What kind of holiday do you prefer — the bustling action and palpable excitement of the tourist season, or the peace and quiet of an off-season trip? Do you need to escape the biting cold or searing heat of your native town for a more moderate Tenerife weather?
Whatever your motivations (and timetable), Tenerife in the Canary Islands can give you the dream vacation you seek, summer or winter. Let’s examine some of the benefits you can enjoy from each scheduling option.
Winter Tourist Season
It only makes sense that November through March represent peak months for Tenerife’s winter tourist trade. After all, how many places allow people to sun themselves on the beach, go sailing, or take a comfortable dip in the ocean at this time of year? The Canary Islands are famous for their mild, calm, sunny winters with average temperatures of 59 degrees Fahrenheit. So if you love the water, sand and sky, ditch the snowshoes and book a flight for Tenerife.
If you get homesick for a nice chill, you can always visit Teide National Park and make your way up Mount Teide for a more bracing taste of wintertime beauty. If your holiday includes December 25th, you can even take in the annual Christmas concert by the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra. Last but not least, if you make landfall in February or March, there’s a good chance that you’ll see at least one spectacular local carnival.
Your next winter vacation could look like this.
Summer Tourist Season
Tourist season heats up once again — this time literally — in May, with peak activity in August as many locals take time off for their annual summer holiday. Summers in Tenerife continue to attract sun worshipers who enjoy this site’s combination of outdoor recreation and gorgeous oceanside scenery.
Summertime temperatures here average a comfortable 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit, making it an ideal place for, say, overheated Texans or Arizonians to come and cool off. If you seek more intellectual stimulation from your natural surroundings, check out the Ethnographic Park and investigate the mysterious, ancient step pyramids and historical/cultural museum at Guimar. In mid-August you can experience the Festival of the Lady of Candelaria, the Islands’ patron saint.
Many travellers prefer to avoid the crowds (and the prices) of peak tourist months in favor of a more restful experience with more affordable travel options. Some simply can’t schedule their vacation time to overlap with the busiest times of the year in the Canary Islands. Never fear, though, because Tenerife’s many attractions continue to dazzle and inspire visitors even during the off season — or what passes for an off season here, anyway.
The favorable climate continues to prove a blessing for lovers of the outdoors, and you may encounter some special events that might get lost in the shuffle during busier periods. You’ll generally find lower airfare and hotel prices during the spring months, with the notable exception of Easter, an enormously popular time for family getaways coinciding with school breaks.
September may herald an end to holiday fun for the main body of tourists — but not necessarily for you and your family! You can usually find remarkable deals on air travel and accommodations from September to the beginning of December, so bargain hunters will want to take advantage as their schedules permit.
Temperatures are pleasant enough to watch whales and dolphins frolic off the island’s southwest coast most days of the year, all year round. Stick around for the Festival of Saint Andrew, in which new wines are traditionally opened and enjoyed, on November 29th and 30th.
There’s something to be said for tradition.
As you can see, Tenerife welcomes all comers at all times of year. You really can’t pick a wrong time to come here, so check your calendar and book your flight to fun!
Whether you’re planning a vacation to Spain for you and your significant other, you want to take the whole family along, or you’re gearing up for an adventure in Spain with friends, you’ll want to make sure the trip is as enjoyable and affordable as possible.
There are a number of lodging options besides hotels when it comes to your Spain vacation. Choosing a hotel alternative can allow you to prolong your trip and enjoy additional activities. This is because hotel alternatives allow you to save a considerable amount of money and experience the country from a more authentic point of view. Here are a few options to consider.
Apartment and Villa Rentals
Renting a villa or apartment for your vacation can make you feel more at home while you’re exploring the attractions of Spain. You’ll have more room for your family and possessions; most people are very comfortable in this type of setting. Online resources such as Home Away, Owners Direct or TripAdvisor can be used to locate a space you’re interested in. You will be provided with contact information so you can get in touch with the property owners and vacation arrangements can be planned.
A range of options are available for different locations in Spain. For instance, if you’re travelling to Andalusia, you’ll find there are a number of apartments for rent in the area that are one or two bedrooms, or you may see a three-bedroom villa that would be ideal. There are also larger homes listed on the website that have five or up to seven bedrooms.
The websites show pictures of the properties so you can see the spacious patios and living areas that each listing has to offer. You can also see how the property was rated by other holiday makers – this can be very helpful in making a final choice. You should keep in mind that in most cases you’ll have to book the property for a minimum amount of nights.
If you want to stay near the beach, there are various hotel alternative options that will accommodate you. In the Balearic Islands, you can find a spacious apartment in Alcudia that sleeps up to four people that will cost you about $80 per day, which is considerably less than you would spend per night to stay in a quality hotel in the area. The apartment offers attractive amenities like Wi-Fi, a terrace and balcony for you to enjoy, and a beautiful garden that makes the beachside scenery even more picturesque.
Of course, there are plenty of beaches to enjoy in the area, but you’ll also be close to attractions like fascinating caves such as the Cuevas dels Hams in Porto Cristo, where you’ll see one-of-a-kind rock formations that are accented with artistic lighting. There are lakes inside the caves – this makes it possible for you to explore these wonders of nature from the safety of a small boat and the benefit of a guide. The show “Magical Mozart” is performed daily in the caves, which means you can enjoy beautiful classical music during your exploration as well.
Home Swaps in Spain
If you’re looking for a family to stay in your home while you vacation in Spain and you’re willing to lodge in that family’s home during your Spanish vacation, a home swap is the best option. This is one of the most economic ways to visit Spain, as house swap options usually require little or no exchange of funds. In the end, the cost of your accommodations could end up being very low. Resources like Love Home Swap will provide you with the information you need to start the home swap process.
You’ll need to provide high-quality photos of your own home to get started. This makes it possible for interested Spanish vacationers to contact you. Home swap websites provide listings that can be browsed to find homes suitable for a family, homes that are ideal for a group of adults vacationing together, and properties that are perfect for a couple visiting Spain.
