Monday, 6 July 2015

The Spanish Costas, revisited - It's not all suncream & sangria

If you're British, chances are your childhood will have featured at least one bucket-and-spade holiday on one of the Spanish costas. There's no denying that despite the travel trends that come and go, Spain is a national favourite holiday destination for us, with breaks on the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca and Costa Brava remaining popular. But how well do we really know the Spanish costas?

For those who shudder at the thought of holidaying on the Spanish coast, automatically thinking of the high-rise hotels of Benidorm and crowded beaches thronged with fellow Brits, think again. Like the rest of the country, Spain's coastline is incredibly diverse, with both rugged, wild stretches dotted with rocky coves and sweeps of sandy beach. Temperatures vary too, with the north a more temperate option at any time of year.

So if you haven't sorted a summer holiday yet, it's time to revisit the costas.

The lesser-known costas

If you're more into verdant landscapes than sunbleached beaches, the Costa Verde in north-eastern Asturias may be for you. More commonly associated with cider and its mountainous interior, Asturias has 350 kilometres of coastline. Key coastal towns include Cudillero and Llastres, where the Spanish equivalent of Doc Martin was filmed. If you're into more active pursuits than just sunbathing, the Costa Verde won't disappoint  it's a perfect location for rafting and hiking thanks to milder temperatures. 

San Sebastian, the stunner of the Basque coast

Also in the north, the Costa Vasca has on old-school glamour reminiscent of the south of France - but without the hefty price tag. The cities of Bilbao and San Sebastián are key Basque Country attractions, meaning that this coastline of the Basque Country is ideal for combining a city break with some beach time. San Sebastián offers both in the same gorgeous package: the wide sweep of La Concha beach is one of the country's most photographed, while the laid-back little city is renowned for its gastronomy, particularly its pintxos (tapas). With little to tick off on the museum front, you won't feel guilty moving from beach towel to pintxo bar.

The Costa del Sol isn't the only stretch of coastline in Andalucía  Spain's southernmost region is also home to the Costa de la Luz, Costa Tropical and Costa de Almería. These three areas are better known among Spanish than British tourists, so if you're looking to blend in while still enjoying some tanning time, try one of these costas. Stretching from Cádiz to Huelva, the province which shares a border with Portugal, the Costa de la Luz is on the Atlantic coast. It's home to wide sandy beaches ideal for sunbathing – or if one of the famous levante winds hits town, for windsurfing or kite-surfing too. Laid-back Tarifa has a surfer vibe all year round, and is this coast's jumping-off point for Morocco, as the ferry to Tangier departs from here.

View of Africa: Tarifa is the southernmost point of Spain

The province of Granada may be best known for the Alhambra, but its also home to the Costa Tropical, a short stretch of coast where the main beach towns are Motril, Almuñécar and Salobreña. If you're looking for more dramatic landscapes, try Almería: the Cabo de Gata has some impressive rock formations as well as some quieter beaches.

The costas you think you know, revisited

Home to the renowned resort of Benidorm, the Costa Blanca has more to offer than English breakfasts in the sun. 2800 hours of sunshine and warm temperatures year-round make this coastline popular with Spanish visitors too – the city of Alicante and neighbouring resort Playa San Juan are favourites among Madrileños who escape the city heat in August. Pretty Jávea and Altea have well-preserved old towns, while laid-back Calpe's mountain backdrop means that a quiet retreat from the beach is an easy option.

Stunning Cadaques

Perhaps best known among Brits for gay tourism in Sitges and the party resort of Lloret de Mar, the Spanish associate the Costa Brava with its rugged coastline and great seafood. Stretching up to the French border, this area of Catalan coast is studded with rocky coves and harbours, making it ideal for those who like to explore different towns. Soak up some culture and cuisine in stunning Cadaqués: artist Salvador Dalí's former home is just a few kilometres away in Portlligat, while a group of graduates from El Bulli are cooking up a storm at Compartir

No article on the Spanish costas would be complete without a mention of the grande dame of coastlines, the Costa del Sol. Beloved of Brits for decades, it isn't just home to the party town of 'Marbs' (or more accurately Puerto Banús, not much of the partying goes on in Marbella itself) and family-friendly resorts like Torremolinos, you can also find low-key beach towns like pretty little Estepona. Visiting last year, I was surprised at my misconceptions of the Costa del Sol: I spent a long weekend in Fuengirola, fully expecting to find fishbowl cocktails being slurped by rowdy teens, but instead encountered a very Spanish town centre blended with a touch of that British home-from-home on the beach front. Any place where I can enjoy a morning cup of tea with a sea view followed by pescaíto frito for lunch is just fine by me. 

Need more information on the costas? This fun infographic gives the lowdown on the Spanish coastline's top picks. You can also find information on every stretch of Spanish sand here.

Meet The Costas! - An Infographic from The TravelRepublic Blog

Which is your favourite Spanish costa? Will you be heading to any of them this summer?

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