Whether it’s the warmth of its people, the beauty of its heritage or the joy its traditions, Spain has a unique way of captivating travelers time and time again.
With a famed history—both glorious and decadent—spanning more than 2,000 years, it is no surprise that Spain stands as one of the most culturally rich and diverse countries in the world. Each region upholds its own unique customs, traditions and regional dialects, deeply contrasting each other, yet co-existing side by side personifying what is today the multi-faceted identity of Spain.
Perhaps Spain’s best-known and well-loved region, Andalucia is the folkloric heart of the country where the influence of its Moorish past can not only be seen across the architectural landscape of Cordoba, Seville and Granada, but also felt within the permeating sound of the Spanish guitar or the tapping of a fervent flamenco dancer.
The rough, wind-swept landscapes of the northern Atlantic coast are a stark contrast to the warm, sun-drenched beaches of the Mediterranean coast and the south. The Basque Country preserves one of Spain’s most distinctive subcultures, safeguarded by the bold and proud Euskadi people, while Galicia’s Celtic heritage and mystical character are home to one of Christianity’s most scared pilgrimage sites, El Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James).
Barcelona and Madrid retain much of the grandeur of Spain’s Golden Age under the Habsburg Empire, which saw the unification of the Crowns of Castilla and Aragon and led Spain into the New World; Monumental cathedrals and royal palaces abound, which today house some of the world’s most important works of art, like Picasso’s Guernica, Velazquez’s Las Meninas or the Majas of Goya. While Madrid retains a more traditional character, Barcelona has historically fermented a vanguardist thought across all spheres, most remarkably illustrated in the masterpieces of Gaudí and his counterparts. Today, both Madrid and Barcelona offer some of the most sough-after culinary offerings in the country, along with the endless string of Michelin stars that dot the Basque city of San Sebastian.
Spain’s Balearic islands are no less diverse than the rest of the mainland—each a little world of its own brought together by the pristine turquoise waters that embrace the coast’s countless little beach spots and rustic fincas that dominate the inland. Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera offer the ideal setting for a slow-paced laidback retreat; Those looking to keep chasing the ‘fiesta’ might find it in Ibiza, a magical island that has throughout Spain’s darkest periods of history become a bohemian haven for those who went against the current, still retaining much of its hippie culture from the 1960s.
Discovering Spain is an experience that calls on romantics longing to stroll through the Barcelona of Gaudi and Picasso; history enthusiasts yearning to travel in time to the age of Al-Andalus in Cordoba; foodies in search of San Sebastian’s best ‘pintxo’, or those simply in pursuit of the key to Spain’s unique take on life.
Spain’s lively capital is home to legends of every kind; from the likes of Velazquez and Goya, royal palaces and belle époque neighbourhoods, to the vibrant nightlife that ends only with the traditional Spanish chocolate con churros for breakfast. Madrid has quickly become one of Europe’s most exciting cities, welcoming visitors with a pride very characteristic of Madrilenos and a lifestyle that imitates art in every regard.
If it were possible to encompass all that Andalucia is in one word, it would be ‘duende,’ a notion of heightened senses and emotion that was born here, from the sounds of a flamenco guitar on a geranium-filled alley, the permeating scent of orange blossoms, or the sight of an idiosyncratic culture pulling together its Christian and Muslim heritage through architecture, language, music, arts and local folklore.
BARCELONA & THE COAST
Barcelona’s romantic and eclectic personality has been the source of inspiration for many artists over time who have left their mark on this vibrant city. The Gothic old quarter will offer a chance to travel back in time to the sophisticated heyday of the Ciudad Condal, while Gaudi’s whimsical architecture and modernist art of Miro, Picasso and Dali provide the perfect backdrop for the ultimate cultural exploration. Following in the footsteps of such personalities, head north towards the Costa Brava for an idyllic escape to the small coastal towns that sit on the crystalline waters of the Mediterranean.
