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9 of the best food & drink experiences for your Spain holiday

Spain andalucia seville tapas ham carving in rinconcillo

1. Tapas, Andalucía: Of all of Spain's culinary traditions, the one that stands tallest is the tapa. Whilst tapas can be enjoyed from Madrid to Barcelona and across Andalucía, Seville is its spiritual home.

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Spain andalucia seville tapas salmorejo and jamon

Tapas can be practically anything, from a chunk of tuna or omelette, to hot meat with sauce served in a miniature clay dish. It just has to come out of the kitchen of a bar on a small plate, basically.

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Spain andalucia tapas la bartola chris bladon 2

Seville's bars range from the traditional joints, where you need to get your elbows out and holler in your best Spanish to get served, to the bright, breezy and vegan-friendly. You're spoilt for choice really.

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Spain seville tapas bar at night c chris bladon pura

Tapas is also a social institution. Most Spaniards will go de tapeo, visiting a few bars to meet with friends before settling into a restaurant. So it's a fun way for us to mingle with the locals...

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Spain seville tapas c chris b pura

How to experience it: Come to Seville on a driving holiday, meet our lovely local Davíd and let him share his favourite tapas bars with you. Then head out the next night to go it alone...

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Spain andalucia almedenilla salto caballo circular c pura aventura 24

2. Olive oil, Andalucía: Next is the humble olive. It might surprise you to learn that Spain produces around 45% of the world's olive oil, of which 75% comes from Andalucía.

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Spain andalucia el castellar to almedinilla c pura aventura 11

That stat makes more sense in the Subbéticas hills near Córdoba, where the landscape is defined by groves. "It smacks you in the face", as one Aussie guest with a knack for clarity put it.

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Spain andalucia sevilla foodie olives shop cooking workshop

Whilst Spain sends much of the harvest off to Italy and Greece to be passed off as Italian or Greek oil by the world's largest producers, the very best olives stay right here...

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Spain andalucia cadiz grazalema olive oil mill shop

Indeed, this year officially the world's nine best olive oils were made in Andalucía, with top spot going to a co-operative from the Subbéticas hills. If you want the best olive oil, you come here.

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Spain andalucia pan con tomate chris bladon

Enjoying the prized olive oil is best kept simple. Drizzle a bit over some freshly baked bread with fresh tomatoes and a pinch of salt for a proper Andalucían breakfast.

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Spain andalucia cordoba subbetica casa olea close up smoking chimney c diego

How to experience it: Sample Tim and Claire's own small batch oil as part of a guided tasting session at their farmhouse B&B in the Subbéticas on our Cordoba to Granada Walking Holiday

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Spain andalucia alajar carving jamon iberico

3. Jamón Ibérico, Andalucía: Andalucía is also the producer of Spain's most prized cured hams. For the best of the best, we must head way out west and up into the Aracena hills...

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Spain andalucia aracena iberian ham c juanacosta

Tucked away between Seville and the Portuguese border, the open forests and fields of Aracena produce some of the most delicious and most expensive air-cured ham in the world.

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Spain andalucia aracena hills bathing pigs at jamones eiriz

Why so? Firstly, the cool dry winds and humid nights of the sierra provide ideal conditions for curing. Secondly, the managed open landscapes of the Dehesa allow plenty of space to roam...

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Spain andalucia aracena pigs dehesa c jarcosa

And thirdly, it's diet. The most expensive - jamón de bellota - comes from pigs foraging up to 10 kilos a day of acorns from the oak woodlands, as well as up to 3 kilos of grass and wild fruits.

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Spain andalucia aracena hills admiring leg of ham

How to experience it: To learn more, we know a great farm you can visit in Aracena. A simpler approach is just to walk into a good shop or restaurant. You can do both on our Villages of Andalucia Walk.

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Spain andalucia cadiz jerez domecq fundador winery sherry wines

4. Sherry, Andalucía: The tradition of winemaking in Jerez dates back to Phoenician times. But did you know that it's through an act of British thievery that sherry found international acclaim?

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Spain andalucia sherry barrels in jerez bodega spain

The story goes that in in 1587 Sir Francis Drake hot-footed it back to London with some 3,000 barrels of sherry he stole from the port of Cádiz, as a gift for his adored Queen Elizabeth I.

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Spain andalucia jerez lustau tasting

This 'sack' found its way into the mouths, and hearts, of Londoners when Shakespeare was at his most prolific. The Bard cited sherry in a few of his works, cementing its place in British culture.

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Spain andalucia jerez sandeman bodega c chris bladon pura

Sherry developed a devoted following, bringing English merchants to Jerez to set up shop. Hence why many of the oldest bodegas are clearly not very Spanish: Harveys, Sandeman, Osborne.

