- an alternative guide to Spain
Spain - where the travelling is easy
Whether by road, air, rail or by footpath
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Spain is a country where travelling is easy; even though distances can
be long, Spain's modern travel infrastructure is one of the best in
Europe, and travel is generally safe, comfortable, and reasonably rapid.
more complete information
, see Driving
hire in Spain
Spain has an extensive system of motorways, and most of them are free and relatively traffic-free
Spanish peninsula - comprising Spain and Portugal, is more or less
square, and the Spanish capital, Madrid, lies in the middle. Apart from
Madrid, most of Spain's major cities lie on or near the coast, at a
distance of between 400 and 650 km from the capital, and linked to it
by modern motorways. Other motorways run virtually the whole way round
the periphery of Spain, along its coasts and round the Portuguese
border. Consequently, long-distance driving in Spain is generally easy
Traffic can be fairly dense around Madrid,
Barcelona and Bilbao, and dense around other cities. The Mediterranean
coastal motorway system gets fairly congested in parts at peak holiday
travel periods; but apart from these black spots, driving conditions in
Spain are not particularly stressful. Away from Madrid, and away from
the Mediterranean coast, traffic is usally light, and driving is in
most places very easy - whether on motorways (Autopistas or Autovias),
the strategic national road network ("N" roads), or on the "autonomous"
network, i.e. roads managed by regional authorities.
or coaches are a popular form of long-distance travel in Spain,
particularly on routes not served by the high-speed rail network. While
there are many companies offering inter-city coach services in Spain,
the most extensive network, connecting most cities in Spain, is
provided by Alsa
now a subsidiary of the UK's National Express. Coach services in Spain
are often faster and cheaper than rail services, except for routes
covered by the high-speed rail network.
► Fur more detail
travel and tourism in Spain
round Spain by train can be very fast, or very slow, depending on where
you are going. It comes as a surprise to many outside Spain to learn
that Spain now has Europe's most extensive network of high-speed rail
lines, and the world's second most extensive high-speed network after
China. One reason for this is that the country's rail network was, in
the late 20th century, in dire need or upgrading. The old network,
which still serves many out-of-the-way or remote locations in Spain,
remains slow and antiquated... but in many spots rather picturesque.
internal services within Spain are run by the national airline Iberia
Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling
, but also by Ryanair,
others. Most Spanish cities have an airport - notably cities along the
Mediterranean coast and the north coast. However in many cases, there
are more flights to places outside Spain than to other cities within
Spain apart from Madrid, the national hub.
cycling in Spain
is a great country for hiking and cycling insofar as the climate is
generally dry: Spring and Autumn are the best times of year for serious
hiking or cycling trips to Spain, given that the summer months can be -
and indeed often are - rather hot.
Marker beside one of the trails to Compostella
Spain is home to
the heart of what can be described as Europe's oldest network of hiking
trails, the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostella. There are
routes to Compostella from all over Spain, as well as from France and
further afield. Largely forgotten from the 16th to the 20th century,
the Compostella pilgrim trails have seen a great upsurge in their
popularity since the 1990s, and nowadays each year tens of
thousands of pilgrims or just hikers retrace the steps of their
ancestorsalong the dusty and often stony trails leading to Europe's
greatest pilgrimage centre, in the far northwest of Spain. For pilgrims
and others walking this long trail, there are special hostel-style
lodges, called albergues
all along the route, offering very cheap accommodation.
Apart from trails to Santiago, Spain has a
network of long-distance marked hiking trails, los senderos de gran recorrido
like France's grande-randonnée
The longest of these, the GR7, runs from Andorra in the Pyrenees, to
Tarifa, at the southern tip of continental Europe. For more information
and a list of long-distance hiking trails in Spain (in Spanish) see the
For cycle tourism, Spain's network of minor roads offers
opportunities for cycling on well-made roads with very little traffic.
In addition, Spain also has hundreds of kilometres of dedicated
cycleways, "Vias verdes", most of them following disused railway lines.
website has a map of these routes, and a list, in
English. In central Spain, distances are long, and in many cases
villages are few and far between. those planning a cycle tour of Spain
are advised to remember this.