Walking Holidays In Europe


Walking Holidays In Spain

The best hiking destinations and routes in Spain

Paul Bloomfield
By Paul Bloomfield

Walking holidays in Spain are dominated by the hugely popular and, in all honesty, often overly-busy Camino de Santiago (commonly just the Camino, or Way of St James in English).

This world-famous pilgrimage route that, since the eighth century, has led devotees of St James to his namesake city, Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, today draws hikers in their hundreds of thousands.

Whether or not it’s for you depends on your tolerance for crowds. If you prefer a quieter experience, I highly recommend you don’t write Spain off entirely – there’s more spectacular (and much quieter) walking to be found elsewhere.

Some of my favourites include the gleaming, jagged summits of the Picos de Europa in the north, the almond-blossom-strewn Sierra Nevada in Andalucia, on sun-soaked Mallorca and Menorca, through the canyons of Catalonia – in short, whether you like your walking cooled by mountain winds or sea breezes, there’s a trail to suit.

The best walking holidays in Spain

Our experts' top picks

Santiago de Compostela

Camino Frances (Camino de Santiago)

Peter Elia
By Peter Elia
  • Best trek for: The world-famous pilgrimage walk
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trek duration: 30 to 40 days (or shorter segments)
  • Max. elevation: 1,522m
  • Accommodation: Camping, hostels, hotels
  • Start/end point: Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago De Compostela

Embarking on a pilgrimage is a unique trekking cultural and spiritual experience which brings people together from all over the world. At the heart of the modern pilgrimage lies Camino de Santiago, which is actually several different routes leading to Santiago de Compostela.

The Camino Frances is the most popular route, spanning almost 500 miles (780 Km) from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago in Spain. It takes around four to five weeks to complete in full, but most people do it in shorter segments.

Need to know

For most Camino hikers, blisters are their biggest challenge. It's not just the trail's length but also the concrete roads along the way that contribute to this issue. I've often seen novice hikers making the mistake of not changing out of their hiking boots when walking on hard surfaces, leading to friction on the feet.

My top advice is to carry trainers (sneakers), and before starting each day, apply Vaseline to your feet, especially between the toes. I've tried and tested this method as an effective way to avoid blisters on long distance trails.


Pyrenean Haute Route

By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: 750km
  • Duration: 40 to 50 days, or shorter segments
  • Start point: Hendaye
  • End point: Banyuls-sur-Mer
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

The Pyrenean Haute Route, often abbreviated as HRP, is a high mountain trail that crisscrosses the French-Spanish border.

Unlike its counterparts, the GR10 and GR11, the HRP tends to stay closer to the mountain crest, offering a more challenging, verging on technical, trek.

Scenery switches from sweeping valleys to towering peaks as the route winds through the Aigüestortes and Ordesa & Monte Perdido National Parks.

The HRP is much less popular than the other Pyrenean routes. Its remoteness and challenging terrain demands a high degree of self-sufficiency and mountaineering experience. Ideal hiking months are from June to September. However, due to its high-altitude route, unpredictable weather can occur, and snow may linger on some passes.

Spanish Pyrenees

La Senda Pirenaica (GR11)

By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: 510 miles (820 kilometres)
  • Duration: 40 to 50 days, or shorter segments
  • Start Point: Irun
  • End Point: Cap de Creus
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

The GR11, also known as the Trans-Pyrenean, is a long-distance trail spanning over 820 kilometres across the Spanish Pyrenees, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

It offers a diverse range of landscapes, from the rolling meadows of Navarre to the high peaks of the Central Pyrenees and the rugged terrain of Catalonia.

The GR11 is generally higher and tougher than the GR10 which snakes along the French side.

The best hiking season is from June to September, although snow can persist on higher passes outside these months. Section hiking is common, especially through scenic areas such as the Aigüestortes and Ordesa & Monte Perdido National Parks.



By HorizonGuides
  • Distance: Approx. 1,225 km
  • Duration: 30 to 45 days, or shorter segments
  • Start: Tarifa
  • End: Andorra
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The GR7 trail, Spain’s first marked long-distance path, follows part of the bigger E4 route and runs from Tarifa to Andorra (and into France and beyond).

It's more commonly walked in shorter segments, of which the Andalusian sections seem to be most popular.

You traverse mountains, forests, valleys, and traditional villages, getting as close a look at Spanish scenery and culture as it's possible to get.

The trail offers a glimpse of Spain's rich history and culture as it winds through the Sierra Nevada National Park, the Alpujarras, and the natural parks of Cazorla and Segura. Accommodation options along the trail include campsites, refugios, and guest houses, providing varied options for resting and recovering after each day's trek.

Spain Cares Gorge

Cares Gorge in the Picos de Europa

Planning a Spain walking holiday

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The half-day hike through the vertiginous Cares Gorge in the Picos de Europa must rank as the one of the continent’s finest short walks: spy semi-wild goats, sky-piercing crags, and griffon and bearded vultures soaring above. It's very popular, but worth sharing the trail. The Caldera de Taburiente hike on La Palma – northwesternmost of the Canaries, and reputedly the world’s steepest island – is the pick of the routes on this volcanic speck, laced with hundreds of kilometres of trails.

Need to know

Accommodation in hotels and hostals, food and transport are generally good value in Spain; on pilgrimage routes such as the Camino de Santiago, you can bed down in albergues (simple pilgrim hostels) for a few euros, though you’ll generally need a credencial (‘pilgrim passport’) to qualify. Northern Spain, particularly Galicia, is often wet; the south, notably Andalucia and the islands, tends to be drier, but too hot for hiking in high summer.

Top walking holidays

The Camino is actually not one path but many; best known is the Camino Frances, stretching nearly 800km west from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port across northern Spain to Santiago – long, busy, but not especially tough. Several other caminos reach the city from various points in France, Spain and Portugal, each with its own appeal. The Alpujarras, the foothills of the Sierra Nevada south of Granada, are studded with alluring villages and reminders of the Moorish era; the GR7 trail, Spain’s first marked long-distance path, traverses this region. The GR11 trail along the Pyrenees is covered in that earlier section, above.

About the author

Walking Holidays In Spain

Paul Bloomfield

Paul is an award-winning travel journalist writing on walking and hiking in Europe and beyond for the likes of the Telegraph, The Times, Wanderlust, Lonely Planet, BBC Wildlife and National Geographic Traveller.

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