Spain is a country of large geographical and cultural diversity, often a surprise for tourists who are expecting to find a country mostly known for beach tourism. Travel to Spain and you will find everything, from lush meadows, green valleys, hills and snowy mountains in the Northern regions to almost desert zones in the South. Spain is consistently in the World’s top four tourist destinations. It is not hard to understand why. A melting pot of cultures, history and natural beauty. Spain captivates all who see it. Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe after Switzerland. Its beaches are also famous and worth visiting, small and charming creeks in the North and wide white sand beaches on the South and Western parts of the country, without forgetting the exotic black sand beaches of the volcanic Canary Islands.
The Sanctuary of Loyola monumental site is a key element of religious tourism in the Basque Country and is one of the points of the three temples route. It is a set of buildings erected around the tower house of Loyola, the birthplace of San Ignacio de Loyola, a soldier turned to the priesthood by his strange visions, founded the Brotherhood of Jesus, or Jesuit order, whose radical interpretation of Catholicism left its mark on both the New and Old World.
Loyola is one of the most outstanding places in the Basque Country, both from a historical point of view and because of its traditions and also the natural setting in which it stands. Come and feel its spirituality, which you can contemplate as you follow the so-called “Three Temples Route”, also taking in the nearby sanctuary churches of Arantzazu and La Antigua.
Los Hervideros - volcanic rocky cost and caves which were formed by the volcanic eruptions during the years 1730 - 1736 when the Fire Mountains "Montañas de Timanfaya" let flowing the red hot lava into the ocean and the glowing earth solidified in the salty water. Here now the island is some square kilometres larger and you can stand 30 metres high on the "fresh" lava rocks ending in the Atlantic Ocean.
Walking trails and views plateaus arranged between the rocks. This gives you a beautiful view of the foamy head of the seawater being chased through the cracks and holes of the rocks. Especially when the sea is rougher this happens with great force. You see not only that, but you can hear how the sea is trying to work his way through the holes and fissures of the lava rock.
The beautiful Roman bridge over the river Tagus at Alcanara in Spain has always been a favourite of the author's. The word "Alcantara" means bridge in the language of the Arabs who later conquered much of Spain in the Eighth Century. This bridge is such a magnificent example of the civil engineer's art that its builder, Caius Julius Lacer, had his tomb erected nearby.
Roman stone arch bridges were semi circular, with several being made in segmental form which offered greater protection from forces of flood waters and enabled builders to infuse less material into bridge itself, making it lighter.
The weight of the stone and concrete of the bridge itself compressed the tapered stones together, making the arch an extremely strong structure. Heavy wagons and legions of troops could safely cross a bridge constructed of arches without collapsing the structure. Many of these bridges lasted long after the Roman Empire in the West had fallen and survived the period of barbarian destruction of the Fifth through Ninth Centuries. Several of the original stout Roman arch bridges lasted through the middle ages and on into modern times.
The Plaza Mayor is Madrid's main square. It is located right in the centre of the city, just a few minutes walk from the Puerta del Sol.
The square was originally planned by Felipe II and his architect Juan de Herrera, but was inaugurated in 1620 during Felipe III's reign, whose statue sits proud in the very centre of the square. Juan Gómez de Mora gave it its rectangular form, and after it had suffered three fires Juan de Villanova completed the work in 1853 by joining the four sides.
This site used to be the venue for many public events, such as bullfights, processions, festivals, theatre performances, Inquisition trials and even capital executions. Underneath the arcades there are traditional shops, as well as a wealth of bars and restaurants. In the square a number buildings stand out, such as Casa de la Panadería, with its fresco-decorated façade, and Casa de la Carnicería.
The Aqueduct of Segovia, situated in the centre of the city, is the monument which has given the most fame to the city. Probably built c. A.D. 50, is remarkably well preserved. This impressive construction, with its two tiers of arches, forms part of the setting of the magnificent historic city of Segovia.
The Aqueduct of Segovia is a unique structure from the Roman Empire that still conveys its original character and remains a prominent and evocative feature of the regional landscape.
It functioned for many centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire and served the communities of Segovia well into the modern era. Today it is one of the features of the landscape of Castilla y León that gives character to the region and is well-deserving of the attention it is receiving for its continued protection and stabilization.
Montserrat is one of the most popular and unique treasures in Catalonia. First and foremost a sanctuary, Montserrat is of religious and historical significance. The place is of a religious sighting, and it has now come to symbolise one of the most important sites for religious pilgrimage in the world.
Today the site of the visions has been marked by a Holy Grotto on the mountain. You can walk to the Holy Grotto and see first hand where these events took place. The Holy Grotto has now been ordained a holy place and is visited by pilgrims and curious onlookers from all over the world.
The Monastery's unique location at the very heart of Montserrat Mountain also ensures that is is an ideal location for nature lovers the geology, flora and fauna of the natural park mean that you can while away hours on the many walks that begin at the Monastery.
La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) is an iconic yet incomplete church in Barcelona. The stunning La Sagrada Família is a must-see for any tourist passing through Barcelona. The towering, still-under-construction basilica is beloved architect Antoni Gaudí’s most celebrated work.
