Walking in Spain & its islands - Guide Books & Maps
Spanish walking guide books
Spain, weather, history
General Spanish guide books
Birdwatching in Spain
Canary Island walking
Camino de Santiago (Way of St James)
Picos de Europa
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people love to walk, but they don't generally go about it in the way the
British do. Where our inclination is to head out of town and find a public
footpath, they will head for the centre of town and 'paseo'. And they won't
be wearing baggy shorts and boots, they will wait until the day cools into
evening, put on their best clothes and parade past each other in the town
'Plaza Mayor' or down a 'Rambla' until it is time for dinner at about midnight
(in the cities). In a generally hot and dry country this isn't surprising,
sweating across the 'meseta' under a blazing sun is no fun (except for
mad dogs and Englishmen? The sensible learn to siesta). The best walking
therefore is away from the midsummer heat in the mountains and islands.
Spain has a strong and fascinating culture which can add a lot of enjoyment
to a trip. Combine a city break in Madrid
with the Gredos or Barcelona with the Pyrenees.
A beach holiday in Mallorca with walking
in its mountains or mix the high mountains of the Sierra Nevada with the
sleepy 'white towns' of Andalusia
Spain is not a crowded country, forget your holiday brochure images of the 'costas'. Hire a car almost anywhere in Spain and you can be in country untouched by tourism in half an hour. Spanish people like each others company, so everybody crowds together in the town, so you won't find straggling suburbs carrying on for miles like London or Los Angeles (USA). There are mountain ranges and gorges to be found all over Spain but the Pyrenees, Picos and Sierra Nevada are the most significant. The central meseta (tableland) forms a high flat plain around Madrid with roads running in straight lines for miles. Only the south (Andalusia) has the characteristics usually associated with all of Spain (gazpacho, flamenco, gypsies and mañana1). Central Spain is the land of the serious Castilian with his castles and roast meat. Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia is almost a different country with its own language (as do the Basques and Galicians) and a similar relationship to Castile as Scotland does to England. The extensive north coast of the Basque country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia are much cooler than the rest of Spain, although the Spanish exaggerate the amount of rainfall there (from a British viewpoint).
I have used thesymbol to indicate a good walking destination in the area guide section rather than to indicate the best book as choice of book tends to depend on the balance of walking/climbing information required.
Area Guide Books index
GPS is a mystery to you try “GPS the easy way”.Best
selling introduction to GPS.
Jeep tracks and "Forestals"
If you hire a 4x4 and decide to follow jeep tracks to get to the start of walks or as an end in themselves, do bear in mind the possibility of breakdown, always carry clothing, food and water in the vehicle. As 4x4s kick up a lot of dust (especially in the dry Canary Islands) I stop or drive at walking pace when passing walkers or riders. Don't risk getting stuck by tackling routes that look excessively steep or rough. Do respect any signs restricting use of tracks to walkers. Many tracks are sufficiently exposed for a mistake to result in very serious consequences indeed. In any case the degree of insurance cover may be ambiguous when operating off tarmac, even in patently off road vehicles. Ordinary cars are not suitable for forest roads due to the lack of robust tyres and lack of ground clearance, although you will often see the locals using them to get to barbecue (merendero)sites.
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|General||You will get much more out of a trip to Spain with some background reading|
in Spain Lonely Planet 13x18cm 440p colour
Trekking in Spain by Marc Dubin has now been replaced by this new edition written by a team of writers. It therefore gains in breadth but perhaps loses something in character. If you see the old one going cheap secondhand I think it is well worth adding to your collection. The new book doubles in size to about 400 pages and covers all the main areas with the welcome addition of two Canaries (Tenerife and Gomera). Covers Gredos, Guadarrama, Pyrenees, Cordillera Cantabrica including Picos, Galicia, Valencia, Mallorca, Andalucia (Cazorla, Sierra Nevada, Grazalema etc.) Tenerife, Gomera and the Camino de Santiago. It doesn't really make sense to consider planning a walking trip to Spain without this volume if only for the chapters of basic information- facts about Spain, facts for walkers, how to get there, health and safety and getting around.
Also - Walking in Andalucia Santana
the complete guide - Casas 591p 13x23cm 3 colours
Excellent general guide to Spain for everything other than walking/climbing. Food, restaurants, accommodation, culture, history, architecture etc.
