Reference Library – European – Spanish Logistics
Madrid and Barcelona are amazing cities, but neither of these vibrant metropolises can hold a candle to the rejuvenating powers of rural Spain. Luckily, as the second most mountainous country in Europe, there is no shortage of spectacular scenery and pure, fresh mountain air waiting just outside the city lights.
With so many breathtaking mountain escapes in Spain to choose from, rural bliss lingers mere hours from most large cities and tourist destinations. Whether it s for skiing, hiking or just plain relaxing, there s a Spanish mountain range waiting to cure those cooped-up city blues.
These crevassed ravines of the lower Sierra Nevada were the last stronghold of the Moors after the Christian reconquest of Spain in the 15th century. Five centuries later the fifty-odd villages scattered throughout these mountains retain their Moorish allure with keyhole archways, thermal baths and fairytale-like white washed buildings.
Logistics: The vast majority of the tranquil villages in Las Alpujarras have inns and guesthouses where visitors can spend the night. While there are many towns to choose from, some of the most breathtaking are those along the Poqueira Gorge: Capileira, Bubi n and Pampaneira. For those wanting to hike the Mulhac n (the tallest peak on the Iberian Peninsula), opt for Capileira as it is the closest. The Alpujarras region is also a short drive from the provincial capital of Granada, a modern city with spectacular history.
Foodie Tips: This region of Spain is known for its pork products, particularly cured Serrano ham. Pair it with the local Alhambra beer for a typical afternoon snack!
Cares Trail through the Cantabrian Mountains
Weaving through the lush, rocky face of the Cantabrian Mountains, the Cares Trail is often called one of the most spectacular hiking routes in Spain. Most hikers begin the lush 11 km trail in Cain, a small mountain village in the province of Le n, and hike over the regional border into neighboring Asturias to end in the town of Poncebos.
Logistics: To access the trail you either have to go by car or with an organized hiking group (many of which leave from Cangas de Onis in Asturias). The area around the trail is full of casas rurales, rural country homes for rent. You can also stay one of the handfuls of hotels in Las Arenas de Cabrales, the closest city that is about 6 km from Poncebos.
Foodie Tips: The Cares Trail ends in the heart of Asturian cheese country. Definitely plan on visiting a Cabrales cheese cave or, at least, snacking on as much of the strong mountain cheese as possible in the local bars and restaurants! Wash it down with some famous natural Asturian hard cider!
Pueblos Blancos Route in the Sierra de Grazalema
White-washed villages cling from the mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. These gorgeous towns, often brimming with flower-filled balconies, capture the essence of the region. The best way to experiences these Pueblos Blancos, aka White Villages, is on a multi-day road trip weaving through the Grazalema National Park, stopping in various villages to buy locally made crafts and treats like honey, chestnuts and cured meats.
Logistics: The historic town of Arcos de la Frontera is an idyllic base camp for a weekend (or longer!) exploring the pueblos blancos. Depending on how many villages you plan to visit, the route can take from 2 days to a week or more. Some of the best places to spend a night, or even a whole weekend, are the larger villages of Arcos de la Frontera and Ronda undoubtedly one of the prettiest towns in Spain!
Foodie Tips: Don t miss the local wines! Ronda is home to some great, family-run wineries that love to welcome visitors!
In Pozos, life slows down. The village (winter population: 22) is about 100 km from Le n in northwestern Spain and is surrounded by the peaks of the Galician Massif. This is a place to disconnect from the bustle, stroll through the mountains and meadows of Le n and ponder what life was like in rural Spain decades ago.
Logistics: For the full village experience, Esme Tours offers culinary getaways at their charming lodge in Pozos. You can also make a day trip to the village from the nearby towns of Astorga (70 km away, roughly an hour s drive) or Le n (120km away, roughly an hour and a half s drive).
Foodie Tips: This region of Le n is known for its hearty stews, like cocido maragato, and cured meats. Be sure to try the cecina (cured beef) and the local red wine.
Skiing in the Catalan Pyrenees
Only a few hours from Barcelona lie the dramatic slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains. While most of the ski resorts in this area are only accessible by car, there are two that are reachable by train: La Molina and Masella. The former is considered the oldest ski resort in Spain having first opened its slopes in 1909. Now a modern ski destination called Alp 2500, the side-by-side resorts offer incredibly beautiful skiing day trips from Barcelona.
Logistics: Both La Molina and Masella are about 160 km from Barcelona, about 3.5 hours by train. While there is lodging at the resort, for a more robust nightlife it may be better to stay in Barcelona.
Foodie Tips: The ski season in Catalonia coincides with one of the region s most famous foodie festivals: the cal otada. From late January through early March Catalan cal ots (a local green onion) are in season. These long, thin onions are fire-grilled, dipped whole in almond-vegetable sauce and dropped into waiting mouths! Be sure to wash it down with a porr n of Catalan cava!
Puig de Massanella in Mallorca
The accent to the second tallest mountain on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca is about as scenic as it gets. The extremely well-marked path snakes through olive groves and lush forests to arrive at a Puig de Massanella s rocky peak. Nowhere in Mallorca can you find better views of the island.
