From medieval fortresses in Valladolid to volcano-clinging towns in the Canary Islands, Spain is home to hundreds of fairytale villages. Here are just some of our less-trodden favourites.
Tejeda, Gran Canaria
Perched on the edge of a volcanic basin in Gran Canaria is Tejeda, a cluster of whitewashed homes dating back to the 3rd century AD. Tejeda’s pre-hispanic history is preserved in the nearby burial caves and rock carvings of Roque Bentayga, a geological formation that Gran Canaria’s indigenous people once used as a fortress. Today, this historic village is most famous for its almond trees, not only for their candyfloss-pink flowers that bloom every February but also for their vital role in bienmesabe, an almond chutney best eaten with home-made vanilla ice cream. Between feasting on sweet almond delights, shopping for locally-produced cheese, and taking in the Caldera’s epic volcanic views, there’s easily a day or two of exploring to be done here.
Nestled among the vineyards of Castille y Leon is Urueña, a medieval stone village home to 168 inhabitants and 12 bookshops. The first town in Spain to be named a Villa del Libro (Book Town), its winding cobbled streets are lined with dozens of libraries and museums dedicated exclusively to writing, reading, and bookbinding. There are also weekly poetry readings, second-hand book fairs, and bookbinding and calligraphy workshops on offer. When you’ve explored every book in the village and mastered the art of book-making, pay a visit to Urueña’s 11th-century castle and 13th-century city wall, which is one of the best-preserved in the region.
Fornalutx is a stone-built village nestled among the orange trees of Mallorca’s sunny Soller Valley. It’s terracotta-roofed houses and cobblestoned streets are made all the more striking thanks to the town’s flower-filled windows and bottle-green wooden shutters, not to mention the postcard-worthy Tramuntana peak backdrop. Other than soaking up Fornalutx’s love of lazy coffee mornings and pa amb oli (bread rubbed with whole garlic cloves and topped with olive oil and tomatoes), visitors come here for the excellent hiking and biking trails that connect the olive grove-studded villages between Fornalutx and Soller. While you’re here, don’t miss a sunset plate of arros brut (saffron rice cooked with chicken and pork) at Turó, a typical Mallorcan restaurant with stunning views over Fornalutx and the surrounding hills.
The highest village in Andalucia’s Alpujarra region, whitewashed Capileira boasts some of the best Sierra Nevada views, including the summits of Cerro Mulhacén and Picacho Veleta. Its steep, narrow streets are lined with flower-filled balconies, retirees soaking up the sunshine on wooden rocking chairs, and hole-in-the-wall tapas bars serving locally produced sheep’s cheese and cured meats. The village is well known for its hand-made leather products, but most visitors base themselves here for the hair-raising hikes up and around Mulhacén, the highest peak in mainland Spain. For epic views over Capileria and the Poqueira gorge, head to the mirador (lookout point) on the village’s southeastern edge.
Severely damaged by Spain’s civil war, the medieval village of Albarracín spent over 60 years in ruin. A recent restoration, however, has brought its rose-pink coloured castles and balconied houses back to life. Albarracín, strategically carved into the cliffside above the Guadalaviar River, was once the capital of a Moorish kingdom, Taifa, remnants of which can still be seen in the 10th-century fortress walls and Andador tower. Today, the town offers a beautiful viewpoint over Spain’s east-central hills, a museum housing rare flamenco tapestries, and access to the Albarracín Cultural Park, a web of pine forest trails that take in 26 post-Palaeolithic rock art sites.
Alcalá del Júcar, Castilla la Mancha
Once a Muslim fortress, Alcalá del Júcar, a village in eastern Spain’s Albacete province, clings to the limestone cliffs high above the river Júcar. Some of the town’s whitewashed caves, which were once used as homes and granaries, have been turned into cavernous bars and restaurants, where you can enjoy Albacete’s famous game meat gazpachos, snail broths, and cod mashed potatoes below ground. The towering 15th-century castle and church dominate the top of the cliffside, while a medieval bridge and pretty stone plaza where locals hang out on the river are at the foot of the village. If you’re here in the summer months, don’t forget your swimmers – the river here is clean and safe to swim in.
