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Spain is not usually a place that is associated with skiing – rather countries such as France, Austria and Switzerland. However, due to the Pyrenees Mountains ideally located on Spain’s border and the high Sierra Nevada in the southern region, there are in fact a variety of snow sport locations to choose from! Here are five of Spain’s best ski resorts definitely worth visiting this winter.

1) Aramón Cerler (Huesca-Aragon)

For the third consecutive year, Aramón Cerler has been chosen as the Best Spanish Ski Resort at the World Ski Resorts awards! The Aramón Cerler resort is the highest Spanish ski resort in the Pyrenees, reaching 2,630 metres at its famous Gallinero summit. Situated in the Benasque Valley, the resort is surrounded by extraordinary natural beauty with more than 60 peaks over 3,000 metres high. The resort is divided into 3 areas which contain 56 slopes of each different level, meaning there is a slope to suit everyone depending on their experience. Cerler is also very family friendly, with zones specifically designed for kids’ activities. Other winter activities that guests can enjoy here are Nordic dog sleighs, tobogganing, snowshoe routes and snowboarding.

The après-ski activities at this resort are equally as great. If you are looking for a party, you will love Cafetería Remáscaro, where there is live music from DJs every single weekend. Remáscaro also offers great breakfasts and meals, and even mojitos and other cocktails. There are also plenty of après-ski activities in the beautiful surrounding Benasque Valley. Be sure to visit some of the local villages, try tapas and other local gastronomy in one of its many restaurants, spend a day shopping or have a drink and enjoy live music in a local bar.

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Cerler Resort

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Cerler Snowpark

2) La Molina and Masella (Girona-Catalonia)

Located in the Pyrenees Mountains and just 150km from Barcelona, twin resorts La Molina and Masella together form the Alp 2500 resort. They sit side by side and between them offer more than 130km of slope runs. La Molina is actually Spain’s oldest ski resort and home to the country’s first ski lift, which was installed in 1943. It is home to a large terrain park, and with easier runs, it is the ideal resort for beginners as well as snowboarders. If you are looking for something more challenging, Masella – situated on the Tosa d’Alp Mountain – is more popular with advanced skiers due to its amount of zigzagging downhill runs.

Thanks to the network of lights which illuminate Masella’s 13 main slopes, skiers can enjoy some nocturnal skiing. Masella is actually known as the capital of night skiing in the Pyrenees! There are also many non-ski snow activities available, which include snow tubing, snowshoeing, gondola rides, snowmobile rides and more. In terms of après-ski activities, this resort is definitely more relaxed and more suited to those who enjoy a quieter evening. Guests can relax in the Chill Out area, as well as enjoying a delicious meal in one of the resort’s restaurants or one of those in the surrounding area.

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Alp 2500 Resort

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Night Skiing at Alp 2500 Resort

3) Formigal (Huesca-Aragon)

The Formigal ski resort is located just 170km from the city of Zaragoza in the Tena Valley of the Aragon Pyrenees, close to the French border. The resort provides over 140km of slopes, with a range of difficulty levels to suit any type of skier. However, as a quieter, more laid-back resort; Formigal is particularly favoured by families and beginners because of how well it facilitates younger skiers. The resort is home to a Snow Garden for children, where they can take their first ski lessons with seasoned professionals.

Other activities in the Tena Valley include walking routes, tobogganing, animal observation and even spa treatments. Although still a resort enjoyed by families, the après-ski activities and nightlife here are second to none. If you want to experience a true Spanish fiesta in the Pyrenees Mountains, you will love Formigal’s après-ski bars. The Marchica bar in this resort is currently considered the best après-ski bar in Spain and one of the best in Europe, with parties beginning every night at 5pm and going on until the sun goes down. Also be sure to try some true Spanish gastronomy in the little villages of the Tena Valley.

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Formigal Resort

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Marchica Bar, Après-ski at Formigal

4) Baqueira-Beret (Lleida-Catalonia)

Spain’s biggest and most popular ski resort is located in the Val d’Aran area of the Pyrenees, around 200km north of Barcelona. This extremely impressive resort offers over 80km of ski runs to accommodate for any level, and even includes a number of black runs to challenge even the most experienced skier. Skiing at Baquiera-Beret is also known to be a favourite hobby of members of the Spanish royal family. As well as traditional skiing, winter sports lovers can also enjoy dog-sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, cross-country skiing and more.

At Baqueira-Beret, the après-ski activities are considered some of the best in the country and there is something to suit any taste. If you want to experience its glamourous nightlife, you can enjoy a bottle of champagne on the terrace of the Moët Winter Lounge, the most luxurious part of the whole resort. Surrounding the resort you’ll also find many traditional villages to visit, filled with local architecture and beautiful Romanesque churches such as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lleida and the Church of Sant Llorenç.

