Spain is a popular winter destination thanks to its Mediterranean climate and low rainfall. Andalucía, Murcia and Valencia offer the best of the weather, with average highs remaining in the teens from November to February. Murcia is particularly appealing, being relatively unknown and less prone to overcrowding. The region provides plenty to keep the low season tourist occupied, with its wide sandy beaches, historical towns and picturesque mountains.
The region’s capital, also called Murcia, is of Arab origin and sits on a fertile plain surrounded by two mountain ranges. Its highlight is the cathedral, built between the late 14th and mid 15th century and a fine example of Castilian Gothic architecture. The bell tower accommodates no fewer than 25 bells, each with their own names and dating from either the 17th or 18th century. The old town is largely pedestrianised, making it ideal for a leisurely stroll down Trapería, a street that runs from the cathedral to the Plaza de Santo Domingo, which was once a bustling market square.
Valencia is similarly impressive with its Gothic cathedral and Silk Exchange market juxtaposed with the modern architecture of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía and L’Oceanogràfic marine park. The city is perhaps best known for paella; stop at one of its many restaurants to sample this fine seafood dish or visit a tapas bar for lighter meals made with locally sourced produce.
A number of walking routes cross the regions of Murcia and Valencia, making them superb for hikers and cyclists. In 1993, the Spanish Railways Federation began turning disused railways into cycling, walking and bridle paths or vías verdes to encourage visitors to explore the countryside in an environmentally friendly way. The routes through the pine and eucalypus forests of the Dunas de Guardamar Natural park are delightful – stay at Marjal Guardamar Camping & Bungalows Resort for easy access. The path along the Alharabe River, a tributary of the Segura, is also a pretty escape, leading you through shady pine forests. Tired walkers can go for a refreshing dip in the thermal pool at Somogil to break up the journey. On many of the vías verdes, there are places to rent bikes, as well as cafes and restaurants where you can stop for a snack.
For the sandy beaches and clear waters of the Mediterranean, Andalucía is perfect. With 800km of coastline, it’s no surprise that this region draws in so many tourists. From the resorts of the Costa del Sol to the quieter beaches of El Cañuelo and La Barossa, you can enjoy the sunshine with relatively little intrusion from other tourists.
There are also the benefits of travelling in low season – attractions and campsites are less busy, prices are usually cheaper and there’s often a more relaxed atmosphere. So if you’re able to, there’s every reason to join other snowbirds and spend your time exploring southern shores this winter.