It’s a great big, beautiful world out there, with so many choices of stunning travel destinations that it’s not easy deciding where to set your sights when seeking the adventure of a lifetime. Not everyone has the luxury of regular travel to glamorous destinations, so for those of us who aim to see at least one magical place before it’s too late, narrowing your options down to just one or two choices can be quite tough. If indecision is standing in the way of your dreams then let’s simplify the choice for you; we’ve handpicked 10 breathtaking destinations which you absolutely must see in your lifetime.
1. Touring Through the Alhambra in Granada, Spain
The Alhambra is a palace in Granada which dates as far back as 889 AD. The Moors gave it a renovation in the 11th Century, making it a rich historical and cultural experience. This historical monument’s architecture is beautifully intricate and lavishly decorated, guaranteed to both fascinate and inspire.
2. Sledding or Snowboarding down an Active Volcano in Nicaragua
Are you a sledding or snowboarding enthusiast? Well, you haven’t lived until you have tried your hand at volcano boarding at Cerro Negro, an active volcano located just outside of León in Nicaragua. The volcano requires a 2388 foot hike up loose, penny-sized volcanic rock, which you then sled or snowboard downhill at a thrilling 30 mph!
3. Go Swimming In Iceland, in the Blue Lagoon
In a lava field in Southwest Iceland found approximately an hour away from the capital Reyjavík is a geothermal 100°F spa known as the Blue Lagoon. The man-made lagoon appears blue when the sunlight hits it due to its rich silica content, and it also contains algae and mineral contents which are purported to have many healing properties. It is fed by geothermal seawater. 279
4. Releasing a Candle in Thailand during the Yi Peng Festival
The Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand is a religious ceremony celebrated by the Thai people in which they release glowing lanterns into the sky and make a wish as they pay homage to the Buddha. A week later a second lantern release festival is hosted to give the foreigners a turn to participate, along with fireworks and colorful parades running through the city all through the weekend.
5. Diving with Crocodiles in Wild Africa
If you’re looking for a destination that offers you the chance to be really brave, then travel down to South Africa and meet one of the most terrifying ancient creatures on earth. Crocs have 4 times the bite pressure of the great white shark, getting up close and personal will be the most intense things you will ever experience. You can dive with Nile crocodiles in a bite-proof cage at the Cango Wildlife ranch in Oudtshoorn, South Africa.
6. Exploring the Wildlife of the Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Island. Charles Darwin, the evolutionary theorist, spent many years in Ecuador studying the Islands’ vast number of species which are totally unique to the island. See creatures you won’t find anywhere else, like giant tortoises, tiny penguins, and blue-footed boobies.
7. Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey
How better to enjoy Turkeys panoramic vistas, the charming hoodoos, and the balmy weather than in a hot-air balloon floating in the sky? In Cappadocia the sky is littered with them.
8. Wondering Through Japan’s Sagano Bamboo Forest
Japan’s Sagano Bamboo Forest sits just outside of Kyoto. Take a walk through a magical world of the bamboo stalks towering abundantly and majestically above you, creaking spookily in the wind.
9. Swinging in Ecuador at the End Of The World
The ‘end of the world’ refers to La Casa del Arbol in Baños, Ecuador. Here you’ll find a tree house, which is actually a seismic monitoring station, with a non-acrophobes swing which hangs over the crater of an active stratovolcana called Mount Tungarahua.
10. Cruising through Vietnam’s Hạ Long Bay
Picture a bay of emerald green waters dotted with towering limestone rainforest islands. The Gulf of Tonkin’s Hạ Long Bay features over 1600 generally uninhabited islets and islands, making it an ideal tourist destination for outdoor appreciators such as hikers, rock climbers, and scuba divers.
Many people consider that visiting and experiencing amusement parks is a travel activity meant for kids. But if you look at the hundreds of thousands of people taking by assault such “kid” places, you will notice that young and seasoned adults alike have the time of their lives. Today, we will take a trip around Europe and virtually visit three famous amusement parks to see the true benefits of organizing your couple or family vacation with them included in your plans.
1. Disneyland, Paris
Disneyland needs little to no presentation, especially the one in Paris – as it attracts around fifteen million tourists every year and here are top attraction in Paris. It is situated in the Paris suburban area of Marne-la-Vallée, and it makes one of the most appraised amusement parks on the old continent. The park is divided into four main areas: Discoveryland, Frontierland, Adventureland,and Fantasyland. Besides the famous Disney Castle, you get to see here a myriad of attractions, parades, roller coasters, shows, and Disney characters.
However, a vacation in Paris and a full experience of Disneyland doesn’t have to end here. Put on your travel canvas backpacks, arm yourself with cameras and make the best of the park and its surroundings: you also have the Disney Village to visit, the Aquarium Sea Life complex and, for the connoisseurs, the Vallée Outlet Shopping Village.
Paris is a very large city, but if you are there, don’t miss out the most important cultural, spiritual, historical and touristic attractions. Don’t miss out the famous bohemian artistic neighborhood of Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré Coeur Church, a walk on Champs-Élysées or a trip to La Defense, a business and commercial area which will make you feel you arrived in New York.
2. Legoland, Germany
The global success of the Lego game led to the creation of four large Lego-themed amusement parks. The last one built and the most famous oneis the Legoland in Germany. The park is located in Günzburg – halfway between Munich and Stuttgart – in the southern area of the country. The park is famous for attractions such as Lego Studios, the Pirates Area, the Adventure Area, the Atlantis Sea Life – an amazing indoor aquatic world – roller coasters, workshops, shows, and adventures.
But visiting Legoland can be just the cherry on top. Munich is the capital of Bavaria, a city vibrant with history, culture, touristic attractions, and nightlife. There are dozens of things to see and do in Munich, so plan your vacation to include the top attractions of this incredible city as well.
How about Stuttgart? This city is one of Europe’s best destinations, as it is a mix of old and new, futuristic and classic styles, vibrant German life and amazing novelties. Don’t miss out the Porsche Museum if you are into legendary cars, or the Ludwigsburg Palace – the biggest surviving Baroque palace complex in the country – if you are a history and culture buff. You can find more budget sport in Germany.
