SURVIVAL GUIDE SPAIN

Taking Off

For years the only economical way to fly to Spain was on a charter. This summer, though, the sums have changed radically. The Spanish national airline, Iberia (0171-830 0011), has been flying toLondon for 50 years - and is celebrating with a series of strictly limited offers.

The first was available on 1 April only, for the foolish fare of pounds 55 return to Madrid. Last Monday, Barcelona was on sale for a more realistic pounds 114. You can expect more low fares; watch these pages or call Iberia for details. Meanwhile, other carriers are cutting fares; Air UK (0345 666777) has a Stansted-Madrid return for pounds 104 on sale until 1 May. All these fares include Britain's pounds 5 Air Passenger Duty; Spain did away with its 50 peseta charge years ago.

British Airways (0345 222111) is expanding its route network to southern Spain, with GB Airways operating services on BA's behalf from Gatwick to Valencia (pounds 124 return), Jerez de la Frontera (starting 17 May, pounds 144) and Murcia (pounds 154). Weekend travel costs pounds 20 more.

Expect fares to Barcelona to fall in June, when EasyJet (01582 445566) begins low-cost flights from Luton airport. From 12 June, it will charge pounds 49 each way (plus pounds 5 UK tax on the outbound leg), though fares can rise to pounds 99 as the flights sell out.

For some destinations, the only prospect for a non-stop flight is to use a charter. We buy charter flights from a variety of companies, including Avro (01293 567916), The Flight Company (0181-977 9455) and Airtours (01706 260000).

Flights over the two May bank holiday weekends are extremely busy, especially to the south. Fares are consequently high and availability poor. To Malaga, British Airways's best fare travelling out 3 May, back 6 May is pounds 488; Gibraltar is a cheaper alternative at pounds 274.

Checking In

The parador (government-run hotel, usually in a historic property) remains the best travel bargain in Spain. The new one in Ronda has arguably the finest view of any hotel in Europe, though the panorama from the poolside in Aiguablava on the Costa Brava is a close second. Keytel International (0171-402 8182) represents the chain in the UK.

International Chapters (0171-722 9560) offers a range of villas and fincas on the mainland and in the Balearics. A restored farmhouse in San Carlos, Ibiza, costs pounds 4,200 for a week in late July or August, but sleeps 12.

The south east corner of Mallorca has the dual benefits of quiet countryside and good beaches. Accommodation in rural farmhouses around Santanyi is sold by Mallorcan Countryside Holidays (0181-747 1851). These sleep around a dozen people, and cost from pounds 600 to pounds 2,195 for a week according to season.

Getting Around

Rail remains the best way to combine comfort, speed and economy, though if you want to sacrifice the latter two for a good dose of the former then consider the Andalus Express, a pre-war train that trundles grandly through Andalucia. A five-night trip through Cox & Kings (0171-873 5000) costs pounds 1,299, including flights from London.

Domestic flights are still mostly overpriced and lacking in frills, though the introduction of competition means Aviaco (Iberia's domestic arm) has sharpened up its act. Madrid-Barcelona costs pounds 50 one-way. You can combine two centres with an Iberia "Bravo" fare; for pounds 214 you could fly London- Madrid-Ibiza-London.

Car rental is becoming phenomenally competitive, with the best deals booked from Britain. For a week picking up from Barcelona airport in August, Holiday Autos (0990 300400) charges pounds 139 fully inclusive and promises to undercut all comers by pounds 5.

Checking Out

The range of activity holidays in Spain is expanding rapidly. For example, the Field Studies Council (01743 850164) is offering a fortnight in the Pyrenees in July studying flowers and butterflies (pounds 1,200), or a week of birdwatching in Mallorca in September (pounds 720).

To visit Spain's newest and largest national park, sign up with Explore Worldwide (01252 319448) for an eight-day trip through the Picos de Europa. You pay pounds 395, including flights, accommodation and breakfast.

A short way south in the Emporda region, New Experience Holidays (01922 410909) has a two-centre walking holiday based on the medieval towns of Pals and Llafranc. A week in June costs pounds 605.

A more leisurely survey of the sights and scenery may be had on an Archers Tours coach trip; a week in Andalucia in May costs pounds 345 including flights.

Finding Out

The Spanish tourist office is at 57 St James's Street, London SW1A 1LD (0171-499 0901).

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'