If you’re lucky enough to have visited or lived in Spain, you’ll already know that calling it a beautiful country is a massive understatement. This country in South Western Europe is truly one of the most stunning countries on the continent. Its size means there are incredible, white beaches in the South and green, luscious grasslands in the North.
Whether you want a beach holiday, a city break, an authentic Spanish village, a ski weekend in the mountains, or a wander through the dazzling forests and parks, you can have it all. And while Spain might mostly be known for its perfect beaches and delectable food, it’s also a very popular place for tourists and nationals to go hiking. Due to the climate differences around the country, there are lots of options for hikers and wanders to explore the beauty that every corner of Spain has to offer. So, if you’re a local and want to know where you should go next, or a tourist who is looking to experience some of the best trails and walks in the country, then read on for all the best options.
1. Mulhacen Hike
When people think about walks and hikes in Spain, most people will immediately think of either the Camino de Santiago (hang on, it’s up next!), or the Mulhacen hike. The Mulhacen is a mountain in the Sierra Nevada mountain range down in Andalucia – Granada to be precise, although the mountain range stretches further south into a couple of other provinces as well. But this is not just any mountain, the Mulhacen is the highest mountain on the Spanish mainland standing at a whopping 3479 meters (just a little more than two miles upwards). The Sierra Nevada mountain range is already extraordinary enough with lots of “mini” hikes and trails, sky-gazing tours, outdoor camping, and skiing in the winter, but if you want to take on a great challenge, then this hike is for you.
You can hike to the top in one day, but bear in mind it will take between seven and nine hours of near-constant walking. Or you can wild camp and take a more leisurely walk to the top with wild camping along the way. This is a popular route, especially when the weather is cooler so you’ll always feel safe even if you’re on your own. If anything goes wrong, there will soon be someone along to help. However, if you don’t have a lot of experience with hiking up rather than straight ahead, then you might want to choose an easier option. while you’ll no doubt be safe, it is rather strenuous at times – although the views from the top are indescribable!
2. Camino de Santiago
What’s a list of the best hikes in Spain without the Camino de Santiago? Probably Spain’s most famous walking trail, this Camino is known the world over with tens of thousands of people from every country visiting each year to complete the different stages. This is not including the thousands of Spaniards that take part each year as well! As far as numbers are concerned, this is without a doubt Spain’s most walked hike in the mainland.
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The Camino de Santiago is so popular for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s seen as a spiritual journey where many Catholics can enhance their spirituality and closeness with God through this pilgrimage. However, it is said that even irreligious people also often experience a spiritual awakening on the journey as the sights, sounds, and wonderment of the trail leave people walking away feeling different within themselves. While this Camino is a pilgrimage for Catholics, that doesn’t mean that only they are welcome. Absolutely not. All people are welcome (even dogs that are less than 10kgs are also welcome to adventure along the routes).
Other appealing aspects of the Camino de Santiago include the nature and scenery, the chance to meet new people along the way, the community feeling of each church and village, and even the achievement of completing one or more of the stages by way of a certificate at the end when you reach Santiago de Compostela. The full hike is 500 miles stretching right from France along to Santiago, however, there are plenty of separate routes to choose from that vary from 100 miles, 150 miles, etc. You can choose the route that you think will suit you best and join the other pilgrims on your week-long (or more) hiking trip. The Camino de Santiago is seen by many as a “bucket list” item, so if you’re ever in the position where you can do it, don’t hesitate, it may just change your life – As the old saying goes
He began as a walker and ended as a pilgrim
3. El Caminito del Rey
I know I’ve already said that the first two were incredibly famous hikes in Spain, and I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but El Caminito del Rey is also one of the mainland’s most famous hikes! Set along the jagged cliffs of Gaitanes Gorge in Malaga, it was once most well-known for having one of the world’s most dangerous footpaths thanks to the sheer vertical cliff drop during one part of the hike. As exciting as this was to navigate (and by exciting we mean thrilling in a stomach-churning sense), the whole pathway was renovated and restored several years ago with its reopening in 2015 sans terrifying certain-death plunge.
The hike is completely safe now with a nice, simple, but stunning 5-mile walk instead. If you’re in the area, this really isn’t one to be missed – you’ll experience boardwalks, forests, rivers, and views for days all in the roughly four hours it takes to complete. Don’t forget that you need to book tickets in advance for this particular hike. The tickets cost ten euros, however, this does include the obligatory helmet (I swear, it’s safe!). If you’re looking to do this hike then visit the Caminito’s official website to get your slot booked.
4. El Simancón y Reloj
If you have been lucky enough to visit the gorgeous Granada, you’ll know just how many mountains surround this city. No matter where you look, you’ll see the peaks of all sizes in the distance, or even very close depending on where you’re standing! One of the best hikes in Granada is El Simancon y Reloj located in the Grazalema mountain range. You begin your adventure at the base of Grazalema followed by a walk through a pine forest. Once you make it out of the pine forest, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of the town of Grazalema and mountain upon mountain behind you. This hiking trail is a loop that always makes things easier, however, the trail is poorly signed… which always makes things harder. The ideal way is to pre-plan the route on a physical map to make sure you’re always going in the right direction. If you navigate the loop correctly, you’ll end up scaling to the summit of the two name-sake peaks, and see for miles and miles into the distance.
