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The perfect two-center city break for those looking to experience the diversity of Spain with stays in the capital, Madrid, and the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona.
The perfect two-center city break for those looking to experience the diversity of Spain with stays in the capital, Madrid, and the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona.
Exoticca Travel Stories
Creating unforgettable memories, one traveler at a time
Deluxe accommodations including a fantastic breakfast. This package was everything that was promised and more! The 5-star Abama Ritz-Carlton in Tenerife, Canary Islands is a top-notch property. The service was everything we expected from a 5-star hotel and the staff was attentive and helpful.
Spain is renowned for its festivals and there’s no better way to immerse yourself in Spanish culture than to get involved in the myriad of events and festivities that take place across the calendar year. Spanish festivals can be celebrated on both a regional and national level, with each community enjoying their own particular events. Whilst many of the country’s festivals are connected with Christian holidays, others are celebrations of Spanish culture, cuisine and music. Here are a handful of the most unmissable Spanish festivals to keep in mind when you are planning your next trip:
Celebrated in over 50 countries around the with Carnival is a special time of festivities in Spain. Taking place in the days leading up to Lent, Carnival was traditionally a time to indulge in food, drink and revelry before the observance of lent. Today, Carnival in Spain is a cacophony of colorful outfits, dancing, music and parties. The largest celebrations take place on the Canary Island of Tenerife, in the coastal city of Cadiz and the seaside town of Sitges, near Barcelona.
Perhaps the most famous and unique cultural event in Spain, Las Fallas is a regional festival in Valencia. A little like spring cleaning, historically, locals would throw out old furniture and belongings and burn them in huge bonfires on the street. Today, instead of belongings, enormous intricate sculptures are constructed across Valencia in the run-up to the festival. Locals flood the streets to admire the artworks and enjoy street food and parades.
Taking place over the course of around two weeks, much of the city takes on a festive atmosphere. Pyrotechnic displays, known as mascletas, take place every day at 2:00 p.m. creating extremely loud, rhythmic noises that can be heard for miles around. After days of mascletas, parties, live music and communal feasting, the huge sculptures, known as ninots, are set on fire during La Crema. The final stage of Las Fallas, La Crema marks the dramatic end to the festivities.
This Midsummer celebration is particularly popular in the Mediterranean cities of Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante. On Saint John’s Eve (June 23rd) enormous bonfires are lit on the beaches and, following a dinner with family or friends, locals come out to set off fireworks and party the night away! The following day is a regional holiday. Said to welcome the start of the summer season, what was once a religious festival has transformed into one of the most spectacular parties in Spain’s cultural calendar!
What better way to celebrate summer than by taking part in the world’s largest food fight? This distinctively unique event takes place in the small town of Buñol, in the Valencian Region, and consists of a full day of tomato throwing. Locals and visitors head to the streets and hurl tomatoes at each other, making the streets of the usually sleepy town run red with tomato juice! Lorries full of tomatoes are on hand to ensure no one is left empty-handed. Surely one of the most chaotic and fun festivals in Spain, La Tomatina celebrates the humble tomato like never before!
The Spanish love a good party, and of all the regional, local and national festivities, the Fiesta Mayor de Gracia is the best-known and loved. Taking place in the neighbourhood of Gracia in Barcelona, this large-scale celebration is held in August. The streets of Gracia are transformed into a colorful world of imagination as each street competes to win the prize of the best decorated! Huge crowds gather to watch live music and dance performances as well as the traditional art of building ‘human towers’, known as ‘Castellers’. Furthermore, this incredible Spanish festival is completely free!
The most important religious festival in Spain, Semana Santa, or Holy Week, honours the passion of Christ and the arrival of Easter. A more sombre event in comparison to other Spanish festivals, Semana Santa is marked by a variety of ritual events, such as parades and family get-togethers. Even non-religious locals come out to see the beautiful decorations and elaborate floats and visiting Spain during Semana Santa is the chance to experience one of the country’s most important festivals!LEARN MORE
Perhaps less famous than its European counterparts such as France and Italy, the cuisine of Spain is equally as tantalising. A cuisine based on quality Mediterranean ingredients, the liberal use of olive oil and the concept of small dishes, known as tapas, Spanish cuisine is reason alone to travel to the country. From classics such as paella and Spanish omelette to tasty tapas dishes and indulgent sweets, wherever you travel in Spain an unforgettable gastronomic experience is never far away. Here are just a few of the most unmissable Spanish dishes to enjoy on your next trip!
