Saturday, 26 June 2010

Beaches off the beaten track on Costa Brava holidays



The Costa Brava is a coastal region in Spain just north of Barcelona. Costa Brava’s beaches are truly worth seeing. From the larger resort such as a Lloret de Mar holiday to the lesser known beaches dotted along the coast. Here are three of our favourite off the beaten track beaches.


Platja Castell

This beach is just off the ancient village of Platja d’Aro. It is one of the last remaining sandy beaches in Costa Brava to have avoided the arrival of tourists. Instead, it is favoured by the locals, and at the weekend, people from Barcelona flock there for a well-earned rest. So if you want somewhere authentic, this is the place to go. On the beach, there are hidden coves for the more adventurous to explore. There are plenty of coastal walks to enjoy and crystal clear water to cool off in on the way. This stunning beach is very laid back, so if you’re looking for somewhere away from the crowds with a real authentic Spanish feel on your Costa Brava holiday, try Platja Castell.

Cap De Creus
This stunning beach is the most Eastern point of Catalonia with the nearest town of being Figueres. If you’re in the area this beach is a must visit. It’s a nature reserve covered in hidden coves, so you’re likely to end up finding your own secluded area on the beach. Spend hours exploring the rock pools or enjoy the beautiful walks. The intense feeling of isolation and freedom makes this beach feel a million miles away from the more popular resorts. Of course if you get bored of searching for wildlife, just lay back and enjoy the breath taking landscapes.


Platja de Pals

This beach is the sort of one you dream about when back home wishing you were on holiday in the sun with a two mile stretch of perfect golden sands. This beach is also very family friendly with lots of activities like water sports and volleyball available to play. Although it is family friendly, don’t let the kids wander too far on their own though…some parts of this beach are actually nudist.


Whichever beach you end up on during your Costa Brava holidays you’re guaranteed cleanliness and amazing landscapes, so fear not if a couple of these beaches may be too far out of the way for you. If you want the best beaches in Costa Brava though, these three truly top the bill and get my vote.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Costa de la Luz ( The Coast of Light )




The Costa de la Luz ( The coast of light ) is the most southern all the Spanish Costas and definately one of my favorites. The coast of light is aptly names with the clean Atlantic waters washing the shores of the provinces of Cadiz and Huelva. The coast runs from Tarifa ( wind surfers paradise ) in the east to the Taguas estuary bordering Portugal in the west.


Some of the best beaches in Spain are to be found along the Costa de la Luz, along with its pine clad countryside, picturesque fishing villages and tranquil surroundings are just some of the many advantages from this part of Spain. 

The Costa de la Luz has a slightly more milder climate than its neighbor to the East the Costa del Sol, however the building side has been a lot more controlled and most of the are here has maintained that authentic Spanish Village feel. The main tourist resorts have built low rise hotels and properties that have fitted much better into the natural settings of pine trees which line almost the whole coast.

The sand here is much finer than other parts of Spain, although it must be said can be prone to stronger winds that seem to fan the province almost every day. These winds have made the Costa de la Luz a firm favorite with wind sports enthusiasts from all over the world.

The main towns and villages along the coast include:

Cadiz
Cadiz along with Huelva are the main towns which lay along the Costa del la Luz. Cadiz is the more beautiful and historic of the two in my opinion. This historic city is divided into two main parts, the modern and the old. Although the modern side has all the trapping of modern day living, the marinas, yachts, modern hotels etc the old part reveals the real history. The old town center is abound with character and true Andalusian flavors and is made up of three barrios ( quarters ) The Barrio La Viña , home to the fishing district, the Barrio El Populo , said to be the oldest part of the city and the Barrio Santa Maria.

A good time to visit Cadiz is during the carnivals held in February each year. It is one of Spains best carnivals with ten days of street processions and an unrivalled party atmosphere.

Huelva
The city of Huelva looks a bit rundown in parts and is not a main destination for the international traveler although the outlining towns and natural parks are some of the finest you will find in the country. The long sandy unspoilt beaches are to die for.

Barbate.

Endearing fishing village with access to all the best beaches and the natural parks in the area, low rise tourism with plenty of good eating houses, fresh fish is a must and Barbate has enough eateries to satisfy the most enthusiast of fresh fish and seafood lover.

