Viva España: 6 destinations that will awaken your inner traveler

26 Oct

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

Spain is a fascinating country rich in diversity, history, and tradition. From the coast of Celtic Galicia, over the Basque country and Castile down to Andalucía, this country is abundant in different architectural styles, cuisines, landscapes, and attractions. Whether you’re a foodie on the hunt for your next gourmet adventure, a lover of art and architecture, wish to wander through cities with a historic past, or simply want to enjoy an unforgettable vacation, you’ll surely get your fill. Here are our top six Spanish city destinations that will easily make you understand why Spaniards are so proud of their nation!

© Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

One of Spain’s most magnificent buildings, The Alhambra – © Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

1. Madrid – The Capital of Tapas
Madrid isn’t just the Spanish capital or home to King Felipe VI and his Letizia, it’s also indisputably the capital of Spain’s most popular export – tapas! Tapas are little portions of famous regional dish at a lower price. As you can imagine, it’s possible to eat your way through a large range of dishes in just one evening! Madriders are notorious for flocking into the streets in the vicinity of the Plaza Mayor to enjoy tapas and beer with friends after work – particularly on Friday evenings. Here is a selection of the most frequented, traditional tapas bars in Madrid. Having suffered from a tremendous loss of customers, the Mercado de San Miguel diversified its product range and transformed into a foodie paradise (it has been referred to as “a mini Disneyland for foodies”) offering tapas in a nice atmosphere. This market is an absolute must if you want to have a bite in a beautiful spot! Also, if you like street music, walk a few steps over to the Puerta del Sol, where you’ll most likely be able to sit down on the side of the fountain and listen to one of the many bands competing for listeners.

Having only been declared the capital city in 1561, Madrid is rich in Philipp II’s Herrerian, Baroque, and classical architecture. Also, it’s home to many museums and art galleries. Besides many other magnificent works of art, one of the must-sees is definitely Diego Velazquez’ Las Meninas at the Museo Nacional del Prado.

2. Barcelona – Gaudí’s Chosen One
Besides having been the title of a song by Queen’s Freddie Mercury and Barcelonean opera singer, Montserrat Caballé, Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city and the country’s economic epicenter. According to legend, it was built around the 3rd century BC by either the Greeks or the father of Hannibal and then became part of the Roman Empire. Traces of their presence can still be found in the walls of the cathedral. Barcelona’s city center, the Gothic Quarter, was mainly built during the Middle Ages and is one of its major attractions. An absolute must-see is the Gothic cathedral, Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia.

But, of course, Barcelona’s stars are Gaudí and Picasso. Do pay a visit to Gaudí’s Park Güell – designed by the architect and considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site – along with Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. Gaudí tried to imitate nature with his masterpiece, the basilica Sagrada Familia. That being a difficult objective to achieve, the building is still unfinished today! Nonetheless, do walk through its nave and marvel at how the pillars and arcs resemble trees. Should you get tired, take a break and delve into one of the traditional dishes of this region: Escudella i carn d’olla or Botifarra Amg Monteges (Botifarra sausage with beans). Given all of Barcelona’s splendour, it comes as no surprise that Picasso’s formative years were spent in this city. It is here that he met with other artists and avant-garde thinkers, and held his first exhibition at the Els Quatre Cats. Today, the Picasso Museum features various paintings from his Blue Period.

© Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

Feria de Sevilla – © Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

3. Seville – The Heart of Andalucia
Despite what many believe, the Sevillana was not invented in Seville and technically isn’t Flamenco. Nonetheless, it’s the dance most commonly performed during the Feria de Sevilla – one of the city’s most important yearly events, during which people build casetas (individual decorated marquee tents) on the far bank of the Guadalquivir River, wear traditional dresses, dance Sevillanas, and party into the early mornings to tapas, wine, and Sherry. The daily parades of carriages and riders in the bullring are quite picturesque.

Seville is the capital of the autonomous region of Andalucía and, through a series of invasions, has a very unique character. The city was held by the Romans for several hundred years, and their traces can still be found in the form of an aqueduct and the columns of La Almada de Hercules. Following invasions by the Vandals, the Suebi and the Visigoths, Seville was taken by the Moors in 711 AD and flourished under their rule. Contrary to what the Spanish kings would later try to make us believe, the Spanish city had a Golden Age under Moorish rule and saw Muslims, Jews, and Christians living together peacefully – resulting in a unique cultural and architectural fusion. The Moors left their traces in Andalucía: It is thanks to them that we nowadays have guitars, can enjoy Flamenco and eat Gazpacho. Yes, Seville is the home to Gazpacho Sevillano – a soup introduced from North Africa and later adapted to local taste. Therefore, leaving Seville without eating Gazpacho or visiting a Flamenco show can be considered barbarism! After having visited the amazing Alcazár de Sevilla, the Giralda, and the Seville Cathedral, you’ll surely be hungry enough to give it a try! Also, don’t miss the walk through the Barrio Santa Cruz.

4. Granada – Nasrid Palace City
Imagine a building so splendid that even your worst enemies wouldn’t dare destroy it. That’s what happened with the Alhambra in Granada. Built during the Nasrid period, this magnificent and geometrically perfect palace survived the Reconquista and, whereas not officially declared one of the World Wonders, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The splendor of its details will make you understand how generations of Spanish monarchs marvelled at it rather than tear it down.

