Spain is one of the most sought-after destinations for hikers and campers in Europe. What is more, according to Statista, more than nine million tourists visited Spain in 2016 alone, many of whom came to hike. Not only does the country have great weather all year round, but the diverse landscape and abundance of flora and fauna, make it a true paradise. Spain also has some unique animals and birds like the Iberian wolf and Spanish ibex which you won’t see anywhere else in the whole continent. Whether it’s long distance excursions you’re after or urban paths, Spain has got it all. The 1500 kilometers of green ways in the Iberian Peninsula will take your breath away.
If camping is what you’re looking for then you’ll enjoy the playful colors of the mountains, in Sierra Nevada where the night skies are full of bright stars and the solitude makes you feel you’re alone in the universe. Also wild camping is allowed in the mountains where you could make use of many well-equipped campsites.
Hikers – Where to go
Wherever you go in Spain hikers are never short of trails and campsites. But we’ll break it down into three types. If you’re a “rich and green colours of nature” lover then the northern part of Spain is the place to go. The landscapes are diverse and stunning. You could start with the famous pilgrim’s way connecting Le Puy in France with Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. It’s a long hike that covers eight Spanish regions rich with culture and scenery. Also in the north you wouldn’t want to miss the beautiful Basque mountains and the Cantabrian Cordillera.
In central and Southern Spain you have lots of places to choose from. Andalucia offers great hiking and camping areas, including the Coto de Doñana near Cadiz, Europe’s largest nature reserve. Spain has nine national parks, four of which are in the Canary Islands (just off the coast of North Africa); so it seems wherever you go, you’ll find a path to hike.
The Mediterranean coastline offers its own hiking experience. Places to visit there include Murcia and Valencia. Each has its unique character and style. And while you’re there don’t forget to trek down the Augusta Way, a remnant of the Roman Empire.
Hikers – How to prepare
Adequate clothing is mandatory. During the winter it gets cold so you want to be prepared with a compact and warm blanket that protects you from the damp grass. For the rain you need waterproof hiking boots and a raincoat. Also don’t forget to take breaks every now and then to avoid exhaustion. Spain’s climate is great for hiking all year round but you would want to avoid hiking at noon on hot days. Do not understimate the weather. If you are heading off the beaten track in the Canary Islands for example, be sure to bring plenty of water and tell someone where you are going. The terrain is extreme and responsible for the deaths of even experienced hikers in the past. Going up into the mountains? be sure to wrap up warmly. The rain is one thing but the cold is a completely different beast. Usual hiking equipment like a sunscreen, compass, a flashlight and a backpack are necessary on all hiking expeditions. And just like any other hiking trail in the world, stick to the marked paths.
Hikers – What to watch out for
One danger in Spain while hiking comes from feral dogs. These can appear from nowhere, especially in remote areas and they have been known to attack hikers. Carry a stick or a walking pole with you and wave it at them to scare them off. Another thing to watch out for is the hunting season between the end of October and the end of May. If you stray from the official paths you could get shot, so that’s another reason to follow the trail. Some wild animals like bears, wolves and wildcats also pose a risk. But the chances of being attacked by one are quite rare.
Whether you’re a serious hiker or a casual trekker, Spain has got a huge amount to offer. You might be surprised that hiking is not as popular among the Spanish as other sports just yet. Still, the country itself has tourists visiting it from all over the world just to hike and camp and enjoy the great and varied landscapes.
Be sure to pop’ back next week for the Spain Buddy review of Cicerone’s newest baby – “Walking and Trekking in the Sierra Nevada” by Richard Hartley