21 best Spanish holidays: The world is your oyster away from the costas

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The Independent Travel
1 Singles

Solos Holidays (tel: 0181-951 2800) organises tennis-themed breaks to Estepona for singles. A six-night break at the Atalaya Park Hotel - in a single room, of course - costs pounds 629 and covers flights, transfers, accommodation and tennis. Departing on 6 November.

2 Art

Specialtours (tel: 0171-730 2297) offers a 10-day cultural trip to Santiago de Compostela. The guided tour takes in local galleries and private collections. The catch? Such holidays may be described as "reassuringly expensive" - the whole package costs pounds 1,550 per person, based on two sharing, but does include return flights, transfers, accommodation, most meals, entrance fees and the services of a guide. Departing on 11 October

3 Paradors

To stay in one of these magnificent converted historic buildings, call The Magic of Spain (tel: 0181-748 4220). You can take a tour of different paradors, or just stop at one. Seven nights in the Leon, a converted 16th- century monastery in the Santander region which also houses an art collection, costs pounds 583 per person, based on two sharing and including return flights and b&b accommodation.

4 Walking

Explore Worldwide (tel: 01252 333031) offers 15-day trekking holidays in a choice of locations, including the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The all-inclusive price is pounds 495 per person. Departing on 12, 19 and 26 September.

5 Skiing

Alto Aragon (tel: 01869 337339) arranges two seven-night skiing holidays to the Pyrenees in February, one for beginners and one for more competent skiers. The prices have not yet been confirmed for February 2000, but last year the cost was pounds 729 per person.

6 Naturist

Peng Travel (tel: 01708 471832) organises holidays for those who are not afraid to shed their clothes. A week in a self-catering studio in the Costa Almeria costs pounds 390 per person, based on two sharing. For an extra pounds 29, you can stay half-board in a hotel. Departing 16 September.

7 Riding

In The Saddle (tel: 01256 851665) is offering a seven-night horse-riding holiday in the Sierra Nevada. The trip involves riding through the countryside and staying in family hotels. The price is pounds 755 per person, but this does not include flights. Departing 30 October.

8 Archaeology

Spain is full of Roman and Moorish archaeological sites, and Andante Travel (tel: 01980 610555) has picked out the best of them for a seven- night package. The "Ancient Catalonia" guided tour takes you to Roman sites, including the Emporium, the early Christian cemetery at Tarragona and the Roman remains at Girona. The price is pounds 1,150 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers, hotel accommodation and most meals. Departing 17 September.

9 Painting

Learn to paint and draw in Andalusia with 11 other enthusiasts courtesy of Spain at Heart (tel: 01373 836070). The price is pounds 499, including return flights, accommodation and basic tutoring - oh yes, and seven nights of delicious authentic Spanish meals.

10 Ornithology

Kirker Travel (tel: 0171-231 3333) arranges tours of the Coto Donana National Park accompanied by local wildlife expert Claudio Manetti. The largest national park in Europe, this is a perfect place to spot everything from flamingoes to eagles. A three-night break in September at the Hacienda de San Rafael costs pounds 584 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, car hire and half-board accommodation.

11 Battlefields

Holts Tours (tel: 01304 612248) takes groups to the most infamous areas of Wellington's Peninsular campaign. The eight-day package starts in Madrid and traces the withdrawal of the Napoleonic armies to Toulouse, the scene of the French surrender. The price is unconfirmed, but last year was pounds 1,400 per person, including half-board accommodation. Departing 29 April 2000.

12 Golf

Lotus Supertravel (tel: 0171-962 9494) arranges golfing packages to the San Roque resort, the base camp for last year's Ryder Cup teams. The price is pounds 569, including return flights, accommodation and access to the golf course at San Roque. Add another pounds 125 to play the Valderrama course.

13 Spa

If you are stressed out and in need of relaxation, Erna Low Consultants (tel: 0171-584 2841) may have the answer. Try six days of thalassotherapy (bubbling baths, underwater massages, algae wraps and so on) at the Hotel Byblos in Mijas. But you may need another week after the bill - thalassotherapy and accommodation alone will set you back pounds 1,218.

14 Wine tours

Decide between Spanish or French red wines on an Arblaster and Clarke Wine Tour (tel: 01730 893344) of the Rioja, Loire and Bordeaux regions. The trip includes visits to four vineyards in Rioja, after which you will move on to Bordeaux and the Loire region of France. The price is pounds 899, including ferry crossings, nine nights' b&b, guided tours of the vineyards and wine cellars and, of course, tastings. Departing 23 October.

15 Gardening

Spain at Heart (tel: 01373 836070) arranges horticultural trips with an expert gardener who will acquaint you with the "joys and frustrations" of growing plants in the Spanish climate. A five-night trip at the end of October costs pounds 395 and includes daily tuition and visits to gardens in the afternoons. Flights are not included in the price.

16 Learn a language

If you want to learn to speak Spanish - and would class yourself as a beginner - then try an intensive course with Euro Academy (tel: 0181-680 4618). For pounds 475 you will receive two weeks of tuition (20 lessons a week, 45 minutes a lesson) in Madrid as well as accommodation and excursions. Flights are not included in the price.

17 Rural

Individual Traveller (tel: 08700 773773) has a converted farmhouse in a hamlet in Catalonia available for pounds 474 for seven nights from 18 September. Santa Engarcia in Tremp, about three hours' drive from Barcelona, is a stone house with spectacular views. The price also includes car hire, but not flights.

18 Cycling

Exodus (tel: 0181-675 5550) offers relaxing cycling breaks in Spain. A "moderately" strenuous eight-day tour through Andalusia costs pounds 620, including flights. However, you will have to pay a further pounds 140 on arrival to cover the cost of meals and bike hire. Departing 15 October.

19 Mountain biking

If you like bikes but worry that a "cycling holiday" sounds a little tame, Discover Adventure (tel: 01722 741123) has places on its challenging mountain-biking trip across the Sierra Nevada. For around pounds 425 you can cycle until your legs give way. The price includes flights, transfers and six nights' b&b accommodation. If you don't have your own bike, you can rent one for pounds 75. The next trips start in April.

20 Beach Break

Mundi Color (tel: 0171-828 6021) is offering seven nights in a three- star hotel in Sitges on the Costa Dorada in September for pounds 492 per person. The price is based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers and b&b accommodation. Sitges has excellent beaches, as well as a varied nightlife - from jazz to tango - with few of the drawbacks of traditional Spanish holiday resorts.

21 Dance

The Dance Holiday Company (tel: 0171-499 5232) offers tuition in flamenco, salsa, Argentinian tango and jive in Madrid, Malaga, Granada, Jerez de la Frontera and Barcelona. Possibly the best centre is in Granada, home to classical shows and intimate performances in smoky dives. The classes take place at Mariquilla's Centro. The price is pounds 375 for 10 hours of tuition and b&b accommodation. Flights are not included, but you will be met at the airport.