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Spanish Regions and Tours

Regions: The Kingdom of Spain occupies four-fifths of the Iberian peninsula and is a land of great geographical and cultural diversity with much to offer the tourist. Spain's beach resorts on the south and northwest Mediterranean coasts continue to attract sunseekers, but increasingly tourists are discovering the fascinations of an ancient and beautiful Spain away from the beaches. There is a huge variety of landscape in Spain: dense deciduous and coniferous forests, endless arid plains, lush salt marshes, picturesque rocky bays, mist-shrouded mountain tops, broad sandy beaches, uniquely Spanish medieval cities, ancient rivers meandering through orchards and clear mountain streams plunging through chasms, and everywhere castles, palaces and other reminders of Spain's incomparably rich history.
The wide range of influences on Spanish architecture through the ages makes it difficult to isolate a style and define it as typically Spanish; major influences include Roman, Visigoth, Romanesque, Moorish, Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau styles. Throughout Spain a sense of the historical traditions that have shaped the country is reflected in the castles, churches, monuments and houses.

Andalucia, Ceuta & Melilla Including the Costa de Almería, the Costa del Sol and the Costa de la Luz.
Andalucia is a mountainous region in the far south of Spain, rich in minerals and an important centre for the production of olives, grapes, oranges and lemons.

INLAND: The regional capital is Seville, one of the largest cities in Spain, and one bearing numerous traces of the 500 years of Moorish occupation. Seville is the romantic heart of the country, the city of Carmen and Don Juan; its cathedral is the largest Gothic building in the world and has a superb collection of art and period stonework. Christopher Columbus and St Ferdinand are buried here. Of great importance also is the Alcázar, the palace-fortress of the Arab kings, together with Giralda and Torre de Oro, reputedly once covered in gold leaf, and the River Guadalquivir. Holy Week in Seville embodies the religious fervour of the Spanish, and is one of the most interesting festivals in the country. Early booking for accommodation at festival time is essential. Holy Week is followed closely by the famous April Fair, during which couples parade the fairground mounted on fine Andalucian horses, dressed in the traditional flamenco costume. Drinking, eating, song and dance are the order of the day for the whole week and the fairground with its coloured lanterns and casetas bordering the streets is a continuous movement of colour.

COSTA DE ALMERIA: To the east of the Costa del Sol is the province of Almería. The capital of the same name is a Roman port with many Moorish-style houses, dominated by two castles. It is surrounded by subtropical vegetation and hills and is situated within a wide bay. Attractions in the town include the 16th-century Cathedral, the Church of Santiago el Viejo and the Moorish Alcazaba.

COSTA DEL SOL: This extends along almost all of the Mediterranean coast of Andalucía from the Costa de Almería to Tarifa in the south. The Costa del Sol is a densely populated tourist area mainly because of the fine beaches and picturesque towns.

COSTA DE LA LUZ: This runs along the southern Atlantic coast of Spain between Tarifa and the Portuguese border, featuring long sandy beaches and unspoilt sand dunes.

THE AFRICAN ENCLAVES: Ceuta is a free port on the north coast of Africa. The city is dominated by the Plaza de Africa in the town centre, and by the cathedral. The promontory has the remains of the old fortress. Bus services are available into Morocco, and there are regular car-ferry sailings from Algeciras.
Melilla is also a free port on the north coast of Africa, and is served by car ferries from Málaga and Almería. The town is mainly modern, but there are several older buildings, including a 16th-century church.

Balearic & Canary Islands
Castile/La Mancha & Extremadura This inland region lies between Madrid and Andalucia. Bordered by mountains to the north, east and south, it is irrigated by two large rivers, the Tajo and the Guadiana, both of which flow westwards to Portugal and thence to the Atlantic. Castile/La Mancha, the higher, western part of the region, is also known as Castilla La Nueva (New Castile).

CASTILE/LA MANCHA: To the south of Madrid is the ancient Spanish capital of Toledo. Rising above the plains and a gorge of the River Tajo, the city is dominated by the magnificent cathedral and Alcazar. The town seems tortured by streets as narrow as the steel blades for which it is famous. Toledo is justly proud of its collection of paintings by El Greco, who lived and painted here. El Greco's most famous painting, 'The Burial of the Conde Orgaz', is preserved in the Santo Tome Church.

Guadalajara , capital of the province of the same name, is situated northeast of the capital, on the Rio Henares. Sights include the 15th-century Palacio del Infantado and the Church of San Gines.
The provincial capital of Ciudad Real is the chief town in the La Mancha region, the home of Don Quixote. There are many places in the surrounding area associated with Don Quixote, including Campo de Criptana, believed to be the setting for his fight with the windmills.