Works on La Sagrada Familia were begun in 1882 under the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, then continued under Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi did not live to see the church completed and, since his death in 1926, and with the exception of the period of the Spanish Civil War, La Sagrada Familia has been under construction, and is hoped to be completed in 2026 (the centennial of Gaudí’s death), though it might not be finished until as late as 2040. The Great Pyramid, by comparison, only took 20 years.
There is endless natural symbolism within La Sagrada Família. The interior structure is supported by large pillars that look like trees. One pillar has a turtle at its base, and another a tortoise in order to show the balance between land and sea.
The Alhambra is a beautiful complex of buildings and gardens. Its leafy tree-lined walkways provide pleasant shade and coolness, enhanced by the abundance of water that flows in its streams.
Granada has its usual quotient of churches, museums etc. typical for a southern European city. However, Granada has the Alhambra which is considered by some to be one best wonders of the world. The Alhambra is a massive castle constructed over many centuries.
It consists of gardens, fortifications and sumptuous palaces. It was the home of many of the Arab Sultans who ruled the whole province and for centuries it received the optimum in interior decoration and architecture.
It was the largest political and aristocratic centre of the Moslem West. The Palace premises comprise beautiful rectangular courtyards and numerous fountains, as well as the Nasrid buildings that served as living quarters for the monarchs and their servants. The oldest building is the Alcazaba citadel. One of the most important structures is the La Vela tower, which offers one of the loveliest views of the Alhambra. The courtyard of the Lions with its fountains is one of the most beautiful in the compound.
Barcelona's Ciutat Vella is best known for the Gothic Quarter. The heart of the city's history, culture and local vibe. It is among the most fascinating areas in the city thanks to the abundance of Gothic buildings that were erected here during Barcelona's heyday in the Middle Ages.
Whether you're looking for local Catalan dishes, gastro tapas or rustic hole in the wall joints, the Gothic Neighbourhood has it all. Amongst the windy streets and tucked away courtyards, the Gotico hosts some of Barcelona's most well-known locales.
It is best to spend at least a half day in this historic neighbourhood so that you can discover the many small squares, beautiful churches and Gothic residences, several of which have beautiful courtyards that are open to the public. Most of the sights are concentrated around the Cathedral of Saint Eulalia, the most important tourist attraction in the Gothic Quarter.
Gran Vía is one of the most important and symbolic arteries of downtown Madrid, and in few places will you experience the hustle and bustle of this busy street.
The buildings on this street are truly magnificent; it is no wonder that tourists flock to this part of Madrid to admire the sights and the 20th century style that is so characteristic of this neighbourhood.
The Metropolis Building is one of the major highlights of this street, it is an office building famous because it has become the symbol of the Gran Vía, with its beautiful façade and the awe-inspiring statue on its cupola. The Telefonica Building is also one of the most famous buildings on this street, and it was inspired by American style architecture, built with some of Manhattan’s skyscrapers in mind.
The Monastery of El Escorial, located some 30 miles northwest of Madrid in the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, was built as a monument to commemorate the Spanish victory over the French in the battle of Saint Quentin on 10 August 1557.
It is built in granite and divided into three areas. The central area is the Kings' Courtyard. There is a tower at each of its four corners measuring 55 metres, each crowned by a metal sphere. The compound includes the Ministries, Casa de los Oficios artisans' houses, the Compaña where the company was quartered, and the apartments of the Infantes and Queen, all connected via arches.
The church is laid out in the shape of a Greek cross and there are funerary monuments to Charles V and Philip II in the main chapel. The library is also of particular interest. The building was designed by Juan de Herrera and gave rise to an architectural style known as Herrerian. It holds the designation of World Heritage site.
Its style, now known as Herrerian, was considered innovative at the time and it’s worth making the day trip from Madrid for this alone. Then there’s the fact that many of Spain’s monarchs have been buried within its imposing grand granite walls. Add to the mix around 1,600 paintings on display and El Escorial really is a royal residence to remember.
Gibraltar occupies a short peninsula extending south of Spain at the point where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean intermix. The peninsula, separated from Africa by twenty miles of water, is dominated by a massive and majestic sandstone ridge known as the Rock of Gibraltar (approximately 1400 feet high). In the past, the "Rock" was considered as one of the two Pillars of Hercules, based on the fable that Hercules created the rift valley between Europe and Africa by severing the continents with a bash of his weapon. Most tourist come to see the "Rock" and travel to its top.
Spain is a mix of different cultures like Christian, Jewish and Muslims. The Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim mosque was built for the Muslims to worship here and it's a lovely building that is recommended to see. It was built by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and is the most southerly mosque in Europe and one of the largest outside of a non Muslim country.
The Palacio Real, or Royal Palace, is Madrid's largest building and possibly its most beautiful. It is located next to the equally beautiful Plaza de Oriente square. The palace is owned by the Spanish State and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional, a public agency of the Ministry of the Presidency.
