Highlights of the Iberian Peninsula12 June, 2012
Located in the south-western corner of Europe, the Iberian Peninsula includes the French Pyrenees, Spain, Portugal, the Catalan principality of Andorra and Gibraltar. A fantastic holidaying region, the Iberian Peninsula has it all: over 3,000 km of breathtaking coastline, several ranges that dominate the landscape such as the Cantabrian Mountains and the Sistema Central, and a wealth of cultural activities and cuisines, not to mention the affable climate.
Whether you’re looking for an activity or adventure holiday or simply want to get away from the unpredictable British climate in favour of some moderate sunshine, this captivating corner of Europe is easy to travel to by air, rail, or sea and is a path well-travelled by holiday-makers, making it well within budget.
As the most popular overseas destination for British tourists, there is a reason why holiday-makers across Europe flock to Spain in their millions each year. Brimming with cultural identity this Mediterranean nation is famed for its world-class cuisine, architecture and art.
A nation that holds 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites you’ll be sure to find many things of interest. All good itineraries will take in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral and Montserrat Shrines, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Basque Country, and the Picasso Museum.
Visit Córdoba to view fine examples of Arabic inspired architecture, whilst Gaudi’s modern architecture in Barcelona is a must see: visit his most famous work, the Sagrada Família.
Tantalise your tastebuds with a variety of delicious tapas and sample some of the regional national dishes; gazpacho, paella, and polbo á feira.
When the unique blend of culture gets too much, relax on the vast expanses of sandy beaches or head to West Andalusia for a master class in the art of flamenco.
Stay in a luxurious setting in one of the many villas to rent in Spain, where you’ll be able to keep costs to a minimum if you travel in a large group. Alternatively if you are travelling from city to city, take advantage of the Mediterranean hospitality and stay at family-run inns and hotels.
A destination not for the faint hearted, a trip to the Pyrenees guarantees action and adventure. A popular region for winter sports such as alpine skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering, this beautiful destination in the south of France is perfect for those who have a passion for the great outdoors.
In the summer and the autumn months, the Pyrenees feature in two of cycling’s most epic battles, the Tour de France held annually in July and the Vuelta a España held in September. The stages held in the Pyrenees are often crucial legs of both tours, drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators to the region.
When you’re not on the slopes, explore the numerous mountain torrents, known locally as “gaves”, and take in their magnificent waterfalls; the highest of which is Gavarnie which stands at 462 km.
With many museums and cultural sites to enjoy (such as the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum and the Goya Museum), no trip to the French Pyrenees will seem quite long enough. Rest weary bodies in comfortable surroundings: choose from a range of luxurious ski chalets, hotels and camping sites.
Widely known as one of the most picturesque countries in Europe, Portugal is among the 20 most visited countries in the world, especially renowned for its seafood, rugged landscape and wide availability of secluded Portugal villas.
Sightseers will love the Batalha Monastery and the Convento de Christo attractions. The first of these took two centuries to construct and features both Gothic and Manueline styles. The second is a fortified monastery that offers intriguing Templar history for visitors and is one of Portugal’s 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A popular destination for a variety of attractions such as white sandy cliffs, pristine beaches, snorkelling, and quad bike treks, the Algarve cannot be beaten. Make sure you return home with a souvenir of the region’s famed hand-painted pottery.
An ideal spot for those seeking a party atmosphere shed your inhibitions and head to the many resorts and clubs situated along the Algarve in Faro and Lagos.
Of course if lots of action and activity doesn’t strike you as the break you’re looking for and you’d rather bask in uninterrupted sunshine, travelling further afield will be a safe bet. Head to America and stay in one of the beautiful Florida villas or go one step further than the Iberian Peninsula and sample the delights of North Africa: explore Morocco’s souks and Tunisia’s Roman ruins.
With some great deals available online and the overall expansion of the mid-haul aviation sector, nowhere is too far or exotic for a short break.