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Ruta de la Pasa’

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Axarquía’s Raisin Route and Raisin Day Festival

The ‘Ruta de la Pasa’ or raisin route (20 minutes’ drive east of Malaga) is the name given to a 60km section of road that links some of Malaga’s picturesque and more traditional villages in the south-western part of the Axarquía region.  The area boasts over 3,000 hectares of vines and is best known for its sweet muscatel grapes, used to make sun-dried raisins and sweet wine. Visit on the ‘Dia de la Pasa’ or Raisin Day (third Sunday in September), when thousands of visitors sample local food and wine including gazpacho made two ways: traditionally, or with cucumber and with broad beans. Stay nearby at Casa La Loma (property id: 20502) near El Borge, a newly built rustic-style villa with two bedrooms and a private pool offering fantastic views over Benamargosa’s majestic hillsides. A week’s stay costs from £270 per week or £45 pp (six sharing).  Flights (Malaga) extra.

Salt crystals, coca and ‘gypsy’s arm’ in Palma, Mallorca

Once harvested by Romans in southern Mallorca, the popularity of the island’s ‘flor de sal’ salt crystal is booming, with truffle, olive and hibiscus varieties now available. Harvested by hand, the salt is used by many top chefs and is delicious sprinkled over fresh fish. Alternatively, try coca, a tasty Spanish flatbread covered with vegetables or meat, or brazo de gitano or ‘gypsy’s arm’ – a sweet or savoury roulade or pastry similar to a Swiss roll. Stay at the Paseo Martimo apartment (property id: 16757), a spacious two-bedroom property that is walking distance from boutiques, cafés, and La Seu, the city’s impressive cathedral.

A four-night stay costs from £327 per week total/£164 pp (two sharing).  Flights (Palma) extra.

Toledo – Gastronomic Capital of Spain 2016

Serrano HamToledo is in the spotlight this year as Spain’s Gastronomic Capital of Spain 2016 due to its abundance of local produce including saffron, Manchego cheese, partridge, marzipan and Serrano ham. Saffron – a key ingredient in many Spanish dishes – is extracted from the dry stamens of the Saffron Crocus flower which is grown exclusively in this region of Spain.  Around 250,000 flowers are needed to produce just one kilo, which is sometimes referred to as ‘red gold’. Visit The Rose of Saffron Festival (last weekend of October in nearby Consuegra), which features a saffron picking competition, or Toledo’s Tapas Festival (November). Stay just south of the city in a charming country house (property id: 26107) with panoramic views of the local area.  Sleeping up to 24 guests, the property has 11 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, a private pool and large gardens. A week’s stay costs from £2,820 per week total/£118 pp (24 sharing).  Flights (Madrid) extra. 

Benahavis – the dining room of the Costa del Sol

Benahavis is a charming mountain village known as the gastronomic corner of Andalusia and renowned for its thriving restaurant scene (it reportedly boasts the most restaurants per head in Europe).  Known as ´El Comedor de Andalucía´ – the dining room of Andalusía – Benahavis specialises in traditional, Andalusian cooking right across the spectrum, from small family-run cafés to more formal five-course affairs. Stay at Casa Carlita (property id: 24139), a stylish two-bedroom apartment in the heart of the village. A week’s stay costs from £359 per week total/£72 pp (five sharing).  Flights (Malaga) extra. 

Fartons and Horchata in Valencia

TigerNutsHome to an array of stunning buildings – including the City of Arts & Sciences, with its Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe – plus golden beaches which are easily accessible from the city by high-speed tram, Valencia has much to offer visitors.  This is where paella first simmered over a wood fire, but lesser-known local specialities include Horchata, an opaque sugary drink made from pressed tiger nuts, and fartons, a traditional sweet bar-shaped sponge cake made of flour, water or milk, sugar, oil, yeast and eggs. There are a number of ‘horchaterias’ in Valencia serving both delicacies – or if you prefer, order Agua de Valencia, a Spanish version of Buck’s Fizz served with Cava, orange juice, gin or vodka. Stay in a stylish three-bedroom apartment (property id: 15522) with balcony and shared pool in Port Saplaya, a short stroll from Valencia’s sandy beaches.  A week’s stay costs from £368 per week total/£61 pp (six sharing). Flights (Valencia) extra.

Cava trails in Catalonia

Catalonia’s Penedés wine region is home to around 270 cava producers and the world’s oldest and best known – Cordornίu – hails from this region. Many bodegas or ‘wine cellars’ have been designed by Catalan architect Cèsar Martinell and Cordornίu’s winery is so large that a railway is used to transport bottles from cellar to cellar. Many wineries offer private cellar tours and tastings throughout the year, perfect for a large group of friends. Stay near Sitges at Villa Catalina (property id: 20817), a beautifully-renovated 18th century mansion set in 400 acres of grounds with unparalleled views of the Penedés wine region’s verdant vineyards. The property has 15 bedrooms, a swimming pool set in tropical gardens, balcony, terrace and free WiFi. A week’s stay costs from £7,716 total/£257 pp (30 sharing). Flights (Barcelona) extra.

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