Spain av280p 13x22 colour
Excellent pocket sized general guide with heavy emphasis on visual presentation by maps, 3D street plans, cutaway diagrams, drawings and photos. Remarkably easy to follow compared with a written guide. Also these guides hit those little things that can be so useful. For instance - photos of the different kinds of police uniform and their cars (with descriptions of their duties), what letter boxes look like and photos of bus stops not to mention typical brandy bottles!
History and culture. "What to see" with cutaways and floorplans so you will not need further guides. Street maps. Restaurant and hotel listings. Entertainment. Survival guide. Travel information.
"The guides that show you what others only tell you".
further you go from cities and tourist resorts the less chance there will
be of finding an English speaker. Basques (call it Euskade if speaking
to a Basque) Galicians and Catalans all speak their own language but will
understand Castilian. Fortunately (unlike English) Spanish spelling / pronounciationis
entirely logical and regular. Once you have learnt the rules you will be
able to make yourself understood from your phrase book. You can then ask
'closed' questions with a 'si' or 'non' answer. ( say "is the town square
this way" while pointing, not "where is the town square" which will get
a complex reply that you may not understand).
Spanish is one of the worlds most widespread languages and is of course invaluable in South America.
'Rough and ready' pronunciation guide.
There are just a few rules to learn here but the good thing is there are no exceptions, so once you know these you will be able to pronounce any spanish word you see.
"J" is sounded rather like "h" and "Z" like "th".
So the town where sherry comes from (Jerez) is "hereth".
"ll" is not double "l" but a single letter sounded as "yah".
Therefore a Spanish omelette (tortilla) is a "tort-ee-a" and a sandwich (bocadillo) is a "boc-a-de-yo",
Another single letter "Ch" is sounded as "chey", rather similar to english but beware when using the dictionary (after C, before D!).
"C" and "G" are softened/lisped when followd by "e" or "I". The town of Caceres is "Ka-the-res". Guerrilla is "Ger-ree-yah". Gigante meaning large, often applied to a maize snack is something like "Hiy-gant-ee" - just think of Manuel in Fawlty Towers saying "How are you".
The letter "Z" followed by an "a","o" or "u" is pronounced "tha" "tho" or "thu". You will sometimes find some imported words like "Zinc", also lisped.
Every letter is sounded - unlike French - so pronounce "e" at the end of a word- Lanzarote "lanth-a-rotay", Tenerife "tenner-reef-ay".
Emphasis is placed on the penultimate syllable - "MADrid"
"O" is a short sound as in "cot", don't add a "w" sound to the end as we often do in english.
An accented "ñ" is "ni" or "ny". The Boy "El Niño" is "neenyo" not "knee-know".
"H" is silent but emphasises the following letter. "Hotel" is "Otel".
Of course you already knew Mallorca (or Majorca) is "ma-york-ah" didn't you?
Gallego (Galician), Basque and Catalan "x"s are common. "Txakoli" (the
Basque wine) is pronounced "Chack-o-lee". Some gallego words replace the
"j" with an "x" as in "Xunta" for "Junta" (town council) or "Xose" for
"Jose" which are then pronounced "chunt-ah" and "chose-ay" respectively.
In Catalan the "x" sound is closer to the castilian "j".
andnén, majada - an alp or flat area on a mountain
arroyo- small river
aguja- spire or pinnacle
barranco,barranquillo - ravine, dry river bed
cabezo- rounded hill
caldera,calderilla - crater
caminoreal - old public path (paved) or transhumance drove road*.
cañada- flat gravel bed (former lake)
cornisa,repisa, vira - ledge
degollada,horcado - coll
* ten drovers trails cross Spain from Leon, Roija and Cuenca in the north to Extremadura, Andalucia and Valencia in the south.
laderón,ladera - mountainside, hillside
ladería- small gully or valley on hillside
lomo -slope or ridge
llano- flats, plain
mesa,meseta - literally table, plateau or tableland
neveron- snow peak
morro- one of those vertical sided, flat topped mountains you see in westerns!Are they bluffs?
piolet- ice axe
roque- rocks, outcrops
vega -high pasture,alp (hence Las Vegas-the meadows!)
||Collins Gem pocket
dictionary. 8x11cm624p bw
Pocketsized Spanish-English English-Spanish
Phrase Book and Dictionary 10x14cm 191p colour coded unillustrated
Practical phrase book divided into sections (eating out, doctor, shopping etc.)
