a conversation with the earth guidebooks + guided hiking
Hiking in Spain

We’re inviting a few, keen hikers to join us this winter for 12 days in the mountains along the east coast of Spain.

The group will be small (eight people max), screened by us for on-trail compatibility. All will be accomplished, athletic, ambitious, adventurous.

If you’re among them, you’ll enjoy an affordable yet luxurious, hiking-focused vacation. You’ll capitalize on the five months of reconnaissance we’ve done in this exotic, enthralling region. You’ll discover a warm, sunny, snow-free, winter-hiking haven.

We’ll base ourselves in two, optimal locations: a tiny, historic, casa rural, in a riverside tangerine grove, near Tortosa; and a small, contemporary hotel perched on the edge of a canyon inland from Denia.

Together we’ll approach the hiking the way friends always do, with someone (in this case, us—Kathy and Craig) offering advice based on knowledge of the area. We won’t be guiding per se. Instead, think of us as your scouts.

Each day, we’ll follow ancient, sinuous trails rising through olive groves into limestone massifs where craggy peaks and airy ridges overlook the Mediterranean Sea. We’ll walk through old-world villages seemingly pinned to the earth by their dominating church towers. Each evening, we’ll return to the comfort of our private rooms.

We’ll also explore the local cuisine. Breakfasts might include tortillas (Spanish omelettes), oven-hot baked breads, and orange juice fresh from a nearby tree. Dinners—accompanied, of course, by Spanish wines—will be traditional fare such as paella (a rice-and-seafood dish), pinchitos (spiced, skewered, brazed meat), fabada asturiana (bean stew), or tapas (varied appetizers).

We’ll all drive our own rental cars— in caravan—to and from each trailhead. We’ll make on-trail decisions together. In restaurants, you can order as you please from the menu. Or you can dine in restaurants other than those we scouted and recommend.

Unlike guided hiking, with its inherent restrictions, handholding, and invisibly inflated prices (tour companies profit by charging you far more than they pay— for everything), the trip with us will be financially transparent. You’ll see the actual costs, and that’s all you’ll pay. This makes our Spanish coastal-ranges hiking vacation as inexpensive as possible.

Your one additional investment will be $1400 CAD per person for our counsel and organization. Throughout the journey, you’ll benefit from our knowledge—painstakingly acquired on numerous, lengthy, winter odysseys in the Spanish coastal ranges.

Early on, we realized other serious hikers would be thrilled here—but only if they could devote weeks to rigorous exploration. So we did it for you. We sampled accommodations and restaurants, poured over maps, scoured three deficient guidebooks, talked and hiked with locals, drove and re-drove the roads, scrutinized all the possible routes, chose the optimal trails, then re-hiked them repeatedly to refine them.

For 25 years we’ve been writing and publishing, motivated by a desire to share with others the joy, wonder, and exhilaration we’ve found in wild places. Our motivation now is to share it with you in person.

Intrigued? Peruse the accompanying details. Then send your questions to us: nomads@hikingcamping.com. If we’re not in the backcountry, we’ll respond quickly.

 

— Kathy & Craig

The Opinionated Hikers

On patrol for you

 

Go here for photos


Dates, Costs & details

Start

Feb 11, 2018 Tortosa, Spain

End

Feb 23, 2018 near Denia, Spain

Estimated Costs (CAD)

airfare$1350 per person
hotels$560 per person sharing a double room
$825 for a single room
meals$450 per person
rental car$330 per couple, plus $150 gas (totalling $240 per person)
cultural tours $60 per person
scout fee$1400 per person (8 or 9 hikers)
$1600 per person (7 hikers)
$1850 per person (6 hikers)
subtotal$4060 per person
additionalmedical insurance, car insurance, trip insurance

Actual Costs

Your airfare will depend on the airline you choose and when you purchase. The accuracy of our estimates for meals and rental car will depend on ever-fluctuating exchange rates. Our scout fee will not change.

Payment

We need you to send your accommodation deposit to us, so we can re- serve rooms on your behalf. The Costa Blanca hotel requires payment two months before we arrive. So we’ll collect everyone’s deposits and pay the hotel all at once. You’ll pay your other costs—airfare, rental car, meals, etc.— directly, with no markup.

