Passionate flamenco dancing, zealous guitar strumming, tumultuous bullfighting, relaxing siestas, and colourful festivals are just some of the cultural traditions that Spain is famous for. The annual La Tomatina of Valenci festival is a particular highlight that sees locals and visitors alike embracing the world’s largest tomato fight, where more than 50,000 people take to the streets of Banol each August to squash and throw thousands of tonnes of tomatoes! Signature Spanish items include wooden castanets, ruffled ankle-length dresses and beautiful lace-trimmed hand fans; you are likely to return with at least one of these as a souvenir of your vacation.
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With a lengthy list of notable artists and architects through the ages, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Antonio Gaudi, it’s no wonder Spain is rich with artistic and architectural wonders. The Liceu Barcelona Opera House is one such beauty that embodies the heart and soul of Spanish life. Dating back to 1847, this is one of the most significant opera houses in Europe, where greats like Pavarotti and Domingo have taken to the stage to deliver mesmerising performances. Similarly, the Sagrada Familia is another structural sensation, with origins also dating back to the 1800s. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this immense cathedral has undergone nearly 150 years of construction and is actually still incomplete, with a scheduled finished date being in 2026. While in Granada, the Alhambra Palace deserves attention, as a decoratively impressive masterpiece, together with the Generalife Gardens that offer a romantic backdrop to stir your senses. On Luxury Gold’s ‘Spain & Portugal in Style’ 14-day tour, these are just some of the iconic sights you can look forward to when you visit Barcelona, Granada, Merida, Madrid, and Seville.
Bursting with flavour, Spanish regional cuisine will expose your taste buds to all manner of pleasures. You will frequently come across salsa rosa – a pink, creamy, slightly sweet sauce that is typically served with shellfish as a first course. Gazpacho is a refreshingly chilled soup made of a perfectly smooth blend of ripe tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, bread, peppers and cucumber. Maintaining the simple but effective theme, the Tortilla Española, or Spanish Omelet is literally just eggs, potatoes and onions that have been slowly fried in olive oil. It is then often enhanced with chorizo, courgettes, spinach or ham. The tapas staple Patatas Bravas is simpler still but just as tasty; white potatoes are first boiled, then fried before being served in a spicy tomato-based sauce. And of course, no Spanish adventure is complete without sampling the local paella. For dessert, turrón (an almond nougat), although typically eaten at Christmas, is available any time of year, and churros con chocolate will leave you feeling more than satisfied as you dip the crispy cinnamon dough sticks into a cup of warm, melted chocolate.
When it comes to drinking in Spain, it’s not all about sangria and you might be surprised by some unlikely concoctions; red wine mixed with Coca-Cola (known as kalimotxo) and coffee combined with rum, brandy, whisky or anisette (known as carajillo) are just two Spanish treats that work well in the sunshine. Cava is a sparkling wine, typically produced in Catalonia, that can either be white or rosé and is very popular with the locals. It is also used as a base in the Spanish cocktail Agua de Valencia (or ‘Valencia Water’), mixed together with orange juice, gin and vodka. If you’d like to stick to soft drinks, Orxata (or Horchata as it is alternatively known), is made of ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley, tiger nuts, or melon seeds. While it does come pre-packaged, nothing beats the fresh version made on site. Don’t leave Spain without giving this a try!
With an astounding mix of green rolling hills, alpine mountain ranges, flat coastal plains, stunning valleys, inviting forests, rich grasslands, resilient drylands, and multiple lagoons and wetlands, Spain’s natural landscapes are truly diverse. Starting from the top, the Pyrenees, Montserrat, Sierra Nevada, Picos de Europa and Serra de Tramuntana are some of the most significant Spanish mountains that make for spectacular scenery. Meanwhile, Spain’s Costa Brava is one of the most dramatic coastlines in the Mediterranean, with 125 miles of rugged cliffs, secluded coves and hidden villages.
Spain’s climate and wide range of habitats make for an interesting assortment of indigenous wildlife. Given its ideal location for migratory birds flying to Africa, Spain is a bird watcher’s paradise. Native bird species include flamingos, storks, vultures, eagles, kites and buzzards. Similarly, sperm whales, fin whales, pilot whales and orcas migrating between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea can be spotted in the Strait of Gibraltar (at certain times of year), as well as the pilot whales and varying types of dolphin that naturally inhabit this stretch of water. Aside from an abundance of birds and aquatic life, Spain is home to the endangered Iberian lynx, the Mediterranean monk seal, Cantabrian brown bears, Iberian wolves and the Hierro giant lizards. Plus, a variety of deer, Iberian wild goats and boars, tortoises, bats, snakes, small reptiles and amphibians.