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Spain's Best

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

Amazing beaches to be discovered
15 July 2021

The Summer is here and the beach is the number one destination this time of year. However most people tend to think of the south of Spain or the Mediterranean coastline is the best place to visit, but Spain has fantastic beaches in every corner of its landmass, here are 10 great beach destinations that can be enjoyed all year round whichever corner of the country you choose to visit..  (the list is in geographical order, more or less, so not in order of greatness!)

 

1. Playa de Rodas, islas Cíes 

This beach joins the islands of Monteagudo and Faro on the archipelago of the Cíes Islands. Its fine, white sand and crystalline emerald waters bring delight to anyone who visits it and encourages bathers to confront the cold sea. Next to the beach there are natural dunes which are currently being recovered. You can spend the night in an idyllic campsite, located among large pine trees, with a beautiful ocean view.

 

2. Playa Torimbia, Llanes

It is one of the wildest and prettiest beaches in Asturias and is also well known for the great atmosphere provided by the people who visit it. Because it is a cliff, which makes it rather difficult to reach, when you see the beach from above you will be sure to want to climb down. Its white sand, stretching for nearly 500 metres, makes it look idyllic. It is very popular with nudists and also surf-lovers, thanks to the fierce waves caused by the wind in the area.

 

3. Playa de Mataleñas, Santander 

This beach is very near Santander, between Cabo Menor and Cabo Mayor, and it owes its beauty to its location, surrounded as it is by high cliffs. Even though the beach is isolated, a great many people visit it during the summer, which is easy to understand since it is one of the best beaches along this coast. It is accessed on foot, by way of steep steps. Its waters are clean and it has a lovely seaside promenade from where you can enjoy some unbeatable views. 

 

4. Cala Estreta, Palamós, Girona 

A picture postcard cove, ideal for anchoring boats and enjoying the transparency of the sea, it is perfect for snorkelling and watching a large number of fish. Access is difficult because you can only reach the beach on foot or by bike (in summer cars are forbidden) There is some privacy and maybe for this reason it is popular with nudists. The beach is very narrow - which is how it came by its name [Estreta, meaning narrow] - and on many stretches it is no more than two metres wide. 


5. Playa Macarella, Menorca 

This virgin beach emerges in the midst of a thickly forested area, filling the Menorcans with pride and offering pure delight to visitors.  Its crystalline waters are a real pleasure that invite bathers to switch off from everything and rest. You can visit several caves in the area, one of which is at the entrance to the cove called “Es Castell de Macarella”. Less than 500 metres away is Cala Macarelleta, just as pure and pretty but slightly smaller, which makes it even more charming.
 

6. Dénia, Alicante 

These beaches and coves will surprise you with every step you take. They all hold international certificates for quality and environmental management; a real guarantee in the services offered. In addition, along the coast of Denia you can find numerous flora micro-reserves. For example, the Cabo San Antonio Marine Reserve is of notable interest: a protected area that possesses an ecosystem with great natural wealth, which can be discovered by means of several underwater routes (subject to prior permission). 


7. Playa de Mazarrón, Murcia 

A lot of sun, warm, calm blue waters and the good weather all year long make Mazarrón (Murcia) the ideal place for resting. You immerse yourself in its depths, lose yourself in its coves and feel the emotion of water sports. The 35 kilometres of coast in the region mean there are beaches that will satisfy everyone's taste, from crowded, urban beaches to hidden beaches in natural areas, where an air of solitude reigns. 

 

8. Playa de los Muertos, Almería 

Located at the northernmost end of the Cabo de Gata Natural Park – Níjar, it is a totally straight beach, as if it had been drawn with a ruler. It affords wonderful views and its waters are an amazing blend of bluesThere is also a small island which is regularly used by nudists. According to local belief, the colour is due to the whirlpools and currents of the water, so if you decide to visit it you must take care not to have a nasty surprise while you are bathing.


9. Playas del Cabo de Roche, Cadiz 

A group of beaches that stand out for their coves, well known for their incredible sunsets. Each one has its own charm: on the one hand, there is Playa de los Bateles, a large, family beach with a seaside promenade, spectacular for its size and the quality of the sand. And, on the other, the jewel in the crown of this coast, the Playa de Castilnovo, which is practically virgin and with a wild appearance that is ideal for surfing. Considered to be a Place of Community Interest, it is a natural beauty spot with walking access to the estuary of the Salado river.


10. Playa del Papagayo, Lanzarote 

It is one of the most spectacular beaches in the Canary Islands and is situated inside Los Ajaches Natural Monument. It is a stunningly beautiful cove sheltered by the cliff walls that surround it on both sides. You need to go well prepared to spend a day there: although it is easy to access, because it is some way from the nearest towns, there are few services around. Its golden sand and crystalline water will make you feel as though you are in paradise. 