3. PortAventura Park, Spain
PortAventura is a Spanish amusement park which gained a formidable reputation on the continent for the friendly and cheerful atmosphere all tourists of all ages enjoy here. There is a multitude of attractions, shows, workshops, parades, and adventures, all set in a fairytale landthat charms children and adults alike. The fascinating universe of pure magic entertainment of PortAventura is majestically completed by the park’s surroundings: it is situated on the Dorada coast of Spain – one of the most appraised beach destinations in the world – and it is only an hour drive distance from the legendary city of Barcelona.
The top PortAventura attractions are divided into areas of interest.You reallymust not miss out on the Mediterranean Area (with its Catapult Adventure), The Volcano Escape Adventure (an activity for the whole family to enjoy), the Polynesia Area, some famous roller-coasters, a rodeo adventure in the Far West area and many more.
You can include your PortAventura visit in a larger vacation on Costa Dorada, one of the most popular coasts on the Mediterranean. You can get here a perfect tan and a dream-like seaside vacation, but also many leisure activities, a lot of fun and a lot of culture and Spanish staple traditions, foods and entertainment, all placed in a natural landscape that takes your breath away.
The PortAventura Park can also be an important attraction of a more extended trip to Barcelona. One of the most beautiful and interesting cities in Europe, Barcelona is a true jewel. It is the cultural, historical, artistic and entertainment capital of Spain. Don’t miss out the SagradaFamilia, the Gaudi buildings, the Gothic neighborhood, the Guell Park, the Picasso Museum, the Camp Nou stadium (if you’re a football fan), Las RamblasAvenue and many more. A mix of gothic, modern and contemporary architecture and style, Barcelona is a dream came true for many tourists.
If you are planning a trip this summer in Europe, take into account some of the best amusement parks there and their wondrous surroundings. You won’t regret anything! Find the top 10 Places to visit in Spain
The hottest season is finally here and Spain is definitely the place to be. A Spanish beach holiday would be the best way to keep wet and fresh in the summer heat. Spain, France and Morocco are the only three countries that have both the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastline. Sky scanner is a great site to get cheap flights to Europe and compare flight prices and also the cheapest days in the month to fly. For a full summer experience, the top ten places to visit in Spain this season are;
This region also known as Green Spain is known for its eye-catching scenery. You can experience this in the legendary Covadonga lakes at the Picos de Europa National Park and beautiful beaches such as Oleiros beach in Cudillero, the playa de Torro in Llanes and the playa de San Lorenzo as well as the playa de Poniente that has a railway museum a few minutes away to take a break from the sun.
For a complete surfing experience, Langre’s secluded beaches are spectacular with endless green meadows and impressive waves. It is situated along the rural Costa Trasmiera with limestone cliffs on top. The green getaway has amazing scenery that is relaxing and peaceful for it is not crowded.
Playa de Matalenas,West Coast Cantabria
Golden sand under your feet is what the west coast has in plenty. The playa de Matalenas that is in between towering green capes north of El Sardinero. The soft golden sand allows clear water to be seen and when the wave are up, surfing begins. High tides can sometimes swallow up the entire strand though alternatives are in the Sardinero beaches.
Tamariu, Costa Brava
The rugged wild coast has this horseshoe bay near Callela is great for families and ideal for snorkeling, water skiing, kayaking and other forms of boating. Superb fish restaurants, cafes and bars are located just behind the beach.
Playa del Ingles, Gran Canaria
The playa de Ingles has been a major attraction site since the 1960s and it is biggest resort on the island.it has 3km of white sand by itself totaling to 8 km when maspalomas and san Agustin are included. It is a great place to be for those looking for a thrill because of the water sports center and jet skiing and wind surfing. For those into partying the place has big-name discos, bars and night clubs. Playa de ingles is also a shopper’s palace for the 12 commercial centers present are duty free.
Cala Mesquida, Majorca
The fairly remote beach is located north east of Majorca or Mallorca. The beach area is protected because it is home to birdlife such as sea gulls and cormorants. On its east side are sand dunes and pine trees while on the west is a small beach resort with some shops and restaurants. Water sports and wind surfing are popular.
Es Pujols, Formentera
Es Pujols is the main tourist destination on the island of Formentera packed with numerous hotels, restaurants, bars and shops in a rather limited area enhancing interaction with the locals. The beach has shallow turquoise waters and is made up of two white sand crescents. The beach also has all regular facilities.
Playa Blanca, Lanzarote
Playa Blanca is a popular resort with three stunning beaches south coast of Lanzarote. The largest beach is Central Beach or Playa Blanca and is found close to the harbor, it is great for families. The second beach is the Playa Flamingo that is on the west side of town, it has beautifully calm warm waters ideal for relaxing and the third beach is the Playa Dorada on the east side with clean white sands that are good for sun bathing and swimming.
Costa Calma, Fuerteventura
The beach at Costa Calma is a perfect place to get an amazing tan for sun bathers and has a lot of activities for the family and friends such as diving, cycling, morning jogging and kiteboarding. It is also a haven for surfers as the sea has powerful waves.
Marbella, Costa del Sol
It is one of the most glamorous places to be with the rich and famous having paid homage to the town. With about 25 beaches and world-class accommodation, it caters for singles, friends, couples and families alike. The beaches are; playa Puerto Banus, playa Nuerva Andalucia enjoyable for the young, playa Lindavista that has some Roman ruins to indulge in the culture and away from the heat.
Tenerife has gorgeous beaches, year-round sunshine and a reputation as something of a party destination. The fact that it also boasts beautiful, rugged scenery and a wealth of activities for those with no interest in simply just soaking up the sun is often overlooked. Fancy doing something different this summer? Then look no further than our top tips for making the most of your holiday in Tenerife.
Teide National Park and Hiking
Comprising a 10-mile-wide volcanic crater, this UNESCO World Heritage site dominates the centre of the island. At its heart is Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak. With its lunar landscapes and strange rock formations, there’s plenty for the eye to see. It’s a pretty decent climb too, measuring some 3,718 meters in total. Not that it’s the only place to go hiking on the island. Try the Masca Ravine for a spectacular three hour descent that culminates at the foot of the Los Gigantes Cliffs. The Anaga Mountains, meanwhile, situated in the north-east of the island, are regularly voted Tenerife’s most popular walking spot. Just don’t look down!
