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Spain's Top 10

Simple...a series of lists rating Spain's top 10 in anything and everything...they may be lists compiled by independent reviewers or by myself....whichever, I hope you find them useful :-)

Spain's Top 10 Ski Slopes
06 December 2019

This year ski slopes have opened early all across the country, take a look at the top 10 Spain has to offer:

 



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Top 10 Most Beautiful Villages in Navarra
06 November 2019

Navarra has some of the most beautiful villages in the country, not often a region that foreigners really think of visiting, but it really must be considered as there is so much to see. Here are 10 of the most beautiful villages worth visiting...

 

1. Olite

The sleek and harmonious silhouette of the Castle-Palace stands out against the skyline of Olite, a small town in the centre of Navarre just 42 kilometres south of Pamplona that was the seat of the Royal Court of the kingdom in the Middle Ages. The thick walls and crenelated towers of the Palace were home to monarchs and princes. Declared a national monument in 1925, it is the best example of civil Gothic architecture in Navarre and one of the most notable in Europe.

A walk through the narrow streets of Olite will take you past noble stone houses with coats or arms on their facades and grandiose wooden eaves, mediaeval galleries and splendid churches, and the Roman wall surrounding the town. Its Mediterranean climate has also made Olite a wine capital. Visit its bodegas (wineries) and try their wines. Let yourself be guided, the town will take you back to an era of tournaments, kings and princesses, wizards and jugglers, falconers and archers; they all return to Olite every August for a Mediaeval Fair.

 

2. Roncesvalles

The collection of the historic buildings in Roncesvalles, located in the westernmost side of the Pyreneen mountain range, are erected on the bottom of the southern slope of the Ibañeta hill and near the wide plain of Auritz- Burguete.

A place for the pilgrims to rest after the rough ascent from the lower Navarre valleys, "The Collegiate church of Santa María de Roncesvalles" is surrounded by some mountains like: Astobiskar (1266 m.) and Ortzanzurieta ( 1570 m), distinguished because they are the oldest territories of Navarra, more than 450 million years old.

 

3. Puente La Reina

Puente la Reina, "the crossroads of the ways", is a medieval town where the two main routes on the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela converge. It is one of the enclaves with the greatest affinity with Compostela in Navarre. The constant transit of pilgrims, the scallop shells and the walking sticks all form part of the urban landscape of this town, a magnificent example of a "street-based" town just 24 kilometres south-west of Pamplona.

Walking along the narrow Rúa Mayor is a very pleasant exercise that allows you to discover architectural gems such as the churches of the Crucifix, St. James and St. Peter and beautiful buildings peppered with details of the influence of the Pilgrim's Way. However, there is no doubt that the Romanesque bridge across the river Arga is the most amazing sight of all. It is one of the most beautiful and distinguished examples of Romanesque architecture on the way to Santiago and is what gives its name to this town of barely 2,500 inhabitants.

 

4. Ujué

Lost up on the heights of a plateau with no rivers to refresh it and no trees to shelter it, seemingly intoxicated with its solitude, stands Ujué, a delightful medieval village of narrow streets that climb steeply upwards to reach, at the top, the Sanctuary-Fortress of Santa Maria de Ujué. Located in the Central Zone, Ujué is one of the most important places of worship in Navarre and a spectacular lookout point over the Pyrenees and riverside plains.

The Sanctuary, a national monument, is one of the most important examples of medieval architecture in Navarre, and is at the centre of a beautiful legend. On your journey, lose yourself in the maze-like layout of this tiny village of just 300 inhabitants; stroll slowly along its cobbled streets and don't miss the opportunity to try the delicious migas de pastor ('shepherd's breadcrumbs'). There are very few places that make them like they do in Ujué.

 

5. Elizondo

Elizondo, the capital of the Baztan valley, will amaze you with its numerous mansion houses and palaces. Its most emblematic building is the Baroque palace of Arizkunenea, but there are also other monuments of artistic interest such as the town hall, the Datue Palace, the Viceroy's house and the church of Santiago. Set in idyllic natural surroundings, the hustle and bustle that typify Elizondo have made this locality the valley's inhabitants' favourite place for holding fairs and markets.

One of the most long-standing traditions is the Baztandarren Biltzarra, a festival of colourful dances and processions that brings together all the villages in the valley. On your visit to Elizondo, be sure to try its famous urrakin egina (chocolate with whole hazelnuts). Elizondo lies at the geographical and nerve centre of the Baztan valley . Located in the north of Navarre, the valley encompasses fifteen towns within its municipal boundaries, which are dotted throughout the luxuriant green landscape of the Atlantic Pyrenees.

 

6. Sanguësa

A border post on the Pilgrim's Way and a hospitable and monumental town, Sangüesa is a mixture of the mountains and the plains, a place to see and experience. Located 44 kilometres from Pamplona and with a population of just over 5,000, the most important town in medieval Navarre is well known thanks to the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela and its architectural treasures, particularly the facade of the church of Santa María, a superb example of Romanesque architecture that has been declared a National Monument. Its interesting civil buildings, churches and convents evoke epochs of splendour and reveal a town that is very closely linked to its traditions.

On January 6th every year the Auto Sacramental de los Reyes Magos (allegorical religious play about the Three Wise Men) takes place, one of the five that has been conserved in Spain. Stroll through the old streets of Sangüesa and stop to take a look at every one of its splendid buildings; take part in its medieval traditions and try its famous pochas (succulent white beans). In a land of transition between the first peaks of the Pyrenees and the plains along the river Ebro, Sangüesa stands on the banks of the river Aragón on slightly raised ground in the eastern part of the Central Zone of Navarre, 44 kilometres from Pamplona.

