It is home to the Guggenheim, a modern and contemporary art museum designed by the legendary Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, and shares a name and collection with the original Guggenheim on Fifth Avenue, New York. Opened in 1997, the museum houses famous artworks including Mark Rothko’s Untitled (1952-3), Jeff Koons’ wildly idiosyncratic Puppy (1992) and Anselm Kiefer’s majestic The Land of the Two Rivers (1995). The city’s grand old institution, however, is the Museum of Fine Arts, founded in 1908; it contains a number of masterpieces by the likes of José de Ribera, Francisco de Goya and Paul Gauguin. To get a greater understanding of the region’s history, head to the Basque Museum (or Euskal Museo), which turns 100 years old in 2021. In that time, it has accumulated a collection of more than 20,000 objects, which it says illustrates and reflects the different aspects that shaped the life and daily work of the Basque people.

In Madrid, there is an abundance of options. On the Boulevard of the Arts, or the Art Walk, are three big-hitters: the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Reina Sofía Art Centre and the Prado Museum. The latter is main Spanish national art museum, established in 1819, and it houses one of the world’s finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century, including masterpieces from the likes of José de Ribera, Francisco Goya, El Greco, Diego Velazquez, Murillo and Rubens. The Reina Sofía Art Centre, meanwhile, is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art. As well as pieces by Dalî, Buñuel and the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, it is also contains Guernica, arguably Picasso’s greatest work. The third museum on the strip is the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, which fills the historical gaps in its neighbouring museum’s collections, and houses works by impressionists and post-impressionists such as Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh. Elsewhere, there is the Sorolla Museum, which has retained the original interiors of the home and studio of the celebrated Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida. It situated in the Chamberi neighbourhood, just off the busy La Castellana avenue; the grounds are as remarkable as the artworks. For opera lovers, the Teatro Real – often simply called El Real – is one of the finest in Europe.

For more on Spanish culture, see here.

Valencia’s food food market, built in Valencian Art Nouveau

The mercados de abastos

No visit to Spain would be complete without a visit to at least one of its many mercados de abastos – food markets that have existed in Spain for 200 years and offer one of the most authentic culinary experiences you can enjoy. Here are a few of our favourites.

The market of Santiago de Compostela, the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, is the second most visited place in the city after its cathedral. The market has been supplying the city’s residents and travellers with mostly local produce since 1873: today, in the bustling market, you’ll find seafood, meat and vegetables from the surrounding region, and plenty of bars and restaurants.

In Cádiz, on the southwestern tip of Spain, you will find a historic food market in the Plaza de la Libertad. Inaugurated in 1838, it is better known as Mercado de las Flores, and now boasts more than 150 stalls, many of which are small tapas bars serving local food, finos (sherry), table wines and local brew beers. The best time to visit is midday for tapas aperitivo time.

The reputation of Mercado de La Boquería in Barcelona precedes it. Found in the middle of Las Ramblas, the city’s most famous street, the market is alive with different colours, smells and flavours, making it a favourite of locals and tourists. Although its structures didn’t exist until the mid 19th century, the first mention of the Boquería dates from 1217, making it one of the most storied markets in the world.

Mercado Central in Valencia is work of Valencian Art Nouveau – one of the most spectacular markets you’re ever likely to see. Covering more than 8,000 square metres, it houses about 300 stalls of fresh products, with an emphasis on fish, fruit and vegetables. Get tapas or an aperitif in mid-morning, grab a coffee, or try one of the fresh fruit juices. Live like a local and enjoy a horchata de chufa juice with fartons, a confectionery sweet from the town of Alboray.

The Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid was inaugurated in 1916 next to the Plaza Mayor. Housing more than 30 shops, with each stall now a renowned brand that in turn means the market is a Mecca for food lovers. In Bilbao, the Mercado de La Ribera is one of the largest covered markets in Europe, covering 10,000 square metres; its Art Deco design and large stained-glass windows also make it one of the most impressive. There are 180 stalls and several bars inside, making it the perfect place to start your aperitivo y pintxos at 1pm.

