Travel blog aimed at mature, independent travellers who like to plan their own holidays. The blog is based on our own travels and walking holidays in beautiful places such as Iceland, The Azores and Peru, and contains accounts of our experiences, advice, links to resources and lots of photography.
Elche, with its palm trees and gardens, is a great destination for a short break in Spain The post Elche – A Fascinating Destination for a Short Break in Spain appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.
Many people who have been holidaying in Spain for years have not heard of Elche. Yet Elche is a unique and fascinating city which is very easily reached from Alicante or Murcia airports, and is perfect for a short break.
What makes Elche such a unique place to visit is its Palm Grove, which is estimated to contain over 200,000 protected palm trees. That’s a lot of trees, and the palms not only surround the city, but are found in peaceful parks and gardens within the city itself, providing a haven from the heat and traffic. The site was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000.
Getting to Elche
Elche is approximately 20 km away from Alicante airport, and an easy drive (see Holiday Autos for great low-cost car hire in Spain). There are also regular buses and trains between the two cities, and from Murcia – see bus timetables and train timetables.
Where to Stay
There are two super hotels that are actually situated within the palms. These are Jardin Milenio and Huerto del Cura. We have stayed in both of these hotels, and can highly recommend them. Both have extremely good restaurants, and are a very pleasant walk through the palm trees into Elche centre.
Huerto del Cura consists of separate accommodations scattered around lush gardens with a pool and water features. Jardin Milenio is a little cheaper but still beautifully situated with a lovely courtyard and fountains. Half board is available at both hotels, but you get a better menu if you stay B&B and eat a la carte. This also gives you the option of eating at both hotels if you are staying more than one night.
For more accommodation options in Elche you can search on booking.com.
The centre of Elche is a busy city, but you are never far from a park with pleasant paths, palm trees, and often sculptures and water features.
A (usually) small stream dissects the town in a deep channel, which also has paths and bridges which are great for strolling.
Huerta del Cura (Priests Garden)
Particularly special in Elche is the Huerta del Cura garden (entrance fee). This is an idyllic garden containing many species of palms as well as flower beds, sculptures, peacocks and beautiful ponds occupied by basking terrapins.
In the centre of the garden is the remarkable Imperial Palm with eight arms coming from a central trunk. The ancient tree is carefully supported to prevent collapse.
There are also impressive cacti in the gardens.
Other things to do in and around Elche include
- an award winning Archaeological and History Museum
- the Basilica where you can climb to the bell tower for an excellent view over the palms
- a Roman Bath museum
- a Museum of Contemporary Art
- a Palaeontological Museum
- an Agricultural Museum
- the nearby Rio Safari animal park
There is also good shopping, including an absolutely enormous shoe factory outlet (there are numerous shoe factories in and around Elche).
If you fancy a short break with a difference, or want a stopover close to the nearby airports, you can’t beat Elche.
Please remember that this site is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.
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Many of the hoards of people who pass through Alicante airport each year are unaware of the beautiful mountain landscapes that can be found just a few miles inland. The Costa Blanca mountains are dotted with traditional villages linked by… The post Alicante Province and the Costa Blanca Mountains, Spain appeared first on Self Arranged...
Many of the hoards of people who pass through Alicante airport each year are unaware of the beautiful mountain landscapes that can be found just a few miles inland. The Costa Blanca mountains are dotted with traditional villages linked by ancient tracks, making this area ideal for a walking holiday.
Because of the remoteness of many of the villages in the area, you will need to hire a car. You can use Skyscanner to search for the best car hire deals – just click on the link to be taken to their site, which is easy to use.
Where to Stay
There are many small towns and villages in the area that can be used as a base.
We stayed in Hotel Rural Mas Fontanelles which is a very charming small hotel just outside the little town or Biar. The hotel has loads of character and is in a great area for walks.