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Baqueira-Beret Resort

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Moët Winter Lounge at Baqueira-Beret

5) Navacerrada (Community of Madrid)

As this resort is located just 50km from Madrid, Navacerrada is very popular with day-trippers coming from the capital. The resort is split into two sections: the upper part which is for intermediate and advanced skiers, and the lower part which is suited to beginners and those who prefer an easier run. This resort also offers guests a ski jump and a slalom run. Due to its smaller size in comparison to other resorts in Spain, there are almost no queues for the lifts if you go during the week. However as it enjoys some of the best skiing conditions and an abundance of untouched powder, it can get quite busy at the weekend. After you’ve spent the day skiing, there are many towns and places in the surrounding areas which are also worth visiting, such as: La Granja, Segovia, El Escorial, Rascafría, Fuenfría, etc.

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Navacerrada Resort

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View of Navacerrada Mountains from Segovia

6) Sierra Nevada (Granada-Andalucía)

Moving towards the south of Spain, Sierra Nevada is located between the city of Granada in the Andalucía region and the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the only few Spanish ski resorts which is not located in the Pyrenees and also happens to be Europe’s southernmost ski resort. The resort offers over 100km of alpine ski runs, which cater for all levels, from beginner right through to the most experienced skiers. The ski school here provides beginners with lessons from expert staff, as well as snow gardens where children can play and begin learning to ski. Other snow activities here include snowshoeing, guided snow tours and snowmobile rides.

The resort’s idyllic location means that it is just a short drive from the Mediterranean coast, making it one of the few places in the world where you can ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon! Better yet, after a day of skiing, visitors can unwind with a treatment at the resort’s spa. Here you will also find a variety of cafés and restaurants, as well as some hotels in the surrounding area. If you have some free time amongst all of the skiing, a day trip to the historic city of Granada is highly recommended to experience a true taste of Andalusian culture and gastronomy.

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Sierra Nevada Resort

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View of Sierra Nevada Mountains from Granada

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to follow the Across Spain Travel Chronicles blog for more posts about Spain’s most beautiful locations and rich culture.

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Map Locating Ski Resorts

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Spain has always been well known for its famous sweets and desserts. From small, family-owned pastry shops to modern, award-winning chocolate shops, you are likely to pass a floor-to-ceiling window display of a variety of tasty desserts in almost any area. Better yet, almost every major holiday has its own accompanying sweet in the pastry shop in Spain, and Christmas is no exception. Whether it be turrón, polvorones or mazapanes, don’t miss the chance to taste one of these incredible local products during your trip to Spain this festive season. To help you out, here are the best pastry and turrón shops in Madrid and Barcelona.

Madrid
1) La Mallorquina
Located on the corner or Calle Mayor in Puerta del Sol, La Mallorquina is often considered the most famous pastry shop in Madrid. It is also one of the oldest, having been in business for more than 100 years. The name of the bakery means “the woman from Mallorca” in English, founded as a café by Mallorcan man Juan Ripoll in the mid-1800s. The shop has two stories and a large seating area upstairs where you can relax and watch the passers-by in Sol, while enjoying a delicious pastry with a coffee. The best-selling products here are the Neapolitan cream and the chocolate palm, but during Christmas you will also find “el Roscón de Reyes” and buñelos.

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La Mallorquina, Madrid

2) El Riojano
Also Located in Madrid’s Calle Mayor is El Riojano, a bakery opened by Riojan man Don Dámaso de la Maza in 1855. Before opening his own store, Don Dámosa worked as Queen Isabella II’s pastry chef, and to this day El Riojano still serves pastries to the Spanish royal family! Despite its small size, the Elizabethan era décor along with the showcases full of scrumptious pastries will be sure to catch the eye of any visitor. It also boasts an array of seasonal Christmas specialities, which include turrón, buñelos, el Rosco de Reyes, torrijas, polvorones and much more.

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El Riojano, Madrid

3) Casa Mira
Located just off Plaza Mayor, Casa Mira is the perfect places to go at this time of year as its most famous product is its classic turrón. Casa Mira was founded by Valencian man Luis Mira in 1855 – who walked from his hometown of Jijona in the province of Valencia to Plaza Mayor in Madrid to sell his homemade turrón out of a cart, and eventually ended up serving it to Queen Isabella II! In the days leading up to Christmas it not uncommon to find hours-long queues of people wishing to stock up on their famous speciality, so make sure you get there early!