 

 

 

 



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Spain's Top Nudist Beaches
05 July 2021

 

As the Med is now practically a bath, it’s high time we visited the spots where bathers can bare all and be at one with the elements. Spain has many nudist beaches along its 8000-km coast line offering everything from remote coves to wild beaches. The only thing you need to wear is your sun cream! Here are the top 10:

 

 

1. El Puntal (Ribamontán al Mar, Cantabria)

Nobody is immune to the charms of this beach, which is located smack in the middle of Santander but is only accessible from the city by boat, or after a 40-minute trek from Somo. The pier is just across the construction site for the new Botín Center. Once there, the beach bar El Puntal is a living testimony of how this sandy spit has grown in popularity: 45 years ago it occupied the end of the beach, and now only 300 meters separate it from Punta Rabiosa. Beachgoers still fill the chiringuito at lunchtime because of its popular Rabas (squid strips) and albóndigas de bonito. 

 

2. Els Muntanyans (Torredembarra, Tarragona)

This superb chain of dunes stretching for nearly two kilometres has an area of 200 meters reserved for the Adam and Eve types, who can lie here with the sound of the crashing waves in the background. This may well be the most relaxing spot in the entire Costa Dorada. To get there, park the car near the Cal Bofill Environmental Activity Center and take the boardwalk located behind the magnificent dunes —The Mountains, as they call them around here — until you reach the nudist area, which entails around a 10-minute walk. 

 

3. Playa de los Alemanes (Foz, Lugo)

Translated as Beach of the Germans, this is just one of many strips of sand named after the European pioneers of bathing in the nude. This particular strand evokes the Germans who used to work at the nearby kaolin mine, which is still in operation. It is the most dazzling of the nudist beaches in all of Lugo province and is also referred to as Area Brava. Bathers form a large family within the 135 meters of fine sand backed by a shield of cliffs where pine and eucalyptus trees are reflected in the water. Los Alemanes, which lives up to ISO 14001 and EMS environmental standards, is better enjoyed when the tide is going down. To get there, drive by Cangas de Foz, take the exit to Burela and park in Areoura. The path leading down to the beach is tucked in between a cluster of homes at various stages of construction. 

 

4. Chiringuito Bananas (Matalascañas, Almonte, Huelva)

Sitting atop a tall fossilized dune with no other buildings in sight, the Bananas beach bar flies its rainbow flag to announce the friendly and alternative lifestyle that rules along a 25-km stretch of untouched coastline between Matalascañas and Mazagón. Chiringuito Bananas is Andalusia's gay beach bar “par excellence,” and a living tribute to the original owner and soul of this place, Salvador Jordán, who has since passed away. The nudist area is located around 150 meters from here. The bar serves coquinas (small wedge clams), grilled choco (small cuttlefish) and for dessert, shots of rum, whipped cream and cinnamon. Patrons can sit back and enjoy the sunset to the sound of chill-out and bossa nova.

 

5. Roques Planes (Calonge, Girona)

On the Costa Brava, seekers of nudist havens must take the side roads. In Sant Antoni de Calonge, leave the car at the free parking lot near Martina tower, then walk south for 15 minutes to see for yourself that it is still possible to find a virgin stretch of coastline dotted with nothing but pine trees. There isn’t a lot of sand to go around, but there are lots of flat rocks and other spots to lay down a towel and enjoy views of the bay of Palamós. Erosion has created the Roca Foradada (Hole-drilled Rock) and the Espalda de Ballena (Whale’s Back). 

 

6. Guayedra (Agaete, Gran Canaria)

Now here is one of those pieces of Canary Island heaven that have yet to be truly discovered. A dirt path veers off the GC-200 road linking Agaete and La Aldea, shortly after Kilometer 5. This 900-meter stretch takes you down a ravine that was once a major settlement for the aborigine people of the island. We are inside the Natural Park of Tamadaba, where the contrast between the green hue of the palm trees and the harshness of the rocks creates a unique charm. From here, it is necessary to continue on foot a further 15 minutes before reaching the most enchanting nudist beach in all of northern Gran Canaria, a place of pebbles and volcanic sand under the imposing presence of the Faneque, with its 1,000 meters of free-fall. Swimming here is dangerous.

 

7. Siete Playas (Mutriku, Gipuzkoa)

The well-defined beach of Saturrarán is an excellent place for a stroll over to the crags of Atxeku and the country house of the Count of Motrico. A footpath bypasses the estate on its sea-facing side and leads down a flight of stairs to the wild area of Siete Playas, known for its black flysch sedimentary formations. Old Neptune is always a menacing presence around here, so experts recommend coming on days when the sea is calm, and two hours before low tide if possible. After that, consider another stroll down the newly refurbished seaside promenade to Ondarroa, to sample the creative tapas at Bar Cantábrico.

 

8. Ponzos (Ferrol, A Coruña)

In El Ferrol, large but dangerous beaches are the predominant physical forms along the seafront. A concrete ramp leads down to this wild setting, where spots for sunset-watching are at a premium. There is nothing in Ponzos quite like walking along the water at low tide and gazing down at the ojos vidales, seashells used to make amulets. There used to be a gold mine here, and a cylinder-shaped tower that is still standing marks the beginning of the nudist sector. Swimming here is dangerous, and experts recommend doing nothing more than “poking the wave,” or touching it and quickly jumping out again. 