 

7. Artajona

A magnificent medieval fortification crowns the top of the hill on which Artajona stands, a small village 30 kilometres from Pamplona which invites you to close your eyes and step back into a past inhabited by monarchs, noblemen, bishops and popes. This stunning eleventh-century fortress, known as "El Cerco", rises up imposingly over the village that descends down the slopes to the plain in a maze of narrow, cobbled streets, marked along the way by monumental houses and palaces.

On your journey you will discover a town of 1,700 people which, as well as "El Cerco", still preserves other buildings of interest such as eighteenth-century palaces, the Gothic church of St. Peter and, on the outskirts, the basilica of Our Lady of Jerusalem and the chapel of St. Bartholomew. You can also discover why its bells and the "fork and sickle race" are so important. The walls of Artajona, a small town in the Central Zone halfway between Puente la Reina and Tafalla, conceal a wealth of history that will take you back to the Middle Ages, times of territorial conquest and marriages of convenience when the town became the wedding present of King García Ramírez to his wife, Lady Urraca.

 

8. Estella - Lizarra

Half way between Pamplona and Logroño, in an area between the mountains and the plains, lies Estella, a historic city that came into being when pilgrims were travelling along the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela in large number. In the 15th century it was known as "Estella the elegant" and to the present day it continues to live up to this epithet. It is a romantic city that places great value on its palaces, stately homes, churches, convents, bridges and beautiful buildings, which have earned it the nickname of the "Toledo of the North".

The city of 13,000 inhabitants will surprise you with its flourishing commercial life and bustling Thursday market, its passion for music and theatre, as well as its impeccable cuisine. Strolling through the city you will pass pilgrims and visitors eager to explore the old streets of the Franks and the Jews and see proof that the phrase coined by Aymeric Picaud is as true today as it was in the 11th century: "Estella is a city of good bread, excellent wine, much meat and fish and all kinds of pleasures."

 

9. Ochagavia

Ochagavía is the perfect photograph, the one that always looks right; the day or the light conditions do not matter. It is the picture postcard of the Pyrenees of Navarre, with its cobbled streets, its well-kept houses with steep roofs and the river with an old mediaeval bridge crossing it. The stone church, crowned by a robust and elegant tower, is an interesting perspective that breaks up the skyline. A landscape of high mountain peaks and dense forests complete the image, in which the very ancient dances in honour of the Virgin Mary of Muskilda must be present.

The town of Ochagavía is located 764 metres above sea level at the northernmost point of the Pyrenean valley of Salazar, in north-east Navarre. Surrounded by high peaks and beech and Scots pine forests, it is one of the most picturesque places in the Navarrese Pyrenees thanks to the architecture of its caseríos (large houses) and its location at the confluence of the Zatoia and Anduña rivers, which join here to form the river Salazar.

 

10. Amaiur/Maya

A picturesque one-street village that receives the visitor with its peculiar entry arch. The people built their houses along the route of the Pilgrims' Way in the Baztan valley. The lack of alignment and uniformity of the façades avoids monotony and leads to some excellent perspectives. The characteristic reddish colour of the stone from the quarries at Almándoz impregnates, as in the rest of the Baztan valley, its houses.

Noble house architecture has left some magnificent examples in the village, such as Palacio Arretxea or Casa Arriada, where council meetings were held in the 16th century. One of the most emblematic spots in Amaiur/Maya is located at the entry to the village. It is a restored mill that still operates, and where visitors can buy corn or wheat flour or taste recently baked talos, fine corn flour pancakes that are eaten with other products such as cheese, chocolate, or chistorra (spicy sausage).



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10 Beautiful Forests to Visit before the end of year
31 October 2019

Here are 10 stunning forests to visit this season or this coming Spring. Although winter is around the corner there are still some beautiful colours to discover...

 

1.  Forests of Ordesa (Huesca) 


The charm of the Pyrenees’ most spectacular valley lies in this explosion of colour that skirts these mountains covered in oak, ash, maple, hazel and rowan trees straddling the River Arazas.

 

2.  Fuentes de Narces (Asturias) 


The slopes that lead down to the River Narcea are home to one of the biggest and healthiest deciduous forests in Spain, providing rich, nutritious food for the brown bears that live in the vicinity.

 

3.  Fraga del Eume (A Coruña) 


This Atlantic forest, situated further west than any other in Europe, is hanging on by a thread as cement and tarmac encroach on its territory. It’s still a beautiful spot though, and the location for the famed novel 'The Enchanted Forest' by Wenceslao Fernandez Flórez.

 

4.  Montes de Redes (Asturias) 


The upper basin of the Nálon River, in the Asturian municipality of Caso, is covered with the wild forests of Redes, where brown bear and wolves roam amid the beech, oak and chestnut trees that are also home to chamois and grouse.

 

5. Dehesa del Moncayo (Zaragoza) 


Moncayo Mountain rises like an Atlantic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, offering shade and a splash of rich colour. Thick with beech trees and surrounded by holm oaks, olive trees and vineyards, this is a mystical corner of the peninsula where many seek spiritual solace amid the foliage.

 

6.  The Saja Forest (Cantabria) 


The Palombera pass is the crowning glory of the forests of the Saja River in the fall. The ancient woodlands hide a maze of paths traditionally used by mountain dwellers, who left their valleys to occupy the lands of Castile, retaken in the year 1,000 AD. The photo shows the waterfalls at the Pozo de la Arbencia inside Saja-Besaya Natural Park.


7 Tejera Negra (Guadalajara) 


Fall paints the landscape of the Ayllón massif between Segovia and Guadalajara, where beech trees mingle with yew trees. Against the odds, this forest has survived the hot dry Guadalajara climate as though a woodland spell is at work.


8.  Selva de Oza (Huesca) 


The high valley of Hecho in Aragón is crowned with an old untouched forest of beech and firs and black pines marching along the ridges. Below is the mountain gorge at the Boca del Infierno that twists upwards to the source of the River Aragón Subordán – the point where the mountains enclose this Pyrenean treasure whose very remoteness has saved it from the axe.