Listings include homes in the center of Barcelona, so you’ll only be minutes from attractions like La Rambla, the most famous street in the city. The street features the beautiful Font de Canaletes, a fountain that symbolizes the fact that La Rambla was actually a stream that flowed outside of the walls of the city before it became an attraction for both locals and tourists.
There are several sections of La Rambla, including Rambla de Santa Monica, which was named for a convent but is now an art museum. Or, you can head over to Rambla del Mar, which features a large aquarium, an IMAX theater, and a number of places to shop.
Renting a villa, apartment or home in Spain allows you to take in the sights of the city, enjoy a cozy bed, have access to a kitchen where you can prepare the meals of your choice, and even take in a movie in the family room, free of charge. Be sure to get all the necessary details about the person or family you’re renting from or swapping with to verify identity. To make sure your time in Spain is especially memorable this process should be started a few months before you’re ready to vacation.
Head to the south of Spain and experience this colourful country in a region that will hypnotize you with its deep-rooted customs, scenic landscapes, and culinary delights. Andalucía epitomizes most traveller’s idea of Spain.
Bullfights, Flamenco dancing, pristine white sandy beaches, and architecture that draws from Spain’s historic ties with the East.
For every stereotypical Spanish note that Andalucía hits, there are two more surprises around every corner you turn. Commonly referred to as the ‘real’ side of Spain, Andalucía offers visitors both the simple and extraordinary in every cobblestone step.
Andalucía is culture.
Nowhere in Spain will you find a region oozing with as much culture as Andalucía. Over 3,000 festivals are celebrated in the region every year, ranging from religious processions to elaborate carnivals. Music and dancing are a huge part of the Andalucía culture, evident in the Flamenco Tablaos visitors can watch throughout the summer months.
Bullfighting, Spain’s national sport, traces its origins to Andalucía, and the oldest bullring in Spain can be found in the small Andalucía city of Ronda. There are also an endless array of museums to visit, ranging from the Thyssen Museum in Málaga which features famed Spanish artist Pablo Picasso to Pre-historic archaeology exhibits at the Museo de Almería. You can’t mention the culture of Andalucía without mentioning the friendly locals who call the region home.
Andalucíans are known for their energetic spirits, zest for life, and welcoming nature. They are a people who love food, music, and fun, and accept strangers as family from day one. The people of Andalucía make the region very special, indeed.
Andalucía is history.
The known history of Andalucía goes back 50,000 years, so it is no surprise that the area is full of historic wonders and ancient surprises. There are an incredible six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Andalucía, five of which are of historical and cultural significance.
If you want to brush up on your Spanish history, head to the ancient streets of the historic city centre of Cordoba where you can walk in the footsteps of the Romans, Moorish conquerors, and Spanish Kings. Or head further South and explore the medieval palace and fortress of Alhambra, located in the city of Granda in the shadows of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Andalucía is a party for the senses.
If you love gastronomy, you need to book your flight to Andalucía as soon as possible. The region boasts a UNESCO World Heritage mention for its Mediterranean food alone. Food is a major part of life in Andalucía, and you will love sampling the world famous tapas found throughout Spain’s southern cities.
Locals have been growing wine in the region for over 3,000 years and you can see the process first-hand at wineries across Andalucía. The Gonzalez Byass Winery Tour in Jerez is a firm favourite and attracts over 100,000 visitors a year to sample the famous sherry. There are also dozens of smaller, local producers that welcome visitors to their vineyards for a tour and tasting.
When you have had your fill of food and drinks, head to the coast for a scenic boat tour and experience the magic of the breathtaking Andalucían coastline. Nothing can quite prepare you for the sun-drenched beaches, hidden coves, and beachside cafes boasting the best and freshest sea food in all of Spain.
Andalucía offers visitors an authentic Spanish experience, from the food to the entertainment to the architecture. The reputation of Spain’s southernmost region is one that speaks of beauty and unparalleled friendliness. Your visit is guaranteed to be the first of many, for every visitor falls head over heels in love with the spirit of Andalucía.
Whether you want to marvel at the architecture of Gaudí in the Sagrada Família, Barcelona or soak up the sun on the beaches of Costa del Sol, Andalucía, no matter what kind of trip you are planning to undertake, there are just a few tips that can see you through, making sure you get the most out of your holiday in the wonderful country of Spain.
Enjoying Spanish Cuisine
Eating together and enjoying food is a fundamental part of Spanish culture. If you are not staying in a hotel and plan to seek out the best ‘tapas’ and brasseries in the area for a good taste of Spanish cuisine, then be sure to take note. The Spanish eat very late in the evening, and in suburban parts of the country, local restaurants may not open until as late as 9pm. Similarly, smaller restaurants will take their siesta and close for a couple of hours at noon. Tapas are enjoyed widely throughout the country, however ‘menú del día’ are also available consisting of a beverage, starter, main course and dessert. Credit cards are accepted throughout the country but it is common courtesy to leave a 10% tip in change for the waiter to collect.
Getting around and about
Most parts of Spain are fairly accessible with trains and buses running frequently and being very reliable. Families are better off booking car hire for freedom to roam the country and get about. Chain car-rental companies have branches across the country but it usually tends to be cheaper to book in advance before your trip to ensure the best deals. When you book, double check that air-conditioning is fitted or you will find yourself enduring some very uncomfortable care journeys! If you don’t plan to travel much and just want the odd day for sightseeing then buses are a quick and economical way of getting around. Fares are much lower than trains and services run regularly throughout the day.
Visit when the time is right
The climate in Spain is fairly warm all year round with temperatures sometimes hitting as high as 38°C. The optimal time to visit is between May and October for a warm comfortable temperature. If you are after a Winter Holiday, The Pyrenees are best for skiing from December to March. Try to avoid beach resorts in July and August, as these attract not only a mass of tourists but also Spaniards taking their summer holiday. If you want to travel in this time, instead make the most of the empty cities. Places such as Madrid and Seville won’t be heaving giving you more time to enjoy the wonderful sights such as Real Madrid FC and Seville Cathedral.