 

9. Son Bou (Alaior, Menorca)

The longest beach in Menorca is slightly over two kilometres long and boasts fine sand that feels very satisfying under your feet. To reach the nudist area, leave the car back at the hotel and walk around 300 meters. This area is also accessible from Santo Tomás. The dune’s vegetation slopes down in a great display of beauty, as it blends in with the bright green of the prat, the second most important wetland on the island and a watering hole for numerous bird species. Bathers should heed the flags alerting to the swimming conditions.

 

10. L’Ahuir (Gandía, Valencia)

Now here is a true prodigy, a piece of surviving nature — dunes included — in southern Gandía, where untrammeled development is not exactly what one would associate with conservationist values. Yet the success of this two-kilometre strip of untouched coast has led to a conservation effort that includes long wooden boardwalks to protect the dunes. There is a nudist sector and another one for pets, with complimentary doggy bags.

 



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Where do the Spanish go when they want to get away?
11 June 2021

 

A recent study of Googles search results reveals which Spanish towns with less than 20,000 inhabitants are the most popular among Spanish tourists. Spain's 7,837 municipalities, which fall into this category, have been evaluated and ranked by the number of average monthly searches in the last 12 months for the terms "What to see in [municipality]" and "What to do in [municipality]". Every wanted to know where the Spanish go when they want to get away? These are the top 5 destinations...

 


# 5: FORMENTERA, BALEARIC ISLANDS


The smallest of the Balearic Islands has earned the reputation of being one of the most spectacular islands in Spain, if not the most, thanks to its white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters and unique biodiversity in its 82 square kilometres. Its unspoiled landscapes attract visitors, and spaces such as the La Mola viewpoint, the San Francesc Xavier nucleus, its markets or the Ses Illetes beach, a white-sand area included in the homonymous natural park,  just seduce every one of them who sets foot on this island. All this makes Formentera an unbeatable destination to relax and connect with nature. It comes in at 5th on the list with 4,200 searches per month.

 

# 4: PEÑÍSCOLA, VALENCIAN COMMUNITY


The Castillo del Papa Luna, a 12th-century construction, forms the most emblematic postcard of Peñíscola. Anchored in the sea on a large mound, this castle reconstructs a part of the history of knights and fortresses of the lands of the Maestrazgo. Its Patio de Armas and Torre del Homenaje are an ideal balcony to observe the Mediterranean. It is also worth visiting the historic centre and, from there, visiting the Lighthouse, the Museum of the Sea and entering the Sierra de Irta Natural Park. It is not surprising, then, that it is the fourth most desired town in Spain, with 4,600 searches per month, and that its streets have become sets for series and films such as El Cid or Game of Thrones.

 

AT # 3: RIBADESELLA


Located along the mouth of the Sella River and on the shores of the Cantabrian Sea, Ribadesella is known worldwide for the international canoeing race on the Sella River that gathers hundreds of people every August. There is no doubt that it is one of the most visited municipalities on the north coast of Spain, and its 4,990 searches per month corroborate this. The visitor falls in love with its colourful old town, beaches such as Santa María or the Tito Bustillo cave, where you can see representations of rock art up to more than 35,000 years old.

 

# 2: LLANES, ASTURIAS


Thanks to having one of the best-preserved historical centres in Asturias, the centre of Llanes was declared a Historic-Artistic Site and today it is one of the most visited towns in Spain (it has 5120 monthly searches on Google). Its narrow streets invite you to get lost and discover some of its most representative monuments; such as the 13th-century walls, the Torreón, the Basilica of Santa María or the Palace of Castañaga. Outside its walls, nature lovers will be at home in natural wonders such as the Bufones de Arenillas and Santiuste, along with some thirty beaches.

 

# 1: COMILLAS, CANTABRIA


The architecture and the landscape make up a spectacular tandem in Comillas that has made it a Historic-Artistic Site and the most desired destination in all of Spain: according to the results of the recent study, Spaniards search this Cantabrian town 5,660 times a month on Google. Sitting on green hills and on the shores of the Cantabrian Sea, it also stands out for its past full of historical events related, to a great extent, to the 1st Marqués de Comillas, Antonio López y López. He attracted great architects of modernism such as Gaudí or Domènch i Montener, who listened to him to were able to create some of their best works here, such as Villa Quijano, better known as Gaudí's Capricho (whim), or the Pontifical University, masterpieces of architecture.

 



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5 must-visit beaches in Alicante
03 June 2021


Who doesn't want to enjoy a bit of paradise? Summer is approaching and those who are thinking of travelling to Alicante to enjoy its beaches will find in this selection places where you can immortalise a breathtaking sunrise and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in sheer bliss...

With more than 200 kilometres of coastline, the province of Alicante has a wide selection of incredible beaches, coves and cliffs that will take your breath away, but here are five that are certain to do so...