Cuenca , also a provincial capital, is famous for its hanging houses. It is one of the most attractive of Spain's medieval towns, and the Gothic cathedral is particularly richly decorated. The nearby countryside includes woods, lakes, spectacular caves, towering mountains and valleys, many with fortified towns and villages clinging to their sides.

Albacete is the centre of a wine-producing region. The town witnessed two exceptionally bloody battles during the Reconquista, but the considerable rebuilding of the town has left few reminders of its history. More evidence, however, is scattered in the surrounding countryside, where such places as the Moorish castle at Almansa and the old fortified towns of Chinchilla de Monte Aragón and Villena reflect the area's stormy past.

EXTREMADURA: This region consists of the provinces of Cáceres and Badajoz. Cáceres was founded in the 1st century BC by the Romans, and was later destroyed by the Visigoths and rebuilt by the Moors. There are traces of all the stages of the city's history, although most of the buildings date from Cáceresí Golden Age during the 16th century. Nearby is the beautiful village of Arroyo de la Luz. 48km (30 miles) away is the town of Trujillo, the birthplace of Pizarro. Also in this province is Plasencia, founded in the 12th century, which has a beautiful medieval aqueduct and a cathedral.
The ancient fortified town of Badajoz (in the province of the same name), is situated very close to the Portuguese frontier, and was founded by the Romans. The Alcazaba, the Moorish part of the town, is on a hill in the northeast of the town. Not far away is the town of Alburquerque, which has the ruins of a massive castle and a large Gothic church. In the same province is the town of Mérida, famous for ancient Roman ruins; the remains are housed in the Museum of Archaeology. A few kilometres away is Medellín, where Cortés was born in 1485.

Madrid The capital city Madrid, in the region of the same name, is a cosmopolitan metropolis with many theatres, cinemas and opera houses, and over 50 museums and art galleries. These include the Prado, one of the most celebrated and comprehensive art galleries in the world (see below), and the Royal Palace, set in a luxurious 18th-century garden, housing paintings, tapestries, carpets, armour, and an outstanding collection of clocks. The popular centre of Madrid is the Puerta del Sol, from which ten streets radiate. To its south is the site of 'Kilometre Zero', a stone slab from which all distances are measured in Spain. A short walk southwest of the Puerta del Sol leads to the Plaza Mayor, a spacious square surrounded by arcades sheltering small shops. From here one can explore an area which still has some of the flavour of Old Madrid.

EXCURSIONS: There are many places of interest within easy reach of the city. The great Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial is situated about 40km (25 miles) north of Madrid, and includes a church, a royal palace, a monastery, a mausoleum and a famous library. The Escorial was built in 1563-84 by Philip II, and is now a burial place of Spanish kings and queens. 9km (6 miles) from the Escorial is the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), a huge crypt cut into the mountainside surmounted by a stone cross reaching 152m (500ft) into the sky. Franco conceived this dramatic monument as a tribute to those who died in the Civil War, and is buried here. Alcalá de Henares is the birthplace of Cervantes and Catherine of Aragón. Aranjuez is famous for its summer palace and the Casita del Labrador, situated near the banks of the cooling River Tagus, on whose fertile soil are grown the asparagus and strawberries for which the town is also renowned.

September sees the Ferias Mayores (Great Fairs) and the Easter processions of Semana Santa, both typically extravagant and colourful affairs. Several special tours are available, including the 'Castles in Spain Tour', run by Viajes Marsans for three days, departing from Madrid.

Castile/León & La Rioja The inland region of Castile and León lies to the north and northwest of Madrid and occupies the northern part of the Meseta Central, the plateau that covers much of central Spain. As with the previous region, Castile and León is hemmed in by high mountains to the north, east and south and is the catchment area for a large river, the Douro, which flows westward into Portugal. Hot and dry throughout much of the year, the region's extensive plains nonetheless make it an important agricultural asset for a country as mountainous as Spain.

CASTILE LA VIEJA: Avila is the highest provincial capital in the country, its medieval quality retained and enhanced by the magnificence of its surrounding walls. The celebrated Convent of St Therese the Mystic is here.

Segovia has a working Roman aqueduct, one of the best preserved structures of its kind in the world. There are many unspoilt Romanesque churches, dominated by the cathedral and by the Arab Alcazar. The turrets soaring from its rocky outcrop are said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney's fairytale castles.

Logroño , is in the centre of the province. It is a district with a great historical past; the origins of poetry in the Castilian language lie here, and it contains the channel of a European stream of culture - the Road to Santiago.

