Splish splash, it’s time to flash the cash on a summer holiday. If you are looking for a European adventure tour this year, let us beguile you with our suggestions for active adventures in Spain. The sun shines brightly, even in the snow. Compared to many European destinations it’s still affordable for a family. And the variety of landscapes from high mountains to coastline make it a natural adventure playground, For thirty years we have chosen biking, skiing, sailing, camping and hiking in Spain. In this sponsored post working with BritMums we outline some of our top posts on Spain adventure activities for you to browse and enjoy..
What is there for a family to do in Spain?
You could just go to the beach. Or you could just visit one of the lively cities like Madrid, Barcelona or Granada. But Spain has so much more to offer. Why not put together a whirlwind active Spain adventure that drops you in the middle of nature? From the mountains to the coast, it’s not difficult to link up a few exciting activities. From a southern Spain itinerary by bike to a week of linked up ski resorts in the Catalan mountains, there’s so much opportunity for an exciting trip. Read on for some of our suggestions on how to have active adventures in this warm, family friendly country based on two decades of travelling there with our family.
Let’s begin with some two wheeled adventures.
What are the best routes for cycling in Spain?
Cycle the Vies Verdes
The Greenways of Costa Brava stretch from the upper Pyrenees to the Mediterranean and these mostly traffic free walking and biking trails provide a great way to see the countryside. and one of the most relaxing active family holidays in Spain. Almost 140 kms of reconditioned railway tracks that were still in use until the 1960’s introduce you to a clutch of historic towns and pretty villages. We buzzed along several short routes from Ripoll to Palafrugal, following tracks built for the Girona-Olot railway to provide transportation for the rural districts of La Garrotxa, La Selva, and El Gironés, The narrow gauge railway or “carrilet” runs along the banks of three rivers and passes through La Garrotxa; here’s one of our videos from the Vies Verdes, the iron and coal route or Ruta del Ferro….
Cycle the Camino de Santiago
If a cross country pilgrim route seems too much like hard work, even on a bike, you need to know that you don’t have to conquer the whole Camino to qualify for pilgrim status. To receive a Compostela certificate you only need to walk the last 100 kms or bike the last 200 kms of this famous pilgrim route. We biked from St Jean Pied de Port in the foothills of the Pyrenees to the city of Santiago de Compostela in just over six weeks. There is a great spirit of camaraderie on the route and if you have teens, they will probably enjoy the youth hostel vibe in the cheap and cheerful albergues. In this post, read about the moment we finished our pilgrim Pyrenees biking trip and carried out a rather unusual family ceremony at the final point of the trail.
Cycle coast to coast across the Pyrenees
If you are feeling really fit and adventurous then you could try a trans Pyrenees cycling route from coast to coast. We began our summer mountain adventure with a training ride on the Velodyssee in France before heading away from the Atlantic coast and up into the Eastern Pyrenees. Once we were used to the climb, the endurance test of Pyrenees biking and the weather we loved sweeping across Basque Country and the the Kingdom of Navarre. Here’s where we finally hit the hills…
Take a big fat bike tour of Barcelona
If you’ve never seen a city by bike then you’ve been missing out. And you wouldn’t want to miss out on a bike tour of Barcelona. You can whiz around a lot of the city centre over the best part of a day, taking in everything from great art to the parks, and sometimes great art in the parks. If you don’t feel comfortable striking out on your own with bicycle rental in Barcelona then I recommend a Fat Tyre Bike Tour, where you are guided around the main sites by a biking local. Here’s a taster of what we did and an introduction to Margot Ford from Fat Tire Bike Tours:
Click on the link below to see our top suggestion for refueling during and after your biking adventure:
Cycle Girona and the region around it
Girona is famous for its role in the Game of Thrones series and you can see why as soon as you stroll around the walled Old Quarter complete with medieval walls and watchtowers. The Catalan city also makes a great base for cycling; many professional cyclists use it as a training ground or the major races. If you don’t feel confident in heading off into the hills around the city, the Girona company Eat Sleep Cycle offer guided tours. You can sign up to a ‘classic climbs’ package, tour a chunk of the Costa Brava, or do a gravel tour. And when you are done with all your cycling, delicious treats await back in Girona. Did someone mention treats? Read this post for a taster of this foodie city and the region beyond it whose chefs often rank in lists of the best in the world.
Where are the best places for hiking in Spain?
