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THE GREEN WAYS TO SEE SPAIN'S HERITAGE CITIES
 
(2023 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: ADAM BISBY



It’s been said that getting there is half the fun, but in Spain getting to many of the country’s World Heritage Cities is sustainable, too.  In this drive toward a green living environment, Spanish communities are even stepping up to play an integral role in the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, striking a chord for today’s eco-conscious tourists. 

The AVE is a good way to discover them. As well as running mainly on electricity from renewable sources, Spain’s AVE high-speed rail network is uniquely supportive of visitors travelling with bicycles, which can be put to good (and sustainable) use in the following World Heritage Cities, all of which have been judged by UNESCO to contain “cultural and natural heritage of outstanding value to humanity,” and all of which are served by sustainable high-speed rail.

Toledo

Like several of Spain’s World Heritage Cities, this former imperial capital is a short high-speed train ride from a major city and international air hub (in this case Madrid-Barajas Airport). That said, nowhere else on Earth combines Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures quite like Toledo, where a Gothic cathedral, a 10th-century mosque and two synagogues stand side-by-side within the city’s ancient walls. Beautifully rendered in oils by Spanish master El Greco, Toledo is similarly famous for its winding streets, sunset views from the Alcantara or San Martín bridges, and turreted 16th century Alcazar fortress. An ecological path along the meandering Tagus river, meanwhile, provides visitors with a leafy, wildlife-filled alternative to the centuries of human history showcased in the city.

Córdoba

World-famous for its stunning Great Mosque, the capital of its namesake province is strewn with flower-filled courtyards, picturesque squares such as Plaza de la Corredera, and lively taverns hosting flamenco performances. Many of the latter serve local specialties like salmorejo (cold tomato soup), flamenquin (pork rolls fried in breadcrumbs), aubergines with honey, and mazamorra (cold almond soup). Just about 10 kilometres from the city is the Medina Azahara, Spain’s largest archaeological site. Easily reached on rented electric bikes, the ruins of the former capital of the caliphate provide a prime example of the Córdoba Tourism Agency earning UNWTO.QUEST Certification by the World Tourism Organization for enabling “responsible, sustainable and accessible tourism for all.”

Santiago de Compostela

The capital of the autonomous community of Galicia is perhaps best known as the focal point of the Camino de Santiago, a multi-pronged long-distance pilgrimage route that leads to the city’s famous cathedral. This in itself is a sustainable form of travel, as many travellers walk or cycle the Camino as a way to connect with nature and local culture. Beyond the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, other historical treasures include the monumental Praza do Obradoiro, its paving stones decorated with eight beams radiating outwards, and the Monasterio de San Martín Pinario, the second-largest monastery in Spain. The city’s many parks and gardens, such as the Parque de San Domingos de Bonaval are great places to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and admire local flora such as the fragrant camellia that turn hillsides into giant pillows of vibrant colour.

Segovia

Walt Disney is said to have modelled Disneyland’s castle on Segovia’s soaring Alcazar fortress, yet that is far from the only sight in this World Heritage City that is the stuff of fairy tales. Its remarkably intact Roman aqueduct, for instance, comprises over 165 stone arches and was used to channel water from the distant Guadarrama Mountains until 1973. Its Gothic cathedral is home to dozens of fine tracery and stained-glass windows overlooking café-lined Plaza Mayor. The nearby Royal Gardens explode with greenery ringing a picturesque lake and ornate fountain, with various bike rental programs making it fun and easy to explore all of it in an environmentally friendly way that would make even Cinderella proud.

Savour Spain with the Paradores de Turismo

Numbering nearly 100 across Spain, these hotel alternatives combine cultural and nature experiences with sustainable practices that safeguard the cultural heritage, environment and economies of their surroundings. spain.info/en/top/paradores-turismo-accommodation-spain

Travel Planner:

For more travel information about Spain visit spain.info

 
 
 
 
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