Planning your big vacation to Spain? Don’t make the mistake of thinking the whole country is warm and sunny year round. Here’s our quick and dirty on the country’s climate, so you can plan your trip effectively.
Spain is known for being a vacation destination for those who want to relax; it’s food, wine, and sun abound around here. But luxuriating on beaches and sampling tapas isn’t the only thing you can do in Spain. It’s also a great destination for sporty people.
Everyone knows the Pyrenees are a great place to ski and the Basque Coast a great place to surf, but there are other affordable and out of the way places with a lot to offer a sporty and independent traveler. Here are our 5 favorites.
In the 1500s during the rise of Spanish and Portuguese exploration, the area around Cadiz and Tarifa was either a blessing or a curse – going south was as easy as unfurling a sail, while going north meant fighting quite a jet stream. The area is known for its high winds, which makes wind sports like kite surfing and wind surfing extremely popular, and extremely fun.
Add to it that Tarifa has some of the best beaches in the country, the region’s gastronomy, and the fact that nearby Cadiz was once the seat of a pre-Roman age civilization, and you’ve got yourself quite a package. Plus, Tarifa’s weather is nice year round – gorgeous in the summer, and mild in the winter.
- Granada/Las Alpujarras/Sierra Nevada
Granada is best known for its gastronomy and being the home of tapas. But it’s also right next to the zone of Las Alpujarras which is right in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. In the winter, the Sierra Nevadas are a great destination for skiing, which is surprising as they’re relatively close to the Mediterranean coast. But high altitudes make for good snow and the ski life there is prominent every winter.
In the summer the area is just as active. It’s easy to hike for miles along the foothills and find plenty of places to go mountain climbing as well. And, though the area is not as often frequented as more popular destinations it is well prepared to support sporty vacationers who want long and challenging hikes across beautiful landscapes. There are also natural mountain spring spas and ecofriendly hotels and restaurants dotted throughout the area, for after a long day of trekking it.
Navia is the little known Asturian cousin to Gijón and Ribadesella, located on the other side of the province from them near the Galician border. It’s a small town but with some fabulous country homes you can rent for cheap, even in high season. Aside from the fact that Navia and its surrounding area is a hiker’s paradise, boasting miles of trails by the coast and inland where the paths go winding through the waterfalls and the hillsides, it’s also a fantastic spot for water sport.
Lately surfing and paddle surfing have grown by leaps and bounds in popularity. With its many rivers and ample beaches, it makes a perfect place to learn to get on a board and ride. And when you’re done that for the day, there are always the local cider houses, music festivals, and ruins of ancient Celtic settlements to visit that are all a stone’s throw from the beach.
Soria is a surprise that shows up on almost all of our lists. It’s inland and tucked away between Madrid and Logroño, so it’s often overlooked for either the capital or the wine country. Besides the perk that it’s close to both aforementioned zones, it’s a mountain paradise for sportspeople.
Mountain biking, climbing, and paragliding have all taken the area by storm in recent years. The high peaks make it a great place for all three, though only during the summer. It’s the coldest place in Spain during the winter, with temperatures often subzero, but in the milder months it’s not too hot and a welcoming outdoor arena.
Horseback riding is also an easy option to find. Soria has some incredible heritage, between the Monastery of Saint Bartholomew hidden in the canyons, or the Celtiberian ruins of Numancia, once the site of a famous Roman siege, and all of these incredible visits can be done by walking or by horse.
5. La Pedriza/Madrid
La Pedriza is just outside of Madrid in the Sierra de Guadarrama. It has over 1,500 trails for hiking and for mountain biking, and the incredible rock formations make for an unforgettable climbing experience. Most of the locals in the central plains go there for their sporty weekends, so you’ll be in good company.
Plus, it’s only a few hours drive from Madrid, and even closer to the sierra towns like Rascafria, which are surviving testaments of Middle Ages architecture.