Known to many as ‘Spanish omelette’, tortilla is something of a controversial dish, with each region in Spain producing its own varieties. Whilst some will argue that an authentic tortilla can only be made with potatoes and eggs, other variations include onions, peas, peppers and chorizo. Tortilla is notoriously thick and is served in slices, often as a tapas dish. On the other hand, slices of tortilla can be eaten within a bread roll as a hearty lunch or evening meal. Ready-made tortillas can also be purchased in supermarkets and eaten cold or warmed up at home.
The go-to dish for newbies to tapas, patatas bravas are simply fried potatoes accompanied by a spicy tomato-based sauce. You’ll find these tasty potatoes on the menus of pretty much any Spanish restaurant and they’re usually shared between friends as a snack when out for drinks. You’ll never know how spicy the sauce is until you try it. Different restaurants and bars have their own take on the traditional bravas sauce so it can be fun trying different restaurants to find your favourite take on patatas bravas!
There’s no more famous Spanish dish than paella. This Spanish rice dish is embedded in the culture of Spain and it originated in the region of Valencia on the Mediterranean coast. At any cultural event, celebration or just because it’s a Sunday, Spanish people will cook and eat paella. It’s an occasion dish, best prepared in an authentic paella pan and shared with friends and family. Paella consists of saffron-infused rice, cooked in a stock with either seafood, vegetables or meats such as chicken and rabbit. There are hundreds of different varieties, and today, even vegetarians can find variations to suit their requirements. A trip to Spain would be incomplete without eating paella, just keep in mind that restaurants usually serve paella for a minimum of two people so bring your friends and enjoy the most famous dish in Spanish cuisine!
A popular tapas dish, boquerones are fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar and olive oil. Usually served up alongside a cold beer, boquerones are the perfect finger food and make a pleasant snack on a warm summer's day. Seasoned with garlic and parsley, these tasty fish can be found on the menu of any tapas bar.
Hailing from the region of Andalusia, gazpacho is a cold soup, made from stale bread, tomato, cucumbers, onion, peppers, garlic and olive oil. This is a staple in Spanish cuisine, large cartons of it can be purchased at any supermarket. Whilst it may seem counterintuitive to eat soup when it’s cold, gazpacho is designed to be a refreshing dish and is best enjoyed in the hot summer months. Furthermore, it’s a thoroughly healthy dish and really showcases the flavors of Spain’s principal ingredients.
Pork is a mainstay in traditional Spanish cooking, and Jamon, or cured ham, is integral to many great dishes in Spain. You’ll find whole legs of Jamon on display in restaurants, supermarkets and bars across the country. Slices of ham are carved from these whole legs and sometimes served as a tapas dish or used in sandwiches and other Spanish dishes. You may also find Jamon referred to as jamón serrano in Spain.
Found on any tapas menu or served as a side to meat or fish dishes, Pimientos de Padron are flame-grilled green peppers, usually sprinkled with a generous pinch of salt. Simple yet sensational, these delicious peppers are not usually spicy, but sweet and mild instead. Pimientos de Padron originated in the Galician town of the same name in northwest Spain.
No Spanish breakfast table is complete without a loaded plate of churros. The eternal appeal of this sweet dish is undeniable, and you’ll find churros on the menu at cafes across the country. Churros are long sausage-shaped pieces of deep-fried dough, sprinkled with sugar and usually dipped in a steaming mug of thick hot chocolate. As well as a breakfast dish that you’ll look forward to waking up to, churros are a mainstay of any Spanish festival or event, where you’ll find roadside vendors serving up these delicious, sugary treats!