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Casa Mira, Madrid

4) Antigua Pastelería del Pozo
Located in Calle del Pozo near Sol, Antigua Pastelería del Pozo was founded almot 190 years ago, making it the oldest Pastry shop in Madrid! It’s called Antigua for a reason, as everything from the wooden panels that cover the exterior to the old fashioned till on the counter. Even better, everything is made on-site in underground ovens! Anyone who visits this unique bakery should be sure to try their “Roscón de Reyes”, a typical dessert on Three Kings Day. The difference here is that most bakeries only sell it during the Christmas period, but Pozo sells it all year long making it arguable one of the best in Madrid!

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Antigua Pastelería del Pozo, Madrid

 

Barcelona
1) Fargas
Located in Barcelona’s Carrer del Pi, The first Farga pastry shop was founded in 1957 in Barcelona by Don Jesus Farga, which has led to 55 years of experience and more than 80 establishments under his two brands, Farga and Farggi. What makes Farga so special is its unique collections of boxes of chocolates and cookies, which vary depending on the season. Farga’s most important Christmas product is its turrón, which can be bought in a variety of different flavours as well as in an assortment in one of their famous boxes. A perfect Christmas gift!

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Fargas, Barcelona

2) Torrons Vicens
Starting off as a family business in Lérida in 1775, Torrons Vicens hold a long tradition of Nougat. The company’s aim is to keep the the artisanal, traditional essence of nougat as well as researching new recipes and products to keep producing new, updated products. They have almost every type of turrón you can imagine, making it the perfect Christmas gift!

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Torrons Vicens, Barcelona

3) La Pastisseria
Although a lot more recent to the Barcelona pastry scene, La Pastisseria is already famous for its incredible sweet products. Owned by Josep María Rodríguez Guerola – who was once a winner of the “Pastry World Cup” – this modern, minimalist pastelería offers a wide variety of unique cakes, biscuits, pastries desserts and more. They also boast an extensive Christmas range, which this year includes a wide variety of different flavour turrones, little Christmas decorated sweets, edible Christmas figures and the famous “Roscon del Rey”. With an abundance of highly complementary reviews already, this place is definitely worth a visit during your trip to Barcelona.

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La Pastiseria, Barcelona

4) La Pastisseria Escribà
The Escribà Pastry Shop is considered to be one of the best bakeries in the city. It has multiple stores located around Barcelona, where you will find an assortment of cakes, sweets and pastries which are all unique. This pastry shop was founded in 1906 and still remains as one of the most outstanding in Barcelona, due to its creativity and original concepts. At Christmas, Escribà offer a range of seasonal goods, which include their own turrón and marzipan.

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La Pastisseria Escribà, Barcelona

If you are in Madrid are Barcelona this Christmas be sure to check out some of these delicious places – but hurry – the closer to Christmas it gets, the busier they are!

If you enjoy learning about Spain’s rich culture, be sure to follow the Across Spain Travel Chronicles blog for more posts.

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Map locating Madrid and Barcelona

What better way to escape the stress of everyday life than a visit to a spa? Whether you want a unique spa treatment or to simply just relax and recharge your batteries, Spain offers a wide variety of the most unique and luxurious spas and wellness centres where you will truly be pampered. Here is a list of the top 10 best spas Spain.

 

1) Gran Hotel Bahía de Duque – Tenerife

With the intense blue of the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, this 5-star luxury hotel is located in Costa Adeje, one of the warmest and most prestigious areas of the island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. It also has direct access to the Playa del Duque promenade, offering a wide variety of restaurants, cafés and exclusive shops. The hotel’s most impressive feature is its Thalassotherapy circuit, where one can enjoy hydromassage jets, bubble beds, and the therapeutic benefits of the sea water taken directly from the Atlantic Ocean. This area is also complemented by a Hammam, Saunas, Scottish Showers, a Cold Water Pool and an outdoor solarium with shaded relaxation areas

Other facilities:

  • 5 swimming pools
  • 9 restaurants
  • 13 bars and lounges
  • Wellness centre
  • 24 hour gym
  • Complimentary parking
  • 2 tennis courts
  • 2 paddle tennis courts
  • 1 squash court
  • Pitch & Putt
  • Astronomical observatory
  • Direct access to the beach

Tenerife itself is known as the Island of the Eternal Spring, where you can find the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Teide National Park. The island combines extraordinary landscapes, majestic cliffs and exotic beaches to create perfect escape.

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Gran Hotel Bahía del Duque – Tenerife

 

2) Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa – Alicante

This luxury 5-star resort in Alicante – in the Valencian Community on the east of Spain – provides guests with the serenity, peace and quiet of South-East Asia, guaranteeing perfect service with total relaxation. The resort also boasts lush tropical gardens which house more than 3,000 species from Asia, and is part of the exclusive Leading Hotels of the World group. The central feature of this world-class resort is the Thai Spa. Here, one can enjoy the famous Thai Massage, a genuine anti-stress therapy with over 2500 years of history that combines pressure and stretching with a complex sequence of yoga-based movements. The Thai spa is actually a new concept among all spas in Spain and Europe, combining Thai tradition and wisdom in an atmosphere of calm and tranquillity.

