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OROKO’s guide to Spain

Spain holds a special place in our hearts. The birthplace of flamenco, matadors and the legend of Don Quixote, Spain is a destination of deep-rooted tradition, passion and pride. Few destinations are as diverse or as proud of their regional heritage as in Spain. Not so long ago, holidaymakers flocked to the same, tourist-heavy spots along the Mediterranean coastline, but now, its experiencing a Renaissance. It’s time to explore Spain in a different light and venture further from the same hotspots of years past.

From the coves of the Costa Brava to the alcázars of Seville, we’re sharing our extensive guide to Spain. If you feel inspired, please call our Travel Specialists on 01 260 0240 or email us at info@orokotravel.ie.

Canaries

Unlike anywhere else in Europe, the Canary Islands host a sensational European culture within a tropical African climate. Conquered by the Spanish Castilians in the 15th-century, the island’s history is said to have begun sometime before 1000 BC. Since then, the islands have been visited by countless explorers including Christopher Columbus, who used the Canaries to replenish all four of his westbound fleets.

Always earning a top spot in our favourite destinations for year-round heat, the Canaries offer a fool-proof sun holiday. Consider Gran Canaria, a tapestry of dramatic variations in terrain and climate. Beckoning sandy beaches call for relaxation, sea sports and ocean adventures, while the centre of the island is the place to be for hikers and stargazers.

The Western Canary Islands are marked by craggy volcanic mountains, rugged forested terrain and narrow roads winding through ravines. Discover the unspoilt islands of La Gomera and La Palma for a truly unique encounter. The verdant landscapes of La Palma, known as “La Isla Bonita”, are home to award-winning wineries and amazing gastronomy, and we adore our wine and food-filled visits to its unrelenting natural beauty.

For some of the best winter sun in Europe, Tenerife is your go-to island. Inspiringly beautiful, its coastline is defined by volcanic sands that border the untamed Atlantic. As you venture inland, you will be led to its evergreen pine forests and sprawling national parks, offering endless adventures for those who choose to partake. Bask in the rays along the shores of Costa Adeje as grey skies loom at home, dine in Michelin-starred eateries in cosmopolitan Santa Cruz, the capital of the Canary Islands, browse designer shops and stay in some of the most luxurious hotels in the Canaries. An oasis of calm on the Costa Adeje is Hotel Bahia del Duque. Boasting direct access to the Playa del Duque beach promenade, it is one of our favourite properties for luxurious romance along the southwestern coast. Another excellent option is Ritz-Carlton, Abama, a beautiful resort with a superb golf course, eleven restaurants – two of which are Michelin starred, a spa and a beach club. Their tailored kids’ programme makes it perfect for a family holiday.

Thanks to environmental activist, eco-visionary and artist, César Manrique, as well as its farmer-inhospitable landscape, Lanzarote is one of the most untouched islands in the Canaries. Manrique’s strong influence led to the prevention of politicians disrupting the natural environment. Its rain and meadow-free terrain meant farmers of yesteryear avoided Lanzarote as a home, while forcing inhabitants out to sea for nourishment – leading to incredible seafood expertise on the island. Now, Lanzarote is well-known for its excellent beaches and its reputation for hosting incredible activities and water sports such as surfing and paddle boarding. Princesa Yaiza Suite Hotel Resort is located on the south-east coast of the island, on the pristine sands of Playa Blanca, and is one of our top choices for a luxurious stay in Lanzarote.

Balearics

Just off the coast of Spain lie the beautiful Balearics, a collection of sun-kissed islands promising unlimited beachside luxury. Tourism in the Balearics began in the mid-19th century when writers, artists and composers dropped anchor on the gorgeous beaches, acting as an island refuge and stunning muse. The archipelago comprises Ibiza, Formentera, Mallorca, Menorca and the smallest isle of Cabrera, each of which with its own distinct and celebrated personality.

Known for its idyllic beaches, pocket-sized coves and glistening coastline, stretching as far as the eye can see, Mallorca, the largest of the Balearics, makes for luxury holidays of impeccable natural beauty and stylish variety. Not only is it an island that has a rich cultural heritage, but it is also increasingly becoming renowned as one of the hottest food scenes in Europe, with a total of eight Michelin stars. Venturing along the lesser-explored parts of the island takes you away from the action and into an undiscovered paradise of quaint countryside villages and citrus groves.

The wild child of the Balearic Islands, Ibiza is synonymous with barefoot luxury. Home to a rugged coastline dotted with hidden hamlets, pocket-sized coves and world-famous beach clubs, you are invited to spend days lazing on its sandy shores and embracing its bohemian lifestyle. As the sun sets over the Mediterranean, experience its marvellous nightlife, wining and dining on island cuisine before dancing the night away to the beat of celebrated DJs at its finest beach clubs. Ibiza can also be an ideal place for your next romantic escape as well as a family getaway, offering reprieve for parents and a wealth of fun for kids, with outstanding kids’ facilities and babysitting services, parents are invited to enjoy evenings spent sipping on champagne and experiencing contemporary dining.

