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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 - Best-Preserved Medieval Villages
01 October 2018

Spain is a country of castles and walls and a good number of these have survived to this day in very good condition. Much of what is preserved from the medieval era, remains in towns, whose streets have maintained their personality, without succumbing to the temptation to expand with modern buildings and complexes.

Walking through these villages is like immersing yourself in a fairy tale. Its narrow streets, walls and castles transport us to a time of legend. If you want to make a trip to the Spanish Middle Ages, why not start with these....according to the Repsol Guide, they are the 10 best-preserved medieval villages in Spain:

 

Besalú, Girona

The name Besalú is derived from the Latin Bisuldunum, meaning a fort on a mountain between two rivers. It is also the historical capital of the county of “La Garrotxa”. Besalú was designated as a historical national property ("conjunt històric-artístic") in 1966. The town's most significant feature is its 12th-century Romanesque bridge over the Fluvià river, which features a gateway at its midpoint. The church of Sant Pere was consecrated in 1003. The town features arcaded streets and squares and also a restored mikveh, a ritual Jewish bath dating from the eleventh or twelfth century, as well as the remains of a medieval synagogue, located in the lower town near the river. Besalú also hosts the Museum of miniatures created by jeweler and art collector Lluís Carreras

 

Calatañazor, Soria

Calatañazor is a municipality located in the province of Soria, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2010 census (INE), the municipality has a population of 70 inhabitants...perhaps it's grown a little since then. The municipality is named after the tiny fortified city on top of a hill.

Also situated in the municipality are the hamlets Aldehuela and Abioncillo. Abioncillo used to be abandoned like many forsaken hamlets in Spain, but in the 1980s was turned around by a few dedicated teachers into an educational center.

In the valley between Calatañazor and Abioncillo, the Battle of Calatañazor took place in 1002. This place is still named El valle de la sangre (the valley of blood). Almanzor, the ruler of Muslim Al-Andalus is by some historians said to have died in this battle. There is a statue of him in Calatañazor.

 

Peratallada, Girona

Peratallada is a town in the municipality of Forallac, in the county of Baix Empordà, in Catalonia, Spain. It is located 22 km east of Girona.

Its name is derived from pedra tallada, meaning 'carved stone'. Declared a historic-artistic monument, most of the buildings are built from stone carved from the fosse or moat which still encircles parts of this small fortified medieval town. The privately owned Castle of Peratallada is the dominant structure in the center of the town, with a 13th-century Romanesque church dedicated to Sant Esteve (Saint Stephen) outside the town walls. The castle has been documented as early as 1065 AD and it was restored as a luxury hotel in the 1960s. During restoration, traces of settlement were found that date back to the Bronze Age.

Today, Peratallada is known for its beautiful old stone buildings, rutted stone streets and passageways. Its proximity to the beaches of the Costa Brava and its numerous restaurants, small boutique hotels and artists' galleries make it a popular destination. The 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was partly filmed on location here.

 

Hervás, Cáceres

The most significant feature in Hervás' historical heritage is the Jewish quarter. Its narrow, steep streets are lined with houses clustering together like grapes, which were made with adobe and chestnut-wood frameworks, their roofs plastered with Arab tiles to shield the wind. The architectural heritage includes remarkable civil buildings such as the palace of Dávila, a large house from the middle of the 18th century, which at present houses a stately home-museum, and a public library.

The religious heritage includes the parish church of Santa María, erected in the 13th century, which exhibits elements that were added from the 16th century thru the 17th; the convent of the Trinitarian Fathers, inaugurated in 1659; the hermitage of San Andrés, from the 14th century, which at present houses the religious image of Cristo de la Salud, patron saint of Hervás; and the hermitage of San Antón.The infirmary of the Franciscan monks, from the 18th century, is currently home to the City Hall and the Municipal Police.

 

Buitrago de Lozoya, Madrid

Buitrago del Lozoya (Spanish pronunciation: [bwiˈtɾaɣo ðel loˈθoʝa]) is a municipality of the autonomous community of Madrid in central Spain. It belongs to the comarca of Sierra Norte. The town is one of the few in the community that have maintained its walls, which are of Moorish origin (11th century) and have been restored in the 15th century. It lies on a peninsula surrounded by the Lozoya river. Other sights include  the Buitrago del Lozoya Castle, a Gothic-Mudéjar structure dating from the 15th century and the Picasso Museum. This small museum contains works by Pablo Picasso from the collection of Eugenio Arias, a friend of the artist.