Don’t lose out on Euros
The official currency in Spain is the Euro. Understandably, with that long pre-holiday checklist, buying your travel money is something we don’t really consider and sometimes even forget entirely! Try not to leave it last minute as Airport Bureaus are renowned for poor exchange rates; likewise, High Street Banks are no more favourable. Make your life a little easier and buy your travel money in advance; sites such as MyTravelMoney allow you to compare the cheapest deals on currency and will even deliver it straight to your door the next day! A very useful tip is to benchmark the sell rate you are offered with a currency converter then you’ll get the ‘real’ mid market exchange rate.
Learn some basic Spanish
¿Hablas español? As with any travel destination, it is courteuous and civilised to attempt at least a please and thank you in the local language. That’s ‘por favor’ and ‘gracias’ to you in Español. With an abundance of tourist attractions and famous landmarks to visit, you don’t want to spend half your time staring at a map trying to navigate your way round on your own. Spaniards will be more than happy to help and give you directions so it generally helps to be able to differentiate left from right before you ask. Not only will you be able to get around quicker but the Spanish really appreciate tourists that make an effort.
Hopefully these tips have set you up for an enjoyable trip to Spain, even sparing a few Euros here and there. ¡Buen Viaje!
Sofia is the Web Editor & Community Manager at MyTravelMoney – an award winning UK travel money comparison website.
Madrid is known for its rich culture and delicious savoury fare. While there are a number of museums and breathtaking architecture, the city is also a great place to enjoy nightlife during your vacation. Here are some descriptions of attractive locations in Madrid that are ideal if you want a night or two on the town.
Puerto del Sol
Puerto del Sol is the central square in Madrid and is a short walking distance from Plaza Mayor, where there are a number of quality hotels and tapas bars where you can enjoy exquisite wine and appetizers. It’s common to start a tasca crawl in Puerto del Sol, which is the Spanish equivalent to bar-hopping. If you’re visiting the area with a Spanish native, you’ll learn all about the greatest bars in area so you can sample the best cocktails and take in the scene before moving to another bar.
The Real Casa de Correos is another popular feature of Puerto del Sol. The building was originally constructed during the 18th century as part of the city’s post office, but is now the headquarters for the Autonomous Community for the president of Madrid.
If you’re visiting Madrid during the New Year season, you’ll want to be near the clock in Puerto del Sol before it strikes midnight. And have some grapes handy because it’s customary for Spaniards to eat a grape for each of the twelve chimes at midnight.
There are a number of breathtaking statues in the city square as well. Perhaps the most well-known is the Oso & Madroño, which is the official symbol of Madrid and was created by Antonio Navarro Sante Fe. A reproduction of the Mirablanca statue is also featured in Puerto del Sol, which is believed to be Diana the Hunter of the goddess Venus.
This area of Madrid is where a number of college students live and socialize, making it an affordable nightlife attraction for many young adults who are travelling abroad. There are several fast-food restaurants and ale houses within walking distance in Moncloa and Argüelles, along with several dance clubs to choose from. Paseo del Pintor Rosales is one of the premier locations in this part of town, and is an elegant collection of restaurants and shops that run parallel to Calle Princesa. In the spring and summer months, the outdoor terraces of bars are adorned to attract young patrons who want to enjoy the beautiful scenery while indulging in gourmet dishes and cocktails.
Casa Patas is a flamenco club in Madrid, and is located in the Lavapies quarter of the city. There’s a bar and dining area where you can enjoy traditional Spanish fare like oxtail stew (rabo de toro) as well as cured ham from free-range Iberian pigs. In addition, the restaurant and club has an ample stage for Flamenco dancers to perform. The Café Cantante is part of Casa Patas; private events can be held in this area. The owners of the establishment invite some of Spain’s dancers to perform there, and there is a new lineup every two weeks.
The walls of Casa Patas are adorned with the photos of dancers who have performed at the venue, including Estrella Morente, Antonio Canales and Remedios Amaya. Casa Patas has worked with the flamenco community to organize the Fundacion Conservatorio Flamenco Casa Platas in 2000. The foundation is dedicated to educating the public about the history of Flamenco and to provide more information on the music and the dance that embodies Flamenco culture.
These are just some of the attractive features that make Madrid a wonderful place to vacation. You’ll likely create memories that will last a lifetime and learn more about Spanish culture in a fun and engaging way.
From magnificent Moorish castles to delectable regional cuisine and stunning Mediterranean beaches, Spain is an unforgettable destination for more than 57 million people every year. For students studying abroad, this vibrant country offers an exceptional environment in which to soak up sun, culture and infinite educational opportunities.
Exceptional Academic Standards
Because of its multicultural student population, Spain is an extremely popular destination for international students from throughout Europe and the United States. The country is extremely welcoming to foreign students, with a focus on providing a positive environment, in addition to numerous accommodation options. Most academic host universities offer helpful administrative support with everything from obtaining visas to providing supplementary activities to smooth the integration process.
Spain’s internationally renowned educational system offers students of all academic levels the rare chance to participate in a near-infinite variety of coursework all while taking advantage of unparalleled opportunities to study Spanish as a foreign language. A total of 18 Spanish universities were included in the 2012/2013 “QS World University Rankings,” including 14 in the top 500. The bulk of these are located in Spain’s capital city of Madrid, as well as Barcelona–which contains Spain’s two top ranked higher ed institutions, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona and Universitat de Barcelona.
Because of its prime southern European location, Spain has typically served as a connector between many cultures–ranging from Europe to Africa to the East. The result is a dynamic setting comprising people from across the globe who have co-mingled to create Spain’s unique cultural legacy.
The official language of 21 countries, Spanish is spoken by approximately 495 million people across the globe, and is the world’s second most popular spoken language. There is no more phenomenal place to learn this valuable language than in Spain itself, at one of the country’s high quality educational institutions. Students of Spanish can participate in a number of different course options, from summer intensives to business courses.
