I have been to Spain in 2010 and 2013. Large and hot with desert like conditions and landscape south of Madrid to Tarifa. Travelling here is a breeze especially if you take the train from city to city. They get up to 305kmph. So comfortable you don’t realise you are going that speed and it’s a great way to see the interior of the country in comfort. And with 101 places to go and some beautiful beaches I can see why people are drawn there. But the not so nice thing about the beaches is that the sewage goes into the sea. I can’t quite understand why the people of Spain haven’t jumped up and down to get something done about this. I figure if countries in South and Central America have the money to deal with sewage then Spain definitely has the money. That’s my thoughts on it anyway. Having said that lets head off to Alicante.
Alicante. Wow these are the cleanest streets I have ever seen. Alicante is in the area commonly called the Costa Blanca and associated with Alicante is Benidorm and Denia. There are caves, the Mediterranean, sunsets, food, museums and galleries. It’s a case of so much, so little time. South of Alicante you have places like Torrevieja and its popularity extents to NZ. Yes, my lawyer has a holiday home here. The whole mediterrean coast is holiday resorts after resorts. The number of holiday- makers going to Spain each year just keeps rising.
I would be here for days putting in info on all of them so will put in only where I have been and keep it short.
Malaga, on the coast, hot and interesting. Climb to the ruins and overlook the port and bull-fighting ring. There are narrow streets, nightlife, restaurants, museums, gardens and shopping. Head to the train station and go to Torremolinas for more shopping or just for the beach. Loads of bars and restaurants here mean you won’t go thirsty and don’t forget the suntan lotion. LOVE IT !! Further south from here will see you in places like Fuengirola, Marbella and Gibraltar.
Tarifa is then at the very south tip of Spain and from here you can see Tangier in Morocco. (well the coast anyway) you can catch a boat and do a day in Tangier as it’s only a ½ hr ferry ride. Tarifa has a wide long beach. When I was there pretty much all the tourists had left but there were still lots of backpackers and the weather still warm. This was October 2008. Most people at this time of the year go there to take the ferry to Morocco as it is a cheap choice. Heaps cheaper than flying! Not alot to do here but enjoy the sun.
Cadiz is a lot bigger than I thought it would be and is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in Spain. It’s the principal port for the Spanish Navy and has a university. Many people come here to learn Spanish. The old city has some of its original wall still standing and within are winding narrow alleys that connect to Plazas, which are numerous, and monuments. Beaches and restaurants and the best climate all year round. Never cold- well not the way I know cold. I took the bus from here to Tarifa as there is no train to get there.
Seville. I had a great time in Seville and somehow didn’t get lost in its narrow winding streets.It has a tram going through the centre and a river. Great to stroll along and get some beautiful photos. Old building and architecture and more at every corner. I think the people I met here made it enjoyable as by this stage I had had enough of buildings, museums, restaurants, you know the usual stuff we all go to look at. So on I move and caught a flight to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. (More on Canary Islands later as well as Majorca)
Madrid I have now been there twice also. This year I think I spent more time in Madrid than anywhere else. Huge city and so hot being in the middle of Spain and there are tourists everywhere. Great shopping and not far from the centre is the Palace. Hop-on-hop bus tours, Plazas, museums, parks ……where do I stop. I even managed to find wholesale jewellers this year. I brought so much at so little cost!. Getting to and from the airport in Madrid is easy on the metro but when going there make sure you know what terminal you are flying out of. There is more than one. Last year and this year I did a week’s volunteering in Spain – helping business people with their English. Last year I was sent to a small place in the country called Gredos de Avilla. This year I was in Burgos.
Burgos is so lovely with a river going through the centre of the city. Again this city has so much history and backpackers do make their way here to. The cathedral is huge and the shopping is good. I love to do this English week and will be back to do another week next year. Great way to meet people and you learn so much more about the history of Spain and it is such a fun week.
Barcelona. Well within an hour of getting into Barcelona I was robbed on the metro. They got my camera, phone and some money. Coming into a station they pushed me and I had to take my hand off my shoulder bag and grab a rail above my head. By the time I had steadied myself, bang; they had unzipped it, got my things, and zipped it up. When at the police station to get a report for insurance it was full of people who had been robbed that afternoon. Yes not that day, just that afternoon and the stories on how they got other peoples things. BEWARE, THEY ARE SO QUICK. Other than that Barcelona is nice and I love the port area. Head to the end of the purple metro line to Pep Ventura (L2) if wanting to go to the beach. This beach has nude sunbathing on the right-hand side! Are you up for it?
Valencia. This city has a large gay community. Not that this should make any difference to anyone going there. It has a new ultra-modern look and the buildings are just as interesting as what’s in them especially the Arts and Science and Museum Complex. Not 1minute walk from here is also the Aquarium known as L’Oceanografic. It’s the largest in Europe. You can walk down where the old Turia River was to get to the Arts and Museum Complex and Aquarium. This is a beautiful walk with gardens along the way and lots of places to sit down. There are numerous other very modern buildings to see. Then there is still the older part of the city with its cathedrals and historic buildings of art galleries, museums and theatres. You can’t miss these and the many fountains that they have. There’s the usual beaches, restaurants, and the famous paella, Spanish omelette and whatever your taste buds desire. The America’s Cup saw the revamp of the port which is Spain’s largest, and is worth a look. Overall Valencia is quite the contrast with its old and new history.