Biar is a typical small Spanish town with winding streets and a hilltop castle. It has a limited number of bars and restaurants, but is fine for a short stay.
I have listed a few more hotels in the area that are highly recommended (just click on the links for further information or online bookings):
- Cases Noves at Guadelest, which is another town with an impressive hilltop castle
- Finca El Tossal at Bolulla, inland from Altea, which has fantastic views towards the coast
- Hotel Spa LaRomana at La Romana is luxurious with a spa and great restaurant
- Hotel Alahuar at Benimaurell which is surrounded by fantastic mountain scenery
You can search for more accommodation options in the region using this link at booking.com.
For a wide choice of walks in the area see any of the following books:
- Rother Walking Guide – Costa Blanca
- Cicerone Guide – Walking on the Costa Blanca
- Sunflower Guide – Costa Blanca
- Walk! The Costa Blanca Mountains.
Alternatively a great website called Walks in Spain has a section on the Costa Blanca mountains. You can see the location of the walks on a regional map, read the details and route notes, and print out the directions including a map for each route.
All of these sources offer a variety of long and short walks in this lovely region. Just take your pick – whichever you choose you will be rewarded with peaceful paths, abundant nature, characterful villages and magnificent scenery.
Here are some more pictures:
For more ideas for walking holidays in Spain see Spain for Walkers – Where to Go.
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Many people tend to associate Spain with beach holidays in the Costas and city breaks in the great cities like Barcelona, Granada, Seville and Madrid. But for people who like to walk, cycle or just generally explore the countryside, there… The post Spain for Walkers – Where to Go appeared first on Self Arranged...
Many people tend to associate Spain with beach holidays in the Costas and city breaks in the great cities like Barcelona, Granada, Seville and Madrid.
But for people who like to walk, cycle or just generally explore the countryside, there is so much more. Impressive mountain ranges. Unspoiled stretches of coastline. Desert landscapes. Traditional white villages. Mediterranean vistas.
Matt and I have had many walking holidays in Spain – both on the mainland and on some of the islands. Here is a very brief review of a few of our favourite areas, based on the places we have visited.
Cabo de Gata
This is our favourite area, and we have returned several times. The stark emptiness really appeals to us, though it may not suit everyone.
Cabo de Gata is situated in the southeast of the country, and can be easily reached by car from Alicante, Almeira, Granada, Murcia or Malaga airports.
The Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park consists of a desert landscape and completely unspoiled coastline. There are some great walks and deserted beaches for strolling or swimming. You can explore fascinating deserted mines and a botanical garden at Rodalquilar. There are attractive and uncrowded coastal villages with restaurants on the beach. And you can see flocks of wild flamingos at the Salinas salt lagoon.
Watch out for a more detailed post coming soon.
Picos de Europa
The Picos are a small but very impressive mountain range situated in Northern Spain. The most convenient airport is Bilbao, though they can also be reached from Madrid.
The range is characterised by deep gorges and limestone pinnacles with impressive paths, some of which need a head for heights. We stayed at the Hotel Picos de Europa in Arenas de Cabrales. This made a very comfortable and convenient base. Potes would be another great place to stay.
Most people passing through Alicante Airport are heading for the Costa Blanca, and are unaware of the beautiful mountain landscapes a very short distance inland. There are lovely traditional villages linked by networks of ancient trails, perfect for walking.
Accommodation can be found in numerous small towns and villages. Look out for a more detailed post coming soon.
We have had several holidays in this lovely area. You don’t need to go far from Malaga or Granada airports to be in fantastic walking country.
There are many towns and villages that make great bases for walking. We particularly recommend Grazalema and Ronda, though there are very many more.
The area contains the cities of Seville, Malaga, Granada and Cordoba, the Sierra Nevada mountain range and of course miles of coastline including the Costa del Sol.
Watch out for a more detailed post coming soon.
We have had three walking holidays in Mallorca, and stayed in Port de Soller each time because we like it so much.
