Showing posts with label Spain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spain. Show all posts

Video: Paddling Carnage Rapids in Spain

Spring rains and melt-off always cause rivers to swell and bring some challenging rapids to a lot of waterways. Case in point in this video, in which pro paddler Anil Serrasolses takes us on a tour of Carnage Rapids in Spain. Just how wild and dangerous is this run? Aniol starts the video by saying "I'm pretty stoked I did not drown." That pretty much says it all. Crazy stuff.

Majorcan Adventures: Hiking and Driving the Wild Coast

Yesterday I returned home from my all-too brief visit to Majorca, Spain's beautiful and enchanting Mediterranean island paradise. If you've ready my previous two articles about that experience (Part 1 and Part 2 here) was a relaxing one, during which my traveling companions and I enjoyed camping the local food and wine, while soaking up plenty of history and culture as well. But, it wasn't all just about eating and drinking while basking in the Mediterranean sun. We also enjoyed some active escapes as well, including hiking and driving some of the most scenic coastlines I have ever encountered.

For our trip to Majorca we enjoyed a stay in an amazing villa located in the town of Pollença. Our accommodations for the trip were provided by Travelopo, a website that specializes in providing luxury villa rentals not only on the Spanish island, but in other amazing European destinations as well, including France, Italy, Greece, and Portugal too. Our particular villa served as a comfortable base camp for our trip, and it was nicely situated close to town, so we could walk into the village each night for dinner at any number of wonderful restaurants. It was definitely a great place to stay, and one that were reluctant to leave at the end of our trip.

As fantastic as our villa was however, we weren't content to just hang around there for the entire stay. We ventured out regularly, with visits to nearby towns, wineries, and beaches luring us to a variety of locations on the large – but still very drivable – island. In fact, the roads are well maintained, clearly marked, and easy to follow, making it a simple affair to find the various places you are looking for. In the smaller towns, like Pollença, the streets can get quite narrow however, so we often found it better to park and wander on foot whenever possible.

One of the highlights of our trip was exploring some of the local markets, which take place in different villages on different days. For instance, Pollença holds its weekly market on Sunday, offering a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and hand-crafted goods for visitors and locals alike.  It is relatively small however, when compared to the Wednesday market held in the village of Sineau. While walking the streets of this town, you'll not only discover plenty of good food and wine, but also leather goods, clothing, sweet treats, and custom-made art. You'll even see live animals such as chickens, goats, dogs, rabbits, and a variety of colorful birds for sale, right alongside knock-off electronics and more.

These open-air markets are colorful and chaotic, with lots to see and do. Wandering through one, you'll find locals and foreigners alike haggling over the price of goods, while jamming the streets in all directions. For those of us who are use to dropping by a conveniently placed, and well-stocked, grocery store, it is quite an experience, and one that any visitor to Majorca should have on their schedule.

Of course, visitors should also be sure to take in some of the island's natural wonders too. For instance, we spent one morning visiting the Parc Natural die Mondrago, which is a nature preserve located along the south coast. The park has several hiking trails – all of which are relatively easy and well marked – that take visitors along the edge of the water for some stunning views of Majorca's coastline. Here, the water is a turquoise color unlike any you'll find just about anywhere else. It is clear and blue, and incredibly inviting. If you visit the park, be sure to bring your bathing suit, as there several beaches that provide access for a dip in the Mediterranean.

We found the park to be an amazing place to take photos, with high cliffs towering above the azure waters, while the beaches provide access to the sea itself. And while we didn't get the chance to kayak along those rocky walls, I imagine it would be a great way to explore this section of coast, which even had some intriguing looking sea caves to wander in and out of. While hiking the trails, we also stumbled across an old machine gun nest left over from World War II that overlooked the coast. It was a surprising discovery along this idyllic coast, and provided yet another glimpse into Majorca's history.

Mondrago isn't the only place to explore the islands beautiful coastline. Heading to the other side of Majorca you can take a drive up an even more dramatic and awe-inspiring section of the coast. Follow highway Ma-1110 out of the capital of city of Palma until you reach the town of Valldemossa, which is situated on the towering hills and cliffs that overlook the Mediterranean. The village, which is home to about 2000 people, was founded in 123 BC and sits 500 meters (1640 feet) above the water, providing some spectacular views of the area. You'll also find several quaint little coffee shops and bars if you find you want to stop for a beverage and enjoy some tapas. Considering the town's rich history, that would be completely understandable.