9.  Valle de Iregua (La Rioja) 


The Cameros hills conceal within their folds a beautiful beech wood, close to the source of the River Iregua. Surrounded by a semi-alpine pasture that has served nomadic cattle farmers for centuries, these beech trees account for the last native deciduous forest in the region.


10.  Monte de Santiago (Burgos) 


The source of the Nervión River is tucked away among the leafy beech forests of Santiago that begin at the cliffs of the Salvado mountains and advance down towards the meadows of the Arrastaria valley in Alava. The forests are constantly doused in moisture by the dense mists that also feed the river and ensure that the Salto de Nervión waterfall – considered the highest in Spain – remains a spectacular sight.

 


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Top 10 : Most memorable places to sleep in Spain
18 October 2019

Treehouses, transparent bubble shaped rooms to watch the stars, traditional wagons or even caves, staying in these very original hotels in Spain will be a truly unforgettable experience. From North to South, here are 10 of the most interesting and original hotels that will make every night feel special and help you discover Spain like never before.

 

1. Cabanes als arbre, Sant Hilari Sacalm, Girona

http://www.cabanesalsarbres.com/es

If you have ever dreamed about being like Robinson Crusoe, then stay in this treehouse, near the Montseny Mountain, in Catalonia. In this very privileged area, you can view the world from above.


2. Airstream, Alzozaina, Málaga

https://www.glampingairstream.com

In the quaint white-washed village of Alozaina, in Málaga, you can stay in an authentic classic American caravan that is as luxurious as a 5-star hotel. This tiny vehicle is perfect for a romantic getaway.


3. Casa de laila, Alhaurín el Grande, Málaga

http://www.casadelaila.es

Casa de Laila takes rural tourism and glamping (“glamorous camping”) to a new level. If you want to spend the night in a tent without compromising on comfort, this pretty corner of Alhaurín el Grande is perfect.

 

4. Hotel Consolación, Monroy, Teruel

http://www.consolacion.com.es

Located in the beautiful Matarraña region, Hotel Consolación is one of the most special hotels in Spain. It merges the tradition of an old baroque hermitage with ultramodern and minimalistic cubes on top of a hill. It’s so cool!

 

5. Mil Estrelles, Borgonyà, Girona

http://www.milestrelles.com

Very close to the famous Banyoles Lake it is possible to stay inside a transparent bubble, with the stars as your ceiling. This hotel’s round rooms are named after stars and is as romantic as it is magical.

 

6. Hotel Plaza de Toros de Almadén, Almadén, Ciudad Real

http://www.hotelplazadetoros.com

There is surely nothing more typically Spanish than a bullring that has now been converted into a hotel. Located in Almadén, it has been transformed into an amazing place where every aspect of its design has been carefully thought-out, for example you can have breakfast overlooking the arena.

 

7. Hotel Les Cols Pavellons, Olot, Girona

https://www.facebook.com/LesColsPavellons

Les Cols, in the middle of the pretty Garrotxa area, is more than just a hotel: it is a sensorial and very Zen experience. There are glass rooms, volcanic earth at your feet, lava gardens and you can even sleep under the stars.

 

8. Otro Mundo, Elche de la Sierra, Castilla-La Mancha 

http://www.otro-mundo.com

In the Sierra de Segura Mountains, in Castilla-La Mancha, there are a few white Eco domes that have everything you could possibly need. Otro Mundo is a hotel where sustainability really matters, as well as comfort. It is a truly other-worldly experience.

 

9. Casa del Mundo, Tibi, Alicante 

http://www.casadelmundo.nl/english/

In Tibi, Alicante, it is possible to sleep, relax and have fun in an old European wooden caravan home. Lodging in one of these cute apartments can be a retro adventure for the whole family - and don’t forget to enjoy their pool.

 

10. Cuevas Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, Guadix, Granada 

http://www.cuevaspedroantonio.es

In Tibi, Alicante, it is possible to sleep, relax and have fun in an old European wooden caravan home. Lodging in one of these cute apartments can be a retro adventure for the whole family - and don’t forget to enjoy their pool.

 



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Spain's Best Wine Festivals
04 October 2019


Although quite a few of the wine festivals have now come to an end in Spain I thought it might be interesting to post a selections of some of the most popular ones around the country. Same large and some small, but all celebrating "la vindimia" : the grape harvest. Take note of the one near you and pay a visit or note it down for next year if you missed it this time round!

 

 
1 – 8 September , Ciudad Real
Valdepeñas Wine Festival
D.O Valdepeñas
 
Local cuisine really takes centre stage with this festival. Besides wine tastings that are discussed and paired with local produce, this year the city is holding the 2nd Oenogastronomic Conference, “Saborea Valepeñas”. Every year, a person is awarded the prize for “Best Grape Harvester of the Year”.
 
 

 

 
 
5 – 8 September - Cordoba
Montilla-Moriles Grape Harvest Festival Córdoba
D.O Montilla-Moriles
 
Every year they appoint a master of honour who is given the keys so they can safe guard and defend the wines of the region for the whole year. Declared of National Tourist Interest, its most important acts include competitions for all the venenciadores (wine pourers), bottle turners and coopers in the region.
 
 
9 - 14 September
Wine Festival in Jerez
D.O Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla
 
Cádiz can boast of being European wine city for 2014. The acts include activities for children, such as Children’s Venencia Competition, where they pour wine using a traditional, long handles dipper. Using a venencia to decant Jerez wine is quite an art that has to learn from a young age.
 
