Ahead of the Holiday World Show on 17th- 19th January, the Spanish Tourist Board teamed up with The Belfast Telegraph to discover Northern Ireland holidaymakers’ favourite holiday activities.
Hundreds of readers took part in the survey to tell us about their travel habits, so we’ve listed your top ten here, with recommendations on where best to try them out, in Spain.
- Sun Worshipper Storming into number one with nearly 60per cent of the votes, was topping up our tans and getting a good dose of vitamin D. The weather is a favourite topic for most of us sun starved Northern Irish and there is nothing better than getting away from the grey miserable drizzle, that often dominates our summer months. Spain’s breath-taking coastline reaches from the tip to the toe of the country and is divided into ten different coasts known as the Spanish Costas; Costa De Almeria, Costa Blanca, Costa Brava, Costa Calida, Costa del Azahar, Costa de la Luz, Costa del Sol, Costa Dorada, Costa Tropical and Costa Verde.
The year-round sunshine of the Canary Islands, makes it one of the most popular sun, sea and sand holiday destinations in the world. Seven volcanic islands including Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuertaventura, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro offer sun lovers beautiful seafront resorts and sandy coves to chill out and relax, while catching the rays.
The Balearic Islands (Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) are fabulous for families and offer beautiful coastlines, relaxed holiday vibes and calm, clear waters.
- Foodie We’re a country of foodies and you tell us that there’s no better way to experience a new culture, than visiting local restaurants and sampling the local cuisine.
Spain is famous for its culinary culture boasting 213 Michelin starred restaurants across the country, including 11 three Michelin star restaurants in Denia, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Girona, Madrid, Bilbao, Cantabria, and Costa de la Luz.
For those with shallower pockets, you can visit gourmet markets in most cities, where you can sample delicious dishes and buy the best fresh products around.
Famous markets include El Puerto Market in Palmas de Gran Canaria, Central Markets in Valencia and La Merced Market in Malaga.
The dining scene offers a vast array of choice, from top end eateries to mouth-watering tapas and pintxos bars to family owned traditional restaurants; there is truly something to whet every foodie’s appetite.
Valencia is famous for its paella, Galicia for seafood, Andalusia for gazpacho and salmorejo, and you’ll find the best cocido in Madrid.
- Culture Vulture A fabulous holiday is all about the discovery of new places, new people and new experiences and nearly 50% of you said you enjoy discovering new cultures, visiting historic buildings and landmarks and meeting new people.
Spain boasts the third largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The entire Iberian Peninsula has a rich and ancient history comprising prehistoric cave paintings, Roman ruins, Moorish palaces, mediaeval castles, Gothic cathedrals, Renaissance masterpieces and jewels of modern architecture, all waiting to be explored.
Culture vultures have so much to discover and enjoy as Spain’s architectural and artistic heritage is one of the most important in the world. Cathedrals, monasteries, castles and palaces can be found across Madrid, Barcelona, Granada, Bilbao, Valencia, Seville, Alicante, Malaga, Castellon and many more cities. The only predicament is, which to visit first!
- Shopaholic Number four on the list was shopping. Very few of us can resist the temptation to have some well-earned retail therapy and why not, we’re on our holidays! If you’re looking for luxury brands rather than high-street fashion, the best options are Madrid’s Barrio Salamanca and Barcelona’s Diagonal. In the South, Marbella is best for high end labels and Bilbao in the North of Spain.
There are also superb flea markets and independent food stores and delis, which are great for picking up souvenirs and treats and also great places for people-watching.
For the best high street fashion stores, visit Portal de Angel, Placa Catalunya, Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona; Calle Recogidas, Granada; Gran Via, Calle Preciados, Huertas neighbourhood, Madrid; Calle Marques de Larios, Malaga; Calle Sierpes, Seville and Calle Colon, Valencia.
- Spa Diva We all deserve to be pampered and you love nothing more than a day spent in a spa to bring you back to that feeling of serenity and wellbeing.
You can treat yourself to a day of bliss in one of Spain’s best spas, there are so many in the country that you truly have no excuse to relax and recharge during your holidays.
Some of the best include Thermae Spa en Villa Padierna Palace Hotel, Marbella; Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque, Tenerife; Hotel Termal Burgo de Osma, Soria and Alva Park Hotel & Spa, Lloret de Mar in the heart of Costa Brava.
- Wine Buff
Coming sixth on the list for Northern Irish holiday makers was seeking out delectable local wines and visiting the beautiful wineries, where they are produced.
The range and quality of Spanish wine has made the country the third largest producer in the world and there’s no better way to discover Spanish wine, than by visiting their vineyards.
Many of the country’s leading vineyards are open to visitors, some are centuries old, boasting extraordinary architecture and interesting art collections.