Continuing further down the road on Ma-10, you'll find a similar experience in the even smaller village of Deià, which is even more enchanting than Valldermossa, although more difficult to find parking or even a place to stop to take photos. But, the views spotted from the road are utterly spectacular, and well worth the effort.

Driving this wandering highway is a bit of an adventure in and of itself. It is incredibly narrow, and it twists along the side of the mountain, often obscuring on-coming traffic until the very last moment. That isn't so bad since most of the vehicles on Majorca are small cars. But it only takes a chance encounter or two with a tourist bus to have your life flash before your eyes. That said however, the drive is a fantastic one, with all the passengers being treated to some of the most beautiful scenery you'll find anywhere. The drive on the other hand will need to keep his or her eyes on the road at most times, making it a bit more challenging for them to soak it all in. But, since most of the trip occurs within the wonderful Serra de Tramuntana World Heritage site, you know that it must be grand.

As the old saying goes, "all good things must come to an end," so too did our wonderful escape to this Spanish setting. After spending more than a week on Majorca, my friends and I began the long journey home, but not before spending a lovely night in Madrid first. Out flights the following day didn't go exactly as expected – a common occurrence it seems in modern travel – but we made it home at last with some amazing tales to share with our other friends who were not lucky enough to join us. What we discovered on Majorca was a place filled with natural and cultural beauty. It was also a destination that offers plenty of relaxation and comfort to go along with its history and unique charms. I don't think any of us will ever forget our experiences there, and I'm sure we'll be laughing about some of the stories we now share for years to come.

If you haven't been there yourself, and are seeking a magical escape to the Mediterranean, I can't recommend Majorca highly enough.

Big thanks to my friends at Travelopo for providing such a fantastic place to stay while we were there. The experience was simply lovely, and that was in no small part due to the great villa we stayed in. It was a rare treat to say the least, and everyone enjoyed it immensely.

Majorcan Adventures: Exploring a Mediterranean Paradise

After a very long and busy year of travel that has seen me snowshoeing in Canada, mountain biking in California and Colorado, hiking in Utah, traveling by horseback through Mongolia, and whitewater rafting in Quebec, I've been looking forward to a bit of downtime. Fortunately, that's what I've been getting on the Spanish island of Majorca, where I've been relaxing with friends while soaking up some of the history and culture – not to mention wine and food – that the island has to offer. Of course, even a weary traveler needs a little excitement in his life from time to time, we've been mixing in some mildly active escapes to go along with our other experiences as we continue to discover everything that the island has to offer.

For those who didn't read my first report from Majorca, my friends and I are staying in the small, but incredibly accommodating, town of Pollença. Our base camp for the week is a lovely villa provided to us by my friends at Travelopo, a company that specializes in helping travelers find villas from all across Europe. In our case, they picked the perfect place for us to enjoy the island, as it is nicely located to a number of other great towns, and while it has plenty to see and do itself, it isn't an overly touristy destination. In fact, we love that it has so much to offer, including very friendly locals, but is also off the beaten path to a degree. It has made our stay a quieter one, which we all appreciate. 

After spending the first couple of days in Majorca getting over a bit of jet lag, and getting acquainted with Pollença itself, we were finally ready to venture out to see more of the region. That included visiting a couple of local wineries, which produce some surprisingly great wines. While I am hardly a connoisseur, several of my companions take their wine very seriously, and all of us have come away quite impressed. The local options have all been flavorful, well-made, and extremely affordable. This being a more relaxed trip, we have certainly imbibed our fair share. 

But touring a winery isn't just about drinking bottles upon bottles of the inventory. In our case, we visited one of the oldest family wineries on the entire island in the Ribas Bodega, which was founded in 1711 and has remained in business ever since. Taking a tour of the grounds was immensely eye-opening, as we not only learned a lot about how the wine is made, we actually passed through the old family home, which has been remodeled and updated some over the years, but remains quite rustic and charming. It was the perfect setting for gathering more insight into Majorcan culture with a healthy dose of history splashed in. 

In addition to visiting some of the local wineries, we've also dropped by a traditional Spanish finca as well. These tracts of land typically have a farmhouse or estate house on the property and are used in some type of agricultural capacity. In the case of the finca that we visited, that included raising sheep and bottling their own wine as well. The tour once again took us through a historical home, and gave us some background on what life is like in the more rural areas of the island.

While at the finca, we also had the chance to taste a wide variety of local foods as well, including empanadas, figs, cheese, and other delicacies. Eating outside, on the farm's grounds, while enjoying an impressive view of Majorca's capital city of Palma far below, was one of the highlights of the trip thus far. 