Burgos was the birthplace of the great knight El Cid, the embodiment of a strong, romantic tradition of chivalry and honour. His tomb can be seen at Valladolid (see below).

Palencia , the capital of the province of the same name, was the one-time residence of the Kings of Castile and seat of the Cortes of Castile. The cathedral is one of the finest late-Gothic buildings in the country. The city has several other late-medieval buildings and an archaeological museum.

The city of Valladolid is the capital of a province rich in castles and other ancient buildings. It is famous for its lush gardens, which provide such a refreshing contrast to the aridity of much of the surrounding landscape, and also for its Ferias Mayores (Great Fairs) in September, and its Easter Procession. Book early if a visit is planned at either of these times. The city is also associated with four of the most famous names in the history of the Iberian peninsula: Columbus (although not a Spaniard) died here in 1506, and his house can be visited; so too can the old home of Cervantes, which has now been turned into a museum; and Ferdinand and Isabella were married here in 1469, bringing together the crowns of Castile and Aragón. The city also has a beautiful medieval cathedral and a university.

LEON: The city of León was recaptured from the Moors in 850, and the architecture reflects its long history under Christian rule. The cathedral is one of the finest examples of the Gothic style in the country. There are several places of interest within easy reach of León, including the spectacular Puerto de Pajares, Benavente and the attractive region around Astorga, a town which, like other towns in the region, was a stopping point on the Way of St James (see the section on Santiago de Compostela in the Northern Region below).

South of León is the province of Zamora; the provincial capital of the same name was the scene of many fierce struggles between the Moors and the Christians during the Reconquista, in which the Spanish hero El Cid figured prominently. The town has a Romanesque cathedral and several 12th-century churches. 19km (12 miles) northwest of the town is an artificial lake, created in 1931; on the shores of the lake, in El Campillo, is a Visigoth church dating from the 7th century, which was moved when its original site was flooded by the new reservoir.

The southernmost province of León, Salamanca, has as its capital the ancient university town of the same name. It is situated on the swiftly flowing Tormes River, and has many superb old buildings, weathered to a golden-brown hue. The most famous of these is the Cathedral, built between the early-16th and the mid-18th centuries, and reflecting the styles of architecture prevalent during the various stages of its construction. The university buildings and the fine houses around the Plaza Mayor are also particularly striking. The fiesta in September is very popular, and bookings should be made well in advance.

The Northern Region Including the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia.
This region consists of the northwestern part of the country and the northern coastal region stretching to the French frontier. The eastern coastal area adjacent to the French border is now made up of fashionable tourist beaches and picturesque small towns.

THE BASQUE COUNTRY: The provinces of Guipízcoa, Vizcaya and Alava form the Basque provinces, occupying a coastal position in the eastern part of the Cantabrian Mountains. The economy of this fertile region is strongly based on agricultural produce, although recently the area has also become one of Spain's foremost industrial areas. The Basques themselves are a very ancient pre-Indo-European race, and the origins of their language have baffled etymologists for centuries. The area managed to maintain a considerable degree of independence until the 19th century.
The main city of the region is Bilbao, founded in the early 14th century. The Old Town has a Gothic cathedral, and an attractive town hall. The provincial capital of San Sebastián, situated very close to the French frontier, is one of the most fashionable and popular Spanish seaside resorts. 7km (4 miles) west of the town is Monte Ulia, which offers superb views across the countryside and the Bay of Biscay. The art treasures found in San Sebastián and Bilbao and in the 13th-century Castle of Butron , near Bilbao, are also worthy of note.

CANTABRIA: Although the province of Cantabria is historically in Old Castile, owing to its position on the coast, it has been included in this section. The historical capital of Santander is set in a beautiful bay ringed with hills. The Gothic cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1941, but has been carefully restored. The Municipal Museum contains a fine collection of paintings by many 17th- and 18th-century artists. Nearby are the fine beaches of El Sardinero and Magdalena. The latter makes a convenient base for expeditions to the highest of the Cantabrian Mountains, the vulture-haunted Picos de Europa (actually in Asturias), several attractive beach resorts such as Comillas and San Vincente, and the Caves of Altamira, with detailed wall paintings dating back 13,000 years. Admission is now very limited and must be applied for. Solares is a town in this region noted for the therapeutic qualities of its mineral waters. There are several pleasant resorts, including Santillana del Mar, a completely preserved medieval town.