Galicia – brilliant for lighthouse, beach and island hiking
It’s a bit of a cliche to talk about hidden gems these days, but if you want to get away from the crowds and experience the bluest of sea and be-jewelled coastal landscape then head to unspoilt Galicia. The clifftop and beach walks could keep you occupied for weeks, but we fitted in several in a few days. Check out our post (by clicking on the link in red below) for five ways of hiking in Spain that take in lighthouses, islands packed with bird life and a beach The Guardian called one of the best in the world:
Walk in the footsteps of hermits in Carroscoy Regional Park
El Valle and Carrascoy Regional Park is the ‘green lung’ of Murcia, about 45 minutes drive from the main resorts of Costa Calida, it’s thought there are more than 600 species of plants here, as well as golden eagles to spot and wild boar in the hills. There’s also a history of religious life and you can wander in and out of the caves the hermits used to inhabit. In our guest post about her Spain walking trip, Fiona Steggles went exploring this glorious Spain area. Read more here:
Walking and wine tours in Penedes and Alella
One of our favourite days in Costa Barcelona was a visit to Eudald Massana Noya in Penedes. You can bike, electric bike or ride segways around part of one of the largest wine producing regions in Spain. We took a walking tour through the pretty villages of Penedes, west of Barcelona. With the Montserrat mountains behind us we struck out through rows of vines and peach orchards. All the way we were learning how wine is made and how organic vineyards operate. Catalonia’s popular sparkling export Cava is made here and there are almost 300 wineries packed into 15 villages locally, mostly due to the mineral soil. Check out our post on the sport of wine walking:
A Nordic walk in Alella wine country
Or what could be more fun for an adult seeking adventure travel in Spain than a hike with Nordic walking poles in a vineyard, with wine tasting at the end? There’s refreshments for the kids too, and they will enjoy mastering the poles. Alella is one of the smallest and oldest wine producing regions in Spain and we pushed up the steep slopes the Alta Alella Winery, pausing on the hill for a glass of chilled Cava. With the Mediterranean on our left and the towers of Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia on our right, we felt we could stay forever. Read our post about active things to do on the Costa Barcelona:
For other fun family activities including riding Catalan donkeys and segways see my piece for BritMums.
Where can I ski in Spain?
There are some small but beautiful family ski resorts in the Pyrenees that provide fun active adventures in Spain. You can do two or three in a week if you have the stamina. We managed five as they are all fairly close together and we had a hire car with a ski rack.
Blast down the slopes of five Pyrenees ski resorts
La Masella and La Molina are buzzing downhill resorts where you can get in your ski practice. Guils Fontanera is something entirely different – a silent winter wonderland filled with Nordic ski trails. Meanwhile Val de Nuria is a happy valley – a traffic free resort where downhill skiers share the slopes with families having fun in the play parks and a charming hotel. There’s also the bonus of getting there on the train. And then there’s Vallter 2000 which offers a blue run from top to bottom, plus orienteering and snow camp. Our post outlining five fab ski resorts in the Catalan Pyrenees has lots more info and inspiration, read it here by clicking on the link in red:
Do a shift with the piste bashers
The piste bashers are the heroes of the mountain, making it ship shape at the end of the day.But as you’ve watched them from your window in your hotel, have you ever wondered what it’s like to be alone up there in the dark? In La Molina we had the chance to accompany the piste bashers on their lonely duties. Click on this link to read our post about it here:
Try night skiing in La Masella
If you prefer to party with the crowds on your ski adventure holiday in Spain then La Masella is the place to be of an evening with your ski boots. NO you’re not going disco dancing; the resort offers night skiing. With pumping tracks, hot snacks and floodlit jumps, it’s a fun way to see the mountain. Wrap up warm though. Read the post below to find out more:
Where can I go sailing in Spain?
Spot happy fish in the Medes islands’ L’Estartit
The Medes Islands or Isle de Medes in the Costa Brava are an archipelago of islands protected by the National Parque. (The underwater is also protected.) They lie just off the coastline of L’Estartit and offer some of the best scuba diving in Spain. Jacques Cousteau pioneered the rush to explore under the sea by coming Io the Isle de Medes in the 1950’s to document marine life. You can do a variety of diving here including Pedra de Deu – a wall dive with depths of up to 35 metres and Cova de la Vaca -a tunnel that gives you dream like light, like an underwater cathedral. Meanwhile Cova de la Dofi has dolphin statue at its entrance. You can also do a circuit dive around the islands, along the sea bed. For families with younger children, a fun thing to do is venturing out on a glass bottom boat at L’Estartit, discovering how the locals’ connection with the sea has an influence on their well being.
Accompany the shell fishers in Galicia
In Galicia we managed to get out on one of the shellfish fishing boats to watch a family at work in the mussel beds in the Rias Baixas. In the Noia-Muros Bay, Joaquin Vieta Sloop is a shiny tourist boat that offers private tours for families and groups. Find out about our trip by reading this post:
If you want to make the most of a weekend in coastal Galicia, read this post to get the measure of this peaceful wild place with plenty of food and relaxation opportunities:
What’s the best itinerary for a Spain road trip?