If you’ve booked flights to Tenerife with the family and hiking isn’t your thing, but you still seek adventure, then look no further than this Thai-themed aquatic theme park. With a range of water slides and heart-stopping adrenaline-pumping rides, it’s great for the kids – even if your adventuring days are behind you. LoroParque, Siam Park’s sister resort, is equally well-established and contains an awe-inspiring collection of parrots and its shows involve dolphins, orcas and sea-lions.
Garachico was once the richest town on the island. All this changed when it was engulfed in lava from a nearby eruption in 1706. However, it remains one of Tenerife’s most popular day-trip destinations – precisely because of its past. Swimming in the rock pools created by the lava is a totally unique experience. Not to be missed!
If you still think Tenerife is all about sun, sea and sangria, then La Laguna may just the place that changes your mind. Formerly the capital of the island, this university city is another World Heritage Site and, alongside its wonderfully preserved mansions (some of which date back as far as the 16th century), you’ll find an impressive array of tapas joints, bookshops and antique stores.
Puerto de la Cruz BotanicalGardens
Set on the hills above Puerto de la Cruz and encompassing some 215,000 square feet, the gardens contain a wide variety of tropical plants from the mainland, as well as guided paths which allow tourists to structure their visit as best they see fit.
It’s definitely worth taking the trouble to explore Tenerife beyond its beaches and resorts. You won’t regret it!
Image by Till Krech, used under the Creative Commons license.
Tarragona is a superb port city situated in north-eastern Spain. Being a seaside city, it has evolved into a renowned tourist destination that welcomes its guests with historical site and architecture, modern surroundings and traditional cuisine and culture.
Among the must see tourist attractions the Cathedral of Saint Mary is without a doubt the most impressive construction. This cathedral is actually a Roman-Catholic church that was constructed on the site of a former Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter in 1171 by Bishop Hug de Cervello of Tarragona. In 1905, the Cathedral of Tarragona was declared a national monument.
Another amazing historical site is the Tarragona Amphitheatre. It is a Roman amphitheater build in the 2nd century AD, and its dimensions for that period are simply breathtaking: 130 x 102 m and a capacity of 15,000.
The town has a wide variety of plazas, tapas bars and coffee shops. In fact, one of the most famous streets in Tarragona, the Rambla Nova is a 700 meters long avenue famous for the markets, shops and terraces. It also represents a symbol, as it divides the city into the old town and the new and more modern city.
For tourists looking to get into Tarragona, it is important to know that the local train station is a part of the train line that connects Alicante and Barcelona, so trains such as ‘Alaris’, ‘Euromed’, ‘Estrella’ and ‘Talge’ stop there frequently. From Barcelona the average train ride is around 90 minutes, and every 30 minutes, a train stops in Tarragona. Once in Tarragona, tourists may take different buses that run throughout the day at regular hours, or they may even take a taxi. The closest bus station from Rambla Nova is just 2 minutes away, walking.
Also, the Reus airport is located just 10 km away from Tarragona and tourists from all over Europe may take charter flight or the Ryanair Company.
For those wanting to experience a true tourist sensation, coming by car is the way to do it.
In the end, trains are actually the best solution for every tourist as they are cheap (around 7 euros), reliable and extremely convenient. From the train station to the famous Rambla Nova Avenue it’s a short, 15 minutes, walk. In just 5 minutes, by taking the taxi, you can be anywhere in the city.
There are many places to visit in Barcelona for any tourist interested in touring the city. These locations will guarantee a truly satisfying tourist experience with the best sceneries and cuisines. The best time to visit Barcelona would be during the off peak season when there are less visitors coming in. It can be hectic having to deal with numerous crowds thronging the various sites to take pictures as well as catch a glimpse of the historical sites. The locals here are even friendlier and will be happy to show you the way around town. Some of Barcelona’s best kept secrets and attractions include;
1. La Sagrada Familia church
This unfinished church in Barcelona was built over 100 years ago. It is a great creation of Catalan architectural guru Antoni Gaudi. It can be ranked among the top 10 attractions that Barcelona has to offer. It entertains roughly 3 million visitors per year who find it rather fascinating. To skip the long queues, you may want to book in advance. Those who cannot endure the long queues may choose to view it from the outside which is totally free and takes about half an hour.
To get an inner view of the Sagrada Familia church will take about 1 or 2 hours given the length of the queues. This piece of work is yet to be completed though the interior is complete and the public is allowed to go in. Despite the tragic death of this great architect, the building has continued to be developed and is expected to be completed in 2026. To visit the Sagrada familia people often take day trips from Barcelona on a hop-on-hop-off bus or take the metro to station Sagrada Familia.
2. Magic Fountain show
This is a definite must see attraction in Barcelona; you have never seen a fountain so magical and beautiful. The Font Mágica Fountain gives the viewer a magical feel with its beautiful show of water light and music combined. Initially it was built as a main attraction for the Barcelona World Fair in 1929. It is a popular spot which normally welcomes around 2.5 million visitors in a year.
3. Picasso Museum Barcelona
Pablo Picasso was born and raised in Barcelona. His creation; The Picasso Museum is Barcelona’s most famous museum and a top attraction. It recently celebrated 50 years of existence with three special anniversary exhibitions .Pablo Picasso was specifically born in Malaga but lived in Barcelona from 1895 to 1904 after his family moved to Barcelona. His father was an art teacher and Pablo Picasso had already started his art studies in Malaga, but it is Barcelona which was a huge influence on his early career years as a struggling painter.
He first exhibited his work in Barcelona since he considered himself from Barcelona. The collections on this museum are unique but not his exactly famous creations. Here you will find early sketches and lesser known Picasso’s paintings. The museum is situated in some magnificent gothic mansions in the medieval part of Barcelona called El Born. The Picasso museum is a top attraction for tourists in Barcelona.
Barcelona is the best destination if looking for a place to treat your eyes to. The Barcelona weather is always just about right and there are many things to do in Barcelona for every visitor. The food there is also quite pleasant and the culture rather accommodating. Occasionally, the fragrance of the sea in the port or in Barceloneta, jostles your senses to the fact that there is a huge seaport and beach city so beautiful that it has been attracting visitors for centuries. Most visitors arrive by air Europa to Spain.