Mercado Parque de la Victoria in Córdoba was the first Andalusian gastronomic market, and is housed in a repurposed structure that dates from the 19th century. It has about 30 stalls, which serve fresh produce and hot food from the surrounding region. Try a salmorejo, a purée consisting of tomato and bread, originating from the city.

For more on Spain’s food markets, click here. For more information about Spanish tourism in general, click here.

Video: Cultural Spain

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Cities of gold

Spain’s cities are rich with history and culture. Heidi Fuller-Love takes a look at some of the best

The iconic market of Ribera at Bilbao, Spain

From Córdoba’s Great Mosque, to the massive fortified walls of medieval Ávila and Santiago’s 12th century cathedral, Spain’s 14 Unesco World Heritage Sites and countless charming towns are packed with thrilling sights and activities for culture lovers. Spain takes the stewardship of its historic and cultural heritage seriously – in 1993, it established the Spanish Group of World Heritage Cities, a project working to maintain the unique character and richness of the country’s historic urban centres.

Whether you want to stay in a luxurious parador and spend a weekend visiting top notch art galleries and world class museums, or prefer to check into a chic boutique hotel and enjoy a leisurely week wandering among glorious architecture as you shop for unique souvenirs, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.

Barcelona’s lively La Rambla walkway, ornate Sagrada Familia cathedral and superb Picasso museum might be magnets for culture lovers, but it’s well worth heading out of town to discover neighbouring Sitges. Apart from stunning Art Nouveau buildings and the scenic Passeig Marítim seafront walkway, cultural highlights of this hip and happening town include the Cau Ferrat Museum, dedicated to Catalan modernist architect Santiago Rusiñol, and the Stämpfli Foundation, a contemporary arts centre housed in the city’s old fish market.

Fans of modernist architecture should also plan a pilgrimage to the Vermouth-producing city of Reus, where the Gaudí Centre showcases the work of Spain’s world-renowned architect who was born here in 1852. After visiting this fascinating interactive museum, follow the lovely leafy route through town, stopping to admire ornate facades en route.

From Barcelona it’s an easy hop to Pamplona, capital of the region of Navarre and home to some of the country’s best pelota players.

A major stopover on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, Pamplona is also renowned for its dazzling – and sometimes dangerous – running of the bulls, which takes place each July as part of the Fiesta de San Fermín. Pay a visit to the Picassos and Kandinskys in the city’s Museo Universidad de Navarra, shop in chic boutiques along Avenida Carlos III or attend the Pamplona Reclassics festival in July, however, and you’ll agree that there’s much more to this city, which was immortalised by Ernest Hemingway in his novel The Sun Also Rises.

It’s an easy two-hour drive from Pamplona to Bilbao. Culture vultures and fans of fine architecture will love this port city overlooking the brilliant blue Bay of Biscay, but the smaller, more peaceful seaside town of Santander next door has plenty of thrilling attractions, too.

Learn all about the city’s marine heritage in the mesmerising Museo Marítimo del Cantábrico and marvel at world class contemporary art on show in the spaceship-like Centro Botin, and then take the tourist train out to visit Santander’s Palacio de la Magdalena. Set on a lush and lovely peninsula overlooking some of the city’s best beaches, this ornate palace was built in 1908 as a summer home for the Spanish royal family.

A few hours inland from Santander you’ll find a string of lesser known towns, including León clustered around its magnificent Gothic cathedral; Villafranca del Bierzo with its medieval palaces and the Galician city of Lugo, famed for its beautifully conserved Roman walls. Staying in one of Spain’s historic paradors is a great way to soak up the local culture, so make sure to visit Sigüenza, where you can spend the night in a lofty canopied bed in this pretty city’s massive mediaeval castle.