The ultimate wine tour is in Croatia, 20 metres under the sea
The Dalmation Coast in Croatia is known for its stunning scenery, beautiful beaches and pristine seas. But did you know it’s also home to the world’s first underwater winery?
Along the Pelješa peninsular, not far from Dubrovnik, is the small village of Drače. Here lies the world’s first and only underwater winery, nestled within a shipwreck beneath the Adriatic. Tourists are invited to scuba dive to the cellar and explore this unique approach to wine production.
The Pelješac peninsula is known for its fine vineyards, which produce world-renowned varieties of wine including Dingač – the ‘king of Croatian wine’. But since 2011, Edivo Winery has taking a different approach to maturing its wine: submerging it under the sea.
Edivo Winery is the first winery in the world to have a licence for aging wine under the sea. It’s also the only one with a patent to sell wine in amphora – an ancient type of vessel traditionally made out of ceramic.
The innovators behind Edivo Winery say that ageing wine in this way brings a unique flavour and story to their products.
“We came to the idea of making undersea wine because we love diving and everything related to the sea,” says Nives Roman, manager at Edivo Winery.
The making of ‘The Sea Mystery’
The first bottle of wine to be successfully submerged in the sea began its journey in late 2013.
The team tried several locations around the peninsula at first and the spot they have now is ideal because the temperature of the sea stays at 15 degrees celsius all year round. A stable temperature is key to making wine.
They decided to name their unique creation ‘Navis Mysterium’ meaning ‘the sea mystery’.
How is the wine made?
The wine is made with locally grown grapes, some of which are native to Croatia, such as Dignac. It’s aged in a cask for one year before being sunk to a depth of between 18-25 metres, where it will mature for another two years.
During this time, the wine is sealed in a terracotta amphora or wine bottle. The wine doesn’t see the light of day until it’s opened and poured into a glass to enjoy.
“Every amphora is a hand made product, as it has to pass a 14-day procedure of handling and cleaning once it’s taken out from the water,” explains Roman, “Corals, seashells and algae become part of the packaging design. Therefore, every amphora or every bottle becomes a unique sculptural masterpiece – a perfect souvenir with the signature of the Adriatic Sea.”
The company’s diving team monitors the winery every 14 days, in between taking tourists down there. After an in-depth (pardon the pun) guided tour of the winery, guests can resurface and enjoy a fresh seafood meal to complement their wine.
Will tourism rebound on Cape Cod in 2021? Local businesses hope vaccines will speed recovery
During a typical summer, Falmouth Museums on the Green, home to the Falmouth Historical Society, brims with visitors looking to sneak a peek inside its many historical homes, gather for weddings or explore its many exhibits.
But the COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that. The museums remained closed for 2020, moving their speaker series online.
“For obvious reasons, it has been a year to remember, to forget,” said Mark Schmidt, the museums’ executive director.
The museums were set to open when the state allowed for Phase III businesses to do so, Schmidt said. With hand sanitizer available, plexiglass barriers and arrows in place to lead visitors, they were ready to go by the end of July.
But in the end, the decision was made not to reopen for the season, Schmidt said. The museums mostly are run by 200 volunteers, many of them older, and they didn’t want to run the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, he said. They also didn’t want to cram people into historic houses.
Instead, the board of directors decided to wait to reopen until the COVID-19 vaccines arrived, Schmidt said.
“There is no question it took a toll on us,” Schmidt said. “We were fortunate that our members were supportive in their giving.”
With funding in place for this year, Schmidt said, he believes the museum will make it until next summer. But he said that if 2021 and 2022 are anything like 2020, it will be hard to sustain.
“We will go forward with the fact that 2021 can’t be as bad as 2020,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt is optimistic that tourists will return to Falmouth and the rest of the cape next summer.
“I do think that there is a basic fatigue of being inside.”
But “I don’t think masks are going away anytime soon,” he said.
Despite the pandemic, the cape had the best performance in the state for tourism this past summer. Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said the cape can expect the same next year.
“I know it is so hard to look into the crystal ball these days,” Northcross said. “There is some good news coming our way.”