 

Peñafiel, Valladolid

Peñafiel is a town in the Valladolid Province and the greater autonomous community of Castile and León, Spain. It is best known for the Peñafiel Castle and for its medieval square used for bullfights and named "Plaza del Coso" (English: "El Coso Square"). The square is surrounded by private homes, but since medieval times the rights to use their windows, balconies and doorways during bullfights are owned by the town (see easement), which auctions them to the highest bidders.

The town is full of deep excavated underground caves which were traditionally used to store the wine because of the constant temperature they kept all year around. These caves have chimney vents for ventilation and to evacuate the gases generated by the fermentation of the wine. These chimney vents dot the landscape in and around the town and the castle.

 

Ainsa, Huesca

The village, which was the capital of the old Kingdom of Sobrarbe, and was later incorporated into the Kingdom of Aragon in the 11th century, constitutes a magnificent example of medieval urban development.
The historic quarter of the village of Ainsa, declared a Historic-Artistic site, is formed by a group of houses that are packed together in the most harmonious and uniform of ways, among which the slender tower of the collegiate church stands out, as well as the enormous premises of the castle, almost as big as the rest of the town. The walls that surrounded the town centuries ago remain almost intact today, the town itself being filled with monuments that bring us back to the Middle Ages.

 

Ronda, Málaga

This town in the Málaga region sits on either side of the Tajo del Ronda, a narrow gorge more than 150 metres deep. Its old town has been declared Property of Cultural Interest. Celts, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs all inhabited these lands, which were reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs. The historic quarter, reminiscent of the Arab age and with a medieval layout is scattered to the south of the Guadalevín, while more modern Ronda, the part which sprang up after the 16th century, unfolds to the north of the course of this river. Several bridges unite the two halves of one of the most interesting towns on the route of the Whitewashed Villages, in the heart of the the Ronda hills, only a few kilometres from the Costa del Sol. 

 

Albarracín, Teruel

The former capital of a Moorish kingdom (Taifa), the small town of Albarracín has preserved all its Islamic and mediaeval flavour. Its old quarter has the Property of Cultural Interest designation.

The main thing that surprises visitors who arrives at the town of Albarracín is its imposing fortified enclosure, whose perimeter is far larger than the area of the urban centre. What we see today corresponds to three different periods of construction.
The Fortress and the Andador Tower are from the 10th century. In the 11th century, the kings of Albarracín constructed the walls around the poor area of Engarrada. Finally, after the Reconquest, the Christian lords and kings of Aragon erected new sections of walls and most of the forts and towers that remain.

 

Sepúlveda, Segovia

Declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1951, Sepúlveda reflects the influence of the Romanesque style in its monuments and streets, dating back to its era of greatest splendour in the 11th to 12th centuries. Sepulveda is the site of the first Romanesque church constructed in the province, El Salvador Church, dating back to 1093. It has only one nave with a semicircular apse and a tower separate from the nave. Another site worth visiting is the 12th-century Santa María de la Peña shrine, located on the outskirts of the town above one of the deepest gorges along the Duratón River. 



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Spain's Best Wine Festivals
28 September 2018


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
 
The Local cuisine really took centre stage in the2014 edition of the festival. Besides wine tastings that are discussed and paired with local produce, this year the city is holding the 1st Oenogastronomic Conference, “Saborea Valepeñas”. Every year, a person will be 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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Madrid's Art Walk - 10 unmissable stops
05 September 2018

Many people visit Madrid and are unaware of how rich in culture one particular area of the city is. This area, known in English as the 'Art Walk' or ‘Paseo del Arte’ in Spanish, boasts art and beauty as you’ll see nowhere else in the world. Along a stretch of just over one kilometre, you’ll find the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía Museum, as well as a number of other institutions and buildings which are well worth visiting. Few places on the planet offer such as variety of art and culture in such a small place. Here are the top 10 places to visit on Madrid's Art Walk

 

1. Prado Museum

Paseo del Prado, s/n

The Prado Museum is the crown jewel of one of the capital’s most visited tourist itineraries: the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk). Its walls are lined with masterpieces from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools, including Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May, 1808. Its collection comprises 8,600 paintings and over 700 sculptures, so we recommend you decide what you want to see before stepping into the museum.

 


2.Thyssen-Bornemisza Museu
Paseo del Prado, 8

Located on the Art Walk, this museum’s collection traces the history of European painting from the Middle Ages through to the late 20th century.
Given the wealth and variety of its treasures, comprising more than a thousand works of art, you should start your visit in the section that most interests you. Italian primitives, the German Renaissance, 19th century American art, Impressionism, German Expressionism and Russian Constructivism are the most widely represented schools and movements in the museum.  