Overlooking the beautiful Cala Gracio Bay and its sandy beaches is OKU Hotel. Emulating laid-back beach vibes, the luxurious bohemian property is just a short distance from some of the island’s most popular beach clubs and bars. To escape the hustle and bustle, stay at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay, set on the tranquil shores of Talamanca Bay. Spend your days lazing on one of the seafront pool decks or step onto the sand for cocktails and fresh seafood at the beach club. Renowned for its delectable cuisine, there are four restaurants for all palates to indulge in, ranging from the world-famous Nobu to the bohemian chiringuito of Chambao.

Catalonia

With its very own language, unique local customs and distinct culinary heritage, a luxury holiday to Catalonia is very different to anywhere else in Spain. To the north, hiking trails weave their way between the valleys of the Pyrenees and the historic city of Girona impresses with its many exceptional Michelin-starred eateries and the Ciutat Antiga (Old City), especially its 13th-century Jewish Quarter, one of Europe’s largest and best-preserved Jewish quarters. In the south, history comes alive through the Romanesque art, medieval monasteries and Roman ruins of Tarragona. At Catalonia’s heart, the ornamental metropolis of Barcelona beckons with ancient temples and the creations of Gaudi. Its architecture spans millennia, from Roman-era temples to the modern whimsical artworks of Gaudi. The city has long inspired creative minds, evident in the museums dedicated to Spain’s prolific artists found throughout the city.

The sun shimmers on the pristine beaches of Catalonia’s Costa Brava, one of the most beautiful and unspoilt stretches of coastline in Europe, where the historic landmarks of Catalonia contrast with quiet hamlets and steep stairways leading to hidden coves and marinas. The Costa Brava, or ‘wild coast’, offers dazzling horseshoe bay beaches and coastal walks and is a haven for golfers, home to the celebrated PGA Catalunya golf resort.

Andalucia

Rich with distinctive art, one of Andalucía’s main draws are the traces of Moorish rule that have shaped the architecture of its historic cities. From the beautiful mercados to the royal palaces and alcázars of Moorish Spain, celebrate the marvellous culture that has flourished from its hundreds of years under Moorish rule. Andalucía’s cuisine is hugely influenced by its Jewish communities and the Muslim invasion of 711AD. The Moorish kingdom left a legacy of dishes such as albondigas and escabeche, as well as staple ingredients like rice, saffron and dried fruits.

Travelling throughout Andalucía, particularly in Granada and Seville, discover the momentous Moorish and Jewish legacies left behind. Explore the iconic fortress of Alhambra in the old Moorish capital of Granada where Moorish monarchs once reigned, admire the beauty of La Alhambra and the fascinating history of Cordoba.

Appreciate Andalucía’s natural beauty, from the rural farmlands of Montecorto to the blossoming orange orchards of Seville and the gorgeous coast. Experience the traditional flamenco dance in the very place it began alongside the traditionally clad caballero and the marvellous Andalusian horse, as they showcase their marvellous skills in regions like Jerez.

Travel to the coast to the luxury beachside icon of Marbella, staying at a stunning beach resort or perhaps visit the breathtaking nature reserve of Cabo de Gata, taking time to relax or soak up the wild coastal landscapes through hiking and bike trails. Venture further south towards coastal Estepona, a popular resort town that has managed to retain its original charm. It is home to our partner property, Ikos Andalusia. Take to the warm water of the Mediterranean Sea or enjoy ultimate relaxation on the sandy beach. Both families and couples are catered to here, with adults-only quiet zones and children’s play areas and endless activities along the pristine sandy beach.

Madrid & Castilla y Leon

Spain’s less discovered heartlands are a wonderfully rewarding destination where medieval hilltop cities and protected heritage towns crop up through the landscape. Amid the country estates and olive groves of Castilla y Leon, you’ll feel you’ve found Spain at its most authentic. Visit the Golden City of Salamanca and the beautiful villages that surround the region. Venture into the capital to explore elegant boulevards, artistic hubs and glamorous neighbourhoods. Brimming with pride and character, Madrid is a haven for culture lovers who seek historical landmarks, art galleries and culinary delights. The city’s cosmopolitan flairre and the friendlessness of madrileños will make you feel right at home. Madrid boasts an artistic pedigree akin to few other cities. Masterpieces by the likes of Goya, Picasso and Dalí adorn the walls of the city’s world-class museums, palaces and galleries.

A market-wanderer’s heaven, Madrid’s mercados entice passers-by with hanging legs of Iberian ham, overflowing trays of fresh produce and colourful sweet treats. The city’s hundred-year-old market, Mercado de San Miguel, oozes character and wonderful bakeries are at every turn, offering delicious almond tuiles and napolitana de chocolate.

