When someone says, “Spain”, the typical images that comes to mind for a lot of people is of sun, beaches and bullfighting. The more adventurous, of course, know that Spain has so much more to offer. Especially in terms of mountains, countryside in general and culturally. The architecture, history, food and wine of Spain are fabulous. And it is nearly always possible to eat local recipes and wine which is great.
Added to this if you are a keen walker or just a part-time rambler there is a network of footpaths ranging from the incredible and challenging routes of the Camino de Santiago: The Northern Way(El Camino del Norte) ,The French Way(El Camino Frances), the Silver Way(El Camino de Plata) and others to the small and local routes which are called PRs (meaning Pequeño Recorrido Small or Short Route).The PRs are always marked in a horizontal = sign with one Yellow and one White horizontal line. Then you have the same marking = in Green and White which indicates a SL which is a Local Footpath(Sendero Local) and then in Red and White and this indicates a GR which is a Long Route(Gran Recorrido).
All these GRs,PRs and SLs are followed by a number which indicates a particular route and all along this route you will be able to follow signs which indicate the same route.
But the thing that really still amazes me about Spain is its diversity. You can be walking in the green and forested Pyrenees on El Camino Frances or you can be walking the coastal route through the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata in Almeria which is Europe’s only desert. The array of different microclimates you can walk in are quite amazing.
The Picos de Europa is one of the best areas besides the Pyrenees for serious and not so serious walking with excellent footpaths and mountain refuge huts. Straddled over Cantabria and Asturias the mountains are some of the most beautiful in Spain and probably in Southern Europe. Whether you use the town of Potes as a base or use the Northern side such as Cabrales the walking is in stunning scenery; green and lush. And the mountains are serious mountains. In contrast you could walk in the hills and forests of Soria (in the central north) and through the famous Cañon de los Lobos(Wolf Canyon) with its fantastic Templar chapel and evercircling vultures.The wild mushrooms abound in the autumn in this area and the local food is hearty and very tasty. The route that takes you through the canyon is the GR 86.
Then,there is the Natural Park of Cazorla and the Sierra de Segura in Jaen in the south of Spain. A majestic and huge protected area which is home to all types of wildlife: deer, wild boar, mountain goat, foxes, gannets, Golden eagles, short toed eagles, Booted eagles, goshawks, vultures, and lots more birds – it is s paradise for nature lovers. There are lots of different paths but a typically interesting one would be along the GR 7, a fantastic path that starts in Algeciras next to Gibraltar and finishes in Istanbul: a truly pan-European path.
One of the hidden gems of Spain in terms of walking and its cultural options is the region of Teruel. You can walk or simply just visit the mountain villages which are steeped in history. Albarracin, for example, is a charming mountain town with stunning views and a historical patrimony second to none. The footpaths in this area are great and take in majestic views, cave paintings and canyons. Again it is a place that abounds with wildlife such as Egyptian vultures, Golden Eagles,wild boar and deer. There are many PRs and GRs in the area. And if you don’t want to walk, the food, the architecture, and local monuments will keep you busy. Teruel,the capital of the province, is only 45 mins drive away and is a city that offers the charms of Mudejar architecture, great local food, (Spanish Ham is a specialty), and The Lovers of Teruel, who were a legendary couple similar to Romeo and Juliet but Spanish style.
Diversity is the word when it comes to Spain. So many different climates crammed into one peninsula. It makes for great walking and exploring. And discovering the local gastronomy and culture is fascinating as each area is so different from the next.
Paddy runs The Spanish Thyme Traveller,with his wife, that specialises in organising cultural and walking tours in Valencia and Teruel. The trips are in small groups and offer the opportunity to experience the authentic interior rural areas of these two regions. Food and wine are an important part of their tours. You can see the different trips available at www.thespanishthymetraveller.com