The Reception Room and State Apartments should get priority here if you're rushed. They include a rococo room with a diamond clock; a porcelain salon; the Royal Chapel; the Banquet Room, where receptions for heads of state are still held; and the Throne Room. The empty thrones of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía are among the highlights of the tour.
If your visit falls on the first Wednesday of the month, look for the changing of the guard ceremony, which occurs at noon and is free to the public.
The palace itself contains furniture, tapestries, paintings and ceramics as well as other important works of art and frescos by Tiépolo. Velázquez, Goya, Giordano and Mengs are all represented here amongst the dozens of valuable tapestries and paintings, making the palace one of Europe's most important museums
The Castle of Ibiza is a popular destination as parts of it date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Part of the old town, DAlt Vila, the castle can be reached by climbing the many steep stairs to the top. From the ramparts you can enjoy a view of the town and harbour.
At the moment there is only access to the exterior of the castle, however there are plans to convert it into a hotel. Features of the castle include the nine square towers, the governors’ house, infantry battalion barracks and parade grounds.
The current building is from the 16th century (the Ses Voltes building, whose doorway is crowned by the shields of the Crown of Aragon and the Governor Alonso de Zanoguera) and the 18th century (the infantry battalion barracks around the parade grounds). Also in the 18th century, the Almudaina was adjoined to the Castle after a section of the wall and the tower that was between both buildings collapsed. The building underwent a number of renovations in the 19th and 20th centuries
The Alcázar of Segovia is a stone fortress in the old city of Segovia, Spain. It is a unique palace located at the top of Guadarrama Mountains and the fort looks similar to the shape of a ships bow. The Alcazar was built as a fortress and later it was used as royal palace, Royal Artillery College, state prison and military academy.
It's also rumoured that this little fortress was the inspiration behind Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World. The castle is situated on a cliff, located at the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Klamores, near the Guadarrama mountains.
It is thought that a fort has existed on this site since Roman times, but the first known written mention of the Alcazar of Segovia is found in twelfth century Christian records. Having started life as an Arab fort, in the thirteenth century, the Alcazar of Segovia made the transition from military stronghold to palatial residence and was slowly renovated in a gothic style, with further changes made in the sixteenth century.
The theatre was built from 16 to 15 BC and dedicated by the consul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was renovated in the late 1st or early 2nd century AD, possibly by the emperor Trajan. With the advent of Christianity as Rome’s sole state religion, theatrical performances were officially declared immoral, the theatre was abandoned and most of its fabric was covered with earth, leaving only its upper tiers of seats (summa cavea).
In Spanish tradition, these were known as “The Seven Chairs” in which it is popularly thought that several Moorish kings held court to decide the fate of the city.
People were distributed in the semi circular seating area from top to bottom depending of their social status. It has a typical building roman model. The stage or “scaena” has a 30 metre high-wall with marble pillars, and sculptures of emperors and gods. When theatrical plays were declared immoral by the Christian religion, the roman theatre was abandoned.
Designed in the French Gothic style, the cathedral is 121 meter long and 55 meter wide. The main body of the church is set in the middle of a mass of pillars and spires, behind which lies the strong buttress reinforced with a double row of flying arches. The bell tower, still unfinished today, is 52 meter high with three stories. The main facade, which overlooks the Almudaina Palace, collapsed during a 1851 earthquake and was later completely reconstructed, with the exception of the Renaissance-era door which miraculously emerged unscathed.
Highlights of the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma include the amazing rose windows through which the light pours inside dispersing into a myriad of hues, the imposing Bell Tower, the Mirada Portal, the magnificent choir area, and the altar, which is beautifully located beneath a massive wrought-iron canopy designed by the famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi with the purpose of depicting the Crown of Thorns.
The Monasterio de Piedra (Stone Monastery) was a natural park that featured countless waterfalls. In fact, we were so overwhelmed by the sheer number of waterfalls flowing throughout the park.
Monasterio de Piedra was constructed over 23 years using materials from the castle and the wall which enclosed it. At the time, the conquest of the region by Catholic forces in 1120 was a relatively recent memory, and the Catholic kingdoms' campaign to re-conquer Spain ('la reconquista') was still underway.
Today, Monasterio de Piedra is privately owned and open to the public. Within the building's walls, visitors will also find a wine museum and an exhibition about the history of chocolate. The Monastery grounds also contain a fish farming centre, a luxury hotel, a spa and several restaurants.
With beautiful waterfalls, streams and natural pools, Monasterio de Piedra adjudged as one of the most scenic attractions of Spain. The central attraction is a stunning medieval monastery dating back to 1194 AD. The monastery features a pastiche of different architectural styles and was occupied by monks until 1835. From beginning to end a trip to Monasterio de Piedra is an indulgent experience. The ambiance is so natural and scenic you can't have the courage to leave the place.
Pamplona is a city in Navarra, famous for its San Fermín festival held each year from July 6th to 14th. At the heart of the festival is El Encierro, the Running of the Bulls, an activity that involves running in front of a dozen bulls that have been let loose, on a course of the town’s streets.