As you can tell, this trip has been at a far more leisurely pace than my usual outings, and even though that was the intent from the start, I still needed a certain level of activity to keep me going. In this case, that has meant a visit to Serra de Tramuntana, a spectacularly beautiful mountain range that runs along the northwest coast of the island. What these rugged peaks lack in terms of massive height, they more than make up for with spectacular views. In this case, their are some ridges that provide epic overlooks of the towering bluffs and the waters of the Mediterranean far blow. 

Serra de Tramuntana is located in the heart of what was once Majorcan farmland, and it is a good example of how the region was maintained and used in that capacity over the centuries. Because of this, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO back in 2007. The place is not just incredibly beautiful to behold, it is also a slice of human history, as it was used for agricultural purposes by some of the earliest settlers dating back to the Bronze Age. 

Getting to the site can be a bit harrowing in and of itself. Visitors must negotiate a very narrow stretch of road coming out to the town of Port de Alcudia and winding its way up into the mountains. This route is safe enough for two cars to pass one another without too much difficulty, although the larger tour buses that you encounter along the way can make things more difficult.

Once you reach Serra de Tramuntana you'll find a couple observation platforms linked together by a basic sidewalk trail. These platforms are perfect for taking in the views, which are practically guaranteed to take your breath away. There is something magical about seeing the sea far below while you stand on top of jagged, rocky peaks. 

For a truly spectacular view however, don't stop at just the typical tourist destination, which comes complete with snack bar, drinks, and souvenirs. Instead, turn onto the unmarked country road that you'll find nearby. It takes you to the very top of another nearby summit, which looks to have once been an observation station for the Spanish military. Now, there is an off-limits section that includes a full array of radar dishes and other sensory equipment, as well as the remains of a few old buildings. At the very top, which requires a short hike to reach, you'll find an old stone watch tower that the more daring travelers can climb into. 

At the top of this particular road, which is even narrower and more dangerous than the first, you'll discover that you can see for miles in all directions. Not only are the mountains of Serra de Tramuntana visible, but so is the Mediterranean sea beyond. You'll also look down upon the port city of Alcudia, where numerous ships come and go throughout the day. Beyond that, stretching far into the distance, are the profiles of other mountains, which look both striking and inviting as they stretch to the horizon.

My adventure on the summit of Serra de Tramuntana was made all the better by the dramatic clouds that circled and danced all around us throughout the day. It brought high winds along with it, which made our trip up to higher elevations very windy and a bit cooler than expected. This is island life however, which means the weather can change quickly, and you have to be ready for just about everything at any given time.

Following an event-filled day, it was time to return home to our villa again before closing the night with some fine dining back in Pollença. It had been a day filled with exploration and enchantment, that includes some of the best natural views that I've ever been fortunate enough to encounter on my travels. Majorca may lure you in with its promises of beaches and fine wines, but it hooks you with its surprisingly great mountain landscapes, friendly people, and accepting culture. In terms of a relaxing escape, you can't possibly ask for much more than that. 

Majorcan Adventure: RnR in the Mediterranean

Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, Majorca is a part of the Balearic Islands archipelago, which falls just off the coast of Spain. The island is home to about 850,000 people, of which about half live in the capital city of Palma. The landscapes on the island vary from lovely beaches, to rolling hills, to rugged mountains, the highest of which is Puig Major at 1445 m (4741 ft) in height. Well known for its fine wines, excellent dining, and laid-back culture, Majorca is a dream escape for anyone looking for a little rest and relaxation, mixed in with some moderate adventure. It also happens to be the location for my latest escape, which has gotten off to a lovely start.

After a very busy of year of travel so far, I've been looking forward to this visit to Majorca for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I'm joined on this excursion by my wife and some good friends. Often when I hit the road for an adventure it is by myself, so I've welcomed the company of these companions and I'm happy to have a group of others to share the journey with this time around. Of course, that also means we needed a nice place to stay that could accommodate us all under one roof. Fortunately, Majorca has lots of options in this area thanks to a wide variety of lovely villas scattered throughout the island. Finding such a villa is made all the easier thanks to The site is a bit like AirBnB, but instead of finding a room in someone's guest house, you're actually able to view and book beautiful villas from all across not just Majorca, but Europe in general.

We ended up staying in a beautiful four-bedroom, five-bath home not far from the town of Pollença, a sleepy little berg that is within easy walking distance of our villa. That location has made it perfect for our plans, which involve equal doses of relaxation and exploration. In Pollença we've found an excellent base camp where we can wander through local markets, dine in lovely outdoor cafes, and sample some of the region's best wines. Oh yeah, we also managed to walk around nearly every part of the city, and hike to the top of a high hill that offers stunning views of the northern shores of the island and the Mediterranean beyond.