 

 

3.Reina Sofia Museum
Calle Santa Isabel, 52

Located on the Art Walk, the Reina Sofía houses works by Dalí, Miró and Juan Gris as well as Picasso’s masterpiece: Guernica.
This passionate journey along the history of Spanish contemporary art is divided into three collections: ‘The Irruption of the 20th Century. Utopia and Conflict (1900-1945)’; ‘Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World (1945-1968)’ and ‘From Revolt to Postmodernity (1962-1982)’. The star piece of the museum is Guernica, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings. Exhibited by the Republican Government at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937, this mural depicts the pain suffered by the victims of the bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica on 27 April, 1937.

 


4.National Archaeological Museum
Calle Serrano, 13

The National Archaeological Museum (MAN), which houses one of the world's most important antique collections, has just reopened after a comprehensive remodelling process that lasted for six years. Comprising implements and works of art from Mediterranean cultures, its exhibits span from prehistory to the 19th century.

 

 

5.Casa de América
Plaza de la Cibeles, 2

Casa de América is one of the most active cultural institutions of our city. With a view to fostering contact between the Latin-American peoples and Spain, it organises all kinds of cultural activities (exhibitions, lectures, film and literary cycles, etc.).
Its premises, the Palacio de Linares in the Art Walk, are a real jewel which must be visited. The limestone building, with its clean lines, the work of Carlos Colubí, Adolf Ombrecht and Manuel Aníbal Álvarez, houses an interior rich in furniture, lamps and bronzes from Paris, crystal from Antwerp, carpets from the Royal Tapestry Factory and a choice collection of paintings by artists of the stature of Francisco Pradilla, Manuel Domínguez and Alejandro Ferrant.

 


 

6.Naval Museum
Paseo Prado, 5

The origin of the Naval Museum goes back to September 28th 1792, thanks to an initiative of Antonio de Valdés y Fernández Bazán, Navy Secretary of King Carlos IV. After multiple vicissitudes, the current Museum reopened in October 1932 in the current location of the old Navy Ministry, currently the Spanish Army Headquarters, located in the Art Walk.

 

7.National Museum of Decorative Arts
Calle Montalbán, 12

Located between the Art Walk and Retiro,  this museum – created in 1912 - was intended to be a place for the education of artisans, craftsmen, artists and connoisseurs of the industrial arts, following the inspiration of other museums of the same type, such as the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) in London, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

 

8.Royal Botanic Gardens
Plaza Murillo, 2

Declared an Artistic Garden in 1942, its collections include an outstanding herbarium with more than a million entries, the library and the archive - with nearly 10,000 drawings - as well as the exhibition of 5,000 species of live plants.

 

9.Royal Observatory of Madrid
Calle Alfonso XII, 3

The Royal Observatory of Madrid was commissioned by Charles III at the suggestion of Jorge Juan. The construction of the main building, designed by Juan de Villanueva, began in 1790 on a small hill situated beside the present day Retiro Park. At the same time the astronomer W. Herschel was commissioned to build a 60 cm diameter reflecting telescope. 

10.Biblioteca Nacional
Paseo Recoletos, 20 - 22

This museum, whose aim is to promote the importance of books throughout history, comprises eight rooms. As well as conserving original manuscripts, the library allows visitors to learn about the work of librarians and reveals the secrets of Miguel de Cervantes. The National Library aims to contribute to the city’s culture by offering public educational activities which are difficult to find in standard museum programmes.



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Spain's best Water Parks
10 August 2018

Many of us will have surely enjoyed all or nearly all of the summer pleasures by now. Summer holidays and the beach go together like a bucket and spade, sure, but there are many more ways to get wet and have fun in Spain. Although the beach is undoubtedly one of the best places for cooling off, another great idea is to take your family, grandchildren  or some friends to a water park where children will have an awesome time and adults will get to feel like kids again. Here are some of the best water parks in Spain and the first two in the ranking boast worldwide recognition.

 

1. SIAM PARK - TENERIFE

Siam Park, the water kingdom opened its doors in 2008 as the most spectacular theme park with water attractions in Europe and many would consider it the best park in the world.

Siam Park adds a whole new dimension to the leisure offering in the Canary Islands and is located in Adeje, south of Tenerife. Siam Park will amaze everyone with its diverse attractions and exotic settings.

The park covers 185,000m2 of natural landscapes and exquisite oriental design make it a major new development in tourism, where all the family will experience adventure, excitement and plenty of adrenalin.

Every attraction offers a unique experience and combines with the mystery of the ancient kingdom of Thailand, to transport visitors into a world of excitement and magic. 