Other facilities:

  • 7 pools
  • 7 restaurants
  • 3 bars
  • Tropical Gardens
  • Gym
  • Kids Club
  • Complimentary parking
  • Sun terrace
  • Asian-style fountains
  • Can be used as conference centre

The hotel is located on the mountainside of Sierra Cortina, 150 meters above sea level, offering fantastic views of the Costa Blanca. This luxury resort affords spectacular views of Finestrat, Benidorm, Altea and even Calpe and the bay of San Juan in Alicante. There are two 18-hole golf courses in the area and is 2 km from the beach.

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Asia Gardens Hotel and Thai Spa – Alicante

 

3) SHA Wellness Clinic – Alicante

SHA Wellness Clinic is also located in Alicante, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea between the bay of Altea and the natural park of Sierra Helada. The SHA method integrates the most effective natural therapies with highly therapeutic nutrition, without neglecting the latest advances in Western medicine, especially in preventive medicine, genetics and anti-aging. This unique clinic offers an abundance of treatments to meet every need, such as wellness, weight-control and detox, anti-stress, fitness, recovery and rejuvenation.

Other facilities:

  • SHAmadi restaurant
  • Organic garden
  • Orient & Balance Rooms
  • Nursing Facility
  • Beauty Salon
  • Yoga & Meditation Studio
  • Pilates studio
  • Fitness area
  • Paddle court
  • Hydrotherapy circuit
  • Terraces
  • Infinity pool

Very close to SHA Wellness Clinic, you can enjoy picturesque villages like the charming village of Altea. An enclave that exudes health and harmony, by its intense blue light, contrasted with the white houses and the views to the Mediterranean sea. In addition, the Mediterranean is a microclimate considered by the World Health Organization as the best climatology in the world.

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SHA Wellness Clinic – Alicante

 

4) Barceló La Bobadilla, a Royal Hideaway Hotel  – Granada

This luxury 5-star hotel In Granada allows the guest to experience authentic Andalusian luxury, as the resort looks just like an old Andalusian town. You will wake up to the sun bathing the Mudejar columns and large windows, where one can gaze out and admire the olive groves and holm oaks that stretch as far as the eye can see. Guests without a doubt must visit the hotel’s U-Spa; with stone walls, and a warm and relaxing atmosphere has been created thanks to the natural light and unique features. The spa includes an indoor pool, hot tub, sensation showers and sauna.  The rooms here are equally luxurious, combining stone floors, fine wood and different styles of marble baths with views of the countryside.

Other facilities:

  • Extensive garden area
  • 3 restaurants
  • 4 bars
  • Complimentary parking
  • Tennis court
  • Paddle Tennis Court
  • Hiking paths around hotel
  • Bicycle hire
  • Tour guides
  • Available for events

The hotel’s location allows guests to explore the Sierra de Loja area, between Granada and the Costa del Sol. It is a unique corner which is accessible from Seville, Cordoba and Malaga Airport.

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Barceló La Bobadilla – Granada

 

5) Hotel Castilla Termal Burgo de Osma – Soria

Castilla Termal Burgo de Osma 4* is located in the town of Soria, in the northern part of Spain in the region of Castilla y Leon. The hotel itself is housed in an emblematic building from the 16th century, the ancient University of Santa Catalina. The building is still preserving the majesty with its plateresque facade and its Renaissance cloister, enclosed by a great glass dome as centre of the building, which today is the social meeting place of the hotel. The spa is designed for relaxation and benefits from the properties of mineral-medicinal water in its comfortable and innovative facilities. The spa team combine the best techniques with the application of mineral-medicinal water and high quality cosmetic products, creating unique treatments for guests. The Spa offers a variety of different thermal experiences lasting between 1 and 3 hours depending on the chosen ritual; eg. Shared, Eastern, Healthy or Essential.

Other facilities:

  • 2 restaurants
  • Bar
  • Thermal Pool
  • Contrast Circuit
  • Gym
  • Yoga facilities
  • Medical consultations incl. physiotherapy & nutrition
  • Sun terrace
  • Kids club
  • Available for events

The hotel is located to the south-west of Soria, about 2hrs 30mins from Madrid. The surroundings of Burgo de Osma have a unique cultural and architectural richness – a village which seems to have been frozen in time, preserving the essence of past eras through its architecture and history.

