September 16, 2019
Best Beaches in Almeria: Roquetas de Mar

Best Beaches in Almeria: Roquetas de Mar

September 16, 2019
almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast
Almeria is a coastal region in Andalusia washed by the Mediterranean sea. Almeria's beaches may not be the most popular in Spain but they still deserve a chance. Back in August, we spent 5 days in Roquetas de Mar, a seaside town 18km from Almeria. We were looking for a quiet place for some rest and relax and we got it.

Living in Madrid, we need the occasional break to flee the concrete jungle. Escape the busy routine, the noise and traffic jams. So every year, we like to spend a week in the south of Spain. In Andalusia you are sure the weather is going to be nice, unlike beaches in the north of the country. Despite the charm of regions like Asturias or Galicia, they are less popular for summer vacations as it is far more likely to get rain in summer.

Read Best Beaches and Resorts in Andalusia

On this post I'm going to tell you why the region of Almeria is worth visiting, things to do and where to stay in Roquetas de Mar so that you can plan an unforgettable Andalusian vacation.

BEACHES IN ALMERIA: PROS AND CONS


  • Since it's the Mediterranean sea, water is much warmer than in Huelva or Cadiz for instance.
  • Instead of sand, there are little pebbles that make it difficult to take a walk by the sea. Get a pair of water slippers and your feet will be thankful.
  • The heat: Almeria is desert-like so excursions in July or August may be challenging. If that's the case when you visit, you'll be better off by the sea instead of going inland.
  • It's much less crowded than the region of Malaga.

almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast
almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast

BEACHES IN ALMERIA: ROQUETAS DE MAR

ROQUETAS DE MAR: HOTEL

On our Andalusian vacation this year, we stayed at Protur Roquetas de Mar. This five-star resort is right on the sea front and offers direct access from the hotel to the beach. It has two pools -one indoor and one outdoor- a spa and a gym. The board is all inclusive so the price you pay for the room is final. All meals, drinks and access to the facilities are included. It's wonderful for families as there's also a water park and many activities for children.

We had a wonderful time at the hotel. The staff was really kind, the food was good and varied and we got the R&R we were looking for. However, we didn't find it 5-star quality. I'd say it's more of a good 4-star hotel. I still highly recommend it though.
almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast protur hotel resort spa
almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast protur hotel resort spa

ROQUETAS DE MAR: BEACH

The beach you access from the hotel is La Serena. The water is warm and calm but as I said a pair of water slippers will be your best friends.

The beaches in Roquetas go on for 8km and include those of Aguadulce, Romanilla or La Bajadilla. All of them suitable for families and water sport fans alike.

almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast

ROQUETAS DE MAR: OLD TOWN

You can follow the sea promenade all the way to Roquetas Old Town for a lovely walk. It takes 50 minutes. There's a bike lane if you want to rent a bike. If it's too hot, you can either drive or take the bus.

Honestly, Roquetas is not one of those dreamy white-washed Andalusian villages. It's more of a touristy coastal town. In the Old Town you can find:

  • A lighthouse
  • The modern Santa Ana's castle
  • The marina and fishing port
almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast old town lighthouse
almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast old town castle
almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast port marina
almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast

WHAT TO DO IN THE REGION OF ALMERIA


  • Visit the beautiful natural park of Cabo de Gata. This is the only real desert in all of Europe. What are you going to find here? Preserved nature, wild beaches, forts, ancient ruins and tiny villages.
  • Spaghetti western fans can visit the film sets that were used to shoot movies in the 60's and 70's such as “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Cleopatra”, “The good, the bad and the ugly”, “Death had a price” or “Indiana Jones and the last crusade”. More info here.
  • Visit the jaw-dropping Geoda de Pulpi. It's the largest geode cave in Europe. This gigantic cave of crystals has been recently opened to the public. Get your tickets and plan your visit here.
  • There are two villages in Almeria that made it to the "most beautiful villages in Spain" list: Nijar and Mojacar.

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almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast
 almeria beach spain roquetas mar coast protur hotel resort spa

September 9, 2019
The Spectacular Roman Ruins in Spain No-one is Telling You About

The Spectacular Roman Ruins in Spain No-one is Telling You About

September 9, 2019
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There's a place in the region of Palencia where you can take a trip back to Roman times: the Roman Villa of La Olmeda, a must for any art and history lover out there. These spectacular Roman ruins are not the most famous in Spain but they surely deserve your attention.

ROMAN RUINS IN SPAIN: VILLA ROMANA LA OLMEDA

The Roman Villa of La Olmeda was discovered while doing some agricultural work at the beginning of the summer of 1968. After years of archaeological work, the remains of a Roman palace emerged. Despite being known by few, this rural mansion of the Late Roman Empire (4th century AD) is one of the most important Roman ruins in Spain.

