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Vacation this winter
in a warm, sunny, snow-free
hiking haven.

We're inviting a few, keen hikers to join us this winter for

10 days in the mountains along the east coast of Spain. 

The group will be small (nine people max), screened by

us for compatibility on and off the trail. 


If you’re among them, you’ll enjoy an affordable yet luxurious, hiking-focused vacation. You’ll capitalize on our many months of reconnaissance in this exotic, enthralling region, and the three successful trips we previously led here. You’ll discover

a warm, sunny, snow-free, winter-hiking haven.

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We’ll actually be hiking in two mountain ranges. Most of the time we’ll be in the Costa Blanca Mountains, inland from Denia. But we’ll begin with a couple hikes in the Els Ports Mountains, near Tortosa. We consider these two ranges, along with the Canary Islands, to be the northern hemisphere’s premier winter-hiking destinations.


Both the Costa Blanca and Els Ports ranges are laced with hiking trails, many of historic origin: some discernible only to experienced, determined route-finders, others revived and maintained. We expect you’ll be rapt—as we are—by the plummeting canyons, bristling pinnacles, complex escarpments, and improbable routes. During our first six weeks here, we encountered only about a dozen hikers, all locals. We've seen more ibex in these mountains than people. 


We’ll base ourselves in two, optimal locations. Both are wedged between craggy, limestone peaks and the Mediterranean Sea. Our initial stay near the Els Ports Mountains will be in a Parador: a Moorish castle converted to a hotel. In the Costa Blanca Mountains, our home will be a contemporary boutique hotel perched on the edge of a wild canyon.


Together we’ll approach our hiking the way friends always do, with someone (in this case, us—Skye & Craig) offering advice based on knowledge of the area. We won’t be guiding. Instead, think of us as your scouts.


Each day, we’ll follow ancient, sinuous trails rising through olive groves into limestone massifs where airy, serrated ridges grant views of the Mediterranean. We’ll walk through old-world villages seemingly pinned to the earth by their dominating church towers. Each evening, we’ll return to the comfort of our private rooms.

7 premier trails, 9 hikers, 10 days

We’ll also explore the local cuisine. Breakfasts might include tortillas (Spanish omelettes), oven-hot baked breads, and orange juice fresh from a local grove. Dinners—accompanied, of course, by Spanish wines—will be traditional fare such as paella (a rice-and-seafood dish), pinchitos (spiced, skewered, brazed meat), fabada asturiana (bean stew), tapas (varied appetizers), or sea bass.


We’ll all drive our own rental cars—in caravan—to and from each trailhead. We’ll make on-trail decisions together. In restaurants, you can order as you please from the menu. Or you can dine in restaurants other than those we scouted and recommend.


Unlike guided hiking, with its inherent restrictions, handholding, and invisibly inflated prices (tour companies profit by charging you far more than they pay—for everything), the trip with us will be financially transparent. You’ll see the actual costs, and that’s all you’ll pay. This makes our Spanish coastal-ranges hiking vacation as inexpensive as possible.  


Your one additional investment will be $1600 USD per person for our counsel and organization. Throughout the journey, you'll benefit from our knowledge—painstakingly acquired on numerous, lengthy, winter odysseys in the Spanish coastal ranges. 


Early on, we realized other serious hikers would be thrilled here—but only if they could devote weeks to rigorous exploration. So we did it for you. We sampled accommodations and restaurants, poured over maps, scoured three deficient guidebooks, talked and hiked with locals, drove and re-drove the roads, scrutinized all the possible routes, chose the optimal trails, then re-hiked them repeatedly to refine them.


For 25 years we researched, wrote and published hiking guidebooks. Our motivation was a desire to share with others the joy, wonder, and exhilaration we found in wild places. For the past eight years, our goal has been to share those emotions in person with our guests: primarily near where we live in Utah canyon country, but also in the Italian Alps, the Canary Islands, and of course the Spanish coastal ranges.

 10-day itinerary: January 9 - 19

Day One — Thursday, January 9

If you pick up your rental car at Valencia’s Manises Airport (VLC), drive northeast 2.25 hours to Tortosa. Or, from Barcelona’s El Prat Airport (BCN), drive 2 hours southwest to Tortosa. Our group will convene at 2pm in the hilltop castle that’s now the Tortosa Parador Hotel. We’ll stay here four nights. It will be our base for exploring the nearby Els Ports mountains. That first afternoon we’ll stretch our legs on a two-hour walking tour of Tortosa. We’ll learn about this ancient, atmospheric city's strategic importance during medieval and renaissance times.


Day Two — Friday, January 10

About a 30-minute drive from the Parador, we’ll begin our first hike in the Els Ports mountains. Statistics: 6.5-hour loop totaling 8.5 miles with 2600 feet of elevation gain & loss. We originally worked through this barranco (canyon) six times, piecing together historic trails until we divined the optimal route, which we’ll now share with you. It begins on a well-engineered trail ascending at a comfortably efficient grade. After surmounting a ridge, we’ll veer onto a minor but adequate route traversing the barranc wall. The vista extends beyond the coastal plain, over the blue vastness of the Mediterranean. But immediately across the abyss, it appears only a cabra (ibex) could negotiate the sheer, 300-meter cliffs ahead. Deep within the barranco, however, we’ll tag onto an ingenious route and complete a remarkable loop. 