Spain holds a prominent position in history, from its prehistoric sites to bustling modern cities. Whether you’re interested in history and architecture or the breathtaking natural landscape, Spain offers something for everyone. Students of fine arts, in particular, can revel in Spain’s rich and unparalleled tradition of innovation and advancement. Many of the great masters–from Goya and Picasso to Cervantes and Almodóvar–share Spain’s bold culture and rich heritage. Throw in fabled monuments and grand museums, and Spain offers endless cultural exposure at every turn.
Foodies will also delight in Spain’s amazing offerings. Not only is the country a hub of European gastronomy, but it is also famous for its healthy offerings, thanks to its focus on the beneficial Mediterranean diet. From the world’s best olive oil to delectable paella, international students will enjoy eating their way through Spanish culture.
Four Seasons of Paradise Within Your Reach
Located in the southern region of Europe, Spain experiences all four seasons, but typically exhibits a pleasant, temperate climate. One of Europe’s warmest countries, Spain’s winter weather is typically mild with even the coldest days known for their magnificent sunshine. Spain’s glorious weather is set against a rich backdrop of scenery, including everything from amazing mountain vistas to serene natural beaches.
Spain is a great starting point for travelers, who can easily visit countless destinations, such as major cities like Madrid, the seat of Spain’s government, as well as historic sites like the medina bazaar of Tetuan. Many locations are just an easy day trip via bus. International students can also benefit from Spain’s terrific public transportation system–generally regarded as safe, convenient and affordable. This is a particularly inexpensive option for scholars, who can take advantage of a student discount.
But At What Cost?
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about studying in Spain is that–despite the country’s many extraordinary offerings–it remains one of Europe’s cheapest places to live and study, significantly less than tuition fees and the cost of living in countries like France, the U.K. and the United States.
All in all, there’s no better way to learn about the geography, culture, art, history, and literature of a country than to immerse yourself in it. For many delighted students, Spain continues to provide a life changing opportunity to do exactly that.
You and your future spouse are planning your honeymoon and have always wanted to visit Spain. Now is the perfect time to vacation in Barcelona, as there are plenty of romantic attractions and quality hotels that will make your stay unforgettable. Here are some of the sites you definitely won’t want to pass up during your stay in Barcelona. You and your spouse may decide to make a trip to Spain your standing vacation to keep the romance alive.
There are a number of hotels that cater to honeymooning couples in Barcelona. The beautiful architecture and ideal location of these lodging locations make it easy to get to restaurants and attractions while you and your sweetheart take in the breathtaking design of the hotel.
Majestic Hotel and Spa
This hotel is in central Barcelona, and very close to Gothic Quarter, so you and your spouse can enjoy a day of shopping and fine dining. According to a USA Today article, the Dalai Lama has even lodged there!
If you’re visiting the Majestic Hotel and Spa for your honeymoon, there are several suites for you to choose from, including the Sagrada Familia and the Penthouse Passeo de Gracia. The suites include flat-screen TVs and a bathroom with marble accents and a hydromassage bathtub. When you purchase the honeymoon package, you’ll receive a couple’s massage, along with a romantic dinner, complimentary open bar, and a delicious breakfast served in your suite. The honeymoon package even includes two tickets for you and your spouse to visit one of Barcelona’s beautiful, history-rich museums.
This hotel is on Barcelonia’s most opulent promenades, Rambia de Catalunya. All of the rooms have soundproof windows and room service. There’s an additional fee if you and your new bride or groom want to enjoy drinks from the mini bar, watch cable TV or access a Wi-Fi connection.
The honeymoon package includes a romantic dinner with drinks, breakfast for two in the hotel room, and a romantic bath complete with candles, fragrant bath oils, incense and rose petals. Couples can also take advantage of a late 3pm checkout, and the hotel provides a special gift for honeymooning couples as well.
While there are several hotels in Barcelona that offer gourmet dinners and breakfasts for couples, there are a number of fine eateries in the city that prepare delicious meals to make your stay in Barcelona even more pleasant.
This fancy restaurant is near Sagrada Familia and impeccable Mediterranean fare. The restaurant is the perfect place for a romantic date, as there is live piano music every night. You can choose from succulent meals like grilled turbot with vegetables and fried garlic and chocolate coulant for dessert. The dim lighting and round tables make this restaurant especially quaint and delightful.
Asador Donosti is moderately priced and has a warm and cozy feel. The restaurant is a genuine Basque rotisserie, so if you’re looking for hearty Spanish fare in a relaxed environment, this is definitely the place. The menu includes meals like oxtail stew, T-bone steak and sauteed mushrooms with garlic and asparagus.
Spending the day lounging in your comfortable hotel room and enjoying some of the tastiest meals in Barcelona will indeed make your honeymoon enjoyable. However, there are also a number of activities and attractions that you won’t want to pass up. Here are a few suggestions.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
You and your sweetheart can see the entire city of Barcelona from the sky. Many of the packages include a picnic in the hot air balloon as well, which makes the experience even more romantic. If you’ve booked a hotel in the center of Barcelona, you can be picked up from there to enjoy your hot air balloon excursion.
Magic Fountains of Montjüic
If you enjoy being outdoors, you’ll love these light and water shows in front of Barcelona Palace. The shows are free on the weekends and in the evenings. The shows are also presented with music, and the colourful water acrobatics you’ll see are truly picturesque and worth the evening stroll to Barcelona Palace from your hotel.
Since Roman times, Segovia has been a city of commerce and one monument from that historic era is the Aqueduct, a Roman construction designed and built to supply the city with fresh water from the mountains.
The Romans left behind many examples of engineering and architecture across Europe, but the Aqueduct of Segovia holds a special place in the heart of Spain for its beauty and usefulness – the structure was maintained and operational until the mid-19th century. Today, this structure and the rest of the historic town is a top tourist destination, especially since all its wonders are a short, hour-long drive from Madrid.
A place in history
At first glance, the Aqueduct looks like a bridge, but it’s much more than that. The Romans had a complex system of engineering, and this structure was used to bring water from the Frio River in the mountains to Segovia during the Roman occupation in the 1st century A.D.
Even the caches where figures of Hercules were once rumoured to sit as they protected the waterway still exist, although now those spaces are occupied by Saint Stephen and the Patroness of Segovia.
