There are so many great walking areas on the Spanish mainland and islands that it can be difficult to know where to start looking for a walking holiday. In this article we look at Las Marinas in Alicante province, one of Spain’s undiscovered gems, and some of the things you may like to consider before parting with your hard earned cash and booking that well deserved break in the sunshine.
With an ideal climate for autumn, winter and spring walking holidays the area lies inland from the well-known Costa Blanca tourist destinations such as Benidorm, Calpe and Denia. The geography is made up of a series of limestone sierras with typical karst and moorland landscapes separated by farmed valleys dotted with whitewashed villages that date back to the Moorish occupation of Spain. With a traditional Mediterranean agriculture and exceptional biodiversity the area has a variety of landscapes within a small geographical area
Everybody wants to be sure of having a relaxing and memorable holiday, whether it’s to switch off from the routine, experience another corner of the world or meet people from a different culture. Whatever the reason, choosing the right walking holiday in the first place guarantees you will get the most from your time and resources and have the holiday you need. So what are the factors you should consider?
If you are used to walking in the United Kingdom you may consider going independent… find a place to stay, buy a local map, get leaflets from tourist information offices or buy one of the many guidebooks available in the UK.
However, if your time is precious then this could be a risky way of booking your walking holiday: firstly do not assume that way marking and signposting in Spain are done to UK standards, because they are not. Secondly, map coverage is patchy; maps are not up to the standard of British Ordnance Survey maps and are often out of date or inaccurate. Thirdly, public transport into the interior is almost inexistent so you will have to hire a car to get to the walks.
Once a week I walk a new route somewhere in the Las Marinas mountains, I have been doing so for years and despite speaking the language perfectly and knowing the area well I almost always get lost, misplaced, or have doubts about the direction at some point along the way. I live here so it’s a minor inconvenience for me, but do you really want to spend a week struggling with the quirks of the local signposting?
Another factor to take into account is that little used footpaths in Spain will eventually become overgrown with brambles and undergrowth, at least one of the routes published by a well known UK guide along the nearby Sacos River is now completely impassable, some eight years after appearing in print. So beware of out of date guidebooks, they can ruin your holiday too!
So if going independent is a bit uncertain, what other alternatives are there? Firstly, you need to decide whether you want guided or self guided walking and whether you are looking for a walking tour, a walking holiday or a trekking holiday, either way you will need the help of a local walking company who can provide you with up to date information, directions and maps and well as accommodation and meals if required.
So which is the best suited to you, guided or self-guided? For me the answer is quite straightforward, if you feel unsure about being able to navigate on a self-guided walking holiday or you want to know about the countryside, way of life and culture of the area or you want to walk in the company of others, then choose a guided walking holiday. Guided walking gives you the security, confidence and company you need to get the most from your holiday but you also have to be prepared to walk at the pace of the slowest member of the group and an inflexible itinerary.
If you are confident about doing your own navigating then self-guided walking and trekking options include village centred, walking tours or treks.
1. Village centred, a series of walks around the village where you are staying. A good example of this is the Hidden Spain walking holiday based in the picturesque village of Tàrbena in the Las Marinas mountains. This option gives you greater flexibility over your walking itinerary, lets you set the pace and choose where and when to take reat stops.
2. Walking tours, where you walk up to 100 kilometres over six or seven days at a leisurely pace from village to village, usually with your baggage being transferred for you. See the Moorish Villages tour through the Guadalest and Pop Valleys. You set the pace and choose where and when you take rest stops.
3. Trekking, where you walk between 15 and 25 km from village to village usually with your baggage being transferred for you. More challenging than walking tours treks have become increasingly popular, such as the Mallorcan Way trek. Again, you set the pace and choose where and when you take rest stops.
Navigating is done either with maps and route descriptions provided by a local walking company or with a handheld GPS device or Smartphone. These have the advantage of having been tested and regularly updated by previous walkers so nasty surprises are most unlikely.
Whichever option you choose each provides an excellent way to enjoy the Spanish countryside, get some sunshine and have a truly relaxing walking holiday without having to worry about your accommodation, speaking the language or getting lost and stressed out. Choosing a reputable and experienced walking company is the safest way to ensure a memorable walking holiday.