 

Bol Nou Beach in Villajoyosa

Also considered a cove, it is one of the most representative of this Alicante town. Its small stones and golden sand form a half-moon stretching more than 150 meters with crystalline turquoise waters that will remind anyone of the Caribbean. Awarded with the Blue Flag, it is undoubtedly a compulsory stop-off when looking for a bit of Mediterranean relaxation.


Albir Beach (L 'Alfàs Del Pi)

Just about three kilometres from the town centre, Albir beach is perfect to enjoy a magnificent day out at the beach where its nearby promenade allows you to enjoy numerous restaurants and beach bars. One of the main characteristics of this beach is its transparent water and pebbles, which allows you to get wet without getting covered in sand, for those who are not so keen on the sand getting everywhere, this is your beach. It's also great for the kids...they love playing with the pebbles.

 

Muchavista Beach in Campello

Its varied and attractive coastline offers a great opportunity to satisfy the senses. This extensive beach of fine sand is 3,300 meters long and 80 meters wide. It is located next to San Juan beach and is perfect for practising water sports such as windsurfing.


La Fossa Beach (Calpe)

It is bordered to the north by the Calalga beach and has been awarded the “Q” mark for Tourist Quality. It is considered one of the best beaches in Alicante, where time literally stands still. Its kilometre of fine golden sand is mixed with the fabulous landscape of the Peñón de Ifach, mesmerising.


La Grandella Beach (Jávea)

It is undoubtedly one of the most famous and not to be missed. Winner for two consecutive years of The Best Beach in Spain Award, this 220-metre cove is surrounded by irregular cliffs and crystalline waters where you can practice scuba diving and enjoy its marine fauna.



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A Selection of the Best Beaches in The Valencian Community
25 May 2021

The Valencian Community has obtained this year a total of 153 Blue Flags, which places it, for another year, as the leader in the ranking at a national level. In total in the region, 137 stretches of coastline and 16 marinas have received the award. By provinces, Valencia has 31 Blue Flag beaches in 2021, Castellón with 32 and Alicante has a total of 74. These are just some of those beaches that have won the distinction....

 

Playa Finestrat

 

Playa Cullera

 

Playa Sagunto

 

Playa Oliva

 

 

Playa Peñiscola

 

Playa Piles

 

Playa El Pinar

 

Playa El Saler

 

 

Playa Benidorm

 

Playa Puzol

 

Playa Canet D'en Berenguer

 

Playa Granadella

 

Playa El Campello

 



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Spains' Most Visited Monuments
11 May 2021


Visited by more than 83 million tourists in 2019, Spain can be proud of having some of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, fifteen cities that are recognised as World Heritage Sites by the UN and 52 Biosphere Reserves declared by UNESCO. In addition, Spain has museums that house world-famous works of art, historical buildings, and unique constructions. Among all of them are some of the most visited monuments in Spain. Here is a list of the top 11...

 

 

11  Royal Palace (Madrid)

Destroyed by fire in 1734, Felipe V ordered the reconstruction of the Royal Palace to the extended form it shows today, although today it is no longer the residence of the Monarchy, its more than 3,000 rooms serve daily as a museum and, on special occasions, as a venue for events and receptions for the Head of State.

The Royal Palace of Madrid received 1,547,967 visitors in 2019.


10 Reina Sofía National Art Center Museum (Madrid)

Specialising in contemporary and 20th-century works of art, the Reina Sofía Museum exhibits abundant and well-known works by Picasso, Dalí or Miró along with other representatives of Cubism, Surrealism and other pictorial trends.

The MNCARS complex received a total of 4,425,699 visitors in 2019. Of these, the main headquarters, the Reina Sofía Museum, received 1,714,409 visitors, the Crystal Palace 1,994,979 and the Velázquez Palace 716,671 (the latter two in the Retiro Park).

 

9 Camp Nou (Barcelona)

The Soccer Stadium of one of the most famous teams in the world is also one of the most visited spots in Spain. A tour of the Camp Nou covers the most significant corners, such as the stands, the pitch, the visiting team's dressing room, the dressing room tunnel, the press room, the mixed zone, the benches and much more.

In 2018 the Camp Nou Experience had 1,900,000 visitors.


8 Reales Alcázares (Seville)

With architectural elements from the High Middle Ages, the Islamic world, Mudejar, Gothic, Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque, this set of buildings that includes a remarkable garden in addition to being the oldest Royal Palace in Europe is so impressive that it has been the scene of films and TV series such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), 1492: the conquest of paradise (1992), The Kingdom of Heaven (2004) or Game of Thrones (5th and 6th season).

The Reales Alcázares de Sevilla received 2,067,016 visitors in 2019


7 Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba (Córdoba)

Re-Christianised, so to speak, with the construction of a basilica consecrated as a Cathedral after the Christian reconquest of the Andalusian city, the Mosque of Córdoba is a beautiful example of Muslim art in the Peninsula, surpassed perhaps only by the Alhambra in Granada.