The Tramuntana mountain range is a great area for walking, and there are also many lovely unspoiled coastal paths.
Watch out for a more detailed post coming soon.
Matt and I had our first foray to the Canary Islands this year (see Gran Canaria, Maspalomas and San Bartolome.) We didn’t manage to do much walking, but we saw enough to convince us that we need to return, and also visit some of the other islands. Watch out for future updates!
Please remember that this site is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.
Silvaplana and Surlej in the Upper Engadine of Switzerland make ideal bases for walking in magnificent scenery The post Great Bases for Walking in Switzerland – SILVAPLANA and SURLEJ appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.
Most people have heard of St. Moritz, with its reputation as a glamorous ski resort. Many don’t realise that a very short distance away is a much quieter area of beautiful lakes surrounded by stunning peaks. There are cable cars, funiculars and gondola lifts to get you up high with minimum effort, and a great network of paths from which to enjoy the stunning views.
Silvaplana and Surlej are situated on opposite banks of Silvaplanersee lake, connected by a short bridge (see photo above). We spent a week in a hotel in Surlej, which is at the foot of the Corvatsch cable car, and found it to be an ideal base.
Getting to Silvaplana and Surlej
Wherever you are coming from you will first need to get to St. Moritz, which is easily done by train. See Voyages-sncf for routes, timetables and tickets if you are coming from the UK or Europe, Rail Europe for routes, timetables and tickets if you are coming from the US or Canada, and Interrail for rail passes including multi-country passes.
From St. Moritz there are regular buses – see Engadin Bus for routes and timetables (they even have a timetable app!) There are several routes which cover all the villages in the Upper Engadine area, so wherever you decide to stay it is easy to get about.
Where to Stay
We stayed in the Hotel Chesa Surlej in Surlej, which is very close to a bus stop, the lake and the Corvatsch cable car. The hotel made a comfortable and convenient base.
For many more options in Silvaplana and Surlej, including hotels, guesthouses and apartments, click booking.com to see their list of properties, or use the search box elsewhere on this page.
Important note – when we stayed in Surlej several hotels in the area were offering packages which included a pass for all the local cable cars, lifts and buses in the Upper Engadine area. This is a fantastic offer, as it means you can use the lifts as often as you like, saving money and time. Offers change, so it is definitely worth checking which hotels are offering this option before booking.
Using the local bus service and various lifts, including those at Sils-Maria, Corvatsch and St. Moritz among others, opens up a huge range of hiking opportunities. There are paths in the area to suit all abilities, and the views down to the lakes and surrounding mountains are fantastic.
Suggestions for walks include:
- Take the Corvatsch cable car to the middle station (visiting the top station first if you wish), and then take the Panoramic Trail to Sils (about 4 hours)
- Get a bus to Sils Maria, and then take the Furtschellas lift. From the top station you can walk to the viewpoint at Marmore. From here you can continue to Curtins, and then either walk or take a horse-drawn carriage back to Sils Maria (3 to 4 hours)
- Get a bus to St Moritz and take the Signal Lift. From the top you can follow the ‘Via Engiadina’ trail for about 2 hours, before leaving the trail to descend to Silvaplana (about 3.5 hours)
- Get a bus to St Moritz, and then catch the train towards Pontresina, but get off at the first stop ‘Punt Muragl’. Here you take a funicular up to Muottas Muragl. Follow the signs to Alp Languard, enjoying fabulous views. From Alp Languard take the chairlift down to Pontresina and get the train back to St. Moritz (about 3 hours walking)
These are just a few suggestions. For more ideas see the walking books and map suggested elsewhere on this page, or visit the local Tourist Information Centres. The Corvatsch website also has suggestions and a hiking map.
Whichever route you choose, you will be rewarded with great paths and glorious views.
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Here is a great range of gift ideas for people who like being outdoors The post Need a Gift for Someone Who Loves the Outdoors? Here Are Some Great Ideas. appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.