Of course Spain is known for its incredible food. ColorfullySpain is now offering our clients a chance to intimately learn about the gastronomy and food culture of Spain – by cooking it themselves.
We are now offering day and night opportunities for small groups to have tapas demonstrations, specially prepared gourmet meals with award winning chefs, or have hands on one evening cooking courses themselves. And, all of these options are of course accompanied by a short explanation given by a professional about the history and culture of tapas across the country.
Why just eat when you can dig in yourself? This summer, make your vacation delicious.
For more information about our gastronomic opportunities, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
4 Things in La Rioja You Can’t Miss this Summer
Colorfully Spain’s summer programming has everything you need for a perfect vacation. La Rioja is famous for its wine making, but that isn’t all it has to offer. Here are 4 things that you can’t miss in Spain’s wine country this summer.
- The haunted bodega of El Fabulista. You can get wine anywhere in the province, but wine that comes with a story like this one, told by a native storyteller in the spooky cave like cellars of this unique bodega is not something to miss!
- A tapas crawl through the Barrio Laurel. Logroño is not an incredibly famous place, but for its tapas, it should be. It is the hotspot of the north, each restaurant in the neighborhood of Laurel specializing in a different tapa, making for an overall incredible gastronomic experience.
- The Monasteries of Suso and Yuso. Built up and down from each other on the side of a small mountain, these two monasteries are now an UNESCO Heritage Site, as the elder one, Suso is believed to be the birthplace of the modern Spanish and Basque written languages 1,000 years ago.
- The town of La Guardia. If you want a peaceful and picturesque vacation, this is the town to go to – there are no cars allowed in town because the entire village is resting on some 300 underground bodegas! You can see some of the eldest cellars through the glass floors of some restaurants, and many have tours available, and are still functional today. So leave your wheels at the city gate, and take in the medieval architecture on foot.
As we have said before in this blog, Spain offers a wide variety of sports, activities, food, color, culture, and history. Every season we aim to find an expert in one of Spain’s tourist draws, and run an interview with them.
This month, since surf and beach season is upon us, we got the pleasure of having a chat with professional surf instructor Henalu de Barros. Henalu is the English language instructor at our partner Alma Surf School, in Asturias, Northern Spain.
ColorfullySpain: So, how did you learn how to surf? And where?
Henalu de Barros: While my first steps into the world of surf were on Lanzarote, a small island in the Canaries, when I really started getting into the sport was when I had my first adventure in the Bay of Biscay, in the Principality of Asturias. This probably seems contradictory, since the climate in Lanzarote is warm and a lot more agreeable for water sport than the often inclement weather in Asturias, but it is also true that no one exactly knows what goes on in the head of a 12 year old. Somehow, and for whatever reason, that’s when I decided to head back to the ocean as I’d done plenty of times, but this time with a board under my arm. I decided to really commit myself to the sport at Frexulfe, a beautiful natural beach in the western stretch of Asturias. After that, I started going all over the world just trying to enjoy the uncountable and wonderful experiences surfing has to offer, and of course, like all surfers, looking for “the perfect wave”.
CS: What are, in your opinion, the three best things about surfing?
HdB: One, surfing, as I once heard a pro surfer in Hawaii say, “is a sport, a lifestyle, and an art form where the wave is your canvas”. What I can add myself to this beautiful quote is that surfing is in essence a way of making a personal connection with something so absolutely changing and unfathomable as the sea. This connection might sound a bit mystical, but it is the truth, and if you let it and you pay enough attention, you can learn so much about yourself and your own abilities. That is, for me, the most beautiful part of surfing, even though it is frustrating at times, because you don´t always know exactly what you should be learning with each ‘lesson’.
Second, I would have to say, is without a doubt, the pure enjoyment and fun that comes along with throwing yourself into the sea to play in the waves and look for adventure. That is definitely one of the best things about surfing, and better still if these moments are in the company of friends and family.