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba received 2,079,160 visitors in 2019

 

6 Cathedral of Seville 

The Cathedral of Seville is the largest Gothic temple in the world, it is a World Heritage Site and has an attached bell tower that was originally the minaret of the old mosque and is today the famous tower known as La Giralda.

2,298,702 visitors passed through the Seville Cathedral in 2019

 

5 The Alhambra (Granada)

Alhambra, palace and fortress of the Moorish monarchs of Granada, Spain. The name Alhambra, signifying in Arabic “the red,” is probably derived from the reddish colour of the tapia (rammed earth) of which the outer walls were built. Constructed on a plateau that overlooks the city of Granada, the Alhambra was built chiefly between 1238 and 1358, in the reigns of Ibn al-Aḥmar, founder of the Naṣrid dynasty, and his successors. 

2,766,887 people passed through the Alhambra in Granada in 2018 (curiously, 3,387 exceeded the limit of 2,763,500 annual visitors established by a regulation of the Board of the Alhambra and the Generalife in 2016)

 

4  City of Arts and Sciences (Valencia)

With such a futuristic appearance that it has even served as a set for the “Westworld” series, the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia is a snowy set of buildings with stylized shapes and biological inspiration. The largest aquarium in Europe, the largest exhibition hall in Spain or the interactive exhibitions of the Science Museum and the world-leading Opera house are some of the attractions that will get you walking through its doors.

The City of Arts and Sciences was visited by 2,876,524 people in 2019

 

3 Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Santiago de Compostela)

At the end of the Camino de Santiago, the ritual of entering the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela looking for the tomb of the Apostle Santiago is the wish of the thousands of people who make a pilgrimage there every year and who, in addition, enjoy visiting a colossal building with beautifully detailed facades such as the Obradoiro or the Platerías.


The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela does not have an access control system, as it is free, but it is estimated that between 3 and 3 and a half million people visited it in 2015, given that that same year 262,516 pilgrims arrived in the city (rising to 301,000 in 2017, the same year that overnight stays in Santiago were around 1.5 million) the figure of 3 million visits is not unreasonable.


2  Prado Museum (Madrid)

The most important art gallery in Spain, the Prado Museum, houses great works such as "Las Meninas" (Velázquez), "The Garden of Delights" (El Bosco), "The executions of May 3" (Goya) as well as one of the best collections of Flemish art, to name just a few of the more than 35,000 works in the museum's collection.
The Prado Museum received 3,203,417 visitors in 2019


1  Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Barcelona)


It may be curious that the most visited monument in Spain has been under construction for almost a century and a half, but the cranes and scaffolding don't scare away the visitors. What will be the highest Christian church in the world was designed by the great Gaudí at the end of the 19th century and exudes his peculiar style from the moment you first step inside to the top of any of its 8 towers.


The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia received 4.5 million visitors in 2018.



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Best Supermarket Wines for Under €9
23 April 2021

 

It has been said a million times, the best wine is not always the most expensive, but the one we enjoy the most. One thing that Spain managed more than any other country is to have almost infinite wealth and variety of wines, as well as a competitive market that makes it possible to have high-quality options at an affordable price. You only have to go down to your local supermarket to see how the shelves are filled with attractive labels at excellent prices with varied designations of origin as a guarantee of quality. 

With this commitment to offering Spanish products at competitive prices but without sacrificing high quality, Lidl has set out about opening the path to other large supermarkets by expanding and strengthening its winery, in which there is no wine that exceeds 9 €. They state that enjoying a good wine should not be a luxury and that it is essential to offer the highest quality at the best price, but within the reach of all budgets. Jon Andoni Rementeria (Spanish Sommelier Champion 2018 and Club Gourmets Award for Best Sommelier in 2019), is in charge of creating the Lidl wine selection.

However, it is not only Lidl who has bet on a range of premium wines at a good price. Mercadona laid the first stone by partnering with Ontañón a few years ago, with the aim of offering exclusive wines under its own brand, but with the know-how of a winery with extensive experience behind it. A line of business that other supermarkets such as Alcampo or Carrefour have followed. 

The five wines that top the list at Lidl (selected by their champion sommelier) stand out for their ease of drinking and for the versatility they bring to the art of pairing. 

 

 

The Whites:

Encanto Selección (D.O. Bierzo) - perfect wine to accompany red meats and game, spicy dishes or Valdeón blue cheese. 
Garabato (D.O. Ribera del Duero) - pairs perfectly with white meat, fatty fish or cod and sausages. 
La Bien Pintá (D.O. Rueda) - a white that pairs well with starters such as semi-cured Manchego cheese, vegetables, non-fatty fish such as hake and sole and even white meats.

The Reds:

Zaldúa Reserva (D.O Rioja)   
Tramuz (D.O Ribera del Duero)

 

Aldi has also made its mark but with champagne. Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut is one of the best champagnes in the world according to all the medals it has been awarded by the International Wine and Spirits Competition. What is surprising is that it only costs around €12 and they sell it in Aldi. Aldi is also responsible for its exclusive distribution throughout the United Kingdom. 