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Hotel Castilla Termal Burgo de Osma – Soria

 

6) Hotel W – Barcelona

Designed by world-renowned architect Ricardo Bofill, W Barcelona sets the scene for a spectacular stay. This 5-star hotel is located on the beachfront along the famous Barceloneta Boardwalk, with panoramic views over the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Barcelona. This hotel is home the very first Bliss Spain in Spain, which offers a signature menu of over-the-top services like the super-relaxing Blissage75™ and red carpet Triple Oxygen Treatment. Bliss ignite a modern spa revolution by combining a clever menu of super-effective services and a fun, ‘no-attitude’ atmosphere. They are set apart by their trademark touches like rhythm and blues tunes, a brownie buffet and the friendly, talented staff.

Other facilities:

  • 3 restaurants
  • Rooftop bar
  • 2 pools
  • 24 hour gym
  • Sauna & Solarium
  • Complimentary parking
  • Sun terrace
  • Available for events

The hotel is located just a 1 minute walk from Barceloneta Beach, and just 20 minutes’ walk from Barceloneta Metro Station, and buses stop outside the hotel – allowing guests to easily explore one of Europe’s most vibrant cities.

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Hotel W – Barcelona

 

7) Hotel Castillo Bosque de la Zoreda – Oviedo

This five-star resort is housed in a stunning rural castle, built in 1930. Surrounded by lush vegetation with oak and chestnuts. It boasts a beautiful location in the Asturian countryside – in Oviedo, the capital of the region of Asturias in the north of Spain – with great views of the mountains. The spa here uses a variety of traditional techniques from different cultures and aromatherapy, making the most of the benefits of each one to improve your wellbeing. This spa is also perfect if you are looking for facial treatments, as there are a wide variety to choose from. Staff here guarantee to leave your skin glowing, firm and youthful in this relaxing facility.

Other facilities:

  • 2 restaurants
  • Bar
  • Pool
  • Rooftop terrace
  • Parking
  • Complimentary parking
  • Available for events

The hotel is located in the Forest of Zoreda, just 4km from the city of Oviedo. Make the most of Asturias’ ideallic location, with a beautiful coastline as well as lively towns and cities, there is an activity to suit everyone in the surroundings of this exclusive resort.

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Hotel Castillo Bosque de la Zoreda – Oviedo 

 

8) Las Caldas Villa Termal – Oviedo

Las Caldas Spa Resort, also located in Oviedo, is a new space in which its own facilities, coupled with its amazing surrounding environment and the professional treatment of its team, will help balance body and mind, recovering the energy that we lose on a daily basis. This resort boasts a wellness centre with a very special feature: medicinal mineral waters. Combining the waters with all other applied techniques will help you regain your energy during your stay. The clinic professional will advise you on a programme best suited to your needs, whether it be detox cure, a weight loss, anti-stress or anti-smoking programme. This resort is also ideal for those who practise sport, as it boasts latest equipment and technology for assessing fitness for sports practice and a specific functional assessment to each type of sport. The Royal Spa offers the most modern facilities in the classic Bath House building. A space for relaxation that offers a wide range of services focused on health, beauty and well-being, in addition to enjoying hydrotherapy.

Other facilities:

  •  Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Sports centre
  • Acupuncture
  • Gym
  • Complimentary parking
  • Available for events

Situated in a beautiful valley on the shore of the river Nalón, Oviedo is only 8 kilometres away, and public transport is available every hour. The environment is completely natural and there are many opportunities for interacting with nature.

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Las Caldas Villa Termal – Oviedo

 

9) Alva Park Hotel & Spa – Lloret del Mar

This luxurious hotel is situated in the beach town of Fenals in the heart of Costa Brava in the coastal region of Catalonia, just a 1 minute walk from the beach. The spa here is the first Molton Brown Spa in continental Europe, with treatments designed to deliver benefits on three levels: instant improvement to the skin tone, texture and feel; deep relaxation of the mind and body; and a long-term boost to the inner health of your skin. Molton Brown’s luxurious therapies are created using pure plant, flowers and marine extracts collected from around the globe. Guests can also visit the Indian Princess bath; a warm saltwater bath with underwater music. One of the best treatments here are the Massages of the World – massages and rituals culturally transmitted from generation to generation.

Other facilities:

  • 3 restaurants
  • Bar/lounge
  • Fitness Centre
  • Indoor Golf Club
  • 2 pools
  • Kids Club
  • Terrace
  • Available for Events
  • Complimentary parking

The resort is ideally located just 35 minutes’ drive from Tossa de Mar; a charming fishing village with an ancient Romanesque walled-in area overlooking the sea, as well as some outstanding restaurants. The world-class city of Barcelona is also 1 hour away, a must see during your stay in Catalunya.