Granada was originally built by Jews around the time of the Moorish invasion and later transformed into the most important city of Al Andalus. The 13th century saw the start of the Nasrid dynasty and the foundation of the Emirate of Granada in 1238. The city was the last one to fall into the hands of Ferdinand II and Isabella of Castilia during their Reconquista of Spain. Even though their son, Carl V, built a renaissance structure into the Alhambra, the building survived all of Spain’s violent times – even the Civil War – without too much damage. Besides visiting the Alhambra itself, we highly recommend a trip to the Alhambra Museum with its rich display of Spanish-Moorish art. Also, the Palacio De Los Olvidados (Palace of the Forgotten) is the go-to place for anyone interested in the original founders of the city – the Spanish Jews that had to face conversion or expulsion during the Reconquista. For anyone interested in churches, the Basilica Nuestra Senora de Las Angustias, with its distinct Baroque style, is another must. Round off your trip to Granada with a typical regional experience, Jardines Zoraya‘s Flamenco show.

© Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

The Fallas Festival – © Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

5. Valencia – Home to Paëlla and El Cid
Besides being the city where Paëlla (yum!) originated, Valencia is also the home of Spain’s national hero – El Cid. This Castilian nobleman led a siege against the city with a Christian and Moorish army, which ended the Moorish rule for several years. He is now a legend in Spanish folklore, and there is even an opera based on his story – Le Cid de Massenet!

Valencia was originally founded by the Romans in 138 BC and then, amid invasions of Suebi, Vandals, and Alans, saw longer periods of rule by the Byzantines, Visigoths, and Moors. Today, the city’s old town is majorly made up of magnificent Gothic architecture. One example of this is the Valencia Cathedral, which is said to hold the Holy Grail – the cup Jesus drank from at the last supper. Other must-sees in Valencia are La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia, a Gothic exchange market and symbol of the city’s economic power by the time of its foundation, and the Torres de Serranos, the medieval city gate.

Most of Valencia’s nightlife can be found in the Barrios de la Carmen – the crazy maze of alleyways from Arab times. How about discovering this amazing old part of town and then stopping off for a drink and a Paëlla? Another one of Valencia’s main attractions is the yearly Fallas festival. In the course of a year, each neighborhood produces a construction, called Falla, which is then burnt in huge bonfires on March 19th. On the two days preceding this event, there is usually a beautiful flower offering to the Virgen de las Desamparados.

6. Cartagena – Hannibal’s Hometown
Let’s for a moment imagine the panic an army marching with elephants must have incited when appearing in Italy in 218 BC. Yep, Cartagena was Hannibal Barca’s hometown, from which he marched north with 50,000 infantry, 9,000 cavalry, and 38 elephants and crossed the Pyrenees, the Gallic territory and the Alps into Italy. Less than 50% of his army actually made it that far. Yet, he raged in the Roman territory for 15 years before being called to North Africa in 201 BC! Nowadays, no traces can be found in Cartagena – yet, the ancient Punic city walls can still be visited. The city was conquered by Rome in 209 BC – and this is where most of its older landmarks originate.

Nowadays, the ancient Roman theatre is one of the major and most impressive landmarks in what they used to call Cartago Nova. Besides that, Cartagena was a major port with its natural harbor, therefore, a visit to the Naval Museum is another option. Being right at the border of the Mediterranean Sea, trying a seafood dish is an absolute must. In case you aren’t into fish, Zarangollo – a traditional vegetable dish of the region of Murcía – is another option.

What’s your favorite city in Spain? Let us know in the comments below!

Images courtesy of Tourspain


Top 5 English-Language Blogs on Spain Travel

24 Oct

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

When planning a trip, one of the best way to find a country’s hidden gems is by reading other people’s adventures on travel blogs. Expats are often a good resource as they’ve gone through the process of discovering each destination thoroughly and often share their findings. So we’ve compiled a list of our top five favorite English-language blogs about Spain. These collections of smart pieces, wanderlust-worthy photos, and off the beaten path recommendations are the kind of personal insights you can’t find in guidebooks!

Disclaimer: Get ready to disappear from reality for a few hours.

Segovia's Alcazar - Pass the Ham

Segovia’s Alcazar – Pass the Ham

Pass the Ham
If you’re planning to travel around Madrid, you absolutely must check out the hilarious musings of the blogger behind Pass the Ham. Other than providing the number one tip on getting out of an awkward conversation in Spanish, this 30-something expat eloquently shares her love for her new home. For example, did you know the best place on earth to have a picnic is under the lawn at Segovia’s Alcazar? The blog is currently on hiatus following the birth of the author’s child, but we’re betting she’ll be back by the time you’re done going through all her amazing, existing posts!

Art in Soho, Malaga - Mooching Around Spain

Art in Soho, Malaga – Mooching Around Spain

Mooching Around Spain
Written by the witty Annie Bennett, who has been published in Condé Nast Traveller and The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, this blog explores her findings around the Iberian Peninsula. From lifestyle articles like Soho, The Malaga neighbourhood being transformed by art, to upcoming news & events like the first hotel in Spain to offer Google Glass to guests, you’ll be on the next plane – or bus – to Spain in no time!

How we build roads - Village Life in Andalucia

How we build roads – Village Life in Andalucia

Village Life in Andalucia
This Englishman’s blog offers a rich insider’s view on life in a small village in the heart of Andalucia and gives in-depth insights on a wide range of local topics, like the way the locals build roadsmango season, or the existence of very rare chameleons. In other words, the kind of stuff you won’t read about in a guidebook!

The world’s largest foodfight: the Tomatina Festival. Pulled from the East of Malaga blog and taken by agsaran

The world’s largest foodfight: the Tomatina Festival – East of Malaga (photo taken by agsaran)

East of Malaga
This blog boasts useful insights on the ins and outs of Costa Del Sol provided by an expat blogger and writer with a keen eye for striking images. Visit for recommendations on the Malaga Feria, a long weekend in Zaragoza, to get the low-down on cost of living in Spain, or for a glimpse of the world’s largest food fight.

