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Country Profile: Spain

Stirring landscapes, passionate flamenco, conquered Moorish fortresses, and the courageous dance of the matador. These are the images of Spain that readily come to mind. But behind the country’s epic history and fiery spirit lie graceful terrains, fertile farmlands, and sleepy whitewashed villages that are pure pleasure to walk through.

The natural beauty of Spain is astounding and diverse. The Sierra Nevada range pushes to the heavens, crowning the southern province of Andalusia, while their foothills host tidy pueblos blancos on rocky plateaus. Vast olive groves stretch forever across the famous high plains, yielding now and then to lush vineyards that produce elegant Rioja wines. Unspoiled fields and emerald green hillsides add a shimmering sheen to the Basque country.

Even Spain’s cities offer up their own pageantry, a rich blend of mosque-cathedrals and palaces, lively tapas bars, and raucous flamenco halls. The Alhambra fortress, last stronghold of the Moors, watches over the city of Granada from its dramatic perch. Seville’s extravagant cathedral entombs Christopher Columbus. And the steely titanium flow of the Guggenheim Museum adds vibrancy and excitement to Bilbao’s cityscape.

Spain’s rugged landscapes have long provided inspiration to travelers and artists alike, from Cervantes to Hemingway, from Picasso to El Greco. Every pilgrim, too (or peregrino), goes in search of his or her own meaning while following the sacred Camino de Santiago to Santiago de Compostela, where the bones of the apostle St. James were uncovered in the 9th century. At once breathtaking, mysterious, and wholly engaging, Spain makes for the perfect walking tour.

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Country Highlights
  • Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago.
  • Sample the succulent flavors of small-plate tapas at a typical tapas bar.
  • Stroll the tranquil lanes of Spain’s splendid pueblos blancos, or whitewashed villages.
  • Explore the medieval roads, bucolic farmlands, and centuries-old monasteries of Basque country.
  • Sip red Rioja or white txakoli wine after a rewarding day of walking.

Why Walk With Us

  • Trust our expertise with 36+ years in active travel.
  • 24/7 support from a local representative.
  • Generous inclusions: all breakfasts, many meals, and luggage transfers.
  • Your departure is always guaranteed.
  • We take care of our solo travelers.
  • Past guests and referrals always save.
  • Bring six friends on a guided tour and enjoy special savings, support, and a gift.

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Country Facts

About Spain:

Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal, the British Crown Territory of Gibraltar, and the tiny principality of Andorra. One of only three countries with both an Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline (France and Morocco are the others), Spain is mostly mountainous, dominated by high plateaus and soaring peaks. The Sierra Nevada is the tallest range.

Though it is one country, several of Spain’s provinces hold strong regional identities. Many Basques, Catalans, and Castillians, for instance, identify themselves only secondarily as “Spanish.” Their cultures embrace the qualities of the larger country, to be sure, but they cling to other traditions that are wholly unique. Some provinces, for instance, speak a variation of the Spanish language and would even prefer independence. For now, however, the united Spain is a democracy under a constitutional monarchy, with its capital in Madrid.

Spanish is Spain’s official language. While knowledge of the local language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases to use during your walking tour. The effort seldom goes unappreciated and by trying some greetings and salutations with a smile, your interactions are likely to grow into rewarding exchanges. See BBC Languages for helpful hints. Country Walkers also recommends a phrase book or two in our Reading Guide that you’ll receive after you reserve.

Life in Spain

Shopping and banking hours: Shops and stores are generally open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m.; most department stores and some supermarkets are open all day, every day of the week, from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Banks are open from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Monday to Saturday (except from June to September when they are closed on Saturday).

Meal times: Breakfast is served at hotels from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. In restaurants, lunch is served from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and dinner is served from 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Tipping: Tipping in restaurants and bars is included in the total bill, but it is customary to leave an additional 5 to 10 percent of the total. Taxi drivers also receive 5 to 10 percent of the total, or you could round up the total, letting the driver keep the change. For luggage assistance, a small tip of one to three euros is appropriate.

Spanish public holidays: To assist in travel planning, it may be helpful to be aware of Spanish public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events. Visit the Spanish tourist board’s website for a list of public holidays and a list of festivals and events.

Thoroughly Mediterranean, the foundation of Spanish cuisine is olive oil, garlic, and local and seasonal produce, meat, and fish. Spanish food varies by region in the same way that there is great variety in Spain’s geography and climate; however, some dishes can be found throughout the country—a range of tapas (see below), paella, gazpacho, excellent cured ham, chorizo, meatballs, salads, good bread, fresh fruit, cheeses, and for dessert, flan (vanilla custard). Surrounded as Spain is on three sides by water, seafood dishes are plentiful throughout, including shrimp with garlic, calamari, octopus, porgy, or monkfish, all with regional variations.
Equally steeped in Mediterranean culture, wine has been produced in Spain since the time of the Romans, and the country is third in European wine production after France and Italy. Except near Santiago de Compostela, quality red and white wines can be found in all regions, with the majority from the central Castilla-La Mancha and Catalonia regions. A crisp and bubbly before-dinner drink is Catalonia’s sparkling wine, cava, named after the cellars in which it is produced.