Today new architectural designs have emerged for example Europe’s hottest new fashions in hip boutiques that have given the city an exciting edge for visitors from all over the world to enjoy. When visiting Barcelona, it’s often a challenge to many people because of the many attractions. A travel guide can help you come up with an itinerary for your trip and help you make the most out of your trip. Below is a list of some attractions that you should be on the lookout for;
Gaudí’s Sagrada Família
The city’s major icon is the work of Gaudí. This gigantic unfinished Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família or Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family is currently entering its 125th year since construction. Its beautiful architecture is another attraction of Barcelona that every visitor should have a look at.
Palau de la Música Catalana
Normally described as the lead of Barcelona’s Modernisme, this dizzyingly lavish tour de force was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. It is a collection of Art Nouveau crafts and recourses which include ceramics, sculpture, stained glass, paintings, and a variety of decorative techniques.
Casa Batlló and the Manzana de la Discòrdia
The Manzana de la Discòrdia also known as the Apple of Discord situated on Passeig de Gràcia is famous for its row of buildings. The creations were made by the three well-known modern architects namely Gaudi, Montaner and Cadafalch. Of the three, Casa Batlló, is the most outstanding and open to the public.
The Boqueria Market
This is Europe’s oldest open air market. Its colorful and aromatic nature makes it a great attraction of Barcelona. It is located just off the Ramba. This is where Barcelona’s gastronomic fortunes meet. The Boqueria market is continuously attaining its crucial role as the major supplier of fish, fowl and meats.
The museum is dedicated to Pablo Picasso’s creations. He is a painter and artist born and raised in Barcelona. His stunning 3,500 creations are on display and in addition there are five Renaissance palaces that have been refurbished, redesigned and made available for public viewing.
The Gaudí’s bright and spirited park are the top most areas in the village of Gràcia. The park was initially established as a community garden for Count Eusebi Güell and his friends. The flowery hillside has a sequence of Moderniste gems going from the gingerbread gatehouses to the fantastic patchwork lizard on the stairs and the rolling ceramic bench on the central square.
If you are looking for the best tours and day trips, Alicante offers you a great choice to choose from. The province is located to the south east of the Spanish coast which is south of Valencia province and north of Murcia province. Alicante natives refer to that coastal region as Costa Blanca. Those who have ever been there will attest to the fact that Alicante city has it all. From the long fine sandy beaches to the world class hotels and the vibrant historic sections, your entire one day experience tour will be worthwhile.
Most appealing things in Alicante
Alicante is blessed with many other things amongst them being the amazing climate which makes it perfect for a day visit to the soft sandy Postiguet beach. According to estimations, in a year, Alicante receives a total of 2,800 hours of pure sunshine. Add to the fact that the coastline is spread over 218km and you get a perfect destination to spend your one day tour.
b) Historic sections
The city is filled with many historic sections such as museums, churches and monuments which can help you learn more about the city if you wish to go down the history lane. The Museo de Bellas Artes Gravina (MUBAG) is one of the best museums to visit in Alicante. The MUBAG is one of the finest fine arts museums in Alicante with canvases from the early Middle Ages to the 1920s.
c) Hotels and accommodation
The city that is known for having rather busy night life has many recreational centers and hotels with accommodation if you’d wish to spend a night in Spain. A Cheap hotel in Alicante can be found in an instant due to their availability. One of the best hotels to visit while in Alicante is the Hospes Amergo which is located in Casco Antiguo-Santa Cruz five minutes away from Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art. The hotel offers a panoramic city view, a poolside bar, 5-star rooms among other world class facilities.
d) The Castle of Santa Barbara
To make your one day tour to Alicante worthwhile, you have to pay a visit to this castle as it is the crowning glory of the city. The Castle Santa Barbara is one of the medieval fortresses in Spain. Take your time to drive or walk to the top of the castle while enjoying the stunning view of the city and its tranquility.
Things to do in Alicante
For a day tour, you can choose to get to know more about the city and decide walk your way around the city. For starters, you can park at the marina car park and take a walk around the city while discovering some of the cities beauties such as the old quarter, the Nativity and the Hogueres Museum. The latter two are all free.
Besides touring the city, you can decide to watch one of Alicante’s Hercules home games if you are passionate about football.
How to get to Alicante?
The nearest airports to Alicante are El Altet, Valencia and Murcia. Take Cheap flights to Alicante by choosing one of these companies to fly you in; Easyjet, Iberia or Ryainair.
It may have a reputation as the ideal venue for a hen party or boys’ weekend away but the Balearic Island of Ibiza is a sun-baked haven for holidaymakers seeking stunning landscapes lined with olive groves and dense woodland, beautiful sheltered beaches and a rich cultural heritage dating back over 3000 years. Instead of being drawn into the party lifestyle of the island, one of the best ways to enjoy holidays to ibiza is to arrive fully-informed about the many unmissable sights that the island has to offer. So, here are a few more helpful information on Ibiza, specifically about the not-to-be-missed attractions that you must include on your itinerary.
An uninhabited rocky island located to the south west of Ibiza, Es Vedra is steeped in mysticism and folklore. Said to be the ancient home of mermaids and more recently for the Carmelite monk Don Francisco Palau, today the island is a stunning feature of the seascape with intricate rock formations and, when bathed in moonlight, is a place of immense spiritual beauty. A boat trip around the island to view the resident goats and seabirds is a must.
Can Marçà Caves
Located on the north side of the island in the port of Sant Miquel, the Can Marçà caves are one of Ibiza’s premier attractions. Dating from over 100,000 years, the caves feature beautiful stalactites, underground streams and a 30 foot waterfall that is sure to inspire visitors. Once the hiding place of goods smuggled onto the island, the alternative escape routes which smugglers planned to use in the event of discovery can still be seen marked on the cave walls.
One of the island’s most unspoilt and isolated coves, Cala d’Albarca is a little tricky to reach on foot but well-worth the effort for those who venture there. Although the beach has been covered by fallen rocks, the crystal-clear waters which are perfect for swimming, the pine-clad slopes surrounding the cove and the eighteenth century watch towers constructed by locals to spot pirates, make this an unmissable sight off the beaten track.
Ibiza Dalt Vila
The old town of Ibiza is a delight for a leisurely stroll, with 16th century walls encircling the town, narrow cobbled streets and grand medieval houses. With the castle and cathedral dominating the town at the highest point and affording fine views, there’s plenty here to enjoy and not to be missed.