October is a great time of year to visit the island, as the high tourist season is over but the weather remains warm and accommodating. Most of the restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are fairly quiet, as are the beaches, trails, and other popular destinations. This makes getting around a lot easier, and finding a spot to sit and enjoy a beverage while watching the world go by more enjoyable too.

My traveling companions and I arrived in Pollença on a Saturday afternoon following three flights and a dramatic shift in our timezone. Feeling a bit rundown after all of that travel, we were anxious to get settled into our villa and start enjoying our Mediterranean escape. That started with a quick dip in the pool at our home for the next week, before showering up, getting dressed, and heading into town for a delicious meal and a solid sampling of the local wines. By the time we returned to our accommodations we were all exhausted and ready to sleep, with everyone retiring to their respective sleeping quarters not much later.

On Sunday we were ready to explore more of Pollença, while also continuing to rest up some. Most of the group slept late, then headed into town for some lunch. That was followed by a leisurely stroll through the narrow, twisting streets that led us to the foot of Calvari, a tall hill on the edge of town that features 365 steps that lead to an old cathedral at the top. The walk was an exhilarating one, but not difficult enough to really prevent anyone from reaching the top. Legend has it that with each step of the climb, those making the pilgrimage to the summit can wash away all of the bad things that have happened in their life over the past year. I can't confirm that that is true, but I can say that it is worth the hike.

Once at the top, those who make the march are treated to some spectacular views that include glimpse of the Mediterranean in the distance, numerous rolling hills across the countryside, and rocky cliffs on the top of some very prominent bluffs. You can also scope out the entirety of the town of  Pollença, which sprawls out below. I would later use this same vantage point during an evening run, which allowed me to navigate to parts of the city I hadn't seen before and discover more of what this region of Majorca has to offer.

We capped our Sunday activities with a late dinner in town that included locally grown olives, as well as traditional bread with aioli sauce, along with a wide variety of tasty meals. It also gave us a chance to dine like the locals, sitting outside in the cool evening air at a fine restaurant that sits a bit off the tourist track. It made for a wonderful evening of conversation, laughter, and making new friends. Later, we would head home well fed, in great spirits, and ready to retire for the night once again.

On our second full day on the island we started to branch out a bit further from our villa. After wandering into Pollença in search of some morning coffee to get the day started, we were soon feeling ready to hit the road. By mid-morning, we had rallied up the troops, got in our rental cars, and drove a short distance out the city to one of the local wineries – called Can Vidalet – for a tasting. Once again, we were delighted to discover the local wines are very tasty, particularly when enjoyed with bread, sausage, and cheese. Early on, it is already abundantly clear that we won't be lacking in both red and white wines to enjoy on during our stay.

With our early wine stop behind us, we next set out for a nearby town called Alcúdia. Being a bit of a history buff, this was one of the destinations on the island I had most been looking forward to seeing. The town was established on the site of the beaches that the Romans used when they first came ashore when they invaded the island back in 123 BC. They soon captured Majorca and subsumed it into the empire, with the capital of Palma being founded shortly thereafter. The city of Alcúdia didn't come about for another 1400 years however, and was officially founded in 1298 by King James I.

As the city crew, it became a fortress with stone walls surrounding its borders. Those were completed in 1362 and the remnants of that construction is still visible there today. Large sections of those massive walls remain in place, and can be walked by visitors to the city. Strolling along on those battlements, it is impossible not to think about how much history that place has seen over the years, including when a large harbor was added to Alcúdia back in 1779.

Today, the town is a popular stop with visitors, and it is by far the most touristy place we've seen on Majorca so far. Where as Pollençia is quiet and accommodating, Alcúdia has a lot more hustle and bustle. On top of that, the streets behind the ancient walls contain a number of shops and restaurants that accommodate to travelers. While I definitely enjoyed walking those narrow avenues, it was also clear that we had found one of the places that was most popular with tourists. That doesn't mean it isn't worth a look, just be sure you're aware of this before visiting.

In addition to the 650 year old city walls, there are a number of other architectural points of interest in the Alcúdia area as well, including some old churches that tower high above most of the other buildings in the area. Unfortunately, none of those churches was open to the public on the day that we visited, but they were still impressive to see, with stone relief carvings, stain glass windows, and high bell towers.