- English, English Catalan
Pocket sized dictionary
|"Pardon My Spanish"
Amusing language video which also gives some insights into Spanish life as the presenters tour round Andalusian paradores.
books guides climbing
( sierras )
books pyrenees gredos
picos camino de santiago
( los canarios ) mallorca
walking books guides climbing mountains
( sierras ) books
pyrenees gredos picos camino de santiago sierra nevada
publish a number of walking/climbing guides while the Sunflower
Landscapes series caters for more relaxed walking and each book also
includes car tours and picnic sites. Cicerone guides are usually
about 12x18cm200p in bw (some have a few colour pages) sometimes with a
showerproof cover. Sunflower Landscapes are 10x21cm 130p with fold
out map, colour. Collomb are usually 12x18cm 150p bw.
Discovery Walking guides do a series of guide books with walk details and map extracts (bars, restaurantes, buses etc. listed) linking in to their own good maps.
AA now also do island maps which are quite good although they may have inaccuracies concerning what is a track and what is a path.1:30000 - 1:50000 of the islands which are my choice when a Discovery map is not available.
Best walks in southern Spains natural parks. See also Sierra Nevada
de Aracena (north of Seville).
When Discovery introduced this guide I thought "where?" but studying the map, Jabugo leapt off the page, home of some of the best ham in Spain and I realized I knew this area of cork oaks and extensively reared pigs. This quiet rural area should make good walking country (away from high summer, autumn is recommended). 27 walks of up to 14k with a maximum of 250m of ascent.
Discovery Walk! guide
Discovery Tour and Trail map 1:40000
Axarguia (north of Nerja on the Costa del Sol).
The Sierra Tejeda (10 walks) and the Sierra Almijara (20 walks). Graded walks, short to full day and including river gorges. 100 to 1300m of ascent.With GPS waypoints.
Discovery Walk! The Axarguia
Mulhacen 3482m. Alcazaba 3366m. Valeta 3398m. Caballo 3013m. High rounded mountains, Mulhacen highest in the penninsula. The GR420 road climbs up from Granada to the centre of the mountains.
Walking in the Sierra Nevada Cicerone
Walking in the
Sierra Nevada Walmsley
and Trail map
Blanca (La Muntanya d'Alacant)
Read more about La Muntanya d'Alacant
Costa Blanca mountain walks Stansfield Cicerone
Costa Blanca rock Cicerone
Puig Mayor 1443m (no access to summit-radar station) Massenella 1352m.Tomir 1102m.
Mallorcais Spain in minature with the mountains in the north as the Pyrenees and a central plain representing the meseta. Alcudia is an obvious base for walking but is now very developed for general tourism, and sadly no longer a place I would stay. Puerto Pollensa still retains some character. Most of the well known tourist developments are actually quite small and easily avoided. Palma is the attractive capital with a Plaza Mayor and an excellent central market for fish, meat and vegetables. Train service to Soller (possible base - unspoilt) on early 'preserved' electric train not to be missed but avoid peak hour trains. For mountain walking a classic is Walking in Mallorca by the late June Parker Cicerone.
Easier walks in Landscapes of Mallorca.
Birdwatching in Mallorca Ciceronegives information on, well, birdwatching in Mallorca!
Discovery Guides :
Walk! Mallorca West (right)
30 walks to the west of Palma and south of Deia. With maps and photos. (GPS ready) Companion to "north and mountain".
Walk! North & Mountain walking guide
Based on Soller and Puerto Soller up to Teix and the Alfabia ridge (refuge by new route).
North & Mountain "Tour & Trail" map (super durable)
"New 'classic' Tour & Trail Map at 1:40,000 scale from Esporles west across the Tramuntana to include the vast majority of Mallorca's walking routes. All published walking routes are highlighted (red line). This is the essential map if you are walking.Includes GPS waypoints.
