Get lost in Spain

We take you on a whirlwind trip across Spain's hidden treasures and hedonistic preserves. Come undone.

Chris Haslam        Print Edition: April 17, 2011

Spain's vintage charm blends seamlessly with its cutting-edge cool attractions making the country a sensory delight. Hop, skip and jump through the most exciting Spanish adventures- from the Rioja road trip to full-on flamenco, via the romantic hideways of Mallorcan citadel, just after some serious sun-soaking at the beaches of Costa Brava-as we reveal the must-see's and must-do's for every kind of traveller.

Sleep off the Seafood
The Galician fishing port of Vigo has always been home to Europe's best seafood-pop into any restaurant on the Rua Pescaderia, order a bottle of albariño and eat whatever they tell you to-but the accommodation has traditionally been a bit ropey. That has changed with the opening of the swish Gran Hotel Nagari, a five-star boutique and spa with plasma screens, Bulgari shampoo, hydromassage baths and a rooftop spa with views of the fishermen sailing home with your lobsters.
Rooms for two start at �119 (Rs 8,740).
Tel: 00 34 986 211111; www.granhotelnagari.com.

Santa Susanna beach Costa Brava
Santa Susanna beach Costa Brava
Nowhere on earth does design hotels like Spain, and nowhere in Spain does them better than Barcelona-which, like the A-lister it is, has a reputation for uber-cool to maintain. Hipness for the hard-up is at Hotel Denit (Doubles from �99 (Rs 7,262); www.denit.com), just off Placa Catalunya, which offers budget minimalism, with iPod docks and plasma screens. Or else, try Hotel Omm on Pasceo de Gracia in the Eixample, which combines coolness and design with a self-mocking sense of humour.
Doubles start from �172 (Rs 12,617).
Tel: 0034 934 454000; www.hotelomm.es

Celtic Countryside
Imagine Scotland, but sunny and with good food. That's Asturias, in the green north of Spain. For Asturians, who were never conquered by the Moors, their Celtic stronghold is the only true Spain-the rest is just terra reconquista. Your base for exploring the region is the Old School House, in Espinaredo-a three-bedroom stone cottage equipped with outdoor games and a stream running through the huge garden. The beach break at Rodiles is 50 minutes away, as is the delightful old town of Oviedo.
It's yours from �408 (Rs 29,960) onwards for a week.

Beach in Fornells
Beach in Fornells
Bookings can be made through www.-holidaylettings.co.uk. Better Brava The Costa Brava-and especially the stretch of the Baix Emporda between Palafrugell and Sa Punta-is the prettiest stretch of Spanish coastline, protected from development by its relative inaccessibility. Those in the know have been coming here for years, staying at the Hotel Aiguablava in Fornells (Tel: 00 34 972 622058; www.aiguablava.com). It's an oldfashioned, family-owned, familyfriendly sort of place that sprawls down to its own beach. Some regulars came as kids and now bring their grandchildren; I'm afraid their secret is out. A week in an apartment sleeping four costs �1,864 (Rs 1.3 lakh).
Mallorcan Citadel
Banana boats
Banana boats
Hidden away in a nature reserve on the south side of the Bay of Palma is the old fort of Cap Rocat, a crenellated redoubt with commanding views over the approaches to the capital. Once a bastion of militarism, it has just opened as an achingly romantic hideaway, with boutique suites housed in former magazines and a stunning infinity pool built into the fortress walls. A four-night romance package compete with champagne, dinner on the beach and his 'n' hers massages, costs �1,302 (Rs 95,507) for the two of you, booked direct with the hotel (Tel: 00 34 971 747878, www.caprocat.com).

On Top of the World
In the hilltop pueblo blanco of Gaucin, in Andalusia, Jesus (not that one) and Luis have turned the century-old guesthouse La Fructuosa (Tel: 00 34 617 692784, www.lafructuosa.com) into quite possibly Europe's most romantic small hotel. The five rooms and a gorgeous terrace offer views over three countries, two continents and two seas, and in early summer the air is rich with the scent of jasmine. There's not an awful lot to do in Gaucin-a ruined castle, the River Genal and a couple of decent bars- but you'll think of something. Doubles start at �75 (Rs 5,500).

