My 50 Reasons to Visit Spain, Part One: The Nature

Fifty weeks of Spain

One of the many reasons to visit Spain is the country’s incredible natural diversity.

I’ve been lucky to be living in Spain for almost two years now, and so in 2018, I made it my blog’s primary goal to shed more light to the hidden wonders.

So below, I’ve gathered for you some of my best Secret Spain moments!

Mix and match as you please, then go. Travel. Differently. 

This article is all about the Nature.

1. Basque Country

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Mont Saint Michel meets the Chinese Great Wall

Reasons to visit Spain No. 1: The small islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe – one of the first places we visited after moving to Spain, and this before the extra marketing given by Game of Thrones

I have to say, the directors of the series sure do love Spain a lot! And for good reason, as you shall soon discover.

Located in Spain’s autonomous region known as the Basque country, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is relatively close to Bilbao, and can be visited in one day.

Starting off at the Baquio bus stop, the hike to the islet is beautiful: Ocean views on one side, met by lush forests on the other.

The last leg of the hike is the most spectacular, though: the islet reveals itself, engulfed between the clear sky and the deep blue Atlantic ocean, inviting you up the cobbled stairs.

More info on how to get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe here

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe panorama
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Basque Country

2. Extremadura

The Million Tree Hanami

The valley where one million cherry trees bloom to life every spring

Reasons to visit Spain 2: The terraced valley of Jerte, in Extremadura, provides one of the best hanamis one could ever wish for.

So catch a train from Madrid (they run twice daily) and go witness this natural spectacle yourself!

Extremadura is also a paradise for birdwatching, so make sure you combine your trip with a drive through Montfrague National Park – spring and autumn are particularly spectacular.

Make sure you stop for a hike at the Garganta de los Infiernos Natural Park, renowned for its crystal clear natural swimming pools.

Read more about the Hidden Cherry Valley of Extremadura here.

cerezo_en_flor_1_paradores
Valle del Jerte in Extremadura, Spain

3. Aragon

Kayaking the Chinese Wall

Fairytale landscapes and an active travel.

OK, this place is shared between Aragon and Catalonia, but since I’m not the expert in local geography, I’ve taken Google’s suggestion and placed it in Aragon.

Reasons to visit Spain3 3: The wonderous limestone landscape below is called Finestres, located in Congost de Mont Rebei, and it was created eons ago, long before humans built the Great Wall of China.

Its majestic and beautiful shape makes it well obvious why Spanish people decided to popularly name it Muralla China – or the Chinese Wall.

Probably the best way to experience the nature at Congost de Mont Rebei is through a combination of kayaking and hiking.

Summer is your best obvious choice – because who wouldn’t want to jump for a quick swim in these beautiful turquoise waters?

kayaking at muralla china finestres congost de mont rebei
Congost de Mont Rebei,. Credits: Intrepid Kayaks

4.Canary Islands

The Laurel Forests of Gomera

Welcome to the Spanish island that mass tourism forgot: La Gomera.

Reasons to visit Spain 4: La Gomera, or the land that mass tourism forgot.

We added Gomera to our summer trip to Tenerife, but the small island deserves a full week by itself, and is possibly the most naturally diverse in the Canary Islands.

Hiding in plain sight under the shiny fame of Tenerife, the Garajonay Natural Park in Gomera is home to Europe’s last rainforest.

la Gomera Garajonay laurel forest hiking path
Hiking through the people-free paths of Garajonay’s laurel forests
Laurisilva forest under Los Roques, La Gomera Garajonay National Park
Los Roques cliff in La Gomera Canary Islands

5. Asturias

Europe’s Patagonia: Hiking Picos de Europa

Exploring Europe’s Patagonia and Costa Verde

Reasons to visit Spain 5: Bordering Asturias and Cantabria, this spectacular landscape belongs to Picos de Europa, dubbed the European Patagonia.

Only 20 km away from the Asturias Atlantic coast – and a short 3-hour drive away from both Oviedo and Santander airports – The Picos De Europa National park celebrates its centennial this year, and is truly magnificent in its variety of landscapes.