The following road trips link up Spain adventure activities with a bit of driving. We’ve picked circular routes and easy adventures that anyone can do and you can complete each road trip in a few days or a week.
All action driving trip of Northern Spain
A round trip from Bilbao is full of opportunities to get active. Gexto offers dunes and cliffs to stroll, and the sea for a spot of surfing. Beach football tournaments are held in nearby Ereaga. West of this, in Santander, you can take a lighthouse walk around the Magdalena Peninsular or swim at El Sardinero beach. Or venture down to see the cave art in the nearby World Heritage listed Altamira Caves. Then it’s off to Santiago to stroll around pretending you are a pilgrim. Or walk some beautifully preserved Roman Walls in Lugo. Read more in our road trip post of Northern Spain here:
Off season road trip of Alicante
This independent family holiday in Spain starts in the Brit frequented seaside paradise of Benidorm where you can swim and do watersports to your heart’s content, but don’t hang around too long as it’s time to go onwards and upwards to the town of Altea and Albir. Guadalest is next, surrounded by the Aitana, Serella and Xorta mountains. The settlement is basically a village within a large castle on a rock so there’s lots of walking to be done. Forty kilometres to the north of Alicante, Ibi is a top destination for toddlers; the town is one of the most important toy producers in Spain. Then you might move into the Serra de Maigmo with the Balcon de Alicante offering a panorama of the Castalla Mountains and the Alicante plain. For a full itinerary check out this post by clicking below:
Golf and fortresses in a Malaga road trip
Our Spain road trip itinerary of Malaga is a mix of culture and active family fun. In Malaga, once you’ve enjoyed the beaches and the yachts head to La Alcazaba fortress, and behind it, with its watchtowers and parapets, Gibralfaro Castle. Granada is next, with the amazing Alhambra Palace, fortress of the Moorish monarchs. And then, just 40 minutes down the coast is Marbella. This holiday destination has beaches, golf and one of the most exclusive marinas in Spain. Our itinerary finishes in Ronda, a beautiful whitewashed Andalucian town, dramatically split in half by the gorge of the Tajo river. In spring the hillsides are packed with flowers; perfect for a hike. Check out our full itinerary for this road trip here:
Driving wild and wonderful Mallorca
What is there to do in Mallorca for families? Our Mallorca road trip post gives you a short and sweet intro to this popular Balearic island. Our itinerary begins in the capital city of Palma where you can rent your car. Head to lunch at Campos, just 24 miles down the coast; Mallorca’s answer to The Caribbean. The island’s most famous beach. Es Trenc has two kilometres of beautiful sand and a wild feel. Try hiring a windsurfing board and heading offshore. A definite ‘must see’ is the archipelago that includes Cabrera. This little island has a picturesque cathedral and quay. On the way back try to swim in the Sa Cova Blava caves with their amazing light. Or you could take the plunge more fully by signing up for deep sea diving. Then you’ll need to fit in Alcudia and the mountains of Majorca. Here’s more on what you can do on your Mallorcan road trip. Click on the link to read on:
Taking a road trip to the stars in Tenerife
Most people who visit Tenerife on a driving or self guided holiday on the island are likely to tell you the highlight is the Parque Nacional de las Cañadas del Teide. I recommend stopping off for the Sunset and Stars tour if you can; it’s a lovely mix of being on top of the world and feeling like a very small part of the galaxy. Much of the fun of this tour is stumbling across great towns and villages and you’ll find a Canaries welcome in many of the small settlements including La Orotava, and Masca which is set into a deep gorge. Then you can head south and relax on beaches including Playa de Las Teresitas. Don’t forget to check out the cliffs of Los Gigantes and you’ll probably want to drop into Siam Park in Adeje with its fab wave pool. If you have extra cash, hire a private cabin for the day in the park for a taste of VIP life. Here’s more detail on what you can do on a family driving holiday of Tenerife:
Which cities provide the best adventures for a family
I love Spanish cities and always pack any visit with a dash around the landmarks, art and culture. Here’s our itinerary for a tour of Barcelona, and here’s how you can have action packed fun with a car and a family in and around Madrid.
Will you get active in Spain?
We hope you are inspired to get active in Spain on a week long tour or adventure weekend with this post on some of our Spanish adventures. We’d love you to leave a comment here or contact us on Facebook for further recommendations or ideas. And do let us know how you get on on your travels, whether hiking n Spain, biking, skiing, segway riding or however you choose to get around.
This post is part of a paid project with Spain, promoting family travel across the country. All hiking, biking and wandering to remote lighthouses is entirely our own, as are the words and video.