Birthplace of heart-stirring flamenco and home to some of the country’s finest Mudéjar architecture, sultry Seville also abounds with cultural delights. Learn all about Andalusia’s most iconic art form in the artefact-packed Museo del Baile Flamenco museum and then climb the Giralda tower, which was built in the 12th century as a minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville.

If you’re seeking more of those dizzy views make a beeline for the – far more modern – Metropol Parasol completed in 2011, which claims to be the world’s largest wooden structure. From the lofty mirador of Seville’s mushroom-like landmark you’ll have breathtaking views over the domes and ornate spires of this sun-soaked southern city.

Make sure to explore the countryside surrounding Seville to discover lesser-known towns such as Carmona, a light-dazzled, ochre-tiled conurbation where convents and palaces rub shoulders with Roman remains and Mudéjar architecture.

A few hours east of Seville in the Andalusia region lies Granada, famed for its mediaeval architecture dating back to the Moorish occupation. The Alhambra, a sprawling palace and fortress complex, is one of the most visited monuments in Europe. And visitors arriving for the history can’t resist the food. In Granada, drinks come with free food, and the city’s tapas is renowned. Typical dishes include Habas con Jamon (fava beans with serrano ham), Andalusian gazpacho and the tortilla of sacromonte.

Of course, no guide to Spain’s cultural cities would be complete without mention of Madrid, which sits at the heart of the country. The largest of Spain’s metropolitan areas, Madrid requires some time to explore. There’s the Reina Sofia museum, Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art – just one of the city’s many art museums; Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple given to Spain in the ’60s that affords unparalleled views of the city; and the Palacio Real, the official residence of the Spanish royal family.

Much of the joy of a city break comes from simply wandering the streets and taking in the atmosphere. Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s most famous square, is perfect for people-watching – and refuelling. For an authentic taste of the city, sample bocadillo de calamares as you explore, a fresh bread roll filled with flour-coated and deep-fried squid rings.

Whichever of your senses you use to soak up the culture and history of Spain, you’re sure to agree that the country’s culture-packed conurbations are well worth discovering.

For more on Spain’s city, click here. For more information about Spanish tourism in general, click here

Video: Modern cities

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A food lovers’ paradise

Spain’s culinary heritage is inextricably linked to its history. From rustic seafood to Michelin-starred restaurants, Heidi Fuller-love samples it all

Tapas and pinchos

Backed by Portugal, fringing France and fronting Morocco across the Mediterranean, Spain’s culinary heritage has been deeply influenced by the successive peoples who’ve settled here.

From the rice and saffron that were introduced by the Moors, to exotic products such as peppers, corn and potatoes that were bought back from the Americas, you can expect a succulent blend of ingredients which vary dramatically from region to region.

From rice dish paella, invented in the seaside town of Valencia to the goose barnacles that are perilously harvested along the rocky coast of Galicia, fresh seafood is one of the foodie highlights you can expect to enjoy on the Iberian peninsula. When it comes to meat, Spain’s Ibérico ham – produced from acorn-fed black pigs – is the best in the world, but vegetarians will also be wooed by succulent dishes such as tomato-rich gazpacho and fluffy, potato-packed tortillas.

The choice of eating venues is bewildering, too. Whether you love grazing in food markets like Barcelona’s Boqueria and Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel, gourmet dining at Michelin star restaurants such as Martin Berasategui’s Arzak in San Sebastián, or atmospheric snacking in one of Madrid’s century-old tapas bars, Spain is a food lovers’ paradise.

Home of the world’s oldest restaurant, Botín, which is famed for its crunchy roast suckling pig, Madrid makes a good starting point for a gourmet tour of Spain. Specialities to try here include cocido madrileño, a hearty chickpea, chorizo and morcilla stew. It’s best sampled at award-winning restaurant La Cruz Blanca de Vallecas, or in more rustic surroundings at cosy tavern Malacatín where they’ve been making this meaty dish since 1895.