Thanks to the mountains’ limestone canvas, nature has carved an impressive alpine karst landscape.

If you’re one for extreme spelunking, also know that Picos de Europa hides many of world’s deepest caves in its belly – such as including Torca del Cerro (−1589 m depth)

Picos de Europa National Park, Spain
Picos de Europa National Park, Spain. Photo Credits: Ticketea

6. Catalunya 

Sant Miquel del Fai

A triple waterfall, hiding a troglodyte monastery – in a cave.

Reasons to visit Spain 6: Located only 50 km away from bustling Barcelona, this impressive landscape at Sant Miquel del Fai is home to Spain’s only troglodyte monastery – although it will be easily overlooked when your eyes meet the view.

The rivers Tenes and Rossinyol display their beautiful waterfalls, make the place an unforgettable visit – one of the waterfalls can be crossed from behind, with impressive views of the cave’s stalactites and stalagmites.

The natural park has been closed for rehabilitation works since July 2017, and when I visited in August, it was still closed.

Regardless, you can enjoy plenty of hikes (for all tastes), so any day is a good day to start exploring!

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Sant Miquel del Fai waterfall, 50km from Barcelona
Sant Miquel del Fai waterfall, 50km from Barcelona

7. Castile–La Mancha

Lavender Fields

A Spanish Music Festival in the middle of  lavender fields

Reasons to visit Spain 7: The Spanish La Provence Vibes.

Just 80 km from Spain’s capital city Madrid, you’re met with the colorful peacefulness of lavender fields tricking you into thinking you ended up in Provence.

This is Brihuega – where, every July for seven years, people celebrate the Festival de la Lavanda right in the middle of the lavender fields.

Locals come to enjoy the sunset and perfumed summer breeze while listening to authentic Spanish music.

An event for locals, because not many outside Spain have heard of the festival – so far. Your chance to blend in and feel the real Spanish soul!

Festival de la Lavanda in Brihuega, Spain
Festival de la Lavanda in Brihuega, Spain

8. Andalusia

Flamingos and Safaris

Reasons to visit Spain 8: Safari adventures. The Doñana Natural Reserve in Southern Spain is located in the Guadalquivir river delta, halfway between Sevilla and Cadiz.

A genuine treasure hunt for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike, the reserve offers the prospect of something even bigger, yet: a chance to see the world’s rarest cat – the Iberian Lynx.

Best to visit in Spring and autumn. Fingers crossed for a sighting like this:

Reasons to visit Spain: iberian lynx world's rarest cat, in donana natural reserve Spain
Credits: www.juntadeandalucia.es

9. Galicia

Praia das Catedrais

Reasons to visit Spain 9: Beach time reinvented.  

The cathedral beach in Asturias, Spain, another Insta-darling (if you’re into such things) and sight for sore eyes. 

Praia das Catedrais Asturias, Spain. world's most beautiful beaches
Credits: TimeOut

10. Cantabria

Reasons to visit Spain 10: Beach time reinvented – yet again.

Because Spain is not short of options to satisfy even the pickiest beach lovers. Try the Geological routes suggested by Costa Quebrada.

Arnia beach in Cantabria Spain
The Arnia Beach. Credits: Unknown

11. Valencia

Las Hoces del Cabriel Natural Park

Reasons to visit Spain 11: Green canyons

Imagine Glenn Canyon, but lush with vegetation: this is a bit how Las Hoces de Gabriel looks like.

While I have not yet visited myself, I think it would be a pity to keep it a secret from you, so here goes: I am adding it to my Best of Spain top.

Reasons to visit Spain: Parque Natural de las Hoces del Cabriel

 

There’s also the unjustly overlooked nature in La Rioja, or the turquoise hued natural pools in Valencia, or the rice fields in the Ebro Delta.. and so.much. more.

More to follow, soon!

Spain Microadventures: Hiking in Parrisal de Beceite

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