Dreaming of tapas, sangria and seemingly endless sunshine? Here are all the travel tips you need ahead of a vacation in Spain.
Plan your itinerary
This might seem obvious, but many tourists who visit Spain do as little planning as is possible ahead of flying out. That’s because a lot of them don’t even leave their squeaky clean beach resort, and those who do often don’t stray further than their city or island destination of choice. This is one of Europe’s largest countries, though, with a diverse range of regional cultures, natural landscapes and culinary highlights. Spend a bit of time thinking about what you want. Lots of history, culture and nightlife? Madrid and Barcelona. A tantalising foodie escape? Try San Sebastian and Bilbao in the Basque Country. Guaranteed summer sun and dreamy coastlines? You can’t really go wrong with the south coast, Balearic or Canary Islands.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Of course a proper Spanish adventure should take in multiple regions of this beautiful country. We recommend broadening your horizons and trying to combine multiple destinations into one trip. It’ll give you a far greater insight into Spain as a nation, and it means you can sample even more tapas delights. You just need to do a little planning first!
Logistics not your forte? That’s where Culture Trip steps in with our carefully curated selection of small-group trips. Our Travel Experts know their stuff, whether it’s which bucket-list sights are worth seeing, hidden gems you haven’t even heard of, or simply the best way to get from A to B (to C to D). From Spain to Japan, Costa Rica to Morocco, we have immersive, authentic travel itineraries that take the boring stuff off of your plate. All you need to do is book the flights and show up!
Travel by train
There’s no excuses for not seeing multiple regions and cities in one trip, since Spain has one of the most extensive high-speed rail networks in all of Europe, connecting vastly spread out major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Malaga with comfortable, punctual and well-catered 300 km/h (186 mph) trains. Standard regional trains are reliable as well, and if you book either in advance then it shouldn’t cost too much.
You can also purchase a Renfe Spain Pass – Renfe is the national railway company, so it’s valid on both regional networks and high-speed AVE trains. The standard tourist pass can include up to 10 journeys within a month. Prices vary.
Our Travel Experts took advantage of Spain’s awesome rail network to create our Magical Madrid to Marrakech by Train itinerary. It’s a continent-crossing odyssey that charts the cultural, historical and culinary evolution from the heartlands of Iberia to the gateway to North Africa. The Spanish half of the trip starts in Madrid, before heading south to the extraordinary historic city of Córdoba and the fiery home of flamenco dancing, Seville.
Embrace the local schedule
For Western travellers the biggest cultural difference in Spain by a distance is their approach to the day. Summers can get super hot, so you can understand why Spaniards have developed the habit of doing everything a little later, lunching at around 2-3pm and not sitting down for dinner until 9pm at the earliest. Be wary of opening times, particularly of food establishments, many of which close for a few hours in the afternoon. Adjusting your routine to the local schedule will not only immerse you deeper into the Spanish way of life, but it also ensures that you align yourself with local businesses, meaning you can make the most of the country’s incredible range of restaurants, bars and cafes.
Don’t forget our favourite Spanish concept, either. The siesta, a mid-afternoon break, is still a commonly observed time to rest and relax. This is when many businesses close for a few hours. You can either join in with a nap or some sunbathing, or you can take advantage of this afternoon lull to explore cities when they’re a little quieter.
Be aware of regional differences
Spain is a far more diverse country than many people realise, and each region has its own distinct identity. Many people in Catalunya or the Basque Country don’t even see themselves as Spanish. This means that wherever you travel in Spain, you’re likely to come across different dialects, customs and traditions, as well as cuisines. Do put a bit of effort into researching the area you’re visiting and, if you can throw in the odd Catalan thank you or Basque hello (when in the relevant region, of course), you will be embraced with a warm and appreciative welcome from the locals.
Packing tips for Spain
Always check the weather ahead of your trip to Spain, especially if you’re travelling outside of summer season. The north tends to be a lot cooler and breezier compared to the sweltering south. Generally, though, you’ll be wanting to stick to light, breathable clothing. A sturdy pair of shoes are essential. The cities are pedestrianised and very walkable, so expect your daily step count to rack up. Spain is also an incredible hiking destination, so you won’t regret packing some hiking boots if you hit the countryside.
There’s the obvious stuff like suncream, a hat and sunglasses, adapter plugs and chargers. You can stick to paying with card in most places if that’s your preference, but do pack some Euros, especially if you’re visiting smaller towns and more rural regions. If you’re going anywhere near the sea, don’t forget to pack your swimwear! Even a city breaks in Spain can include lots of time on the beach.
Travel with Culture Trip!
We just have to say it – the best way to fully immerse yourself in a destination is always with Culture Trip! Not only are our trips highly curated by seasoned pros, they’re also led by on-the-ground Local Insiders. They’ll be your group’s private guide throughout the trip, offering priceless cultural insights and local tapas recommendations, as well as taking care of all the logistics.
At the time of writing our only itinerary in Spain is the Magical Madrid to Marrakech by Train trip. Half of this 12-day epic is spent travelling through Spain’s historic heartlands, from the imposing capital city to the extraordinary Córdoba – the best place to understand Spain’s truly multicultural history – and Seville, one of our favourite cities in Europe, teeming with incredible food, unique architecture and must-see flamenco shows. You’ll even get to hop over into Africa for the second half of the trip, exploring Tangiers, Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech thanks to the majesty of the locomotive.
Read the full itinerary of our Magical Madrid to Marrakech by Train trip or keep an eye on our Spain hub for brand new Spanish trips coming soon…
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