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Alva Park Hotel & Spa – Lloret del Mar

 

10) Thermae Spa Villa Padierna Palace Hotel – Málaga

This luxury five-star hotel is situated in the small village called Carratraca – which is located in  Málaga, in the Andalucía region in the south of Spain – surrounded by picturesque mountains and nature. The thermal spa baths of Carratraca are the perfect place for the regeneration of body and mind. This exclusive resort is unique thanks to its Mineral-Medicinal Waters; which flow directly from the spring to the spar at an optimum temperature, in order to preserve its properties and provide guests with its benefits through health and beauty treatment. It features programmes oriented towards weight loss and rejuvenation which comprise an organic Mediterranean low calorie diet and thermal hydrotherapy treatments, light therapy, aromatherapy, music therapy and physical and meditative exercises. The highlight here is the luxury Thermal Baths Circuit, consisting of 5 Roman Thermal pools, 21 rooms for hydrothermal treatments, facial and body aesthetics and different types of massages, Hammam and Sauna.

Other facilities:

  • 2 swimming pools
  • Restaurant
  • Bar
  • Rooftop terrace
  • Gym
  • Yoga and Meditation room
  • Golf Club
  • Available for Events
  • Tennis and Paddle tennis courts
  • Kids Club

This hotel is a serene, natural paradise, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, in the heart of the fertile Guadalhorce Valley with its rich natural reserves, historic legacy and renowned organic products. It lies in the centre of Carratraca, surrounding area includes the Los Ardales Nature Park (20 minutes by car) and the Museo Picasso (one hour’s drive).

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Thermae Spa in Villa Padierna Palace Hotel – Málaga

 

If you enjoyed this article, please don’t forget to follow Across Spain Travel Chronicles for more information about Spain’s rich culture and history.

 

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Map with Spa Locations

 

The Ruta del Císter (the Cistercian route) is a spectacular religious route located inland from the Costa Daurada, in the region of Tarragona in Catalonia. It spans over 105 kilometres and links three breathtaking monasteries which date back to the Cistercian order in the 12th century. The Cistercian order was established in the French region of Burgundy in 1098 by a group of monks loyal to the “Rules of St. Benedict”. The order eventually established an important foothold in Europe and Spain, giving it a great influence over Christianity, economy and culture in Spain during the Middle ages. This influence and power eventually joined the regions of Alt Camp, Conca de Barberà and Urgell, which now have a Cistercian monastery each. The Cistercian Route has been one of the most spiritual routes since 1989 which can be followed in Catalonia, but it also provides the perfect opportunity to experience the culture, history, gastronomy and nature of the region.

 

The Monasteries

Santès Creus Monastery

This fascinating route begins in the region of Alt Camp, where you will find the Santès Creus Monastery. Situated on the banks of the river Gaià, the Monastery of Santa María de Santes Creus is a Cistercian abbey that was built in 1168 and today is one of the largest and best preserved in Spain. It is also the only one of the monasteries of the Cistercian Route in which there is no monastic life. During construction of the monastery, the monks followed the Rules of St. Benedict which meant that the church has to be oriented to the north and the cloister to the south. The church also had to have very austere decoration. The central part of the monastery includes the four basic pieces of the monastic life: the church, the cloister, the chapter hall and the residential areas.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take the tour of the monastery and explore the spaces from architectural and artistic points of view. Immerse yourself in the surroundings and let the medieval legends of this wonderful monastery be your guide. Guided and group tours are also available.

Highlights include the church, which contains a Romanesque portal from the 12th century and an imposing Gothic window with stained glass windows. The Gothic cloister, notable for the artistic quality of the ornamentation of the capitals. The monumental tombs, belonging to the royal family or to members of the Catalan nobility and the Royal Palace, built in several phases (XIII-XVI centuries) and has Gothic, Plateresque and Renaissance elements.

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Santès Creus Monastery inside

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Santès Creus Monastery outside

 

Santa María de Poblet

The Royal Abbey of Santa María de Poblet was founded in 1551 in the region of Conca de Barbèra in Catalonia. Founded by Cistercian monks from France on land conquered from the Moors, it is one of the largest and most complete Cisterian monasteries in the world and in 1991 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its majestic architecture is what makes this monastery so impressive, which includes a fortified royal residence as well as the tombs for the kings and queens of Catalonia and Aragon. Santa María de Poblet consists of three enclosures and is surrounded by a defensive wall. The first outer enclosure contains 16th century buildings, which would have been storehouses, workshops, housing for lay workers and other premises which were connected with the financial life of the community.

