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Travel in Spain - the Spanish Hotspots

The Mezquita at Cordoba La Giralda in Seville La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Thousands of people travel to Spain every year, in order to party on down, or so the saying goes. Hot weather, hot beaches, and hot men and women make Spain one of the most visited countries in Europe. The blend of sun, sea, sand, and sangria make for a fun-packed holiday, full of passion and intensity. If you are planning a holiday to Spain - one that's going to be loud and proud - then there are a few destinations it would be worth checking out. However, there are also a myriad of places that you can visit that are Spanish hot spots, but aren't completely overwhelmed by the party atmosphere. Whatever you're looking for, Spain offers it up on a plate.

First off, you should stop by Seville, in the South of Spain. This region of the world provides a fantastic vacation, as it is a bustling city, which has a lot to offer. Amongst other things, it has the third largest cathedral in the world. The huge cathedral stands on the site of an Islamic mosque and a prior Roman temple. Seville has actually become one of Spain's top tourist attractions, and gets floods of visitors each year, due to the fact that it hosts many European events and, in the past, a World's Fair. There is a strong Moorish flavour to the city, and it is the place where Don Juan and Carmen (from the famous opera) came from.

The city offers a little bit of everything, and for those interested in Arabian (yes, Arabian) architecture the Alcázar (also know as Los Reales Alcázares) is a spectacular palace built in the Arabian style. It was constructed in various stages, with work commencing in 884. The newer wings were built with the current Arabian art and architecture in mind.

For those who want to find out more about the Moorish and Jewish quarter of the city, you can visit the twisty streets, shady plazas, and quaint courtyards of Barrio Santa Cruz. Although it's no longer the Moorish/Jewish quarter, and is now filled with restaurants, shops and art galleries, it still has the old atmosphere. When the sun beats down, lifting the shadows, you get a real sense of how this part of the city used to be.

Rhonda is another popular destination for tourists in Spain, and is one of the country's "white villages". Again, it is in the south of Spain. It was once known as the impregnable city, as it was the last Moorish township to fall to Catholic forces of the re-conquest. It clings to the sides of sheer cliffs, and the only access is across a bridge over the Tajo River - 300 feet in the air! So it's only best visited by those who have a strong stomach for heights!

The city of Rhonda also lays claim to being the home of modern bullfighting. It was here that Pedro Romero, and eventually his sons, introduced the bullfighting team (quadrilla), the cape (muleta), the sword for killing the bull, and the banderilleros.

Another great city to visit in the south of Spain is Granada. This is a sprawling, immense city, which was crowned by the Alhambra. It is often said to be the pinnacle of achievement of Islamic culture in Spain. Many people think of the Alhambra as just a palace, but in reality it was much more than that. It was a diverse array of government offices, markets, and the home of Moorish leaders. The palace is well worth a visit, if only to admire the carved walls, decorative fountains, gilded ceilings, and shimmering pools. Not to mention the amazing view over the city.

Granada also houses the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, which can be located in the Cathedral - this is something many history buffs journey to see. Or, you could always visit the gypsy quarter of the city (Sacromonte). There are lots of flamenco bars here, some good restaurants, and excellent cafes. It's the perfect place to spend the afternoon wandering around.

If you're up for a bit of adventure, then less than an hour away from the city you can find Sol u Nieve, a very popular skiing and snowboarding resort in Sierra Nevadas.

If you get the chance, you may also want to stop by Córdoba, a city that used to be one of the main trade areas in the south of the country, due to its advantageous position on the river. Ships sailed out with olives, wines, and grains, trading with neighbouring and distant lands.

The castle where the royal couple (Ferdinand and Isabella) met with Columbus, Alcazar de los Reyes, still stands and now houses an excellent museum of Moorish life in Spain, a collection of excellent Roman mosaics, and some beautiful gardens.

But not everyone chooses to visit the south of Spain. Many people prefer to go to the north, east, or west as well. Luckily, there are just as many great destinations to be found in these places. No matter what way you go, you'll find something worth seeing in Spain.

Of course, Alicante is an incredibly popular destination. Located between the mountains and the sea, this city is set between stunning landscapes and panoramic views. It lives up to its name as a seaport, and the smell of the sea, seaweed, and salt is always thick in the air. The temperature here is very mild, only 18°C on average all year round.

There are beaches galore here, from the open La Playa de San Juan, with seven kilometres of golden sand flanked by a road enabling you to stop wherever you want, to the secluded La Albufereta, an intimate, residential stretch of land, which is protected by the headland of Serra Grossa.

If you travel 26km outside of the city you can actually see the largest Palm Forest in Europe. A trip to Elx doesn't take long and the stroll you can take through this subtropical area is so different and unique it is definitely worth doing.

For those looking for a bit of culture, the Castillo de Santa Bárbara (Santa Bárbara Castle) on the summit of mount Benacantil at 166m above the nearby sea is worth visiting. The main parts of the building date from the 16th century, and the assent up the bastions shouldn't be missed, as they offer an amazing panorama of the city and the coast. From here you will see the island of Tabarca, located off the coast from Cape Aljub near Santa Pola.

Yet another hot spot in the country (and there are too many to mention) is Benidorm. This thriving city is Spain's largest resort, and is very popular with the British in particular. The city receives some four million visitors per year, and this has caused numerous hotels, apartments, clubs, bars, restaurants, and activity centres to spring up all over the landscape.

There are two wonderful sandy beaches here, separated by a rocky promontory, and the crystalline blue waters add to the summer holiday feel (as does the towering offshore fountain!).

Old Benidorm can be found nestling in the streets that wind and twist behind the castle. It is well worth visiting, as it still has a flavour of old Spain about it. However, there are now various international pubs and cafes there as well.

Wherever you choose to go in Spain, you can find a whole wealth of culture, activities, and nightlife to keep you busy for days on end. From the glittering coastlines of Benidorm to the sheer cliffs of Rhonda, Spain really does offer the best sort of vacation you could wish for.

And in order to help you prepare your holidays, GoMadrid offers a Packing Checklist, a Currency Converter and the opportunity to subscribe to the Travel Spain discussion list - a free, non-commercial, spam-free source of information for people interested in discussing any aspect of travel in Spain.



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