Siam Park offers exclusive facilities for every occasion; events, birthdays, conventions and concerts.  It also has its own surf school where both adults and children can learn to surf. 

 

2. AQUALANDIA - BENIDORM

Aqualandia in Benidorm, the first water park built in Spain, opened in 1985. Since then it has been not only one of the largest water parks in the world, but also ranks among those which offer the most attractions and facilities as well as outstanding customer service.

Aqualandia is an extensive natural area where you can enjoy a wide variety of water activities and many other amenities. It covers an area of 150,000 square metres and has 50,000 square metres of free parking.
With their great range of record breaking water rides, splash pools and other attractions there’s something for everyone to enjoy a fun day out.

 

3. AQUOPOLIS - MADRID (7 parks around Spain)

Of course, there are no beaches in the Spanish capital but you don’t need a beach to cool off and forget about the almost unbearable summer heat. Aquopólis is opening a new attraction this summer 2014. Waikiki Jungle, a gigantic, semi-covered water slide for an adventure in pairs on the new-style rubber rings. For a spot of relaxation before returning to the action, there’s nothing like renting one of the cabins in the VIP area. This park forms part of the Parques Reunidos programme, meaning that annual pass holders can enjoy Aquópolis throughout the summer season.

 

4. AQUATROPIC - ALMUÑECAR

Located in Almuñecar, Aquatropic water park was opened over 20 years ago, being a reference for entertainment experience on the Costa Tropical. Year after year since opening, they have incorporated new attractions suiting to the needs of the visitors, using 35,000 m² of the park.

It offers multiple water attractions such as Tropical Trails, Lake Cascade, the Wave Pool, the Zig-zag, the Kamikaze, the Hidrotubo, the Black Hole, the Children’s pool and more. As well the parkland which is surrounded by extensive vegetation to create shadows and spaces designed for Pic-Nic, to make your visit more enjoyable. The park is an environmental benchmark as it’s the only saltwater water park in Spain.

 

5. AQUALAND - MALLORCA

It is worth tearing yourself away from the wonderful bays of Majorca for a day to visit Aqualand. Of course, relaxation won’t be the reason because nobody goes there to sunbathe; they go to experience the adrenaline rush brought on by its 17 attractions for both the young and not-so-young. However, if you do want to chill out for a while, this can also be done in the water in either the jacuzzi or on the Congo River - a relaxing journey on which you wouldn’t be the first to close your eyes and let yourself be carried away by the current. 

 

6. COSTA CARIBE AQUATIC PARK - TARRAGONA

Installed in the heart of the Costa Daurada this amazing water park will plunge you into a refreshing trip that will transport you to paradise in an aquatic adventure. At the Costa Caribe Aquatic Park of PortAventura you can practice rafting, go down trepid slides or relax on a lounger indulging yourself with a mixture of the sound of the waves that reach the sand and the tasty reggae rhythm that runs through every corner of this amazing water park. 

During its more than 50,000 square meters you can see its more than 4,300 tropical plants that are all carefully looked after to the smallest detail to make your visit an unforgettable experience in PortAventura. 

 

7. AQUARAMA - BENICASSIM

Just 45 minutes from Valencia, Aquarama water park with over 45,000 square meters is packed full of fun for all of the family. There are some amazing slides from the daring slides such as “The Devil’s Drop” which holds the record as the highest slide in all of Europe with a height of 30 meters with the slide angling in at 62 degrees . The Space shot, which is the only one in Spain, the Whirlpool and more and more rides…. For those who like to relax a bit more, there are pools, jacuzzis and wave pools. There is also The Pirates Cave and the Mini Dunes areas which are for the exclusive use of the younger ones of the family.

 

8. WATER WORLD / AQUADIVER - LLORET DE MAR - PLATJA D'ARO

Here you are entering a world of experiences of two of the finest water parks imaginable, Aquadiver in Platja d’Aro and Water World in Lloret de Mar. In the two water parks on the Costa Brava, you can enjoy various rides, such as wave pools, rapid rivers, kamikaze…. A set of attractions for children and adults public. Aquadiver water parks in Platja d'Aro and Waterworld in Lloret de Mar is a perfect place to spend unforgettable days with family and friends. You'll find the best services in the same water park, for your comfort and experience, such as restaurants, pancake houses, picnic areas and pine forests, where they can relax and enjoy a wonderful environment.


9. AQUA-CENTER - MENORCA

Aqua Center Los Delfines  is  in Ciutadella, Menorca. Although it only has 12.500 m², it is the only park on the island but offers a great day out for the whole family with the most modern water attractions:  Black Hole (2-seater float), Adventure River (Single seater float with 91,5m run), Giant Slides, Water Tunnels, Children's Water Shuttes, Kamikaze, Jacuzzi an so on.