 
14 September
La Rioja Alavesa Grape Harvest Festival, Labastida
D.O Rioja
 
It is a travelling festival that began 21 years ago in Laguardia. The 2014 edition will be held in Labastida, which will be in charge of bringing together the most important festivities. However, all the villages will be present in the same way. This is demonstrated in the Wine Competition in which only villages that produce D.O Rioja can take part; so all the villages in the area are legible. There is also the possibility of tasting the wines produced in the villages that comprise La Rioja Alavesa and some wineries, such as Eguren Ugarte, organise activities for the family that range from picking grapes to treading the fruit after it has been harvested- the part children love the most.
 
 
14 - 15 September
Cigales Wine Festival,
Valladolid
D.O Cigales
 
Cigales is the ‘cradle of claret’ and its wine festival is one of the oldest in the country. As a result, it has been awarded the title of Festival of Regional Tourist Interest. Besides the traditional treading, for two days a wide variety of activities are held, such as talks on the world of wine, tasting competitions and a wonderful medieval market, which gives the festival a past times feel, times when wine also played a starring role.
 
20 September
Wine Festival in Logroño 
D.O Rioja
 
2014 commemorates the 58th edition of this tradition; it starts off with the Pisada Popular, a public grape-treading event that takes place with the purpose of extracting the first must, which is then dedicated to the city’s patron saint. Another great wine event, known as the Quema de la cuba (the burning of the cask), brings the festival to an end. Continuing with the aim of becoming a gastronomic benchmark, the “Gastronomic Week” is also held during the festival.
 

 

 
 
28 September
Grape Harvest Festival in Sotillo de la Ribera
D.O Ribera del Duero
 
Sotillo de la Ribera has been holding a great party every year for 36 years now. It is dedicated to its wines and has guided tours and tasting events, not only of wine but also oil. Some of the wineries in the area also organise special activities to celebrate the festival, including a demonstration of how the local residents used to harvest the grapes in former times.
 
28 September - 6 October
Grape Harvest Festival in San Miguel de Tabagón, O Rosal
D.O Albariño
 
A week when there is no chance of getting bored thanks to a complete programme of activities that unsurprisingly, are all related to wine and the grape harvest: Talks on technical aspects of grape-harvesting, wine, gastronomy and photography competitions, as well as a pageant with all the local inhabitants and tourists who decide to visit this town in Pontevedra taking part.
 

 

 
3 - 5  October
Cavatast, 
Cava and gastronomy exhibition in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia
 
Cava is the big appeal of this region, one that for the last 18 years has decided a special gastronomic display of products that are the perfect match for these bubbly wines. The activities include a ride on an electric bicycle along the paths that go through the vineyards in the area, the route coming to an end with a local chocolate-tasting event.
 
 
3 - 5 Octubre
Riberjoven, Young wine and Gastronomy Festival, Peñafiel
D.O Ribera del Duero
 
 
This is the only festival in the country that is dedicated to young wine and it is precisely by taking this concept into account that they offer activities typically associated with children but which are adapted for older people, such as the Grape Harvest Storyteller for Adults. Although in Peñafiel children have a significant role in the festival- they perform a play related to the grape harvest and participate in different workshops.
 
 
10-13 October
Cangas del Narcea Festival, Asturias
D.O Vinos de la Tierra de Cangas (Cangas Wine)
 
The Festival begins when the local hotel and catering professional award the Golden Vine prize to a person with links to Cangas and its wine. The demonstration of the classic grape treading is carried out in a traditional way; a scene is staged with a barrel that is transported on a typical cart. All the restaurant in the area are involved in the festival and while it lasts diners can enjoy a typical grape harvest menu.
 
10 - 12 October
Grape Harvest Festival in Rueda
D.O Rueda
 
Despite being well known for its white wines, Rueda also produces some exquisite red wines. So everyone can try them, a marquee is set up in the town’s main square where winery owners offer people the chance to taste their wines and typical local products. In addition, some wineries organise Open Days. The first must extracted from the traditional Grape Treading is given to the participants.
 
 
12 - 13 October
Verdu Grape Harvest and Wine Festival
D.O Costers del Segre
 
This Lleida town runs numerous competitions related to grape harvesting and its associated professions, with competitions such as the one for picadors (grape treaders), porrón lifters (people who lift and drink from traditional wine pitchers), vine throwers; there is even a grape carrier race. To make sure you have enough energy to compete, there is nothing better than tucking into a grape harvester’s breakfast. They are served every day during the festival. If you are looking for something quieter, then you can go to the gastronomic exhibition held in Verdu Castle, which opens its doors especially for the occasion.
 
 
14 – 22 October
Wine Festival in Toro
Zamora
D.O Toro
 
These days it is normal to see the roads around the city jammed with carts that are overflowing with all kinds of utensils for harvesting grapes, just like in the old days. A festive pilgrimage travels along the main streets announcing the start of the harvest. Another quite strange annual tradition is the Wine Fountain, during which a large cask is set up in the bullring from which the young men have to drink whilst trying to out of the way of the bulls that are guarding the cask.
 


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15 Magical Places in Spain
27 August 2019

I started out wanting to compile a list of Spain's top 10 most magical places but I have to be honest it was impossible to narrow it down to 10 and even harder to order from 1 to 10. So I gave up and decided to  create a short list as follows. It is not in any partcular order. Feel free to leave a comment on any place int he l¡ist you have visited or any place you think should have been included...

 

1. Natural Park of Forest Corona (Tenerife)


This predominantly forested area encircles the Teide National Park and is home to some of the best examples of pine and high-altitude vegetation on Tenerife. The heads of a large number of the ravines that form the drainage system of the north and south of Tenerife are located here, meaning that the area plays a vitally important role in capturing water and protecting land against erosion.

The area boasts a host of geomorphic features, the most impressive being the immense La Orotava and Güímar valleys. Other fascinating and unique geographical structures include the lunar landscape above the town of Vilaflor and Cuevas Negras to the north of Pico Viejo.