"Where in Spain is this?" asks The Spain Scoop every Friday

“Where in Spain is this?” asks The Spain Scoop every Friday

The Spain Scoop
The Spain Scoop is a lively blog pulling together the invaluable knowledge of not one, but six expert expats (plus collaborators and a dog named Negu, “the Blogdog”). Categorized by region, you’ll find great tips on where to stay, what to do, what to see, and how to not go broke in doing so.

Which blogs would you have added to the list? Did we miss any of your favorites?

Photo Credits: Pass the Ham, Mooching Around Spain, Village Life in Andalucia, East of Malaga, agsaran, and The Spain Scoop

Spain by Bus: What you need to know

22 Oct


You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

So you decided to travel through Spain by bus? Congratulations – you’ve already neatly adapted to the local way of getting around! In fact, Spaniards prefer traveling by bus over other modes of transport. It’s the most convenient way to travel the country and it’s also one of the only ways to get to and from some of its towns. What’s more, traveling by bus in Europe provides the ultimate comfort. Here’s what you need to know when taking the bus in Spain:

1. Bus your way around the country
There’s a ton of Spanish towns that don’t have an airport or a train station. So, as you can imagine, the only way to get there is by bus! Among the myriad of Spanish bus providers, you will surely find one serving your route. And if you book online, it will save you the hassle of finding out which ones offer routes to your city.

2. Main bus routes
It’s easy to visit all of Spain, along with neighboring countries – like Portugal, Italy, and France – with the bus. Even though the bus network covers the entire country, there are a few inter-city routes that are especially hot. Not surprisingly, most lead to Madrid!

ALSA's Supra bus

ALSA’s Supra class

3. Main bus companies
The following operators offer bus routes in Spain: ALSALycarLinebusComesDamasHifeLa UnionCONDATherpasaAgredaBus Almeria MadridLa SerranaDaibus-Interbus, and Dainco.

The biggest and most-used bus operator in Spain is definitely ALSA. In short, the probability of finding the bus connection you need is exponentially high as ALSA serves all of the major cities. Founded in 1889, ALSA stands for quality service and punctuality and has a long tradition of innovation and excellence. It’s no wonder they’re the Spanish flagship among bus operators.

4. WiFi is available on most buses
Yep, you read right! There is free WiFi available on most city routes in Spain. In case looking at the scenery seems too boring of a thing to do for hours on end, or in case you need to catch up on work during your vacation (we hope not!), you will get internet connection on the road. There’s no internet deprivation in Spain!

ALSA interior

ALSA bus interior

5. Ride with class
Much like in air travel, most buses offer several class options linked to different services and price ranges. What can you get? Depending on what you opt for, you’ll find everything from movies, to TV, and even a hostess! ALSA, for example, offers several class options that generally come with the following benefits: Special waiting lounge, journals and magazines, choice of entertainment (movies and music), ample legroom, and free earphones. Each class offers the following sets of perks:

  • Premium
    Luggage control, special menus, touch-screens for entertainment (more than 30 channels, movies, music, games), free WiFi, USB + plugs, special assistance for children, the elderly and the disabled, baby seats and bottle warmer, space for pets, and door-to-door pickup service. Premium is available to and from Madrid on the following routes: Madrid – San SebastianMadrid – LogronoMadrid – GranadaMadrid – Bilbao.
  • Supra Economy
    Free WiFi, additional travel security, free bottles of water, and animal transport.
  • Supra+
    Free WiFi, additional travel security, free bottles of water, animal transport, child care service, baggage control and service, catering & drinks, leather upholstered seats with leg rest, hostess to cater to your needs, and gifts for customers on weekends.
  • Eurobus
    Preferential treatment, fast embarking, and free bottles of water.
ALSA's Premium class

ALSA’s Premium class

So what are you waiting for? Book your next bus ride through Spain!

Bus Around The World: Tenerife, Spain

20 Oct

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

The winding roads of Spain’s Tenerife in the Canary Islands are paved with mountainous landscapes and the third largest volcano in the world – making this bus ride quite the adventure! Have you taken the bus in Tenerife?

Can you spot the bus?

Photo by Omar Moreno

If you have a cool bus photo you’d like to submit, please contact us!

On The Way: Crossing Spain with Paulo Coelho Part 2

17 Oct


You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

Imagine you anticipated going back to the Way of St. James for a year. That’s what happens to most pilgrims. The so-called Camino de Santiago is the trip of a lifetime and the Camino family is most dearly missed. International communities and atheists alike find their way to Spain to partake in the pilgrimage, and an atmosphere of open-mindedness prevails all along the route. Motives for walking it are very diverse and range from the intent to simply spend an active holiday, to a mere fascination with “walking the miles.” Nonetheless, seeing the cathedrals and walking through the historic towns along the way leaves everyone in awe.

Having left off in Logroño in the first instalment of our two-part series on the Way of St. James, we’re taking you to three more must-see cities. We’re starting with Burgos – namely, its cathedral – for which you should plan at least half a day!

Before Burgos

Before Burgos

4. Burgos – Where Mastery Found a Home

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Paulo Coelho

Imagine the architects of this world would have refrained from following their dreams of building cathedrals, palaces, temples, or other highly complex buildings. Our world would look rather bleak, wouldn’t it? Building a cathedral means having a vision, daringly placing the first stone despite fears of obstacles or failure, and going forth step-by-step. Cathedrals are one example of the great things human beings can achieve once they set their minds to something.

