Dan and I spent this year's spring break hiking through the white villages of Andalucia, Spain, while the kids stayed with their grandparents in West Virginia, learning to ski (yay for grandparents!!).
We booked our trip through On Foot Holidays. This is the second trip they've arranged for us (a few years ago we hiked the Amalfi Coast in Italy) and I still cannot say enough good things.
On Foot sends you detailed route itineraries; arranges small, quaint hotels in out-of-the-way locations; and manages baggage transfers. So all you need to do is hike from town to town. It's such a cool way to see the world, I wish we could do it all the time.
Day 1 & 2 - Zahara de la Sierra.
We booked our flights with airline miles, so travel was a little cumbersome (flying to London and then Madrid, followed by a 4 hour train ride to Ronda, and a 1 hour car transfer to Zahara de la Sierra). But finally we arrived at the first hotel, a small, charming place in the middle of nowhere.
It rained most of the first day - intermittent storms followed by drizzly skies (so glad we splurged on better rain gear for the trip), but we still managed to trek 10-11 miles around Zahara. Without airplanes or cars, the valley seemed so silent - you could hear dog barks and sheep bells from miles away. And griffon vultures filled the skies.
The river crossings were a little crazy with all the rain, but all in all, it was so beautiful. In the evenings the skies cleared, allowing us to watch the sunset from our hotel balcony.
Day 3 - Zahara de la Sierra to Grazalema
This was my favorite hike of the trip because of the diverse landscape. It was only 9-10 miles long, but a lot of steep inclines made it more difficult than other days (luckily, with crazy views). Plus, no rain, though the cloudless sky made for worse photos.
We hiked past so many horses, sheep, chickens, cows, and (somewhat scary) barking dogs - as well as tiny farm houses that looked hundreds of years old (and not necessarily in a good way).
Day 4 - Grazalema - Benaoján (then a taxi back to Grazalema)
On day 4 we planned on hiking from Grazalema to Benaocáz, but we mixed up our itinerary and ended up trekking 10 miles to the wrong town (oops). It took us over an hour waiting for a cab (who was waiting for us in the right town) to figure out our mistake. On the upside, the views were beautiful. On the downside, all the boulders made my feet hurt (a lot).
Day 5 - Grazalema to Benaocáz (and then a car transfer to Benaojan).
We spent day 5 going on day 4's hike (hence the car transfer). Luckily, after a long day we arrived to a gorgeous hotel and a fancy dinner (we needed this).
As you can tell, I didn't take many photos (isn't it crazy how your first day somewhere new every little detail seems so amazing and by the fifth day it all looks the same?)
Day 6 - Benaojan to Ronda
My feet hurt (and I felt lazy), so we opted out of the 10 mile hike to Ronda and decided to walk to the La Cueva de la Pileta instead (and then take the afternoon train into Ronda). Visitors cannon take photographs inside the cave (sadness), but we enjoyed seeing Stone Age paintings of horses, goats and fish from 20,000 to 25,000 years ago (though the hows and whys of much of the art still remains a mystery).
We arrived in Ronda just in time for the holy week processions (basically a huge city-wide party). The streets were crazy crowded - families, kids, older people - a little bit like the 4th of July in America. Street stands sold candy and trinkets for the kids.
Almost everyone was speaking Spanish (i.e. not many other foreign tourists) and we stood out as foreigners because of our puffy jackets.
The first processions of the night had crowds surrounding them on all sides and I didn't think we'd be able to see much of anything, but luckily, because I'm so short they pushed me to the front of the crowds (isn't that awesome?). Plus, on Holy Thursday there are so many processions (they go throughout the night) that we managed to see more than we thought we would.
I'll admit, it felt sort of odd to celebrate when people wore robes that ARE NOT okay in the United States. Every culture is different, but still, it took awhile to dissociate the pointy-hat context from US history.
Day 7 - Ronda to Malaga
We had hoped to spend the day touring Malaga, but it poured and while we tried to power through, we ended up spending most of the afternoon competing with other tourists (mostly Spanish) for seats in overpriced cafes while we waited for our train to Malaga.
Day 8 - Malaga
We spent our final morning in Spain bike riding along the ocean. The weather was perfect and for dinner we drank sangria at a restaurant on the beach, while they cooked our fresh fish on grill in front of the restaurant.
During the day, I talked Dan into a trip to Malaga's branch of the Pompidou Center (the museum's only other location outside of Paris). The Paris branch turned out to be much larger and more impressive, but I loved the quirky exterior of Malaga's musuem.
And that's it. In the morning we headed home (another long day of flying - Malaga to Madrid to London to Baltimore), but totally worth it. And the kids even missed us (somewhat)!
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