Overall, it’s one of the very few Roman projects still relatively intact, and it holds a place of honour as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as many world historical site lists. The two-level structure is now a beloved icon of the city, and is even depicted on the city’s official coat of arms.
How it survived
Aside from bringing an essential service to the old city, the Aqueduct is a feat of superior planning and construction. Built from native granite, the structure spans approximately 18 kilometres and is approximately 29 meters high. No mortar joins the massive stones; it was all constructed with amazing precision by stonecutters, including the numerous arches on each level which assist in supporting the structure.
Even in ancient times, the city leaders knew its value and pursued a course of careful conservation through the centuries. The Aqueduct has undergone occasional restoration projects, most notably in the 15th century and the 20th century. Interestingly, it has been most threatened by the elements in our modern times, as the air and sound pollution from cars, trucks and parking lots abound. Out of seven aqueducts built by the Romans in Spain, only three survive and the one in Segovia is the best preserved.
Beyond the Aqueduct
The Aqueduct of Segovia leads directly into the historical district of the city. While the Aqueduct may be the oldest point of interest in this section, there are still many breathtaking historical sites, including the Alcazar, also known as the Castle, built in the 12th century, and the 16th century cathedral, a building contrary to the Gothic style and filled with light from massive windows.It was the last Gothic church built in the country.
Inside, the cathedral also has areas constructed in the Medieval and Renaissance styles, along with artworks by such noted artists as Van Eyck and Morales. In the historic district are several more must-see churches, including Iglasia de la Vera Cruz, a church founded in 1208 by the Knights Templar, and the Church of St. Millan, a Spanish Romanesque structure built in the 12th century and housing many items and artworks.
Lodging options near historic Segovia include the Parador Hotel, which offers some of the best views of the town, including the castle and the Aqueduct; the Hotel Condes de Castilla, a historic hotel conveniently in the middle of the district; and the Acueducto Hotel, which is located within a couple of minutes walk to the Aqueduct itself.
Every year in July, tens of thousands of runners gather in Pamplona from all over the world to participate in a death-defying adventure: the Encierro, also known as the Running of the Bulls.
While most people have a general idea of what the event is all about, few are fully aware of its vibrant history.
Here’s a quick look at the past and present of the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.
Dusting Off the History Books
The origins of Pamplona’s Encierro dates back to the 11th century when bullfighting first became a pastime in Spain. Cattle transporters were responsible for delivering the bulls from their countryside corrals into city rings for the evening’s entertainment. This activity gradually evolved from a necessity into a tradition, expanding outward into other cities and gaining popularity along the way. Pamplona’s Encierro is Spain’s most celebrated bull running event, and has been broadcast on Spanish public television for over 30 years.
Honoring a Patron Saint
The Encierro takes place every year in Spain’s scenic northern Navarra region during the Sanfermines, or fiesta of San Fermin, which honors Navarra’s patron saint, San Fermin. While the religious celebration dates back centuries, it has become best known today for one of its traditions, the Running of the Bulls.
While many people think of the Running of the Bulls as an occasion to gather and party, remnants remain of its rich religious tradition. Every year runners gather in advance of the run at a statue of of San Fermin to chant together a benediction requesting the patron saint’s guidance, blessing and protection. They conclude with the heartfelt exclamation, “Viva San Fermin!, Gora San Fermin!” (“Long live Saint Fermin!”)
This chant is repeated in the exciting minutes leading up to the opening of the bulls’ corral and the start of the race. Additionally, runners typically don traditional clothing, including a white shirt, and white trousers with red accents at the waist and neck.
The Encierro’s Evolution
Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls–which occurs every year during the week-long Sanfermines (July 7-July 14)–now sees more than 20,000 runners make the dash every year, followed by 12 or so bulls. This 825-meter dash through the streets of old town Pamplona starts at the strike of the San Cernin clock, followed by a series of rocket launches which inform runners of critical information, such as when the run has started and ended. Typically, the Encierro lasts no more than four minutes, although it has taken up to 10, depending on the path of the bulls.
Safety in Numbers?
While it can be easy to get carried away by the thrill of this ages old event, it is a dangerous pursuit, and one best left to the fit and the fierce. Security measures are enforced to safeguard participants: entrants are required to be least 18 and must run in the same direction as the bulls, while refraining from inciting them; additionally, alcohol is forbidden.
The running route is blocked off by a double fence to keep runners and bulls in and spectators out. Pastores, or “shepherds,” offer another safety measure, remaining behind the bulls and using long sticks to keep both bulls and people on course.
Despite these precautions, hundreds of injuries occur every year–primarily due to falls. While goring is less common, it does happen, and severe injuries can result. Since record-keeping began in Pamplona in 1910, 15 deaths have occurred during the Running of the Bulls, mostly due to goring.
While bull runs and fights have become increasingly controversial topics in recent years, because of questions regarding animal rights, these events live on as a reminder of Spain’s rich history. The continued popularity of Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls suggests that as long as there are bull runs, there will be people lining up to accept the challenge.
Photo Credits: MadMack66, Oddsock
If you’re interested in learning more about the rich history of Spain through beautiful art and informative accounts of the country’s past, El Escorial is the place for you. El Escorial is a large complex of buildings in San Lorenzo de el Escorial, which is near Madrid. The building has been deemed the most important work of construction of the Spanish Renaissance; the building complex was constructed from 1563 until 1584. El Escorial includes a church, a college, royal palace and monastery, along with a library that was added in 1592.
To get an accurate feel of what you will experience when you arrive at El Escorial, here are some descriptions of the main features of the historic site that will make you even more excited about planning your visit.
Spain is home to many picturesque sites that creatively teach about the country’s culture. El Escorial definitely fits this description.
Courtyard of the Kings
When you arrive at El Escorial, the first area you’ll encounter is the Courtyard of the Kings. You’ll see three doors: the center one actually leads to more of the courtyard, while the doors on the side lead to the school and monastery.
The Royal Pantheon is part of the Courtyard of the Kings and serves as the burial place for the kings of Spain and has been since King Charles I. Juan de Borbon’s remains, who was the father of king Juan Carlos I, are also at the Royal Pantheon.
