Travel | A Leeds student traveller's guide to Spanish road-tripping

Summer Travel Article – Road Trip

Things can seem bleak in Leeds. Cold mornings, constant rain showers and the looming prospect of deadline week don’t really entice you to get out of bed in the morning, do they? But hey, if you look on the bright side it is only three months until the blissfully long student summer begins. This wonderful fact means that is entirely acceptable to start planning one’s travels, holidays, or mini ‘gap yah’ adventures. For a short break that can be booked in advance why not do an “off the beaten track” road trip through Spain?

Often regarded as an unoriginal holiday destination, Spain actually offers far more than crowded beaches and tacky nightclubs. The best way to see this country and get a feel for its culture is undoubtedly by road. Car hire is relatively cheap and most rental companies allow you to pick up from one destination and drop off your car elsewhere, ideal for a short road trip. If you are unable to drive or under the age of twenty-one, buses in Spain are also a cheap option and bus stands are often in conveniently central locations.

Fly to Valencia and spend a few days getting to know this city. Its chaotic nature is worth experiencing and there is an abundance of museums and cultural sights to see by day. However what is most enticing about Valencia for students is the vibrant nightlife scene that starts around midnight and goes on until after sunrise. Next get on the road and head off to Callosa Falls. These beautiful waterfalls are a great place to unwind after the madness of Valencia. Keep heading into the mountains and you will come across a collection of traditional Spanish villages nestled into the hills.

Don’t book ahead when it comes to finding accommodation in the more rural parts of Spain. There are plenty of hostels and B&Bs along the way. Stick to the scenic route as opposed to motorways if you can (avoiding tolls!) and enjoy the local villages where you will find endearing little bars that offer flamenco dancing until sunrise. Don’t miss sampling local paella and try a carajillo (a traditional coffee based beverage).

A place that offers you unbelievable views for miles is the Caves of Nerja. These ancient caves can be quite touristy but it is worth making the trip just to see the incredible landscape expanses from their entrance. Did you know that there is a semi-desert in Spain? A spectacular stretch of open road that will almost make you feel like you are on route 66 goes through the Tabernas desert. Its old fashioned feel, lack of tourists and dusty charm makes it one of Spain’s hidden gems for travellers. Stay in the village of Tabernas itself. There isn’t a huge amount to do but the enchanting bars, restaurants and shops are full of friendly locals who are keen to tell you all about their culture and the history of Tabernas. Take a trip to Mini Hollywood, a slightly slightly tacky day out but the setting for various Western cowboy films and a good laugh before you head further south to Granada.

Granada’s Arabic influences add to the charm of this cultural hub of Southern Spain. An obvious tip is to check out the Alhambra, an intricate ancient palace and fortress overlooking the city. The best hostels are situated on the winding streets below the Alhambra; the cobbled streets, artistic tiled corridors and eager-to-please hostel managers will not disappoint you.

For those of you who are keen to party, Granada has an appealing nightlife scene that starts late into the night in true European style. Start with a few plates of tapas (often free if you buy drinks too) and don’t miss the refreshing jugs of Spanish sangria. Follow the crowds to find the best parties, often hidden in secret underground clubs or rooftop terraces. Give yourself enough time to really soak up the laid back atmosphere of this city before making your way home. Granada has an airport nearby but the cheaper flights back to the UK are from Malaga.

Happy road-trip planning!

Alice Burns


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