La Olmeda may not be as famous as the roman remains in Tarragona or Merida but this roman site has won international awards or mentions; namely the one made by National Geographic magazine, which considered it one of the 12 greatest discoveries of modern archaeology. The most impressive part in my opinion are the amazing polychrome mosaics which are excellently preserved. Many believe that these are the best Roman mosaics in Spain.
villa romana olmeda palencia roman ruins spain
villa romana olmeda palencia roman ruins spain
villa romana olmeda palencia roman ruins spain
villa romana olmeda palencia mosaic roman ruins spain
villa romana olmeda palencia roman ruins spain
villa romana olmeda palencia roman ruins spain
villa romana olmeda palencia roman ruins spain

ROMAN RUINS IN SPAIN: THE VILLAGE NEAR THE VILLA

Saldaña is the closest village to the Roman Villa of La Olmeda and it houses a museum where you can see everything that was found in the excavations that took place at the Roman site. The museum is located in the Church of San Pedro.

More things to see in Saldaña:
  • The crooked house. This unique house is now a restaurant.
  • The statue of Javier Cortes, the owner of the land where the roman ruins were found and the man who started the excavation work.
  • The stately houses with beautiful coats of arms. The one next to the museum is a rural house you can stay in.
  • The remains of a castle: Castillo del Infantado
casa torcida saldaña palencia españa
casa rural saldaña palencia españa
villa romana olmeda palencia museum roman ruins spain
iglesia san pedro saldaña palencia

ROMAN RUINS IN SPAIN: WHERE TO STAY & EAT

There are many lovely places to eat in Saldaña but we had made reservations at Monasterio San Zoilo in the nearby village of Carrion de los Condes.

This monastery turned hotel/restaurant is very similar to the Paradores hotel chain. It is located along Camino de Santiago (St. Jacques Way) and has its origins in the 10th century. Monasterio San Zoilo is a haven of peace. As soon as you enter you feel relaxed. You can spend hours in the cloister just wandering around immerse in your thoughts and there's also a park in front of the building great to unwind while reading a book or playing some games.

The food at the restaurant is out-of-this-world delicious. You can feel they use great ingredients and wonderful cuisine with every bite. Despite the ancient surroundings, the restaurant serves a modern take on traditional Spanish food.

monasterio san zoilo menu restaurante carrion condes palencia
monasterio san zoilo menu restaurante carrion condes palencia
monasterio san zoilo menu restaurante carrion condes palencia
monasterio san zoilo menu restaurante carrion condes palencia
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claustro monasterio san zoilo carrion condes palencia
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ROMAN RUINS IN SPAIN: GUIDED TOURS, TICKETS & OPENING TIMES

The Roman Villa is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30 am to 6.30 pm

If you speak Spanish, I highly recommend the guided tour. Advance reservations are required for guided tours. People who do not belong to a pre-booked group can join a guided tour, subject to availability. Information and booking phones: (+34) 979 119 997 / (+34) 670 450 143 / info@villaromanalaolmeda.com

The ticket to visit the Roman Villa allows you to visit the museum of La Olmeda in Saldaña. General admission is 5€.

Free admission: Tuesdays from 3pm to 6.30pm (not guided tours). May 18th, International Museum Day.

ROMAN RUINS IN SPAIN: HOW TO GET THERE

There are two options to get there from Madrid:
  • A-1 to Burgos / A-231 towards León / Carrión de los Condes / C- 615, km. 55th.
  • A-6 to Tordesillas / A-62 to Valladolid, Palencia / A-67 to León / A-65 to León and take exit 8th / C-613 to Palencia / C-615 towards Riaño, km. 55th.
Google Maps

If you are in the area for a few days, I recommend you visit my hometown: Leon. It's a small city full of historical sites and with great food. It's one of the few cities in Spain that serves tapas for free! You can read my complete guide to Leon here.

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September 2, 2019
Spain Off the Beaten Path: Jarandilla de la Vera

Spain Off the Beaten Path: Jarandilla de la Vera

September 2, 2019
Jarandilla de la Vera is one of those off-the-beaten-path places in Spain that deserve a visit. Located in the western region of Extremadura, Jarandilla has a lot to offer. It houses one of the most beautiful hotels in Spain -a former castle turned Parador- it's close to the stunning Monasterio de Yuste where Emperor Carlos V retired to die, and near Valle del Jerte where you can see the amazing cherry blossom festival every spring.

On this post I'm going to tell you all about Jarandilla. Its role in the history of Spain, the Parador hotel, the best things to do in the area, what to buy and how to get there.
parador jarandilla vera extremadura caceres luxury hotel

JARANDILLA DE LA VERA: A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

Many different civilizations have settled in Jarandilla throughout history from the Celts to Roman and Arabs. All of them have left a legacy we can still enjoy today.