In northern Spain wine buffs flock to Rioja, famous the world over for the quality of its wines. Rioja has over 500 wineries offering vineyard and wine tasting tours. If you’re not content being a mere onlooker, you can also become a winemaker for the day, learning how to pick grapes, prune vines, and bottle the wine in a traditional wine cellar.
Not forgetting the wines of the central part of Navarra; the wines and cavas of El Penedés, between Barcelona and Tarragona; the many varieties of the wine-producing districts of Somontano, in Huesca and the fruity whites of the Rías Baixas, in Pontevedra. In central and southern Spain are the Manchego wines of Ciudad Real; the specialities of Montilla-Moriles in Córdoba, and the Jumilla wines of Murcia.
- Aqua/theme parker
The water, sun and fun combo guarantees an unforgettable holiday adventure for the entire family and visiting aqua parks made number seven, on our list!
There are water parks all over Spain designed for fun-packed days for both children and big kids alike. Many have received international awards from various companies and associations for their exceptional facilities.
Slides, cataracts, zigzags, pipes filled with surprises, diving boards and a multitude of other attractions ensure that the whole family is catered for.
Some parks have unique attractions, such as the Water Roller Coaster at Waterworld in Lloret de Mar; the swimming pool with artificial waves at Aqua Brava in Roses; and the marine exhibition at Aqualand Costa Adeje in Tenerife, recognised as among the best in the world.
You will even find water complexes geared around a theme such as the medieval Segóbriga Park in Segorbe, Siam Park Attraction in Tenerife and Spain’s most popular theme park, the Caribe Aquatic Park at PortAventura in Salou.
Most parks also include activities after the water fun is done, such as mini-golf, exotic animal shows, go-kart tracks and beach volley-ball areas.
- Adrenaline Junkie Loads of you love to get your heart racing on holidays with thrill-seeking adventures. Spain has a lot to offer if you’re into extreme sports and adrenaline-filled fun.
A mecca for kite surfers, Tarifa in Cádiz, southern Spain, is the busiest kite surfing destination in the world, meanwhile the Basque Country, in the north has some of the best waves in Spain, with surfers from across the world converging on it beaches all year round.
For those who crave an elevated view of the world try paragliding in Tenerife, where you get a bird’s eye view of its other-worldly volcanic terrain.
Going underground, Spain is also home to some of the largest caves in Europe so if a guided caving tour is your thing, Andalusia has an underworld of prehistoric tunnels just waiting to be explored.
The Medes Islands, off north eastern Spain offer some of the most pristine waters and are regarded as one of the Mediterranean’s best dive sites.
Spain has plenty of beautiful routes for cyclists all over the country with 2,200km of ‘via verdes’ or green trails, for nature lovers who want to enjoy fine scenery all around them. If you’re looking for something more challenging try the calf challenging ‘Vuelta’, Spain’s equivalent to the Tour De France, that takes cyclists through many beautiful parts of Spain.
- Socialite If it’s night life you’re after, the Canary Islands and the Balearicsa are home to some of the world’s most legendary parties, with Ibiza in particular, showing no signs of slowing down as one of the top nightlife capitals on the globe.
Besides its fashionable bars and clubs, there is also a host of other activities that get underway once the sun goes down, including street markets, outdoor cafes, open-air concerts and music performances, which fill the night.
For the celeb spotters, San Sebastian hosts a staggering number of festivals throughout the year including the International Film festival, which brings European and Hollywood stars to its idyllic shores.
- Golf Fanatic Last to make the top ten list was golfing, playing new courses set in stunning locations makes your holiday complete!
Spain is one of the world’s premier golfing destinations, with over with 313 courses to choose from, accommodating beginners, loyal golfers who return year after year and global players pursuing their quest to complete their bucket list courses.
It boasts some of the best golf courses in the world, sitting in idyllic landscapes and basked in endless sunshine.
There are more than 50 courses to choose from along the Costa del Sol, spa & golf resorts along Costa De La Luz, in the Andalusia region and many popular courses in the Canary Islands.
One not to be missed is Seville’s 18-hole course, designed by Spanish champion golfer, José Maria Olazábal.
As you can see Spain is the perfect short-haul holiday destination, with year-round sunshine, world famous cuisine, stunning beaches, adrenaline-soaked adventure, renowned art and jaw dropping architecture, it’s really not hard to understand why Spain is top of the list for so many NI holidaymakers.
And flights to Spain are short and affordable. There are four airlines (Ryanair, Jet2, TUI and Easyjet) flying to 14 different Spanish destinations, direct from Belfast International Airport. Destinations include Alicante, Almeria, Barcelona, Fuerteventura, Girona, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Malaga, Menorca, Palma de Mallorca, Reus (Costa Dorada), Tenerife Sur and Valencia.
For more information or ideas on planning a trip to Spain, visit Turespaña at the Holiday World Show at the Titanic Exhibition Centre between 17th and 19th January. You can also visit www.spain.info