Chipiona
Very popular with the Spanish tourist, again lovely long sandy beaches. Chipiona has a very Spanish ambience about it and is a great family destination. Explore the backstreets and you will be rewarded with finding some of the cheapest fresh fish restaurants and tapas bars anywhere in the area.

Zahara de las Atunes

Typical example of how a small town with one of the best beaches along the coast, it has also maintained its small village charm due to lack of high rise development or any major construction for that fact. As in the case of many of the fishing villages along the Costa de la Luz, the main catch here is the Tuna which is fished using the traditional almadrabas method ( fishermen using very long poles with a line and hook perched on the side of fishing trawlers ).

The apres beach and sun activities here are laid back and peaceful nights are guaranteed here supping your favorite brew in one of the many quaint local bars.

Matalscanas

Offers long sandy beaches and sits next to the famous Doñana Natural park. Again low rise tourism which is repented by well off property owners from Sevilla and Cadiz so the prices are generally a little higher .

Conil

Conil de la Frontera is a former fishing village which has become a popular, low-rise resort. Its has a long fine white sandy beach and once again has a real village feel to the place. You will find a fine selection of fish restaurants along the Paseo Maritimo ( beach front area ) which buzzes nicely with a Spanish vibe at night as the locals join the holidays makers in enjoying the catch of the day.

The smallish white prawns ( gamba blanca ) are a delicacy along this coast and although can be on the pricier side are well worth trying for there excellent flavor. Also for fish lovers June is a good time to visit when the Tuna is celebrated and many restaurants offer this locally caught fish at discount prices.


Tarifa

Tarifa, the wind capital of the Europe as it is often referred to, so much so that wind farms are being erected all around the area and make quite a site. Of course wind sports activates are in abundance here and the bay is always full of the colorful spectacle of wind and kite surfers speeding along the coastline. Tarifa is the most southern most tip of Spain where the Mediterranean joins the fresher waters of the Atlantic ocean. Due to its proximity to Africa and Gibraltar boat trips are popular with companies offering numerous boat rides and fishing trips. It is not uncommon to see whales quite near to the shoreline as they feed back and forth along the Gibraltar straits.


Monday, 7 June 2010

Aracena - Historical City and Spanish Ham





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Aracena is at the heart of a prestigious jamon -producing area, so try to sample some, and, when they're available, the delicious wild asparagus and local snails - rooted out from the roadside and in the fields in spring and summer respectively.

Surrounding Aracena you'll find a scattering of attractive villages, most of them dependent on the jamón industry and its curing factory at Jabugo. Jamón serrano (mountain ham) is a bocadillo standard throughout Spain and some of the best, jamón de bellotas (acorn-fed ham), comes from the Morena, where herds of sleek grey pigs grazing beneath the trees are a constant feature. In October the acorns drop and the pigs, waiting patiently below, gorge themselves, become fat and are promptly whisked off to be slaughtered and then cured in the dry mountain air.

The sierra villages - Jabugo, Aguafría, Almonaster La Real - all make rewarding bases for walks, though all are equally ill-served by public transport (details from the Aracena turismo). The most interesting is Almonaster La Real, whose castle encloses a tiny ninth-century mosque, La Mezquita, with what is said to be the oldest mihrab in Spain. Tacked onto the mosque is the village bullring which sees action once a year in August during the annual fiesta.

The village also has a couple of places to eat and stay : the very hospitable Pensión La Cruz, in the centre with a good restaurant, and Hostal Casa García at the entrance to the village, which also has a fine restaurant, with great jamón and ensaladilla . There are some superb paint-splashed waymarked walks northwest of the village, off the Cortegana road; a leaflet detailing these and other walks in the area can be found at the ayuntamiento on Plaza de la Constitución.
Gary

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Almeria - Natural Beauty and Fantastic Beaces

ALMERÍA is a pleasant, modern city, spread at the foot of a stark grey mountain. At the summit is a tremendous Alcazaba   probably the best surviving example of Moorish military fortification, with three huge walled enclosures, in the second of which are the remains of a mosque, converted to a chapel by the Reyes Católicos. In the eleventh century, when Almería was an independent kingdom and the wealthiest, most commercially active city of Spain, this citadel contained immense gardens and palaces and some 20,000 people.