Logistics: After the full-day trek up the island s tallest accessible mountain (the tallest peak is a military installation and is closed to the public), relax near the seaside town of Puerto de Soller. The Cas Xorc boutique hotel, located in the mountains only about 8 km from the beach town and 35km from the start of the hike, is our pick for the perfect getaway.
I almost don t want to include La Gomera in this guide as it is perhaps the most undiscovered natural wonder under the Spanish flag. Much of this sparsely inhabited Canary island is covered by the Garajonay National Park, a natural wonderland so amazing that UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. Hiking here is a nature lover s dream. And did I mention the local wine isn t too shabby either?
Logistics: There is no airport on this 14-mile-wide island. It can only be accessed by ferry from the nearby island of Tenerife (which has two airports). While you can easily make a day trip to La Gomera from Los Cristianos on Tenerife, I would definitely recommend staying a night or two on La Gomera. Most of the best hiking routes are too long to do in the short window between ferries.
Foodie Tips: Carb load before (or recover after!) a long hike with a huge heap of the local star dish: papas arrugadas con mojo pic n (wrinkled potatoes with slightly spicy red pepper sauce). You ll also find great fish dishes and fantastic local cheese. If you can, visit the local market as copious amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables are grown on the island!
In such a mountainous country this is only the beginning of what could turn into a never ending list! What are your favorite mountain destinations in Spain? Any great hotels to recommend? Please, leave your advice in the comments!
Spain lover, taste tester and unabashed wine sniffer. I’ve got an unshakable obsession for wild mushroom croquettes and rowdy food markets. I travel by my tastebuds and am a firm believer that every dish has a story to tell. Check out my food adventures on my blog, Restless Fork.
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Poor planning has plagued Spanish infrastructure in recent years. The sector has suffered from a lack of prioritisation for the most socially beneficial projects, considerable overspending of public resources on construction, and little long-term vision from the government. Political fragmentation in the wake of the recent elections has only added further uncertainty to Spain s infrastructure sector something that threatens to constrain the outlook for new projects in the coming decades. To better meet its future infrastructure needs, Spain would do well to form a concrete strategy for infrastructure investment in the long term. To this end, the country can build on some encouraging developments: Spain s economy made a promising recovery last year, as investor appetite for project finance grew, while the establishment of the new National Evaluation Office (NEO) set up to analyse the feasibility of large-scale infrastructure projects will help the country to improve its infrastructure planning.
A poor track record
These are certainly welcome developments for a country where local and national governments have often not prioritised the most viable projects, a decision that has resulted in negative economic and social consequences. What s more, significant public resources have been invested in unfinished or unused projects during this process.
In the years preceding the financial crisis, all provincial capitals in Spain of which there are around 50 argued that they were entitled to an international airport. Such enthusiasm led to the expensive construction or upgrade of numerous barely used and remote airports. 200 kilometres south of Madrid, for instance, the airport of Ciudad Real was opened in December 2008 following an estimated investment of ‘ 474m. By 2012, the airport had closed and filed for bankruptcy. The airport will have to be auctioned this year, following a failed auction process in 2015. This unfortunate pattern was repeated across Spain: Castell n s airport in the east of the country opened in 2011, but only saw its first flight in March 2015. Similar airports, such as Huesca (in Aragon), Lleida (in Catalonia) and Cordoba (in Andalusia), only attracted a trickle of flights after the recession hit in 2008. The Spanish rail sector also suffered from poor attention to project profitability: with the majority of public investments in Spanish infrastructure going towards expanding its high-speed railways in recent years, Spain has the world s third largest high-speed rail network after China and Japan. However, oversupply and inadequate demand has affected some lines. In fact, the high-speed line through the Pyrenees, from Perpignan in the south of France to Figueras in northeast Spain, filed for bankruptcy proceedings in July 2015. The project s sponsors are now claiming compensation from both the French and Spanish Governments due to early termination.
Nor have Spanish highways fared much better: notably, eight concessionaires for toll roads (the radiales ) radiating outwards from the Spanish capital are currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings. Negotiations between the government and these lenders have lasted three years to date, and have no end in sight.
Such a poor track record stems, in large part, from a lack of long-term planning for infrastructure development on a governmental level. Not only is responsibility for infrastructure investment fragmented among various divisions of local and national government, but infrastructure investment is also influenced by the course of elections and with different parties come conflicting infrastructure polices. While the plan for investment in transportation is the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Public Works, it only remains in force for as long as the government responsible for the action is in power and governments can last as little as four years. As a consequence, Spanish infrastructure investment is rarely guided by a long-term vision or strategy beyond the mandate of its elected government. It is for this reason that this year s political fragmentation threatens yet more uncertainty for Spain s infrastructure sector. In December s general election, no single party gained even one-third of the popular vote, and an absence of government has meant a lack of clear infrastructure policy and plans for investment in the future.
