Spain Guide



Hiking Southern Spain

Walking holidays in southern Spain give foreign visitors the chance to explore the hidden treasures of a part of the Iberian Peninsula better known for its swanky yacht marinas and cluttered coastline.

For the vast majority of tourists, the south of Spain is synonymous with sandy beaches, sangria and steamy goings on in frantic resort towns like Torremolinos. Those who hunger for a taste of the "real Spain" should take to the ancient muleteer trails, forest tracks and river paths of inland Andalucia which must rank as one of the most achingly beautiful areas of the entire country.

Take a step back from the Costa del Sol and you'll find a hikers' heaven awash with vast nature reserves, green rolling hills and magical Moorish villages. Mercifully, if you're a lover of nature, the masses cling to the over developed Costas of southern Spain and the hinterland remains largely unspoilt.

There are countless different ways of enjoying the many and varied delights of a region rich in romance, history and culture. With the aid of a good travel guide and map you can find your own way around southern Spain, stopping off at the many camp sites and cheap and cheerful hostals and "casa rurals" to be found in the area. Or you might prefer to employ the services of one of the many specialist tour operators which offer all kinds of tailor made walking holidays to suit all tastes and budgets. There are companies specialising in adventure holidays which combine trekking with other activities such as white water rafting, horse riding and caving. Some offer women only holidays for single women who don't want to take the risk of backpacking alone. And there are firms which target the relaxed rambler who looks forward to a comfortable hotel room and a gourmet meal after a day of gentle strolling and sight seeing!

Andalucia is awash with "cortijos" (traditional Spanish farmhouses) many of which have now been converted into delightful rural hotel accommodation specifically geared to walkers. In most cases, the owners are a fount of knowledge when it comes to walking excursions in the locality so you have the advantage of being independent of a tour operator's schedule coupled with the comfort of knowing that you'll be returning to a warm welcome, a decent meal and a comfy bed after a hard day's walking.

Besides the natural parks of inland Andalucia, a favoured hikers' haunt in the south of Spain is the stunning Alpujarras region to the south of Granada. The spectacular mountains of the Alpujarras were the final stronghold of the Moors after the Christian monarchs Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand captured Granada in the 15th century. This is walking country to die for, with picturesque villages clinging impossibly to the mountainsides and the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada looming in the distance.

You can book a guided walking holiday in the Alpujarras or travel independently, staying in one of the many small hotels to be found in the mountain villages. Many foreigners have bought second homes in the Alpujarras and advertise them for rent on the Internet.