From the Alcazaba, however, you do get a good view of the coast, of Almería's cave quarter - the Barrio de la Chanca on a low hill to the left - and of the city's strange fortified Cathedral (Mon-Fri 10am-4.30pm, Sat 10am-1pm, Sun service hours, built in the sixteenth century at a time when the southern Mediterranean was terrorized by the raids of Barbarossa and other Turkish and North African pirate forces; its corner towers once held cannons.

Try sampling many of the cafés, tapas bars and terrazas in the streets circling the Puerta de Purchena, the focal junction of the modern town, and strolling along the main Paseo de Almería down towards the harbour, and taking day-trips out to the beaches along the coast. The city's own beach lies southeast of the centre beyond the train lines.



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Almeria hides some hidden gems if you are a lover of quiet and pristine beaches, clean and warm waters. In the eastern part of the province is the Cabo de Gata natural park where construction has been kept to an absolute minimum . Warm and clear waters flow all along the shores of this natural park and is a ideal for tranquil bathing and snorkeling enthusiasts. On my last visit I must have spent half of my holiday exploring the clear shallow waters around the rocky outcrops. If this type of holiday floats your boat then head for places like Los Escullos, The Playa de los Genoveses, San Jose and Playa de Monsul. This quite beaches and towns may be slightly off the beaten track but are well worth the trip.

A popular hotel right on the beach of San Jose if the Hotel Don Ignacio Set in the charming and historic fishing village of San José, this beachfront hotel is located within the stunning Cabo de Gata-Nijar National Park. Visit the Natural Park with its unique and beautiful natural environment and magnificent beaches. You can unwind in the tranquil and spacious hotel facilities and take a dip in the refreshing swimming pool after a long day of tourist activities. The surrounding area is ideal for the practise of a variety of outdoor activities, such as trekking, scuba diving and boat tours.

If your looking for absolute tranquility and private beaches with some of the cleanest waters in the Mediterranean then the Hotel Cortijo Los Escullos  is a must place to stay. The Cortijo is situated in Cabo de Gata National Park and enjoys unique views over Escullos Bay. The hotel is small and cosy and is situated only 1 km from the sea, right in the middle of nature. It offers all the modern comforts and a tranquil environment. This is a paradise for nature lovers and those who want to disconnect from everyday life and get involved in some adventure tourism.

Alcudia - The Pearl of North Mallorca




Situated near the northern tip of the Spanish island of Majorca, the picturesque little town of Alcudia watches proudly over the adjacent bay. Tourism in Alcudia is on the increase and is now one of the most visited villages in Majorca, boasting a charming atmosphere and a history dating back to a century BC. It is the fusion of Phoenician, Roman, Moorish and, of course, the vivid Spanish cultures which have shaped the area, and have given the town its distinctive identity.  

Although Alcudia has opened up to tourism, it has remained quaint and has not been taken over my large-scale tourist developments. Enjoying family holidays in Alcudia is easy as the town caters perfectly for families with youngsters. The entire old town has been fully pedestrianized and great care has been taken to conserve its rich, deeply-rooted culture. A definite must-see attraction is Alcudia's Moorish wall, a perfectly preserved site which encircles the inner town – ever so breath-taking. Other historical sites of interest are the Roman theatre and the 300-year old bullring, located in town's northern flank. When you get a little peckish, why not grab some tapas or sit down to an exquisite Spanish menu in the centre of the old town? It will soon become clear why Alcudia is so special.  



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A great value and popular resort would have to be the Hotel Sea Club This apartment complex is set a short walk from the beach in Alcudia Bay, Mallorca. The Sea Club has 3 design swimming pools and a full family entertainment programme. There is free public parking available nearby. All apartments offer a balcony, and a kitchen with utensils and a kettle. Satellite TV and air conditioning are also included.