Looking for the best souvenirs to buy in Spain? Whilst shopping in Spain you’ll come across all manner of traditional items, from flamenco dresses to delicate hand-painted ceramics. On the other hand, Spain is an excellent retail destination, with all the big European brands represented on the shopping streets of its major cities. So, if you’re looking for a keepsake to remind you of the flavours, colors and cultures of Spain, look no further than these popular Spanish souvenirs:
Known as an abanico, a Spanish fan is among the most traditional souvenirs and a must-have addition to any travelers bag during the summer months. You’ll find these fans for sale in boutiques, bric-a-brac stores and markets throughout Spain and they come in numerous designs and colors. If you travel to Spain during the summer you’ll likely see local ladies fanning themselves whilst riding the metro or bus, and as the cheapest and easiest way to cool down on a hot summer day, you’ll soon realise this souvenir is one of the most useful things to buy in Spain!
The quintessential Spanish food item, Jamon, or cured ham, is a great thing to buy in Spain if you want to enjoy the flavours of Mediterranean cuisine back home. Whilst you won’t fit a whole leg of Jamon in your suitcase, Spanish delicatessens can vacuum pack slices of your favourite variety for you to take home with you. Just keep in mind that different countries have different restrictions on bringing food-stuffs across borders.
If you’ve fallen in love with the romance and emotion of Flamenco during your trip to Spain, why not take home a pair of castanets to relive your memories back home? Concave wooden shells, these traditional instruments are held in the hand and ‘clacked’ together to create rhythmic sounds characteristic of the Flamenco dancers of Andalusia. You can find these handheld instruments for sale in markets and music shops across Spain, but more frequently in the south of the country, where Flamenco is still an integral part of the local culture.
Producing some of the highest quality wines in the world, a bottle of Spanish wine is among the best souvenirs to take home with you. Rioja, Chardonnay and Tempranillo are just a few of the most popular varieties. You can pick up a great selection of Spanish wines at local supermarkets or if you’re looking for something a little special, pay a visit to a specialised wine shop or bodega.
Traditionally a shoe of the working classes, today the espadrille is a cornerstone of any summer wardrobe. Although you can find espadrilles in countries around the world, the genuine article can only be purchased in Spain, where these iconic shoes were invented. Rope-soled and with a canvas upper, espadrilles come in an array of vibrant designs and colors. Casa Hernanz in Madrid has been making espadrilles since 1840 and is one of the longest-running espadrille manufacturers in Spain.
If you go shopping in Spain, you’re sure to see many colorful hand-painted ceramic items. Decorative ceramics are a centuries-old handicraft tradition in Spain, and some regions are famous for their beautiful handpainted wares. Toledo and Valencia are two such regions, the latter being famed for their floral motifs. The most popular ceramic items to buy in Spain are numerical tiles that can be used as house numbers, and decorative bowls.LEARN MORE
A European giant, Spain covers most of the Iberian Peninsula and is bordered by Portugal to the west and France to the north. Composed of 17 autonomous regions, each with their own distinct characteristics, you can expect to encounter many different and vibrant cultures and traditions on a tour of Spain.
As well as the varied mainland, Spain also possesses a number of island territories, such as the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. Food, fiestas and a formidable national pride, Spain has long been the object of travelers affections for its laid-back atmosphere, sleepy seaside towns, and culture-filled cities.
Madrid is the country’s capital, known for its museums and fantastic nightlife, but the cities of Barcelona, Granada, and Valencia are equally as popular with tourists due to their own abundant sights and attractions. Art and creativity run through the veins of almost all facets of Spanish life from surprising festivals to the imaginative and other-worldly architecture of Gaudi and the soul-stirring dance of flamenco.
You are sure to fall in love with the passionate nature of the country and its people when you take a holiday to Spain. The country is home to the third most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, after Italy and China, so you can rest assured there is plenty to see and do away from the generic beach resorts.
Famously the center of the globe-spanning Spanish Empire, before it’s own imperial power, Spain played host to a number of great civilizations, ranging from the Phoenicians to the Greeks, Celts, and Romans.