With a rich tapestry of cultural and historic attractions, not to mention the local markets, expansive sandy beaches and buzzing nightlife, Ibiza has much to offer the traveller, whatever style of holiday you are seeking. With regular two-hour flights from the UK and a pleasant year-long climate, it’s the perfect destination for a short break or longer stay.
The Kingdom of Spain has to be on the must see list of anyone who enjoys travelling. If you’re on a tight budget there is plenty to do and see in Spain. Just take a look at our countdown below.
Spain’s greatest attraction, the Alhambra is an imposing palace and fortress built in the 10th century by a Berber ruler. It is a Moorish architectural treasure and a pearl set in diamonds, how some poets used to describe it. The tour is said to be exceptional, with good guides and fun facts. Bring some comfy shoes with you, it involves plenty of walking.
Spain’s second largest city and the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Full of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Park Güell, Casa Batlló or the Facade of the Nativity and crypt of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona is pure art and Gaudi’s influence can be seen and felt throughout the city.
3. Picasso Museum
Barcelona’s most visited museum, the Picasso Museum, offers you 3,8000 of Picasso’s paintings and with only €9 entrance fee, it would be a shame not to spend an afternoon inside Picasso’s head.
4. Mezquita of Cordoba
Mezquita-Catedral how the Spanish call it or Mezquita of Cordoba is a cathedral located in the Andalusian city of Cordoba. An exquisite example of Moorish architecture, it was originally a pagan temple, then a mosque and now it is a Roman Catholic Church. Regardless of your religious views, this World Heritage Site has something to offer to everyone.
5. Caves of Drach
Located in Porto Cristo, the Caves of Drach are an impressive formation of 4 caves that will steal your breath away. Admire this underground gem made out of stalagmites, stalactites and semi-precious agates. And as a boost, lights have been mounted throughout the caves, offering quite a show.
6. El Escorial
The historical residence of the King of Spain, El Escorial, or The Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is about 28 miles (45 km) from the capital of Madrid. It is a Royal Palace, a monastery and even a school. Also a World Heritage Site, El Escorial offers tours for only €8 a person. Be amazed by its basilica and the marble Pantheon de los Reyes, where the royalty are put to rest.
7. The Gothic Quarter
Build in Medieval times, the Gothic Quarter is one of Barcelona’s most haunting neighborhoods. Take a guide and walk through the narrow streets to discover Barcelona’s dark side. There are plenty of restaurants and bars for you to stop and grab a bite to eat.
Only 30 miles (50 km) North of Barcelona we find the Serrated Mountain, looking like it has been sculpted by God Himself. We find the Benedict monastery there and also a statue of Catalonia’s patron, La Moreneta, or The Black Virgin. Needless to see the view is amazing!
One hour drive south of Madrid we arrive at the city of the three cultures. It is called that because we find places of worship of the city’s three major religions: Judaism, Islam and Catholicism.
10. Port Aventura Park
Spain’s largest theme park, Port Aventura offers you and your family all the rides to keep your adrenaline levels high for an entire day. It is divided into lands such as China, the Wild Wild West or Mexico.
When you’ve planned on visiting the Alhambra in Granada for half a lifetime, it doesn’t feel quite real when you’re actually there. Mountains loom on either side as you approach Granada on the motorway, the views increasingly lovely. If you’re there in Spring, as I was, you will probably see snow on the distant peaks of the Sierra Nevada. This is a city which doesn’t know how to disappoint.
If you only have a short time for this once in a lifetime experience, you need to be as near to the Alhambra as possible. You could, of course, stay in the parador which lies within the grounds, but I settled for something a little cheaper, but no less exciting- the Hotel Guadeloupe, directly opposite the Alhambra car park, a discount for which is included in the price. After check-in you can saunter across to the Alhambra ticket office to easily collect those tickets which you have already booked on line. From there it’s a simple stroll downhill into town.
Something for which I was quite unprepared was the scale of the hills on which Granada sits. Passing immense castle walls you arrive down at the Plaza Real. In Spring sunshine you can follow the River Darro, with all of the Albaicin district still to explore, unbelieving that you are looking up at the mighty Alhambra Palace, poised on the clifftop. To sit by the banks of the river, beneath pink blossom trees, with a flamenco guitarist serenading as I look up at the Alhambra is a memory that will stay with me for ever. Wine and strawberries complete the picture.
It’s a slow steep climb through the atmospheric streets of the Albaicin to the viewing point at the Mirador de San Nicholas, though you can always cheat and catch the minibus. The narrow winding streets reveal carmenes, the traditional houses, tiny shops, restaurants and churches. Las Estrellas restaurant is the perfect reward for your efforts in this most romantic of settings. (Callejon Atarazana Vieja 1, tel 958 288 739) Looking across you can see the hills of Sacromonte with its cave dwellings, as well as the whole wonderful panorama of the Alhambra. Sunset is believed to be the best time of day for photographs from this point.
Back down in the historic centre the must see sights are the cathedral, and in particular Capilla Real (Royal Chapel). The glittering surroundings befit the tombs of King Ferdinand and Isabella, exquisitely carved from Carrara marble. They commissioned the construction of the chapel in 1504 but died before its completion. Their bodies rested in the convent of San Francisco in the grounds of the Alhambra (now the parador mentioned earlier) before moving to their proper home in 1521. The cathedral is a Gothic extravaganza, celebrating the Christian victory over the Moors, dominant in the Iberian peninsula from 711.
Another way to see the sights is on one of the red Granada Tour buses. You can purchase a hop-on, hop-off ticket which will do all the legwork for you, including the trip up to the Alhambra. In my case I was very grateful for the minibus which scoots you rapidly back to the heights. The more adventurous might want to take a tour of the city by Segway.
The Alhambra– literally “the red”
Does it live up to expectations? I’d looked at it from every angle but I had butterflies in my stomache when I finally came to view it. A timed slot is allocated for the centrepiece, the Nasrid Palace. Once inside you can spend as long as you want but you must not miss your entry time. No matter how early you arrive it is inevitable that you will queue at some point but nothing detracts from the beauty and splendour.