As vaccines begin to roll out across the country, many people are flocking to the Cape to escape the cities and visit their second homes, Northcross said. Plus, people who haven’t been traveling want to do so, she said.
If they can make it through the winter, Northcross said, businesses in the tourism industry have reason to be somewhat optimistic.
Now that the cape has survived a summer under COVID-19 restrictions, businesses understand the constraints and can plan better, Northcross said.
“I am a lot more optimistic than I think I should be,” she said when asked how tourism will go this spring and summer. “There are certainly challenges to get there.”
The ability to make it to next summer may depend on how much stimulus money makes its way to local businesses, Northcross said.
“Nobody knows how long this is going to go,” she said. “More stimulus is going to help bridge the gap.”
Tourism is fickle, said Elizabeth Wurfbain, executive director of Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District. There are many hurdles to overcome, she said, including weather and financial stability, even during a normal year,.
The cape was lucky this year because the weather allowed for people to eat outside, Wurfbain said.
“We don’t know what the spring is going to look like,” she said. “No one has a magic ball. Even as the pandemic has some solutions with the vaccines, how long is it going to take to work out? When is it going to go back to when people want to spend?”
With tourist-driven businesses in peril, Wurfbain said, there needs to be support for the unemployed workers and assistance for those businesses. But like Northcross, she is optimistic about tourism coming back next year.
“I do see it doing well because Cape Cod is poised so well as a beautiful place to live,” Wurfbain said. “It is not super expensive, very wholesome and easy to get to. But I am cautious.”
The Osterville Historical Museum, which holds weddings, rehearsal dinners and large fundraising events throughout the year, had to rrethink much of what it did this year.
“I think that this year for everybody was such a different year, and we really focused on the things that we could do instead of all the things that we couldn’t do,” said Jennifer Williams, the museum’s executive director. “I think that made all the difference.”
Beginning in March, the museum helped to set up a virtual farmers market, allowing fresh local produce to be delivered to residents on Cape Cod. When summer approached, the traditional farmers market set up at the museum was opened as well, with social distancing and guidelines set up on the 2-acre property.
“We had to twist a few other things and morph as we needed,” Williams said.
Instead of holding a large, in-person fundraising event, museum staff moved its traditional art online, selling work from local artists, Williams said.
As winter approached, the annual Festival of Trees show was moved to the historic Crosby Yacht Yard, where large bay doors could open for better air circulation. Eleven decorated trees lined the wooden boats, Williams said.
The museum’s admission is free, Williams said, which puts it in a unique position to move into next year.
Tourism in Osterville already was on the high end this year, Williams said, with many people arriving at their second homes as early as March. She believes that will only continue next year.
“Everything is still very unknown in terms of what we can and cannot do for next year,” Williams said. “Moving forward we are expecting things to be as normal, or as normal as they can be.”
Tourism was deeply affected by the pandemic this year in Bourne, known as the Gateway to Cape Cod, according to Marie Oliva, president and CEO of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce.
Many large festivals, including Cape Cod Canal Day, had to be canceled and weekly outdoor concerts had to be stopped, Oliva said. Those activities typically attract a lot of people to the region, she said.
Whether tourism will return next year is a big question mark for Oliva.
“It is very difficult to plan when you don’t have specific information on when things might turn around,” she said.
Provincetown also had a very different tourism experience this year. All the nightlife was turned off, except for a few outdoor venues, and everyone was restricted to small group gatherings.
Tourism in town went much better than expected, said Anthony Fuccillo, the town’s director of tourism. Despite no parades or large group activities, a lot of people visited town, he said.
With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, Fuccillo said, he is optimistic about next year.
“People have been cooped up and want to bust out of their four walls,” Fuccillo said.
Still, many things are uncertain, Fuccillo said. He believes people will continue to wear masks and group gatherings will be limited all the way to the end of 2021.
“I think we will see it come back, but not back to what it was,” Fuccillo said. “Not quite yet.”
Embarking on Magellan and Elcano’s first journey around the world
On December 10, 1520, an expedition led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and Spanish navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano crossed what is now the Straits of Magellan, bringing it to the brink of the unexplored vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Five centuries later, Google has brought its entire technological arsenal to bear to celebrate the fifth centenary of what was the first journey around the world.