Burgos‘ cathedral, Santa María de Burgos, could also be called the Queen of Spain’s cathedrals, as it’s one of the most beautiful displays of craftsmanship the country has to offer. Gothic in its origins, its side chapels are made up of different architectural styles – ranging from Gothic, to Renaissance, to Baroque. You can easily spend half a day – or longer – wandering around this stunning building and discovering its fascinating details. Don’t miss out on standing in the middle of the main nave and getting dizzy as you look up! Also, their exposition will give you more background information about the cathedral’s history.

Burgos is the historic capital of the Spanish province Castile and León. This region has a rich history and was home to the first Europeans that lived here 800,000 years ago. We highly recommend a visit to the city’s Museum of Human Evolution, covering that part of world history. Another must-see is the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas with tombs of early Spanish royals. To round off your trip, we recommend having its regional specialities, Quéso de Burgos and black sausage, in one of the city’s many tapas bars.

Burgos main square (Plaza Mayor)

Burgos main square (Plaza Mayor)

5. León – City of Kings

“We all live in our own world. But if you look up at the starry sky – you’ll see that all the different worlds up there combine to form constellations, solar systems, galaxies.” 
- Paulo Coelho

León is one of the major cities on the Way of St. James and home to one of Spain’s most important cathedrals, the Catedral Santa Maria de León. Featuring a massive, very impressive rose window and three doorways with beautiful sculptures, it’s considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and the “most French” of all the Spanish cathedrals. Over many centuries, Spanish kings have been ruling this city and been laid to rest at the Romanesque Basilica de San Isidoro, the former most important church in Spain. Its funeral chapel features rare Visigoth capitals, and the painted murals are exceptionally well preserved. Having a look at the coffins from entirely different centuries is highly interesting as well! Other sightseeing spots are León’s historical Parador and Gaudí’s Casa Botines. If you have a few spare hours, do take a trip to Valporquero to visit its magnificent caves.

León is also a foodie city, which means that you’ll get your culinary fill! Add local garlic soup and Cecina to your assortment of tapas.

Cathedral of Santiago

Cathedral of Santiago

6. Santiago de Compostela – Urban and Cultural Beauty

“To die tomorrow was no worse than dying on any other day. Every day was there to be lived or to mark one’s departure from this world.” 
- Paulo Coelho

The most important building in this city is, of course, the cathedral containing the sarcophagus with the remains of Saint James. Though, the entire old part of town is beautiful with a great atmosphere, try out the typical Pulpo ala Gallega in a so-called Pulpería. We recommend the traditional Pulpeira Os Concheiros. Also, as you’re walking through the gates towards the cathedral, you might be surprised to hear bagpipe music. In fact, this region – Galicia – has a strong Celtic heritage and its music is very similar to that of the Irish, Scottish, and Breton.

The Way of St. James is commonly compared to life itself – arriving in Santiago de Compostela feels a little bit like a life cycle coming to an end. It means saying goodbye to a way of life and a pace that has become dear to most. Indeed, the pilgrimage means learning to live in the “now” and making the best out of every situation – something most people try to do in their day-to-day lives.

Would you consider walking across Spain or would you rather take the bus? Let us know in the comment section below!

Q&A with Fiona Flores Watson: On living in Spain and the romantic side of Seville

16 Oct
alc cord trees

Fiona at the Alcazar in Cordoba

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who have had firsthand experiences wandering the world. Last time, we featured Abigail King from Inside the Travel Lab. Today, we’re happy to feature Fiona Flores Watson from Scribbler in Seville.

Fiona Flores Watson hit the road to Spain 11 years ago and has since been discovering the country, all while documenting her adventures in her blog, Scribbler in Seville. Now, this expat has settled in Spain and works on balancing the task raising her two bilingual children along with her successful freelance career. Lucky for us, Fiona takes some time from her Spain musings to answer our burning questions about the Iberian Peninsula and romantic Seville, the city she now calls home.

me albaicin river Granada

Albaicin, Granada

1. Where are you now and where in Spain are you headed next?
I’ve lived in or near Seville for 11 years, and have no plans to move anywhere else. I’m looking forward to a weekend in Granada, one of my favorite cities, in November – part work, part pleasure. I’m hoping to go on a night visit to the Alhambra, which should be spectacular.

2. You’re a wife, mother, teacher, translator, and journalist who has been published in The Guardian and Condé Nast Traveller. What tips do you have for striking a balance between work and personal life?
Haha, good question! I’m not exactly a poster girl for work-life balance, as my kids are used to me growling at them from my computer when I’m on a deadline. But I try to get as much as possible done (writing, phone calls, meetings) while they’re at school, and then we go to football, dance classes, etc afterwards, while I sneak in time on my iPhone. I also work as a Social Media consultant so Twitter is perfect for when you have a few free minutes. We always go out somewhere at weekends, as if we stay home I’m inevitably glued to my computer or iPhone, and they’re glued to the TV – not a recipe for a fun, healthy childhood!

3. Why do you think Seville is Spain’s most romantic city?
Because of its magical architecture – Moorish palaces and towers, Gothic churches, sweeping contemporary bridges, and its secret corners – squares hidden down narrow windy streets, lined with pretty tiled benches, sweet jasmine and orange trees. As well as my above-mentioned work, I take people on tours of the city. Watching their jaws drop as they’re blown away by its beauty is a reward in itself.

me Giralda (Seville)

Giralda, Seville

4. What’s your favorite destination in Spain and why? Do you have a must-see attraction?That’s a difficult one as it changes after each trip when I fall in love with a new place, but currently it’s Vejer de la Frontera, a pueblo blanco (white hill town) in Cadiz province. It is stunningly picturesque, has fabulous restaurants and excellent small hotels, and is minutes from great beaches. Plus, a good friend of mine does cooking courses there, which are centered around seafood and Sherry – two of my favorite things. Don’t miss the food market, Mercado San Francisco: It’s small but very well-designed and has exquisite tapas (small food dishes) and fresh fish, especially the local atun de almadraba (bluefin tuna).