The Place of the Austrians, or House of the King, is also in the courtyard, along with the Courtyard of the Fountainheads, which is built in Italian style.
A stroll through the courtyard will definitely give you insight into the cultural diversity that is included in Spanish history. The intricate architecture, along with information on the history of the royalty buried there makes the Courtyard of the Kings especially fascinating.
The church is another beautiful aspect of El Escorial. The basilica was originally designed to look like the Gothic churches of Western Europe and is inspired by the shape of a Latin cross. The altar is perhaps the most beautiful part of the church. The altar sits high, and a reredos made of three tiers sits behind it. The reredos is made from jasper and granite; the positioning of these precious stones shows the care and precision that was put into constructing the basilica.
King Philip, who was reigning at the time of the reredos construction, wanted Titian or Michelangelo to design the altar screens. However, both of these notable artists were in their 80s at the time, so at the suggestion of the king’s advisors, a host of lesser-known artists were commissioned to win the king’s favor and design the reredos. Life-size bronze statues on either end of the sanctuary depicting the praying families of Kings Philip and Charles are also fascinating components of the El Escorial church.
Spanish churches often include intricately designed alters, walls and reredos to depict Bible stories or concepts of Christianity.
Library, Gallery and Museum
Of course, you don’t want to leave El Escorial without spending some time in the library, taking in all the intricately designed art in the gallery and strolling through the museum. The library contains documents that were donated by King Philip II; the building was designed by Juan de Herrera, who also came up with the concept for the library shelves. There are 40,000 volumes of books in the library’s collection.
The art gallery featured at El Escorial displays art from Spanish and Italian artists from the 15th and 16th century, as well as works from artists of Flemish and German descent. The art depicts aspects of nature, notable figures, and events of the time.
The museum showcases the architectural tools that were used to build El Escorial. It consists of 11 rooms and features copies of building documents and blueprints to provide you with insight into the El Escorial planning process.
These are just some of the intriguing sights that El Escorial has to offer. Keep these points in mind upon your arrival to help you make the most of your Spanish vacation.
El Camino de Santiago is a very special and ambitious journey that many, many people embark on each year. Every individual traveler comes with their own specific reasons for setting out on the famous Spanish pilgrimage.
What you get out of this adventure will be completely up to you, but if you adopt the attitude of a true pilgrim and try to find the positive in all situations for the duration of your chosen route, you’re sure to accomplish your goals and maybe even find something within that you didn’t realize you were looking for.
However, no matter what continent, country or city you come from, there are a few traditions and symbols that you will notice and have the opportunity to take part in along the way that are universal to everyone who makes the trek.
Obtaining your pilgrim’s passport should be one of the first things you take care of when you decide you’re making the El Camino voyage.
There are several places that offer a way for people to pick up a passport in their own countries before heading over to Spain. Of course, if you forget to get it right away it won’t be as detrimental as forgetting your real passport, but it’s definitely something you want to make sure you have as it is part of the whole experience of walking the world-renowned trail.
A pilgrim’s passport is also made available at numerous places along the different routes, but you’ll want to have it for the beginning of your trip since the stamps you will receive are proof that you’re an authentic traveling pilgrim and give you the advantage of finding a bed in the albergues at night.
Furthermore, this will be your official credential for receiving the compostela at the end of your journey and serve as one of your most significant souvenirs since it documents each place you stopped en route to Santiago de Compostela.
The scallop shell has been a historic symbol of El Camino for a long time, with its original meaning deriving from legendary tales concerning the death of St. James.
The shell has adopted a metaphorical meaning as well and is said to illustrate the various routes of the Spanish pilgrimage through its grooves, which eventually come together at a single point, as do all the routes that lead to Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela and St. James’s final resting place.
The scallop shell was also often used in a practical manner to serve as a tool for eating and drinking since it is a common find on the way to Santiago once pilgrims reach the shores of Galicia on their journey. On today’s pilgrimages, many use the shells that are painted on trees, sidewalks, buildings, etc. as guides along their path.
Cruz de Ferro
Over time, pilgrims have adopted the tradition of bringing a stone from home with them on their travels to leave at the Cruz de Ferro, which is an iron cross that has been erected on the way to Santiago. For some, it is symbolic of leaving behind a piece of their homeland, and for others, it represents leaving behind their sins at the foot of the cross.
The compostela is the final token you will receive on your journey. All those who have walked the last 100km or cycled the last 200km of the trail into Santiago with the required stamps on their passport will be given a certificate of accomplishment.
Upon completion of the pilgrimage, you will be asked your reason for taking on the El Camino challenge and if your answer is anything other than for religious purposes, be prepared to receive a slightly different certificate of achievement.
This Spanish pilgrimage isn’t like any other journey, no two experiences will be the same, and even if you’re traveling alone, embracing all the traditions will make you feel like you’re a part of one big beautiful and spiritual picture.
The Canary Islands darling, Tenerife, is famous for its great weather and even better beaches. But that’s not all the island has to offer. The island boasts of a stunning natural landscape and fully utilises it to great effect. If sunbathing on a beach all day isn’t your thing, read on and find out more about what fun activities Tenerife has to offer.
Make sure you also take a look at Tenerife Forum for some more ideas.
One way to explore Tenerife’s gorgeous scenery is a safari tour. These excursions out into the wild are perfect for any amateur photographers in the group. Visit different regions, shoot the stunning natural landscape and learn more about the island.
Personal Safari tours are also available and offer much more freedom, smaller groups and therefore a better experience with no need to fight for a good photo opportunity! For a truly unique experience, drive around the island on a quad bike or sit back and relax in a chauffeur driven jeep. These vehicles allow you to go through forests and climb mountains via rocky terrain and trails to gain a spectacular panoramic view.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy swimming in the Atlantic Ocean you know. Little known to visitors to the island, Tenerife is one of the best places in Europe to watch whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. There are around 25 species to watch in their playground including bottle nose dolphins and pilot whales. Not only that, many species of birds & turtles will also be around to say hello!