Poblet Monastery also holds extraordinary importance in terms of art, history, spirituality and culture. It played a key party in the repopulation and agricultural exploitation of New Catalonia under the crown of Aragon. The monastery’s library and scriptorium were also recognised from the 13th century onwards for their contribution to law and history.

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Poblet Monastery outside

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Poblet Monastery inside

 

Santa María de Vallbona

The Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona is a Cistercian monastery located in the town of Vallbona in the region of Urgell, Catalonia, Spain. Founded in the early 12th century, it is one of the most important monasteries in Catalonia and is the only female monastery that has been preserved for over 800 years of uninterrupted monastic life. First news date from 1153, but it was not until 1176 when it got completely integrated in the Cistercian order. It began with several groups of hermits that later became nuns and monks, a sort of double community that lived under the crozier of their founder, Ramon de Vallbona. It was declared a historic-artistic monument in 1931. The monastery offers guided and group tours to find out about all the details of the monuments and of the monastic life that has taken place there.

Although small in size, Vallbona de les Monges is a beautiful monastery which contains exponents of the importance of women in medieval times. The monastery’s church is a fine example of a Romanesque-Gothic blend, and each of the cloister’s splendid galleries are is a different style: Gothic, Arabic and Romanesque. Highlights of the monastery’s incredible architecture also include two gothic domes, and its well looked after inn where guests have the opportunity to stay overnight.

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Santa María Vallbona de les Monges Monastery outside

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Santa María Vallbona de les Monges Monastery inside

 

Tips for the route

On foot, it will take approximately 5 days to complete the route, or you could complete the route by bike in approximately 2 and a half days. However, if you have children or more elderly travellers, it is advised that you follow the route by car along the GR175 Trail.

The Cistercian Route can be done by anyone who is used to hiking, as it does not entail anything harder than some moderate slopes and the distance itself. You can also do it in as many stages as you like, depending on how much time you have and how fit you are.

 

Other Places to Visit

The Cistercian Route can involve so much more than just simply visiting the monasteries. Although they do not form part of the Cistercian Route, the towns of Montblanc and Valls are the perfect places to visit during your trip to discover the Catalonian culture.

Montblanc: a picturesque Catalonian village. Behind its walls you can enjoy a walk through its Midde Age streets. It is also worth visiting the Rock Art Interpretation Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 situated in the Prades Mountains just 45 minutes away from Montblanc.

Valls: known for both its gastronomic and folkloric traditions. Known for its tradition of “human castles”, a 200 year old event which was even declared Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010.

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Rock Art Interpretation Centre in Prades Mountains

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Human Castle in Valls

 

Other Activities to Include

There are also plenty of gastronomic, cultural, historical and artistic activities which can be incorporated into the trip:

  • Winery visits
    • Agrícola de Barberà de la Conca (approx. 17 min. from Poblet Monastery)
    • Celler Mas Bella (approx. 20 mins. from Santès Creus Monastery)
  • Museums
    • Alabaster Museum and “Touch Alabaster” Workshop (approx. 22 min. from Poblet Monastery)
    • Frederic Marès Art Museum (approx. 14 min. from Poblet Monastery)
  • Tasting local gastronomy

Prized local delicacies include: DOP les Garrigues extra virgin olive oil, calçots (tender onions) from Valls; torró (almond and honey nougat) and xocolata a la pedra (“stone chocolate”) from Agramunt, coques de recapte, (sausages, fish, and braised vegetables presented on a think pizza-like base); homemade cured sausages; and traditionally produced local cheeses, meat, dairy and vegetable preserves, and both sweet and dried fruits.

  • Catalonian UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Roman Archaeological Ensemble of Tarragona – Tarragona
  • Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí – Vall de Boí
  • Works of Antoni Gaudí (e.g. Park Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Battlò) – Barcelona, 1984

*distances measured by car

 

Airports

If you are coming from abroad to take part in the Cistercian Route, Barcelona El Prat Airport is the largest international airport in Catalonia, operating hundreds of international flights. It is located approximately 1 hour away by car from Tarragona and the Santès Creus Monastery. Another option is Reus Airport, which is just 34 minutes by car to the Santès Creus Monastery, however it is a smaller airport with fewer connections.

 

Map

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Map of la Ruta del Císter

 

If you enjoyed this article, please don’t forget to follow Across Spain Travel Chronicles for more information about Spain’s rich culture and history.

Spain’s picturesque scenery, rich culture and fascinating people have been the subject for countless artists throughout the years. Here are eleven Spanish destinations which have been the inspiration for some of the most impressive works of art:

  1. Toledo
  2. Madrid
  3. Figueres
  4. Valencia
  5. Barcelona
  6. Majorca
  7. Málaga
  8. Lanzarote
  9. San Sebastián
  10. Cordoba
  11. Sevilla

 

1) Toledo

The famous Greek Renaissance artist Doménikos Theotokópoulos, better known as ‘El Greco’, is thought to have spent up to 40 of his most creative years in Toledo, a World Heritage city approximately thirty minutes outside of Madrid. His painting View and Plan of Toledo depicts some of the city’s most recognisable monuments, including the Alcázar, the Puerta de Bisagra and the Hospital Tavera, which have remained intact to this day.