5. Pico Sobarcal
The Pico Sobarcal in the North of Spain is a moderate difficulty hike that is a great option for most walers regardless of their experience and is the ultimate way to see the tops of the French Pyrenees up close. Although if you feel like you’re not able to get to the top, then don’t press on as you can get great views even from halfway up and it’s far more important that you feel safe! For those that do manage to get to the top expect it to take a fair few hours at the summit is at more than two thousand meters – but how else are you going to get such fantastic views if you don’t go high! Once you reach the summit, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world and any stress or strain you felt on your upward journey will be quickly forgotten about.
6. Puig Campana
The Puig Campana set in the community of Valencia may not be one of the most famous hiking routes in Spain but it’s certainly one of the best. Anyone who has visited or lived in the province of Alicante will most definitely know about this hike and few people haven’t conquered this beast of a mountain and got to the top. The mountain is famous in the region, not just for its size or walk but also its shape. At the top of the mountain, there is a square hole, almost as though someone with a thousand feet chainsaw has hacked a chuck out. Legend has it that a mythical creature lived on the peak and one day, in anger, tore a chunk of the summit out to through at the town below.
Although, I have been to the top and can confirm that any mythical being has most certainly moved on to pastures new since this little outburst. Like lots of other hikes in Spain, you can wild camp along the way if you want to break to journey up, although in reality the hike only takes three to four hours, so the camping would be for fun rather than because you need a break. Dogs are also welcome on this trip and it’s not a bad way to tire your little friends out as they make their way up the trail. Once you reach the top, you’ll be able to see down into the towns of Finestrat and Benidorm and all along the coast to the city of Alicante and beyond. On a not-so-clear day, you’ll most likely get caught up in the clouds, and as beautiful as they are, they don’t make for good pictures, so be sure to check the weather before you set off.
7. Bailón River Trail
This trail is a little over seven miles long and offers one of the most beautiful settings in the country. In fact, it’s part of the Sierras Subbéticas, a UNESCO-recognized heavenly region in Andalucia. The Bailón River Trail is in the province of Cordoba (a simply stunning part of the south of Spain that you must absolutely visit if you have time. The city of Cordoba is steeped in history and incredible architecture that you won’t forget in a hurry), starting in the town of Cabra. The route officially starts at the entrance of the town’s 800-year-old sanctuary and ends in the town of Zuheros. As the name suggests, the route follows entirely along the river and the entire walk gives you the opportunity to see lush greenery, canyon drops, mountains, and of course, waterfalls. The hike is a fairly easy one in terms of having a relatively flat and consistent path so even beginners can enjoy this route. And as if the superb nature along the way wasn’t enough, the bright white town of Zuheros that greets you at the end provides the perfect finish line to an already stunning day.
8. Cares Gorge Trail
Asturias is like the countryside of Spain. Of course, most of the north is covered in green fields stretching for miles due to the rainier weather, but there is something extra special about the green lands of Asturias. This region is chock full of nature, pathways, hikes, and trails that take you for miles in every direction and help you see the area in its full beauty. One particularly noteworthy hiking trail is the Care Gorge Trail. This trail actually crosses the county border as it begins in Poncebos and finishes in the next province over in Cain, Leon. Despite this cross, the hike can still be completed within a day since it comes out to about seven and a half miles. The path follows along the Cares river and is set along gorgeous limestone rock. Once you arrive at the finish line, you’ll be able to rest your weary legs and tuck into some of the area’s most famous dishes along with a glass of your favourite vino.
9. El Torcal de Antequera
This next one is actually a National Park rather than a singular hike and I’ve included it for two reasons. One, there are four hiking trails within the National Park; and two, the scenery is something you won’t see many times in your whole life. The four routes you can take from the entrance are of different distances and difficulties, this means you can have a great time if you are a serious hiker who enjoys a challenge, and you can have an equally great time if you’re a family looking for a nice, steady day out. While the surrounding landscape may suggest that you will spend all your time climbing up and over rocks, don’t worry, there are plenty of flat pathways that keep you firmly on the ground. This whole area used to be underwater millions of years ago and is now so elevated that it even has its own climate – this is what has caused the unique and quite breath-taking landscape that is there now. The park is near Malaga, in the south of Spain, so try not to go in the summer as the temperature can reach around 40 degrees celsius which is far too hot to be out hiking!
10. Ruta del Agua
We’re back in the region of Valencia for the final one on our list! The Ruta del Agua (Water Route) is a great hike for a warmer day as it affords you the chance to cool off in the numerous lakes and waterfalls! This circular route takes you along two rivers and is the perfect backdrop for your day trip. The pathways are clear and easy to follow, this is definitely more of a hike for pleasure rather than a challenge. The flowing water, overwhelming rock faces, and prominent trees will leave you wanting to go back time and again.
Spain isn’t just about sun, sea, and sand. While those elements feature heavily in the country’s repertoire, these extraordinary hikes and breath-taking mountain-top views are also some of the best things you can experience during your stay. It really doesn’t matter which you choose, they all have fantastic aspects and unforgettable scenery.
Of course, like with all hiking journeys, make sure you pack plenty of water and sun cream (some parts of Spain are hot even during the winter) and take a few snacks to keep your energy levels up – you’re going to be doing a lot of exercises after all! I have been fortunate enough to have done several of these trails and even a few that didn’t quite make the list, and I know that even the most cautious or sceptical adventurer will have a fabulous time. Get your hiking boots out and your camera’s ready for some of the most memorable walks you’ll ever take and fall in love with this glorious country and all its beauty.