The many high mountains and the vast central plain or meseta
offer excellent opportunities for hiking, mountaineering
and walking. The mountains in the north of
the country are particularly suitable for trekkers. The
Pyrenees, which cover an area of 450 sq km, feature
breathtaking scenery with rocky walls, ravines and lakes.
The Picos de Europa, just west of Santander,
are also wild and dramatic, with some peaks rising to over
2600 metres (8528 feet).
Spain’s flora and fauna includes the brown bear,
which is found in the Asturias, the cabra hispánica
or mountain goat, quite common in the Pyrenees
and the Sierra de Gredos, west of Avila and
the rare capercallie or European grouse,
found in the forests of northern Spain..
There are good opportunities for rock climbing
in the mountains. Well known, challenging climbs include the
Naranjo de Bulnes in the Picos de
Europa and Monte Perdido in Ordesa
is becoming increasingly popular, and paths and tracks are
plentiful, making most areas accessible. Spain’s long
equestrian tradition means that horse riding
can easily be arranged. Mountain trails, river valleys and
the wide plains can all be explored on horseback.
Golf is becoming increasingly popular, with both Costa
del Sol and La Manga emerging as
two of Spain’s premier golfing destinations. At present,
Spain has over 200 golf courses, including courses designed
by the likes of Jack Niklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Severiano
Ballesteros, and Jose María Olazabel. The Valderrama
(near Madrid) is particularly well known. Spain’s balmy
climate allows for a long golf season. Tuition and equipment
hire are widely available.
Swimming, water-skiing, and windsurfing
facilities can be found at nearly all of the seaside resorts.
These can be busy during the summer months. Spain’s
premier windsurfing resort is Tarifa, on
the Straits of Gibraltar, where the world
championships are held. Inland lakes on the meseta in the
regions of Castilla and Extremadura
also have good facilities for windsurfing.
rafting and canoeing are practised
on the rapids in northern Spain. Centres are well equipped
and have skilled staff.
is very popular, both around the coast and inland. Spain has
over 4000km of coastline, and there are many harbours. Over
100 sailing clubs exist, most of which are located near the
Diving is also popular
and permits can be acquired from the relevent regional authorities.
Excellent opportunities exist for all types of fishing. The
rivers and streams of the Pyrenees and the
Picos de Europa offer good freshwater game
fishing, while trout is abundant throughout the country. The
Asturias contain the best salmon rivers.
Other catches include barbel, perch, pike and tench. Permits
must be requested from the regional authorities.
Spain offers great opportunities for skiing
and there are many natural ski-runs and winter resorts, equipped
with modern facilities, all blessed with the promise of warm
sun and blue skies. There is also a wide range of hotels,
inns and refuges from which to choose.
There are five main skiing regions in Spain, these are the
Pyrenean Range, the Cantabrian Range,
the Iberian Chain, the Central Chain
and the Penibetic Chain. These ranges have
diverse characteristics and all are attractive for mountaineering
in general and for winter sports in particular. For further
details, see Madrid and the regions of Cantabria, Catalonia
and Navarre & Aragon in the Resorts & Excursions section.
A typical and spectacular sport is pelota vasca,
or jai-alai. Most major northern Spanish
cities have courts where daily matches are played from October
to June. In the towns and cities of the Basque regions, the
game is played in summer as well.
is probably the most popular spectator sport, with clubs such
as Real Madrid and Barcelona
being among the most famous in the world; first-class matches
are usually played on Sunday. International matches are also
staged from time to time.
There is a magnificent horseracing track
in Madrid with meetings in the autumn and spring; there is
racing in San Sebastián in the summer and in Seville
Motoracing is a popular
spectator sport in Barcelona and