Spain is the spot for special interest holidays, says Isobel Finbow

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Pastimes, hobbies, pursuits, obsessions: whatever you call them, everybody’s got one, and the diversity of Spain makes it the perfect destination to immerse yourself in an interest. Beyond the sunny beaches and sangria is a geography as varied as the culture, so from food and wine to history and horticulture, Spain is perfect for those who like to indulge their favourite hobbies on holiday.

Even more importantly, special interest breaks can help you sell more of Spain, especially outside the peak summer season, as many of these activities are on offer year-round.

1 GOLF




There’s no need to wait until retirement to play a few rounds of golf in Spain. La Manga Club, one of Europe’s most famous golf resorts, is not only blessed with almost guaranteed year-round good weather, but with three top-class golf courses. The Murcia resort takes its sport so seriously it’s hosting its first international pro-am tournament this year.

A seven-night stay at the five-star Hotel La Manga Club Principe Felipe, costs from £749, including return flights from East Midlands departing May 6, with Jet2holidays. And for all the golf widows and widowers forced to endure endless rounds of the course, there are 28 tennis courts, swimming pools and a spa.

tradesite.jet2holidays.com
0800 408 5587

2 WINE




Full-bodied and rich or crisp and bubbly, Spain’s reputation for top-quality wine is second to none. And where better to immerse yourself in viticulture than La Rioja, the northern region synonymous with quality reds?

Arblaster & Clarke’s Rioja Vineyard Walk leads wine-lovers through the region on foot, stopping off at the best bodegas and remote wineries (from £1,795 land-only leaving October 5).

True connoisseurs will appreciate the latest addition: the five-night Ribera del Duero, Rueda & Toro tour (£2,099 including flights) visits the small bodegas dotted around this inland region.

winetours.co.uk
01730 263111

3 FOOD




Grub is undoubtedly one of Spain’s greatest attractions, so a specialised culinary tour is any foodie’s dream. Perhaps the most famous of all Spanish cuisine is tapas, whose spiritual home is San Sebastian, near Pamplona.

Explore’s Wine, Walks and Tapas tour from Bilbao to the colourful La Boqueria food market in Barcelona, via local producers offering flavours from across the region, proved so popular the operator extended its range of food tours to cover six countries.

For a bitesize portion, Intrepid’s Urban Adventures include half-day pintxo-sampling tours (approximately £42), but for the more die-hard enthusiast is its Real Food Adventure Northern Spain. For eight days get stuck into hands-on cooking classes, dine on regional specialities and complete a txikiteo, a traditional Basque tapas-crawl. From £1,550, excluding flights.

intrepidtravel.com/uk/spain
01420 593097

4 HISTORY




With one of the most blood-soaked and fascinating pasts in Europe, Andalusia is the perfect location for budding historians.

Between Moorish fortress the Alhambra in Granada, mosque-cathedral the Mezquita in Cordoba (pictured) paying testament to the medieval city’s cosmopolitan past, and historic city Seville, exploring this region is like enjoying a potted history of Spain itself.

Titan’s nine-day Spirit of Andalucia tour (from £1,195 including British Airways flights), visits these sites along with Malaga, former Moorish stronghold Baeza, and equestrian capital Jerez, bringing the region’s cultural heritage to life in breathtaking detail.

titantravel.co.uk
0800 988 5823

5 ART




Art enthusiasts are spoilt for choice in Spain, but in terms of volume and variety, Madrid is unbeatable. Three of the world’s greatest art galleries – the Museo del Prado (pictured), Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen Bornemisza – are a stone’s throw away from each other. Between them, they contain outstanding works by Dali, Goya, Velazquez and Picasso, but expect extra attention for one of Spain’s most influential artists, El Greco, as this year marks the 400th anniversary of his death.

The Museo del Prado exhibits some of his finest works, although real fans could add a pilgrimage to Toledo, where the artist spent much of his working life.

Superbreak offers three nights’ B&B at four-star Hotel Lope de Vega, at the heart of Madrid’s museum triangle, from £241 flying from Gatwick in March.

superbreak.com/agents
0871 221 1515

6 FORMULA ONE




Sports fans are a dedicated lot, travelling to the ends of the earth to support their heroes in the quest for victory.

Luckily for fans of Formula One, they don’t have to go all the way to the Grand Prix in Australia, Singapore or Brazil, because there are events closer to home, including the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona from May 9-11.

It’s not too late to nab tickets – Attraction World has day passes starting at £48, up to £289 for a three-day Grandstand pass. Book accommodation quickly as rooms will be in high demand.

attractionworld.com
0871 700 8888

Spain

7 ARCHITECTURE




Barcelona is famed for many things, but the most visible is its striking architecture.

Walk a few streets and you’ll stumble upon absurdly curved buildings, dream-like parks and spookily gothic streets. Do Something Different’s Barcelona Modernist Walking Tour helps make sense of it all, offering visitors context for the world-famous designs of Gaudi, and lesser-known but equally prolific architects Domenech i Mutaner and Puig i Cadafalch.

The four-hour tour costs £13 for adults or £4 for under-12s, departing daily from June to September, plus the ticket gets real enthusiasts 20% off admission to Gaudi’s Casa Batllo.

dosomethingdifferent.com/trade
020 8090 3890

8 CYCLING




Sales of cycling holidays show no signs of slowing down, and with the Tour de France coming to the UK this year, expect another surge. For those who want to exercise minds as well as bodies, the ancient pilgrimage route to Camino de Santiago de Compostela across northern Spain offers fascinating cultural insights. Exodus has an eight-day moderate-to-challenging itinerary through the route’s valleys, mountain passes and forests, from £1,199 including flights. The trip features accommodation in small rural hotels, but travellers can upgrade to a premium departure for added comfort after a day in the saddle.

exodus.co.uk
0845 863 9601

9 MUSIC




Heading out at midnight and never getting to bed before dawn – no one throws a fiesta like the Spanish. Bilbao is a vibrant city filled with the young and adventurous and is the perfect setting for an international music festival.

That’s why 18-30s brand Contiki takes a tour to BBK Live, where previous acts include Radiohead, Coldplay, Mumford & Sons and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The five-day tour includes a central hotel, three-day festival ticket and shuttles to the festival grounds. The trip costs from £539 land-only.

contiki.com
0845 075 0990

10 WALKING




Getting out and about on foot is surely the best way to get a feel for a destination – and it’s easier than you might think.

While the Canary Islands are known for beaches and buzzing nightlife, the smallest of the bunch, El Hierro, is barely on British tourists’ radar. It’s compact enough to cover on foot within a week, with views ranging from panoramic seascapes to volcanic deserts and ancient forests.

Inntravel’s eight-day tour, El Hierro – The Last Outpost, sets off from the quiet village of Mocanal, with accommodation including a spa hotel built around its own natural spring. Prices start at £798 including most meals, luggage, transfers and flights between Tenerife North and El Hierro, not including UK flights.

inntravel.co.uk
01653 617000