5. What advice do you have for travelers visiting Spain for the first time?
Try and learn a few words to use, even if it’s only “hola” (hi), “gracias” (thank you), and “buenos dias/tardes” (good morning/afternoon). You should say this when you walk into any bar, shop, or office, or you’ll be seen as rude. And don’t be afraid to sample odd-looking foods you’ve never seen (or even heard of) before – especially fruits, shellfish, and cuts of meat. The variety of produce here is quite incredible, and the quality is usually excellent!

6. Your blog also focuses on Spain’s celebrated culinary culture. Name the ultimate dish you need to try when visiting Spain.
For me it would have to be coquinas – small clams cooked in garlic, parsley, and wine (or, even better, Fino, which is very dry Sherry). Para chuparse los dedos (finger-licking good)!

Fran Hidalgo Carmona


7. At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel information easy to find so that travelers can make better travel decisions. What do you think about this mission and do you think this type of service would benefit the travel community?
I think it’s a fantastic idea – bus is a great way to get around Spain as it’s cheap, there’s an extensive network, and it’s relatively reliable. Since I have small children, we usually drive (much easier with all the clobber), but if I’m on my own I love taking the bus. I can stare out of the window and dream, or catch up on some work.

8. Finally, do you have a memorable bus story to share with our readers?
Years ago when I was travelling in India, I took a bus trip with friends to a mountain pass in Himachal Pradesh, and the bus got snowed in! We had to hike several miles down the road, then the Army met us to give us blankets and hot food, and took us back home. The worst part was we were all wearing shorts as it was summer – the weather was freakish and totally unexpected. That was quite an adventure.

Thanks, Fiona!

You can follow Fiona’s adventures on her blog, as well as on Facebook & Twitter.

Photos by Fiona at Scribbler in Seville & Fran Hidalgo Carmona 

On The Way: Crossing Spain with Paulo Coelho Part 1

9 Oct
The Camino

The Camino’s Roads

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

Brazil’s Paulo Coelho did it and started writing. Germany’s Hape Kerkeling did it as well and had his coming-out after he wrote a book about his experience that turned into a best-seller. Martin Sheen did it with his son and created The Way – a movie that received great ratings. Clearly, there is something special about Spain‘s Way of St. James. Not only does it lead through mesmerizing landscapes and beautiful cities, but it also seems to lead people to themselves while experiencing the best life has to offer: Amazing red wine, tasty regional dishes, fascinating traditions, and the power to enjoy even the smallest things on a journey like no other.

The Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) is an ancient pilgrim’s route, which is deeply intertwined with Spain’s history. Pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, where Saint James’ remains are said to have been laid to rest, started in the 9th century AD. The Way of St. James then became one of the most important pilgrim’s routes in Europe – so important that it was even guarded by the Orden of the Templars until their fall from grace in 1307. Today, their traces can be found along the way.

Walking the 500-mile-long Way of St. James in its entire length takes at least 30 days and most people walk it two weeks at a time. As most people don’t have 30 days at hand to walk the entire Camino in one shot, they divide the walk into two to three parts. We’ve done the same – read on to discover our two-part series that covers the top six Camino cities you must visit. Here are the first three places you absolutely need to experience!

The Camino

The Camino

1. Pamplona – Taking the First Step

“Any dream is made possible by taking the first step. So whenever you want something, the whole universe will conspire for you to get it. But you have to take the step towards your dream.”
– Paulo Coelho

According to Coelho, any dream is possible by taking the first step. The most famous part of The Way is the so-called Camino Francés, which leads from the French Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port through Puente de la Reina to Santiago. Yet, most people start their journey in Pamplona, as it’s the first major city after the Pyrenees and it’s easily accessible.

Pamplona is the historical capital city of Navarre and home to the San Fermín festival (July 6-14), during which bulls are let free to run through the city. Even though the city is technically part of Navarre, it’s still in the Basque region and has a distinctly Basque flavor and cuisine. The houses are also more rustic than in other parts of Spain. It’s better to not ask too many questions – enjoy the buildings and cuisine; the politics of this region are complicated! As a treat, we recommend eating Cordero al Chilindrón. Restaurant Baserri is one of the famous Pinxto (Basque for tapas) places offering this dish, which is typical of the region and was formerly eaten by Basque shepherds. Music lovers can also check out the Basque folk song Txoria Txoria to get a feel for the region. It truly is no surprise that Paulo Coelho came up with The Alchemist after having completed his pilgrimage through Spain!

One of Pamplona’s outstanding features is the star-shaped, Baroque city walls. In fact, most of the town’s buildings are in the architectural style of this time – even the Gothic cathedral, which was “beautified” with a Baroque facade. Another must-see is the city’s most famous building, the Town Hall.

