In January of 2016, I had the absolute pleasure of going on a school trip to the beautiful and historic country of Spain. I found myself among some of the oldest cathedrals in Europe, the most amazing architecture I’ve ever seen and, most importantly, the best coffee ever!
The country holds way too much splendor for a seven-day trip, so I won’t try to pretend I can provide an accurate guide through Spain. However, I can share some of my wonderful experiences (and photos) to convince you to add the gorgeous country to your bucket list.
Day 1: Gibraltar
Gibraltar may sound vaguely familiar from geography class, but it is mainly an underrated destination. Located at the bottom tip of the country, the city of Gibraltar is one of the southernmost points of Europe, only a few miles from Morocco, Africa.
The unique city is actually United Kingdom territory, so everyone speaks in a British accent and you have to go through customs to get into the territory. The other, more popular, unique aspect of Gibraltar is the huge Rock of Gibraltar.
The Rock of Gibraltar has historically been used as a military hideout with a system of underground passageways known as the Great Siege Tunnels. Sculpted by the British army in the late 1700s, these tunnels hold some of the most scenic views of Gibraltar and a huge amphitheater for symphony concerts.
The Rock of Gibraltar is not only one of the coolest geological formations on earth, but it also houses the Gibraltar Natural Reserve, a range of plants and animals protected by the law. The most famous creatures of the reserve is the Barbary macaques or the rock apes. On the way up the mountain you’re definitely going to see these monkeys roaming around. They might not seem very scary, but when they are right in front of you, not separated by zoo glass, they’re pretty terrifying.
Day 2: Seville
Before my group arrived in Seville we stopped in Jerez de la Frontera for lunch and a quick look around the historic city. Spanish cuisine has its own signature appetizers and snacks, tapas, including Calamares (fried squid), Albóndigas (meatballs in garlic-tomato sauce) and many other interesting, yet delicious combinations. In an effort to try as many tapas as possible, each of us ordered one tapas dish and shared around the table.
Seville is very different from Gibraltar and it was the perfect city to experience Spanish culture for the first time. A truly culture-enriching experience was being able to see a Flamenco dancing show, a tradition popular in Seville.
My group happened to be in Seville on Jan. 6, which is Three Kings Day, the height of the Christmas season. There was a huge parade in downtown Seville, and thousands of people gathered to see the floats and catch some candy. It was wonderful to get to experience the holidays of another country, especially one so important.
Another great part of Seville is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as the Seville Cathedral. This Roman Catholic cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, dating back to the 15th century, and is the burial place of the great Christopher Columbus.
Coming from a religious background, I was truly overwhelmed to be inside such a grand holy place with beautiful stained-glass windows and massive golden organs. My favorite part was being able to go to the top of La Giralda, the bell tower, to get a full view of the city and the top of the cathedral.
Day 3: Granada
Granada is a beautiful city of hills, mountains and villages. My group got to stay in a hotel at the very top of Granada, which provided a lovely view, but also a long walk back to the top at the end of the day. We visited La Alhambra, a palace and fortress located in Granada. Walking through the vast gardens and castle structures, with vaulted ceilings and marble floors, is the closest thing to feeling like royalty.
The most amazing thing about Granada, and Spain as a whole, is that there are beautiful and historic cathedrals and palaces centered on cities and villages. In America, you can’t walk a mile from your house and see a palace that is thousands of years old. It’s an astounding feeling to stand in a place with so much history.
Day 4: Toledo
I hate to play favorites, but Toledo was definitely my favorite city on the trip. The beautiful city had amazing architecture, historical museums, the best coffee I have ever tasted (and I have tasted a lot of coffee) and shops around every corner. The city of Toledo is known for producing silver, specifically jewelry, swords and daggers.
Not only did I enjoy exploring the city, but I also got to zip line across the Rio Tajo river, which was one of the best experiences of my life.
Day 5: Madrid
The lovely capital city of Spain, Madrid, has some of the most historic buildings, dating back thousands of year, but is also one of the most modern cities in the world. I had the chance to see the Royal Palace of Madrid and visit the Museo Nacional del Prado, amazing culture-enriching destinations, while also shopping at a several story mall a few hours later. I wish I could’ve spent more time in Madrid, but I will definitely plan to go back in the future.
The world is full of beautiful and different cultures and this trip was one that changed my life. My many words and photos cannot even begin to show the true beauty of this lovely country, but I hope they makes you want to visit.