Excursion boats range from catamarans like Lady Shelley which offers views of the sea bottom to a sailing boat which mirrors the one seen in Peter Pan!
Teide National Park
You’ll be hard pressed to find a national park more impressive than Teide National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park revolves around the islands volcano, Mount Teide.
The volcano is considered to be the third tallest volcanic structure and offers unrivalled panoramic views across the island. It’s a great way to stretch your legs and get some fresh air whilst admiring the wonderful rock formations, complemented by a blue sky backdrop. It’s also a wonderful place to eat alfresco in nature’s surroundings.
We’ve all heard of scuba diving, but have you come across bob diving? If you think or found scuba diving too strenuous, bob diving gives you all the pleasure of exploring the sea without feeling exhausted half way through.
Bob diving involves using an underwater scooter which powers through the water and does all the hard work while you sit and admire all that’s around you. The scooter is like something straight out of a James Bond film! Other benefits include a window which allows you to peer out with a clear view and no breathing apparatus to contend with – reducing your intake of salty water!
Medieval Night at Castillo San Miguel
Those glued to the beach won’t notice Tenerife is surrounded by gorgeous architecture. Just walk along the historic streets of the old town and be charmed by the cathedrals or visit the dazzling modern structures such as The Auditorio de Tenerife. While Castillo San Miguel doesn’t date back to the medieval times (it was purposely built as an attraction), there’s no denying it’s still an impressive building.
Step back into a forgotten time and get lost in a night of realistic medieval competitions. You’ll be caught up in the moment as you enter the castle full of armour, swords and scrolls and be greeted by the Count and Countess.
The authentic experience is carried throughout into the Tournament Hall as you dine on a Medieval banquet and cheer for your knight in shining armour.
*We’ve added one more activity to this list which brings the number up to six beach alternative activities.
One of the best ways to see the rugged landscape and incredible views of the island is by doing it the old fashioned way, by horse power.
Not only that but you can get a great tan; is a great workout for the core muscles of the body that strengthen your posture, and is a very relaxing and calming experience.
For horse riding in Tenerife, we recommend tenerifehorseriding.com based in La Camella in the south of the island.
Dan Perdomo writes for Elite Travel Blog and writes about Tenerife luxury holidays in his spare time.
In Spain but not of Spain, Catalonia is an autonomous nationality in the community with a strong heritage Celtic, Mediterranean, and French influences.
The capital of the region is world famous Barcelona with many experiences to be had for the traveller tourist, and local.
sightseeing will allow you to travel without blowing your budget.
Take the time to check out the places the locals love and avoid the vacationer markup or explore attraction websites for coupon discounts. Some of these places are naturally cheaper than popular tourist traps.
Tucked away in Catalonia is the ancient town of Girona with a charming old town that lies on the east bank and the Jewish quarter is filled with culture and history, neither of which requires a car. Come to this little hamlet and explore by foot through the cobblestones and terraced staircases. The architecture features the influences of many occupations and neighbouring cultures.
You will want to explore the river, ancient city walls, various cafes, discoteca club scene, and the golf course around time. The river is best in the fall and spring, when it is running as it dries up in the summer time. In old town, you will find shops for clothing, local treasures, restaurants, and cafes for your exploration. Nearby you will local historical sites that are low or no cost options for you adventure.
National Park Aiguestortes de Sant Maurici
For the outdoor lover among you, the national part of o Aigustortes de Sant Maurici will tantalize you with its breathtaking vistas and meandering lakes. This paradise of streams, waterfalls, lakes, trails, and mountains will excite hikers, families, nature lover, and everyone who ventures out of the city to this land of exploration.
The area is filled with indigenous animals, flora, fauna, and natural landscapes that highlight the beauty of the Catalonia region. The park is free to visit, so pack a picnic lunch and bring the family for a day of exploration.
Opened in 2005, CosmoCaixa is an amazing, inexpensive interactive science museum that will fascinate everyone in your troop. Once a factory, the building has been refitted as a hands-on experiential museum for kids of all ages.
The museum is set up to teach you and encourage you to explore physical, technical, geological, chemical, and mathematical relationships that make up the world around you. Open every day except Mondays, the museum will only cost you 2 euros. You can spend all day exploring the fun educational exhibits, some say you might need 2 or 3 days, but do take the time to stop here.
There is so much to see feel free to enjoy a full plethora of these sites all falling within your budget. You will not require a holiday loan, just a little cash as you traipse about Catalonia.
A mesmerizing point of interest in Catalonia is Montjuic’s Magic Fountain. Designed in 1929 by engineer Carles Buigas for the international exposition, the fountain is a performance of water, music and lights that is free and never fails to fascinate spectators.
Synchronized with colours music, and lights using recycled water, the fountain continues to be one of the most popular attractions in the city. Each show runs about 15 minutes and the show rotates on a 30 minute schedule.
Be sure to check the schedule as there are changes between winter and summer, but this is a must see while in Catalonia.
Barcelona is a beautiful and cosmopolitan Spanish city, much of which was designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi.
His influence is all over the city and you’ll notice it everywhere you go. Most people tend to visit his major works, including La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, but there is much more to Barcelona than this. Here are five lesser-known places that are well worth a visit.
Placa Felip Neri
The Gothic Quarter is the centre of the old city and is located just off the famous street, La Rambla. The area is a warren of little, narrow streets full of history and the stunning Cathedral is the centrepiece of the area. If you stay in the Gothic Quarter, you will be in the heart of the city and close to many wonderful restaurants and bars. For a break from the hustle and bustle, go to Placa Felip Neri, a beautiful, romantic square with a lovely baroque church.
Few tourists make the trek up the 184 metre-tall hill Montjuic, despite its splendid view over the city, and at times, you will be completely alone up here. The walk is well worth it as there is a lot to see on the hill, including the spectacular Castle Montjuic and the Olympic Stadium from 1992. For something a little different, you should definitely check out the Sala Montjuic, an incredible open-air cinema in the beautiful castle gardens.