The Valencian giant Mercadona sells wine from 18 denominations of origin from all over Spain, but among them, there is an artisan family winery that has become its standard "go-to wine" when it comes to offering quality and price. The winery Ontañon is responsible and is located in La Rioja but also has its own vineyard in Ribera del Duero and Rueda. Mercadona currently has more than 50 wines with a designation of origin, of which the vast majority do not reach even five euros. Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Toro, Ribeiro, Rueda ... Ontañón, exclusively produces up to 16 references, contributing all their know-how of Riojan winemaking tradition.

 

Brands produced by Ontañón are the Rioja wines Arteso and Comportillo and the Riebra del Duero wines Abadía Mantrús and Condado de Teón. The most expensive being less than €8.

Time to start wine tasting! 

 

 



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Contemplating Landscapes
07 April 2021

Spain has one of the most varied landscapes in Europe, if not the most. It is peppered with spectacular geological wonders, many of which have been included in the UNESCO European Geopark Network. All landscapes included in this register must be of scientific, esthetic or educational significance. Of course, there are many more geological 'maravillas' but here are a few that need to be contemplated...

 

 

1. Sobrarbe, in the Aragonese province of Huesca, is home to some of the most striking landscapes in the entire Pyrenees, from the calcareous summits of Treserols to the canyons of Ordesa and Añisclo (pictured), the valleys of Pineta and Escuaín, the Posets massif, the valley of Chistau and the Sierra de Guara mountains. http://www.geoparquepirineos.com 

 

2. Dating from 10 million years ago, the formations at Cabo de Gata on the Almería coast are one of the largest magma-derived mountains in Europe. Old lava flows, volcanic domes, craters and fossilized beaches make up a landscape that, despite looking like a semi-desert, is home to a variety of ecosystems, including more than 1,000 endemic plant species and some of Spain’s most beautiful beaches. http://www.degata.com

 

3. Around 36 million years ago, Catalonia’s interior was covered by a sea that disappeared as a result of the great folding process that gave birth to the Pyrenees. Among the products of that geological process are the Toll and Salnitre caves, the serrated peaks of Montserrat and the Catalan potassium basin. http://www.geoparc.cat/es

 

4. The collection of limestone massifs extending southeast of Córdoba province, along the border with Jaén and Granada, show the effect of water over the course of aeons. This is a chaotic landscape filled with pits and sinkholes, karst formations such as the limestone pavement of Los Lanchares, the Bailón River Canyon and the Bat Cave, near Zuheros. The area is also known for its ammonite fossils – the remains of cephalopods that ruled the seas during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. http://www.andalucia.org

 

5. Fossils trapped for over 50 million years in the pastry-puff rock formation – technically known as flysch – along a 13-kilometre stretch of land on the western coast of Gipuzkoa have earned this place a spot in the European Geoparks Networks. Like a book written in stone, each stratum of flysch contains a 60-million-year-old chapter in the history of the Earth, from the Upper Cretaceous period (around 100 million years ago) to the Eocene (40 million years ago). http://www.geoparkea.com

 

6. Extremadura conceals unexpected landscapes, such as the one to be found at the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara geopark in Cáceres, where deciduous forests sit alongside olive groves, holm oak and fields of rockroses. It is a rocky place of jagged-peaked mountains that rise above the oak forests like dinosaur backbones. And beneath it lies a striking world of karst formations inside the cave of Castañar de Ibor, which was declared a natural monument in 1997 thanks to its eccentric calcite stalactites, arboreal shapes and delicate aragonite “flowers.”  http://www.geoparquevilluercas.es

 

7. The eruption of an underwater volcano off the Canary island of El Hierro in 2011 is just the latest chapter of an epic geological journey that began 100 million years ago when the seabed opened up and released the magma that formed the isle. The smallest and wildest island in the archipelago, its 278 square kilometres contain over 500 volcanic cones and nearly 70 lava-made caves such as Don Justo, whose galleries span over six kilometres.  http://geoparqueelhierro.es

 

8. From the heights of Gúdar down to the border with Lower Aragón, the Guadalope River crosses a network of mountains, peaks and canyons that were once home to the Sea of Tethys and monsters such as the Elasmosaurus. Its tracks, and those of other dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras, are on display at nearly 70 paleontology sites inside the El Maestrazgo geopark. http://www.geoparquemaestrazgo.com



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Tiny villages in Spain that must be visited!
16 March 2021

In recent months we have learned to enjoy the beauty of the innumerable gems of the historical and natural heritage that we have in this country. The small towns of Spain have become one of the best options to escape the hustle and bustle of big cities in these turbulent times that force us to keep our distance and be more cautious with protection.

Perhaps, the most unknown places are those that have begun to gain greater importance, and we have realized that we must take care of these little treasures to continue enjoying their beauty. Because travelling to one of these places is synonymous with feeling at home. The number of inhabitants, in some of them, does not surpass twenty, but they make you feel part of the village straight away.

