Rural Spain

All Ways Spain – rural Spain tradition

Enchanting villages and towns, boundless nature

Spain, as Europe’s sec­ond most moun­tain­ous coun­try after Switzer­land, has a topog­ra­phy that hides many secrets and dis­cov­er­ing these is one of the true plea­sures of trav­el­ling in the vast inte­ri­or of Spain. In terms of land­scapes there is an incred­i­ble vari­ety to be found, from marsh­lands to tow­er­ing moun­tains, windswept coast­lines to tran­quil, flower-filled val­leys and, through­out, a col­lec­tion of his­toric vil­lages and towns that are the thread in the fab­ric of this great nation.

The con­cept of belong­ing to one’s home vil­lage, town, province or region is still impor­tant in the Span­ish men­tal­i­ty, and is known as la patria chi­ca – “the less­er father­land” would be an inac­cu­rate trans­la­tion of a phrase that is bet­ter under­stood emo­tion­al­ly than lit­er­al­ly. Peo­ple still think first of this and then of their nation­al­i­ty, and Spain’s region­al dif­fer­ences are main­tained by this way of think­ing, dif­fer­ences that are, to the vis­i­tor, a con­stant source of sur­prise and most often, delight. There are few oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries where there are not only four offi­cial lan­guages (Castil­ian, Basque, Gal­lego, and Cata­lan) but also a great dis­tinc­tive­ness among the regions, giv­ing the sense of almost mov­ing between dif­fer­ent coun­tries when one trav­els between say Mála­ga and La Coruña, or from Valen­cia to Oviedo.

If these dif­fer­ences are pal­pa­ble in the cities then in the coun­try­side, where geog­ra­phy plays a more promi­nent role, they are even more vis­i­ble. This kalei­do­scope of land­scapes and char­ac­ter can make Spain a chal­leng­ing coun­try to tack­le, but end­less­ly sat­is­fy­ing once you start dis­cov­er­ing it. One way to decide where to trav­el in rur­al Spain is to pick a favourite land­scape and then head to wher­ev­er it is found. If moun­tains thrill you, then you are spoilt for choice: the Pyre­nees, in the provinces Huesca, Léri­da and Navar­ra, offer fan­tas­tic hik­ing and moun­taineer­ing; the Picos de Europa, which rise up dra­mat­i­cal­ly from the Cantabri­an coast­line, are inter­spersed with beau­ti­ful lakes and rivers; and among numer­ous oth­er ranges, the Sier­ra de Gre­dos stands out, for its prox­im­i­ty to the his­toric town of Ávi­la, its glac­i­er lakes and exten­sive forests of pine and oak. At low­er alti­tudes, too, a pletho­ra of attrac­tive land­scapes are to be found. Just some of these are the salt lake of L’Albufera, south of Valen­cia; the steep-sided riv­er val­leys of the Nat­ur­al Park of Arribes del Duero in Zamo­ra; fish­ing vil­lages, such as Llanes, set along the crag­gy lime­stone coast of Asturias; or, under­ground, caves and cav­erns like Altami­ra and El Soplao in Cantabria; and lush val­leys, cov­ered with wild-flow­ers in spring, such as those of Alcu­d­ia in Castil­la-La Man­cha or Jerte in Extremadu­ra – famed for its cher­ry blos­som.

Tra­di­tions, cus­toms and cui­sine vary just as wide­ly and uncov­er­ing these, too, is an endeav­our that pays ample rewards. A pro­ces­sion dur­ing Sem­ana San­ta (Holy Week) in a small town of say Castil­la-León, and a Moros y Cris­tianos (“Moors and Chris­tians”) bat­tle re-enact­ment on the coast will each have its own dis­tinct fla­vor. You will notice how man­ners dif­fer from one region to anoth­er, the stereo­types of the loud, exu­ber­ant Andalu­sian and the qui­et, melan­cholic Gali­cian hav­ing more than just a degree of sub­stance to them. And the vari­ety in Span­ish food is, of course, a whole book in itself, but by way of illus­tra­tion the range goes from hearty stews of puls­es and pork sausages, typ­i­cal of the plains of the Mese­ta Cen­tral, to fresh sal­ads of salt cod and tangy oranges served in the Mediter­ranean region. Wines and cheeses, elab­o­rate­ly named and cat­e­gorised in France are, in Spain, often known sim­ply as the local “vino tin­to” and “que­so” – the tac­it assump­tion being that if we pro­duce it here it’s good stuff and why would you want to look any fur­ther afield? – anoth­er man­i­fes­ta­tion of “la patria chi­ca” at work.

If you are inter­est­ed in see­ing inside these many lay­ers of Rur­al Spain, what­ev­er your focus, do con­tact us and let us put togeth­er for you an itin­er­ary that will bring you in touch with one of the most var­ied and intrigu­ing coun­tries in Europe.