I have now been to Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Love them both. As the islands are more of less just volcanic rocks of the biggest size they are barren and the climate has them looking like a mountain desert range in the middle of an ocean. Or the islands could be described as a luna landscape. The green areas are the golf courses. As these islands are down so far south (actually at the bottom of Morocco, but out to sea) it is hot here. Take suntan lotion with you. The beaches are nice, with white sand that has been barged over from Morocco, otherwise the sand is black fine volcanic pebbles. Playa de Ingles is the tourist place to be on Gran Canaria. In the restaurants along the beach you can get AFFCO NEW ZEALAND BEEF. Yes this is a big deal to me as there is nothing like NZ beef. I don’t know how many countless people I have told that. The shopping is cheap in the Canary Islands as there is no tax on anything, so go for it. Take a jeep tour into the middle of the island for a day. I remember the day I did this as Barrack Obama gets elected as President. I got some beaut photos to and eat the berry thats in the middle of a cactus. It’s nice. Head to a nice beach town called Puerto Mogan. There is less wind here as it’s on the west side of the island so is more sheltered and it’s a beautiful spot to spend the day on the beach.
Tenerife is just as enjoyable as the other islands. It can be cold at Tenerife North airport as it’s on a hill but once in the town you will be getting your jumper off again. Buses will connect you to the rest of the island if you can’t fly into the south but are staying down there. It has a great zoo built into a hillside and all the other attractions that people expect. An aquarium on the west side in Puerto de la Cruz and shopping is all its little towns. There are the Pyramids of Gumar to see which are built along the same principles as those in Mexico and Peru. This island is jam packed with things to see and I will visit again.
Mallorca. The more popular of the Balearic Islands is Ibiza but I went instead to Mallorca. There is the Caves of Drach with its huge underground lake, and aquarium, Arab baths, boat trips, historic ruins, rail trip, museums, pearl factory, amusement parks and nature reserves to see. I stayed in the area of El Arenal with its gorgeous beach and crystal clear water. Buses run on a regular basis to destinations all over the island so you can easily get to see everything. Low season sees most of the island go into hibernation and lots of hotels close. Nearing the end of the season is a good time to go as in the height of the season you have to fight for a spot on the beach. It gets packed with visitors from Europe. It’s a kid friendly island, unlike Ibiza which is where you head if you want to party 24/7. I think Formentera will have to be the next one I go to.
Spain Travel Tips
- On the Metro in Barcelona don’t have anything in your pockets and watch your shoulder bag. It’s best to put everything in a smaller backpack and lock it. Girls put money in your bra. That should ensure it doesn’t go missing.
- Walking down the street with a small bag you should have that locked as they do sneak up behind you and unzip them. Happened to a girl in my hostel.
- Only take the very necessary things to the beach.
- Pick-pocketing can be a problem in Valencia to so be aware of who is standing close to you.
- Madrid doesn’t have too much of a pick-pocket problem. The 2 attempts I saw were unsuccessful and very amateur. Obviously, as I saw what they were trying to do. One of the big give a ways is people with jackets when it is so hot and an open bag with nothing in it.
- If you forget to take water with you there are stalls for buying water and other refreshments everywhere.
- You can only buy cigarettes at a tobacconist. Get them before 1pm as all shops close for siesta and you then have to get them out of machines at bars and the selection is limited.
- The usual precautions apply at night. Go out in pairs and take a taxi home. I once saw the comment on a travel tip page; don’t look like a tourist. Love to know how you do that!
- Volunteer or stay with a host family and learn Spanish.
- Take the train between cities. It’s so fast and you don’t lose a whole day travelling on the bus. It’s a little more expensive but if you’re pushed for time….
- Spain is a good place to shop and cheaper than most of the other European countries. Don’t think no I will wait until I get to Paris, or somewhere else, as I think you will regret it.
- If you go to the Canary Islands even better because there is no tax on anything.
- Take a jeep tour on the island of Gran Canaria. Lots of fun or head to Puerto Mogan for the day. The bus ride is interesting to say the least and there is a street market every weekend. Buses run at regular intervals no matter where you are staying on the island.
- Tenerife has more hostels than Gran Canaria and as always its cheaper if you are travelling with a partner or friend. Off season rates are much lower in the Balearic Islands.
Make sure to get your booking right if going to either island group. You fly into Palma de Mallorca on the island of Mallorca. You fly to the Isla de la Palma (also known as La Palma) in the Canary Islands and you fly into the town of Las Palmas on Gran Canaria Island. Yep can be a little confusing so recheck before hitting the confirm button.