Tapas

Tapas, or pinxtos as they are known in the Basque country, are perhaps Spain’s best-known culinary export, with tapas bars and restaurants popping up worldwide. Part of Spanish life, they can be eaten with a drink as appetizers before a meal, or as a meal in themselves. There is even a verb in the Spanish language—tapear—meaning “to eat tapas.” These small savory dishes can be as simple as a plate of olives, slices of Manchego cheese or chorizo, or more complicated dishes such as grilled eggplant in tomato vinaigrette or slices of tortilla Española, a dense potato and onion omelet. In Catalonia, a favorite is Pan Catalan (or in Catalan, pa amb tomàquet), lightly toasted bread with chopped tomatoes drizzled with olive oil.

Here are a few others Spanish favorites

Patatas bravas: spicy potatoes with a hot sauce.
Croquetas: a range of small fried croquettes that can be stuffed with Serrano ham, salt cod, hard-boiled egg, cheese, or vegetables.
Champiñones al ajillo: mushrooms, dripping with olive oil, garlic and dry Spanish sherry.
Morcilla frita: bite-size pieces of spicy blood sausage flavored with garlic and oregano.

One of Europe’s warmest and sunniest countries, Spain has a predominantly warm Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and pleasant temperatures in spring and fall. Spain has a variety of climates and zones because of its considerable geographic diversity. In Catalonia, for instance, the combination of Mediterranean and mountainous climates results in temperatures between the low 60s and mid-80s, or even 90s midday in August and September. In southern Spain’s Andalusia, spring and fall are dry and sunny, with temperatures ranging from the 60s to the 80s.

For up-to-date forecasts, see qwikcast.com. For historical average temperatures and rainfall, see weatherbase.com.

U.S. citizens: Passports are required and must be valid for at least three months beyond the dates of travel. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days. For more information, see travel.state.gov.

No immunizations are required to enter Spain. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.

Electricity: Alternating current of 220V and 50Hz is used in Spain. Plugs have two round pins. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see electricaloutlet.org. If you are bringing your own hair dryer or other electrical device, you will need a travel converter, available at most hardware, travel, or consumer electronic stores. For laptops or an electronic device with a dual voltage switch, you will only need the adapter plug, not the converter.

Phone: Spain’s country code is “+34.” Cell phone coverage throughout Spain is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post.

Internet: Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages; however, all of the hotels used on our tours do not necessarily provide it, or they provide it at an additional cost. Details regarding Wi-Fi availability in each hotel are available in the Itinerary Overview that you’ll receive once you’ve reserved.

Spain is in the Central European Time Zone, Eastern Standard Time plus 6 hours. For more information on worldwide time zones, see: worldtimezone.com.

A wealth of travel information is available at spain.info.

Airports

The Spanish Airports and Aerial Navigation website, aena.es, has information on all airports and domestic flights. The Spanish national airline is Iberia, iberia.com.

International Airports in Spain

  • A Coruña – Alvedro Airport
  • Alicante Airport
  • Almería International Airport
  • Asturias Airport
  • Barcelona Airport
  • Ciudad Real Central Airport
  • Fuerteventura Airport
  • Girona-Costa Brava Airport
  • Gran Canaria Airport
  • Granada Airport
  • Huesca-Pirineos Airport
  • Ibiza Airport
  • Jerez de la Frontera – Jerez Airport
  • Santa Cruz de la Palma – La Palma Airport
  • Lanzarote Airport
  • Lleida – Alguaire Airport
  • Madrid-Barajas Airport
  • Málaga Airport
  • Minorca – Menorca Airport
  • Murcia-San Javier Airport
  • Palma de Mallorca Airport
  • Reus Airport
  • Santander – Santander Airport
  • Santiago de Compostela Airport
  • Seville Airport
  • Tenerife South Airport
  • Valencia – Valencia Airport
  • Valladolid Airport
  • Zaragoza Airport

Trains

Spanish Railway: Spain’s national train company is renfe.com. It has an extensive network, including high-speed routes (AVE) from Madrid. You may book your train travel directly with them. Or, if you plan to travel for longer periods, consider Rail Europe, a U.S.-based company that provides schedules, reservations, and ticketing for all European train networks. Their multi-day, -week or -month passes in one country or combinations of countries may be a more economical and convenient choice. For more information, go to raileurope.com or call 800.622.8600.

Other local transportation

In addition to rail and airline networks, Spain also has many regional bus lines that can be found at: movelia.es. Most major car rental agencies are available at airports and train stations. Taxis are available at all major airports, train stations, and in smaller towns, and can be reserved in advance (your hotel can usually provide assistance). For more information go to spain.info, and click on “Practical information” then “Transport.”

For additional hints and guidance about travel to Spain, visit the Spanish tourist board’s website at spain.info.