Bridge of Puente la Reina

Bridge of Puente la Reina

2. Puente la Reina – Art is a Bridge

“I think bridges have a special meaning in our life. I think a book is a bridge. Any type of art is a bridge that allows different cultures to connect. You may not understand your neighbour’s way of seeing life, but you sure understand your neighbour’s joy in painting or dancing.”
- Paulo Coelho

Among the towns on the Way of St. James, Puente la Reina has always had a special status. Two ancient routes – the Camino Navarro and the Camino Aragonés – come together in this town, which is the actual beginning of the Camino Francés. Over centuries, thousands of pilgrims have joined in this city and then left by walking over the bridge. It’s worth taking a day’s break to wander around the lovely streets and visit the Romanesque Iglesia de Santiago el Mayor. Another landmark, that’s not too far from Puente la Reina, is the Templar church of Eunate. It’s located about 2km from the city and said to have special powers.

Because of its many rivers, Navarra is home to many fish dishes. We think that, given you’re about to walk across one of the most famous bridges in Spain, you should try Trucha a la Navarra while in the city!

​Sunrise after Logroño (Nájera)

​Sunrise after Logroño (Nájera)

3. Logroño – Come for the Wine, Stay for the Food

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
- Paulo Coelho

Naturally, wine is one of the most important ingredients of any pilgrimage through Spain. Being the capital of one of Spain’s most prestigious wine regions, we absolutely need to mention Logroño! Shortly before Logroño, you’ll enter the Spanish province of Rioja – and the name is more than a mere promise. In this region, the Camino leads directly through several vineyards. Yes, you heard right – as you walk, you’ll get to enjoy the sight of vines to your left and right. Naturally, it would be a true sin not to enjoy a glass of red wine in the evening!

In fact, red wine is part of pilgrims’ meals offered all along the route. Besides your three courses, you get to choose between water and wine. So, just in case you’re wondering why everyone in the movie The Way is constantly drinking wine, sipping the red juice is an absolute must while walking through Spain! Logroño offers several wine tasting possibilities – you can even make your own wine for a day! Also, Rioja is famed throughout Spain for having the best chorizo. This means you should absolutely try one of Rioja’s traditional chorizo dishes, Patatas a la Riojana, together with the wine.  Dozens of tapas bars can be found in the Calle Laurel.

As with most Spanish cities, Logroño’s churches are a must-see – particularly the half-Romanesque, half-Gothic Iglesia de San Bartolome and the magnificent cathedral Concatedral de Santa Maria de la Redonda, which has been declared a Spanish heritage site. At Museo de la Rioja, you can learn more about the history of the region – for free.

Your journey comes to a close as you end your day in Logroño – for now. By the time you wave goodbye to your Camino friends as you prepare to take the bus home, you’re definitely going to be anticipating the second part of your journey!

Would you consider walking across Spain or would you rather take the bus? Let us know in the comment section below!

10 Tips & Tricks for Bus Travel in Spain

8 Oct
travel by bus to Madrid


You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

Traveling within Spain by bus is one of the best ways to discover the unrivalled landscapes the country has to offer – including a few gems you’ll definitely miss with the plane. With more bus paths than train routes, not only is the bus cheaper and greener, but it’s also the chosen mode of transportation among the locals. If you’re currently in the Iberian Peninsula or planning an upcoming trip, here are our 10 tips & tricks for bus travel in Spain.

1. Ride off the beaten path
Travelers with a penchant for wanderlust usually revel in the idea of an offbeat adventure, and choosing the bus will help you get there. Taking the bus in Spain is perfect for visiting more than one city or village off the beaten path because they usually take routes that don’t exist by train. With prime views of the peninsula’s panorama, unearth the many wonders that dot the landscape. If you pass through small towns, you’ll even get the chance to observe how the locals live.



2. Take advantage of full stops
Another great way to snap Instagram-worthy pictures is by getting off the bus! Not only are these breaks welcome after hours of sitting, they’re ideal for uncovering Spain’s picturesque backdrop. If you’re traveling by day, you’ll begin sightseeing before reaching your destination and you’ll get a view of the scenic bus route on the Spanish countryside – for free.

3. Discover Spain’s regional dishes
Delving into the local fare is a fun way to discover other cultures. Want to begin sampling the region’s food before stepping off the bus? Pick up a slice of Spanish tortilla, croquettes, or empanadas for lunch breaks. These goodies are easy to pack, making them perfect for on-the-go munchies.

4. Dress for both hot and cold temperatures
Depending on where you are going, it can get pretty hot, meaning your bus will most likely have the air-conditioning cranked up. While driving along the coast to and from sunny locations like Cartagena and Murcia will leave you dreaming of sunbathing on the beach, it can get chilly inside the bus, so pack an extra sweater or a small blanket.



5. Make time for la siesta
When in Spain, do like the Spaniards do…and take a siesta! Typically held in the afternoon after lunch, take the time to adjust to the Spanish style of living before you arrive. It’s even a good excuse to catch up on some much needed sleep during the long trek.

6. Research and book your bus tickets online
Search your departure date & time and book your ticket with Busbud. Once that’s done, simply arrive at the bus terminal and board stress free! This is also the easiest way to ensure you are booking through a safe and reliable bus company – and it’s an eco-friendly alternative to other modes of transportation.

7. Upgrade for luxury
Consider upgrading to first class for ultimate comfort, as Spain has some pretty luxurious coach buses that are at par with some airline cabins. The majority will offer reclining leather seats, extra legroom, WiFi, power outlets, movie screens, air conditioning, as well as onboard snacks and meals.

8. Stay organized
Many buses journey to neighboring countries, and though most Western countries in the European Union do not have border checkpoints, passport checks still happen from time to time. Be sure to keep passports and bus tickets in order and within reach.