The Finest Arts
Cap Rocat
Cap Rocat
Goya, Zurbaran, Ribera, Murillo, El Greco, Miro, Picasso and Dali. The Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Lazaro Galdiano Museum. The church of San Antonio de la Florida, with its frescoes and canvases by Goya, the Sorolla Museum and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, home to Picasso's Guernica, then a return trip to El Prado. All in a five-day trip to Madrid led by the art historian Gijs van Hensbergen. Somehow, you get an afternoon off-you may like to visit a gallery. The price is �1,469pp (Rs 1.07 lakh) including flights, with Martin Randall Travel (Tel: 00 44 20 87423355, www.martinrandall.com).

Travelling in Spain

Several airlines fly direct to Spain from India, landing in Madrid or Barcelona. These include British Airways, Lufthansa and Airfrance among others.

Getting around:
.. By Road: Madrid's Avenida de América and Estación del Sur bus stations, and Barcelona's Sants and Paseo de Gracia bus stations are well-connected with the rest of the provinces. These stations also offer airport connection service

.. By Sea: Ferries run regularly to mainland Spain from the Canary Islands, and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Most services are run by the Spanish national ferry company, Acciona Trasmediterránea (www.trasmediterranea.es)

.. By Train: The Spanish National Railway Network (RENFE) connects all the provincial capitals with Madrid, with high speed trains.

.. For bookings and more information on traveling in and around Spain, log on to www.spain.info
Rioja Road Trip
Consider a seven-day, self-drive itinerary combining a sybaritic exploration of San Sebastian-the gastronomic heart of Spain-with a bacchanalian stumble through the vineyards of La Rioja.

Bit more garlic
Monfrague National Park
Monfrague National Park
Learn to cook cocina Andaluza at Annie B's Spanish Kitchen, in the dazzling pueblo blanco of Vejer de la Frontera, south of Cadiz. Using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, you'll be taught how to prepare dishes such as fennel and lemon-roasted pork, fish baked in salt, and orange and almond cakes, as well as the perfect paella. Outside the kitchen, you'll enjoy a gourmet tapas tour, a trip to the fish market in Cadiz and a visit to a local deli, to sample regional cheeses, meats and olive oils. Staying at La Casa de Califa hotel (booked direct: Tel: 00 34 956 447 730; www.la-casadelcalifa.com), in Vejer, costs �885 (Rs 64,918) per person, with B&B, four days of learning and three days of loafing.

Lush lawns of Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
Lush lawns of Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
The Gredos on Four Legs Northeast of Extremadura and the Monfrague National Park, west of Madrid, lies the Sierra de Gredos, a range of glittering granite peaks that are home to the Spanish ibex and more than 100 bird species, including the imperial eagle, the black vulture and the rare citril finch. Aimed at experienced riders, this week-long adventure explores the valleys of the Tormes, Corneja, Alberche and Tietar rivers from the back of an Andalusian Arab cross. Hard days in the saddle are mitigated by picnic lunches and nights in country hotels. Prices start at �1,514pp (Rs 1.11 lakh).

Puerto de Vigo
Puerto de Vigo
Get Lost in Teruel The most remote bit of the extremely remote region of Bajo Aragon is Teruel, a staggeringly beautiful province so rarely visited that locals display plaintive bumper stickers declaring: "Teruel existe!" Here, with good directions, you'll find La Torre del Visco, a luxury hotel said, unsurprisingly, to be the most remote in the country. Run by an English couple, Piers Dutton and Jemma Markham, it's bordered by the Tastavins River and overlooked by the peaks of the Ports de Beceite. The building is a medieval labyrinth of quiet corridors, roaring fireplaces and nooks in which to hide yourself away, although there's no need- Nobody is coming to find you. Doubles from �175 (Rs 12,837).

Half-moon from Heaven The perfect cove at Tamariu, on the Costa Brava, 80 miles up the coast from Barcelona, is a curve of pale golden sand lapped by impossibly blue water and fronted by a delightful parade of glamorous fish restaurants. Adventurous kids love the rock-jumping potential, as well as boat trips and snorkelling. Adventurous adults will enjoy the wide selection of Catalan rosés on the wine lists. Stay at the fourbedroom Casa Mar, a five-minute drive from the beach; prices start at �993 (Rs 72,841) a week.
Courtesy:The Sunday Times

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