ASTURIAS: This formerly independent principality contains two towns of note; Oviedo, the capital, and the port and industrial centre of Gijón. The chief interest in Oviedo is the small, old central area, dominated by the cathedral. The port of Gijón has a large and very popular beach and there are others nearby.

GALICIA: Comprising the provinces of La Coruña, Lugo, Orense and Pontevedra, Galicia is a mountainous region with large tracts of heathland broken by gorges and fast-flowing rivers. The coastline has many sandy bays, often backed with forests of fir and eucalyptus, and deep fjord-like estuaries (rías) which cut into the land at the river-mouths. The dominant building material is granite.

La Coruña (Corunna) is the largest town in this region, and was possibly founded by the Phoenicians. Since then it has enjoyed a tempestuous history. Its most attractive feature is the Ciudad Vega on the north spur of the harbour. The famous pilgrimage town of Santiago de Compostela is also in the province; for further information, see below under the section on the Way of St James. The Roman town of Lugo is noted for having one of the finest surviving examples of Roman walls. Orense first attracted the Romans on account of its therapeutic waters. The 13th-century cathedral was built on the site of one dating from the 6th century. Pontevedra, the region's fourth provincial capital, is a granite town with arcaded streets and many ancient buildings. Further south is the important port of Vigo, the centre of a region of attractive countryside. A good view of the town and the bay can be had from the Castillo del Castro.

THE WAY OF ST JAMES: During the Middle Ages, the tomb of St James at Santiago de Compostela was regarded as one of the most holy sites in Christendom and thousands of pilgrims travelled through Spain each year to visit the shrine. This route, the Way of St James, was lined with monasteries, religious houses, chapels and hospices to cater for the pilgrims. Many of these buildings still survive, and any traveller following the route today will find it an uplifting introduction to the religious architecture of medieval Spain. The route began in Navarre, at Canfranc or Valcarlos; from there, travelling west, the main stopping places were Pamplona, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Logroño, Burgos, León, Astorga and Santiago de Compostela. The Saint's feast day, July 25 (the term 'day' is a misnomer since the festival runs for a full week) is celebrated in vigorous style in Santiago de Compostela, and accommodation should be booked well in advance. There are several specialist books on the subject of this and other old pilgrim routes which may be followed, both in Spain and elsewhere in Europe.

NORTH ATLANTIC COASTAL RESORTS: The region's coastline - stretching from the French frontier along the Cantabrian coast to Cap Finisterre, and then southwards to the border with Portugal - has many fine beaches which are as yet largely undiscovered. This is at least partly due to the climate being slightly harsher than in the south of the country. The beaches are mostly of fine sand, often surrounded by cliffs and crags. Much of the hinterland is lush, earning the coast of Asturias the title of Costa Verde. In Galicia the rivers have fjord-like estuaries called rías.

Resorts on the North Atlantic Coast:
Fuenterrabia, San Sebastián, Orio, Zaraíz, Guetaria, Zumaya, Deva, Motrico, Ondarroa, Lequeitio, Ibarranguelua, Pedernales, Mundaca, Baquio, Gorliz, Plencia, Sopelana, Algorta, Las Arenas, Abanto y Ciervana, Castro Urdiales, Laredo, Isla, Ajo, Somo, Santander, Santa Cruz de Bezana, Liencres, Miengo, Suances, Cobreces, Comillas, San Vicente de la Barquera, Pechón, Colombres, Llanes, Ribadesella, Colunga, Villaviciosa, Gijón, Luanco, Salinas, Cudillero, Luarca, Tapia de Casariego, Castropol, Ribadeo, Barreiros, Foz, Ceruo, Jove, Vivero, Vicedo, El Barquero, Ortiguerira, Cedeira, Valdovino, San Martin de Covas, El Ferrol del Caudillo, Cabanas, Mino, Sada, Mera, Santa Cruz, Santa Cristina, La Coruña, Cayon, Malpica, Lage, Camarinas, Finisterre, Curcubion, Carnota, Muros, Noya, Puerto del Son, Santa Eugenia de Ribera, Puebla del Caraminal, Rianjo, Villagarcía de Arosa, Villanueva de Arosa, Cambados, El Grove, La Toja, Sangenjo, Poyo, Pontevedra, Marín, Bueu, Cangas de Morrazo, Redondela, Vigo, Nigran, Bayona and La Guardia.

MOUNTAIN RESORTS: The Cantabrian Range stretches between the Cantabrian Corniche and the Rías Gallegas. The highest peaks are the Picos de Europa (2615m/8579ft), favoured by walkers, climbers and wildlife enthusiasts. Parts of the Cantabrian Range are suitable for winter sports. For more information, see the Ski Resorts section below.

