SOUTH OF SPAIN
Once one of Europe’s poorest and most underdeveloped regions, the provinces of Andalusia and Murcia became suddenly catapulted into the modern age with the arrival of mass tourism, which swallowed up most of its coastline in the space of about twenty years. So generally the coastal region is not of much interest to those in search of the best farmstays or rural retreats .
The coast isn’t all hopeless though; between Tarifa and Cadiz in the far south of Andalucia or some of the eastern parts of the province of Almeria, or the area around Aguilas in the province of Murcia for example seem to have happily escaped the worst excesses.
Around Cadiz too is the Parque Nacional Coto de Doñana, a semi wilderness of marshes and forests that is a breeding ground for a huge range of bird species; Flamingos, herons, geese, ducks and some extremely rare and protected Imperial eagles to name but a few.
The interior though is generally the opposite, with more discerning travelers heading to, or remaining, inland to get a feel for a more traditional south of Spain. It has three historically very important cities; Seville, Cordoba and Granada which still today, in their historical cores anyway, retain an old, almost medieval atmosphere.
And its rural areas can be spectacular, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Spain’s highest range, for example are a great place for hiking and winter sports or just above Seville the gentler ranges of the Sierra Morena too are a popular hill walking and hiking destination. And all over the region you will find small sleepy villages baking in the sun, where the people, the food and the pace of life is distinctly Mediterranean.
Our Recommended Farmstays in Southern Spain: Farmstays/Southern-Spain
As the South of Spain has became so over touristic a lot of urban Spaniards started looking to the north for their rural escape and with them many curious foreigners.
Northern Spain is very different to what an outsider would think of as typically Spain. It is green, very green, they don’t call it the Costa Verde for nothing, and it certainly rains a lot. It has two distinct cultures too that might seem quite alien to more southern Spaniards; the Basques in the east and what remains of the Celts in Galicia and Asturias to the west.
It has a lot of rugged terrain with the Picos de Europa mountains, which contain some of Spain’s most spectacular scenery, dominating the interior of the north west and the great Pyrneees guarding the French border to the east. And its coastline is very highly regarded, with some great beaches around and in its entirety far better preserved than the concrete grimness of the South of Spain.
Galicia is green and rugged with a big connection to the sea, and an ancient connection to Ireland to the north. They share the same Celtic origins and both of them, with their sense of independence and a shared history of emigration to the New World, have traditionally faced the Atlantic with their backs turned to their European neighbors.
La Rioja is of course a famous vineyard region and some of that same wine growing tradition can be found in neighboring provinces like Navarra and the Basque Country too. Up in Cantabria and Asturias cider is the drink of choice and some very good cider is made in these same areas.
Our Recommended Farmstays in Northern Spain: Farmstays/Northern-Spain
CATALONIA & NORTH EASTERN SPAIN
The North East of Spain is dominated by the ‘Is it part of Spain or is it not’ region of Catalonia/Catalunya. Without wanting to delve into any politics, Catalunya is already very well known on the world tourism scene due to the amazing transformation of its capital city Barcelona from a relatively average Mediterranean city to one of the world’s most iconic urban tourist destinations.
Most visitors to Catalunya therefore don’t stray far from Las Ramblas never mind explore the rural Catalan speaking villages of the hinterland but of course that’s a pity. Though the region is fairly industrialized, prosperous and populated compared to the rest of Spain, from the Parc Nacional de Algüestortes in the Pyrenees, down the coast and some of the best beaches in Spain, to the cava vineyards around Sant Satumi d’Anoia there are a lot of relatively rural, naturally beautifully areas to be enjoyed. An Italian style agriturismo industry is developing faster in Catalunya than anywhere else in Spain. Standards are high and you’ll find some of Spain’s best farmstays there, even quite near Barcelona.
Across the sea lie the also traditionally Catalan speaking Balearic Islands, which though also a definite hot spot for the beach package holiday crowd, they have some very laid back rural areas and a number of peaceful farmstays.
Valencia to the south is similar in culture to Catalunya; some still speak a dialect of Catalan they call Valenciano but where the people are generally more comfortable than their northern neighbors with a Spanish identify.
Valencia is a fertile land, the inland Huerta is famous for its orange and lemon groves and the coastal areas produces some great sea food, paella originated here for example.
Sandwiched between the traditional north of Spain and the north east, lies the region of Aragon. Comprising the provinces of Zaragoza, Huesca and Tereul, Aragon is generally a deeply rural, slow paced region that stretches down from the Pyrenees through the Ebro basin and its main city Zaragoza and gives way to much generally flat farmland that produces a lot of Spain’s wheat barley and corn, but also some olives and grapes.
Our Recommended Farmstays in North Eastern Spain & Catalonia: Farmstays/NE-Spain
The heart of Spain and almost its geographical centre is the vibrant city of Madrid. It dominates the country and naturally enough dominates the central region. Beyond the bright lights, big city though, Central Spain; the provinces of Castilla y Leon, Castilla La Mancha and Extremadura have important histories, this is the region where the foundations of the country we now know as Spain were laid, but are all still mainly rural areas that have a variety of interesting landscapes and a slow pace of life.
The climate here is amongst the toughest in the whole of Europe. The baking hot, dry summers and freezing cold winters put a lot of people off touring anything but the main cities and tourist towns; Madrid of course and the likes of Burgos, Cuenca, Merida, the university city of Salamanca and Caceres the perhaps under visited, quietly charming capital of Extremadura.
Castilla La Mancha; Don Quxote country, along with the great Meseta grain fields of Castilla y Leon, is among Spain’s agricultural heartlands. Castilla y Leon has also one of Spain’s best vineyard regions; Ribero del Duero the area around the River Duero that flows across the province and on into Portugal.
There is a lot less farming going on in the tough, dry terrain of Extremadura but it contains one of the country’s best parks, the Parque Natural de Monfragüe in the northern part of the province which has some spectacular scenery and is home to a great number of bird species including eagles and vultures, many of which died out years ago in most other parts of the country, and indeed in most other parts of the continent, but are still excitingly.
Our Recommended Farmstays in Central Spain: Farmstays/Central-Spain
The Canary Islands are another of Spain’s tourism monsters. Its year round agreeable climate have been attracting millions of foreign tourists for years now and its beaches and resorts are filled twelve months of the year.
Therefore it may not appear an obvious destination for farmstays or rural tourism but despite the sheer numbers of visitors there are some really inspiring rural areas to be discovered; the spectacular rugged interior of Gran Canaria, the surreal volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote or the sub tropical forests of La Gomera National Park are just a few examples.
There are also a surprising amount of small farms and quaint little villages dotted around the islands that can give a sense of isolation and peace that are a world away from the resorts of the main beach areas.
Our Recommended Farmstays in the Canary Islands: Farmstays/Canarias
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