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Spain andalucia cadiz jerez domecq winery sherry tasting

How to experience it: There are varieties of sherry to suit all tastes. Call into one of Jerez' oldest bodegas for a tour and to sample the best on our Around Andalucía: Drive & Explore Holiday.

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Spain catalonia picnic el ventos copyright Thomas Power Pura Aventura

5. 'Mar i muntanya', Catalonia: 'Sea and mountain' - it's not just a description of Catalonia's physical contours, but also its culinary landscape. A sort of Catalan surf n' turf if you will.

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Spain catalonia garrotxa mushrooms robellons

Because the mountains are often covered in forests, from them we get rich game, tasty truffles and wild mushrooms, harvested by hand each autumn and served up somewhere special...

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Spain catalonia garrotxa batlle bkfst

Nestled in the forested hills of La Garrotxa are a pair of wonderful farmhouse B&Bs. No one comes to Catalonia with us without staying at one or both and lingering over superb homecooked dinners.

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Spain catalonia el port de la selva chris bladon 49

From the Costa Brava we get some of Spain's finest seafood, best enjoyed as fresh as it comes in fishing harbours and coves, sea salt fragrancing the air and boats bobbing gently in the water.

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Spain catalonia beer and shrimps cadaquez c diego pura

How to experience it: Simple, come to Catalonia with us. All our trips have brilliant eating and drinking opportunities weaved throughout, be it a walking holiday or a relaxed driving trip. Your choice.

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Spain basque country view of a bar with traditional pinchos in san sebastian basque country

6. Pintxos, Basque County: In the Basque Country and Navarre, tapas are now pintxos. Many people believe that pintxos are just a tapa with a toothpick through them, but it's simply not true.

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Spain basque country inn to inn san sebastian pintxos 4

Alright, there are a lot of toothpicks. These keep the snack on the bread, and often help a waiter count how many a customer has eaten. But pintxos are more elaborate than their Spanish cousins.

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Spain Pamplona Tapas pintxo lunch

In the cradles of pintxos, such as San Sebastián and Pamplona, their production has become an art form, with bars competing amongst themselves for ever more sophisticated and delicious creations.

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Spain basque country bilbao sunny tapas plaza nueva

The traditional drink to accompany pintxos will depend on the region. In the Basque country it might be Txakolí, the young wine, or you might prefer a simple caña - a smaller serving of beer.

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Pintxos bar hopping

How to experience it: As with tapas, the classic way of enjoying pintxos is to wander from bar to bar. Again, we like to give you a helping local hand, for example on our Basque Rioja Walk.

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Spain basque country apples for cider

7. Cider, Basque Country & Asturias. In Spain, if you have grapes, you make wine. If you have apples, you make cider. Since there aren't any vines in these parts, they make cider, and they make it well.

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Spain asturias picos cider pouring

Cider is a way of life and a symbol of regional identity. People grow apples and make their own. In Asturias the average person drinks 54 litres a year, though a certain amount does end up on the floor...

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Spain sidra pouring

Straight from the barrel, sidra natural is unpalatable. The reason why you'll see it poured from ridiculous heights is not just to look cool, but to aerate the cider and transform it into something special.

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Spain picos de europa asturias cider c lcoviella

Ask a Basque where Spain's best cider comes from and they'll say the Basque Country. Ask an Asturian and they'll say Asturias. Ask us, and we'll say just enjoy whatever's fresh out the barrel.

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Spain basque ordizia market cheese c david pura

How to experience it: Take a look at our Basque Cultures & Cuisines or Asturias to Cantabria Drive. Both include a hearty visit to a cider barn and a chance to sample the local cheese. Talking of which...

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Spain picos de europa gamoneu cheese stacks

8. Gamoneu cheese, Picos de Europa: There is an unofficial number of 150 varieties of cheese in Spain, of which 42 are from Asturias, home to much of the Picos de Europa.

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Spain picos cave belbin

Most prized of all them is Gamoneu - a slightly blue, nutty cheese made with the mix of milks from cows, sheep and goats. It is smoked in huts before maturing in natural caves for at least two months.

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Spain picos de europa shepherd high pastures gamoneu cheese

Cheesemaking dates back at least 5,000 years in the Picos. It’s a little-changed culture based on a semi-nomadic life that follows the seasonal growth of the grass up and down the mountain.

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Spain picos de europa gamoneu shepherd antonio humartini kathy dragon

But it's a slow labour of love, less fashionable and profitable than ever. These days there are only five families making Gamoneu in the mountains, so it's a craft we take pride in sharing with you.

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Spain picos de europa centenary group covadonga shepherd humartini gamoneu cheese

How to experience it: Come and meet Covadonga, one of those still toiling away in the art of cheesemaking. You can visit on our Asturias to Cantabria Drive around the Picos de Europa.