Breaking the political deadlock requires the formation of either a coalition or a minority government. However, either option will have significant ramifications for the infrastructure sector: on the one hand, in a coalition, national infrastructure priorities would require consensus among the political parties a difficult task, given their differences in policy. While the centre-right Partido Popular (PP) party favours continued development of national high-speed, conventional and freight railways, the left-wing Podemos party has voiced its support for the cessation of all large infrastructure projects that have not yet been approved. On the other hand, should a minority government form, the party in charge would have a limited ability to introduce any infrastructure reforms, due to its lack of a legislative majority in parliament.
This political fragmentation and the consequent hiatus in policymaking have increased uncertainty over Spain s plan to meet its infrastructure requirements over coming decades. Above all, there is a worrying lack of a clear pipeline of future projects. The Infrastructure, Transportation and Housing Plan (PITVI) the current strategy guiding Spain s investment in much of its national infrastructure is set to expire in eight years. Without political direction to guide planning, significant investment in greenfield projects that is, new developments could suffer further down the line.
Meanwhile, the market for public-private partnerships (PPPs) may struggle to develop in this environment, given the time that is required for the tendering process: a local authority needs to plan its infrastructure projects, award contracts to companies and deal with the legal side of issuing tenders. All of these actions take time something that may be eaten up by political stagnation over the next year. Furthermore, the project to develop Aragon s Alca iz Hospital in Spain s northeast was also cancelled in the wake of fresh elections. Like the City of Justice, this was despite the fact that the preliminary preferred bidder for the concession was already in place.
What s more, the lack of political cohesion on infrastructure policy could also have an impact on the future upkeep of brownfield projects (infrastructure already built and functioning). Although political uncertainty is unlikely to hurt existing infrastructure in the short term, doubts remain for the long term. For instance, although some infrastructure sectors, such as roads, are currently in good shape and should not require improvements any time soon, this may not be the case 10 years from now in the absence of any maintenance.
A cohesive strategy
Spain urgently needs to adopt a concrete infrastructure strategy that can provide strong guidance for public investments by different administrations and across the political spectrum over the next 30 years. Encouragingly, the foundations for such a strategy have already been laid. First, 2015 saw the country s infrastructure finance market signal a crucial recovery. Spurred on by an improvement in the economy, as GDP growth picked up to 3.2 percent from a mere 1.4 percent the previous year, investor appetite for project finance grew, and the secondary market picked up steam after several years of relative inactivity.
In fact, while Spain has traditionally financed projects through the bank loan market, recently there has been a growing interest for the refinancing of existing transactions through the debt capital markets. The increasing involvement of pension funds in projects was particularly notable. Second, the recently approved NEO was set up to analyse the financial feasibility of new public works or public services concessions prior to the tendering process. The NEO will offer vital advice and scrutiny to large-scale projects (investments of more than ‘ 1m) and is open to regional and local governments, which could benefit local and regional authorities less familiar with the process of offering concessions. If correctly implemented and staffed with skilled technicians allowing projects to be analysed with respect to profitability and cost-effectiveness the NEO could improve the prospects of Spain s infrastructure sector and solidify its future. Certainly, there is room for improvement. But having learned the lessons of the past, and with a strategy for the long term, Spanish infrastructure could weather the current storm of political uncertainty.
Seven suspected jihadist cell individuals have been captured in Spain in a progression of assaults crosswise over southern areas. The ring is being blamed for subsidizing terrorism and in addition government evasion for Islamic State and Al-Nusra terrorist bunches in Syria and Iraq.
The cell was likewise in charge of running arms, military hardware, bomb material, and electronic gadgets masked as philanthropic shipments bound for the jihadist bunches in the Middle East, Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz declared, affirming the capture of seven cell individuals on Sunday. Four of those confined are Spaniards of Syrian, Jordanian and Moroccan starting point. Two others are Syrian and Moroccan nationals living in Spain. The national source of the seventh ring part was not uncovered. Police said that they started researching the phone in 2014, indicating that the instigator was in direct contact with Islamic State (once in the past ISIS/ISIL) and gave “logistical backing that was fundamental for the support of fear exercises” in Syria and Iraq
As indicated by the police explanation the “very much composed” cell spread crosswise over three urban communities and was facilitated by an instigator who sent holders from Spanish ports to Islamic State and Al-Nusra warriors through his logistics business.
“The leader of the cell coordinated a system of firms which empowered him to send the logistical material in fixed holders from Spanish ports to the terrorist bunches working in Syria and Iraq without raising suspicion,” a representative for Spain’s Foreign Ministry said in an announcement.
Other than running arms shipments and laundering cash the phone was likewise tasked by IS to discover marriage material for jihadist contenders in Syria “taking after rules set around the Islamic State gathering’s pioneer Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the police proclamation said. As indicated by an ogoing examination, the instigator was in “consistent” contact with an individual from IS, while the whole cell was additionally “extremely dynamic on interpersonal organizations.”
Every one of the seven men are currently in authority and have been taken to Madrid for a court hearing where a judge is relied upon to lead to keep the suspects in care. Diaz adulated the security drives abnormal state of polished skill and said the captures “kept the arranging of terrorist acts”. A sum of 82 suspected jihadists have been captured in Spain since the start of 2015.