9. Talk the talk
Knowing a few key words and phrases in Spanish and Catalan will come in handy for bus travel in Spain: Bus (autobús), bus station (estación de autobús/estació d’autobús), Where is the bus stop? (¿Dónde está la parada del autobús?/On és la parada de l’autobús?), schedule (horario/horari), arrival (llegada/arribada), departure (salida/sortida), destination (destino/destí), bus driver (conductor de autobús/conductor d’autobús).

10. Chat with your bus driver
If you do speak the language, chat your driver up during breaks. You’ll be amazed at how much they know – and how much they’ve seen. They will even give you tips on which side of the bus you should sit on to get the nicest views…and photos!

Have you taken the bus throughout Spain and have some tips you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to enter our Spain giveaway! Click here to enter.


The Ultimate Spain Bus Trip

8 Oct

Seville – © Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)

You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! Besides giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel, we asked travel blogger (and Spain expert) Marie-Eve Vallières to share her insider tips and recommendations. Follow the bus trail on our illustrated map as you read on to discover the Ultimate Spain Bus Trip.

The Ultimate Spain Bus Trip

The Ultimate Spain Bus Trip

The Ultimate Spain Bus Trip

From short distances to bucolic panoramas, Spain is the perfect country for bus travel. Spanish trains aren’t that efficient to begin with – there aren’t nearly as many train stations as there are bus stops and service is infrequent at best, especially when outside major cities like Barcelona and Madrid. Buses are definitely an easier, more effective and cheaper way to visit Spain.

Bus tip: Visitors prone to transportation sickness should come prepared: Spain is a hilly country, and some of its roads are tortuous and winding. Bring plenty of Dramamine and get at the station early to snap a window seat for fresh air!

As far as itineraries go, traveling from either end of the country to the other is the best way to really get a feel of how diverse Spain is – admire the change in flora and landscapes, from the olive trees and desert in the south, to dense pine forests and chilly Atlantic breeze in the north. Espana is an incredibly varied country with a distinct set of influences for each province, making any Spain bus trip an incredibly fulfilling experience.




The perfect Spanish city for budget travel! Granada is a university town and therefore has an energetic, dynamic vibe with inexpensive accommodation options. Granada is one culture-charged city, thanks to the presence of Jewish, Moorish and Catholic influences – each shaping the city in its own way. Head to the lively Albayzin neighborhood after nightfall to catch a flamenco show, one of the most Andalusian things to do in Granada. When in Rome, right?

But perhaps the most important Granada insider tip for cash-strapped travelers is that tapas are entirely free of charge – you read that right! Order a drink in any bar (I recommend the two local specialities, the Alhambra beer or the tinto de verano) and you will be served a choice of tapas with every order. ¡Salud!

Top sights: The Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens, the historic souk, the Mirador de San Nicolas for a gorgeous view over the city and Alhambra, the remarkable Albayzin Jewish Quarter, and for a taste of the gypsy life, the Sacromonte grottos.

Potential day trip: Seville

Insider tip: Granada is one of the top cities in Spain for tasting the legendary Jamón serrano – a cornerstone of Spanish gastronomy. Restaurants and bars proudly hang hams (sometimes as many as 100!) on the ceiling for about six months to let them cure. It’s quite a sight to say the least!

Bus tip: Make sure to get a window seat to admire the drastic change in landscapes when entering the almost desertic-looking vermillion plains of Andalusia.




The Spanish capital doesn’t disappoint. Its world-class museums and its animated nightlife will appeal to night owls and culture seekers alike, or, alternatively, visitors can catch the Real Madrid fever and discover the influence of monarchy on Madrid’s history.

Madrid may be the seat of government and royalty but it isn’t set in its old ways for such; it’s an innovative, bustling city with a strong creative hub. In fact, rumor has it that Madrid has the largest number of bars per capita of any European city – which would make sense, since Madrileños like to party, often until six or seven in the morning.

Top sights: The illustrious Prado museum, the regal Palacio de Cibeles, la Puerta del Sol, the lively Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel for local delicacies, Palacio Real, and of course, and the various Real Madrid activities.

Potential day trip: Toledo

Insider tip: You can’t visit Madrid without eating pimientos de Padrón (small green chilies fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt) or finger-licking good chocolate con churros (piping hot churros with hot chocolate).

Bus tip: Madrid, being both the political and geographical center of Spain, is connected to every province in the country and boasts two major bus terminals. It is therefore not a bad idea to be based in Madrid and take a bunch of side trips to other parts of the country.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

Self-dubbed the foodie city of Spain, San Sebastian is a strong contingent in the Spanish tapas game thanks to their unique Basque background. The tapas – most commonly called pinchos by locals – are identified with color-coded toothpicks and offered in self-service; customers pay according to the quantity of toothpicks in their plate after their meal.

But in addition to delicious seafood-based dishes, San Sebastian boasts one of the best in-city beaches in Europe – where else on the continent can you sunbathe, surf and swim literally right next to major historical buildings and churches? The hike up Monte Igueldo offers splendid views of the city, the ocean and the mountainous countryside.

Top sights: Hiking the Monte Igueldo, the Miramar palace, live the beach life at Playa de Onderreta, surf & kayak, and hike to statue of Christ.

Potential day trips: Bilbao or Pamplona

Insider tip: San Sebastian is home to impressively designed cathedrals and churches, including the iconic Catedral del Buen Pastor. An architecture-focused walking tour is pretty much mandatory in this city.

Bus tip: If you are traveling to the world-famous bull ride in Pamplona via San Sebastian, make sure to book far in advance – seats sell out real quick!




Barcelona, the Spanish party capital! The massive capital of Catalonia never sleeps, and neither do its visitors – between the world-class attractions to visit in the daytime and the countless tapas bars to experience at night. Needless to say, one does not come to Barcelona to catch up on their beauty sleep.

