From the rugged Pyrenees forming Spain's northernmost international border all the way down to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the south, the mountain ranges of Spain are rife with hiking opportunities. And considering the way that Spanish people love getting out and staying active, what better way to join the fun than by setting out to explore one of the country's most beautiful natural landscapes? This guide to hiking in Spain will show you all the top treks and how to make the most of each.
Camino de Santiago: Galicia
Though popularized in the English-speaking world by Emilio Estevez's 2010 film "The Way," pilgrims have been following the Camino de Santiago for thousands of years, continuing in the footsteps of St. James the Apostle.
Rather than just one single path, the Camino is actually a network of more than a dozen different potential hikes across northern Spain. While varying in terms of length and difficulty, all have the same final goal: the city of Santiago de Compostela in Spain's northwestern-most region of Galicia.
Walking the full Camino could take more than a month, but if you don't have that long, you can simply hop on one of the existing paths and hike as much or as little as you'd like.
Caminito del Rey: Malaga
Once considered the world's most dangerous footpath, safety measures put in place over the last few decades have made the Caminito del Rey safe and accessible to all intrepid travelers. But "safe" doesn't mean "boring" in the case of this gravity-defying 5-mile (8-kilometer) hike between gorges, canyons and valleys not too far from Malaga.
Most people finish the Caminito in about three to four hours. Because of its increased popularity, you'll need to reserve your visit in advance to prevent overcrowding on the bridges and boardwalks.
Mediterranean Path in the Spanish Pyrenees: Portbou to Cadaqués
Part of the GR92 route (also known as the Mediterranean Path) running along the Costa Brava, this picturesque stretch only takes about two days to hike—an ideal weekend break for intrepid travelers.
You'll experience the breathtaking views of the Pyrenees all around you as you make your way from the town of Portbou near the French border and head south to Cadaqués, an idyllic medieval village best known for its association with Salvador Dali.
This path is a great option for intermediate-level hikers, with the first stage (from Portbou to Llançà) being the most difficult.
Sendero del Río Bailón: Cabra to Zuheros
The Sierra Subbética range in the Southern province of Córdoba is famous for two things: some of the best olive oil in the world, and unbeatable views. The 7.5-mile (12-kilometer) Río Bailón route starts just before the Hermitage of Our Lady of the Sierra and ends in the breathtaking, white village of Zuheros.
Much of the first part of the route is flat, but the second half is more difficult, with some fairly steep descents. The entire path will take the average hiker about five hours to walk.
Picos de Europa Covadonga Lakes Trail: Asturias
If verdant green hills and snow-capped peaks are your thing, you don't need to go all the way up to the Alps. The Picos de Europa mountain range in Northern Spain fits the bill perfectly, and is home to dozens of fabulous hiking routes, among them the stunning Covadonga Lakes trail.
A 7.5-mile (12-kilometer), circular route, the path starts at the Covadonga Sanctuary and takes you past some of the region's most peaceful lakes, with a lookout point or two along the way. The path is quite flat and easy, even for kids, making it a great option for a family getaway.
Cuerda Larga: Madrid
Believe it or not, even busy and bustling Madrid has some great hiking opportunities nearby. The most easily accessible from the city is the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, home to dozens of paths of varying degrees of difficulty, but all of which feature stunning views and natural beauty.
For experienced hikers, the Cuerda Larga path between Navacerrada Pass and La Morcuera Pass is a must. As one of the park's longest trails at nearly 10 miles (15.5 kilometers), hiking this one will take up most of your day. The path is quite difficult, but rewards you along the way with some of Spain's most incredible landscapes.
Los Cahorros - Monachil: Sierra Nevada, Granada
A tranquil, lesser-known alternative to Malaga's famous Caminito del Rey lies further to the north, just outside the spectacular city of Granada. The Los Cahorros Gorge in the Monachil River valley is one of the Sierra Nevada's most picturesque hiking routes, and despite the dramatic hanging bridges and overhanging rocks, the walk itself is quite safe and easy.
The hike will take you about four hours and leads you through 5.5 miles (9 kilometers) of breathtaking scenery in one of Spain's most iconic mountain ranges.
Albufera Natural Park: Valencia
A tranquil walk through a peaceful natural park in the region where paella was first created? Count us in. Not too far outside the city of Valencia, Albufera Natural Park is home to a variety of hiking trails, the longest of which clocks in at 4 kilometers (2.5 miles).
Each of the trails is relatively easy, and the park itself makes a pretty spectacular day trip from Valencia. When you're done, refuel with paella at one of the authentic arrocerías in El Palmar. After all, it was right here along the shores of the Albufera lake where the dish was first cooked centuries ago, and not many visitors to Spain can claim to have eaten it straight from the source.