A number of threatened species can be found in the high biodiversity of native flora and fauna of the area, as well as many other species protected by national laws and international agreements. It is a magnificent sanctuary for pine forest birds, of which there are a number of native species. Many of the geomorphic features (ravines, vents, recent lava flows, etc.) are representative of the geology of the island. The area is of exceptional beauty and value.

 

2. Ordesa National Park (Huesca)


The National Park is part of the Pyrenees and Monte Perdido National Park which was declared a World Heritage site in 1997 by the UNESCO. Since 1977, a part of the park has also been inside the Ordesa-Viñamala Biosphere Reserve.

It is an incredibly beautiful place with a landscape of towering summits. It has a wide variety of ecosystems with both an Atlantic and Mediterranean influence, which is what gives it such a rich and diverse flora and fauna. The scenery is dominated by the great massif of Monte Perdido (3,355 m), with the peaks of the Tres Sorores branching out into the valleys of Ordesa, Pineta, Añisclo and Escuaín.

 

3. The Alhambra (Granada)

The Alhambra was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. Alhambra's Islamic palaces, as we know them today, were built for the last Muslim emirs in Spain and the court of the Nasrid dynasty. After the conquest of Granada by the Reyes Católicos ("Catholic Monarchs") in 1492, some portions were used by Christian rulers

 

4. Pyramids of Güímar (Tenerife)

The Pyramids of Güímar refer to six rectangular pyramid-shaped, terraced structures, built from lava stone without the use of mortar. They are located in the district of Chacona, part of the town of Güímar on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain. The structures have been dated to the 19th century AD and their original function may well be explained as a byproduct of contemporary agricultural techniques.

Other pyramids employing the same methods and materials of construction can be found in various sites on Tenerife. In Güímar itself there were nine pyramids, only six of which survive.


5. Médulas (Leon)

The town of Las Médulas is located in the region of El Bierzo, Leon. This small mountain town marks the natural beginning of the ascent towards Las Médulas, a unique cultural landscape that was declared a World Heritage by UNESCO.

The serrated relieve of this landscape, marked by red clayey mountains and covered by chestnut trees, owes its appearance to the Romans, who altered the natural environment in this area when they established a gold mine in the 1st century AD.

For this purpose they came up with an ingenious system called "ruina montium", which used water force to crumble down the soil and expose the gold.

The two centuries that this type of mining went on, caused the formation of the peculiar relieve of Las Médulas. Red-clay erosion gullies, towers, and underground galleries, all surrounded by chestnut trees, make up this cultural landscape. Peaks higher than 100 metres lead to the centre of the gold mine, the Cueva Encantada (Enchanted Cave) and Cuevona (the Huge Cave).

Eight kilometres away from Las Médulas, the viewpoint of Orellán offers one of the best views of the whole place.

 


6. Ucanca Valley, Teide National Park (Tenerife)

The natural boundaries of Teide National Park are marked by a grandiose, spectacular caldera. The Teide-Pico Viejo stratovolcano formed inside this elliptical depression, which measures 16 x 11 km.

The name Las Cañadas comes from the plains at the foot of the caldera escarpment, which were used as a cattle route (known as "cañada" in Spanish). The biggest plain is called Llano de Ucanca. The water that descends the walls is trapped inside, and so the elements that are dragged along with it settle and accumulate in the base, forming these plains.

The origin of Las Cañadas caldera is a topic of debate, and there are two main hypotheses. The most likely theory is that it has been formed purely by erosion, with a valley that exits on the north face, in the municipality of Icod, which would now appear to be occupied by Teide lava flows. The other hypothesis is that there was a major collapse when a shallow magma chamber spewed out its contents at great speed.


7. Gaztelugatxe (Basque Country)

Gaztelugatxe is an islet on the coast of Biscay belonging to the municipality of Bermeo, Basque Country (Spain). It is connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge. On top of the island stands a hermitage (named Gaztelugatxeko Doniene in Basque; San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Spanish), dedicated to John the Baptist, that dates from the 10th century, although discoveries indicate that the date might be the 9th century. With another small neighboring island, Aketze, they form a protected biotope that extends from the town of Bakio until Cape Matxitxako, on the Bay of Biscay.

 

8. Irati (Navarra)

The Irati Forest is the second largest and best preserved beech and fir forest in Europe, an immense green mantle of some 17,000 hectares that is still in an almost unspoiled state. Standing among the western Pyrenees of Navarre, the Irati Forest is accessed from the picturesque villages of Ochagavía and Orbaitzeta and is a natural treasure in which you can find the protected areas of Mendilatz and Tristuibartea and the Lizardoia Integral Reserve. 

Sit down in the heart of the forest and enjoy communing with nature; let yourself be enveloped in a silence broken only by the wild rushing of water between beeches and firs. Admire the crystalline currents of the river Irati that turn turquoise in the Irabia reservoir and listen out for the elusive sounds of the fauna and stroll across the soft blanket of grass that covers the Irati Forest. The scent of the woods will impregnate itself in your skin.

 

9. Mosque and Roman bridge in Cordoba

The view over the Mosque-Cathedral, with the river, the Gate of the Bridge and the Roman Bridge of Cordoba itself, is one of the most wonderful sights of Cordoba, especially at dusk, when the last rays of the sun linger on and make the stone surfaces glow a deep golden red. The bridge was first built in the 1st century A.D., but has been rebuilt many times since then, and in its present form dates mainly from the Medieval period, with the latest changes being made in 1876. There are sixteen arches, four of which are pointed and the rest semi-circular. Halfway along the railing on one side is a 16th century statue of San Rafael by Bernabé Gómez del Río. 

The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (World Heritage Site since 1984) is arguably the most significant monument in the whole of the western Muslim World and one of the most amazing buildings in the world in its own right. The complete evolution of the Omeyan style in Spain can be seen in its different sections, as well as the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles of the Christian part.