Navarre & Aragón These two former medieval Iberian kingdoms lie southwest of the French border, with the Pyrénées to the northeast. The landscape offers spectacular views from the mountains contrasting with the lush valleys of the lower ground.

NAVARRE: The approximate frontiers of the old strategically placed Kingdom of Navarre still survive in this region of dry, dusty uplands and rich, fertile valleys. Both Navarre and Aragón have been largely ignored by visitors, with a few notable exceptions: one such is Pamplona, once the capital of the Kingdom of Navarre, and now the regional capital. It is famous for the Corrida, the 'running of the bulls', at the festival of San Fermín (July). On these days the young men of the town and anyone else who feels sufficiently brave can prove themselves by running in front of a large herd of bulls that virtually stampede through the closed streets of the town. The town was the spiritual home of Ernest Hemingway and is now a very popular tourist attraction. Book early and expect relatively high prices.

ARAGON: Another old Iberian kingdom, Aragón is geographically a fairly featureless region, with many remote plains. The kingdom rose to prominence in the late 15th century. Many of the kings resided at Zaragoza (Saragossa), now the regional capital. Like most settlements of any size in Aragón, the town is situated in a huerta, a narrow oasis following the course of a river. Zaragoza is a university town, with a medieval cathedral and an excellent museum. In the surrounding countryside there are several areas noted for their wine production, such as Borja and Cariñena, and several castles. Huesca, situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees, is an important market town. There are several attractions within easy reach, including the Parque Nacional de Ordesa, excellent walking and climbing country; the popular summer holiday resort of Arguis in the Puerto de Monrepós region; the spa town of Balneario de Panticosa; and the high-altitude resort and frontier town of Canfranc.

THE PYRENEES: There are several mountain resorts in Navarre and Aragón, some of which offer excellent skiing, sometimes for up to six months of the year. For more information, see the Ski Resorts section below.

Valencia/Murcia Including the Costa del Azahar, the Costa Blanca and the Costa Calida.

VALENCIA: The city of Valencia is famous for its orange groves and is a popular tourist resort with two main beaches, both a short bus ride from the town. It has a 13th-century church which also claims possession of the Holy Grail. The chief attraction is the Fallas (March 19), a festival culminating in the burning of papier-míché effigies satirising famous Spanish figures. There is also a magnificent fireworks display.

THE COSTA DEL AZAHAR: This extends from Vinaroz along the coast of Castellón province and the Gulf of Valencia to beyond Denia. The region has expansive beaches, but its most outstanding feature is, perhaps, the ancient fortress town of Peñiscola, a dramatic sight when viewed from a distance. Other places of interest are the ruined castle of Chisvert, inland from Peñiscola; the 16th-century Torre del Rey at Oropesa; and the Carmelite monastery at the Desierto de las Palmas. North of Valencia is the attractive provincial capital of Castellón, Castellón de la Plana. It is situated on a fertile plain, and is the centre of a thriving trade in citrus fruits.

ALICANTE & THE COSTA BLANCA: Further south along the coast is Alicante, situated centrally on the Costa Blanca (the White Coast). The town is dominated by the vast Moorish castle of Santa Barbara, which offers superb views of the city. Excursions from Alicante include a run inland to Guadalest, a village perched like an eagle's eyrie high in the mountains and accessible in the last stages only by donkey or on foot. Also of great interest are several historical sites, including castles at Elda and Villena, and Elche, where there is a forest of over a million palm trees, Botanical Gardens and the Basilica, where the medieval 'Mystery' passion play takes place every August.

MURCIA & THE COSTA CALIDA: This region lies to the south of Valencia and Alicante and is thinly populated except in the areas around the river valleys. The mountains of Andalucía reach right down to the sea.

Murcia, the town, has both a university and a cathedral. During the summer, temperatures can be almost unbearably hot. The most impressive festivals are in Holy Week, and during the spring when there is a 'Battle of the Flowers'.

Catalonia Including the Costa Brava and the Costa Dorada.

Catalonia is a hilly coastal region in Spain's northwest corner, bordering France. It has an ancient culture distinct from those of neighbouring regions and many of the inhabitants speak Catalan, a Romance language. The environs of Barcelona are Spain's industrial and commercial powerhouse, but inland and up the coast, the rocky, forested landscape is largely unspoilt and Catalonia attracts many tourists, mainly to seaside resorts on the Costa Brava and Costa Dorada. Despite its energetic bustle, tourists are also drawn to Barcelona itself, a city of great charm, many fine buildings and a vibrant nightlife. The region is also an important centre for the production of olive oil, wine, almonds and fruit.