Day Three — Saturday, January 11

Relax. This is a cultural-tour day. We’ll drive 45 minutes to a Templar castle where a local guide will help us envision its prominence and demise. Nearby the castle, we’ll visit a renowned ceramicist’s studio and shop. Then we’ll go to—seriously—a cathedral dedicated to wine. The building’s modernist architecture is beautiful. And the story of how this and other wine cathedrals revived Spanish vineyard communities is fascinating and heartening. Of course, we’ll indulge in a lavish lunch here.

Day Four — Sunday, January 12

About a 40-minute drive from the Parador, we’ll begin our second Els Ports hike. Statistics: 6.5-hour loop totaling 8.5 miles with 3000 feet of elevation gain and loss. After ascending from the very center of a quaint village, we’ll attain a ridgecrest panorama of Aragon. Our trail then traverses meadows and pine forests, crossing four passes before descending complex, craggy slopes back to our village starting-point.


Day Five — Monday, January 13

Moving day. After an easy, 2-hour drive south we’ll arrive at our next home: a contemporary, boutique hotel perched on the edge of a wild canyon slicing through the Costa Blanca Mountains. After settling in, we can walk the quiet paths radiating from the tiny, nearby village. We suggest dining at our hotel this evening. Other nights we’ll venture out to sample various other restaurants.

Day Six — Tuesday, January 14

Starting very near our hotel, we’ll hike what we consider the premier Costa Blanca Mountain trail. Actually, it’s a world wonder, impeccably engineered and constructed 1300 years ago by the Moors. Statistics: 5.5-hour loop totaling 9 miles with 2650 feet of elevation gain & loss. After dropping into the barranco (canyon), we’ll explore its narrower upper reaches before the trail ingeniously leads us up and out. We’ve read this barranco was one of the last Mozarabic strongholds before their grand, illustrious culture was expelled from the Iberian Peninsula.

Day Seven — Wednesday, January 15

Moorish culture remains evident throughout the Costa Blanca hinterland in the form of terraces: row after impossible row of stone walls that created level agricultural plots on land that was otherwise too steep and rocky for all but sheep. This seemingly endless terracing makes for fascinating sightseeing from a car, as you’ll experience today on our one-hour drive to a remote road-end. From there, we'll hike to the limestone ridgecrest above. Then we’ll follow that airy crest out-and-back in both directions. Throughout, we’ll have sweeping views of the terraced vastness where—1400 years ago—the Moors grew almonds, walnuts, cherries and barley. Statistics: 4 or 5 hours, totaling 6 or 7 miles with about 1000 feet of elevation gain & loss.

Day Eight — Thursday, January 16

Another ridgecrest awaits. But this time we’ll depart our hotel on foot, because this ridge is literally right there before us. Statistics: 4 to 5 hours covering 5 to 7 miles with 800 to 1200 feet of elevation gain & lossAs we leave houses and roads behind, our path becomes trail, and our walk becomes a hike. Surmounting the crest we’ll overlook villages near and far. We’ll see more ridges and canyons beyond, and the vivid-blue Mediterranean spanning the southern horizon. We’ll stride the crest to a col, where a Mozarabic trail descends  toward our hotel through terraced almond-orchards, which—if we’re lucky—will be festooned with white blossoms.

Day Nine — Friday, January 17

Do as you wish today. Drive to the beaches near Denia, and dine at a harborside cafe? Drive inland 1.5 hours to the picturesque hilltop town of Bocairent, where the Spanish silk industry thrived from the 12th to 16th centuries? Go hiking on your own? If we know ahead what you hope to do, we’ll do our best to help.

Day Ten — Saturday, January 18

Our final hike together on this journey climaxes on yet another ridge. (See the first photo immediately below.) Statistics: 7-hour loop totaling 10 miles with 3000 feet of elevation gain & loss. Starting on the edge of a tiny village, we’ll ascend a gently-rising trail around a craggy massif. Eventually we’ll abandon this trail, scramble up and over the crest, and find the path leading down the other side. The terrain is steep but merciful switchbacks make it a relatively easy descent. In the valley bottom, our final hour of striding will be on a gentle, inter-village path through olive groves and beside ancient stone walls.

Day Eleven — Sunday, January 19

Everyone departs, either heading homeward or further exploring Spain. We hope you’re able to drive 4.5 hours southwest to Granada, so you can tour the preeminent Moorish palace: The Alhambra. And if you’re fascinated by Moorish architecture, we hope you’ll continue to Cordoba, so you can to tour La Mezquita, or to Sevilla, so you can tour the Alcazar.
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