Spain offers a diverse range of walking regions. In fact, if you were to rank European countries purely by reference to the diversity of their walking options, Spain might be unchallengeable. Just think for a moment of the contrast between the cliffs and wild terrain of Spain’s Atlantic coast and the warm relaxed coves and beaches of its Mediterranean regions (some of which lie within a stones throw of northern Africa). Or the mountains of the Sierra Nevada compared to the vast wetlands of Donana in the south-west.
Spain’s popularity as a walking destination has grown dramatically over the last 15 years or so, largely as a result of flourishing interest in northern Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela. There are, in fact, several pilgrim trails (“caminos”) leading to the historic, north-western town of Santiago de Compostela. The fascination with these trails has served to draw attention to the attractions of Spain’s other walking regions. Naturally, this attention has been welcomed by Spanish authorities who are busily improving facilities for walkers.
Spain has witnessed the rise and fall of many great civilisations and this eventful history contributes hugely to its appeal as a walking destination. Spain was part of the Roman Empire until the 5th century CE and many vestiges of that period are still evident today. Then, in the 8th century, the north African Moors invaded and rapidly gained control of the whole Iberian peninsula. For seven centuries the country was dominated by Muslim rulers before Christian rulers began to win territory and erode Muslim control. The 1500’s and 1600’s saw a “Golden Age” for Spain, during which its power and influence were second to none.
The influence and legacies of these mighty civilisations and the ructions associated with their emergence and decline have moulded the country and its culture. Spaniards are known as a proud and passionate race, conscious of their contributions to the world and ambitious for their country’s future.
From a walker’s perspective, history and culture add depth to a walking experience but the landscape provides the all-important physical setting. Spain is home to some exquisite landscape assets. It’s more mountainous than most people realise, with stunning mountain ranges in the Pyrenees on the border with France, in the far south and elsewhere. Its coastline is much more than the popular beaches of the Med, with its Atlantic coast areas providing exciting walking territory. And there are lush river valleys, such as that accompanying the upper River Ebro in Catalonia, that contain farmland scenery that’s changed little over recent centuries.
For ease of reference, we’ve split Spain into its northern and southern halves. Click on the button below for information on walking in that half of the country.