The Greener Side of Spain
With no shortage of modern cityscapes, it may be a surprise to know that Spain has a lush side as well. Take La Pedriza: An hour from the capital, you can head for the rocky summit and be lost in pastures along the way, with stray wildlife and only the sound of your own feet on the trail.
1 Diseminado Finca de la Cerca
A one hour drive from Madrid lies a whole new world, far away from the hustle and bustle of city life. La Pedriza is one of the most accessible hiking places, there is a train that takes you about 10 minutes walk from the many trails which lead to the summit of La Pedriza. Along the way you will find lagoons, stray cattle and even bulls munching foliage, and several water fountains which come from the crystal clean river Manzanares. You can even leave the picnic at home as there is a restaurant near the parking lot which is open all day! Photo by Hector Esteban Menendez/Flickr.
27 Carrer d'Alfons I
An easily reached and yet unforgettable trip from Barcelona is a hike into the famous Pyrenees Mountain range which acts as a natural border between France and Spain and in some parts, Andorra. For those not in the mood to hike to the 6,000 ft summit there is a mountain train which winds along the edges of some rather steep cliffs and then takes you through the valley to enjoy the wildlife and greenery; all without setting foot on a trail. You can reserve tickets to the mountain train online, and definitely show up early to get a good seat. Don’t be scared - though it seems terrifying, it’s really safe and exhilarating! Photo by Cristian Bortes/Flickr.
55 Calle Pista Barrio Medio
No visit to Granada would be complete without visiting Trevelez. After the majesty and wonder of the Alhambra, allow yourself to be awed once again: this time by the charming culinary delights Spain has to offer. Trevelez is one of the highest villages in all of Spain, and this makes it the perfect place for air-curing legs of ham. For this reason, the ham takes center stage in Trevelez. You will find ham legs hanging from ceiling and in the open air outside, as well as appearing in a host of their dishes, most famously their habas con jamon broad beans and ham. If you will be visiting in June, try to make it for the Day of San Antonio (June 13 or 14) and you will be treated to their annual re-enactment of the battle of Moors versus Christians, which then ends in the town celebrating together! A one of a kind and non-touristic option for anyone interested in the history of Spain. Photo by Andrew Hurley/Flickr.
Puente de Piedra
A short walk from the city center lies the Ebro River and a wonderful walking trail showcasing the natural diversity of Spain’s landscape. The caves carved into the hills behind you leave you wondering who still lives there in this beautiful place. Make sure you pay attention to the placards with information on the foliage and critters you are sure to notice on your relaxing walk. Be like the locals and bring some freshly carved jamon, a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine to make a light picnic before enjoying the walk into town. Photo by Kris Arnold/Flickr.
Plaza del Monasterio, s/n, 08199 Monestir de Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain
There’s so much to see at Montserrat, the picturesque mountain located a few hours outside of Barcelona. Nature lovers will enjoy the wide range of hikes while, non-sporty types can bask in the breathtaking views available from almost any vantage point. Take the two funiculars, Santa Cova and Saint Joan, to visit the corresponding difficult to reach chapels. With travel, plan to spend a whole day at Montserrat. Between the mountain, basilica, museum, and monastery. Food is available from several shops and cafeterias, but many visitors plan ahead with a picnic. On Sundays local vendors sell cheese and honey outside the monastery. Purchase a ToT or Trans Montserrat card in Barcelona, they include transportation and funicular rides to different parts of the mountain. The ticket is good for a certain length of time, no need to specify a specific day, so wait for nice weather. Barcelona’s transit system is very easy to use, but trains to and from the mountain can be busy. Arrive early to guarantee a seat for the two hour journey.
Coastal views, beaches, and hidden coves await you on the Camino Ronda, a 220 km hiking trail in Costa Brava Spain. It runs from Blanes to the northern city of Collioure near the border of France. This extensive and well marked trail goes by many names – Camino de Ronda, Costa Brava Way, and GR-92 (Grand Randonee). It is mainly a coastal hike which takes you to the little coves and hidden beaches of Costa Brava as well as fishing villages and inland landscapes. There is lodging along the way and it appears to be very well marked and supported with resources. I walked a very small portion of it one day to get a feel for the trail. I started in Calella de Palafrugell and walked up to the Llafranc light house and then turned around and came back down. This was enough to get it under my skin and start planning to come back and walk the entire 220k in the next few years. The views are stunning, and the terrain varied, plus at any moment you can cool off in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean! This is not a heavily touristed trail, so there are few English resources on it. The Tourism board does offer a comprehensive trail book that is wonderful. More Information and resources listed here: http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/camino-ronda-hiking-spain-costa-braval/
Carretera de Montserrat
I broke off from my friends in Barcelona to go on a solo excursion to Montserrat, a short one hour train ride from the city. I wasn’t sure what to except but had only heard that it was beautiful with weird rock formations and good trails so knew that I needed to make it before my week in Barcelona was up. This view is proof that I made the right decision. After a fairly strenuous 2 hour hike to Sant Jeroni peak (1,236m), you are rewarded with a 360° view of the green Catalan countryside and the distant Pyrenees. It is absolutely breathtaking and a must-do for the adventure-hearted visiting Barcelona for 3 or more days. One bit of advice would be to get to Montserrat by 9am so that you can descend in time to watch the world renowned boys choir perform in the Basilica of Montserrat at 1pm (something that I wish I had known).
Carretera Cap de Creus, s/n, 17488 Cadaqués, Girona, Spain
A short drive from the picturesque fishing village of Cadaques and Dalí's House Museum in Port Lligat, Cap de Creus is one of my favorite places in Spain when it comes to natural beauty. Sweeping views of the ocean from atop the cliffs are even better after a lunch of fresh seafood paella, the catch of the day-baked, grilled or fried, or the restaurant’s surprisingly tasty Indian eats. Burn off lunch with a hike down the steep incline to the waterline, or just cop a squat and settle in to write, sketch or meditate.
Ctra. les Feixes, 31, 17800 Olot, Girona, Spain
There once was a railway line in Catalonia that stretched from Olot to Girona and then finally toward the sea. The railway shuttled villagers, some of whom had never had access to the ocean, from deep within the region to the Costa Brava. But as Spain‘s economy began to boom in the 1970s, so did car sales. Train travel was no longer in vogue and eventually the old railway service was quietly put down. Years went by and weeds grew up around the abandoned railroad tracks. And then someone got an idea: hiking and biking trails. Today, you can walk the old route, sleeping and eating in villages along the way. I did this two years ago and was able to get a glimpse of a side of Catalonia few Barcelona-bound tourists rarely see.