“We are in such a haste to be doing, to be writing... to make our voices audible a moment in the derisive silence of eternity, that we forget that one thing, of which these are but parts – namely to live!” said Robert Louis Stevenson. Stop a moment and think: do you feel more tired coming home from holiday than when you left? Are you fed up with following the herd when you travel? We can suggest a few places in Spain where you can find inner peace, take your time to relax, think and connect with the spirit of the place - and with yourself. Try a new way of travelling.
Gregorian chant in a 18th century monastery
To be precise, the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (Burgos). You’ll love wandering around its beautiful cloister and hearing the monks’ famous chant at Mass. There are many more monasteries to visit in Spain if you’re looking for peace and quiet, all with different stories behind them: Monastery of Yuste (Cáceres), Monasteries of Yuso and Suso (La Rioja), Monastery of San Juan de la Peña (Huesca), Monastery of Monserrat (Barcelona)… Also, in Spain there are some spectacular monastery-hotels, such as the Parador de Guadalupe (Cáceres) or the Parador de Cangas de Onís (Asturias). It really is a unique experience.
A Templar chapel surrounded by nature
As well as its 16 National Parks, Spain has plenty more places where you can lose yourself in nature. For example, Cañón del Río Lobos Natural Park, between Soria and Burgos, where a chapel of the Knights Templar still stands in the middle of the forest and griffon vultures wheel above. It’s a magical place.
Routes to awaken the senses
The Path of the Senses in Anaga Rural Park (Tenerife) is designed to let you explore your surroundings using smell, sight and touch. Looking for other unusual nature trails? Try the Art Trails in Nature in Sierra de Francia (Salamanca), with artworks hidden in the middle of the woods, or the Painted Forest of Oma (Vizcaya), a natural setting enhanced by the creations of the Bilbao painter and sculptor Agustín Ibarrola.
Camino de Santiago
St James’ Way is one of the world’s oldest and best-known pilgrimage routes, ending at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (Galicia). As well as religious reasons, many people choose to walk or ride across northern Spain for the cultural experience, to enjoy the company of other pilgrims, or to find themselves along the way. Many have found it changed their lives.
Still in Galicia, if you really want to get away from it all, we recommend this area, with one of the largest collections of Romanesque architecture anywhere in Europe. It’s also one of the few places on Earth where people practice “heroic viticulture” (growing grape vines on steep mountain slopes), and here you can navigate the gorges of the rivers Sil and Miño, and sleep in a monastery, the amazing Parador de Santo Estevo. Is there anything more relaxing than landscapes of woodland, vineyards and monasteries?
Four islands for getting away from it all
We start with El Hierro (Canary Islands), the world’s first completely self-sufficient island with all-renewable energy sources, and a Biosphere Reserve with 46 dive sites and spectacular volcanic scenery. Or maybe La Graciosa (Canary Islands), a small island northwest of Lanzarote. It’s just 30 square kilometres with no paved roads, ideal for travellers who love empty beaches, silence and beauty… A third option is Minorca (Balearic Islands), with plenty of slow tourism attractions, such as outdoor painting and local food markets, which you can enjoy in peace in spring and autumn. And from Minorca, you can take a side trip to the tiny and charming Formentera.
Glamping and eco hotels
Glamour + camping = glamping. In other words, camping in the lap of luxury. There are increasing numbers of places in Spain offering glamping holidays and other unusual holiday ideas, such as spending the night in a tree house or a lighthouse. If you prefer traditional camping, you can do it in unique places like the Cíes Islands (Pontevedra). And there’s a growing demand for eco hotels offering fresh seasonal food for breakfast, such as eggs from their own hens.
More intimate festivals
As well as the crowded mega-festivals, there are several smaller ones in Spain, held in places with a charm all their own. A few examples: The Música en Segura Festival defines itself as a musical delicatessen festival, and is held in one of Spain’s most beautiful villages, Segura de la Sierra (Jaén), at an altitude of 1,200 metres and with 140 inhabitants. And “Pirineos Sur”, where you can hear a huge range of world music on a floating stage on the Lanuza reservoir, in the Aragonese Pyrenees.
Different ways to do yoga
What happens if you combine two passions like yoga and travel? You get such unusual activities as hatha yoga surrounded by nature, or yoga-sup, where you do yoga on a stand-up paddleboard. Are you in?
An underwater museum
Will you see statues? Yes, but 12 metres down. The artist Jason deCaires Taylor made these spectacular creations in Lanzarote to draw attention to the need to care for the oceans, hoping to use them to generate an artificial coral reef. If you want to dive to see them, you will need diver certification showing you can dive to a maximum depth of 16 metres.
Birds and stars
There are plenty of places in Spain where you can enjoy the peace and quiet needed for birdwatching, but we particularly recommend Monfragüe National Park in Extremadura. By day, you can see some of Europe’s most iconic birds, including black storks, black and griffon vultures, eagle owls and imperial eagles. By night, as Monfragüe is a Starlight Tourist Destination, it’s also one of the best places for stargazing. The Milky Way has to be seen to be believed, and there are several astronomical observatories.
Hot springs and Arab baths
Some of the most famous hot springs in Spain are in the city of Ourense and its hot water pools with medicinal properties. There are outdoor ones free of charge on the banks of the river Miño, and private ones with zen spa treatments, waterbeds, wine therapy, chocolate therapy… Looking for another way to really relax? Try the Arab baths in cities like Granada and Cordoba.
Medieval towns and villages
It’s like a trip in a time machine - visit other eras in towns and villages like Laguardia, Almazán, Consuegra, Hondarribia, Manzanares El Real, Estella-Lizarra, Olivenza, Jerez de los Caballeros, Ciudad Rodrigo and Sigüenza. Be prepared to explore castles and enjoy events like medieval tapas contests.