Barcelona is one of the world’s favourite tourist’s destinations. There are flights from many UK airports on a daily basis which run all year round. With so many tourists flocking to the city, you may want to get away from them for a while. Gracia is the perfect area to do this; it’s popular with the locals, but less so with visitors. Once a village that has since been absorbed into the city, it retains that local feel and is full of cafes, restaurants and little shops.
Turo de la Rovira
A remnant from the Civil War, this was the site of the city’s air defences and as such, offers perhaps the best view of the city. From here, you get the only full 360-degree view on Barcelona and all the major attractions can be seen. The best times to see the views from Turo de la Rovira are naturally at sunrise and sunset, so plan your schedule accordingly.
El Refugi 307
Literally a hidden gem, this 400 metre-long tunnel was one of many underground shelters built during the Civil War to protect people from air raids. This is the best-preserved of the tunnels and is an evocative and fascinating insight into the war. It now functions as a museum and you can walk the length of the tunnels and explore the rooms inside.
Have you discovered any other lesser-known attractions in Barcelona away from the typical tourist traps? Have you been to any of the places on my list? Share your thoughts with others in the comments below.
The Balearics are a wonderful collection of islands, nestled in the Mediterranean, and known for their sunny climate and crystal clear waters.
Ibiza, Minorca, Majorca and Formentera are four of the biggest islands in the Balearics and are popular with tourists all year round.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, traditional beach holidays rank very highly amongst tourists visiting the region but if you fancy a more active holiday, or simply want to see more of the breath-taking countryside that can be found on the islands you might want to consider a walking tour.
You don’t need to be a hardened hiker to enjoy this type of holiday; there’s plenty available for all types of ability and experience.
We run down some of the best walking tours in the Balearics to whet your appetite for what you could find.
Majorca – the Classic Trek
The pretty island of Majorca, also referred to as Mallorca, is a popular hot-spot for holidaymakers wanting to lap up the warm weather during the day and hit the nightlife when the sun goes down. But for those willing to take a walk on the wild side, there’s a whole island simply waiting to be discovered.
Majorca has a wide and varied landscape and in the north, a brow of mountains stand guard over the island, forming the backbone of the tiny landmass. There are many day excursions and walking tours which visit this region, but one of the most enjoyable is the six day Classic Trek.
A grade B tour, anyone who is in reasonably good condition and can cope with undulating terrain should be able to manage the demands without any difficulties. However, walking boots rather than trainers are recommended for this route.
The tour starts in the quaint village of Valldemossa, buried in the mountains and gradually treks north reaching the Archdukes Pathway. The climb up is made well worth it by the spectacular panoramic views of the coast, before you slowly make your descent into Deia for the night.
The next day sees an old fisherman’s trail followed, through wild olive groves which provide the perfect backdrop for some unique holiday snaps. Moving on to Soller via tram before walking for 6-8 hours to reach Tossals Mountain Refuge is the next leg, moving through some picturesque mountain hamlets en route. This pathway involves walking through some tunnels and offers a very remote experience in the mountains.
The final two days include a stay at the island’s famous Lluc Monastery, often considered the true heartbeat of Mallorca. The tour finishes with a walk down the side of the Puig Tomir Mountain and into the hustle and bustle of Pollensa Square.
A tour which offers views of pretty villages, remote mountaintop refuges plus plenty of stunning scenery along the way, it’s little wonder you need to book this in advance to get a place.
Ibiza – not just for clubbers
In recent years, the White Isle has gained a reputation for being the place to go to party but whilst this may be true, there is so much more to Ibiza than just throbbing dance music.
Venture away from the lights of the main tourist areas and you will find a small island filled with beautiful countryside and tranquil bays.
There are many tours available which take in the sights and sounds of Ibiza but one walking holiday with a difference is the Around Island trip.
A two week holiday which includes some rest days, the tour is designed for all levels of ability but most of all aims to allow everyone the chance to reconnect with nature by experiencing the peace of the natural world.
During this tour, no hotels are stayed in – other than on the two rest nights – and meals are cooked and enjoyed over a campfire, allowing the group to chat and really get to know each other. This kind of holiday provides plenty of opportunities to mix as well as contemplate the serenity so you could return with a very different perspective as well as some new friends!
All food and drink is supplied but you will need to bring your own rucksack, tent and sleeping bag. The itinerary is rather more relaxed and will depend on the weather conditions and the fitness of the group. All that is guaranteed is that the tour will take in the whole island, providing phenomenal views and outstanding scenery. Although around 15-30km will be covered each day, the emphasis is very much on quality of the experience rather than speed to make sure everyone gets what they want from the tour.
Minorca – the hidden isle
Despite being amongst the four largest Balearic Islands, Minorca remains somewhat of a mystery to many holidaymakers.
A green and lush island with beautiful scenery and landscapes to explore, Minorca provides the perfect backdrop for a walking tour and where better to start than the interestingly-named Path of Horses.
More than 116 miles in length, the Path traverses through many different types of scenery en route including some of the towns on the island, as well as rugged cliff-top seascapes and tiny secluded bays and beaches.
Minorca whilst offering gently undulating countryside has far less heavy climbing than its island brothers, and as such walkers following the Path of Horses will have far fewer ascents to make. On the entire route, there are just two sections marked as ‘difficult’ whilst nine are graded as ‘middle’ and a further nine as ‘easy’.
No-one is entirely sure of the origins of the Path of Horses but studies have shown that it dates back many centuries at least. The route now passes by not just beautiful coastal areas, but also encounters sudden valleys exploding with flowers and prehistoric monuments and fossils. A track which runs around the periphery of the island, the Path of Horses shows walkers Minorca at its best, offering up many of its secret treasures such as lush green woodland and hidden coves.
The above three examples are just three of the many walking tours which can be found in the Balearics. All of the islands have their own particular characteristics from precipitous mountain peaks to sandy bays and shady olive groves. Take some time away from the sun lounger and enjoy the Balearics at their best; you are guaranteed to see a completely different side of the island!
Sally Vandiver is the owner of a range of Menorca villas and highly knowedgeable about villa rentals in this region.