With its rugged coastlines, soulful towns, mouthwatering cuisine, and vibrant local culture, Spain is every traveller’s paradise. Take a holiday in spring for almost guaranteed sunshine – and far fewer crowds. From Aitona’s breathtaking peach blossom trees in early March to the week-long Horse Fair in Jerez de la Frontera in May, the vibrant personality of Spain shines through.
Follow the scent of Idiazabal cheese through the Basque Country
The lesser-visited north of Spain boasts a verdant natural beauty that has something for everyone. Nestled next to the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastian is the capital of Basque Country and known as Donostia in the local language. Packed with restaurants selling pintxos (traditional Basque tapas), Michelin-Star dining, and its own distinctive culture, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain, with an aristocratic history dating back a thousand years.
Just outside San Sebastian lies Idiazabal, a unique and enchanting region unlike any other in Spain. The Idiazabal Cheese Route is a delight for foodies and nature-lovers alike. Wander along the scenic hillside trails and meet with a shepherd who has spent his life in the mountains making cheese from raw sheep milk. Make sure you reward yourself with a tasting of the famous Idiazabal cheese, and if you’re still hungry for knowledge, learn about its history at the quaint Ecomuseo del Pastoreo, or Shepherds Museum.
After a day spent exploring the lush landscapes of the Basque countryside, retire to Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra, a century-old palace that retains its imposing elegance to this day. The sea views offer unbeatable panoramas of La Concha Bay, and you can take it all in while sipping txakoli, a Basque cider, in the nautical-themed bar. A stone’s throw away, stroll through la Parte Vieja (Old Town) and sample pintxos while marvelling at the oldest church in the city, San Vicente.
Retreat to the hidden Mediterranean towns of Catalonia
Situated northeast of the Basque Country, the Costa Brava’s secluded coastline is buttressed by rustic fishing towns and hilltop villages with cobbled streets. With a fusion of influence from neighboring France, this rugged region has been enchanting visitors for centuries.
The hometown of Salvador Dali and his family, Cadaques is a must for fans of art history and surrealism. At the Portlligat House-Museum, where Dali lived and worked, explore the irregularly proportioned rooms and peculiar items such as giant eggs and stuffed swans. Each room gives you a view of the bay that inspired many of Dali’s works.
Take a walk through the Cap de Creus Natural Park, leading from Cadaques to the lighthouse, or hire a boat captain to discover the secret gems of Costa Brava’s beaches tucked in the coves of the park. The rocky coastline and turquoise waters make a dreamy backdrop to an unforgettable sunset in the park.
An 18th-century farmhouse in Girona welcomes you after a day of exploration at Mas de Torrent. At the three-Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca, the Roca brothers have elevated food into a science, creating new twists on traditional staples while raising awareness about sustainability. Reservations open up 11 months in advance, and you’ll want a spot facing the serene inner garden.
Marvel at the peach tree blossoms in Aitona
Slightly southwards and inland lies Aitona, where each spring, the peach trees blossom into a sea of dazzling pink. Discover the breathtaking natural spectacle on a guided bicycle tour, and stop at the Hermitage of San Juan de Carratalà to admire panoramic views of the valley. The beautiful spectacle takes place in a town bordering the Catalonia and Aragon provinces, where agriculture is the main industry and locals take pride in their work.
Beginning a decade ago, the local city council of Aitona created a concept they named “Fruiturismo,” which brings you closer to the essence of peach cultivation while also preserving the local heritage, landscape, and culture of the Low Segre region. Soar over the valley in a hot air balloon or dine in a local restaurant where innovative and original recipes incorporating peaches will sweeten your palate and your day.
As you travel back towards the coast to Barcelona, the landscape of your destination in Catalonia dramatically transforms from rolling hills to the iconic architecture of Antoni Gaudi. In the heart of the city, the Almanac Hotel is characterized by a modern, progressive backdrop that complements Barcelona’s diverse cultural charms on your doorstep. A visit to Catalonia’s rural charm and urban gems will leave you tickled pink.
Capture sweeping views of the Tramuntana mountains in Soller
Set in the stunning Tramuntana Mountains on the peaceful island of Mallorca, the enchanting village of Soller is awash with fragrant citrus and olive groves. The Valley of Oranges, as it’s locally known, is the perfect backdrop to escape from the busy capital city of Palma. Have a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice while people-watching in Plaça Constitució, which houses the church of Sant Bartomeu and a weekly market that draws people from all over the island. If you’re looking to get closer to the waterfront, hop aboard the tram, which runs from Soller to Port de Soller, for a sunset stroll along the horseshoe bay.
Lace up your boots for a hike to the magical village of Deia, where spring wildflowers bloom. The mild temperature is perfect for this three-hour walk with dramatic coastal views, weaving past pretty farms and stopping at Cala Deia to take a refreshing dip in the crystalline Mediterranean Sea.
Nestled into the hills surrounding Soller is Hotel Ca’s Xorc, which has been transformed from an olive mill to a chic Mallorquin Finca. Retreat to this oasis after a long day of hiking and lap up the magnificent views from your garden cottage. At the in-house restaurant, select from a menu filled with regional and seasonal delicacies, served beneath the bougainvillaea-draped pergola.
Whether it’s to hike through the mountains, slow down on a veranda on the hotel’s grounds, or people-watch in the plaza, a trip to Soller will awaken you to the wonders of spring in Spain.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of southern Spain at Jerez Horse Fair
Deep in the country’s south, Andalusia in many ways embodies the Spain of stereotypes: Flamenco dancing, the Spanish guitar, ostentatious festivals, and lots of wine and tapas. The Feria del Caballo, or Horse Fair, which takes place in Jerez de la Frontera, is a vibrant celebration of this spellbinding culture – with the region’s long-standing equestrian traditions at its heart. Spanning one week each May, the event sees riders outfitted in cropped jackets and ruffled dresses parading through the streets on majestic horses. Don yourself in typical flamenco attire to savor in the fair that the Jerezanos anticipate annually.
Once dressed to the nines, settle into a caseta decorated with colorful paper lanterns called farolillos and sip on a rebujito – sherry wine mixed with 7-Up. As night falls, the Gonzalez Hontoria Park transforms as lights twinkle overhead and the stomping flamencos commence.
Not to be missed is a visit to the González Byass bodega, which is soaked in five generations of history. Discover the complexity of sherry wine as you meander through the various cellars, and get inspired by the pride the producers take in making their wine.
An immersive trip to Jerez is made complete with a stay at the Casa Palacio Maria Luisa, an exquisitely restored palatial mansion embodying the elegance of a bygone era. Bask in your luxurious suite overlooking the city square and savor a divine meal at the Michelin-starred Lú Cocina y Alma. For a taste of quintessential Spain, Jerez is truly unbeatable.
Anna Mascaro is Founder of Terracotta Travel. Terracotta Travel is a boutique travel agency that caters for luxury travellers who want to go beyond the guidebook and behind the scenes in every corner of the world.