Best in World Cuisine in Catalonia | Fall Cycling in Spain | Hiking the Camino de Santiago Spain – Some Tips | 5 Reasons to Cycle in Mallorca | Personal Review of El Celler de Can Roca | Trip Review: Costa Brava Deluxe Cycling Tour | Spring in Spain, Best Trails, Gear, Food | 5 Fun Festivals in Spain | Cycling in Mallorca | 5 Must Haves for Cycling Spain |
Simply Surprising – Spain has some truly exceptional natural resources. This the third country in the world with the most spaces declared Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO, and is home to lakes, mountains, volcanoes, marshes, forests, rivers, valleys, cliffs? Get away from it all, breathe deeply and just let go!
Something for everyone: there are so many leisure and entertainment options to choose from, you’ll have a hard time deciding. For more details about travel in Spain in general, see below or visit the Spain tourism website.
As with most places now, local phone booths are almost non-existant. Apart from booths (locutorios), for which a calling card is needed, you can get them at branch post-offices (estafeta de correos) and tobacconists (estancos). To use your mobile phone, be sure to make plans in advance of travel. Spain is on the GSM standard, so adapt your mobile device before travel to Spain and know your carrier charges for roaming and data use in advance.
To phone abroad from Spain, first dial “00,” then the country and city codes, and finally the phone number.
To call Spain from outside the country dial “34” and the phone number.
For directory assistance dial: 1003
For international directory assistance dial: 1025
In case of emergency:
For a medical emergency dial: 061
For a general emergency dial: 112
Electric appliances run on 220 volts AC. 50 HZ. Standard European-pattern round-pinned plugs are used.
On the Spanish mainland local time is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in winter and two hours ahead in summer.
National Public Holidays:
January 1st-New Year’s Day
March 19th-San Jose
April 8th-Maundy Thursday
April 9th-Good Friday
April 12th-Easter Monday (Catalonia)
May 1st-Labor Day
June 24th-St. John’s Day (Catalonia)
September 11th-National Day of Catalonia
October 12th-National Day
November 1st-All Saints Day
December 6th-Constution Day
December 8th-Immaculate Conception
December 25th-Christmas Day
December 26th-Boxing Day (Catalonia)
Festivals in Spain:
March / April
Festival of St. Medir-Barcelona
Pageant of the Passion-Sevilla
St. George’s Day/Lover’s Day-Barcelona
May / June
Day of the Autonomous Community-Madrid
Corpus Christi Festival-Spain
International Festival of Music and Dance-Granada
St. John’s Day-Barcelona
July / August
European Balloon Festival-Barcelona
Feast of St. James-Spain
Verbena de la Paloma Folk Festival-Madrid
September / October
Spanish National Day-Spain
International Jazz Festival-Barcelona
Catalonia Biking – Regional Information
Catalonia is an area of diverse landscapes, contrasting the coastline with the interior region. From the beauty and color of the coast, with its bright blue waters that shape hidden creeks and wide sand beaches, to the beauty of the interior region, with landscapes typical of the Mediterranean basin. With spring comes the gorgeous green of Catalonian prairies soon to turn a glorious golden color in summer -wheat fields combined with sunflower fields lend local color to this sumptuous scene. In the mountains, typical Mediterranean forests are filled with holm oak and cork oak. In between these two landscapes, the olive trees and the vines complement the typical Mediterranean vegetation.
This landscape is dotted with a large number of villages, many of which are located atop many small hills. These are mostly villages with a medieval origin that still retain a marvelous charm, with their high city walls and steep stone streets… From that period, we also find many noteworthy monuments of significant historic interest: castles, old monasteries, churches, and Romanesque hermitages are scattered all over the region. Some of the best archaeological sites of ancient Catalonia are found here too.
As early as the sixth century BC, Greek merchants established trading posts along the Catalan coast. By the third century BC, the Phoenicians and Carthaginians had settled in before being replaced, after the Punic wars, by the Romans. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths swept down from the north and took over as of the early fifth century AD. In the eight century, Catalan Christians sought help from Charlemagne in repulsing the Moorish invaders. The period following the Reconquest is recognized as the origin of the Catalan nation, and Barcelona soon became the dominant political and military force in the region. By the 13th century Barcelona rivaled Genoa and Venice as a maritime power, ruling over an empire that encompassed a large part of the Mediterranean. This is Catatonia’s Golden Age.
Spain is positioned between Europe and Africa and as such boasts a range of contrasting natural attractions. The stretching, golden coastline is, of course popular with tourists, but there are many other natural beauties in Spain when the traveler would like a change from the coast.
The mountains regions of Spain reach their greatest height at the Pyrenees in the North and the Sierra Nevada in the South. The former stretches for 440 kilometers (273) miles with an average height of 2,000 meters (6,400 ft). The Pyrenees act as Spain’s link to Europe with more than 400 protected natural areas to conserve the principal mainland. The Sierra Nevada contains the highest peak on the mainland Mt. Mulhac?n, which rises to 3.482 meters (11,425 ft.). This area is home to peaceful alpine lakes and glaciers. National parks, game reserves and adventure facilities are just some of the attractions here.
The ‘Meseta’ (Central Plateau):
The Central Plateau is the largest in Europe and has always been dominant throughout Spain’s history. It is an agricultural region where the classic crops of Spain are grown e.g. cereals, grapes and olives.
