I have been fascinated by the expat lifestyle for several years. Countless articles and blogs describe retiring to a foreign country where life may be simpler, more affordable, or just different. When my husband retires in a few short years, we may embrace the expat lifestyle…somewhere.
I am pleased to share a guest post by Ina, who currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. Please visit her blog.
What comes to mind when you hear Spain? Is it sunshine, good food or exquisite architecture? Holiday season is approaching, so why not check it out on your next trip to Europe?
Here are 5 regions you should not miss when visiting Spain:
Barcelona & Costa Brava
Savor international Barcelona lifestyle right at the side of the Mediterranean Sea. Relax at the beautiful Costa Brava beaches or even explore the Pyrenees mountains. You will discover Spain’s most European (or least-Spanish) character: Catalonia.
There is plenty of culture, fancy architecture, history and art to discover (such as Gaudi and Dali heritage), and it’s a paradise for those who love sports such as surfing, skating or hiking in a mild climate all year round. That’s as close as it comes in Europe to a California lifestyle.
Madrid capital is famous for its fantastic nightlife and huge variety of museums. It makes the perfect city break. The local “madrileños” are very social people with Spanish pride, yet they may not be just as open to the world as Barcelona is.
There is definitely a rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona, similar to Sydney and Melbourne. You’ll most likely prefer one to the other. (Sorry! I’m on the Melbourne and Barcelona side).
Traditional bull fighting is still big in Madrid while it has been banned (thank god!) in some other parts of Spain.
Andalucía & The South
This is the more relaxed part of Spain with historical Moroccan influence and the origin of flamenco lifestyle. That’s also where you ride western style on Andalusian horses.
Discover the region’s most beautiful destinations such as the Alhambra in Granada near the Sierra Nevada mountains, Seville with its famous April Fair and beautiful Córdoba. Malaga beaches could round off your stay. You can also find prime golf locations nearby on the Costa del Sol.
The North coast shows Gaelic influence and the most changeable weather near the sea in the whole of Spain. City highlights are Santiago de Compostela, San Sebastian with its film festival in September, the bull runs of San Fermín in Pamplona in July, and the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. From a traveler’s point of view it’s not easily accessible and I personally enjoyed most discovering this region by hiking the 800km Camino de Santiago from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela.
The North offers the best surfing in Spain from autumn to spring with conditions to suit every surfer with a variety of consistent waves. However it can be cold and pollution can be an issue.
By the way, in this region you will find Spain’s first national park: The Picos de Europa mountains.
There are the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the volcanic Canaries in the Atlantic off the Moroccan West coast. Most of them offer cheap deals for 1-2 week trips. Biking is becoming more and more popular, and some islands are known for awesome mountain hikes such as in northern Mallorca, on La Gomera and on Tenerife with Spain’s highest mountain and volcano: Mount Teide. Also, check out neighboring islands such as Sardinia, Italy or Madeira, Portugal – which might be even more breath-taking.
Tourism is a major income in Spain, so it’s no problem for single travelers. However, to meet with friendly Spanish people (who are not yet fatigued by the volume of tourists), I strongly recommend to avoid the beaten tourist track: Use Airbnb, or trip4real.com, or meetup.com to get to know places via the locals.
Spain is huge – at least from a European point of view. It takes a LOT of time to physically travel. Consider flying long distances and rent a car locally for out of town adventures.
When I traveled around Spain by train 15 years ago by Interrail, I became more than aware of the great distances between points of interest and the country’s limits on public transport. Believe me, not too much seems to have changed since. Some high-speed train connections like Madrid-Barcelona or Madrid-Seville are recommendable; otherwise I would not particularly recommend travelling by train. Buses are the cheapest mode of transport, however the worst option for long distances since they are not well maintained; broken toilets are often an issue. BlaBlacar might be a budget car share travel option worth looking at.
Compared to other countries I have lived in, Spain offers a great expat lifestyle with mostly sunny weather. For Europeans it’s an easy place to enter without a visa and it’s still within a 2-3 hour flight to get to London, Paris or Berlin. However finding a stable work contract with social security benefits, as you might know them from your home country, is THE big challenge.
What do you like most about Spain?
If you would like to read more about the expat lifestyle or visit other blogs, click here to visit other popular blogs on WordPress.