 

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View and Plan of Toledo by El Greco, approx. 1610-1614

 

2) Madrid

One of the most important artists to have come from Spain, Francisco Goya, often depicted daily and traditional life in Madrid in his artwork. For example, in his piece The Hermitage of Saint Isidore. The scene depicts the traditional drinking from the San Isidro spring and is an occasion which is still celebrated today at the San Isidro fiesta.

 

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The Hermitage of Saint Isidore on the Saint Feast’s Day by Francisco Goya, 1788

 

3) Figueres

This town in Catalonia is the birthplace of the famous Salvador Dali, and was the artist’s self-confessed “permanent inspiration”. In Figueres, you will find the Dali Theatre museum which was designed by Dali himself, and contains the crypt with his tomb. The surrounding areas of Figueres form the Dalinian Triangle, containing the museums of Portlligat and Púbol.

 

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The Dalí Theatre Museum, 1974

 

4) Valencia

The work of Valencia-born painter Joaquin Soralla allows the viewer to imagine the sea breeze and the heat of the sun’s rays on the beaches of Valencia. His painting, Paseo a orillas del mar, beautifully depicts his wife and daughter walking along the beach in Valencia in the summer of 1909.

 

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Paseo a orillas del mar by Joaquin Soralla, 1909 

 

5) Barcelona

The city of Barcelona is world-renowned for its stunning architecture, designed by the famous Gaudí. Gaudí studied in Barcelona and some of his most notable works include Park Güell, Casa Batlló, the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia and Casa Milà. Gaudí became so important to Barcelona that when he died in 1926, many of the city’s residents took to the streets to pay their respects.

 

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Park Güell designed by Gaudí, 1926

 

6) Majorca

On the island of Majorca, one can visit the studios of Joan Miró, a Spanish painter whose parents are grandparents were born here. Miró believed that Majorca “is a truly beautiful land; in certain places you can still find the freshness of the first days of creation”, and was very much inspired by the nature and tranquillity of the island.

 

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Flowers and Butterfly by Joan Miró, 1922

 

7) Málaga

The importance of the famous Pablo Picasso in his hometown of Malaga is reflected through a walking tour, his Birthplace Museum and the Museo Picasso Málaga. Here he painted bullfights and Málaga’s beautiful landscapes which so often inspired him. However, his most famous piece does not depict Málaga, but rather the bombings of the Basque town of Guernica in 1937 which has become a universal symbol against brutality.

 

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Mountains of Málaga by Pablo Picasso, 1896

 

8) Lanzarote

For artist César Manrique, Lanzarote was the inspiration for much of his work. He said, “for me, it was the most beautiful place on Earth, and I realised that if people could see it through my eyes, they’d think the same.” This is the reason we can see so many of Lanzarote’s most notable features in his work; such as the Jameos del Agua caves, the Monument to the Peasant, the Mirador del Río viewing point and the Cactus Garden.

 

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La Pesca by César Manrique, 1950

 

9) San Sebastián

The famous ‘Wind Comb’ by Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida was inspired by the beautiful bay of his home town, San Sebastián. This piece is a perfect example of nature and art being blended together and has turned a part of San Sebastián’s Ondarreta beach into an almost magical place.

 

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Wind Comb by Eduardo Chillida, 1977

 

10) Cordoba

Artist Julio Romero is known for his expert depiction of the women of Cordoba in his work. If you look at his famous La Chiquita Piconera, you can see the Guadalquivir River, the Roman Bridge, and the Calahorra Tower in the background, all of which are unmistakeable symbols of Cordoba.

 

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La Chiquita Piconera by Julio Romero, 1930

 

11) Seville

Seville’s variety of beautiful monuments and features mean that it is often a source of great inspiration for those who are discovering it for the first time. Take a stroll through the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, visit the Cathedral or the Giralda Tower, have your photo taken on the Triana Bridge or relax in the Plaza de España and you will understand all of what Seville has to offer. Perhaps this is why great Spanish artists such as Diego Velázquez and Esteban Murillo – whose work is so closely linked to the city – come from Seville.

 

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St Isidore de Sevilla by Esteban Murillo, 1654

 

If you enjoyed reading this post, please follow across spain travel chronicles for even more articles about Spain and its rich history and culture.

 

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Map locating each city