Holidays in Spain – What makes Spain a perfect holiday destination?
Spain is the preferred holiday destination to millions of visitors annually, but why is Spain such a popular holiday hotspot.
People enjoy holidays in Spain for many reasons, the main ones being the enviable climate, the amazing beaches, the vibrant nightlife, theme parks and of course the guaranteed sunshine.
Spain also attracts visitors looking to enjoy sports activities such as golf plus there are plenty of historic sites, cultural activities, magnificent festivals, fiestas and carnival to enjoy.
Then you have the availability of a vast selection of quality resorts, hotels, hostels and alternative accommodation to choose from.
So it's easy to see why Spain really is the perfect destination.
When it comes to holidays in Spain, the country really does offer something for everyone.
Whether you are an adventurous spirit, a veritable gourmet, passionate about art, architecture, you will surely find a holiday destination in Spain that suits your needs.
As far as accommodation goes Spain offers a vast array of options from super 5-star luxury hotels, romantic holiday hotspots to budget-friendly hostels.
There are so many attractions in Spain to explore that it's obvious that since the holiday boom started back in the 60's the country really has amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to tourism.
Top attractions and destinations in Spain
Another benefit of taking holidays in Spain is you are able to enjoy the centuries-old Spanish fiestas, carnivals and festivals.
Not forgetting those vibrant nights in Ibiza, the Moorish and Roman art and architecture or the famous masterpieces created by Picasso and Juan Miro.
Madrid impresses with a spectacular and hectic pace of life, always full of travelers eager to discover the wonders of the city. Here, you can visit the world-renowned Prado Art Museum, see a Flamenco show or stroll around the bohemian Malasana district or immerse yourself in the vibrant nightlife around the Gran Via neighbourhood as well as the impressive Royal Palace.
Barcelona is undoubtedly the most popular visited city in Spain and for good reason. It impresses with its culture, history, architecture and its wonderfully colourful diversity.
Granada in Andalucia is one city you must visit, this historic city is home to the stunning Alhambra Palace, one of the most visited attractions in Spain.
Granada is famous for its countless flamenco artists, the vibrant Albaicin district, and the Sierra Nevada mountains with its popular ski and winter sports resort.
Lying on the coast of the Bay of Biscay in Northern Spain is the charming city of San Sebastian, surrounded by green hills, a lively beachfront, amazing food and delightful architecture.
Gastronomy is high on the agenda in San Sebastian which boasts the highest number of Michelin starred restaurants per capita in one city, not to mention those amazing tapas bars that will both entertain and quench your appetite for those tasty little food plates.
Fabulous charming architecture and many plazas and parks dotted throughout the city adds to its well-deserved label as the “pearl” of the North of Spain.
Santiago de Compostela is a truly impressive historic city in the region of Galicia, north-west Spain. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage this is another must-visit city with its stunning cathedral, small cosy streets and charming plazas.
Located between Madrid and Valencia, Cuenca is a magnificent example of a medieval town built in the mountains, see the “hanging houses” built into the rock face, making Cuenca one of the most fascinating cities in Spain, a gem of the Castilla La Mancha province.
In Bilbao, located in northern Spain by the River Nervion you’ll discover the Guggenheim Museum, one of the most important museums in Spain. Bilbao is also famous for its pintxos (small tapas plates) cultural attractions and friendly people. In a permanent state of modernization, recent additions include a new metro system.
Ibiza is one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, located off the coast of Spain. The island is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, especially when we think of entertainment and frenetic nightlife.
Seville is the capital of Andalusia and an incredibly vibrant city to visit when in Spain. Spaniards love to have fun, so every Spanish city has fiestas. If you’re lucky enough to be in town during a fiesta, prepare to capture the true spirit of the Spaniards, who know how to do the show!
Nature and landscapes
Spain offers so much for people looking for nature holidays in Spain. The country has a large number of natural parks and mountainous regions making it a perfect destination for nature lovers, the top natural parks include:
- Ordesa National Park
- Monte Perdido National Park
- Sierra de Guara National Park (Pyrenees Mountains)
- Ciudad Encantada (a geological site near Cuenca)
- Altamira Caves
- The Guadalquivir River Valley Andalucia
- Timanfaya Park Lanzarote
- Mount Teide National Park
- Donana National Park
- The Picos de Europa
- Sierra Nevada National Park
Winter holidays in Spain are as popular as ever. Granada in the south or the northern mountain regions of the Pyrenees, Catalonia and Cantabria offers a number of ski and winter sports resorts.
If you're into windsurfing then Tarifa on the Costa de la Luz is the place for you, recognized as the wind capital of Spain and home to the world windsurfing championships.