The Alcazaba is the fortress built in the 11th century to protect the walled city on its lofty plateau, the beginnings of Granada as we know it today. In 1238, with the arrival of Mohammed 1 ibn Nasr, the Nasrids began the longest lasting Muslim dynasty on the Iberian peninsula. The Reconquista was already in full swing in the rest of Spain, but the Nasrids allied themselves with Castile to enable the creation of the Emirate of Granada. They provided mercenaries and gold from North Africa and the palace complex thrived. Cordoba fell to the Christians in 1236 and Sevilla in 1248, but Granada survived until 1492.
The Nasrid Palace is an architectural triumph. The drama heightens as you pass through the Patio of the Lions, divided by 4 streams of water symbolising Paradise. The intrecacies of the Mudejar patterns take your breath away. Mosaics line room after room until you are speechless looking up at the ceiling of the Sala de los Abencerrages.
As you gaze from the terraces you can’t help but conclude that this was a palace fit for kings, yet there’s more to come. The Generalife is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens. The Courtyard of the Water Garden is certainly one of the most recognisable images of the Alhambra complex.
There’s also Carlos V’s Palace, a solid Renaissance style building now housing the museum of the Alhambra. I wandered the grounds marvelling at this most iconic of UNESCO World Heritage sites. A dream fulfilled.
Of course, there’s more to see. The gypsy dwellings of Sacromonte are the home of flamenco, and modern Granada has plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. But for me Granada IS the Alhambra.
I’ve already written about Sevilla and Cordoba, their architecture and history inseparable from that of Granada.
Come with me on my journey.
If you’re looking for a place with stunning architecture, a sunny Southern climate and flower-filled patios to die for, then Cordoba might just be the one for you. In May these sleepy Spanish streets come alive to the Festival of the Patios, and the secret beauty of the courtyards is revealed. May is a great month to see Cordoba as the Festival of the Crosses takes place at the start of the month, before temperatures nudge too high. In July and August Cordoba is one of the hottest places in Spain.
The battle between Moors and Christians is at the very heart of this city and the awe-inspiring Mesquita-catedral is rich evidence of this. One of Spain’s iconic buildings, the Mesquita is part mosque, part cathedral and full of atmosphere. Arrive early and you can enjoy the peace and beauty for free before the tourist and student parties arrive at 10am. Over a thousand pillars create this huge and airy space.
It’s hard to imagine that this peaceful city was once the capital of al–Andalus and much of the Iberian peninsula was ruled from here. At the end of the 10th century, Cordoba was a seat of learning, culture and commerce, with 3ooo mosques and 300 public baths. Sadly fortunes declined and neighbouring Sevilla became the capital of what is now Andalucia. In 1236 Cordoba was laid seige to and conquered by King Ferdinand 111 of Castile, during the Spanish Reconquista. The Inquisition headquarters were based in the striking Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.
It’s not a great idea to try to drive into the historic centre. A maze of winding streets, it’s far better explored on foot. You can park above the embankment on Avenida Confederacion, from where you have a wonderful view of the city and the Roman Bridge which spans River Guadalquivir. Stroll past the Calahorra Tower, part of the city defences, and across this magnificent bridge with its 16 arches to reach the Europe’s largest historic centre, protected by UNESCO status.
A good place to start your explorations is the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (fortress of the Christian monarchs). The original alcazar was beside the Mesquita on the site of the present Bishop’s Palace, and was built in the 8th century as a residence for the caliph. Todays fortress and the Moorish gardens which are its main attraction were constructed in 1328. Ferdinand and his queen Isabella lived here while they prepared to reconquer Granada, the last Moorish stronghold, and Christopher Columbus came to the Alcazar to make his case to Isabella for his journeys of discovery to America.
It is the Paseo de los Reyes that draws most admirers. Fountains play across the ponds and statues line the gardens. It is a serene and lovely space. From July through to September the gardens are illuminated, 10pm to 1am.
Time now to wander the narrow white-washed streets behind the Mesquita. Calleja de las Flores is just one of many pretty lanes, lined with shops and restaurants. Delving back you will find yourself in the Jewish Quarter, famed for its jewellers and silversmiths. In Calle de los Judios you will find the small atmospheric Synagogue which is one of only 3 remaining originals in Spain since the expulsion of the Jews. Nearby Casa Sefarad has been restored to how it would have been in the 14th century, telling the story of these influential people and their place in Cordoba’s history from Roman times. A scupture to philosopher Maimonides stands in Tiberiadus Square. Traditionally his foot is stroked for “good luck”.
Puerto de Almodovar is the western boundary of the Juderia and one of 3 gates to the city to survive from 13. Beyond these you have a fine view of the existing city walls with their beautifully landscaped fountains and gardens.
If you have time you could experience an arabic bath in the authentically styled Hammam Al Andalus, Corregidor Luis de la Cerda 51. Tel +34 902 333 334 for appointment. One experience you certainly won’t want to miss is a night of flamenco at the Tablao Cardenal, next to the Mesquita. If you’re visiting outside of May you can still get a feel for the patio culture of Cordoba. Almost every doorway you look through discloses a cool space , lined with tiles, flowerpots and fountains. Or you can venture into the city to Palacio de Viana, Plaza de Don Gome 2, with its 12 patio gardens. Faded grandeur at its very best. For nights full of passion, the traditional guitar festival takes place in July.
Food in Cordoba is wonderful. Tapas and raciones (a larger portion than tapas) are widely available. I particularly liked salmorejo (gazpacho with hard boiled egg and serrano ham on top). For an evening meal in beautiful surroundings I could highly recommend El Rincon de Carmen, Calle Romero 4. My crispy fried aubergines with honey, followed by flamenquins (rolled chicken and serrano) were delicious.
Eurostar Maimonedes, Torrijos 4, is an excellent central hotel facing the Mesquita. There are many reasonable options, often with delightful internal patios of their own.
You might also want to look at my guides to Sevilla and Granada. The cities are historically connected. http://www.travelwkly.com/2012/02/sevilla-spains-southern-senorita/
Sevilla, in Spain’s sunny south, is a city where you can almost hear the swish of skirts and the click of the castanets. Strolling in the Plaza de Espana you wouldn’t be at all surprised to encounter ladies in fine lace mantillas and dainty heels. Yet this capital of Andalucia is also a vibrant modern city. It’s an irresistible combination in a city full of melodrama, beauty and life.