 

10. Source of the Urederra, Urbasa Andía Natural Park (Navarre)

The burbling of crystalline water, the light filtering among the leaves of the trees, bathing the landscape in a lime green light and the aroma of nature has made this place, listed as a nature reserve since 1987, one of Navarre's most spectacular enclaves.

The Source of the Urederra is located north of Estella-Lizarra. It is the natural outlet of the aquifer lying under the karstic massif of Urbasa. Its first emergence takes place at an altitude of 700 metres, on the southern edge of the plateau, with an impressive 100 metre fall that, over millions of years, has modelled a rocky amphitheatre of breathtaking beauty. 


11. The Walls of Avila

The work was started in 1090 but most of the walls appear to have been rebuilt in the 12th century. The enclosed area is an irregular rectangle of 31 hectares with a perimeter of some 2,516 meters,including 88 semicircular towers. The walls have an average breadth of 3 metres and an average height of 12 metres. The nine gates were completed over several different periods. The Puerta de San Vicente (Gate of St Vincent) and Puerta del Alcazar (Gate of the Fortress) are flanked by twin towers, 20 metres high, linked by a semicircular arch. The apse of the cathedral also forms one of the towers. The fortifications are the most complete in Spain.


12. Bardenas (Navarra)

The Bardenas Reales is a semi-desert natural region, or badlands, of some 42,000 hectares (100,000 acres) in southeast Navarre (Spain). The soils are made up of clay, chalk and sandstone and have been eroded by water and wind creating surprising shapes, canyons, plateaus, tabular structures and isolated hills, called cabezos. Bardenas lacks urban areas, vegetation is scarce and the many streams that cross the territory have a markedly seasonal flow, staying dry most of the year. This Natural Park of wild beauty was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. 


13. Ronda (Málaga)

Despite being Andalucía's fastest-growing town - it overtook Córdoba in the big three Andaluz tourist attractions, behind Sevilla and Granada, in the early 21st century - Ronda retains much of its historic charm, particularly its old town. It is famous worldwide for its dramatic escarpments and views, and for the deep El Tajo gorge that carries the rio Guadalevín through its centre. Visitors make a beeline for the 18th century Puente Nuevo 'new' bridge, which straddles the 100m chasm below, for its unparalleled views out over the Serranía de Ronda mountains.

 

14. Gulpiyuri Beach (Asturias)


This is probably the most surprising part of the Asturian coast, declared a natural monument. Shaped as a half circle separated from the sea by the shelvings, it is a place where one can bathe without seeing the sea. Although sometimes referred to as the ‘world’s smallest beach,’ Playa de Gulpiyuri is definitely one of the world’s strangest.

 

15. Albarracín (Aragon)

This sleepy little tourist village lies 3,878 feet above sea level, and is unspoilt by modernization. Driving towards the village perched high on the mountaintop evokes a sense of wonder. The Spanish newspaper, ABC.es, had a poll and Albarracín is considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in Spain.



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Spain's Top 10: Freshwater Oases
29 June 2019

I thought it would be interesting to move a little inland.... When it comes to Spain everyone seems to picture a sandy beach on some coastal resort but infact I have to say that I have had some of my greatest moments in Spain, inland at many of the country's idyllic fresh water spots. Lagunas de Ruidera was a wonderful discovery many years back. What is so fantastic about these places is the crystalline fresh water, many of them are actually born from natural springs. The water is incredibly refreshing as opposed to the hot bath water which can be found on the Mediterranean coast during the summer.

So if you fancy a change, this is a wonderful alternative and you probably won't have to fight to find a spot to lay down your towel! The word oasis comes to mind when I see them as in many occasions all that can be seen around them is arid land and dry pine forests. Some of these places also allow water sports and fresh water fishing so also an great opportunity to keep yourself busy.

 

These are 10 of the top places around the country, naturally there are so many, so feel free to posta comment if you know of any more wonderful freshwater oases...

 

1. Lagunas de Ruidera (Ciudad Real)

 


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2. Lago de Sanabria (Zamora)

 

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3. Los Pilones (Cáceres)

 


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4. Embalse de Orellana (Badajoz)

 


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5. Las Fuentes del Algar (Alicante)

 


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6. Pantano de San Juan (Madrid)

 

 


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7. Lago de Bolarque (Almonacid de Zorita, Guadalajara)


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8. Playa de Zahara de la Sierra (Cádiz)

 


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9. El Parrizal de Beceite - Teruel

 


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10. Las Presillas (Rascafría- Madrid)

 


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10 'must-see' destinations in Andalucia
22 May 2019

More than 1100 kilometres of coastline, two National Parks and cities such as Seville, Córdoba and Granada are the epitome of Andalusia, but there is so much more to this region. Roman ruins, villages that defy gravity, dizzying trails and rivers that appear to be from another planet. This too is Andalusia. Come discover these other destinations, those that aren't on the first page of the travel guides. They will make your jaw drop all the same. This is the ideal place for your next getaway. (In no particular order)

 

1. Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia. Roman Andalusia

If you like archaeology, here are two places that cannot be missed. The first is in Santiponce (a mere 15 km from Seville), where the remains of the ancient Roman city of Italica (206 BCE.) are found. From here you can see its Roman amphitheatre and part of the outline of its streets. In Cádiz, only two and a half hours by car from here, you'll find the Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia, one of the best known examples of Roman urban planning.

 

 

2. Caminito del Rey, Malaga

Leave your dizziness behind to enjoy the Gaitanes Gorge on this unique trail. It has a bridge hanging from the mountain's wall that in some stretches is barely a metre wide, and 100 meters tall. Although it has been closed to the public due to poor maintenance, after a long restoration process, it was reopened at Easter.

 

3. Río Tinto, Huelva.

It's as if you were on Mars; the landscape seems dyed red along the Río Tinto, a river running through the province of Huelva. The peculiar colour of this river is due to the high concentration of heavy metals in underground aquifers.  In addition to gazing at the river's extraordinary beauty, you can get closer to the Río Tinto with a visit to its Mining Park, where you will learn how the region was transformed thanks to mining.

