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No running of the bullsJanuary 11, 2015

If you are into running and travel, we have the perfect trip for you!!! Our partner Lurbel is the main sponsor of three beautiful mountain running events in the South east part of Spain. So we have planned a fun trip for you, with plenty of suggestions, from sightseeing to places to stay for all budgets.

The first race of the year takes place at Calar del Rio Mundo on April 12, 2015. This event takes place in a National Park called Los Calares del Rio Mundo, an excellent location that offers a diverse botanical landscape and amazing waterfalls and views. If you would like to see a short documentary aired in Spanish Television please click here. The short is in Spanish and even if you don’t understand it well, you will be able to get a feel for the scenery offered by the event.

For hotels in Riopar, you must book well in advance. It is a very tiny town and the race brings several hundred people to town, so expect hotels to be fully booked. Hotels at Riopar are small (think of them as B&B) and the most recommendable is Hotel Riopar (3*). You may also want to explore the possibility of renting a house/villa for only about 60-100 euros per night, though you may find it for even less. The biggest city near Riopar is Albacete. It is about 115 km away and it will take you about an hour and a half to drive there. In Albacete you may find nicer hotels, like Hotel Santa Isabel, Gran Hotel, Beatriz Albacete Spa and Hotel Principe. The following link will take you to tripadvisor’s list of hotels in Albacete. Also, most Paradores are a good option (Paradores are a hotel chain owned by the state that are typically located in historic buildings, like monasteries, castles, palaces, etc). Here is their website http://www.parador.es/en.

While the race will take you through some beautiful tracks, you may want to explore Riopar on your own. We suggest you visit the source of Rio Mundo, the caverns of Los Chorros, the waterfalls of Calar del Mundo and while in town you may want to stop by the San Juan de Alcaraz Museum that exhibits machinery from the Napoleanic Empire and a castle in the town center that dates back to the XIII century.

Ok, so after you have explored the tiny town of Riopar, which has only a population of about 1,500, what can you do in the area?

Just over a 3 hour drive is Madrid, the capital. There are plenty of things to do in Madrid and so many guides and tips available online that we will not waste our time with this one. Visit tripadvisor or go to Timeout’s article with top 20 things to do in Madrid. Recommendation number 2 on the list, visiting the many museums, cannot be emphasized enough. Museo del Prado is one of the top museums in the world.

We highly recommend Granada, and you could drive there through Jaen. We wouldn’t recommend you spend more than a day in Jaen, which is about a 2 and a half hour drive from Riopar. In Jaen you can visit the cathedral and the Castillo de Santa Catalina, as well as the arab baths. There are also the Jaen Museum with unfortunately most signs in Spanish, but yet worth a visit. Even if you are driving directly to visit Granada, which is a must in our opinion, you could stop by one of these Almazaras (oil presses). This is an incredible experience, a lot of them are open to the public and you can buy the best olive oil in the world (yes, it is the best in the world, you try it and be the judge). Here si the link to a variety of Almazaras.

The drive from Jaen to Granada is only about 1 hour (90 km), if you are driving directly from Riopar it should be a three and a half hour drive. Like we said before, Granada is a must. Here is alist of things to do in order of preference:

  1. The Alhambra and Generalife – This is by far the most visited monument in Spain. It was visited by President Clinton in 1997 and by Michelle Obama, US First Lady in 2010.
  2. A classic in all large Spanish Cities, the Cathedral and Royal Chapel. The Cathedral dates back to the XVI century and it is an architectural delight and a rich display of royal jewels and ornates from that century.
  3. Museo de las Cuevas de Sacromonte – In this museum ten caves have been recreated as they were a century ago. You will find a great display of the gypsy culture, traditional crafts, films and flamenco shows.
  4. Albaycin, Carrera del Darro – This is a point of interest, a cobblestone street along Rio Darro. It is safe anytime of the day and there are nice shops, bars (you must have some tapas), and other sights en route.

We hope our tips persuade you to take on your next race in Spain and make of it a beautiful and fun vacation as well. As a last recommendation, if you have never ran on the mountain, trust us when I say that once you do it you will be hooked forever and you may want to “ditch running on pavement”; although being a trail runner doesn’t mean you can’t still be a road runner. If you are used to running on pavement, the beauty and spirituality of running on a trail will take your mind and body to places they have never been. You will live moments with fellow runners/friends that you will cherish for a lifetime.

You must however take it easy on yourself. Make the enjoyment of your surroundings your immediate goal and remember that the demands of running on the mountain are higher and your body is probably not used to it. There is less oxygen the higher the altitude, you need the right shoes (2015 best trail running shoes), your ankles will probably become very sore, as the ground is not even, etc. If you would like to read some excellent tips on mountain running please check this article from Rock Creek Runner or runner’s world magazine.