The Club Mac Resort is on the slightly higher price range but somes comes highly recommended and overall has proven to be great value in the past. The Club Mac resort is set in an extensive estate where you will find a host of excellent facilities. Relax around the swimming pool, and soak up the pleasant Majorcan sun, while the children take a dip in the one of the 9 pools onsite. Alternatively, you can stroll around the huge site, through the extensive gardens to admire the 2 natural lakes.

Andtrax and Sant Elm - Mallorca




Inland from Palma bay, you could certainly find worse ways to spend an afternoon than hopping on a bus to Andratx , a small, undeveloped town huddled among the hills to the west. From here, it's another short bus ride through a pretty, orchard-covered landscape to the dishevelled, low-key resort of Sant Elm .

There are plans to expand the resort, but at present it's a relatively quiet spot where there's a reasonable chance of a room in high season, either at the conspicuous Hotel Aquamarín or, preferably, at the Hostal Dragonera, a simple, modern building with clean and neat rooms, most of which offer sea views. For such a small place, there's also a surprisingly wide choice of cafés and restaurants , the best being Na Caragola, which specializes in seafood and has a charming terrace and ocean views.


From May to October, buses ply between Sant Elm and Andratx seven times a day Monday to Saturday, and once on Sundays (in winter, once daily). With more time to spare, boats shuttle across from Sant Elm's minuscule harbour to the austere offshore islet of Illa Dragonera , an uninhabited chunk of rock, some 4km long and 700m wide, with an imposing ridge of sea cliffs dominating its northwestern shore.

If you are thinking of staying in Andratx there are good selction of Hotels in Andratx. One of these  is the Mon Port Hotel and Spa located in the scenic harbour of Andratx, surrounded by mountains and with magnificent views.The luxury and the elegance of its Mediterranean style makes it unique. Mon Port offers you an attentive and helpful service to complement its unique character. The superb accommodation and the "gourmet" cuisine will make your stay unforgettable. 

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Family Holidays in Ibiza



Family holidays to Ibiza

Although Ibiza is known as a party capital, there is another type of holiday to be had on this spectacular Spanish island. Ibiza is a bead rock for Spanish tourism Enjoy picturesque beaches, countryside scenery and fascinating history; all of this makes Ibiza perfect for family holidays.

What exactly makes Ibiza holidays so great for a family trip? Here are some things to do that’ll keep the whole family happy for a holiday in the sun.

Exploring Ibiza

Ibiza’s countryside is a wonderful surprise. If you want to experience this beautiful landscape get out on foot or by bicycle. Explore Ibiza’s quaint villages, mountain scenes or discover hidden beaches. Walking and cycle paths are dotted around the island allowing families to see all kinds fascinating scenery on their Ibiza family holidays.

Ibiza’s Cave - Can Marca

Explore Ibiza’s ancient caves on holiday and wander amongst the stalactites. Can Marca was originally discovered by smugglers, who hid goods in them. Visitors can handle fossils and bones excavated in this magnificent cave.

Make a splash in Ibiza

Aguamar in Playa d’en Bossa is fantastic fun for all holiday makers, particularly children. With a whole host of slides looping across the park, you’ll while away hours without even realising it. It’s a great sport to grab lunch or even take a picnic.

Enjoy the beaches

We all love a day or two at the beach on a family holiday. Ibiza’s fantastic beaches are great for children to play in the sand while you relax under beautiful clear blue skies. Cala Llonga is a great resort if you fancy a beach holiday with golden sand and shallow waters; great fun for the kids. Don’t miss the spectacular sunset at Cala Conte, an Ibiza beach favourite, on your Ibiza family holiday.

Enjoy the beach in Ibiza

Get out and explore Ibiza on a 4 x 4; it’s a brilliant opportunity to see the island without working up a sweat. Car hire is available at most resorts in Ibiza, so why not take a road trip on your Ibiza family.

Hippy Market

Ibiza’s ‘hippy market’ is great for presents to take home and arts and crafts. It’ll keep the kids entertained as they search for a holiday souvenir while you stock up on gifts for friends and family at home. The hippy market is held on Saturdays in San Carlos, don’t miss out on a bargain.

Formentera Day Trip

Take a trip to the nearby island of Formentera on your Ibiza holiday and relax on the beautiful beaches on this tranquil haven. Day trips are easily arranged from your Ibiza resort.