If you know someone who loves walking, nature or just being in the great outdoors, here are some great gift ideas. There are prices to suit all pockets.
For people who love to travel see my recent post on Travel-Related Gifts.
(Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links I will receive a small commission. This is how I fund Self Arranged Journeys, and if you do decide to purchase one of these great gifts your support will be very much appreciated.)
Solar Device Charger
We rely so much on our phones and tablets these days, that it can be a real hassle if they run out of charge. For someone who spends a lot of time outdoors a solar charger is a great idea. It can even hang on a backpack and be charging a phone as you walk!
The above examples are all available from Amazon, with prices ranging from £23.99 to £49.99 with free UK delivery. For further details click on the images, and for more options go to Solar chargers.
Personalised Ordnance Survey Map (UK)
Here’s an idea for something completely individual. You choose the centre point of your map and the scale. You then add your own map title and your own photo for the cover, and OS produce your map for you.
Prices start at under £20.00, including free UK delivery. Just click on the ad to be taken to the OS site.
Just the job when the weather turns chilly.
These examples are all from OutdoorGear UK, and are available in various colours. Prices range from around £10.00 to just under £30.00.
Waterproof Phone Case
Perfect for protecting a valuable phone in a deluge – or even when going for a swim!
The example shown is certified waterproof to a depth of 30 meters. It comes with a detachable lanyard, and has a clear window front and back so you can access the camera and touchscreen without removing the phone. It will take any phone up to 6 inch diagonal size, and also MP3 players.
It is available from Amazon for £6.99 – click on the image for further information, or see Waterproof Phone Cases for many more examples.
Light or Torch
Not just for night-time use – a decent torch can come in handy for exploring caves or, as I know from experience in Madeira, walking through long tunnels.
The above examples are all from Amazon. Click on the images for further details, or see Torches for loads more examples, with prices starting from around £3.00.
For a range of functional compasses for outdoor use try OutdoorGear UK.
Their range includes map compasses, orienteering compasses, a wrist compass and thumb compasses. Prices range from £2.95 to £62.25.
You just never know when you will need to jot something down in the rain!
The above examples are all from Amazon, and are all under £10.00. Click on the images for further details, or see Outdoor notebooks for more examples.
Cloud Identification Wheel
This handy carry-around device is an aid to identifying over 20 different types of clouds!
It is durable and weatherproof, and is available from Stanfords for £8.99 – click on the image for further details.
The ultimate way to make sure you don’t get lost is to carry a personal GPS tracking device. These show you exactly where you are on a preloaded map, so you can be absolutely confident of which side valley you have just hiked into, or which hamlet you have just cycled through.
Garmin devices have easy to read screens and are tough and waterproof for outdoor use. They come preloaded with TopoActive Western European Maps which are suitable for hiking and cycling, and cover 23 European countries. Extra maps can be purchased and added via microSD cards or downloaded (subscription required).
The two models above are available from Amazon, with prices between £175 and £185 – click on the images for further information.
Ordnance Survey also have a wide range of GPS devices suitable for walking and cycling. To explore their extensive range, click on the banner below.
Multi Tool Knife
These have so many uses – from peeling an apple to opening a can to trimming a toe nail.
The examples shown above are all from Amazon, with prices ranging from around £35.00 to £55.00. Click on the images for further details, or see Multi Tool Knives for many more examples.
Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2016
Inspiration for anyone who likes photographing the great outdoors.
This book features the best entries from the 2016 competition, and is available from Amazon for £15.90 – click on the image for further details.
Ideal for anyone who spends time outdoors, this practical automatic umbrella with a comfortable ergonomic handle is lightweight and designed to prevent wind damage.
It is available in small (£16.99) or large (£19.99) from Stanfords.