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Spain rioja vineyard and san vicente de la sonsierra as background la rioja

9. Wine, La Rioja. We started with one great Spanish institution, so let's finish with another. La Rioja is wine and wine is the landscape, the way of life, the economy and the heritage.

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Spain rioja grapes chris bladon

With the Pyrenees to the north and the high plateau to the south, Mediterranean and Atlantic climates blend to help produce some of the best medium body wines in the world.

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Spain rioja winery luis cañas tasting room

These wines will probably never taste better than when you savour the big oaky, plum and vanilla notes of a ruby-red Rioja at source, sunny vines rolling off to the mountains as they have for centuries.

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Wine experience bottling la rioja spain Riojatrekk website

Bodegas here range from the ultra-modern Marqués de Riscal, to our partner Marina and her more humble, heartfelt ode to the tradition of small-scale family winemaking.

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Spain rioja villabuena luis cañas winery vineyards worker c dmartin

One of our favourites is Luis Cañas, evolved through the generations to create top quality wines. Rather than erecting flashy buildings, they built a pioneering home for up to 40 workers on the estate.

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Spain rioja villabuena de alava viura hotel façade2 c viura

How to experience it: At the end of our Basque Rioja Walk you sleep in a architectural masterpiece and then stroll across to the Luis Cañas Bodega next door for a celebratory tasting session.

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Spain basque country ordizia market mushrooms chestnuts

There are so many memorable food and drink experiences to enjoy in Spain. So it's worth repeating that all of our Spain trips are rooted in local flavours - just let us know which one catches your eye.

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Spain andalucia seville tapas ham carving in rinconcillo
Spain andalucia seville tapas salmorejo and jamon
Spain andalucia tapas la bartola chris bladon 2
Spain seville tapas bar at night c chris bladon pura
Spain seville tapas c chris b pura
Spain andalucia almedenilla salto caballo circular c pura aventura 24
Spain andalucia el castellar to almedinilla c pura aventura 11
Spain andalucia sevilla foodie olives shop cooking workshop
Spain andalucia cadiz grazalema olive oil mill shop
Spain andalucia pan con tomate chris bladon
Spain andalucia cordoba subbetica casa olea close up smoking chimney c diego
Spain andalucia alajar carving jamon iberico
Spain andalucia aracena iberian ham c juanacosta
Spain andalucia aracena hills bathing pigs at jamones eiriz
Spain andalucia aracena pigs dehesa c jarcosa
Spain andalucia aracena hills admiring leg of ham
Spain andalucia cadiz jerez domecq fundador winery sherry wines
Spain andalucia sherry barrels in jerez bodega spain
Spain andalucia jerez lustau tasting
Spain andalucia jerez sandeman bodega c chris bladon pura
Spain andalucia cadiz jerez domecq winery sherry tasting
Spain catalonia picnic el ventos copyright Thomas Power Pura Aventura
Spain catalonia garrotxa mushrooms robellons
Spain catalonia garrotxa batlle bkfst
Spain catalonia el port de la selva chris bladon 49
Spain catalonia beer and shrimps cadaquez c diego pura
Spain basque country view of a bar with traditional pinchos in san sebastian basque country
Spain basque country inn to inn san sebastian pintxos 4
Spain Pamplona Tapas pintxo lunch
Spain basque country bilbao sunny tapas plaza nueva
Pintxos bar hopping
Spain basque country apples for cider
Spain asturias picos cider pouring
Spain sidra pouring
Spain picos de europa asturias cider c lcoviella
Spain basque ordizia market cheese c david pura
Spain picos de europa gamoneu cheese stacks
Spain picos cave belbin
Spain picos de europa shepherd high pastures gamoneu cheese
Spain picos de europa gamoneu shepherd antonio humartini kathy dragon
Spain picos de europa centenary group covadonga shepherd humartini gamoneu cheese
Spain rioja vineyard and san vicente de la sonsierra as background la rioja
Spain rioja grapes chris bladon
Spain rioja winery luis cañas tasting room
Wine experience bottling la rioja spain Riojatrekk website
Spain rioja villabuena luis cañas winery vineyards worker c dmartin
Spain rioja villabuena de alava viura hotel façade2 c viura
Spain basque country ordizia market mushrooms chestnuts

Wherever we take you in Spain, whichever trip you choose, from forest floor to mountaintop, the best of that region's cuisine follows. It's Spain. It comes with the territory and we wouldn't have it any other way. Here's a few ideas to help you on your way, but please take these nine as the tip of a very tasty iceberg. You have countless lingering lunches, pincics with a view and dinners under the harbour lights to discover for yourself when you get there. ¡Que aproveche!

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