Beaches are one of Spain's best assets and there are hundreds to choose from. The pick of them can be found on the Balearic Islands, the Costa del Sol, Almeria, Murcia, Catalonia Galicia, Asturias and San Sebastian
Golf is a popular sports activity in Spain, with over 400 championship courses on offer, the top golf holiday destinations include the Costa del Sol, Murcia, Almeria, Catalonia and Tenerife.
You will never be far away from a fiesta, carnival or festival in Spain, they are everywhere, from large to small and celebrated all year round.
- January 6th ”Dia de Los Reyes” Kings Day when children receive their gifts
- 15 to 19 March: “Fallas de Valencia”. The Valencia fire festival in March each year.
- June 29: “Fiestas de Haro” (the celebration day of San Pedro is celebrated in Bilbao risk a wine fight.
- July: San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona (running the bulls by the brave ones on the streets of Pamplona or vice versa.
- August, the second Friday of the month. “Fiesta de Verano” in Malaga – colourful costumes and dancers parading in the streets.
» See our complete guide to Spanish festivals.
Flamenco, where energy meets passion
It is said that the most beautiful Flamenco spectacles you’ll find in Andalucia, especially at weddings celebrations or one of the many festivals and fiestas held in Andalucia and around Spain each year.
The unique music and dance is full of passion and intensity and truly identifies the people of Spain on so many levels, holidays in Spain would not be complete without seeing the art of flamenco dancing.
Gastronomy in Spain – a way of life
Holidays in Spain would not be the same without trying out a full range of Spanish gastronomy which consists of a great variety of recipes containing different ingredients, always fresh and the best quality.
The Spanish culinary tradition focuses on the natural. fresh and healthy where garlic, extra virgin olive oil, olives, tasty cheese, chorizo sausage, fresh fish and seafood are the mainstay of many recipes, including garlic soups, paellas, grilled meats and tapas.
In terms of drinks, the Spaniards begin their mornings with coffee, but the afternoon is sprinkled with a cold beer, wine and sangria, a punch made of red wine and flavoured fruits, which is found everywhere in Spain.
Eco-Friendly Holidays in Spain
Spain is a perfect destination if you are looking to enjoy ecotourism which allows you to make the most of everyday comforts whilst respecting nature and the environment?
There are plenty of eco-friendly places to stay in Spain, destinations which try hard to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly, all of which is positive for ecotourism in Spain which can only be good for future generations.
From glamping to luxury villas, each destination is leading the way in recycling, efficient use of energy and ecological cleaners and finding new ways to reduce CO2 emissions.
All this whilst still offering holidays in comfy surroundings set amongst stunning nature parks and areas of outstanding beauty, what is there not to like!
Golf in Spain
Spain has become one of the top golfing destinations in Europe and is home to over 400 quality golf courses. The PGA Cataluyna and the impressive Valderrama Golf Club have regularly been voted the best golf courses in Europe.
The undisputed king of golfing destinations in Spain is the Costa del Sol or the Costa del Golf as it is often referred to. A true golfing paradise with around 60 championship golf courses on offer including Valderrama Golf, San Roque Club, La Reserva Golf and the Royal Sotogrande Golf Club.
Valderrama Golf Club was for a number of years home to the Volvo Masters and who can forget the 1997 Ryder Cup where the triumphant Europeans retook the Ryder Cup, it was all the more memorable as the Ryder Captain was the late great Seve Ballesteros.
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How to enjoy cheap holidays in Spain!
Although there is usually lots of great holidays deals to be found by searching the internet there are ways you can enjoy budget busting holidays in Spain;
Travel in low season for a cheap holidays to Spain
Travelling in the low season will normally always help you find a cheap holiday in Spain. Generally you find both low cost air fairs and cheaper accommodation, the climate is extremely pleasant and you will avoid the stifling heat. Especially in southern Spain, during summer, temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius.
Choose a low-cost budget flight operator and spend time on searching around. You can save anything up to 80% on flights if you do intelligent searches. Sometimes buying flights well in advance can save a small fortune and a sure-fire way to benefit from cheap holidays to Spain.
Make sure you pay special attention when booking to the extra fees charged by low-cost companies, especially those for luggage! Keep an eye on the extras the airlines want to charge you to ensure a cheap holiday in Spain.
Use public transport when possible
The most economical ways to get around in Spain is by bus, metro, local buses and long-distance bus routes. The major Spanish cities now offer a very good underground system where you can buy daily and weekly passes, they include Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville.
A Metro pass costs around £20 for a 5 day pass, for that you get unlimited travel on the metro, suburban train and bus lines as well as access to the airport metro stations. An unlimited one-day travel pass in Barcelona costs around £5.50 per day with discounts for weekly and 30-day travel.