Not for the faint of heart, tripe dish callos a la madrileña, which has been made here since the 16th century, is another Madrid must-try: for the best plate-load follow locals to popular eatery La Tasquería. You should also fill up on the city’s iconic fast food bocadillo de calamares – calamari-stuffed baguette – at El Brillante, or snack on succulent soldaditos de Pavía – battered cod marinated in paprika and lemon juice – at Casa Labra , one of the city’s century-old cafes.

A high-speed train will whisk you through Basque country, famed for its sidrerías cider houses, to the seaside city of San Sebastian, which is heaven for seafood fans. Head for the old town or the Gros district to sup on tapas-snack pintxos, including the local specialty Gilda, made with a plump anchovy wrapped in a spicy pickled pepper and served with an olive.

San Sebastian is rightly renowned for its world-class food scene, but it’s also worth heading for the neighbouring towns of Hondarribia and Zarauz, and the cobbled streets of Vitoria-Gasteiz, where innovative young chefs dish up fine food in a slightly humbler setting.

San Sebastian is famous for its seafood

A few hours’ drive inland, Logroño at the heart of the celebrated wine-producing Rioja region, is also a magnet for food lovers. Spend time in calle Laurel and calle San Juan, two streets teeming with top-notch tapas bars and restaurants in the city’s old town, and then stop off to sip and sup in a string of bodegas and wineries near the country town of Ezcaray which is famed for its Rioja-macerated steak dish solomillo al vino tinto.

Zaragoza, the often overlooked capital city of Spain’s autonomous Aragón region lying beside the Ebro River, is also a great place for galloping gourmets.

Home to the magnificent Aljafería Palace and other ornate Moorish architectural marvels, Zaragoza’s iconic food delights include succulent barbecued milk-fed baby lamb dish ternasco and chilindron, a chicken stew with a rich tomato, pepper and onion sauce. Try both dishes – accompanied by crisp red wines from the neighbouring cities of Cariñena and Borja – in restaurants near the city’s historic quarter clustered around the 17th century Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar.

Alternatively, head along the coast to La Coruña, in northwest Spain, where Albariño and Ribeira Sacra wines made from the region’s celebrated godello grapes marry perfectly with the seafood for which this city is famed.

Back in buzzy Barcelona make a beeline for the atmospheric barrios of La Barceloneta and El Ensanche, or the narrow mediaeval streets of the Gothic Quarter and order deep-fried baby squid chipirones, salted cod, olives peppers and onion salad esqueixada, or la bomba, a beef-stuffed fried potato croquette topped with a garlicky aioli sauce.

End your succulent trip of Spain in the southerly city of Murcia. Open since 1914, Murcia’s Mercado de Verónicas is a vast feast for the senses set across two floors, where you’ll find the raw ingredients used to make classic local dishes such as rice and fish arroz caldero, bean stew michirones and cuttlefish and broad bean dish, chipirones con habas.

Sample them beneath glittering chandeliers in the city’s elegant Real Casino de Murcia restaurant and then set out on the bodega-dotted wine route which leads through the neighbouring region of Bullas where you’ll finish your gourmet trip on a high note as you sup on some of the country’s best-known wines.

Click here for more information about Spanish tourism and here for more on Spain’s food in particular


Where to find the best beaches

With almost 5,000km of stunning coastline, Spain has a beach for everyone, writes Heidi Fuller-Love

Whether you prefer hidden sheltered coves lapped by sparkling waters, long stretches of toddler-friendly silk-soft sand or super sophisticated seaside resorts where you can sit and sip cocktails, with almost 5,000km of coastline stunning sun-soaked Spain has a beach for every taste.

Secluded island life on laidback La Graciosa

The Canary Islands’ newest hidden gem, this little-known atoll just a 30-minute ferry hop from Lanzarote is part of the Chinijo archipelago – one of Europe’s largest marine reserves – and has some of the country’s most beautiful unspoilt beaches. The best way to explore on this car-free island is to hire a bike and head out along sandy tracks that link the lovely pristine coastline with a string of small villages.

