by The Daily Telegraph, December 22, 2016
For more general advice on booking a holiday in Spain, see our Spain summer holidays guide . Our guide features expert recommendations for cities, beach, villa, culture, food and drink and activity holidays.
1. Spanish flair
A new cultural tour in Salamanca put together by Kirker Holidays for May is based in Hacienda Zorita, a hotel and spa, formerly a 14th-century Dominican monastery. The six-night trip takes in Patio de las Escuelas, the Plaza Mayor, the town hall and the Convent of San Esteban, as well as the city's spectacular, skyline-dominating cathedrals. There are several excursions to explore the surrounding historic towns and rolling countryside of Castile, including a day in Avila to see the Monastery of the Incarnation and the Church and Convent of St Teresa. There is also time for visits to the vineyards of the Ribera del Duero and El Escorial, the King of Spain Philip II’s sprawling residence.
From £1,997, departing May 17, including most meals and a full sightseeing programme. (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com ).
2. Pre-Romanesque Asturias
Modest yet majestic, Asturias’ pre-Romanesque buildings are among northern Spain’s architectural highlights. With combined Roman, Visigothic and perhaps Carolingian French inspiration, their 9th- and 10th-century style is unique to the tiny early-medieval Kingdom of Asturias. Only 15 still stand. Oviedo has some of the finest, including the elegant hillside Santa María del Naranco palace, but the rest – strewn across the Asturian countryside – are equally worthy of your time. It’s possible to tour them entirely independently, but Caminos by Casas Cantabricas’ four-night, self-guided Short Break Asturias is useful if you prefer a little guidance. Based between two old-world hotels, it can be tailored to take in pre-Romanesque gems like San Salvador de Valdediós church near Villaviciosa, with an excursion to Oviedo thrown into the mix.
From £300pp, including b & b, car hire and regional app guides but not flights. (01223 328721; caminos.co.uk ). Isabella Noble
3. The Dalí Triangle, Costa Brava
Artists have been attracted to the intense light on the Costa Brava for years but none is more closely associated with the region than the Surrealist Salvador Dalí. The three towns of Cadaqués, Figueres and Púbol make up what is known locally as the “Dalí Triangle”, and each features major museums of his work. His birthplace of Figueres has the main Dalí Theatre Museum, a riot of pink walls topped with golden eggs and, inside, the Mae West lips sofa among other famous works. In the small hilltop village of Púbol, there’s the Medieval Castle the artist bought and converted for his wife Gala; and at the whitewashed coastal town of Cadaqués, the house he lived and worked in for some 50 years is also now a museum. Look out for the 7ft-high bear carrying a spear.
The 19th-century Hotel Duran in Figueres has double rooms from £320 for seven nights. (00972 501 250; hotelduran.com ) Eddi Fiegel
4. Cap Roig Festival
Imagine the likes of Elton John, Jamie Cullum and Katie Melua performing amid botanical gardens filled with exotic plants, flowers and cacti. Then imagine having the still waters of the Mediterranean as a backdrop with the scent of oleander wafting through the air on a balmy night and you’ve got the Cap Roig Festival. Held between July and August every year, the festival also attracts top classical and jazz artists such as Barbara Hendricks and Diana Krall. It’s within 10 minutes’ drive of the small bay at Calella de Palafrugell with its restaurants, bars and beach, so you get the best of both worlds. Details of the 2017 festival will be available from January at caproigfestival.com .
The Hotel Mediterrani has sea-view double rooms from £190 per night including breakfast. (0034 608 198 989; hotelmediterrani.com )
5. Chopin Festival, Majorca
Frédéric Chopin famously spent a winter in Majorca in 1838 at the Valldemossa monastery on the north coast, where three of the concerts in this festival, organised by Kirker Holidays, take place. A further two concerts are held in a church in the pretty village of Banyalbufar, where guests are based in the family-run Mar i Vent hotel overlooking the Mediterranean. The festival runs in May. The programme includes pieces by Chopin and other composers, with recitals by the Aquinas Piano Trio, made up of Martin Cousin, one of best-known pianists of his generation, Ruth Rogers on violin and Katherine Jenkinson on cello. Oliver Condy, editor of BBC Music Magazine, on the organ, will also be giving recitals. During your stay, you also visit Palma, Sóller and Deià, where Robert Graves lived for much of his life.
From £1,795pp, including scheduled flights, accommodation, all dinners, concerts and entrance fees (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com ). Annie Bennett
6. Highlights of Andalusia
See the great sights of Andalusia but get some real insider experiences too with local expert Toma Tours. On its five-night “Classic Andalusia” escorted trip, you start in Seville, where you can give flamenco dancing a whirl after seeing the Alcazar, one of the locations in the latest season of Game of Thrones. In Cordoba, visit the Great Mosque and the synagogue, which has just reopened after restoration. In Granada, you’ll get a lot more from your visit to the Alhambra with a guide with a lot of secrets up their sleeve.
From £1,138pp, based on a group of eight, flights not included (0034 650 733116; tomatours.com ).AB
7. Exploring Extremadura
Whether you go for the history, architecture, landscapes, gastronomy or birdwatching, Extremadura is an astoundingly varied region. Adam Hopkins, a Spain expert and Extremadura resident, is the ideal guide to this vast area in south-west Spain, from the Monfragüe national park to the Roman city of Mérida and the historic towns of the conquistadors, including Cáceres, which is Spanish Capital of Gastronomy. He is the lecturer on Martin Randall Travel’s “Extremadura – Landscape, architecture, rural life” tour, from April 18-26. There will also be walks in the countryside and a visit to a ranch.
From £2,440pp, including return flights from Heathrow (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com ). AB
8. Goya in Zaragoza & Madrid
The Goya Portraits exhibition at the National Gallery in January 2016 was a huge hit, and this tour capitalises on its popularity to visit the great collections of Goya paintings in Zaragoza and Madrid in the company of the exhibition’s charismatic curator, Xavier Bray. The itinerary, departing March 27, includes special access to see the Goya tapestries at El Escorial (they are not normally on public display), and a visit to a private art collection in Madrid.
From £2,110 including five nights in four-star hotels in Zaragoza, and in Madrid, including return flights from Heathrow, and most meals with drinks (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com ).
Anyone who enjoyed the Goya portraits at the National Gallery is suited to this tourCredit: Â© Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid/Goya
9. The gardens of Madrid and Segovia
There are some wonderful gardens in both Madrid itself and the surrounding region, but many are little-known or not usually open to the public. On the five-night “Madrid – Gardens, palaces and tapas” tour, Madrid resident Anneli Bojstad, author of Great Gardens of Spain, gives you an insider’s view of the history and architecture of the city as well as its parks and royal gardens. You also visit private palaces and secret gardens in Segovia, such as the magical Romeral de San Marcos, created by the artist and landscape gardener Leandro Silva.
From £1,299pp, including return flight (01753 892111; individual-holidaysgardentours.com ). AB
10. Art in Malaga
The Pompidou Centre opened its first offshoot outside Paris in 2015 in a glass cube structure on the waterfront in Malaga, while also recently-opened include the St Petersburg State Russian Museum Collection and the Museum of Malaga. Together with the Picasso and Carmen Thyssen museums, not to mention the city’s substantial Roman and Arab heritage, Malaga is now packing a considerable cultural punch. Over the last decade, the Contemporary Art Centre has been attracting artists to the adjoining area near the port, which has been renamed Soho and is now a creative hub with dramatic street art at every turn. In Soho, We Love Malaga offers a range of walking tours, including a route around the Soho area; a good place to stay in the area is the chic Room Mate Lola .
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