By Jessica Pook
Spain and its islands are still hoping they will be able to welcome a record number of Brits this summer.
Get a taste for it
Before I’ve had a chance to look at the menu, a bowl of steaming paella is placed in front of me. “Sorry I only ordered a cerveza,” I say in my worse Spanish. But as I make my way from bar to bar, each offering me a different view of the towering sand-hued Alhambra Palace, the free tapas keeps coming.
Having cancelled my dinner plans, I learn that it is customary to serve tapas with every round of drinks in Granada. If it wasn’t for the fresh seafood platters and decadent meat and cheese boards still tempting me, I’d wonder how the restaurants here make any money.
Located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain’s Andalusia region, Granada is often overlooked for its lack of beach –- it sits an hour inland – but if clients are after a culture-rich, food indulgent city-break Granada can deliver.
There’s a distinct Moorish influence as I walk the narrow streets of the Arab quarter, which emits spicy aromas and entices me to spend on soft leather and trinkets, but nowhere is this more pronounced than at the fortress that dominates the city.
Spain’s most visited attraction, the Alhambra is a romantic relic of Moorish rule, dating back to the 14th century. The blazing Spanish sun accentuates every intricate carving as I find shade under a grand archway, but from one of the viewpoints I can still spy the snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada, reminding me that this region is a ski resort from December to April.
Back with a vengeance
Travellers were left pining for sunshine and sangria as Covid-19 quashed summer holiday plans to the Spanish region last summer. When the Canary and Balearic islands were added to the UK’s corridor list at the end of 2020, agents rejoiced at the chance to sell some Spanish winter sun – though the good news proved short-lived.
As January came to a close, the Spanish Tourist Office was clinging on to the hope that travel would resume in the spring, or at worst in the summer. There will likely be no shortage of takers, with pent-up demand for Spain and its surrounding islands evident for this year and next, with some operators gearing up for a record-breaking year.
“Customers are eager to return to normality and as a result are not necessarily putting a price tag on their desired holiday,” said Michael Vinales, Managing Director of Olympic Holidays.
“We’re seeing customers booking a range of durations, especially longer stays of two weeks and upwards, and mostly to our top-selling destinations which include Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Our island-hopping adventures are also proving very popular.”
The safety of travellers remains the top priority for the tourist office as it prepares for what it hopes will be a busy summer season.
“Our outlook for 2021 is an optimistic one as we are now more equipped than ever to control the virus and receive tourists with their safety being our highest priority,” said Javier Pinanes, Director of the Spanish Tourist Office in the UK.
“Work is continually being carried out in the Spanish regions to prepare for the return of tourism and to build back consumer confidence. This includes the development of a new microsite called Travel Safe, to inform travellers about the requirements and conditions for safe travel to Spain, and to inspire and encourage tourists to travel here.”
Nacho Gozalbo, Commercial Director of Palladium Hotel Group, is anticipating a busy summer season. He said: “The vaccine developments and our long and strong relationship with the UK market gives us optimism for the year ahead.
“We know there is a huge demand for holidays to both the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. Given the proximity of the islands and increased UK flight connections, we feel very confident that we will have a positive summer.”
4 active trips
Cycle around Majorca: With 1,732km of cycle paths, Majorca has become a bucket-list destination for the world’s amateur and professional cyclists alike. The Government of Majorca has drawn up several itineraries which vary in difficulty in terms of the distance and unevenness of terrain, resulting in a network of sixteen scenic routes.
Walk the Camino: Some say they have a spiritual awakening when they walk this ancient pilgrim’s passage. If nothing else, it’s a beautiful network of walking trails, all leading to Catedral de Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. This year is a Holy Year - when the Day of Santiago (July 25) falls on a Sunday. The belief is that if you pass through the Holy Door during a Holy Year (something that occurs only 14 times a century) all your sins are forgiven.
Sail the Canaries: Explore the Canary Islands by boat on a seven-day island-hopping adventure. Clients will learn how to sail a 15m yacht on this round-trip from Tenerife to La Gomera to La Palma with time spent in San Sebastian and Santa Cruz.
Ski the Sierra: The Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Granada province is home to Europe’s most southerly ski resort, with over 120 pistes open from December until April. Runs total 106km and vary from narrow tracks for beginners to off-piste options for experts.
Olympic Holidays has introduced a seven-day island-hopping experience around the Canary Islands. The Lanzarote and Fuerteventura Island Hop explores both volcanic islands with cycling, diving and kitesurfing.
G Adventures has launched a series of hiking tours in Southern Spain, Ibiza and the Canary Islands. The tours have been designed to encourage agents to rethink popular destinations and show them in a different light.
Inntravel has explored the trend for slow travel with its new Flavours of Bilbao, San Sebastian and Bordeaux rail journey.
The scenic tour includes Michelin-star dining experiences, a visit to the Guggenheim Museum and a stop at Guernica, a town which was bombed in the Spanish Civil War.
Pura Aventura’s new 12-day Three Caminos Inn-to-Inn self-guided walking trip traverses the Camino del Norte, the little-known Camino Vadiniense and the Camino Frances, all pilgrimages leading to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela.
OKU Hotels, launches its collection of five-star hideaways with the opening of OKU Ibiza on April 30. It has 184 rooms and the island’s largest pool.
Luxury Hotel Royal River & Spa opened its doors last December in Costa Adeje, Tenerife. In addition to 29 suites, it features 21 villas with private pools and its own spa.
Opening in spring 2021 is the Zafiro Palace Andratx in Mallorca. It offers prime access to the nearby Andratx Golf Club.
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G Adventures has put its eight-day Walk the Camino de Santiago--Plus trip on sale from £679pp. The tour covers the final 100km of the pilgrim’s trail.