Half an hour from main town Caleta del Sebo, Playa de las Conchas’ fine golden sands strewn with seashells are a paradise for sunseekers, but keen swimmers will prefer the crystal clear waters of Playa del Salado on the island’s sun-dazzled southern coast.

Sweeping beaches and spaghetti westerns in the Parque Natural del Cabo de Gata-Níjar

At the heart of the spectacularly wild Cabo de Gata-Níjar park, the sand and shingle Playa de los Muertos beach stretches for more than a kilometre between the pretty hamlets of Carboneras and Agua Amarga, with their charming guesthouses and seafood restaurants.

Fringed by cobalt waters, this beach lovers’ oasis at the heart of Almeria’s rocky, cactus-studded landscapes which have been the backdrop for countless Spaghetti westerns, can only reached by foot from the Mirador de los Muertos viewing point.

This isolated cove is also linked by a dramatically scenic coastal footpath to the 19th century Mesa Roldán lighthouse standing high on its rocky outcrop looking out over the Mediterranean.

Sun worshipping on the Playa de las Catedrales

Named for its spectacular rock formations, which resemble the soaring arches found in Gothic basilicas, Playa de las Catedrales, near the Galician town of Ribadeo, is a watery wonderland for sun worshippers.

Washed by brilliant blue sea, the smooth sand beach – which is reached via a steep stone staircase – is ideal for sunbathing, but at low tide when the beach’s natural wonders are revealed, you can wander beneath lofty stone arches and explore the gruyere-like labyrinth of sea caves, before beating a rapid retreat when the waters rise again.

Sophisticated city beaches in the centre of Cádiz

Sun-seekers and urban beach babes who long to be close to the action will love the Blue Flag beaches of La Caleta and La Victoria at the heart of one of Andalusia’s liveliest cities.

Most popular with locals, the Playa de la Victoria has plenty of facilities, including sunbeds, a sports area and its own outdoor cinema. For a more laidback vibe head to La Caleta, a pristine beach between the picturesque Castillo de Santa Catalina and Castillo de San Sebastián castles, which is backed by lovely bars and beach shack chiringuitos serving brine-fresh seafood.

Paella and perfect beaches in Valencia 

Valencia, on Spain’s east coast, is famed for its fabulous beaches.

Closest to the city’s lively centre, Playa de las Arenas’ dusky sands fringed by shallow seas are ideal for families, who can spend days lazing on the soft sand beach and evenings supping on local specialities – including paella, which was invented here in the mid-19th century – in a string of stylish restaurants and bars behind the seafront.

For a more peaceful beach experience make a beeline for the soft sands of Patacona beach, with its seaside cafes where you can sample deliciously refreshing local drink horchata de chufa made with made with the tiger nuts that are grown next door in Alboraya.

Woman exercising outdoors on a beach in Fuerteventura

Volcanic landscapes and glorious seascapes in the Canary Islands

At the heart of Fuerteventura’s Parque Natural de Corralejo – with its seascapes backed by endless dunes rising to a height of 50m in places – is one of the Canary Islands’ most breathtaking beaches.

Half an hour’s bumpy car ride from capital Puerto del Rosario’s whitewashed houses and pretty fishing port this beach, dotted with ancient circular stone windbreaks known as corralitos, is also just a 20-minute boat ride from the tiny uninhabited volcanic island of Los Lobos, which is home to rare seabirds and endangered Mediterranean monk seals.

Elsewhere in the Canary Islands, sultry, dark-sand shores can be found in Northern Tenerife. The black-sanded Puerto de la Cruz is backed by an old harbour housing a 17th-century customs house and the crumbling, 18th-century fort of Batería de Santa Bárbara.