Photos

Spain - 6 Tours Available

Self-Guided Walking
Europe

Spain: Andalusia & Seville

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

6-9 Miles Daily

Tour Only

8 days, 7 nights

From $2,698 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Stroll through the cork-oak forests of Aracena and Cortelazor, in rural regions completely overlooked by the tourist crowds of Andalusia’s major cities.
  • Visit a local pig farm, where Spain’s renowned jamón ibérico is made and chat with the owner as he shows you his spread.
  • Make time for flamenco and tapas in the one-of-a-kind city of Seville, whose Moorish influences and cobblestone streets delight.
  • Stay in a hotel occupying a large traditional finca (farmhouse), whose owner makes guests feel at home by serving large meals family style in the kitchen.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

Request a Call
Departure Dates

2016: Departs daily Mar 20 - Jun 30 and Sep 1 – Nov 10 2017: Mar 20 - Jun 30 and Sep 1 - Oct 31

More Details
Self-Guided Walking
Europe

Spain: Camino de Santiago

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

5-9 Miles Daily

Tour Only

9 days, 8 nights

From $3,698 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Experience a broad range of landscapes, from the rugged Pyrenees to the wine country of La Rioja and the medieval cobblestone streets of Santiago de Compostela.
  • Enjoy scenic transfers between walking regions, in the company of friendly, knowledgeable drivers who know the countryside intimately.
  • Tour the spectacular Episcopalian Palace in Astorga, one of the only Gaudí buildings outside of Catalonia.
  • Take time for the powerful pilgrim’s mass in Santiago de Compostela, where the pilgrims who complete the route each day are honored.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

Request a Call
Departure Dates

2016 & 2017: Departs daily Apr 1 - Jun 30 and Sep 1 - Oct 31

More Details
Self-Guided Walking
Europe

Spain: Catalonia & the Costa Brava

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

5-8 Miles Daily

Tour Only

8 days, 7 nights

From $2,798 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Stay in the storied seaside village of Cadaqués, a town on the Costa Brava that inspired artists like Dalí and Picasso.
  • Explore the dormant volcanoes of the Garrotxa region, a forgotten stretch of woodland in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
  • Stay in an intimate, family-owned hotel built in a converted farmhouse and decorated with Moroccan antiques.
  • Enjoy the sweeping views from the Benedictine Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, which looks across the fishing village of El Port de la Selva to the distant sea.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

Request a Call
Departure Dates

2016: Departs daily Apr 20 – Nov 10 2017: Departs daily Apr 20 – Oct 31

More Details
Guided Walking Gorgeous Costa Brava

Spain: Barcelona to the Costa Brava

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

3-7 Miles Daily

Flight + Tour

10 days, 9 nights

From $5,848 USD

per person

Tour Only

7 days, 6 nights

From $4,748 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Atop Montserrat, view panoramas stretching from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean, before visiting a monastery to hear its acclaimed boys’ choir.
  • Sit among the grape arbors at an award-winning winery for a private tasting of the family’s vintages.
  • In Garrotxa Natural Park, discover a unique geology unlike any in Europe as you ramble through an area where 30 dormant volcanoes shelter lush beech forest.
  • Walk in the footsteps of Salvador Dalí as you visit his Port Lligat home and studio, where he lived and worked for 40 years.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

Request a Call
Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo

2017

  • Aug 31
  • Sep 15
  • Sep 29
Tour Only

2017

  • Sep 2
  • Sep 17
  • Oct 1
Guided Walking Classic Camino de Santiago walking tour
Europe

Spain: Classic Camino de Santiago

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

5-9 Miles Daily

Flight + Tour

12 days, 11 nights

From $6,998 USD

per person

Tour Only

9 days, 8 nights

From $5,998 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Tour the Atapuerca archaeological site, where researchers have confirmed evidence of the earliest-known hominids in Western Europe, dating to about 1.2 million years ago.
  • In Muxía, walk the windy headlands and charming coves of the Costa da Morte, stopping for lunch to enjoy the region’s superior seafood and a glass of albariño white wine.
  • Tour the towering Episcopal Palace in Astorga, a bishop’s residence designed by celebrated Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

Request a Call
Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo

2016

  • Sep 30

2017

  • May 12
  • Jun 2
  • Sep 8
  • Sep 22
  • Oct 1
Tour Only

2016

  • Oct 2

2017

  • May 14
  • Jun 4
  • Sep 10

View More Dates

Guided Walking
Europe

Spain: Granada to Seville

Activity level: Moderate to Challenging Terrain

6-12 Miles Daily

Flight + Tour

10 days, 9 nights

From $5,848 USD

per person

Tour Only

7 days, 6 nights

From $4,598 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Tour the unparalleled Alhambra, an ensemble of fortresses and gardens overlooking Granada, and discover its intricate Moorish arches, murmuring fountains, baroque palaces, and colorful gardens.
  • Cap an exquisite meal of saffron-scented seafood paella with an intimate flamenco performance by a master classical guitarist and dancer.
  • Stay in Grazalema, a classic pueblo blanco (white town), and enjoy the contrast of its whitewashed walls, red-tiled roofs, and surrounding green countryside.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

Request a Call
Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo

2016

  • Sep 30
Tour Only

2016

  • Oct 2
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