In autumn, winter, spring or summer. Each season is different, but any of them is a good time to escape to a small town lost in the middle of nowhere.

 

Isoba (León) and its legendary lakes

Located in the municipality of Puebla de Lillo, only 12 houses and a church make up this small hamlet of 14 inhabitants in the mountains of León. This municipality is known for its two lakes of glacial origin: Lake Ausente and Lake Isoba, two places surrounded by legends about revenge and impossible love affairs. Less than a kilometre from Lake Isoba, following the riverbed with the same name, we find a haven of peace of unequalled beauty, a small pool of crystalline waters, protected from the wind by the mountain walls and crowned by a waterfall over which a bridge crosses.

These lakes have a peculiarity in winter, and that is that, due to the low temperatures in the area, their waters sometimes freeze and become covered with snow making it difficult to distinguish the lakes from the environment, but this is really their natural state.

 

Beget (Girona), the hidden gem

This medieval town is one of the most beautiful in Catalonia. Perhaps, the fact that access to the town is not easy, has made it go quite unnoticed to tourists. Its main attraction is the church of Sant Cristòfol, a Romanesque temple that has been declared a cultural asset of national interest. Some parts of the church date from the 10th century, although the main part was built entirely between the 12th and 13th centuries, and its interior can only be visited on Saturdays and Sundays.

The rest of the town is like a journey back in time, a set of stone houses that have maintained their original appearance over time and two medieval bridges crossing the river that divide the three neighbourhoods of the town. The surroundings of Beget are also worth a visit. In summer, its gorges are the ideal place for a refreshing swim surrounded by nature, and in autumn and spring, nothing better than a walk through its forests.

 

Trevejo (Cáceres), place of the Templars

The ruins of its Templar castle crown this small village of just 23 inhabitants. It is worth stopping at the Trevejo viewpoint to observe the romantic silhouette of the remains of its fortification. Although it is of Arab origin, since it was raised by the Muslims to defend themselves against Christian attacks during the reconquest, the remains that are still visible today are three or four centuries later. Alfonso VII of León conquered the fortress and gave it to the order of the Temple. Later, his successor Fernando II de León handed it over to the order of Saint John of Jerusalem, and two years later it passed to the order of Santiago.

The views from the castle are unbeatable and from them, you can see the entire valley of the town of Villamiel. Beneath its walls, you can see the church of San Juan Bautista, declared a site of cultural interest, with its belfry tower and anthropomorphic tombs. These perfectly preserved tombs are believed to have been dedicated to the monks who inhabited the castle, although it is most likely a Visigoth necropolis.

 

Urueña (Valladolid), the Villa of the Book

A medieval-style farmhouse and a 13th-century walled complex have given the municipality the status of a historical-artistic complex. Urueña Castle, one of the best-preserved in the province of Valladolid, was the residence of one of the most important characters in the history of Spain: Doña Urraca. It is a town to enjoy the peace and it is worth visiting the fortification at dusk, with the sunset staining the horizon in coppery colours, on which the silhouette of the hermitage of La Anunciada stands out. This temple is the only one that is preserved in Castilla y León in the Romanesque-Lombard style and it is the place that houses the patron saint of Urueña, La Anunciada.

Urueña is the only town with the category of "Villa del Libro", with more bookstores than bars ready to surprise lovers of cinema, photojournalism and ethnography. This category is held by towns such as Wigtown (United Kingdom), Tuedrestand (Norway) or Fontenoy-la-Joûte (France). As an anecdote, for more than 15 years, it was the smallest town in Spain with a bookstore.

 

Alquézar (Huesca), the Muslim fortress

Another place that invites us to disconnect and go back in time is the medieval town of Alquézar, in the Somontano region. The place invites you to lose yourself in its cobbled streets, which form a crescent, in search of its hidden treasures. Alquézar means fortress, and it was one of the main strengths of Barbitania. Jalaf ibn Rasid built this construction at the beginning of the 9th century as a defensive enclave against the Christians.

A curiosity that draws the attention of those who visit the place is the facades of the houses with hanging wild boar legs, as a symbol of protection for the homes. Originally, this villa had three access doors, but today only one of them remains. The collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor is one of the places you must visit. Although its origin is Romanesque, the temple is a 16th-century construction and, inside, it preserves part of the Arab tiles that the primitive Muslim fortress that stood on the site had.

 

Siurana (Tarragona), the castle on the ravine

One of the most beautiful viewpoints in Spain is in Siurana. Today it is a place to breathe peace and merge with the beauty of the landscape. The ruins of the castle located 730 meters above the sea, along with cliffs of 250 meters in height, are remnants of the passage of the Arabs through the place and every year attract climbing lovers from all over Europe. The fortress was erected in the 9th century as part of the defensive belt to defend Al-Andalus from the attacks of the Christians from the north.