To the east of the Meseta there is a coastal fringe bathed by the waters of the Bay of Biscay. This area is known as ‘Green Spain’, a wet area producing a wide range leafy, woodland vegetation.
The Meseta, opens out onto another of Spain’s most impressive areas of scenery. Running along the center, a mountainous region cuts the land into two well-defined physical and historical units.
The areas of Castile & Le?n, Castile-La Mancha and La Riojam, along with the farmlands of Extremadura, offer the traveler spectacular views with wide-open horizons, great fields of wheat, river valleys, and tiny villages. The cities here are steeped in history, with many cultural and architectural sights to see.
The Mediterranean coast:
Further away from the coast typical farmhouses (mas?as) and vineyards can be seen. Moving south there is a new color with orchards of oranges, lemons and almond groves. On reaching Andalusia, past olive groves and salt marshes, the sun dazzles on the towns and beaches of sparkling white. The soaring mountains of the Alpujarras and Sierra Nevada offer a contrast between the desert dunes of Almeria. Even further south, in the Atlantic Ocean, the lunar beauty of the Canary Islands is on offer. Spawned by volcanic activity the unique landscapes characterized by dense forest, high volcanoes and barren desert.
Weather and Climate:
Due to its low altitude and its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, the area climate is mild. Temperatures almost never reach 0 ? C, and rain is not abundant, which allows us to offer these routes all year round. The best season for cyclo-tourism is spring (March to June) and autumn (September-October), temperatures being between 20 and 25 ? C. In summer, temperatures are quite higher, reaching 33-34 ? C (from the second half of July to the second half of August), for which reason it is the least convenient time.
Camino de Santiago
The Camino passes through portions of five of the northern provinces of Spain that are mostly off the beaten track. This gives a view of Spain that is quite spectacular and mostly unspoiled, not the least of which is a wonderfully wide variety of rural and religious architecture.
Registered in 1993 as a World Heritage Site, this route, from the French-Spanish border, was and still is followed by pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela. Along the route there are around 1800 buildings, both religious and secular, of great historical value. The Route played a fundamental role in the cultural exchange between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. It is still testimony to the Christian faith in people of all social classes from all over Europe.
The route was originally an ancient Celtic pilgrimmage called “the Milky Way” or “Way of the Stars” that led to Fisterre, or “the end of the Earth”, on Spain’s western coast. It was literally as far west as they could go without going in (or on) the ocean.
In 813 AD, a Christian monk found bones identified as those of Santiago, or St. James. and within a few years, Alfonso II, King of Asturias, visited the site, built a chapel and declared Santiago the patron saint of Spain.
The number of pilgrims peaked in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when about half a million people made the pilgrimage. This is when many of the towns and cities along the camino were built.
In 1982, Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to visit Santiago de Compostela, then in 1987 the European Union declared the camino Europe’s first Cultural Itinerary. UNESCO followed suit in 1993, adding the camino to its World Heritage list.
The camino passes through two mountain ranges: the Pyrenees and the Leon Mounatians. The traveler on the camino will cross five Spanish provinces: Aragon, Navarra, La Rioja, Castilla-Leon (largest region in the EU), and Galicia “Land of 1000 rivers”. Thus, the landscape of the Camino is extremely diverse. It passes through mountains, farmlands, urban areas, ancient rural hamlets, forests, vineyards, and more.
Andalucia or Andalusia:
Andalusia – is well known for its climate and its Islamic influenced past. Due to its location, Andalusia has a very interesting history, summarized at Wikipedia, that travelers should get to know.
Al-Andalus: The Visigothic era came to an abrupt end in 711 with the Umayyad conquest of Hispania by the Umayyad general Tariq ibn Ziyad, an Islamic Berber. Tariq is known in Spanish history and legend as Tariq el Tuerto (“Tariq the One-eyed”). The Muslim conquest?by the Umayyad Caliphate?of the Iberian Peninsula in 711?718 marked the collapse of Visigothic rule and the establishment of the Islamic Empire era. Andalusian culture was fundamentally influenced by over half a millennium of rule by many Muslim caliphates and emirates. In this period, the name “Al-Andalus” was applied to a much larger area than the present Andalusia, and in some periods it referred to nearly the entire Iberian peninsula.
Nevertheless, the Guadalquivir River valley in present-day Andalusia was the hub of Muslim power in the peninsula, with the Caliphate of C?rdoba making C?rdoba its capital. The Umayyad Caliphate produced such leaders as Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III (ruled 912?961) and his son, Caliph Al-Hakam II (ruled 961?976); and built the magnificent Great Mosque of C?rdoba. Under these rulers, Moorish Islam in Spain reached its zenith, and C?rdoba was a centre of global economic and cultural significance.
Climate: Andalusia sits at a latitude between 36 and 38 44′ N, in the warm-temperate region. In general, it experiences a Mediterranean climate, with dry summers influenced by the Azores High, but subject to occasional torrential rains and extremely hot temperatures. In the winter, the tropical anticyclones move south, allowing cold polar fronts to penetrate the region. Still, within Andalusia there is considerable climatic variety. From the extensive coastal plains one may pass to the valley of the Guadalquivir, barely above sea level, then to the highest altitudes in the Iberian peninsula in the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. In a mere 50 km (31 mi) one can pass from the subtropical coast of the province of Granada to the snowy peaks of Mulhac?n. Andalusia also includes both the dry Tabernas Desert in the province of Almer?a and the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park in the province of C?diz, which experiences Spain’s greatest rainfall.