Gran Canaria also has its fair share of dramatic beaches. Maspalomas beach is a protected nature reserve, with its own palm tree oasis, lagoon and undulating sand dunes. Also in the south, the dark-sand Playa de Patalavaca has a more local vibe, with a good selection of traditional Canarian restaurants within walking distance. From here, an hour’s drive around the eastern curve of Gran Canaria will take you to Playa del Confital, a rocky nature reserve that’s popular with surfers.

Lanzarote’s Playa de Famara is a good bet to escape the crowds. Framed by towering cliffs, this vast, sweeping bay draws those seeking fresh air, good surf and wide open skies.

Paradise found in Ses Illetes

Regularly listed as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, this magnificent croissant-shaped curve of sand on Formentera’s northern tip is just a short boat ride from buzzing Balearic island beauty, Ibiza.

Part of the Ses Salines d’Eivissa and Formentera Natural Park, Ses Illetes’ golden sands – backed by Marram grass-tufted dunes and lapped by warm shallow waters – gaze out over five tiny uninhabited islets where rare seabirds come to breed.

With a scattering of restaurants serving seafood specialities within easy waking distance, you’ll probably never want to leave.

The beautiful Balearics

Head east from mainland Spain to explore the four largest islands of the Balearics – Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera – and the smaller islands and islets that surround them. For the sheltered coves of Mallorca’s coastline, try Cala Deià, a tiny shingle beach that offers clear waters and rock pools, and is one of few beaches on the island’s west coast. It’s about an hour’s steep walk from the mountain village of Deia, with it’s honey-coloured houses and World Heritage Site status.

On Menorca, much has been done to protect the island from overdevelopment. In 1993, it was awarded Unesco Biosphere Reserve status, which today means being spoilt for choice when it comes to virgin beaches and coves. In the south-west, powdery white sand beaches are backed by dense pine forests. Visit Cala Trebalúger – accessible only by boat or a 40-minute walk – for quiet sands. In the north, enjoy the orange-red glow of the sands at Cala Pregonda, Cala Cavallería and Cala del Pilar. It’s a walk to get to each, but the payoff of quiet beaches in secluded landscapes is well worth the effort.

Click here for more information about Spanish tourism and more about its beaches here


Sport, spa and wellness havens

Spain is a paradise for activity lovers where health and wellness go hand in hand, discovers Heidi Fuller-Love 

From close encounters with wildlife and white-water rafting along emerald-green rivers, to hiking remote shepherd’s trails or bathing in mineral-rich hot spring waters, Spain is a paradise for activity lovers who will discover that health and wellness go hand in hand in this stunning country famed for its lofty mountains, glittering seascapes and year-round sunshine.

Fans of nature who long to get off the beaten track, while getting up close and friendly with some of Spain’s spectacular wildlife, should head for the little-known Asturias region, dubbed the ‘Capital of Green Spain’, which is renowned for its sidrerías cider houses, sumptuous sheep’s cheese and abundant wildlife.

The capital Oviedo, at the start of the 9th century Camino Primitivo – which was the original Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route – makes a perfect base for your stay in this lush and lovely region. Book into a casonas Asturianas boutique hotel, or one of the local rural houses, known as aldeas, and hike out along panoramic trails – via dense forests, dramatic gorges and lofty mountain peaks – to explore the Picos De Europa National Park. Alternatively, take a leisurely stroll around the region’s emerald green Covadonga lakes, or follow hiking trails deep into the Unesco Biosphere designated Somiedo Nature Reserve to spot immense griffon vultures, bulky Cantabrian brown bears and other rare species that dwell here.

Keen ramblers will also want to visit neighbouring León province, or head across to Catalonia on the opposite coast to hike along one of the ancient transhumance routes used by shepherds to take their cattle between the high and lowland pastures. The Navarre region is also home to a thrilling labyrinth of ancient smugglers’ paths where you can walk in the footsteps of resistance heroes who used them as an escape route during World War II.