The river Guadalquivir binds old and new together, and in the heat of Summer a river cruise might be the only place to find a breath of air. To make the most of this enticing city you should visit in Spring or Autumn. Most spectacular of all is Semana Santa, the week preceding Easter. Processions of pasos or floats bearing images of the Virgin Mary and scenes from the Passion progress slowly through the streets. Powerful and mournful music accompanies them and at their heads, the hermandades or religious brotherhoods, dressed in penitential robes and hoods. The climax of the week is Holy Thursday, when the processions set out in the evening to arrive at the Cathedral on the dawn of Good Friday, known as the madruga.
Sevilla is nothing if not a city of extremes and, from mourning, two weeks later we pass into Feria de Abril, when the whole of the city takes to the streets in a celebration of food and dance. This is the time to see those fabulous flamenco dresses. Marquees or casetas are set up by Sevillano families, purely for socialising, on a fairground where the “streets” are named for bullfighters. Spain doesn’t get any more traditional or colourful than this!
The Cathedral and Giralda Tower
Much of the history and splendour of Sevilla is concentrated in the Barrio Santa Cruz on the right bank of the river. The Moors conquered the city in 712 and in the 12th century a mosque was built on the site where the cathedral now stands. When the Christians wrested back the city in 1401 the construction of the cathedral was begun as a statement of confidence and power. It is now the largest Gothic church in the world. For me the most spectaular feature of the cathedral is the Giralda Tower. It was originally the minaret of the mosque and as such probably the oldest building in Sevilla. Something I have seen nowhere else in the world is the 35 ramps up the 320 ft high tower to enable the muezzin to ride his horse up to the top to recite the call to prayer. Today it’s worth that climb, on foot, just for the views.
The Royal Palace and gardens were my first ever sight of mudejar architecture and I could not believe that the Alhambra in Granada would be any more beautiful than this. The delicate shapes and repeat patterns of the Islamic tiles captivated me. The building of this fortified palace began in 913, many of the Moorish features which delight today being added in the 14th century. It is the royal residence of King Juan Carlos whenever he is in Sevilla. The tour of palace and gardens was high on my list of best experiences.
Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold)
Thought to be named for the golden tiles which once adorned its dome, this 12 sided tower is of an age with the Giralda Tower. It was once vital to the protection of the city, heavy chains being connected to the base of the tower and spanning the river to keep out undesirables. Today it is a naval museum. River cruises run from the shady esplanade just beneath the tower.
Plaza de Espana
Built for the World Fair of 1929, the Plaza de Espana is truly spectacular. Striking enough for George Lucas to use as a film set in Star Wars, Attack of the Clones, I was amazed at the scale of the place. The Plaza is a huge semicircle with a high-spraying fountain at its centre. The extravagance of the building is what draws the eye- ornate bridges crossing a canal, Baroque towers and 48 fully tiled benches, each representing a Spanish province. The Paseo de la Palmera is full of remarkable buildings constructed for the Fair but the Plaza de Espana is unmissable. The Maria Luisa Park behind the plaza is a lovely place for strolling and picnics.
Coming slap bang up to date, if ever there was a building to make you stand and stare, then this is it. A few blocks north of the central shopping district in Plaza de Encarnacion, this is one of the largest timber structures in the world. This giant sized waffle shelters a market and bars; restaurants are to follow. What was an archaelogical excavation has become a museum and a ride to the top in the elevator gives the opportunity for a closer look at this innovative space. The creator Jurgen Mayer wanted to create a “cathedral without walls”. In its own way, this rivals Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia.
Nearby the Metropol Parasol, try Simun Vintage, Calle San Felipe 11, for presa on wok-fried noodles or garlicky squid with ink. Tapas too, of course. There are numerous places to sample these in the narrow streets of the Barrio.
Barbania, Albareda 11, serves fish and seafood in a traditional setting. Try the tortillitas de camerones.
Bar Giralda, Mateus Gagos 1, started life as a Moorish bathhouse and is one of Sevillas best known hostelleries.
Bodega Santa Cruz, Justino Neve 2, is an old style bar where the waiter still chalks your bar bill on a blackboard.
Where to stay
Five star Gran Melia Colon, off Plaza de Armas, if you want to “push the boat out”. As well as a beautiful hotel, they have a Michelin starred chef.
Much more modestly, Hotel Amadeus, Calle Farnesio 6, Barrio de Santa Cruz, has an excellent central location, with rooftop terrace for views of the Cathedral. It’s ideal for a sunset drink to watch the lights come on and absorb the atmosphere of this vivid city.
This is part of a trilogy with Cordoba and Granada.
Lanzarote has a very distinctive style of its own. The mostly easterly of seven Canary Islands, it lies 125 km off the coast of North Africa. If I tell you that its original name was derived from “red mountains” you might know what to expect from the landscape. Volcanic like the other islands, Lanzarote has at its core living, breathing “fire mountains”, the Timanfaya National Park.
The result of massive eruptions between 1730 and 1736, the Timanfaya National Park is now completely safe to visit, but is one of those rare places in the world where you can see the power of nature still at work, albeit in a rather touristy fashion. Coach tours will conduct you through the Martian landscape, with a guided commentary explaining how and why the surroundings are as spectacular as they are. The last recorded volcanic activity was in 1824. Nowadays scientific studies monitor the magma and changes to the earths crust. Visitors to the National Park can observe a small amount of water being poured into a hole in the ground, then spurting out as a hot geyser. Dry grass ignites as a result of the 200 degree temperature produced by the magma just a few metres below the surface. More practically the geothermal energy has been harnessed in the restaurant El Diablo to produce tasty grilled chicken. (closes at 3pm)
Tricks they may be but there is no denying the haunting beauty of the place. Lanzarote specialises in the unusual. Where else can you find a subterranean garden with pools formed from lava bubbles? Jameos del Agua is just one of the inspirations of Cesar Manrique, an architect whose genius can to be seen throughout the island. Jameos del Agua is something special- the vivid blue of the lagoons against the dark volcanic rock and the abundant greenery invite you to linger. In the cool depths of the auditorium, tiny white crabs scuttle in a pool. Opening is daily 9.30 till 19.00 and some evenings.
