Camino de Santiago - The Way of St James
Covering an area of 504,784 sq km, Spain is part of the mountainous Iberian peninsula of Western Europe. In the north of the country, the Pyrenees form a continuous mountain chain stretching from the rugged and stormy Atlantic coast to the balmy beaches of the Mediterranean, and its watershed delineates the border with France. In the south east of the country the Sierra Nevada takes the form of a long curving chain which rises abruptly from the plain of La Vega to the northeast of Malaga, reaching its highest altitude of 3482 metres close to the city of Grenada before dropping gradually to Almeria in the east. Around 100km in length, the main spine of the range, which contains several 3000m peaks, projects ridges north and south. Between the southern ridges are long narrow ravines containing Moorish villages and farms. The valleys to the north are wilder and less accessible, the highest containing dark corries situated beneath 600mfaces.
The time in Spain is GMT +1 hour.
The official language of Spain is Spanish which most of the population speak as their first or second language. There are some robust regional languages spoken including Catalan/Valencian, Basque, Galician and Aranese. English is not widely spoken, particularly in the remoter areas in which we visit. We recommend that you try to learn some simple Spanish phrases and greetings as attempts to speak in the local language will always be appreciated and is all part of the fun.
Spain's climate varies from temperate in the north to dry and hot in the south. The best months are from April to October, although July and August can be excessively hot throughout the country except the coastal regions. The Picos de Europa and Northern Spain is known for its changeable weather associated with its mountains and its coastal location. Although most of the region's precipitation occurs between November and February, it can rain at any time of the year. From July to September the weather is generally very good, with clear and sunny days predominating. We can expect daytime valley temperatures of between 20°C and 27°C in July and September, dropping to around 15°C overnight. Temperatures will be rather cooler than this at altitude, with daytime temperatures of between 15°Cand 20°C above 1500 metres. At night the temperature could fall as low as 5°C . The Sierra Nevada enjoys a stable climate with sunshine and clear weather almost guaranteed in July and August. Temperatures in the lower valleys at this time can be extreme – up to 40º C, but on the ridges and summits it is generally a pleasant 20º C.
The unit of currency in Spain is the Euro. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com. You should take some euros with you on your holiday to Spain. These are readily available at most banks. If you run out of euros, dollars and sterling (cash or travellers cheques) can easily be exchanged once you are in Spain, although not every bank will provide this service. Credit and debit cards can be used widely and you will also be able to obtain currency at cash machines (ATM's) in the usual way.
A passport with 3 months remaining validity is required. Visas are not required by UK or EU passport holders. Other nationalities should check with the Spanish Consulate in their own country.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. No special vaccinations are required for Spain. UK residents should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling. The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care. You can obtain an EHIC from the Department of Health by phone, online, or at the post office.
Additional Sources of Information
Walks and Climbs in the Pyrenees. Kev Reynolds
Walking in the Sierra Nevada. Andy Walmsley. Cicerone Press
The Pyrenees. Marc Dubin. Rough Guides.
Trekking in the Pyrenees. Douglas Streatfeild-James. Globe Pequot Press
Trekking and climbing in Northern Spain. Jim Thompson & Ilja Schroder. Stakpole Books
The Story of Spain. Mark Williams. Santana Books
Spain: Editorial Alpina Walking Maps - Extensive and very popular series of walking maps covering the Pyrenees, Catalonia, Picos de Europa, Sierra Nevada and parts of Andalucía. Scales vary from 1:50,000 to 1:10,000, with the majority of the titles at 1:25,000.
Lonely Planet - www.lonelyplanet.com
Rough Guides - www.roughguides.com