The Moors of the Umayyad Islamic Caliphate ruled most the Iberian peninsula from the year 726, their reign lasting almost 700 years and stretching across most of the country’s territory. On a tour of Spain, particularly of the southern regions such as Andalusia, you are sure to see the relics of this mighty empire for yourself in the unique architecture and buildings such as Granada’s phenomenal Alhambra.
Several conflicts were fought between the Christian northern kingdoms of Spain and the Moors, resulting in a unified Spain under Catholic monarchs by the late 15th-century. Soon, the kingdom of Spain would be known as the world’s first global empire, spanning from South America in the New World to the Philippines in Asia.
Spain’s global influence remained right up until the second half of the 20th-century. Contemporary Spain has overcome a turbulent 20th-century in its own lands, marred by civil-war and fascism. Nevertheless, Spain today is both a secular parliamentary democracy and a parliamentary monarchy, with King Felipe VI as king and head of state.
With mountains, islands, beaches, forests, lakes, and vineyards, Spain boasts an incredibly diverse terrain and is home to the most UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the world.
Although you might be tempted to bask in the grandeur of the cities or the beauty of the beach resorts during your package holiday to Spain, there are a number of natural attractions that are worth leaving the sun lounger for!
One such wonder is the idyllic peaks of the ‘Picos de Europa’, which stretch across the regions of Asturias, Cantabria, and Castile & Leon. The surrounding national park of the same name is a brilliant destination for hiking and home to pretty, verdant landscapes. The area is sometimes called the ‘Lake district of Spain’.
In the north of the country, the Pyrenees stands out for their natural beauty. This emblematic mountain range is contained within several national parks and is a popular skiing destination during the winter months. It also forms a natural border between Spain and France.
Amazingly, another of Spain’s most popular ski resorts is situated in the southern region of Andalusia; the Sierra Nevada is one of Europe’s most southerly ski resorts, home to alpine forests and gorgeous natural landscapes. It’s snow-capped peaks rise out of the temperate Andalusian lowlands, so it is possible to visit both the beaches of the Costa del Sol and the ski resorts of the Sierra Nevada in the same day during a tour of Spain!
The diversity of nature in Spain continues to surprise visitors who venture to the unique Canary Islands. Here, on the island of Lanzarote, you can find the impressive Timanfaya Volcano and watch its volcanic geysers shoot hot water into the air. The black sand beaches are another highlight of this part of Spain.
Many visitors that choose a holiday to Spain are attracted by the country’s laid-back atmosphere and late-night culture. It is true that the Spanish prefer to eat their dinner late in the evening, usually around nine or ten o’clock but, with the exception of the hottest summer days, the siesta is not as widely enjoyed as you might think, although smaller shops tend to close for a couple of hours in the afternoons.
Traditional culture in Spain has strong ties to Catholicism, but it is also influenced by the Mediterranean climate and the waves of foreign invaders that left their mark over the centuries.
Spain’s artistic traditions are respected worldwide, having produced a countless number of daring and groundbreaking artists such as Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, and Antonio Gaudi, to name but a few. Romantic painters such as Goya and Velazquez have also attracted international acclaim.
The arts are encouraged and celebrated in everyday life in Spain, and perhaps the most well-known illustration of this is the flamenco, an eternal dance, and art-form based on folkloric traditions and still widely practiced today. A trip to Spain is incomplete without watching a flamenco performance. The country is also known for its regional traditions and unique festivals. Bull-running, La Tomatina, the fires of Fallas and the Holy Week Parades are just a few examples of Spain’s diverse cultural heritageA holiday to Spain is a chance to adopt a slower pace of life whilst simultaneously indulging your senses in the vibrant nightlife, unique traditions and soul-stirring artistic passions of this historic and unbeatable destination. Head to the land of Don Quixote and discover, for yourself, that there is much more to Spain than its much-loved beach resorts.
Passport with a minimum of 3 months validity required.
Visa not required for stays of up to 90 days.
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Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Spain.
No vaccines required.
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