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Spain: Best walking trails

A rambler’s reward is culture, ambience and wild scenery on some of Spain's best routes, including the Sierra de Aracena in Andalucia and the Basque Country's St Ignatius Way

Spain: Best walking trails
Hikers walking along the River Cares route between the towns of Poncebos and Cain in Picos De Europa National Park, Cantabrian Mountains. Image: Getty

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Sierra de Aracena, Andalucia

The Sierra offers insight into traditional farming life as well as glorious, quintessential Andalucian scenery, from whitewashed villages to chestnut forests and free-roaming Ibérico pigs. The hiking usually begins from the town of Aracena and its Moorish castle, passing through a succession of pretty villages, alongside waterways and over the watershed of the Sierra through a landscape crisscrossed with stone walls. Spring and autumn are the best times, as they avoid the worst of the heat, although shorter dawn walks in summer can be glorious. A decent climb up Peña de Arias Montano is rewarded by views from the summit deep into Portugal.
How to do it: While the Sierra is offered by walking specialists, it can also be easily tackled unassisted, with routes and advice available at andalucia.com

Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park, Catalonia

Beginning high in the hills and forested slopes of the park, this is a fairly rigorous hike with some long days that descend to the Mediterranean via lakeside villages and beech, cork and oak woods. Highlights include the Guixeres range, not to mention hilltop hamlets and fishing coves and the Empordá region. Night stays include Girona and the village of Madremanya, which is known for its medieval architecture. The hike involves six days of walking, ranging from four to 14 miles a day.
How to do it: Pura Aventura offers the seven-night Catalonia Inn to Inn tour, from £1,365 per person based on two sharing, half-board, some picnics, luggage transfers, walking notes and maps, and a GPS preloaded with the route.

St Ignatius Way, Basque Country

Less well-trodden than the Camino de Santiago, the St Ignatius Way is a classic pilgrimage route with superb scenery. Running 420 miles from Loiola, near the north coast, to the Catalan town of Manresea, near Barcelona, it takes about a month to complete. More manageably, part of the route runs through Basque country where some of the most appealing parts can be covered, between the Sanctuary of Loiola and the medieval walled town of Laguardia. This involves a 69-mile hike, usually taking six days, mostly on decent paths; the high point being the 3,937ft Biozkonia Pass. The route takes in spectacular countryside, from the limestone landscapes of the Aizkorri-Aratz National Park to oak forests, wildflower meadows, the Cantabrian Mountains, desert, plains and a stretch of Roman road. There’s also Basque art in many religious sanctuaries, while thirsty walkers will be glad to know the route ends at the Rioja Alavesa and Laguardia vineyards.
How to do it: Ramblers Walking Holidays has a guided walk through the Basque leg of the trail from £1,275, including flights, half-board accommodation, guide and baggage transfers.

Pyrenees to the sea

The six-day route (around 10 miles a day) takes in volcanic hills, the Catalonian fishing village of Cadaqués and the Cap de Creus, olive groves, vineyards, rocky coves and sandy bays. You can also hike through Port Lligat to Salvador Dalí House (his former home, now a museum).
How to do it: Inntravel has a seven-night package from £785 per person, including B&B accommodation, some meals and picnics, luggage transfers, maps and notes.

Published in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Read more tales of European walking trails here.