WHITE sandy beaches and a year-round sunny climate are the traditional magnets for visitors to Spain’s famous costas, tempting tens of millions of tourists every year.
But surprisingly few venture to explore Spain’s treasure trove of off-the-beaten-track gems just a few miles inland.
There are thousands of gentle walks and more challenging hikes just waiting at your door and there is no nicer way to get fit in the colder, early months of the year.
Indeed, drive inland for half an hour in any direction and you will find the perfect place to head off for your recommended 7,000 to 10,000 daily steps… and you won’t even notice them. I promise.
The huge number of mountain trails within easy reach are never-ending, whether you live on the Costa Blanca or the Costa del Sol.
And there is a big variety which guarantees to keep you motivated and stimulated, which is said to be a key factor in gaining and maintaining fitness.
Apps such as Wikiloc and Komoot are excellent resources for hiking enthusiasts and those looking for some inspiration to get started.
The apps are free to download and use (although there is the option to upgrade your membership for a nominal yearly fee), and they provide literally tens of thousands of hiking, biking and running trails to dip into worldwide.
The large number of national and natural parks in Spain is staggering and there are more green protected spaces here than most other European countries.
Indeed, nearly 30% of the country has some sort of protection status and there are nearly 2,000 protected areas, according to the Europarc group.
In total 22 million hectares are protected, including 15 national parks, 151 nature parks, 290 nature reserves, 346 natural monuments, 56 protected landscapes and many more local areas.
National parks, such as Cazorla in Jaen and the Sierra Nevada, in Granada, offer spectacular hiking possibilities.
These include the ascent of Mulhacen, the highest peak in the Iberian peninsula, which you can spread over two days staying at a refuge (with a restaurant) three quarters of the way up.
And now, finally the Sierra de las Nieves of Malaga has national park status, its rugged mountain scenery within touching distance of the Costa del Sol.
It has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1995 and has some amazing walks, including the celebrated hike to the top of La Concha that rises above Marbella and La Torrecilla, which at 1,919m high is a proper hiking challenge.
Check out the blog, visitcostadelsol.com, hikingandalucia.com and andalucia.org for the best tips and detailed information on the most worthwhile hikes to try for both beginners and those more experienced and up for a challenge.
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