Valencia

Positioned along Spain’s southern coast, Valencia is home to the picture-perfect coast of Costa Blanca and famous Alicante. Celebrate the character of Valencia City, wandering through the striking landmarks, such as Palacio del Marqués de dos Aguas and Valencia Cathedral, and enjoy its sleepy neighbourhoods and horchaterias that serve the province’s own horchata, a traditional tiger nut drink.

Visit the coastal town of Jávea, experiencing the dreamy Mediterranean sunshine that we know and love. Spend days by the sea and in the evening, allow us to reserve a table at one of Javea’s finest restaurants serving traditional Valencian paella. For a trip of restoration and relaxation, what better location to rejuvenate in than a wellness retreat in the tranquil Costa Blanca, with the calm Mediterranean and mountainous backdrop.

Northern Spain

Differing greatly from the rest of the mainland, northerners are known for their strong traditions, cultural pride and culinary geniuses. The makings of an incredible road trip, stop to experience the wonderful culture, admire the historical monuments, sample the delicious food and sip on superb wine.

Basque Country

Basque Country may be small, but its global reputation in the culinary world is huge. An autonomous community sitting on Spain’s border with France, the region maintains an exclusive culture and an awe-inspiring mountainous landscape of luxuriant greenery tumbling into coastal beauty. A trip to Basque Country is nothing short of essential for food lovers, combining French and Spanish inspired specialities for an unmatched cuisine. San Sebastian is the beating heart of Spain’s food scene, and it excels in every aspect. We love to stroll its vibrant streets, stumbling upon glorious food for any occasion, knowing that whether taking our seat at a Michelin-starred restaurant, sampling pintxos paired with the Sargado (Basque cider) or ordering from a laidback street vendor, the standards are impeccably high. A culinary world capital, San Sebastian is the home of Michelin maestros like Arzak, Berasategui and Eneko Atxa and has the most Michelin-starred restaurants per square metre in Europe.

Unlike its peers in Italy and France, the vineyards of Basque Country have remained relatively unfrequented, retaining much of its age-old Spanish splendour. Sample Spain’s abundance of splendid wines on tours of Basque Country and La Rioja’s most famous vineyards. A superstar of Basque Country’s vineyards and a destination in itself is the ultra-modern Hotel Marqués de Riscal. Its contemporary exterior, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is avant-garde, eye-catching and undeniably artistic, overlooking the winelands. With wine at the forefront, expect a unique spa experience with treatments like the crush cabernet scrub and merlot body wrap. The luxury property houses two restaurants, one of which is the Michelin-starred Restaurante Marqués de Riscal. The world famous vineyards of Northern Spain are a necessary addition to a food lovers’ trip through Spain, perfectly paired with the culinary treasures of Basque Country.

Galicia

Separated from the rest of the mainland by towering mountains, Galicia was fairly isolated until recently. Nowadays, it is celebrated for its rugged terrain, wild Atlantic Sea and strong Celtic heritage, taking notes from our famous Irish coasts. Even the regional language Gallego is traced back to the 3rd-century BC when Celtic tribes settled here; it’s no wonder we feel so at home! While promising to unveil a truly unique side of Spain, Galicia also boasts Spain’s beloved features including sensational views, sandy beaches and delicious food. Explore the historic shopfronts and iconic market stalls of Galicia’s Santiago de Compostela, stopping for some of our favourites like mouth-watering pulpo a la gallega, pimientos de padrón and percebes.

Get to know its impressive history as you explore its many churches, monasteries and palaces before relaxing with a café con leche and slice of tarta de Santiago. Famously known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route at the tomb of St James, the city welcomes tourists and pilgrims to its famous streets.

Cantabria

One of Spain’s lesser explored regions, the spectacular hills and woodlands of Cantabria are dotted with pretty villages and fringed by picturesque bays and charming port towns. A perfect addition to your road trip in Northern Spain, explore the medieval ruins, Romanesque churches, beaches and Renaissance palaces surrounding Santillana del Mar or the modernist architecture of Comillas, followed by a seafood lunch at one of its beautiful restaurants. Undeniably one of the most beautiful towns in all of Spain, spending time exploring San Vicente de la Barquera’s beautiful fishing port is a pleasure. Where two long inlets are framed by the Picos de Europa mountainscapes, prepare for exceptional views before visiting the UNESCO Altamira Cave, considered the Sistine Chapel of Rock Art.

At OROKO, we’ve lived and travelled extensively throughout Spain, both in its famed destinations and to lesser-explored regions, always returning to old and new favourites. Whether you’re in search of a beach escape, cultural exploration or culinary adventure, we’re ready to create the perfect bespoke holiday to Spain.

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