When I fell in love with a Spanish guy, I didn’t realize that I was also falling in love with a whole country. Living in Spain for the past 6 months, and exploring from misty mountaintops to wild seasides, has shown me just how much one tiny country can hold. As the days get longer, and warmer, I’m hoping to inspire some of your own adventures by sharing some of my favourite places.
SOMO - SANTANDER
It’s worth visiting Somo just for the view from the beach – wide stretches of sand, vast expanses of green farmland & forest, backed by snow-capped mountains. Not to mention the incredible cliff-top hikes and general laid-back vibe.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn to surf, this is the place to go. Home to Spain’s first ever surfing reserve, the town is full of surf schools, rolling beach breaks and friendly instructors. It’s also got several more challenging waves for the more experienced surfers. And the next level up: nearby Santander hosts the annual big wave surfing contest, La Vaca Gigante, with varying dates depending on when the waves get huge enough.
Best spot for: learning to surf, hiking with your furry best friend
VIGO - GALICIA
On the Atlantic ocean, with wild coastlines and distant islands, is the beautiful town of Vigo. Wandering around the old stone city, finding hidden pubs for an Estrella Galicia, is an awesome way to spend an afternoon. And the coastlines around the Pontevedra region are worth an explore with forests, lookouts and cute coastal towns.
There’s also surf at Patos beach – a fun beach break, with beautiful views out to the islands. The big waves come through in winter, but it’s worth braving the chilly water any time of year to enjoy the view of the mountainous coast and out to the offshore islands. You’ll be able to spot the alluring Cies Islands just off the coast, a short ferry ride away but only accessible at certain times of year and with a special permit.
Best spot for: meandering along the coast, sunset beers by the water
SIERRA DE GREDOS - EXTREMADURA
If you’ve got a couple of days to spare, these mountain-top lakes are well worth the walk. We hiked up and spent my birthday sleeping in a tiny stone hut in an incredible valley, waking up to snow on the mountaintops. At this time of year, the weather is a lot more pleasant so it’s a perfect spot to explore.
It takes about half a day to get to the "refugio", but if you take a tent there’s also plenty of flat ground to find your own hidden spot. It’s worth staying overnight to have more time to appreciate the view and explore higher up the mountain range, with several lakes, amazing views, and curious muflons (wild horned sheep).
Best spot for: sleeping in a beautiful "refugio" and waking up to friendly wild goats and incredible views
LA GOMERA – CANARY ISLANDS
If you want to get a bit further away, there’s cheap flights to Tenerife and from there it’s just a short hop on the ferry to the incredible La Gomera island. This is hiking paradise, with winding goat tracks and official trails around the entire island. We took a tent, some camping gear and a basic map and spent a week hiking up steep mountains, into lush valleys and camping on hidden beaches along the coast.
Make sure you carry lots of water and enjoy swim stops when you can, as it gets seriously hot and there are sections with nowhere to fill your drink bottle. Luckily there’s plenty of places where the trail passes through small towns so you can grab an ice cream, or some delicious food (like Canarian potatoes with spicy mojo sauce, or eggplant with local palm honey).
Best spot for: hiking, getting off the beaten trail and enjoying totally unique landscapes
DONOSTI (SAN SEBASTIAN) – BASQUE COUNTRY
I first visited Donosti as an 18-year-old backpacker looking for delicious tapas and fantastic bars. Heading back there many years later I found there’s a whole lot more to it than that. The beaches are incredible, with plenty of spots to surf and lots of hidden spots to freedive. And sunset at the end of La Zurriola beach with a cold beer is the best way to end a day of exploring the towns and mountains around the Basque coastline.
There’s a couple of campsites just out of town if you need somewhere cheaper to stay. I also loved vegan restaurant Km 0 for some tapas with a twist. And while in the area, it’s about 45 minute’s drive to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe monastery – it’s well worth climbing the stairs to the top to enjoy the view and ring the bell to make a wish.
Best spot for: eating, drinking and relaxing on the coast