Long-distance bus routes offer a great way to travel distance sand explore the country if you are a tight budget. We found a bus connection from Madrid to Barcelona in October for just £6 one way on the BusBud website, the departure time was a comfy 2 pm as well.
Low budget accommodation
Differences between accommodation charges can be enormous! But one thing is for sure, Spain offers an enormous amount of accommodation possibilities from super luxury to quality low budget hostels and guest houses so it pays to search around for those special deals which are always available, especially in the low season.
For example, Barcelona is beating all records of the prices of the accommodation unless you have friends where you can spend the night or if you are not very picky, you can choose a hostel, where you find a private room hostel from £6 ( 9 Euros ) / night.
A cheap hotel deal doesn't mean your booking a low-grade undesirable one, remember that hotel rates are not fixed as such and therefore there are massive savings to be had of you book it right.
Use a good hotel search comparison site, these types of sites will search hundreds of hotels and travel agents in one go to find the best deals. Try as many different permutations as you can and if you are flexible on your travel dates there are plenty of last-minute holidays on offer.
Make sure there are no hidden extras and taxes to pay that will increase the final price. Before booking look on the actual hotel website to make sure they do not offer a cheap rate of a special offer if you book directly with them. And finally, it is always a good idea to check the hotel reviews on TrypAdvisor.
Other accommodation options worth taken into account are (pensiones) and (fondas) = guest houses, usually family-run establishments with a limited number of rooms.
Eating on the cheap
Eating cheaply does not mean eating poorly, it means eating what is best, buy from places that sell at the best price too.
Buy food at local markets, supermarkets for quality and diversity, you can easily find delicacies as seafood, fresh fruits, cured ham, delicious sweets and more if you explore your food shopping options. Recognises low-cost supermarkets are available in almost every town across Spain including Aldi, Lidl and Carrefour
Dining out doesnt have ti break the bank either, there are plenty of smaller establishments offering the famous menu of the day ( Menu del Dia ) which often is around 8 to 10 Euros per person, with three dishes included.
There is plenty of choices when it comes to eating out so search for those hidden places where the locals eat, some of the cheapest bars and restaurants can be found in the back streets of popular towns and cities or off the beaten track if the eatery is full of locals it is usually a good sign that you will enjoy good food at the right price.
Choose cheap or free attractions
No need to tick all the sights listed in travel guides as there are so many beautiful places that are free to enter such as many of the national parks. Sometimes the top attractions, particularly museums, have days or hours when access is free: for example, at the Escorial Monastery near Madrid, every Wednesday, EU citizens can enter for free, while the access to Mosque of Cordoba is free daily, between 8.30 am – 9:30 am. Check the website of each attraction to be up to date.
Apply for EHIC: European Health Insurance Card
It is an ideal option especially if you travel a lot, so somehow you expose yourself to accidents or incidents which unfortunately can occur. It can be done for free and gives you access to free medical treatment or reduced costs in any country belonging to the EU. You can apply on for the European Health Insurance Card online for free.
Don't panic when you arrive at the airport, generally, the exchange rates are the worst anywhere, be careful where you exchange money, always ask the exchange rate, any charges and the exact amount you will receive, whether you go to the bank or money exchange. Normally banks will charge a higher commission whereas the smaller exchange bureau's will offer the best commission-free rates.
Low-cost travel insurance
It’s better to be insured so it is definitely advisable to take out travel insurance which will include theft cover, medical care, public liability and unforeseen holiday cancellation, and for around £10 each per holiday its well worth it.
If you have not tried you should do it! First, you are in direct contact with nature; you have all the conditions of home and secondly, you pay much less than a hotel. Camping in Spain is great fun so whether you choose to camp in the heat of the Costas or a cooler version in Pyrenees Mountains, you will have hundreds of options to choose from.
All inclusive vs self-catering - that great holiday dilemma
The ideal holiday is a matter of preference. Some dream about all-inclusive holidays, where they can sip cocktails by the poolside and wonder about the dinner menu, without a worry in the world.
Others want a private villa with a kitchen and room for creativity, where they can buy local produce and put their own spin on the Spanish cuisine.
Both all inclusive holidays and self-catering accommodation have their pros and cons, and below is a comprehensive guide on what to expect from each type of holiday. So which is for you – all inclusive vs self catering.
All Inclusive – The Dreamland Where A Wristband Can Pay For Anything
All inclusive holidays are the ultimate vacation when it comes to letting go of worries and having a good time.
The Spanish resorts give out bracelets to all their all-inclusive guests, which covers everything: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks. Since all of this is paid upfront, it means that there is no need for budgeting and planning – the hotel takes care of everything.
The Tenerife and Majorca resorts are known to offer some of the best all-inclusive deals, with great food, plenty of Sangria and rejuvenating sunshine.