Third, but no less important, surfing challenges you every time you head into the water – and as I said before, it is constantly changing with no warning, and there is nothing you can really do about that. But why do I say surfing challenges you? Well, you need to learn to adapt and react in the middle of everything, at high speeds. Also you need to correct errors from time to time, so you need to learn to be self critical and make an effort towards personal improvement – all things that can be subsequently applied to other aspects of life.
Of course, doing that alone won’t make you a good surfer, you first have to understand and internalize what on paper looks nice and easy. But as I said, that is the challenge, and the beauty of it.
CS: You and your family have established a surf school in Asturias – why Spain? And why Asturias specifically?
HdB: Probably being Spanish residents ourselves was a major influence in that decisions, but there were many other factors: Spain is without a doubt a country with impressive landscapes and the northern coast offers some of the best and most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, and I have to say I have visited many beautiful beaches in a variety of places.
Asturias, just like the publicity states, is a natural paradise, and all you have to do is visit for a day to realize how true that is. So of course, where better to surf than in such a dreamy place like the beach at Frexulfe, which is why I started out surfing there.
CS: So, you would say Asturias is a good place to start learning to surf? What about for veteran surfers?
HThe Asturian coast is the perfect place to start out, thanks to all the sandy beaches that offer easy access; this in turn assures safety during beginner surfing sessions. And of course, another important factor is that there are always surfable waves thanks to the swell from the Atlantic Ocean, so there is almost never a day that you can’t hit the water and catch at least a few good waves.
For those surfers already at an intermediate level, there are a few beaches that have good waves and also a certain level of difficulty, for honing skills and working on technique. Overall, the coast here has something for everyone, every level.
CS: So, tell me more about Alma Surf School, and what its objective is? Do you offer just surfing lessons or other activities as well?
The consuming passion and devotion for surfing in our family is what defines the school. We are dedicated to understanding not only the sport, but the life style, and how it is different for different generations, so that we can offer anyone who wants it the chance to open themselves up to the world of surf and learn to see things from different perspectives. The surf school teaches surfing, yes, but also helps our surfers get to know new people, as well as themselves, in a fun and accessible way. It helps combat getting in a rut, weight gain, and stress. This is because surfing reinforces self-confidence and healthy self-criticism, willpower to better oneself, and also just gives you a chance to socialize. And of course, the sea offers a type of relaxation and calm like no other place on earth.
At the school we offer not only beginner and lower intermediate classes, but also more advanced classes in technique that include video correction, and also ‘mental surfing’ among other things (check out our website for more information). Our latest addition is stand up paddle surfing, both sea and river routes, which entail floating down mountain and forest lined rivers, with stops for exploring areas of interest.
CS: I noticed a new program as well, called Surf the Lead – can you tell me about that?
This project, built ground up with great passion on the part of my family and our collaborators, is a program built around activities that let the participants not only learn the sport of surfing, but the philosophy as well, and then taking these lessons and benefits to the level of personal benefit and betterment. The program is designed to help translate what the participants learn about themselves and their own development to real world application, with relation to their social lives, work, or school. In order to get these results we have created a fusion course that joins the sport with a leadership workshop which is required of all the participants.
With Surf the Lead, the students get to stay in a typical house from the region, and at the opening night dinner we reinforce that our main objective is for them to have fun, and also be safe, and that the living experience will work out best if it is based on mutual respect. Over the next two or three weeks during the program, they will learn not only how to surf but also have the opportunity to try other sports like yoga, paddle surf, hiking, etc. We have games and downtime directed around leadership and trust building, and also English classes if they so desire.
We like to emphasize that it is fun learning, because we never want any of the development to be forced. The goal is to grow organically, at the individual’s pace.
And of course, the food, we can’t forget that. It’s always prepared fresh and with whatever requirements an individual might have, but based on a healthy diet that the participants need to keep up with the active lifestyle. We always adapt to whatever intolerance or allergy someone might have, as this whole program is, at its core, about well being.