Note: The names of cities and sites described in this section are given in Catalan. Where the Spanish (Castilian) name is very different it appears in brackets after the Catalan version.

BARCELONA: This, the second-largest city in the country, is Spain's major commercial and industrial centre and one of the most important Mediterranean ports. The Barri Gótic (old town) near the railway station has a museum with a fine collection of Picasso's early sketches. The old cathedral, the Episcopal Palace, the Palau de la Generalitat and the Plaça del Rei have architecture to rival the Baroque splendours of central Europe. The Ramblas, originally the site of the ancient city walls, is now the major promenade area of the city, where one goes to see and be seen. Proceeding from the port towards Plaça Catalunya (the principal square), the atmosphere becomes more sophisticated. The Ramblas are home to food, flower and bird markets and are lined by bookstalls. Beyond Plaça Catalunya, the Eixample (Ensanche), whose name means extension, boasts a wealth of Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture. Grècia is a particularly attractive neighbourhood. Museums worth visiting include the Picasso Museum, the Museum of Catalan Art , the Maritime Museum, the Peldralbes Monastery housing a Thyssen collection and the Zoological Museum. Like most towns and cities in Catalonia, Barcelona is famous for its excellent Romanesque art; and of course it contains the most famous examples of the work of the visionary Catalan architect, Antonio Gaudí (see below). The funicular to Tibidabo, the highest of the peaks that enclose Barcelona, and the cable car to Montjuic in the southern suburbs, offer spectacular views over the city. Fun fairs are located on both peaks.

THE COSTA BRAVA: This coast, which begins 65km (40 miles) northeast of Barcelona, is a stretch of spectacular pine-clad rocky coastline interspersed with fine sandy bays, and is one of the most famous resort areas in the country. Some places (such as Tossa de Mar) remain relatively unspoilt by the massive influx of holidaymakers and retain the small-town flavour of the original town; others (such as Lloret de Mar), have an intensely developed tourist industry. Summer is very crowded everywhere, but with persistence and a short walk relatively isolated beaches can be found. Coastal ferries operate between most resorts on the Costa Brava.

THE COSTA DORADA: This extends south from Barcelona to Tarragona, with fine sandy beaches that are often separated by the road or railway from the interior.

The lively and cosmopolitan resort town of Sitges on the Costa Dorada has several museums, in particular the Cav-Ferrat which houses two paintings by El Greco. Off the A2 motorway towards Lleida are two monasteries, the Cistercian Monastery of Santa Cruz dating back to 1159 and, near the ancient medieval town of Montblanc, the Santa María at Poblet. Lleida (Lérida) itself is the capital of a province that includes the wildest, most mountainous area of the Pyrénées. Its wealth of scenery and monuments make it one of the most interesting and attractive areas in Spain. The coastal city of Tarragona is one of the finest examples of a Roman city in existence, virtually built on the Roman plan. The amphitheatre overlooking the sea is well preserved and atmospheric; in addition there is an aqueduct. Just along the coast, Salou boasts the Port-Aventura Theme Park, inaugurated in spring 1995. The town of Manresa has a 14th-century church noted for its stained glass. 60km (37 miles) northwest of Barcelona is Montserrat, the site of a world-famous monastery, the legendary home of the Holy Grail, and the actual home of the famous Black Madonna. Founded in 880, it is set in the 'serrated mountain' landscape 1135m (3725ft) above the Llobregat River valley. There are inspiring views from the monastery and on the mountain walk from the Hermitage of San Jeronimo.

Resorts on the Costa Dorada: Calella de la Costa, Arenys de Mar, Castelldefels, Sitges, Calafell, Comarruga, Torredembarra, Tarragona, Salou, Cambrils, Miami Playa, Hospital del Infante and San Carlos de la Rapita.

THE PYRENEES: There are several mountain resorts in Catalonia, some of which offer excellent skiing for up to six months of the year. For more information, see the Ski Resorts section below.

Ski Resorts Spain offers many possibilities for a winter sports holiday, and in many regions (particularly in the Penibetic Chain) there is a unique opportunity to combine winter sports with coastal sunshine. There are many natural ski-runs and many winter resorts, equipped with modern facilities, all blessed with the promise of warm sun and blue skies. There is also a wide range of hotels, inns and refuges from which to choose.

There are five main skiing regions in Spain; these are the Pyrénéan Range, the Cantabrian Range, the Iberian Chain, the Central Chain and the Penibetic Chain. These ranges have diverse characteristics, and all are attractive for mountaineering in general and in particular for winter sports.