The most important monument in Jarandilla is the 15th century palace/castle of the Counts of Oropesa -now a Parador hotel- where King Carlos V of Spain stayed while the Monasterio de Yuste -the place where he was living after abdicating- was undergoing renovations.

Carlos V was the most powerful man of his time. He was king of Spain as Carlos I and king of Germany as Carlos V. His empire extended from Spain to Austria, the Netherlands and Spanish America. In 1555, he abdicated in favor of his son Philip II and retired to the Monasterio de Yuste where he died in 1558.

JARANDILLA DE LA VERA: WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The best place to stay in Jarandilla de la Vera is the Parador, a four-star luxury hotel. There are few experiences as magnificent as staying at a real castle and feeling like 16th century royalty...but with modern day comforts.

The place is perfect to relax for a few days thanks to the quietness surrounding the area and the whole atmosphere of the hotel.
parador jarandilla vera extremadura caceres luxury hotel
parador jarandilla vera extremadura caceres luxury hotel
parador jarandilla vera extremadura caceres luxury hotel spain
parador jarandilla vera extremadura caceres luxury hotel spain
parador jarandilla vera extremadura caceres luxury hotel spain

Needless to say, the restaurant at Parador de Jarandilla is the best place to eat and try local delicacies. Both locals and guests are drawn to the magnificent cuisine. The patio is wonderful for summer dining and drinks. I will never forget the wow-effect when we arrived and the first thing we saw was the patio at blue hour with strings of light bulbs from one side to the other. It's probably the most romantic dinner setting I've ever seen.
parador jarandilla vera extremadura caceres luxury hotel spain restaurant food

I also recommend trying the lovely swimming pool surrounded by trees in summer.

Read more about castles in Spain you can stay in

JARANDILLA DE LA VERA: THINGS TO DO

  • Explore the town of Jarandilla. You will find several medieval bridges, the house of Don Luis de Quijada and religious heritage.
  • Visit the Monasterio de Yuste. It's just a few kilometers away in Cuacos de Yuste. King Charlos V chose this place to spend his last days because of the quiet surroundings. The place is simply breathtaking, no wonder the king chose it as a place to live. I recommend getting there early to have the place to yourself -it starts to get crowded around 12- and immerse yourself in the peaceful atmosphere that characterizes monasteries. Tickets are 10€.
  • Visit a German cemetery. At a short walking distance from the Monastery you can find this WWI and II cemetery. Spain did not participate on either war, casualties were from the navy or the airforce and were washed ashore on the Spanish coast.
  • Take a swim at crystal clear natural pools. Jarandilla de la Vera is located in the region of Extremadura where there are no beaches. However, there are a few natural pools to beat the heat during the summer months.
monasterio yuste carlos V cuacos caceres extremadura
monasterio yuste carlos V cuacos caceres extremadura
monasterio yuste carlos V cuacos caceres extremadura

IF YOU HAVE TIME...
A little bit further you can find the following gems:
  • Nature lovers can hike the beautiful trails at Monfragüe National Park (90 km)
  • See the cherry trees blossom in spring at Valle del Jerte. This magnificent event happens every spring. Valle del Jerte is the best place in Spain to see the cherry blossom trees. (40 km)
  • Discover the city of Plasencia with its cathedral, palaces, walls, gates and bridges. There's another beautiful Parador in Plasencia. (50 km)
  • Visit Parador de Guadalupe (100 km). The hotel enjoys an incredible location on the site of the Royal Monastery of Guadalupe, which has been declared a World Heritage Site. 
Read more about these Paradores

JARANDILLA DE LA VERA: WHAT TO BUY

La Vera region is famous for its sweet paprika. Peppers are dried and afterwards are ground into powder. Be sure to buy some on your trip to give your meals a hint of Spanish flavor when your get back home.

Read more about what to buy in Spain
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monasterio yuste carlos V cuacos caceres extremadura
monasterio yuste carlos V cuacos caceres extremadura

JARANDILLA DE LA VERA: HOW TO GET THERE

Jarandilla de la Vera is 220 km west of Madrid which takes about 2h 20' by car. See Google Maps. It's perfect for a weekend getaway when you need some rest and relax.

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August 19, 2019
3 Beautiful Villages in Castilla y Leon, Spain: Lerma, Covarrubias & Silos

3 Beautiful Villages in Castilla y Leon, Spain: Lerma, Covarrubias & Silos

August 19, 2019

summer travel dress floral abercrombieSpanish cities are beautiful, but I prefer hidden gems, unique places off the beaten path that leave you speechless. In Spain you can find countless quaint villages with cobblestone streets, houses with geraniums on their balconies and so peaceful that will make you want to move in. In fact, there is an association that gives them the distinction of "most beautiful villages in Spain".

