Spain is slowly shaking off its undeserved reputation of a place suitable only for sun, sea and sangria, and educating potential visitors about the real Spain. A great country with an amazingly diverse history, interesting culture, vast open spaces, huge national parks, mountains galore, a modern infrastructure and great people and food.
So out of our 2000+ things to do in Spain what are the top 10! Well it’s a tough and personal choice. Using my experience of living in Spain for the past 6 years I have chosen my personal selection of the activities which make Spain such a great place to visit.
Here's my Top 10 things to do in Spain:
1) The Tomatina - Spain is a fantastic country for events and this one is my favourite, an insight in the fun nature of the Spanish people. A over ripe tomato fight which takes over the whole town on Buñol near Valencia each August, leaving the exhausted huge crowds covered from head to toe in red tomato juice! Brilliant! Similar events take place with wine and olive oil! And whilst talking about such great Spanish traditional events here’s a few other worthy contenders. The Aplec de Caragol, a huge snail festival in Lleida where over the duration of the festival over 12 tonnes of Snails are enjoyed! San Juan, a festival held on the beaches throughout Spain on the shortest night of the year. The one night the police turn a blind eye to campfires on the beaches and everyone parties into the early hours on the beach. A dip in the water at midnight and jumping the fire are all part of the tradition. The 3 Kings Parades, again a tradition which takes place throughout Spain, as the three kings parade through every town, city and village showering the local kids with gifts (usually sweets). This takes place on Spanish Christmas Eve (January 5th - Spanish children open their gifts on the 6th January). And last but not least the Feria – an event held by every town, village and city during which the locals of all ages party with a vengeance for around a week! If you get the chance visit a feria – great traditional family parties for all generations.
2) Mountain Biking in Spain – It’s a little known fact that Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe. And it’s southern locations means it also has a fantastic climate for mountain biking. In places like Sierra Nevada near Granada, in the winter months, you could cycle in the snow and the warm winter sun on the same day. The wide open spaces, stunning scenery, welcoming attitude of the Spanish people, popularity of the sport and seemingly endless amounts of trails for all abilities make Spain a superb place for Mountain Biking. It’s also a great place for city cycle tours and road biking, where places like Mallorca are great for winter cycling.
3) Spanish Waterparks – There can be few better ways to spend a hot day in Spain with the family than in a waterpark. The Spanish waterparks are more and more catering for the whole family and ensuring fun packed days out, with ‘beaches’ for the less active, shows for the kids and a range of water rides from the gentle to the adrenalin pumping. Little more to add on this one – just really great fun.
4) Spanish Museums – Spain’s history and culture is great and diverse with Moorish influences. It’s castles, cathedrals and museums are greta places to visit, even for ‘non museumy’ people. I recently had a walk around the Cathedral in Geneva in Switzerland and it bought it home to me how much better the Spanish equivalents are, places like the Mezquita in Cordoba, the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostella and the Museums in Madrid are all in another league. And not forgetting the Sagrada Familia, the work in progress Gaudi designed Cathedral being built in Barcelona (not doing a lot to dispel the ‘working like a Spaniard’ reputation – work started in 1882 and it may finish in 2025!).
5) Hiking in Spain – I guess the same advantages apply here to the Mountain Biking in Spain entry just above. It’s a great place for hiking, and with so much great hiking available you are not queuing at turnstiles, saying hello to other hikers every 5 minutes, etc. Where I have been hiking in Andalucía, even in the most popular spots, its rare you come across other hikers out on the trails. A great escape in great scenery. Many great guide books are available, like Guy Hunter-Watts’s Coast to Coast book giving details on an amazing 21 day 430km hike from the Mediterranean coast near Nerja to the Atlantic coast at Bologna near Tarifa. A few notables here are the incredible Kings Walk at El Chorro (often decribed as the worlds scariest walk), Hiking Mulhacen Spain's highest mainland mountain (the highest is Mount Teidi on Tenerife) and the Hiking in the El Torcal Mountains.
6) Boat Trips and Water sports – Of course the warm climate and the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts are great tourist draws for Spain, and it’s great to get out on the water on boat trips, jet skis, etc. Inland canyoning, hydrospeed (bodyboarding down rivers) and kayaking are very popular. My personal favourite here is killer whale watching off the coast of Tarifa. A few hours out of Tarifa, near the North African shores of Morocco the Killer Whales visit each summer and feed off the Tuna being hauled in from the traditional line fishing boats.
7) Motorcycling in Spain – great climate, great roads, great places to visit, mountains and the associated twisty mountain passes and scenery, little traffic, little rain, a country with an incredible enthusiasm for motorcycling (all the 2010 MotoGP world champions are Spanish) – need I say more! A personal favourite here, which shows my age, is the classic biking experiences in Spain.
8) Horse Riding in Spain – This must be good for me to add it as a top 10! I have never sat on a horse since the age of about 6 (a donkey on Skegness beach probably!) but each time I see horses out on the trails when mountain biking or hiking I think what a great place this must be to ride a horse! I may even be tempted to climb up onto a horse again in the near future! For all of the reasons mentioned when describing mountain biking and hiking, horse riding in Spain looks great!.
9) Hot Air Ballooning in Spain – what better way to enjoy the great scenery and historic towns and buildings than in a serene and silent Hot Air Balloon flight over Spain. Paragliding in Spain is also a popluar and exhilirating way of taking to the skies.
10) Spanish Wine Tours – Spain produces a great deal of wine and a great variety, the sherry from the Jerez region, Cavas from near Barcelona and the famous Riojas to name but a few. It’s great to visit the Bodegas to see where and how the wines are produced and immerse yourself in the history and traditions. I have yet to do the Cava and Rioja areas so I will have to unfairly say Jerez is my favourite until I get to the other areas. The wealth of Sherry Bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera, makes it a great place to visit, and you have other notable places like Cadiz, Conil and Sanlucar all close by. And it’s not all that sweet stuff you tend to drink at Christmas in the UK – I personally prefer the cold dry fino!.
The above would is my personal selection – It’s really easy to come up with your own top 10 things to do in Spain using YouGoDo - simply go to the ‘things to do in Spain’ page and choose you preferred activity types and locations and YouGoDo will show you your choices!