THE PYRENEAN RANGE: A region of high valleys allowing steep descents, with most of the resorts concentrated in the Catalonian area. The Aragónese Pyrénées contain the highest altitudes in the range; some are over 3400m (11,155ft). The Navarran Pyrénées have no mountain resorts, and are notable for their gentle slopes and superb forests.

Catalonian Pyrénées

Vallter 2000 , Girona. Airport: Girona 90km (55 miles). Barcelona 150km (93 miles). Alt: 2000-2650m (6560-8400ft). Snow area: 50 sq km (20 sq miles).

Nuria , Girona. Airport: Girona 110km (68 miles). Barcelona 135km (84 miles). Alt: 1960-2920m (6430-9580ft). Snow area: 79 sq km (30 sq miles).

La Molina-Supermolina , Girona. Airport: Girona 140km (87 miles). Barcelona 160km (99 miles). Alt: 1436-2540m (4711-8333ft). Snow area: 70 sq km (27 sq miles).

Masella , Girona. Airport: Girona 160km (99 miles). Barcelona 175km (108 miles). Alt: 1600-2530m (5249-8300ft). Snow area: 43 sq km (16 sq miles).

Rasos de Peguera , Barcelona. Airport: Barcelona 135km (83 miles). Alt: 1800-2050m (5903-6725ft). Snow area: 15 sq km (6 sq miles).

Port de Comte , Lleida. Airport: Barcelona 160km (99 miles). Alt: 1700-"380m (5577-7808ft). Snow area: 80 sq km (30 sq miles).

San Juan de l'Erm , Lleida (Nordic skiing). Airport: Cerdaña (light aircraft). Alt: 1600-2150m (5249-7053ft). Snow area: 40 sq km (15 sq miles).

Lles , Lleida (Nordic skiing). Airport: Cerdaña (light aircraft). Alt: 1900-2300m (6233-7545ft). Snow area: 30 sq km (11 sq miles).

Llessíy , Lleida. Airport: Barcelona 258km (160 miles). Alt: 1280-2900m (4199-9514ft). Snow area: 30 sq km (11 sq miles).

Super Espot , Lleida. Airport: Barcelona 270km (167 miles). Alt: 1480-2320m (4855-7611ft).

Baqueira Beret , Lleida (the largest resort). Airport: Barcelona 309km (192 miles). Alt: 1520-2470m (4986-8103ft). Snow area: 40 sq km (15 sq miles).

Tuca-Betrén , Lleida. Airport: Barcelona 295km (183 miles). Alt: 1050-2250m (3444-6381ft). Snow area: 15 sq km (5 sq miles).

Aragónese Pyrénées

Cerler, Huesca. Airport: Zaragoza 227km (141 miles). Barcelona 300km (186 miles). Alt: 1500-2850m (4921-1770ft). Snow area: 24 sq km (9 sq miles).

Panticosa , Huesca. Airport: Zaragoza 168km (104 miles). Alt: 1165-2100m (3822-6889ft).

El Formigal , Huesca. Airport: Zaragoza 167km (103 miles). Alt: 1500-2350m (4921-7709ft). Snow area: 38 sq km (14 sq miles).

Candanchí , Huesca. Airport: Zaragoza 180km (111 miles). Alt: 1450-2400m (4757-7874ft). Snow area: 18 sq km (7 sq miles).

Astín , Huesca. Airport: Zaragoza 180km (111 miles). Alt: 1420-2400m (4658-7874ft). Snow area: 40 sq km (15 sq miles).

In addition to the above-mentioned resorts, there are throughout the Pyrénées other places which are highly suitable for skiing in which modern facilities will soon be installed to make best use of their excellent natural advantages. Enquire at the Spanish National Tourist Office for up-to-date details of the facilities available. Of these, the main resorts/areas are:

Tossa de Das, Barcelona; Camprodon, Girona; Valle de Farreras, Lleida; Bosost, Lleida; La Maladeta, Huesca; Val de Broto, Huesca; Bielsa, Huesca; Isaba, Navarra; and Burguete, Navarra.

THE CANTABRIAN RANGE: Situated in the north of the country, the Cantabrian Range drops sharply towards the Atlantic, but falls away more gently to the south. It is more rugged at its eastern end than in Galicia and has a number of important ski centres. The Enol Lakes are also a major attraction.

Alto Campo , Santander. Airport: Cantabria 99km (61 miles). Alt: 1515-2150m (4970-7053ft). Snow area: 20 sq km (7 sq miles).

