Up to 60 million visitors travel to Spain every year to delight in the country’s 315 sunny days and its rich and diverse history and culture. As a result the Spanish government spend millions of Euros per year on the travel and transport infrastructure to service the country’s growing population and its ever growing numbers of visitors.
Therefore Spain has to be one of the easiest and most affordable of the world’s popular destinations in terms of its accessibility – particularly from the UK and Northern America. For example there are cheap flights available from all British airports to main and regional airports across Spain daily and direct flights from the main Spanish hubs to the US daily. As an alternative for British and European travellers there are fantastic countrywide train, coach and ferry links and great access for those who prefer to travel by car.
This article breaks down the main Spanish travel options by region.
Northern Spain – The easiest way to access this region is by plane from one of the main UK airports flying directly to Bilbao or from the US to Malaga with transfer to Bilbao. It’s possible to connect with Iberia flights for connections across the North and throughout Spain. Alsa and Eurolines have sophisticated coach networks and it’s possible to travel all the way across Europe to Bilbao or San Sebastian and then pick up local coaches or rail connections. You can also sail from the UK port of Plymouth to Santander with Brittany Ferries, or you could take the P & O route from Portsmouth to Bilbao.
Castile and La Rioja – The cheapest way to access these regions is possibly to fly to one of the main Spanish hubs – Barcelona, Bilbao or Madrid for example, and then either drive or get connecting flights. You can connect with Iberia for flights to Logrona in La Rioja or Valladolid in Castile. Castile, Rioja and Navarre are serviced by an excellent road network which makes getting around simple and again, Alsa coaches will connect you with major and minor destinations across the regions and the entire country.
Aragon, Navarre and the Pyrenees – As these regions are easily accessible by car or coach from Madrid it may be best to get a cheap flight to Madrid and then drive the E90 to the heart of the region. You could consider getting a connecting flight to Zaragoza in the middle of the region which is a good jumping off point for explorations in this stunning part of Spain. Alternatively access to this region can be made by rail or coach. Eurolines coaches will connect you with Pamplona or Zaragoza; Eurostar rail will take you from the UK to Paris and from Paris you can catch an overnight high speed rail link to Madrid…from Madrid the options are varied, from local rail and coach connections, car hire, and local flight connections with Iberia.
Costa Brava and Costa Dorada – As we move east to the beautiful Northern Catalonian coastal regions of the Costa Brava and Costa Dorada, so accessibility increases. Barcelona airport is the main airport for these regions and it welcomes cheap UK and US flights. You can then connect to Girona in the Costa Brava region or Reus in the Costa Dorada region. Barcelona itself has an underground train network for access throughout the city, and if you want to travel further afield the Spanish rail service RENFE has many mainline and local services servicing both regions. The main coastal road in Costa Brava is the A7, with the A2 taking you west away from Barcelona and the C32 taking you south from Barcelona into the Costa Dorada. Barcelona has a port with ferry services to Genoa, Rome, Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza.
Central Spain and Madrid – Central Spain’s main airport is Madrid and it welcomes direct flights from all the major UK and US airports and some of the smaller ones as well. As Madrid is such a major city you can imagine it acts as an important travel hub for the whole of Spain. Coach and rail networks and main auto routes all radiate from the city. Madrid has two main stations with trains departing for regional and international destinations, and the city has an underground metro system as well.
Costa del Azahar – The main travel hub of this region is Valencia with the city’s airport enjoying direct UK flights. To access the rest of the region you can take advantage of the RENFE services from Valencia or enjoy the city via the FGV trams and underground trains. If you want to travel from the coast to Madrid take the N430 and A3; to explore the coast take the A7. Again, Eurolines coaches operate connections to towns and cities in this region including Valencia, Sagunt and Vinaros. And last but not least, Valencia is a port city and has ferries running across the Mediterranean with destinations including Malta, Ibiza, Italy etc.
Costa Blanca – Most visitors for this region enter via Alicante airport. With the Costa Brava well serviced by roads and Alicante airport offering great car hire opportunities many people prefer to access the rest of the region by road, though RENFE, Eurolines and Alsa offer excellent rail and coach alternatives.
Costa Calida – Murcia is the main airport for this region, though Alicante airport is also accessible affording visitors and residents an extra opportunity and advantage. From Murcia there are a number of major train services including direct links to Madrid. In terms of roads, again the Costa Calida is a region with an excellent network of major roads and routes: the N340 runs from Alicante through Murcia to the Costa del Sol, the A7 hugs the coast and local, national and international coach lines service the area. In the port town of Cartagena a passenger terminal was built in 2003 which now serves as a destination for some of the major cruise liners on their way to and from destinations around France, Greece and the Black Sea Coast.
Costa de Almeria – You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to airports serving this region, you can fly to Alicante or Murcia and travel by road or rail into the region or you can fly direct to Almeria airport. The cheapest flights are often to Alicante. RENFE have mainline train services from Almeria to the city of Granada, Eurolines, Alsa and Enatcar all offer coach services across Costa de Almeria. The major routes in the region are the N340 which runs from Costa Calida through the town of Almeria and on south to the Costa del Sol, the A92 which connects with Granada and the A348 which connects Almeria with the Alpujarras. In terms of sea access, Transmediterranea have ferries from the port of Almeria to Northern Africa.
Costa del Sol and Andalucia – If you can’t get a flight to this region of Spain you must be doing something wrong – or maybe just hoping to travel during peak season! The main airport is Malaga and nearly every single airline you can think of flies from almost every single UK and US airport you can think of! If you can’t get a flight and you’re in the UK you might consider driving to the Costa del Sol! In which case your best bet would be to sail from Plymouth to Santander or from Portsmouth to Bilbao and then travel the 900 or so kilometres south. If you start off in Bilbao you’ll need the A68 and A1 to Burgos, or from Santander take the N623 to Burgos – then from Burgos travel via the N1 to Madrid. From Madrid head to Granada, from Granada head for Malaga…phew! Alternatively get a Euroline coach all the way from the UK to Estepona or Malaga or travel from Paris on the fast night train to Madrid and connect with the AVE fast train to Cordoba which in turn connects up with regional Costa del Sol services.
Costa de la Luz and Gibraltar – You can either fly to Gibraltar or Jerez in the region or make use of the many cheap flights to Spain that land in Malaga. There are ferry services between Tarifa and Algeciras in Spain and Tangiers in Morocco, bus and rail services across Europe and through Spain to the Costa de la Luz and strong road links with the E15 serving Gibraltar from the mainland.
Whatever your final destination you should be able to find cheap flights to some of Spain’s main airports and then use local and regional travel services to access your destination of choice; as I hope I’ve shown, the whole of Spain is incredibly easily accessible.