10. PARQUE ACUATICO MIJAS - FUENGIROLA, MIJAS

Park Aquatico Mijas is located in Fuengirola, Mijas, Costa del Sol. The park offers great attractions such as water rides for all ages, shows, beach areas, wave pool, and Spa treatments.



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Valencia's Best Beaches
18 July 2018

Lying on the sand and enjoying the sun, diving into the refreshing waters of the Mediterranean, playing volleyball, taking a pedal boat out to sea, working out in one of the fitness areas, eating an ice-cream or taking a sailing course are just some of the activities you can enjoy on Valencia's endless beaches. Admittedly, Andalucia and Murcia has some wonderful spots but some of my favourites are to be found in the Valencian Community. Playa La Granadella tops the list because it is certainly my favourite in the region as I am not really a fan of sand and Granadella is a shingle beach. But the rest of the list is in no real order. So I hope this helps to show you around a little and maybe even gives you ideas for alternative places to visit when on holiday along the coast of Valencia.

 

1. Playa de la Granadella de Jávea (Alicante)

 


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2. Playa Norte de Gandia (Valencia)


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3. Playa de Levante de Benidorm (Alicante)


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4. Playa del Portet de Moraira-Teulada (Alicante)


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5. Playa Norte de Peñíscola (Castellón)


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6. Playa de Cala del Penyal de Calpe (Alicante)


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7. Playa de El Russo de Peñíscola (Castellón)

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8. Playa de Canet d´En Berenguer (Valencia)


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9. Playa de Els Terrers de Benicàssim (Castellón)


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10. Playa de la Concha de Oropesa del Mar (Castellón)


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Top 10 things you need to know about Fallas
27 February 2018

The month of Fallas has just begun! They call it the festival of fire, but Fallas is much more than just fire. Before the night when everything burns -la Nit de la Cremà (Night of the Cremà)- the city experiences an authentic street spectacle for ten days unlike many others celebrated in Spain. With it, they achieve something very difficult: visitors feel as if the celebration belongs to them as well. Colossal satirical figures, firecrackers that make the ground shake, fireworks that light up the darkest sky, troupes that bring the street to life from daybreak, and of course, fire, lots of fire. If you want to live Fallas in person, there are ten important things that you should keep in mind.

 

1. The origin of the festival

There are many theories and none of them 100 % provable. The most common theory is that the origin is in the city's carpenters' guild: that on the eve of the patron saint's day on March 19th, they burned outside their workshops the "parot," the post that supported the oil lamp for working at night. They added a lot of scraps to this "parot" and from this came the modern Fallas festival. What's undeniable is that it's a historic festival; the first written documentation about Fallas dates back to the 18th century.

 

2. Its own language

If you don't want to look like a "guiri" (tourist), take a look at the Fallas jargon. Although the festival as a whole is called Fallas the word “falla” actually refers to the monument. The plantà is the act of setting up and raising the falla. The ninot is the human figure of the falla. The cremà is the moment that the fallas are lit. The mascletà is the pyrotechnics spectacle in which hundreds of fireworks are set off, the most deafening of which is the one at the city hall.

 

3. Comfortable footwear and a fallas map

Each year around 700 fallas are set up in Valencia so if you want to enjoy art and sarcasm that abound, you'll need a fallas map -available in all tourism offices- and some comfortable shoes. As it's almost impossible to see all of them, make sure to plan on seeing at least the most spectacular ones, which are included in the Special Section (presented on March 16). The ones at the City Hall, the Convent and the el Pilar plaza never disappoint. 

 

4. Not only the fire illuminates

Before the fire illuminates the city on the Nit de la Cremà, Valencia shines at night from the lights that the Fallas committees place in the streets. The installations are so impressive that some streets are reminiscent of the famous Seville Fair. Thousands of colored light bulbs adorn the streets creating authentic spectacles of light. Traditionally it's the Ruzafa neighborhood where we can see the most magnificent lights. 

 

 

5. Exhibition of the Ninot

Before the fallas are set up in the street (on 16 March) we can have a taste of these works of art by visiting the Exhibition of the Ninot. It includes a ninot from each Fallas committee, which allows us to get an accurate idea of the quality of the fallas that will be shown that year. Among all the ninots shown, those rated highest will be saved from burning. 

