General info > Going abroad > Walking in Spain

Things to remember about walking in Spain

Walking in Spain can be incredibly rewarding but there are a number of things to note before setting out.

This is wild country and many of the walks are very remote and infrequently used. If you run into trouble or lose your way you are likely to be on your own, so it's as well to be prepared.

Spanish maps have only comparatively recently ceased being the exclusive domain of the military and although it is probably fair to say that they are not yet up to the standard of the UK Ordnance Survey, they are improving. The detail at both 1:50000 and 1:25000 is generally good but there is still a lack of detailed footpath coverage in the Government (CNIG) maps. In areas of rapid recent development, particularly the Mediterranean coastal areas, the Balearics and Canaries, it has been difficult for the mapping authorities to keep pace with the changes that tourist expansion has brought. As far as the many wonderful Natural Parks in the country are concerned, there are excellent detailed maps available that clearly show the tracks and footpaths and usually show the routes of the GR (Red) Grand recorrido, PR (Yellow) Pequeño recorrido and LR (green) Local routes. The GR route maintenance is a National responsibility, whereas that of the PR and LR routes is a local one. This can account for the varying standards of signing on the ground.

Walkingworld walks usually include a downloadable map with a Global Positioning System (GPS) track and waypoints covering the precise area of the walk. You can also download the linked map to the start of the walk. Remember that GPS systems need a clear view of the sky and may not work in deep woodland or where the sky is partially obscured by cliffs etc. It is always a good idea to carry a compass as well. Remember too that mobile telephone signals can be weak or non-existent in mountainous regions.

For those who would like to obtain either CNIG maps or Natural Park hiking maps, Tienda Verde in Madrid is highly recommended. This is one of the biggest stores of mapping, guides and related publications in Spain. Their website is very user-friendly and the language can be changed to English. For the CNIG maps there is a useful grid for the entire country at 1:50000 giving the map number which can then be related to their drop down list under CNIG 1:50000. For 1:25000 the each 1:50000 is divided into 4 – sheet 1 top left, sheet 2 top right, sheet 3 bottom left and sheet 4 bottom right. Thus it is easy to identify the 1:25000 sheet you need when using the appropriate drop down for that scale. A limited preview for each map selected is available. For the Natural Park maps look under Mapas Excursionistas y De Espacios Naturales España. Then select the zone you are interested in and chose from the list of maps available which you can preview to some extent. The purchasing system is very standard. However be aware that the postal service, whilst excellent, is not cheap. Also that the most useful 1:25000 scale is often fairly elderly - 2000 to 2004 in not unusual. The Natural Park maps tend to be more up to date.

Other issues
Dehydration is a major problem when walking in very hot or humid conditions. Take plenty of water with you, at least 2 litres each. Water in the mountains is scarce and personally I would not drink it except in an emergency – you never know what’s upstream. Remember to drink regularly, little and often, if you leave it until you are thirsty it is too late. We tend to use ‘bladder’ drinking systems such as Camelbak, as they are lightweight and very convenient. In addition you might consider taking proprietary rapid re-hydration drinks with you, such as Isostar, which is readily available in most large supermarkets in Spain. You loose a lot of salt when it is very hot and drinks such as Isostar help to stop you getting cramp (very painful, I speak from personal experience).

Footwear should be comfortable and fairly sturdy. Most of the walks are on well-defined paths, but they are often quite rugged, so walking boots or approach shoes are recommended for many of the walks. For most of the year it is possible to walk in shorts and short sleeve shirts, but remember the sun is very strong down here so do not forget hats and sun cream. In the winter it can be quite cold and wet particularly on the high level routes, the weather can change rapidly so be prepared with fleeces and waterproofs.

Let none of this put you off, walking in Spain is a most enjoyable and rewarding experience, one which we hope many more people will be able to share in the future given the confidence of a Walkingworld guide.

More walks wanted
If you have a favourite walk in Spain that you would like to see included and/or would like to help compile some of the Spanish walk guides you can contact me through Walkingworld. Click the Contact link in the menu above to do this. If you want any more information, or are thinking of organising a walking trip individually or for a group I would be delighted to help.

Lyndon Jolley