In the region of Burgos, there are three beautiful villages that are worth visiting: Lerma, Covarrubias and Santo Domingo de Silos. Two of them, Lerma and Covarrubias, are in the Pueblos Mas Bonitos de España -most beautiful villages in Spain- list. They are near each other and they are great day trips if you are in Burgos or an amazing weekend getaway if you are in Madrid.


If you need to spend the night, the best place to stay in the area is the former Ducal Palace of Lerma, now Parador the Lerma. Imagine feeling like a Duke for a night! If you are on a day/road trip you can find parking in Plaza Mayor -main square- in front of the Parador. It's easy to find parking on the other villages as well.
lerma burgos spain castile leon sunset beautiful village

3 Beautiful Villages in Spain: Lerma

Lerma can be spotted up on a hill by the side of the A-1 motorway. This magnificent village catches your attention ever from there. In the 17th Century, the Duke of Lerma ordered to construct Lerma on a whim. The most famous construction in the village is the Ducal Palace of Lerma, nowadays a Parador hotel.
lerma burgos spain castile leon parador hotel ducal palace beautiful village
lerma burgos spain castile leon parador hotel ducal palace beautiful village
lerma burgos spain castile leon parador hotel ducal palace beautiful village
lerma burgos spain castile leon parador hotel ducal palace beautiful village restaurant
lerma burgos spain castile leon parador hotel room ducal palace beautiful village
What to do in Lerma:
El Parador is a must-see monument but there's much more in this beautiful Spanish village:

  • Church of San Pedro
  • Convent of Santa Teresa
  • Monasterio de la Ascension
  • Convent of San Blas

Now and until November 2019, Lerma is hosting the new exhibition of Las Edades del Hombre -Ages of Man- called "Angeli". The exhibit is dedicated to the figure of the angel and how it has been represented through works of art from different times in history. It's a great opportunity for any art lover to see masterpieces from all around the world.

Where to eat in Lerma:



Distances:
Burgos 40km, Madrid 205km.
lerma burgos spain castile leon church beautiful village
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lerma burgos spain castile leon typical house construction beautiful village
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lerma burgos spain castile leon restaurant galoria beautiful village

3 Beautiful Villages in Spain: Covarrubias

This picturesque village is one of Castilla y Leon's hidden gems. Its cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses are an example of typical Castilian urban layout.

What to see in Covarrubias:
Stroll through the old town to find these wonderful gems.

  • Casa de Doña Sancha
  • Palacio de Fernan Gonzalez
  • Church of Santo Tomas
  • Gothic Collegiate Church of San Cosme and San Damian
  • Statue of Kristina, princess of Norway. 
You may wonder what does a Norwegian princess have to do with this Spanish village. Well, Kristina Olaf, daughter of king Haakon Haakonson of Norway, married don Felipe, brother of king Alfonso X el Sabio -the wise- and she is buried in Covarrubias.

Distances:
Burgos 42 km, Madrid 220 km.
covarrubias burgos spain castile leon timber house beautiful village
covarrubias burgos spain castile leon timber house beautiful village
covarrubias burgos spain castile leon beautiful village
covarrubias burgos spain castile leon beautiful village

3 Beautiful Villages in Spain: Santo Domingo de Silos

This village is best known for the Monastery of Silos which is thought to have been founded around the 7th century. Another temple was built in 1088 on this site which was later replaced by the present one, of Neoclassical style. The monastery houses one of the most beautiful cloisters in Spain and the monks' Gregorian chant is known all around the world. Apparently, it even made the British pop charts in the mid-1990s! As you can imagine, the piece and quiet in this place is quite unique as well.

The monastery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and then from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm. On public holidays and Sunday it's open from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm and then from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. It's closed on Monday. General admission is 3,5€. If you want to hear Gregorian chant you can attend the service at 9 am from Tuesday to Saturday or 12 pm on public holidays and Sundays. Those times can change so I advice you to make a call when you plan your visit.

If you have time for more, just two and a half kilometers from Santo Domingo de Silos you can find an amazing gorge at La Yecla. To cross it there is a narrow cement walkway -with vultures flying overhead- that reveals the force of water erosion. It's a short -around 600m- but spectacular path great for taking photos of nature. Fun fact: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was filmed in this area.

Distances:
Burgos 59km, Madrid 211km.
silos monastery santo domingo burgos spain castile leon cloister
silos monastery santo domingo burgos spain castile leon cloister
silos monastery santo domingo burgos spain castile leon cloister
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3 Beautiful Villages in Castilla y Leon Map
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Summer in Spain is hot, even in the region of Burgos. Light and airy dresses are your best choice and don't forget very comfortable shoes for exploring all those cobblestone streets!
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lerma covarrubias santo domingo silos castile leon burgos spain village
lerma burgos castile leon spain beautiful village