 

4. Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz.

This is one of the white Andalusian towns where you'll run the risk of running out of memory on your camera, especially at its walled fortress which is perfectly preserved. Situated on a hill, Vejer shines almost to the point of making you squint. Nevertheless it is necessary to keep your eyes open to appreciate its incredible views that allow us to see the African coast

 

5. Casacada de la Cimbarra, Jaén

An impressive waterfall nearly 40 metres high is one of the best kept secrets in the province of Jaén. The town council of Aldeaquemada, the nearest village, recommends leaving your car at the foot of La Cimbarra and taking the path to the right in order to see the waterfall from its base, or taking the path on the left to see the waterfall head on.

 

6. Sierra de Grazalema. Grazalema, Cadiz

It's April year round in the Grazalema mountains. According to records it rains here more than anywhere else on the Iberian peninsula, something that makes this area one of the most ecologically valuable in Andalusia. The intense rainfall and the limestone terrain make this area a paradise for fans of rock climbing and caving as the landscapes are steep and there are many caves and grottos.

 

7. Cortegana, Huelva

At only 60 kilometres from the Portuguese border you'll encounter a small medieval village with a gem to be discovered, the Sanchocuanto castle, where every August the most important Medieval fair in Andalusia takes place. In addition to the village's historic and architectural value, Cortegana is worth a visit for its natural beauty. The town is located in the middle of the Aracena mountain range, surrounded by valleys full of cork oak and chestnut trees.

 

8. Pasarela sobre el río Castril, Castril, Granada

While the capital and the Sierra Nevada are the main tourist points in the province of Granada, there are other charming places in this area such as the Granada high plateau, a land of contrasts with nearly desert like terrain as well as high mountains. Here you'll find treasures such as the hanging footbridge over the Castril river, a spectacular 20 minute walk on the wooden footbridge through the river gorge. In addition to the village of Castril, it's also worth visiting Huéscar, the county's capital.

 

9. Vélez-Blanco. Castillo de Vélez-Blanco

This Renaissance fortress, one of Andalusia's best, impresses from afar with a perfectly maintained silhouette on a hillside. It is nearly 2500 square metres and has two main buildings joined by a drawbridge. The fortress's "Patio de Honor" [Courtyard of Honor] cannot be missed. Made of white marble, it is considered a gem of the Renaissance.

 

10. Setenil de las bodegas, Cádiz

One of the most spectacular destinations in Andalusia is this village set in stone. Adapting perfectly to the topography of the area, part of the old town has been built around rocks, with some buildings above them and some inside them. Wandering the narrow streets you may suddenly find yourself in the heart of a rock.



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SPAIN's Top 10 Museums
08 May 2019

You don't have to travel to Florence to suffer from Stendhal syndrome. Spain also boasts an extensive art collection, envied the world over. Just visiting one of the ten art centres in this top ten would be enough. You might not experience dizziness, palpitations and trembling, as French writer Stendhal did on his visit to the Italian city, but you will without a doubt leave with another perspective on art. Here are Spain's ten best museums. Not in any particular order.....


CaixaForum, Barcelona


It represents a trend in museums that has spread throughout Spain in recent years, where art galleries combine exhibitions with all kinds of activities, such as workshops, conferences, projections, etc. The space is managed by La Caixa through the bank's Obra Social foundation, but the programming isn't its only appeal. It's located in a very remarkable Modernista building, the old Casaramona factory designed by famous Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch.

 

Reina Sofia Art Centre, Madrid


It's one of Madrid's large museums and full of art both inside and out. It's dedicated exclusively to modern and contemporary art and walking through its rooms you can see one of the key works of Spanish art: Guernica, by Pablo Picasso. Before contemplating this marvellous piece, you should take a moment to enjoy the surroundings. The museum is comprised of two buildings: the first dates from the 16th century and used to be the old San Carlos hospital; the second was built in 2001 and is the work of prestigious architect Jean Nouvel.

 

The Guggenheim, Bilbao


Few museums can claim to have triggered a city's transformation, but that's exactly what the Guggenheim did. In fact, Bilbao is now one of Spain's most popular tourist destinations. Its avant garde architecture, the work of Frank O. Gehry, will undoubtedly impress you with its curvilinear forms and extraordinary play of titanium volumes, now a symbol of Bilbao. You mustn't miss the work 'The Matter of Time' by Richard Serra which is part of the permanent exhibition, where you will find yourself immersed in seven impressive sculptures.

 

Valencia Modern Art Institute - IVAM, Valencia


If you're an art lover and you're going to Valencia, as well as visiting the City of Arts and Sciences, another must-see is IVAM. This gallery is dedicated to modern and contemporary art. It has two different spaces: the Julio González Centre, dedicated to the museum collection and temporary exhibitions; and the Sala de la Muralla, located in the building's basement, with the preserved remains of the city's mediaeval fortifications. The activity programme includes courses, workshops and even concerts.

 

La Casa Encendida, Madrid


This is a social and cultural centre with some of Madrid's most experimental artistic expressions and an outstanding programme of educational activities, conferences and debates. The gallery is managed by the Obra Social Caja Madrid foundation and pursues four lines of action: Solidarity, Environment, Culture and Education. After participating in one of the activities on offer, there's nothing better than taking a walk around the rooftop garden and enjoying the great views.

 

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona - MACBA, Barcelona


While it didn't transform the city like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, it did become one of the motors of change in the renovation of the neighbourhood of El Raval, which went from being a run-down area to one of Barcelona's most modern. The building by Richar Meier is noteworthy for its combination of straight lines and curves, the large interior spaces and the harnessing of natural light. The exhibition and event spaces include the Capella MACBA annex, formerly the Los Angeles convent church. The museum focuses on art from the second half of the 20th century.