Deposit

Tell us you’re interested. We’ll send questions about your hiking experience and fitness level. If you and we agree you can comfortably handle the hiking in Spain, send us $1400 per person via e-mail transfer to secure space. The sooner you commit, the sooner we can establish a full group of eight or nine hikers, giving everyone ample time to confidently reserve flights. The deposit deadline is Wednesday, October 11, 2018 (120 days before your trip). Your deposit is refundable only if your group falls short of six hikers as of 60 days before your trip: December 11, 2017. If at that time your group has at least six hikers but fewer than eight, a second, non- refundable deposit is due immediately to cover the increased scout fee: $450 per person for a group of six, $200 per person for a group seven.

Airfare

Flying into Barcelona’s Le Prat Airport (BCN) will allow you to choose from more airlines, thus give you more convenient scheduling options and probably save you money. Though it’s possible to fly into Alicante, one hour south of our hotel in the Costa Blanca mountains, it’s more expensive than flying into BCN. Thus, you’ll probably prefer to drive 4.5 hours south from BCN. If you want to visit Granada (the Alhambra) before you meet the group, check airfares to fly from home into Granada. Ensure your departure from Spain is out of Barcelona. Check www.expedia.ca for the lowest fares.

Hotels

The historic, casa rural near Tortosa will cost two people $450 CAD for 4 nights. It will cost $400 CAD for one person.

The contemporary, canyon-edge hotel inland from Denia will cost two people $670 CAD for 8 nights. It will cost $425 CAD for one.

We’ve reserved accommodation for nine people, for 12 nights, starting February 11, 2018. The cost per couple will total about $1150. That amount is due by Monday, December 11, 2017 (60 days before the first night on the Costa Blanca. This will secure our reservations. We’ll email you a receipt for your payment.

Before you e-transfer your payment, we will confirm with you what the exchange rate is at that time. When we arrive in Spain, if the ex- change has increased or decreased the cost by more than $5, then we will settle up in cash.

Meals

Both hotels provide breakfast. It’s included in the cost of your room. It will be served buffet style and will include yogurt, cereal, bread (toast), fruit, yogurt, cold cuts (ham, salami, etc.), cheese, juice, and coffee.

Lunches will cost roughly $180 CAD per person for the entire, 12-day trip. It breaks down like this:

  • For the two days we hike near Tortosa, Kathy will shop for all the lunch fixings, and then we’ll each prepare our lunch in our com- munal kitchen. You’ll pay $12-14 each for the two days. You’ll have a choice of whole-grain bread, turkey, ham, cheese, lettuce, avocado, sweet peppers, mandarins, cookies.
  • Our Costa Blanca hotel will prepare bag lunches for you at a cost of $10 per day. Our previous groups decided they wanted to shop at the nearby grocery store and prepare their own lunches. We didn’t add these bag-lunch costs to the total food bill, because they’re simi- lar to what you’d pay at home.
  • Restaurant lunch, $17: one day, we’ll eat at a cafe in the pass at the middle of our hike.
  • Lavish lunches two days, $35 and $45: One is at a premier bottega (wine cellar); the other is at an award-winning restaurant on the edge of a canyon.

Dinners will be three or four courses. Including your drink (bottled water, beer, or glass of wine), you can expect to pay about $270 plus 5% tip per person for 10 nights. After our large lunches on two afternoons, you might want to have only a snack at night.

Our dinners cost nearly $35 in Tortosa (where restaurants are more expensive). In the Costa Blanca, there’s a wide choice of restaurants. Most have excellent service and give good value. Prices range from $15 to $35 per person.

You might find that given the large portions served in Spain, you’d prefer to share a meal and order extra soup or salads.

Here’s a sample menu from a small restaurant where we’ll have one dinner (about $28). For starters, a choice of…

  • Cooked banana tartlet
  • Caribbean salad with pineapple, avocado, scampis, and palm hearts
  • Tapas (zucchini fritters with feta cheese and mint

Main course, choice of…

  • Crunchy lamb rolled with mushrooms
  • Pork tenderloin with Porto wine and apple
  • Sole on the griddle, with lemon butter

Rental Car

If you’re comfortable and confident driving in major cities, you should have no trouble negotiating Barcelona. Exiting Le Prat airport (BCN), the highways are well marked. Once you’re on the AP7 (the main, coastal, toll highway), it’s a straightforward drive south, 4.5 hours to our Costa Blanca hotel. At the end of the tour, it’s a 2-hour drive north from Tortosa to BCN.

