Monday 28 September 2020 9:00 am

On the trail: Spain’s best hiking routes

Beyond moving from place to place, there is something to be said for the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other.

Widely renowned as a miracle working stress-buster, walking not only calms the mind but also enlivens it, creating the space among our thoughts to bring ideas to life. So it comes as no surprise that in recent years, hiking holidays have soared in popularity, particularly in Spain, which is home to some of the world’s most striking, winding paths. On the trail, it’s possible to get lost and simultaneously find oneself, and for many, that’s a prospect too enticing to resist. 

Spain boasts around 100 long distance footpaths or Grandes Recorridos as they’re known. The Camino de Santiago bears the crown of most well-known of those, and while its fame comes with the caveat of thousands of visitors each year, it remains beloved for a reason. Boasting a tributary of Europe-wide routes which funnel into the city of Santiago de Compostela, where St. James the martyr is buried, it’s a pilgrimage with meaning that’s resonated ever since its conception in the Middle Ages. These days, some people walk to bag the feted compostela or pilgrim’s certificate, which you only receive if you’ve completed 100 kilometres or more on foot; others follow its curves for more spiritual reasons, neither is deemed more valuable than the other. 

Camino de Santiago

The Ruta del Cares or the Divine Gorge is another of Spain’s most famous trekking routes. Located in the Picos de Europa National Park, between the provinces of León and Asturias, it etches its way along the Cares Canyon. Showcasing some of the park’s most spectacular natural sites, it weaves among intriguing caves, pathways chiselled into rock, and colourful, manmade bridges. At roughly 11km long and with only a moderate incline, this route is suitable for hikers of all abilities, which along with the incredible views that punctuate each determined step, goes some way to explaining why it’s considered one of the best short walks in Europe. 

León

On the theme of brief hikes, few are punchier in length than the Caminito del Rey or Little Path of the King, which sits at just under 8km long. Still, what it lacks in distance it makes up for with style. Running through the El Chorro gorge near Ardales in Màlaga, the main pathway hugs a cliffside that towers 100m above the gushing River Guadalhorce below. Once considered one of the world’s most dangerous hiking routes after falling into disrepair, a restoration in 2015 has breathed new life into the walkways, ensuring that everyone can safely soak up the jaw-dropping views, which linger in the memory long after the hike is over. 

Away from the mainland and Menorca’s reputation as a hiking hotspot is also gaining momentum. In large part, this is thanks to the epic Camí de Cavalls 360º, a circular coastal route that encompasses the entire Balearic Island and forms part of the iconic GR223. At 185km long, it spans lush pine-clad valleys, coves with crystal clear waters, and dramatic gullies long ago carved into magnificent monuments by fast-flowing rivers. The route is also peppered with lighthouses, watchtowers and panoramic lookout spots, with no shortage of breath-taking sea views to ease the mind and soothe the soul. Those seeking a challenge can complete the entire route, which takes roughly seven days, or for a more laid-back adventure, take bitesize chunks with the 180º N (northern half) or 180º S (southern half). 

But whether it’s gravity-defying climbs up the steepest of ravines, or slow, meandering strolls along gently sloping paths, there’s something for every hiker in Spain. And with nothing to do but enjoy the sights and sounds on offer, hiking holidays serve as a constant reminder that real joy lies in the journey and not the pinnacle. 

To find out more visit www.spain.info/en

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