There are opportunities to escape the heat and feel the breeze of the uplands or the sea
Things To Do
See The Pyrenees in spring and summer. As many are wending their way home after a winter on the slopes, the mountains burst forth with magnificent wildflowers, including wild lavender, saxifrage and orchids.
Visit the ancient Portuguese city of Porto and the Douro river valley, famed for Port wine, and the very birth of the country in the 12th century. Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage city, the Douro Valley a World Heritage site. Visit a wine-producing quinta, join in the grape harvest, or simply enjoy a wine tasting in the perfect location.
Witness the slightly surreal architecture of, arguably, Spain’s best-loved modern architect, Antoni Gaudí, in the Catalonian city of Barcelona. Look out for the Casa Milà, Parc Güell and the unfinished Sagrada Família.
Enjoy the sea breeze swept off the Atlantic along the Alentejan Coast of Portugal, where miles of sandy beach are lined with surfboarders making the most of the pounding waves. The Costa da Galé runs unbroken for 40 miles. Or explore the dunes of Praia do Monte Velho. Further south along the coast, you’ll find many smaller, intimate beaches, the ‘Prainhas’ and magnificent cliff top walks.
If you’re after wilderness, try the Parque Nacional de Monfragüe in the Extremadura region of western Spain, or the Sierra de Aracena, one of Andalusia’s prettiest locales. Consider also the barren landscape of Sierra de Alhamilla, for desert-like vistas where many a spaghetti western has been filmed.
When To Visit
Spain’s cultural life revolves around the fiesta – and every single city, town and village has one at some stage throughout the year. Some last a day, others a week or even a month.
Some of the biggest and most famous include Las Fallas in Valencia during March, where giant papier-mâché structures are set alight, Los Sanfermines – or bull-running – through the streets of Pamplona in July, and La Tomatina during which hundreds of thousands of squashed tomatoes are thrown at one another in the town of Buñol, just for fun! Carnival, which takes place in many towns and cities, runs during February and/or March (depending on the date of Easter).
You’ll find many fiestas across both Spain and Portugal are based upon religious activities – Easter being the largest and Assumption Day (15 August) an important Catholic holiday. In Portugal, you’ll also find pilgrimages to Fátima and the Festivity of the Crosses in Montano, both during May.
Portugal also has its fair share of big events, including the International Chocolate Festival in Óbidos from March to April, the Portugal Rally (a part of the FIA World Rally Championship) in May, the Lisbon Festival in June and the National Gastronomy Festival, held in Santarém, during October and November.
If you’re on an extended motorhome tour and time is no object, of course pottering south along the west coast of France and crossing the Pyrenees is a wonderful introduction to Spain. The quickest motorway routes from France are the E70 to northern Spain (the route continues to A Coruña in the northwest) and the E15 to south-east Spain.
By boat (generally 24-hour crossings with the compulsory purchase of an overnight cabin), Brittany Ferries operate from Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander and from Portsmouth to Bilbao, both on Spain’s northern coast. There are no direct ferries from the UK to Portugal, so the port at Santander is the closest for the purpose of visiting Portugal.