Before renting a car, go to www.autoeurope.com, a consolidator allowing you to compare the prices of several rental-car companies. A distinct advantage of AutoEurope is that they always provide a less expensive, all-inclusive rate (collision damage waiver, vehicle theft, and third-party liability) than car-rental companies. We’ve rented through AutoEurope numerous times in various countries. Never were we able to find a better option on our own. We’ve also appreciated that AutoEurope agents consistently provide excellent phone service.

In Europe, most cars are extremely fuel efficient, and the distances you’ll be driving will generally be short, so your petrol (gasoline or diesel) costs might be lower than you would imagine.

Cultural Tours

Tortosa—a city with Moorish, Roman, and Spanish origins—is fascinating. We’ll go on a walking tour of the city’s historic centre. The cost will be about $25 CAD.

After hiking in Els Ports mountains, on a rest day we’ll drive 45 minutes to tour Miravet castle. It was founded by the Moors and later rebuilt by the Knights Templar. That afternoon we’ll tour Catedral del Vi (wine). The cost for both will be about $35.

Insurance

We require you to buy emergency hospital and medical insurance to cover you while you’re in Spain. Should an insurance company ask if you’ll be climbing or mountaineering while in Spain, you can honestly say “no.”

We also recommend you buy trip-interruption/cancellation insurance. For a small fee, it covers an emergency return to your home country. Your need to return could be due to a foreign affairs office traveler-safety advisory, for example. Or it could be due to a family emergency—if you are the primary caregiver. A reliable travel-insurance company is Allianz Global Assistance (800-461-1079 / www.allianz-assistance.ca/en).

Bear in mind, if fewer than six people commit to the group you’ve chosen, we’ll have to cancel the trip. No insurance policy covers that. So if you purchase your airfare before we confirm your group has at least six hikers, you must be confident you’d want to continue with your own vacation in Spain for the same dates. We will not refund your airfare.


Itinerary

This is the day-by-day itinerary, starting February 11, 2018.

Day one Depart your Barcelona hotel. Catch the metro (subway) to the Barcelona airport. Pick up your rental car. Drive 4.5 hours to our hotel in the mountains just inland from Denia.

  • Arrive at our hotel perched on the edge of a spectacular canyon.
  • Lunch is available at the hotel restaurant until 2 pm.
  • Stretch our legs on the secluded, one-lane road leading 2 km through olive groves to a neighbouring village.
  • Dinner at our hotel.

Day two Begin hiking in the neighbouring village. Hike a 4.5-hour loop (distance 14 km, elevation gain 1030 m).

We’ll follow a beautifully engineered Mozarabic (Moorish) trail constructed 500 years ago. It drops into the barranc (canyon) immediately below our hotel. The fascinating loop entails three approximately 330-meter descents and ascents. This canyon was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain before their expulsion. After hiking back to our hotel, we’ll relax, then drive 15 minutes to dine in a nearby village.

Day three Drive about 45 minutes to the trailhead. Hike a 4-hour loop (distance 12.5 km, elevation gain 540 m).

Starting above a tiny, picturesque village, we’ll ascend an ancient trail, rising onto an airy, panoramic ridge. After dropping through the upper reaches of a canyon, we’ll cross another ridge, then loop back— descending atop stone-walled terraces—to our trailhead. After resting at our hotel, we’ll have a delicious dinner at another village about a 15-minute drive away.

Day four Drive about 15 minutes to the trailhead. Hike a 6-hour loop (distance 14 km, elevation gain 720 m).

Now that your mountain legs are strong, you’re ready for our trip’s most challenging and exhilarating hike. We’ve worked through this barranc (canyon) five times, gradually piecing together the optimal route, so we can share it with you. It begins on a well- engineered trail ascending at a comfortably efficient grade. After surmounting a ridge, we’ll veer onto a minor but adequate route traversing the barranc wall. The vista extends beyond the coastal plain, over the blue vastness of the Mediterranean. But immediately across the abyss, it appears only a cabra (ibex) could negotiate the sheer, 300-meter cliffs ahead. Deep within the barranc, however, we’ll tag onto an ingenious route. That evening, we’ll celebrate our accomplishment over dinner at a superb, East Indian restaurant in a nearby town.