One of the most popular things to do in the city is obviously to tour the Gaudi buildings, especially since the Sagrada Familia’s interior has been completed. Make sure to take an elevator ride to the top of the spire and admire the dizzying view!

Top sights: Tour the famous Gaudi buildings, the beach, medieval Barri Gotic, the locals-approved tapas bar of Eixample, Plaça de Catalunya, and La Boqueria market.

Potential day trip: Zaragoza

Insider tip: Hop on the cable-car up to Montjuïc for unparalleled views of the beaches, the city (including the Sagrada Familia) and, of course, the Mediterranean sea.

Bus tip: If you are traveling to small villages in Costa Brava or even to France, make sure to get a seat on the right-hand side of the bus to get a good ocean view during your ride.




A trip to Spain should never overlook a stop in the birthplace of paella, the country’s national dish! The capital of the old Valencia Kingdom, and Spain’s third largest city, is home to the world-famous Fallas Festival in March, during which the city is almost literally set on fire (or at least, the papier mâché models created for the festival).

Valencia Cathedral (home to the Holy Grail, the chalice Jesus is believed to have used at the Last Supper) is definitely a must-do even for non-religious travelers.  And despite having some of the world’s best colonial architecture, what really causes visitors’ jaws to drop in Valencia is the otherworldly, uber-modern buildings in the City of Arts and Science (which encompasses several museums and even an aquarium).

Top sights: City of Arts and Science, Barri del Carme, Valencia Cathedral, Silk Exchange, and central market.

Potential day trips: Murcia or Alicante

Insider tip: Be wary of where you choose to eat your paella; being a popular dish, most touristy areas will serve the microwaved kind. Pick a restaurant that either doesn’t advertise its paella or that only serves it at lunch. Locals go to the Saler beach area.

Bus tip: With Valencia being so close to the beach, a seat on the left-hand side of the bus will guarantee unobstructed views of the ocean when coming in from Barcelona.

Meet Marie-Eve Vallières, our Spain Travel Expert. After having spent years living in Europe as an expat and blogging about it for both A Montrealer Abroad and Eurotrip Tips, she shares her ultimate tips and recommendations on Spain, a country she’s visited countless times. Don’t forget to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all things travel.

Opening image courtesy of Tourspain

Illustration by: Caroline Lavergne


Spain in October: What to see and do

1 Oct


You can now search and book tens of thousands of bus tickets in Spain directly on To celebrate, we’ve made Spain our Country of the Month! We’re also giving one lucky winner and a friend unlimited bus tickets to the Iberian Peninsula for one month via our giveaway with Backpacker Travel. Click here to enter!

Wondering if October is an ideal time to visit Spain? If popular attractions that aren’t swarming with tourists and cheap prices that appear just as summer ends are your thing, then yes! Need more convincing? In some places further south, unfathomable hot temperatures have cooled down, so you can still enjoy the beach. If you’re a fan of autumn, not to worry – head north for crisper, sweater weather. So, if you’re thinking of spending fall in Spain, we’ve compiled a list of must-do activities and events during the month of October.

1. Grape Stomping
Now that summer has come to a close, it’s wine season. Did you know that squishing grapes with your feet dates back to the Roman era? Its traditional roots are still etched in Spaniards, who partake in the event year after year – even if wine is now mass-produced. Occurring in mid-October in vineyards across the country after the grapes have been harvested, Wine Tourism Spain organizes a grape stomping event followed by a wine tasting. So kick off your shoes and get stomping – the reward, after all, is a glass of wine!

2. Rose of Saffron Festival
During the final weekend of October, Spain’s town of Consuegra in Castilla-La Mancha is immersed in fields of purple amid a backdrop of windmills. Lose yourself at the sight of farmers gathering saffron while plenty of activities and competitions occur around the harvesting. Don’t forget to purchase your own bag of saffron from local harvesters or head to a nearby restaurant to enjoy paella, which, of course, is known for featuring the spice as it gives it its unique color. This year’s Rose of Saffron Festival happens between October 24th and 26th.

3. Madrid’s World Press Photo Exhibition
This yearly fall exhibition is scheduled to take place until October 12th in the country’s capital. Featuring powerful, award-winning photographs from around the globe, Madrid’s edition of this photojournalism exhibition is housed in the Circulo de Bellas Artes.

4. Film Festivals
October is film festival month in Spain. From the Marbella Film Festival, to the Valladolid International Film Festival, Barcelona’s International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the Horror and Fantasy Film Festival in San Sebastian, the options are endless!

5. Bienal de Flamenco
One of the quintessential events to partake in when visiting Spain, Flamenco is a big deal – so much so that it deserves its own festival. Seville’s Bienal de Flamenco dates back to the eighties and occurs in various theatres throughout the city. From dancers, to vocalists, to musicians, the list of performances is sure to please all lovers of the craft.

6. Barcelona Jazz Festival
Music lovers will rejoice as they immerse themselves in the sounds of jazz at Barcelona’s annual Jazz Festival. Performances from a host of musical acts will take place in venues all over the city starting October 17th. Be sure to keep an eye out for the line-up and get your tickets in advance before they sell out!

7. San Lucas Festival
This festival takes place in Jaen – the world’s biggest olive growing capital – between October 11th and 19th in honour of the patron Saint, San Lucas. The festivities include a street fair, fireworks, sports, bullfighting, and plenty of other cultural events and fun activities for the entire family.

Are you headed to Spain this October? Let us know which events you’re most excited about!


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