 

Dalí Theatre-Museum, Figueres, Girona


The museum took over the former Figueras municipal theatre (19th century) and clearly reflects the artist's personality and work. Dalí himself supervised the renovation works on the building, which is recognisable for its red and gold paint job and the large white eggs that crown it.  Although you can visit throughout the year, it's worth going in August when they open at night. From 10 until 1 in the morning you can contemplate the artist's work while having a glass of the Spanish sparkling wine cava.


Picasso Museum, Malaga


The fascinating work of the artist from Malaga and the beauty of the Buenavista Palace make this museum a unique place to enjoy art and culture. The gallery's 155 works range from his first academic studies to his personal vision of classicism; from the superimposed planes of cubism to his incursion into ceramics; from his interpretation of the great masters to his last paintings in the seventies. Temporary exhibitions, educational and cultural activities, the library and a specialised bookshop complete a suggestive proposal.


Thyssen – Bornemisza Museum, Madrid


Located on the famous Paseo del Prado and forming part of what is known as Madrid's Art Triangle, the museum is in the beautiful Duque de Villahermoso Palace, remodelled by the prestigious architect Rafael Moneo. It houses what is without a doubt one of the most important private art collections in the world, with works from the 13th to 20th centuries. The museum proves particularly didactic due to its size and the way the works are displayed according to chronological, thematic and stylistic criteria. 

 

The Prado Museum


This is the king of Spanish museums, an international authority due to the fact it possesses the most complete collection of 11th to 18th-century Spanish painting. You will need several hours to go through the rooms displaying the works of the great masters such as El Greco, Goya, Rubens and Rembrandt.  Here you can see one of the most famous Spanish paintings of all time: Las Meninas, by Velázquez. Architecture lovers will also enjoy visiting the museum's new wing, an extension designed by the architect Rafael Moneo. 



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See Spain in Twelve Landscapes
23 April 2019

From mountian lakes to deserts and beaches, natural scenery which is certain to captivate any visitor can be found all over the country, Spain has it all. Few countries offer such a variety of breathtaking landscapes.

Discover my top 12…..(I couldn’t cut it down to 10!)

 

1.Garajonay National Park (La Gomera, Canary Islands) 

Thanks to its geographic location and subtropical climate, the center of La Gomera island preserves an extraordinary jungle site, featuring an abundance of protected species. The forest at Garajonay National Park presents visitors with an image of the earth as it was 60 million years ago.

 

2. Sakoneta Beach (Basque Country) 

An hour's drive from San Sebastián, land and sea intertwine on the lovely Sakoneta beach, which shines with its greatest splendor at low tide. Erosion has carved continuous, vertical patterns into the cliff walls, known to geologists as flysch, and it makes the rocks especially scenic.

 

3. Ordesa Valley (Aragon) 

At the heart of Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, through the wide array of climates brought by the deep valleys and the high mountains, a large inventory of species abound. The result is a site with an incredible diversity of living organisms. Eagles thrive, as do marmots, and pine trees grow beside oaks in the forests.

 

4. Bardenas Reales (Navarre) 

These miniature, desert-like badlands in northern Spain are unique due to their location in a region that is much better known for its wet and green landscapes. Erosion from wind and rainfall have carved out surfaces that are commonly referred to as “elephant hides.”

 

5. Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park (Catalonia) 

Located in the central Pyrenees, the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park stands out for its huge mountains towering more than 3,000 meters above sea level. The eastern part of the park is especially stunning, as the reflection of the mountains can be seen on the water. The installation of ramps in certain areas also means that people with limited mobility can also enjoy the beauty.

 

6. Lakes of Covadonga (Asturias) 

The Lakes of Covadonga are situated 1,000 meters up in the Picos de Europa mountains. Around them, herds of horses, cows and goats graze at their leisure in a calm and tranquil environment. Visitors are also encouraged to take advantage of the surrounding hiking trails – no hiking or climbing experience is required to embark on them.

 

7. Cabo de Gata (Andalusia) 

Cabo de Gata Natural Park is a volcanic complex that also features traces of human activity in the area ranging castles to 19th century mining villages and 20th century flour mills. As beautiful as the land is the sea that lines its coast, perfect for swimming and sailing.

 

8. Las Médulas (Castilla y León) 

The Romans scavenged these hills of León for gold and ended up creating the largest open pit mine in the history of their empire. What remains is a striking contrast or red sand against the green forest. Visitors can walk inside the holes bored by the Romans or view them in their entirety from the Orellán observation deck. It’s been a World Heritage Site since 1977.

 

9. Garrotxa volcanoes (Catalonia) 

The La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park features almost 40 different volcanoes. Despite the landscape being formed by volcanic activity, the area’s rainy climate has resulted in the long dormant volcanoes being covered in vegetation.

 

10. Naranjo de Bulnes (Asturias) 

The peak of the mountain Urrielu, or Naranjo de Bulnes, is more than 2,500 meters above sea level. Although it’s not the tallest mountain in the Picos de Europa range to which it belongs, its vertical walls make it perfect for climbers.

 

11. Teide (Tenerife, Canary Islands) 

175,000 years ago, lava emerged from the Earth, giving shape to the Teide volcano, which is also Spain’s tallest mountain. Still active, it’s the third tallest volcanic formation in the world, rising 7,500 meters from the ocean floor. Because of its height above sea level (3,718 metres), it regularly snows at the peak, providing, in a single image, a beautiful contrast between winter wonderland at its summit and arid desert at its base.

 

12. Playa de Catedrales (Galicia) 

On the coast of northern Spain near the Galician town of Ribadeo, waves crash against a series of arches that resemble a great cathedral. In fact, the proper name of this beach is Praia de Augas Santas (“Holy Waters” in Galician). It’s advisable to visit during low tide to admire the sand from the caves and the arches.



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