Day five Relax and recharge after yesterday’s vigorous accomplishment. Sleep late, lounge, and marvel at the hotel’s dazzling, 360° scenery. Before noon, we’ll begin a gorgeous, one-hour drive: south, over Coll de Rates: “The Switzerland of Costa Blanca.” Shortly past Tarbena, we’ll arrive at a country inn, where we’ll have a delectable lunch. Patrons and reviewers have praised this restaurant as one of Spain’s culinary treasures.

Day six Drive an hour through scenic countryside, then up a winding mountain road, to the trailhead. Hike a 4-hour loop (distance 8.5 km, elevation gain 315 m).

The mountain we’ll walk around is a regional landmark, visible from far away throughout the Costa Blanca. Isolated from the main range, it rises almost directly from the sea. An exciting trail contours around the mountain’s midriff, high enough to offer constant, expansive views. That evening we’ll dine at an intimate restaurant in the valley below our hotel. It’s highly recommended by long-time residents.

Day seven Drive in a different direction, about one hour to the trailhead. Hike 6 hours one-way (distance 14 km, elevation gain 600 m). This valley was occupied by the Moors for about 600 years. Intense labor and clever irrigation enabled them to grow cherries, almonds, and grapes. The hike begins by ascending through orchards they once tended.

We’ll soon overlook villages with bell towers and steeples. The trail leads to a giant cave that once served as a Moorish outpost during their tragic, final days on the Iberian Peninsula. After a several-hour, rolling ridgewalk, our descent route passes the remains of a castle.

Day eight Leave our hotel on foot, and ascend to the nearby ridgecrest. Hike a 4.5- hour loop (distance 13.5 km, elevation gain 560 m).

As we leave the houses and roads behind, path becomes trail, walk becomes hike. The ridge we’ll soon be atop is named after a mystical, green knight who was supposed to lead the Moors to victory but failed to materialize. The Moors were defeated here by the Christians. Upon gaining the ridgecrest, we’ll see villages far below, the Barranc del Infierno even farther below, and the Mediterranean extending to the horizon. We’ll stride the crest all the way to where a road nips over a col. There’s a popular restaurant here, and we’ll take advantage of it. If the weather is fine, we’ll enjoy our lunch al fresco. When we resume hiking, we’ll follow a Mozarabic trail dropping through terraced orchards. The descent ends in the village immediately below our hotel.

Our final dinner together will be at a charming, reasonably-priced local restaurant, unless the group decides to dine at our hotel restaurant.

Day nine We all drive 3.5 hours north to our casa rural near Tortosa.

  • After checking in, we’ll have lunch in town at a quaint, family-run restaurant.
  • 2-hour walking tour of Tortosa’s historic centre, followed by dinner at a tapas restaurant.

Day ten Drive about 25 minutes to the trailhead. Hike a 5-hour loop (distance 14 km, elevation gain 800 m).

Ascending among pines in a limestone canyon, the crafty trail climbs among pinnacles. Narrow yet adequate ledges traverse cliffs. Pass through the Roca del Migdia—an aperture in a sheer wall allowing you to turn an otherwise impossible corner. (The name means “mid-day cliff,” because it looks like a natural sundial.) After topping out high above the surrounding gorges, the trail descends and loops back to the trailhead.

Day eleven Drive about 25 minutes to the trailhead. Hike a 4.5-hour loop (distance 13 km, elevation gain 900 m).

Ascend from olive and cherry groves, beneath cliffs, to an open, meadowy expanse. The ridge offers a vantage to the west side of Els Ports, including the village of Horta de Sant Joan (where a visiting Picasso originated the artistic style of Cubism). The trail continues through more pine forest and crosses four cols before looping back to Pauls.

Day twelve Drive about 45 minutes to Miravet castle, perched above the Ebro River. This well-preserved medieval castle was founded by the Moors and later rebuilt by the Knights Templar. After visiting a ceramic shop and museum, we’ll drive 20 minutes to the bottega (wine cellar) of Cathedral del Vi, where we’ll enjoy a lavish lunch. The architecturally-impressive winery was created in 1922, by César Martinell, a disciple of Antoni Gaudí.

Day thirteen Guests will depart Tortosa and return to Barcelona, or perhaps continue traveling independently. We recommend driving southwest to see the Alhambra— a stupendous Moorish palace in the city of Granada.

Contact Keen to join us? Have questions? Send us a note: nomads@hikingcamping.com