 

6. The night doesn't sleep

Although going out looking for the best fallas and participating in the many activities organized in the city will leave us exhausted, we have to save some energy for the night because, after the fireworks, music begins to play and doesn't stop until sunrise. In addition to the open air dances that the Fallas committees organize, the City Hall organizes concerts with top groups from the music scene, held in the are around the old Turia riverbed.

 

 

7. The despertà

Although little sleep is had during Fallas, the alarm sounds early thanks to the despertàs. This tradition consists of going through the neighborhoods with a music band and firecrackers; nothing special if it weren't for the fact that they do it at 8 in the morning. It's one of the acts that full blooded "falleros" (Fallas festival-goers) like most but that the visitors hate, especially those who go all out at night. Maybe packing some earplugs isn't such a bad idea...

 

8 .Fire Parade

It's one of the most impressive events of the entire festival, so we should take special note in our plans. It's held on March 19 and is the prelude to the famous Nit del Foc (Night of Fire), when all the fallas burn. It's a parade that combines music with dancers and, evidently, fire, carried by the so-called demons. Only a couple hours afterwards the flames take the city, making ash of the fallas that have decorated the city for days.

9. Floral offering

Between the fire, the music and the pyrotechnics, there is a moment of calm to organize some of the nicest and remarkable moments of the festival, the offering of flowers to the Virgen de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken). This event is spectacular in that hundreds of falleros and falleras carry flowers, wearing the typical clothing and accompanied by musical parades. For almost two days these flowers are placed to cover a replica of the Lady, known as the "Geperudeta," nearly 15 meters tall.

 

10. Food!

Even if our feet are really suffering from walking and dancing during the festival, some of the most fun we'll have is eating the traditional donuts with hot chocolate and the famous paella, which is always a treat for our palates.

                     



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The Best 'Three Kings' Parades in Spain
03 January 2018

Lights, floats, pages, sweets, and a lot of excitement are all you need to make a procession of the Magi or Three Kings into a one-of-a-kind experience. Even so, every year towns and cities go the extra mile to make these parades special: theatrical productions with top-quality settings and costumes, and fabulous fireworks. From all the processions organised in Spain every 5 January, we have chosen five which amaze children and adults alike, due to their spectacular production values, their originality, or their history.

Alcoy, the oldest in Spain

Any discussion of Magi processions in Spain has to begin with Alcoi, which has been holding its parade since 1885. This is not its only impressive statistic - it also has an enormous number of participants, with nearly a thousand people in the procession. One of the most exciting parts of the parade are the torch-bearers, who light the way for the floats and the royal pages. As always in the Valencia region, bands of musicians are an essential part of the procession, with Christmas carols to add to the mood. Up to three bands participate in the parade, as well as groups of drummers and dulzainas (pipers). Another feature of this parade is the work of les negres, the royal pages who bring presents to the children, using wooden ladders to climb up to the balconies of the houses. Traditionally, the event begins at 6 pm and ends after 10 pm, with the sky lit up by an impressive fireworks display.

 

Girona, all lit up

Processions of the Three Kings in Girona province are lit in a very special way, with the fanalets all the children carry. These are small lanterns, made of paper and brightly painted, with a lightbulb inside and carried on a stick. In recent years they have been modernised and can be bought in the shape of one of the Magi, a Christmas tree, a snowman, or even the latest popular cartoon character. The tradition is thought to have begun in mountain villages where the children would light bunches of lavender to make sure the Three Kings would see them, even though there was no procession in the village. Now there are many towns and villages where children light the parade with their little lanterns, in one of Catalonia's most endearing Christmas scenes. Although the tradition has spread throughout the region, the processions in Girona province, such as in the cities of Girona or Vic, are still among the most spectacular.

 

Cerler, the Magi on skis 

Few presentations are as spectacular as the arrival of the Three Kings at the Cerler ski resort, in the Huesca Pyrenees. Their Majesties sweep down the slopes, leaving the children open-mouthed in amazement, as well as their parents - it is pretty unusual to see the Three Kings riding a chairlift or performing pirouettes on skis. For the whole morning, they chat with the children and pose for photos with them, and even hand out sweets, without the need for royal pages. The celebration continues in the afternoon in Benasque, with a more traditional and restrained procession - this is a small village - but with the best possible setting. There's no need to use fake snow to decorate the parade here, as the real thing is usually in plentiful supply for Epiphany, and the scene could hardly be more picturesque. 500 extras, 100 torch-bearers, 5 floats and around twenty horses to thrill young and old with the magic of Christmas.