If Mallorca is Spain in minature then Menorca is southern England in minature , complete with Friesian cows. Anglicised since Nelson's days (you can stay in Admiral Collingwood's house) Self catering apartments and villas are dotted all across the island. Menorca isn't my "cup of tea", but if you want one at the end of your day, then it might suit!
and Trail super durable 1:40000 map
Torre deCerredo 2648m. El Naranjo 2519m. PeñaVieja 2613m. Torre de Llambrion 2642m.
Dramatic mountains (especially Naranjo) for the climber and walker. Can be hot with limited water in some areas. Walkers with a good head for heights can walk the Cares Gorge path but don't expect solitude in the gorge. Climbers should get Walks and Climbs in the Picos de Europa Walker Ciceroneand walkers
See also:- Food of Asturias and Cantabria
The Spanish side of the mountains has better weather than the French side, car hire costs less and the people are more friendly. Ordesa is spectacular but valley access points may be over popular. Ambitious walkers and climbers will want
Kev Reynolds has also written Classic Walks in the Pyrenees (21x26cm 145p colour) which is in a larger format with nicer photographs to study in the armchair (out of print?).
Cantabrica (the western Pyrenees)
See also:- Catalan food and Barcelona
(Way of St. James) long distance pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela (St James of the field of stars) (Galicia) ending in the magnificent Plaza de Obradoiro enclosed by its cathederal, bishops palace (now a college), town hall and what is probably one of the worlds oldest hotels - the 'Reyes Catolicos' (Catholic Kings) dating from 1499.
People approach the Camino in a variety of ways. Most walk or cycle, a few go on horseback and the roads closest to the route are now signposted for cars, fair enough for a devout but frail Catholic wishing to visit the sanctuaries along the way. Where the path and road coincide substantial crash barriers have often been put in place to protect walkers. (Some cyclists seem to prefer the road alternatives to avoid the stones of the path). The Camino seems to be enjoying a burst of popularity at present and with popularity comes the pilgrim who doesnt really get it, I saw a man complete the way at Santiago with his personal stereo playing and hardly giving a glance at the cathedral, one more ticked off? A gym treadmill might be more logical. I also spoke to a cyclist who had done it with coach support, sitting out some sections because "it was too long for a week".Well, it is too long for a week! But most appreciate the magnificence of the finish, often re-uniting with friends and family at the scallop shell in the centre of the square. This man stood for an hour, contemplating the cathedral.
A stout staff is considered "de rigueur", rather than walking poles.
Santiago Matamoros (St James the moor slayer)
The apostle St.James is supposed to have appeared dressed in white mounted on a whitehorse at the battle of Clavijo to sway the battle in the Christians favour, advancing the cause of driving the moors from Spain (good propaganda at the time). Santiago is the patron saint of Spain and the city of Santiago grew up around his supposed burial place.
Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos
Pilgrim hostal from circa 900, the current plaza and facades were built on the orders of Ferdinand and Isabela. This is probably one of the worlds greatest hotels -not in the US glitsy sense - but in having a feeling of history and of being a real destination. Its regular facade hides the secrets of its interior, as internally it was built in the shape of the cross, giving four interior colonaded courtyards to wander in.
(5 star grandluxe, v.expensive but worth it for one night)
Guides and maps now becoming more easily available to the pilgrim route and the EU plans to link the Camino through to Winchester! A long distance path indeed. The route in Spain starts near San Sebastian (pilgrims may start from anywhere, St.Jean in the Pyrenees is a good choice, but some will start at Arles or even Paris), passing through Pamplona (famous for its running of the bulls), Burgos and Leon on its way to Santiago (about 800 Km). (Guard against old maps as Galicia has built many new roads in recent years.). The route is way marked with yellow paint, scallop shells, pilgrim figures and EU signs. About 16,000 people do the route each year and May is probably the best month to start.
Those wishing to travel cheap, could use the sanctuaries. These are available to registered walking/cycling 'pilgrims' along the way.
The Way of St.James Cicerone
Walking the Via de la Plata - Cole, Davis
The scallop shell is the symbol of Santiago and of the pilgrimage and some pilgrims will wear a scallop shell round their necks. Indeed, when you finally arrive in Santiago you will find excellent scallops and other seafood available at reasonable prices for a celebration meal.
See also:- Food of Galicia
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