All Inclusive vs Self Catering
Benefits Of An All Inclusive Holiday:
- Ultimate relaxation (no cooking, cleaning, budgeting, planning)
- Cost-effective (cheaper than eating out in restaurants)
- Great food and drinks (if there is a place where buffet food tastes like restaurant meals, that is Spain)
- Ultimate holiday feel (ordering foods and drink by showing a wristband will feel nothing like home)
Downside of An All Inclusive Holiday:
- Higher initial cost – although overall it’s likely to be cheaper, the initial booking payment will be higher
- Restrictive – hotels tend to have strict hours for mealtime
- Buffet food – usually lower quality than restaurant meals, but almost never the case in Spain
- Not inclusive of all drinks – usually only local brands are included and the rest are available at an extra charge
- Restricts all meals and drinks to the hotel – making holidaymakers less likely to explore local bars and restaurants
All-inclusive holidays in Span’s hot spots, such as Majorca, Tenerife, Costa del Sol or Lanzarote offer an unforgettable experience. From the tasty food to the resort entertainment, which usually involves tap dancing and flamenco, guests are getting amazing value for money and a worry-free holiday.
Self-Catering Holidays – The Taste Of A Spanish Home
Self-catering holidays give the ultimate taste of a Spanish home. The accommodation offers facilities to cook food in spacious environments such as studios, apartments and villas.
This is ideal for couples and families who want to spend time together, cook, and enjoy a comfortable and private environment, whilst on holiday.
The best Spanish resorts, found in Lanzarote, Majorca, Costa del Sol or Tenerife, offer self-catered accommodation and access to all the hotel facilities such as swimming pools, game rooms, night entertainment, restaurants and bars and even small shops on-site. This means that holidaymakers can choose between cooking meals at home and enjoying a hospitable dinner at the hotel restaurant. It’s like an all-inclusive experience, with a choice of when to have the food and drinks, and when to stay in. Unfortunately there won’t be a magic wristband with the self-catered accommodation.
Benefits Of A Self-Catered Holiday
- Cheaper to book – and ability to set a different budget to spend in Spain
- Cost-effective holiday – since holidaymakers can easily mix cooking at home with eating out)
- Great for longer holidays – as the self-catered accommodation gives the experience of a home abroad
- More spacious than a hotel room – with a good choice of studios, apartments and villas
- Encourages the guests to go out and explore local bars and restaurants outside the resort, or buy produce from the local markets
- Holidaymakers can set their own vacation timetable and not worry about meal times at the hotel
- Great choice for guests with special dietary requirements
Downside of A Self-Catered Holiday
- Having to cook and clean, which will make everyone feel less like on a vacation
- Responsibility to budget and plan for eating and drinking
- Risk to overspend at the supermarkets on food that needs to be thrown away at the end of the stay, especially if the holiday is too short
- Depending on the hotel, room service might be limited to once a week, as opposed to once a day in the hotel rooms – this could make cleaning a chore during the holiday.
What Is The Best Choice – All Inclusive Or Self Catered?
There are certainly pros and cons to each type of holiday. All-inclusive holidays are the ultimate worry-free experience, and with the incredible holiday prices in Spain, they are also very affordable.
Sometimes all-inclusive are associated with cheap buffet food and limited selection of drinks. However, that is never the case with the best Spanish resorts, found in the dreamy locations of Tenerife, Costa del Sol, Majorca and Lanzarote. There the sun shines brighter, the beaches are cleaner and the chefs are talented.
When it comes to food, the fresh Mediterranean produce stands out even in buffet dishes, and from the seafood selection to the local delicacies such as paellas, churros with chocolate, or the sought-after sangria, they all come all-inclusive.
However, the self-catering holidays are equally attractive in Spain. Since eating out is affordable and the groceries are incredibly cheap, this is the ideal choice for a Spanish food and drinks extravaganza on a budget. A local bottle of wine, of exquisite flavour, can cost as cheap as 1 euro (from the local supermarket, which will often be Mercadona or Carrefour). Food is very cheap both in supermarkets and local bars and restaurants.
For all inclusive holidays, the budget is already set from the moment of booking, which gives holidaymakers full control over their expenditures. With self-catered accommodation, the booking cost is low, but the vacation budget can vary. Even with the promising Spanish prices, eating out every day and shopping for groceries can add up.
Undoubtedly, both holiday options offer a fun, relaxing and attractive experience, whether holidaymakers spend their days at the hotel lavishing in an all-inclusive experience, or in a villa sunbathing in their private balcony, with some homemade tapas. Also, the warm (rather hot in summer) Spanish sun, clean and lively beaches and delicious Mediterranean cuisine will be there to make the experience amazing, no matter the choice of holiday package.
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