In collaboration with the Spanish Culture Ministry and the Spanish National Commission of the First Trip Around the World, Google Arts & Culture has launched a digital platform that examines the details of the three-year voyage, which lasted from 1519 to 1522, and its impact on Europe’s understanding of the enormity of the planet, using a thousand images, 73 digital features and the support of 12 cultural institutions.
Dubbed “The First Round-the-World Trip,” the initiative invites online users from all over the world to immerse themselves in the minutiae of the journey and accompany the protagonists on their route with reference to historical documents and maps as well as visiting a replica of the Victoria – the only ship to make it back. It also introduces us to the communities we would find at the explorers’ various destinations if we were making the same journey today.
“The exhibition is divided into three sections that try to explain not only the naval adventure but also the before and after – its consequences, which are evident today,” says a Google Arts & Culture spokesman. The first section, called Expedition, tells us about the preparations for the trip, giving detailed descriptions of the five ships, their crews, their protagonists and the historical context in which the journey took shape. The Exploration section shows the maps and instruments used by the explorers, and the flora and fauna they encountered along the way. Finally, the Transformation section analyzes the legacy of the voyage, which, in the words of the organizers, left “a spherical world connected by oceans, cultural and social exchanges and trade.”
Seville and Sanlúcar de Barrameda in the 16th century
The illustrator Arturo Redondo has provided two interactive maps that allow users to explore the two points of departure, Seville and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in 1519.
On August 10, 1519, the expedition led by Portuguese explorer Magellan and Basque explorer Elcano left the port of Seville. Its goal was to seek a new westward route toward the Moluccas or Spice Islands in Indonesia. The expedition involved five ships – the Trinidad, the San Antonio, the Victoria, the Concepción and the Santiago – and a collective crew of 245 sailors, including Castilians, Portuguese, Greeks, French, Italians, Belgians, English and Germans. The only ship to return to Seville in 1522 was the Victoria, captained by Elcano. It came back with 35 men on board after a 1,084-day voyage covering 46,270 nautical miles – about 85,700 kilometers, which is more than twice the Earth’s circumference. The ship’s reappearance at its port of departure was empirical proof that the oceans were interconnected and that the Earth was round. “We have discovered and rounded all the roundness of the world,” Elcano wrote to King Charles V of Spain from Sanlúcar de Barrameda on his return.
A virtual walk through a replica of the Victoria
The replica of the Victoria is 26 meters long and six meters wide. It can be visited digitally, with a 360º view, thanks to Google’s Street View technology. The tour includes its sails (six, with a total area of 286 square meters), the hold, the deck and main mast and the forecastle.
Users can trace the voyage on a detailed map: the journey along the African coast; the arrival on November 29, 1519, in Brazil with a stopover in Santa Lucía Bay in what is now Río de Janeiro; and the journey through the Tierra del Fuego, which was named after the bonfires lit by the native Indians. On November 28, 1520, the ships Trinidad, Concepción and Victoria found their way to the South Sea via what is now known as the Straits of Magellan, which are 565 kilometers long. It took 38 days to cross and took them from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
After 100 days crossing the biggest ocean on the planet, they arrived at the Mariana Islands east of the Philippines and south of Japan; on April 27, 1521, Magellan died in battle, in Cebu in the Philippines; on November 8, 1521, two years and three months after leaving Spain, the expedition arrived in the Moluccas Islands in Indonesia. On January 25, 1522, Elcano set out for home on the last surviving ship from Timor on a direct journey westward across the Indian Ocean. In the spring of that year, he rounded the Cape of Good Hope. Afterwards, he would reach Cape Verde and the Canary Islands. And, on September 8, he docked in Seville.
Mapping the New World
The Google Arts & Culture collection has managed to reproduce high quality cartographic maps that show the transformation of Europe’s vision of the planet after Elcano and Magellan’s expedition. For example, Juan Vespucio’s 1526 map already incorporates the Straits of Magellan, although he calls it Sant Anton.
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