Many thanks to Henalu for the great and informative interview. At Colorfully Spain, we prize partners like Alma Surf School who are so obviously invested in not only the well being and satisfaction of our clients, but also in finding new and refreshing ways to present their corner of the world to others.
Colorfully is happy to announce that starting in June of 2016 we will be offering tours Asturias and Playa Frexulfe so our clients can also enjoy the wild fun of Northern Spain’s World of Surf. So if you are interesting in surf classes with Henalu, paddle surfing and tapas crawling around the gorgeous river-fed landscape, and hiking around some 3,000 year old Celtiberian hill forts, then contact us today to book your trip.
Colorfully Spain announces brand new, exciting surf based tours in northern Spain for the summer of 2016!
The north of Spain is not only a great place to eat and taste wine, it’s also a natural paradise and a heaven for hikers and surfers alike. Now, Colorfully is offering innovative new tours that combine the two!
From paddle surfing down the green mountain rivers, stopping at cider houses along the way, to surfing by day and tapas crawls by night, Colorfully has a range of options for outdoor adventurers. And of course, a sampling of the region’s history and archaeology, from the castros of the north, to the church of Santiago de Compostela.
If you are interested in our outdoor adventure focused summer packages, contact us for more information!
Colorfully Spain has exciting trip to La Rioja you won’t find anywhere else!
With harvest season just around the corner, now is the time to think about autumn trips to one of the most beautiful places in Europe. Spain’s wine country is famous for its gastronomy, but has so much else to offer.
Colorfully Spain has a new route planned to the region that is a fusion of archaeological adventure, light outdoors sport, and some of the best cuisine on the continent. Bike, hike, or horseback ride through a 2,500 year old archaeological site on the banks of the Duero in Soria, or explore the secrets of the Black Lagoon, then head north to the vineyards of La Guardia to participate in the harvest and sample wines from the various smaller bodegas that you can’t experience outside their home towns.
With trips leaving from July through October, Colorfully Spain is continuing its promise of making history and culture come alive for our clients, providing 24 hour gate to gate bilingual service, personalized itineraries, and ecofriendly business.
Interested in our La Rioja route? Check out more information here!
Every few months we feature one of the incredible archaeological or cultural sites from our trips, giving you a free mini tour and a little bit of info. Follow us for the next in our series of these Spanish wonders.
The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, (also called the Mezquita and the Great Mosque of Córdoba, or the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady,) is a medieval Islamic mosque that was converted into a Catholic Christian cathedral in the Spanish city of Córdoba, Andalucía. The mosque is regarded as the one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.
The actual land had at one point been a Roman temple to the god Janus, and later used by various Visigothic sects for their purposes, and finally, taken over by the Moorish Prince Abd al-Rahman I. Around the end of the 8th century, he broke ground and started construction on the Mosque.
It took two centuries to build, but the end result was a sprawling, red-and-marble palace surrounded by orange groves and ornately carved fountains, which is still intact today. To give you an idea of the size of this marvelous behemoth, it is about 24,000 square meters big and it comprises 19 naves, over 1,200 pillars, almost 300 chandeliers, and it is lit by nearly 1,500 lamps, including some made from the bells of Santiago Compostela, brought to the Mosque in the mid-13th century.
But enough about specs; the Mosque is more than the sum of its parts. Walking under the high arches through the vast interior chambers is awesome, in the literal sense of the word. Whatever anyone’s faith, it’s easy to feel reverence inside a place like the Great Mosque, if only for they time and faith put into it by the people who built it.
And it is beautiful; it is easy to spend a half-day strolling the grounds, getting a glimpse of what life was like in ancient times. It is a true testament to the ability of Moorish architects and craftsman, and amazing in its detail and style, considering the age in which it was created.
–> Want to visit the Mezquita de Córdoba? Click here!
**Special thanks to our friends at ArtenCordoba for use of their fantastic photos!