Off the beaten track in Spain and baby’s first holiday in Portugal or Greece

Ask Joan: your travel dilemmas solved

Zamora, Spain

Zamora, Spain

 

We are a family of four with two boys that like adventure. Could you recommend an area in Spain away from the usual tourist charade, rich in culture/music, good local food, markets, some adventure and decent self-catering accommodation?

– PT, Roscommon

Spain has lots of authentic experiences and you do not have to go too far to find some. Rural tourism in Spain has been given a big push by the government to bring visitors into places they might never otherwise discover. There are many inspected casa rurales around the country. They are mainly reserved by Spanish people, but everyone is welcome. See casarurales.com and toprural.com. The websites are in Spanish.

There are flights from Ireland to many Spanish airports and you can have quick access to the countryside. The north and centre of Spain are less travelled and may offer you more of the experiences you seek. Every town and village usually has a market at least one day a week and often their own local food specialities.

Consider Castile y Leon and the towns of Zamora, Avila or Segovia. See tourismodcastillayleon.com. In Aragon province you can go river rafting and fishing on Lake Caspe. Extremadura is famous for bird watching and the world heritage sites at Cacares, Merida and Guadalupe. The hilly countryside is great for hiking.

I like the coast of Cadiz from Tarifa to Zahara de los Atunes, it is wild and interesting with great beaches for kite surfing, whale watching, national parks and is very Spanish. The northern coast is less developed and would offer surfing and other water sports, particularly around San Sebastian and Hondarriba in the Basque country. The official tourism website is spain.info/en.

We would like to travel to Europe with our 11-month-old (maybe to Greece or Portugal) for a week to 10 days in May. Ideally we will fly on a direct day flight from Dublin. Warm weather, access to a swimming pool, and accommodation with a terrace or balcony are important. We are flexible with budget and would be happy to pay for quality. – NC, Dublin

There are reasonably priced daily flights to Faro in Portugal from Dublin with Aer Lingus and Ryanair. The Martinhal Resort at Sagres on the west end of the Algarve is ideal for family holidays; they even have a package for baby’s first holiday.

A week in May including accommodation in a beach room or garden house, a romantic dinner and babysitter, spa treatment and two hours of childcare every day will cost from €1,984. You can also pre-book baby equipment in advance. See markinhal.com.

Sunway Holidays has a good range of properties on the Algarve from two to five stars. In Alvor, the Pestana Dom Joao is on the beach and would cost €579pps. The Tivoli Marina in Portimao, overlooking the port, is a lovely complex and would cost from €749pps

In May, the direct flights to Greece will be to Athens and Corfu with Aer Lingus and Chania in Crete with Ryanair. Of the three, the best option for a family would be Corfu and twice weekly flights mean you could travel on Wednesday or Saturday.

Clickandgo. com has a variety of holidays with flights and transfers, staying in a hotel or self-catering, with prices under €500pps for a week. Corfu is a family friendly island and you would probably spend much of the time by the pool or on the beach.

Send your travel queries to jscales@irishtimes.com