After enjoying a few hours exploring Alcúdia, it was once again time to head back to your villa, which is definitely our refuge on this trip. Quiet, peaceful, and oh-so comfortable, our entire group genuinely loves spending time there. Whether its wading in the pool, sitting in a comfy chair with a good book, or knocking out a quick game of ping pong, we couldn't have asked for a better place to stay during our visit. It is spacious, comfortable, and features a fantastic location. Which is all you can ask for in a holiday rental property really.

With our first couple days under our belt, and the group feeling well rested, we're now eager to set off to other parts of the island. We have a few solid plans on what we'll be doing over the next few days, as well as some things that we'd like to do when we have some free time. I'll report back with more tips and advice from Majorca as I uncover more myself.

On the Road Again - Heading to Majorca, Spain

After being home for nearly two weeks, it is once agin time for me to hit the road. This time, I'm off with my wife and some friends to Majorca, Spain for a week of relaxation and some lower-key adventures. We're going to spend some time hiking and exploring the island, but also taking the local wineries, beaches, and enjoying a fantastic villa provided to us by Travelopo, an online booking company that handles some outstanding properties across Europe.

I will have Internet while there, and I will be monitoring some stories, so it is likely that there will be a few updates while I'm gone, just don't expect the usual level of output. If a major story breaks while I'm away, I will have time to post, and I'll probably be sharing photos and updates on my regular social media outlets.

In the meantime, sit tight. I'll be back home on Sunday, October 16 and will resume updating the blog on the following day. As always, thanks for reading and for your patience with this semi-frequent interruptions. I'm sure I'll have some good stories to share when I get back.

Video: Into the Land of the Lost

Galicia is an independent region on the northwest coast of Spain that is known for its dramatic landscapes, sweeping vistas, and breathtaking slopes. Outsiders aren't a common site in this part of the world, but those who do make the trip are treated to some amazing settings, many of which remain mostly untouched by man. In this video, we travel into this land of the lost to witness its beauty for ourselves. I think that you'll agree that the results are nothing short of spectacular.

Galicia, Land of the Lost from Daniel Almeida Visuals on Vimeo.

Video: Trekking to the End of the World on the Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is a 540 mile (869 km) long trekking route that begins in southern France and continues across northern Spain. Each year, thousands of pilgrims hike the trail for spiritual, physical, and emotional reasons. Some simply come for the adventure, while others are looking for a transformative experience.

Earlier this year, filmmaker Hank Leukart spent six weeks hiking the Camino, encountering all kinds of interesting people and places along the way. This fantastic video shares his journey, giving us an all-too-brief glimpse of what it was like to trek this historic route. The 35 minute short film is not only enthralling, but very inspirational as well. You're going to want to get comfortable for this one.

And if you'd like to hike a section of the Camino yourself, my friends at Mountain Travel Sobek offer an 11-day trek along the route that highlights its key points. After watching this video, I guarantee you'll be thinking about making this journey yourself.

To the End of the World from Hank Leukart on Vimeo.

Video: Climbing Orbayu in Northern Spain

Orbayu is a climbing route rated as an 8c on the Naranjo de Bulnes at Picos de Europa, big wall located in Northern Spain. This past summer, climbers Nina Caprez and Cédric Lachat went up this amazing face, and their climb is documented in this short film below. It features some incredible views of the surrounding countryside, as well as heart-stopping moments as the duo scale this tough mountain. Climbing big walls like this one is not for the faint of heart, and Nina and Cédric show they have nerves of steal throughout the ascent.

ORBAYU - Nina Caprez and Cédric Lachat from Fulvio Mariani on Vimeo.

Video: Amazing Aragón

Yesterday, I posted a great little timelapse video that took us into the Aragón region of the Pyrenees in Spain. In turns out, that video was part of a larger project from the tourism board there, who are using the hashtag #Aragónen5días to help spread the word about this amazing place. Today, I have another video that is part of the same project, and this time it takes us on a whitewater river excursion through the same area. This video has been shot in a unique style that makes everything look like it is an animated miniature version of real life. But the footage is real, and it does a good job of intriguing viewers, and hopefully luring them to come for a visit as well.

Amazing Aragón from Joerg Daiber on Vimeo.

Video: Aragon Winter Timelapse

Nestled deep in the heart of the Spanish Pyrenees, the Aragon region is a hidden gem for outdoor adventurers. Snowcapped peaks, alpine lakes, and beautiful valleys make great destinations for skiing, hiking, climbing, and more. The video below gives us a brief glimpse of what Aragon has to offer, and will almost assuredly put the place on your list of future destinations. Enjoy!

ARAGON WINTER TIMELAPSE from Pau Garcia Laita on Vimeo.