Spain is well known for its brilliant beaches, diverse dishes and year-round sunshine, lesser so for its hiking trails. That’s a pity because Spain has some excellent ones, with around 100 long-distance footpaths known as Grandes Recorridos all signposted with distinctive red and white strips. From gorge walking to ancient pilgrimages, here are some of the best walks in Spain.
Scenic walks in Spain
1. Camino de Santiago (Galicia)
Camino de Santiago draws modern-day hikers from all over like a magnet – around 300,000 people hike the trail every year. Its popularity isn’t unwarranted either; the paths boast beautiful rural landscapes and plenty of comfortable hotels to stop off at along the way.
Known in English as ‘The Way of Saint James’, this ancient pilgrimage route is a network of paths that lead to the remains of the Apostle Saint James, in Santiago de Compostela. There are a handful of different routes to choose from, and hikers are free to complete as much as they want. If you manage to walk 100 km or cycle 200 k, you’ll receive the ‘Compestela’, a certificate which proves you completed the pilgrimage.
2. Caminito del Rey (Andalucia)
Far shorter, though arguably just as extraordinary, is the Caminito del Rey. Suspended between cliffs, canyons and a huge valley, this eight kilometre path near Malaga was once considered one of the most dangerous routes in the world. After considerable reconstruction, it’s much safer, though if you haven’t got a head for heights you might not agree.
The aerial walkway connects the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes, a gorge carved out by the River Guadalhorce. It then crisis-crosses across the national park. At some points, you’ll face a 100 metre sheer drop. As you might imagine, the route boasts sparkling views, but it’s not all about height, there’s plenty of wildlife to spot too including Egyptian vultures, griffon vultures and golden eagles. Book your tickets in advance.
3. Ordesa (Pyrenees)
This iconic mountain range which straddles the Spanish-French border is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the world. The Ordesa Valley, in the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, is one of the best places to experience it in Sain. The UNESCO World Heritage Site offers fantastic views across the peaks, the Cola de Cabollo forest and dramatic waterfalls.
4. Ruta del Cares (Asturias)
The Picos de Europas park, which borders Asturias, Cantabres and Castille, is wild and woolly, with craggy mountains and forest-filled valleys. This route is one of the most popular trekking paths in the park. It runs from the small village of Puente Poncebos in Asturia to Posada de Valdeon in Leon. Once upon a time, you could only get between the two towns in winter, when the snow had fallen. Today, you can make the seven-mile journey any time of year, across a path hacked out of the cliff face that runs along the Cares Gorge. Owing to its spectacular scenery and brilliant opportunities for wildlife spotting, around 300,000 hikers take the route every year.
5. Cap de Formentor (Majorca)
Historically viewed as the ultimate beach bum destination, Majorca is now gaining a reputation amongst hikers-in-the-know. The Cap de Formento’s 18 kilometres of cliff-hugging walks are the island’s best. There are around a dozen different routes to choose from, but the walk from Port de Pollença to the crescent-shaped Cala Bóquer, is particularly exciting. Look out for migrating seabirds and the windswept lighthouse along the way.
6. Alpajjaras (Andalucia)
The Costa del Sol is Andalucia’s blockbuster destination for sun-seekers, but for hikers, it’s all about the Sierra Nevada. This sprawling mountain range offers some of the most testing hikes in the country, with steep inclines and rocky paths. Those less practiced will prefer the southern foothills of Sierra Nevada’s Alpujarras, which was the last seat of the Moors. Curving around the southwestern tip of Spain and up to the Pyrenees, the route offers breathtaking views of the Pueblos Blancos (white villages). You won’t need to strain yourself too much either.
7. Peñalara (Madrid)
Just a hop, skip and a jump from Madrid (okay, an hour’s drive), is one of Spain’s lesser-loved but still-spectacular hiking paths. The 14 km route is set in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, which reaches 2428 km. It’s an intermediate level trek, but you’ll forget all about the puffing once you catch sight of the ancient valleys and glacial lakes, formed millions of years ago by glacial erosion. Take the circular route, which starts at Puerto de Cotos in Rascafría.