 

Madrid, the most spectacular

Although there are several processions in the capital every 5 January, the most spectacular passes through the city centre. This is one of the biggest in Spain, with more than 1,500 volunteers taking part. The route traditionally begins at Nuevos Ministerios and ends at Plaza de Cibeles, like so many of the city's major celebrations. It was first held in 1928, and one of its unusual features is that since the late 1980s, the Three Kings have been played by members of the City Council. Another peculiarity is that the people in this parade don't throw sweets into the crowd along the whole route, only in the fenced-off areas. The City Council introduced this measure in 2014 for the children's safety. The parade ends with a fireworks display after a speech by the Magi in Plaza de Cibeles.

 

Santillana del Mar, like a fairytale 

This is one of the prettiest medieval towns in all of Spain, so here the processions of the Magi have an incomparable setting, one of the main factors which have made it an official National Tourism Festival. The setup is different from most, because as well as the traditional procession, eight scenes are performed from a Mystery Play, the Auto Sacramental de los Reyes Magos. The streets are covered in straw, torches are lit as dusk falls, and the townspeople dress up as pages, washerwomen and shepherds. The scene-setting and the participation of many of the residents completely transform Santillana, giving the sensation of having travelled back in time more than two thousand years. The numbers give an idea of the majestic scale of the event: nearly 500 extras, 100 torch-bearers, 5 floats and around twenty horses to thrill young and old alike with the magic of Christmas.



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10 Beautiful forests to visit this time of year
08 December 2017

Although you could argue we are in winter, these stunning autumn colours will not last long, so now is the time to go and enjoy them. Here are 10 stunning forests to visit this season in Spain...

 

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 NerviónRiveris 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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Spain in 12 Landscapes
09 November 2017

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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Spain's Top 10 Golf Courses - 2017
06 October 2017

There are over 300 golf courses in Spain and many are amongst the best in Europe and the world. However these were the top 10 courses for 2017.

 

1. Real Club Valderrama


Green fee  € 350,00 

Real Club Valderrama is located in Andalucia, the largest and southern-most region of Spain. A few miles north of Gibraltar, it is approximately two hours' drive from Cádiz and one and a half hours from Málaga. The climate is ideal for year-round golf.

The Par 71 Championship Course measures 6356 metres from the professional tees. The fairways have been described by top pros and leading golf writers as the best in Europe, if not the world. It is not an easy course - nor was it intended to be. It is designed so as to call forth thought and precision for every shot. The course was designed in 1974 by Robert Trent Jones, Sr, one of the great golf course architects, and was originally known as Sotogrande New. In 1981 its name was changed to Las Aves. Finally, Ortiz-Patiño renamed the course Valderrama, after the ancient estate on which the land is situated.

 

2. Finca Cortesín Golf Club

Green fee  € 280,00 

Very near the Mediterranean Sea and in a privileged area of Andalusia , Finca Cortesin has become a reference in the world of the golf. At almost 7,000 meters from the back tees it is considered one of the longest courses in Europe. The natural environment and landscape of Cortesin are one of it's most attractive features.

Finca Cortesin Golf Club has 18 holes designed by Cabell Robinson, a length of 6800 meters and more than 100 bunkers. It is considered one of the best golf courses in Spain. The privileged location of the layout will make the player enjoy wonderful views of the Mediterranean sea and mountains.

 

3.Club de Golf La Reserva - Sotogrande

Green fee  € 235,00 

The Course RSGC is considered as one of the masterpieces of Robert Trent Jones who chose this course as one of his five favorites from more than 500 courses he designed worldwide according to what he wrote in his book GOLF – THE MANIFICIENT CHALLENGE – published in 1988. Officially opened in 1964 Sotogrande was the first course Trent Jones designed in Europe and is blessed with his design philosophy, which consists of building courses perfectly integrated with the natural surroundings which are a great challenge to the better players, but accessible and enjoyable for everyone. Nothing describes better a round on Sotogrande than these words. It is a fascinating course for players of any level which retains all the natural beauty of the land on which it was built only 150 metres from the Mediterranean.

 

4.Golf Son Gual

Green fee € 135,00 

Laid out across beautiful Mallorcan terrain, just east of the capital Palma, Golf Son Gual is the realisation of one man’s dream. Adam Pamer, a double-glazing magnate and a self-confessed golf nut has been visiting the island since 1974 and purchased a holiday home there in 1994. Frustrated with the poor condition and service he experienced at many of the island’s courses, he set out to build his own dream golf club and employed three-time German Amateur Champion, Thomas Himmel, to create it. Himmel has worked wonders and delivered an exquisite golfing experience that blends seamlessly into the local landscape.