During autumn and winter, it is difficult for the 27 inhabitants of the municipality to meet tourists on its streets, so it is the ideal place for those who seek to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. As an anecdote, legend has it that when the Christians surrounded the fortress, the Moorish queen Abdelazia mounted on the back of her steed to flee from her enemies by jumping off the precipice and that the horseshoe of her horse was marked on the rock from which it jumped. If you visit the place, you should look for it.

 

Bagergue (Lleida), the town of flowers

Away from the hustle and bustle, between mountains and green meadows, Bagergue is one of the jewels of Catalonia. The visit to this fairytale town has an obligatory stop at the church of Sant Fèlix and the hermitage of Santa Margarita. It is a town that is worth visiting in the different seasons of the year because in each one of them you will find a different picture. The winters are covered by a white blanket and it is ideal to see the snowfall through the window with a fireplace in the background.

In spring, the place becomes an explosion of colours, which has served to obtain the recognition of "Viles Florides", a distinction that is awarded to villages with the aim of highlighting the natural and scenic wealth of the environment thanks to its gardens, floral ornamentation, homes and recreational spaces. The peculiarity of Bagergue is that it has the same number of hours of sunshine in both winter and summer, making it the perfect place to get away, turn off your mobile and enjoy the silence.



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Spain's Best Campsites
10 March 2021

With the return to nature that tourism is experiencing, the campsites have experienced a small rebirth. Now they are as cool as ever. There are also those that offer innovative tree houses, waterfront cabins and even luxury safari tents.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to choose, but the Best Campsite in Spain awards make it a little easier. These awards given by the Spanish Campsite Federation (FEEC) are granted to certain establishments taking into account both their characteristics and the evaluation of the campers themselves.

The winners reveal spectacular landscapes and luxurious facilities, both aimed at the whole family and focused on enjoying peace and silence. Here they are the main prize winners:

 

1. BEST MOUNTAIN CAMPSITE: PINETA (BIELSA, HUESCA)

https://campingpineta.com/

The location of this campsite is truly spectacular. It sits at the entrance to the extraordinary Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, in the Pineta Valley.

It is surrounded by majestic mountains, pine, beech and fir forests and next to the source of the River Cinca and is located in the spot where the majority of walking routes in the area begin. It has bungalows, double rooms and plots for rent.

 

2. BEST BEACH CAMPSITE: PINAR SAN JOSÉ (ZAHORA, CÁDIZ)

https://www.campingpinarsanjose.com/

In the beautiful Natural Park of La Breña y Marismas de Barbate, a large dune populated by pines, wild olive trees and mastic trees and located next to magnificent cliffs, is the Pinar San José. There, time is spent surfing or hiking, riding bicycles, spotting dolphins or strolling under the sun on mythical beaches like those of Bolonia.

Nearby are some popular towns like Vejer and Conil. The facilities also cater for sports, a children's club, swimming pools and a dog area.

 

3. BEST FAMILY CAMPSITE: RIBADESELLA (RIBADESELLA, ASTURIAS)

https://camping-ribadesella.es/

Spa, gym, playgrounds, entertainment activities for children, miniature golf, sports courts, outdoor and heated swimming pools ... The Ribadesella campsite is certainly an Eden for the whole family, located just one kilometre from the beach.

In fact, the little ones will dream of sleeping in their safari tent in the glamping area, although the enclosure also has bungalows and a camping area. It is, of course, a destination to remember only when the sun rises, since it only opens from the end of April to the end of September.


4. BEST CAMPSITE OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND: MOLINO DE CABUÉRNIGA (CABUÉRNIGA, CANTABRIA)

https://www.campingcabuerniga.com/

This family business, which pampers every aspect of its accommodation, prides itself on the beauty of its protected natural environment, the Cabuérniga Valley. Its greatest asset is its tranquillity.

Open since 1991 and named Best European campsite open all year round in 2017, Cabuérniga offers pitches, as well as cabins and apartments with a rural air, lined with stone from the area.


5. MOST ORIGINAL ACCOMMODATION CAMPSITE:  SON BOU (ALAIOR, MENORCA)

https://www.campingsonbou.com/es/inicio

70,000 square meters of pine forests and large green areas and the most charming architecture based on wooden chalets make up this beautiful Mallorcan campsite with a swimming pool, restaurant, sports courts, mini-club and children's playground.

Nearby, the Son Bou beach, the Cavalleria lighthouse and the Sanitja port are wonderful excursions for the whole family.


6. SPECIAL MENTION: CAMPSITE BAYONA PLAYA (BAIONA, PONTEVEDRA)

https://www.campingbayona.com/

The wonderful renovation carried out at this campsite, which now has a series of modern glazed bungalows with a terrace practically on the seashore, has earned it a special mention from the FEEC. They also have a glamping area made up of two-level raised wooden tents with a dining room, storage area and bedroom, as well as traditional pitches.

The accommodation offer is complemented with all kinds of attractions for children -animation, trampolines, zip line, water slides ... as well as a privileged environment, formed by wide beaches and very close to the interesting old town of Baiona.



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