The parties on Ibiza are legendary. Home to some of the largest nightclubs in the world – Privilege can hold 10,000 people – and attracting some of the biggest DJs of the electro, house and trance scene, Ibiza is the ultimate party island. Each year, it seems, the music gets louder, the nights get longer and the atmosphere gets wilder.
The Camino de Santiago – sometimes known as Saint James’ Way in English – is one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in Europe. It’s a network of routes that ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. The Spanish part begins in the Pyrenees mountains and takes you across the whole northwest of Spain. An impressive feat for even the hardiest of walkers, the camino is also a spiritual journey, not just in religious terms, but as a moment of contemplation and removal from modern life.
Taking place in the small town of Buñol in Valencia, La Tomatina involves a large-scale tomato-throwing fight and results in some pretty impressive sights. Buckets and buckets of extra-ripe tomatoes are brought to the town for the celebration, which has taken place since 1945 and today attracts tourists from far and wide.
One of the leading electronic music festivals in the world, Sónar Music festival is one of the most highly anticipated events to take place in the city. Divided into two parts – Sónar by Day and Sónar by Night – the party never seems to end for a whole week.
Growing only at a particular time of the year, generally between January and April, calçots are a type of sweet spring onion that are considered a delicacy in Spain. The traditional way to eat them is called a calçotada and involves a day-long barbecue feast. The onions are charred until the outside layer goes black; the skin is peeled off to reveal a beautifully tender inside. Grab it whole and dip it into a rich nutty sauce called romesco before dangling it straight into your mouth. It always gets messy, but fortunately you are customarily also given a large bib.
You don’t need to be a sports fan to be able to appreciate the atmosphere at an El Clásico match. Barcelona and Madrid have a long history of rivalry and in terms of football, FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid is one of the most important matches of the season. Pick your side carefully and make sure you’re sitting in the right section.
In 2005 La Patum de Bergà was recognised as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. A five-day-long celebration of Corpus Christi, La Patum features processions, dances and – most remarkably – a lot of pyrotechnics. The open-air ball known as Els Plens sees crowds gather on the main square, usually dressed up as devils and mystical creatures, to dance in the dark while fireworks and sparklers are let off all around them.
Tenerife may mostly have a reputation as a package-holiday destination, but it is also home to Spain’s highest mountain, Mount Teide, an active volcano and part of the island’s Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park, with its lunar landscapes, is a great place to hike and see a completely different side of the popular holiday isle.
A treasured Spanish tradition on New Year’s Eve, ‘doing the grapes’ involves scoffing down a grape on each gong of midnight. If you manage to eat all twelve grapes, you are guaranteed a prosperous and lucky year ahead. The place to ring in the new year – along with your punnet of grapes – is Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. Celebrations from the square are broadcast live across Spain.
The stunning L’Oceanogràfic in Valencia is part of the city’s futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, a series of domed glass buildings designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who recently designed New York’s Oculus. The aquarium is divided into 10 areas with 45,000 animals, including penguins, dolphins, beluga whales and sea lions.
One unusual way to cross the border between Spain and Portugal is on an international zip line. The 720-metre (2,362-foot) line whizzes daredevils at speeds of up to 80 kilometres an hour (50 miles an hour) over the River Guadiana from Sanlucar de Guadiana in Spain to Alcoutim, Portugal.
In the 1960s, the Tabernas Desert in Almeria, southwest Spain, doubled up as the American Wild West when director Sergio Leone decided to base his trilogy of Spaghetti westerns here. A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and For a Few Dollars More paved the way for the region to become one of the most popular filming locations in Spain. Today, you can visit several of the filming locations, and there’s even a Wild West theme park, Mini Hollywood.
Spain’s brown bears, native to Cantabria in the north of the country, are one of Europe’s most endangered species. There are several companies that offer tours, led by conservationists, who will give you the background on the animals and might even help you spot one in the wild.
No visit to Spain is complete without visiting the Alhambra, Granada’s Moorish fortress that sits, fairytale-like, on a hill overlooking the city, its backdrop the snowy mountains of the Sierra Nevada. One of Spain’s most-visited tourist sights, the Alhambra is an incredible example of Islamic architecture and art.
Spain’s northern coastline attracts surfers from around the world, eager to ride its impressive waves. It’s a great place to hit the surf, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional. San Sebastian’s Zurriola Beach is a popular spot, but there are lots of towns along the northern coast to choose from.
The Museo Atlántico was opened in early 2017 off the coast of Lanzarote and consists of a huge underwater sculpture park designed by artist Jason deCaires Taylor. You have to scuba dive down to see the sculptures – more than 300 life-size human figures that lie around 12 metres (39 feet) under the surface.
Spain may not be as well-known a winter sports destination as France, Switzerland or Austria, but the country is becoming a popular spot with in-the-know skiers and snowboarders. There are plenty of resorts to choose from, from the Pyrenees in the north to the Sierra Nevada, Europe’s most southerly ski resort, in the south.
The Canary Islands have some of the clearest skies in the world and are a great place to do some stargazing. The island of La Palma is home to the Great Canary Telescope, one of the most advanced and biggest telescopes in the world. Whether you’re taking a guided tour of one of the islands’ major observatories or staring up at the stars on a clear night, prepare for out-of-this-world views.
The Caminito del Rey, near Malaga, was closed in the early 2000s after several people died trying to walk it. The one-metre (three-foot) wide path, opened in 1905, had fallen into disrepair and was closed because of safety concerns, but it was reopened in 2015. It might be safer these days, but it’s still a nail-biting experience looking down 100 metres (328 feet) to the river below.
Every year on December 28, residents of the little town of Ibi in Alicante take part in an epic food fight, flinging flour and eggs over each other on Spain’s version of April Fool’s Day. Men dressed in mock military uniforms stage a fake coup, then fine anyone who does not comply with their range of crazy new laws. At the end of the day, all the money earned goes to a local charity.