With its beaches and mountains, its cities and farmland, Spain has plenty more to offer than the coastal package holidays most people are familiar with. In fact, we’d recommend not going near the resort towns – avoid them and you’ll have a much better Spanish experience.
Spain sits in the westernmost part of Europe, connected with France and Andorra in the north and Portugal in the east, with Ireland and the United Kingdom not too far away. Across the Mediterranean there’s Italy, Malta and Northern Africa: Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.
Bordered by the Pyrenees mountains in the northeast, with the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea on either side, and just about touching Morocco at its south-western tip, Spain is a large, geographically diverse country containing mountains, hilly farmlands and large urban centres.
Camino de Santiago
While Spain’s cities are amazing (and all well worth a visit), many travellers are choosing a different way to see the country. The network of pilgrimage pathways known as the Camino de Santiago is growing in popularity, and is an amazing experience that’s worth trying at least once in your life.
Popular in the middle ages, the Camino fell out of popular consciousness until the 1980s, and now thousands of people a year make their way to the end point in Santiago de Compostela, in the northwest of Spain. While most people walk the Camino, you can also cycle or travel by horse; accommodation along the way cheap and easy to find, as almost every small town boasts a pilgrim hostel or two.
The Camino Francés, which passes over the Pyrenees at the border with France, is the most popular of the many routes you can choose from, but you can start from many different locations in Spain, Portugal, or other European countries.
Read more about the Camino de Santiago.
Getting to and from Spain
Most European and many international airlines fly into Spain. Madrid and Malaga receive the most general-aviation traffic with Barcelona catering mostly to budget airlines. Iberia is the national airline, but most worldwide airlines as well as regional European budget airlines service airports in Spain.
Getting into Spain by land is also easy as Spain is a member of the Schengen Open Borders agreement, along with most of its neighbours. Train, bus and car travel is easily available from Portugal and France, and while the small city-states of Gibraltar and Andorra are not members of the Schengen agreement, overland access by car is also easy. Gibraltar also has a walking border, for those only wishing to come over for a day, or for those wishing to avoid the entry taxes placed on vehicles upon entry and exit.
Ferries are available from Northern Africa and some other Mediterranean countries. Spanish ports are generally straightforward and clean, but can have very strict border controls garnering several passport checks (and stamps!) on both sides of some African ferries.
Spain travel resources
Check out our Alcalá de Henares podcast or browse the articles below.