Walks in Spain
With an area of some 505,000 square kilometres, Spain is well over twice the size of the United Kingdom but with a population nearly 20 million less. It stretches over 1000 kilometres between its Atlantic and Mediterranean coats.
The country has undergone huge change since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the early 1970s and the subsequent rapid development of tourism, particularly along the Mediterranean coastline. Nowadays Spain is amongst the leading European nations and boasts a sophisticated network of motorways and autovias as well as a rapidly developing high-speed railway network. Politically the country is governed centrally from Madrid but is organized into 17 autonomous regions, each with a very high degree of independence and some wanting even more! Perhaps less well known are its two tiny Spanish-controlled enclaves in Morocco; Cueta just opposite Gibraltar and Melilla much further east along the coast near Nador. Both hark back to Spain’s close involvement with Morocco in past years.
Geographically, Spain has vast areas of mountains. In the north along the coast the Cantabrian range which merge further east with the Pyrenees. In the centre to the north of Madrid the Central System which include the Sierra Guadarrama. Further south and north of Seville the Sierra Morena range. Along the Mediterranean coast the Cordillera Penibética including the Sierra Nevada. Historically these mountainous regions have been important sources of mineral wealth and today, with the construction of many reservoirs, continue to provide hydro electricity.
As might be expected in a country of such size the climate is extremely varied. The northern areas along the Cantabrian and Pyrenees mountains can be extremely wet and snowy during the winter months. The central areas have great extremes of climate from freezing cold to insufferable heat. Further south, although there is winter snow at altitude, the Mediterranean influence produces a more benign climate generally. Even so, in the summer months 35 degrees centigrade can be expected around Seville for example.
Since the 1980s vast areas of mainland Spain’s wildernesses have now been converted into Natural Parks. An excellent network of reasonably well signed hiking routes are now available along with a chain of visitor centres where people can learn about the wonderful flora and fauna that these parks have. Whichever region you choose to visit, there will be several Natural Parks offering a wide variety of outdoor activities.
Nor should we forget Spain’s two island chains – The Balearic Islands and the Canaries. Here too Natural Parks have been established, particularly necessary given the tourist development, and these areas have also become extremely attractive hiking destinations offering both beauty and very pleasant climates. Both are excellent winter walking destinations.
This vast and fascinating land, with its differing cultures and landscapes, is a truly wonderful country to walk in. The inventory of walks in Spain is increasing steadily and each region has its own particular attractions. Time and climate will play a big part in your choice of where to visit but you can be sure you will not be disappointed whichever part of Spain you choose to walk in.
Please read our article 'Things to remember about walking in Spain' for some tips if you are travelling to the country for the first time. Browse the list below for Walkingworld’s walks in Spain. Note that the grid references in our guides are in UTM WGS84 format - this is also what you should set your GPS to.