Valgrande-Pajares , Asturias & León. Airport: Oviedo 100km (62 miles). Alt: 1350-1834m (4429-6017ft). Snow area: 75 sq km (28 sq miles).

San Isidro , León & Asturias. Airport: Oviedo 70km (43 miles). Alt: 1500-1955m (4921-6414ft). Snow area: 60 sq km (23 sq miles).

Cabeza de Manzaneda , Orense. Airport: Santiago de Compostela 190km (118 miles). Alt: 1450-1760m (4757-5774ft). Snow area: 20 sq km (7 sq miles).

Other winter sports centres in this region include Riaño-Maraña on the slopes of Mampodre; San Emiliano in the northwestern part of the region; and Leitariegos in the western part of the range.

IBERIAN SYSTEM: This extends northwest from the Demanda Range in Burgos to the Alcaraz Range on the Mediterranean. Many of the slopes are pine-forested. The highest point in the system is the Moncayo summit at 2313m (7588ft).

Valdezcaray , Logroño. Airport : Villafía (Burgos) for light aircraft 100km (62 miles). Alt: 1550-1860m (5085-2821ft). Snow area: 8 sq km (3 sq miles).

Lunada-Espinosa , Burgos. Airport : Villafía (Burgos) for light aircraft 100km (62 miles).

Valle del Sol , Burgos. Airport : Villafía (Burgos) for light aircraft 100km (62 miles). Alt: 1500-1700m (4921-5577ft). Snow area: 15 sq km (5 sq miles).

Sierra de Gudar , Teruel. Airport: Valencia 135 km (83 miles). Alt: 1600-2025m (5249-6643ft). Snow area: 15 sq km (5 sq miles).

CENTRAL SYSTEM: This is also known as the Carpetan Range and runs from northeast to southwest dividing the central Meseta into two parts, although there are several passes which allow lines of communication. The Guadarrama and Gredos ranges are found within this system. The highest peak rises to over 2500m (8202ft). The region is within easy reach of Madrid.

La Pinilla , Segovia. Airport: Madrid 112km (69 miles). Alt: 1500-2270m (4921-7447ft). Snow area: 15 sq km (5 sq miles).

Valcotos, Madrid. Airport: Madrid 82km (50 miles). Alt: 1785-2270m (5856-7447ft). Snow area: 30 sq km (11 sq miles).

Valdesqui , Madrid. Airport: Madrid 85km (52 miles). Alt: 1876-2260m (6154-7414ft). Snow area: 20 sq km (7 sq miles).

Puerto de Navacerrada , Madrid. Airport: 75km (46 miles). Alt: 1700-2200m (5577-7217ft). Snow area: 42 sq km (16 sq miles).

PENIBETIC SYSTEM: This is in the south of the country, and the range is broken by a fault line dividing it into a northern and a southern block. The southern block contains the main skiing areas, and also the highest peaks in the Spanish mainland (Sierra Nevada), reaching to over 3440m. The effect of river erosion has opened deep gorges leading to meadows and beaches on the Mediterranean coast. Some of the ski runs are less than 35km (21 miles) from the famous city of Granada.vSolynieve , Granada. Airport: Granada 34km (21 miles). Alt: 2100-3470m (6889-11384ft). Snow area: 40 sq km (10 sq miles).


(a) Madrid-Toledo-Aranjuez-Alcalá de Henares-Guadalajara-Segovia-Avila-San Lorenzo del Escorial-Madrid.
(b) Málaga-Marbella-Algeciras-Cádiz-Coto de Doñana-Jerez-Aracena-Seville-Málaga.
(c) San Sebastián-Bilbao-Santander-Santillana del Mar-San Vicente-Picos de Europa-Oviedo.

(a) Seville-Cordoba-Ubeda-Baeza-Jaén-Granada-Sierra Nevada-Almería.
(b) Seville-Badajoz-Mérida-Cáceres-Salamanca-Zamora-Astorga-León-Oviedo-Gijón.
(c) Madrid-Alcalá de Henares-Guadalajara-Cuenca-Teruel-Albacete-Cuidad Real-Toledo-Aranjuez-Madrid.
(d) Madrid-San Lorenzo del Escorial-Avila-Segovia-Valladolid-Salamanca-Plasencia-Cáceres-Badajoz-Trujillo-Madrid.
(e) Figueres-Empíries-Girona-Cadaquès-Barcelona-Montserrat-Sitges-Tarragona.
(f) Valcarlos-Pamplona-Santo Domingo de la Calzada-Logroño-Burgos/León-Astorga-Santiago de Compostela.

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