Did I mention that the temperatures here are a year round pleasant 21-29C, making Lanzarote a popular winter destination? Or that there are miles of golden sands as well as the dark volcanic variety? The resorts are varied. A long level seafront walk down at the islands southern tip, Playa Blanca, makes for relaxed evening strolling, with no shortage of bars and restaurants to chose from. H10 Timanfaya Palace hotel is beautifully positioned. Costa Teguise, on the east coast is centrally located for all the islands attractions and just 20 minutes from the airport. Luxury hotels such as the Beatriz with its unique spa complex can be found there, and sometimes a cooling wind. The liveliest resort is Puerto del Carmen.
Where else to go on the island? Teguise itself was Lanzarote’s historic capital until 1852 and is the venue for a popular Sunday morning market. The Castillo Santa Barbara was built in the 16th century as a lookout against pirates, and contained a secret passage directly to the Palaccio de Marques as an escape route for the town dwellers. Nowadays it houses a museum following the history of emigration on the islands, from where there’s a fine view.
Still exploring, you might like to visit El Golfo on the west coast and the green lagoon, starkly contrasting against the dark rock. You can park outside the Siroco restaurant in the village if you don’t mind a bit of a steep walk, or drive there directly. The lagoon is coloured by algae and a green mineral, Olivine, and you can buy rocks containing this in the village.
The low lying whitewashed buildings in Lanzarote enhance the arid scenery. The village of Haria is remarkable for its valley of palms, and exclusively on Lanzarote, vines are protected from the landscape in nests of stones called zocos. Locally produced Malvasia wine is the most popular.
More of Cesar Manrique? If you are interested in this unique style of architecture you should visit the Cesar Manrique Foundation, the architect’s former home at Taro de Tahiche. From the outside it looks traditional in style but the lower house is constructed from 5 volcanic bubbles- it’s a place I would love to live. The Jardin de Cactus was Manrique’s last completed work on the island. A restored windmill in a former quarry of volcanic ash looks down on a sea of cacti. I’m not normally crazy for cactus but I was impressed.
One last place I want to mention on the island, again with a Manrique design. At the northern end of the island the Mirador de Graciosa is just that- a lookout point across to the tiny island of Graciosa. It’s just a coffee stop, unless you want to cross over to the island, achieved by a 35 minute ferry crossing from Orzola. With a population of just 700, the island has no paved streets and bike hire is the accepted method of transport. If you are on a round trip of the island you might be interested in the Cueva de los Verdes, also in the north, 2 km of caves through volcanic rock. Illuminated for tours, they are open from 10.00 till 18.00.
If you would like the opportunity to visit another of the Canary Islands during your stay, it’s very easy to sail to Fuerteventura for the day. Boats leave daily from Playa Blanca for Corralejo and the journey can be spent scanning the water for dolphins. The return journey across a pearl pink sea as the sun sets is a lovely memory. If you would just like to get out on the water for a little while, there are plenty of choices. Catamarrans will take you dolpin and whale watching, or off the stunning beach at Papagayo for swimming and lunch. Then there are banana boats, windsurfing and kayaks for the more adventurous.
So, I think I’ve answered my question- why choose Lanzarote? It certainly works for me. You might also be interested in Tenerife, another of the Canary Islands where you can visit the summit of a volcano by cable car. http://www.travelwkly.com/2011/12/top-spots-to-see-in-tenerife/
Albeit small by most standards, the island of Tenerife is the largest one of the seven Canaries, and is definitely not a place to get bored in. It is home to one of the world’s most famous and largest festivals, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, currently set to be accepted among World Heritage Sites. The carnival is certainly not the only thing one must see, do and experience on the island, though. Natural beauty abounds, clubs and nightlife opportunities are plentiful and diverse, while social history is also well represented. To boot, this tourists’ paradise is well served by the transport network, with not one but two international airports and many flights to Tenerife coming in from all over the world. So what is there to see on this 785 square mile stretch of land? Oh, but what isn’t…?
Shop Till You Drop in Santa Cruz
Small, but always busy is the best way to describe the capital of Tenerife. This city never seems to sleep—on the one hand thanks to its rich and bustling nightlife, and on the other, because of its dynamic shipping port, one of Spain’s busiest and the world’s deepest. The must-see landmark in Santa Cruz is the futuristic auditorium in the Plaza de Espana, but there are also many landscaped area, where the sleek modern style of architecture prevails to create a sense of aesthetic order and calm. If shopping tickles your fancy, then you’ll love Santa Cruz. Just head on out from the Plaza de Espana, take a walk to the seafront, reach Plaza de Candelaria, and then check your wallet or credit cards. There are so many shops, stores and boutiques crowded in this area that you’ll find it excruciatingly hard to resist the bargains and deals.
Icod de los Vinos
Founded early on in the sixteenth century, the town still displays the magnificent historic style of architecture in its numerous seigniorial houses, palaces, churches and convents. Initially, the settlement was the hub of one of Tenerife’s nine menceyatos or kingdoms, ruled by King Icoden. It draws its name from him, as well as from the wine-making tradition of the area. There are many wonderful and unusual sights around Icod de los Vinos, not the least of which being a supposedly millennial Dragon Tree, a butterfly farm and the Church of San Marcos. The place of worship, whose full name is the Church of San Marcos Evangelista, is located in the Plaza Lorenzo de Caceres. As you walk into the church, you will be taken aback by how much it resembles an ecclesiastic museum, filled with sculptures, painting and a collection of artisans’ items in precious metals. The most valuable artifact in the collection is the super Filigree Cross, the work of Jeronimo de Espellosa, created between 1663 and 1665 in Havana, Cuba.
Parque las Aguilas in Chayofa
Also known as Eagle Park or Jungle Park, this wonderful zoo and botanical gardens features no fewer than five hundred birds and animals, peacefully coexisting on an equal number of acres of jungle. There are tons of fun activities offered on location, out of which we definitely recommend the Jungle Raid—an exciting, though somewhat strenuous walk. The tour will take you across suspension bridges, waterfalls, lagoons and caves, and there’s even a jungle toboggan, that will have you slide down among lush vegetation. Get up-close and personal with the exotic birds and the birds of prey in any of the many shows and make sure you experience the ultra-fun Aquapark. This all-inclusive experience will most likely leave you tired at the end of the day, but is well worth it overall.
If you’re a student then no doubt money can be a huge concern. Typically you will want to find the cheapest student travel insurance. Usually the best way to do this is to get online and shop around, regardless of your destination.