 

5. PGA Catalunya Resort

Green fee  € 110,00 

One of the best courses in Spain and Europe and satisfying all requirements for hosting professional competitions.
A beautiful course and a very difficult one, where the stars of the round are the trees and the numerous big lakes. It's a long course suitable for big hitters, though accuracy is also essential from the tee as the greens are surrounded by water. Everyone who has had the pleasure of walking its fairways has gone away with a positive impression of the course. With its naturally undulating terrain, the fairways can seem quite narrow when you are driving off from the tee but they open up for the second shot before reaching greens which are wide but full of secrets.

 

6. Real Club de Golf El Prat


Green fee  € 114,00 

The Royal El Prat Golf Club is designed along classic lines on a marvellous estate and is dotted with bunkers and gentle slopes.
It is a varied and entertaining 45-hole course and is suitable for all levels of play. The greens are very tricky and the round is both demanding and rewarding. It is possible to combine five different rounds.
In short, a new course which plays host both to daily matches and social tournaments and to major national and international championships, while respecting the strictest environmental regulations and blending perfectly with the natural surroundings.


7. Parador & Golf El Saler

Green fee  € 105,00 

In the early 1960s, Javier Arana, undoubtedly the best golf course designer Spain has ever had, took a walk through the pine forest next to the sea at El Saler and his special intuition enabled him to determine that this land could be used to build a magnificent golf course. After a great deal of effort, the Ministry of Information and Tourism agreed to the idea and construction began on the current Parador, with Javier Arana responsible for creating the golf course. His customary wise choices included the decision to do the utmost to respect the natural landscape, keeping as many pine trees as possible and the sand dune that separates the pine forest from the sea.

The result is now familiar to anyone who has visited this golf course, which has generally wide fairways; vast, challenging greens; and almost one hundred bunkers, some of them natural, created by using the dunes. Although there are no other special challenges, it is difficult to achieve the course's par 72. Those who play at El Saler should know that this is one of the best courses in the world, with an exceptional location beloved by all Valencians: the Dehesa de El Saler forest.
 

8. Real Club de Golf Las Brisas

Green fee  € 220,00 


Real Club De Golf Las Brisas was founded by D. José Banús in 1968 as "Club de Golf Nueva Andalucía." He was appointed its first President until 1981. For its design he chose the American, Robert Trent Jones, already considered one of the best golf course designers in the world. He had just finished building the golf course at Sotogrande and after Las Brisas, went on to design Los Naranjos and Valderrama. The course includes numerous water obstacles: there are ten artificial lakes fed by two streams. The greens, the majority of which are raised, are amply protected by bunkers.

The results of Robert Trent Jones's efforts, which we continue to enjoy today, were truly notable and original, obtaining a difficult and attractive course. He was also original in his choice of Bermuda grass for the fairways and Pencross Bent on the greens, unusual species in the Europe of the sixties. The outcome of all this is a round which requires a precision game of golf. As an example of the opinion of great golfers we can quote that of Paul Azinger (USA), "There is not a single bad hole in Las Brisas. Indeed it is one of the finest courses on which I have been able to play".


Nº 9  REAL SOCIEDAD HIPICA ESPAÑOLA CLUB DE CAMPO (NORTH) - MADRID

Green fee €100,00
 
The RSHE Club de Campo can trace their roots as far back as 1901- attaining royal status in 1908- and it was one of the founder members of the Spanish golf federation. The two courses on the property – North and South -  both laid out by the prolific American architect Robert von Hagge. The North course was redesigned in 1997 and it now stretches 7162 yards from the back tees. Most fairways are gently undulating and tree lined – but not restrictively – and water comes into play at four holes on the back nine. There are no fewer than seven left-dogged holes. Laido ut on a huge scale across naturally undulating and sometimes hilly gorund. These elevation changes provide for an interesting and though provoking round


10. Desert Springs Resort


Green fee € 68,00 

In the last `forgotten´ corner of the Mediterranean coast of south eastern Spain on a plateau overlooking the Almanzora Valley, with easy access from the international airports or Almería and Alicante,Desert Springs has constructed Europe´s first ever Arizona style desert golf course.
Designed by Peter McEvoy, Desert Springs is built to full USGA specifications and is well worth the visit.
Here the talk is of water courses, hardpan, armadillos, cactus and there is, of course about half the green planted area you will find on a regular course. But this the desert where host of other westerns so a tough golf course fits in perfectly. Not that Desert Springs is especially tough, it just looks, well, rugged with those towering outcrops of sandstone rock. Eventually there will be two courses on the site.
For the time being be among the first to enjoy the original. Desert Springs is certainly that and it offers a challenging round of golf.

 



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