Those set on a longer exploration of Spain’s landscapes will be in good company this year, which marks Xacobeo 2021, also known as the Holy Year or Jacobean Year. Around 600,000 people are expected to take part in the Xacobeo 21 Pilgrimage Way to Santiago de Compostela, which celebrates the transfer of the remains of Santiago the Apostle to Galicia on July 25. Pilgrims are expected on the routes throughout the year.

Off the well-worn path of pilgrimage routes, keen hikers will find diverse trails – and ski slopes in the winter – along the Pyrenees, which separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe. Try the Portbou to Cadaquès route for rugged coastline and pretty villages. In Granada Province, the Sierra Nevada mountain range is another popular destination for hiking and skiing.

Lakes Picos de Europa, Asturias

Criss-crossed with cascading rivers and studded with mighty mountains, Spain’s Cordillera Cantábrica is a paradise for adrenalin sports activity lovers, too. From white-water rafting or canoeing along the foaming Sella River, to paragliding from the peaks of the Picos de Europa or climbing vertical walls and crossing death-defying bridges along the Via ferrata, thrill seekers will be spoilt for choice.

For those who prefer to see the world on horseback, the Iberian Peninsula’s vast network of bridle paths has plenty to offer, too. Strung out between Madrid and the province of Ávila in central Spain, the Sierra de Gredos, topped by the 2,592m Pico Almanzor, is dotted with glacial lakes and forested slopes that are perfect for horse riding, as well as mountaineering, climbing, hiking, and – in winter – ski touring. Here you can hack out for a day along forested tracks where you can spot Iberian ibex and other rare wildlife, or spend a leisurely week riding through remote villages where you’ll hardly see another soul.

For warmer horseback adventures head for Andalusia’s Sierra Subbéticas Natural Park near Córdoba, home to one of the largest colonies of griffon vultures in Southern Spain, where you can canter through dramatic landscapes following a web of trails to discover charming villages such as Priego de Córdoba, dominated by its 14th century castle and the pretty white pueblo of Iznájar, with its vast lake where you can cool off after your ride.

Since Spain is also renowned for its lack of light pollution, stargazing is another activity that can be enjoyed here. In Andalusia’s Sierras de Cazorla Biosphere Reserve and National Park you can even camp out for the night in a bubble dome and watch the night sky from the comfort of your camp bed. Further afield on Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, the night sky is one of the clearest in the world, so if you head for the Teide National Park, dominated by the 3,718m Teide-Pico Viejo volcano, you’re guaranteed to witness meteor showers and other spectacular phenomena with ease.

Spain is also renowned for its balnearios or mineral rich springs. Gushing out of the earth at temperatures between 38 and 48 degrees Celsius, these healthy hot tubs are the perfect spot to unwind.

Arab Baths in Granada, Andalusia

In the north, Galicia’s 300 or more hot springs, which have been in use since Roman times, are said to cure everything from eczema to arthritis. The stylish island of Toxa, linked to the seaside resort of El Grove by a bridge, is a haven for health seekers who can relax in one of the island’s balnearios while enjoying some of the succulent seafood for which this region is famed.

An hour’s drive from Barcelona on the opposite coast, Spain’s beach-strewn Costa Daurada also bubbles with hot springs and you’ll find several near the Vermouth-producing town of Reus. There are also luxurious balnearios in the cities of Murcia and Archena further along the coast and the charming city of Lanjarón, an hour’s drive from the Alhambra town of Granada, was once a magnet for celebrities, including writer Virginia Woolf and philosopher Bertrand Russell, who came here to take the waters that are said to ‘endow eternal youth’.

Those looking for wellness within their hotels are also spoilt for choice. Mallorca in particular offers a good selection of spa and wellness-focused resorts in urban and natural settings, or visitors can enjoy a focused wellness retreat in the Balearics. Options range from detox breaks and yoga retreats to medical spas and emotional healing, all curated and led by wellness experts and tailored to the individual needs of guests.

See more on nature here; sport here; and click here for more information about Spanish tourism in general