The emphasis on sustainable travel continues to grow, and with it comes the idea of local travel...
...staying in less touristy areas, getting to know the locals and taking their recommendations.
As a result, it's no surprise that the idea of the casa rural has become so popular in Spain.
Casas rurales are self-catering houses, cottages or even apartments in small towns or villages, usually located in the countryside. Sounds pretty picturesque, doesn't it? Well, it is.
Last year, my friends and I decided to rent a casa rural for a long weekend in December, and started to research houses on the Toprural website. Although we found that there were more places to rent in the north of Spain than the south, we were surprised by the choice: luxury barn conversions decorated in boutique style, rustic lodgings, cute cottages and places big enough to sleep twenty people.
We finally decided on Casa Larrueda in the tiny village of Cerveruela in southern Aragón. It was exactly what we were looking for: a very photogenic, well-decorated cottage with a wood-burning fire and a supply of board games. When we arrived in Cerveruela, we realised that travel didn't get much more local than this - the village was so small that it didn't even have a shop. In true Spanish style, there was a bar though, frequented in the evenings by local men playing dominos.
The casa was just as pretty as in the photos, and its owner was friendly and helpful. She provided a folder of information on the area, including several walks starting in Cerveruela. We set out on a 4 kilometre walk to a hilltop church and back thinking we would start with a gentle stroll, but it turned out that it was 4 kilometres there and another 4 back. Fortunately it was worth it for the views: countryside as far as the eye could see, not another town in sight.
When all the walking and Scrabble playing got too much, we followed the owner's recommendation and visited the nearby town of Daroca, explored its medieval walls and dined in the chic Cien Balcones Hotel for a bargain price. Cerveruela is also close to the Laguna de Gallocanta, Spain's largest natural lake and a haven for cranes. We spent the afternoon driving around the lake and spotting the giant birds - not exactly rock and roll, but it was a beautiful sight.
If you're looking for a country escape in Spain which involves plenty of relaxation and a bit of outdoor exploration, renting a casa rural is the perfect option. There are properties to suit all tastes and budgets (our cottage was just €90 each for 3 nights), and a stay in a rural area is a great way to unwind (in a sustainable, eco-friendly way, of course).
Written and contributed by BritAbroad