The northern Atlantic coast is a fabled region of distinct microcultures; The Celtic nuances of Galicia deeply contrast with the unique customs and flavours of the Basque Country and the slowed down lifestyle of Asturias or Cantabria. What brings them all together is a series of dramatic coastal landscapes that decorate the picturesque pilgrimage routes of El Camino de Santiago.
CASTILLA & EXTREMAdURA
The legendary land of Don Quixote and cradle of the Spanish Empire, the Castillas & Extremadura boast some of the most notable remnants of the rich cultural and historical heritage of Spain. This arid landscape might seem barren at first, but it is dotted with exquisite medieval castles, ancient cobble-stoned towns, and some of Spain’s best-kept traditions.
East of the Spanish mainland lie the beautiful, sun-drenched Balearic Islands: Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. Each with its own unique personality, they all share the same pristine turquoise waters ebbing into endless little white-sand calas. While Mallorca and Menorca might offer a more laid-back experience, Ibiza and Formentera are the predilect choices for those looking to combine bohemian beach days with lively evenings.
SPAIN WITH NAYA
tapa a tapa
Gastronomy lies at the heart of Spanish culture; Whether the occasion calls for the avant-garde cuisine Can Roca, casual pinxos hopping through the streets of San Sebastian, or breezy afternoon-long lunches at a local’s home, the Spanish have a long tradition of gathering around the table to share and rejoice. Embark on a hands-on experience for the senses, learning to make some of Spain’s most beloved dishes like Paella, Gazpacho or Cocido, and let the saffron and jamon iberico unravel the unique taste of the land. Discovering Spain through its flavours will take you from the old-world markets of San Miguel and La Boqueria through Rioja’s vineyards towards the unique culinary traditions of the Basque Country, and deep into Andalucia, the birthplace of tapas: not just a dish, but a social ritual.
art & Architecture
The artistic and architectural heritage of Spain is a unique blend of numerous influences and cultures that have left their mark on the Iberian peninsula over time. Invaluable relics left behind by the ancient Romans, Celts, Visigoths, Moors and the more recent vanguardist contributions of Gaudi and Calatrava have placed Spain on the second highest ranking of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Europe. Within these architectural landmarks lies some of the most influential art in world history spanning a myriad of diverse schools and styles: discover the dark romance of Goya and the ethereal expressionism of El Greco in central Spain; follow Dali’s sensual surrealism towards the northern Mediterranean; trace Picasso’s unique radicalism back to his early days and birthplace in Andalucia.
IN SEARCH OF DUENDE
Spain’s vibrant folklore needs no introduction, yet beyond flamenco and bullfighting lies a world of tradition whose spirit has transcended time. Spain’s most beautiful art form comes to life through the living expressions of ancient rituals such as Semana Santa and the Feria de Abril in Seville, the San Fermines of Pamplona or the Castellers of Catalunya. Delve deep into the fabric of Spanish culture from the hand of passionate locals and field experts, going behind closed doors into intimate flamenco tablaos and traditional artisans’ ateliers, meet bullfighters, winemakers, gypsy jondo singers, and learn first hand what lies behind their unique crafts; Hear the Celtic chants in the mythical land of Galicia, or partake in one of the many local festivities that give the spanish word ‘fiesta’ all its meaning.
tales of the past
Spain’s fascinating history is a kaleidoscope of contrasting peoples and beliefs that have over time conquered, defeated and co-existed with each other. They’ve left behind an arresting collection of narratives housed within the details of opulent palaces, magnificent cathedrals, pre-historical caves and quiet medieval villages. Travel through some of Europe’s most fascinating ages beginning with the ancient remains of the Roman Empire, the gilded charms left behind by the colonial Nuevo Mundo, the Renaissance and Baroque awakening epitomised in the aristocratic opulence of the great cities, the Sephardic Jewish heritage dotted across the country and the fabled Moorish legacy of Al-Andalus, most notably Cordoba, Sevilla, Granada and endless white-washed villages in between.