Of course binoculars are great for bird watching. But they are also great for watching boats go past as you are having a waterside coffee, reading a distant signpost when you are lost on your hike, checking whether an object on a hillside is a deer or just a bush, etc., etc…….. I never like to be without mine.
Wex Photographic have a comprehensive range to suit all pockets – click on their advert above to visit their site.
Useful for anyone who spends time outdoors, for any reason!
The above examples are all from OutdoorGear UK, and there are more examples online. Prices range from around £5.00 to around £30.00.
Picnic Blanket with Waterproof Backing
Of course enjoying the great outdoors doesn’t have to involve trekking off into the wilderness. If your gift recipient enjoys picnics, a blanket with a waterproof backing would be an ideal accessory.
These examples are all available from Amazon and are all under £17.00. Click on the images, or see Picnic Blankets for more choices.
The Usborne Outdoor Book
Finally here is a great little book that is full of ideas for enjoying the great outdoors. It costs £6.28 from Amazon – click on the image for further details.
If you still need inspiration check out my post on Travel-Related Gifts for more ideas.
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A great bus journey up to San Bartolome, Gran Canaria, and a gentle walk through the pine forest to Cruz Grande The post Walking from San Bartolome to Cruz Grande, Gran Canaria appeared first on Self Arranged Journeys.
During a recent holiday on Gran Canaria, we had a trip up to San Bartolome for a lovely walk in the island’s pine-covered mountains.
Getting to San Bartolome by bus from Puerto de Mogan, where we were staying, was not easy (see Gran Canaria – What We Did and How We Will Do It Next Time). We had to first get the hour-long service to Faro de Maspalomas, and then change for the No. 18 bus up to San Bartolome. We had hoped to get a bus all the way to Tejeda, but the ridiculously inconvenient timetable made this impossible.
The logistical difficulties were worth overcoming – the road up to San Bartolome turned out to be one of the most stunning roads we have ever travelled on. I knew we were heading for the mountains, but had no idea that the countryside would be so impressive.
The bus wound its way through impossibly steep and narrow hairpins, often with sheer drops on one side. Definitely not for the fainthearted! And the country opened into vast empty canyons that I had no idea existed on Gran Canaria. It isn’t possible to capture the grandeur of such country, especially from a bumpy bus, but here are a couple of photos to give an idea of the spectacular country.
I think the tour companies are missing a treat here. If there were boards showing excursions up here, along with the boat trips and aqua parks, I am sure they would be popular. Mind you such roads can easily be spoiled (and dangerous) with too much traffic, so perhaps it is better for them to remain lesser known!
San Bartolome de Tirajana, to give it its full title, is an attractive little town nestled amongst the hills. It is the administrative centre for the region of the same name which includes Maspalomas and Playa de Ingles. Though up here the beach resorts seem a million miles away.
The town has an interesting church with lovely views over the town from its grounds (see photo above). There are a few shops and holiday residences, and a very pleasant hotel which would make a great base for a walking holiday.
It is a steep climb from the bus stop up to the church, but after the church you soon join an excellent trail, signposted Camino Real. Much of the path is paved, and although it keeps climbing the gradient is manageable.
The whole area is covered with the beautiful endemic Canarian pine trees, and there are glimpses of the mountains and valleys between the trees, making very attractive walking.
It took us a couple of hours to reach Cruz Grande at a very leisurely pace, with stops for photos and snacks. Cruz Grande is a pass where paths and a minor road meet, and there are great views of the surrounding ridges and valleys from here. Two other walkers here were the only people we saw after leaving San Bartolome – perfect!
If you have the time and energy you can continue to make this a much longer circular walk (see Landscapes of Gran Canaria), but we needed to catch our bus back to Faro de Maspalomas, so we returned to San Bartolome by the same route. The views were just as lovely on the way back.
Next time we visit Gran Canaria we will definitely spend more time in the central mountainous area of the island. The stunning landscapes, beautiful endemic pines, and from what we saw excellent walking trails, are just begging to be explored.
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