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7 almost secret escapades

1. CHÉDIGNY (France) The village of roses.

Chédigny, France. d.

Have just 500 inhabitants and almost goes unnoticed among the famous castles of the Loire, but enter Chédigny It's like doing it in a garden. More than a thousand roses and twice as many aromatic plants (from honeysuckle to lavender) cover the facades and roofs of their houses, and adorn the streets and terraces of this town, which has the title of the first remarkable garden in France and which is located south of Tours and near the castles of Loches and the Ladies of Chenonceaux. The best way to know it? Sign up for a floral tour guided by a botanist to discover the secrets of more than 300 varieties of roses what can you see there? Do not miss the garden of the Presbytery, the apothecary's square, with its medicinal herbs, and the garden.

How to go. Iberia Express and Air France fly from Madrid to Paris, from 108 euros i / v. Transavia operates from Barcelona and Valencia, from 34 and 49 euros each way. Chédigny is 253 km away on the A-10. Where to sleep. Le Clox aux Roses, double room with breakfast, from 70 euros. + Info: france.fr/es, leclosauxroses.com, iberiaexpress.com, airfrance.com and transavia.com.

2. ISLAS COLUMBRETES (Castellón) A submarine garden in the Mediterranean

Natural Park and the Marine Reserve of Columbretes, in Castellón. d.

With less people and without the suffocating heat of summer, this is the perfect time to discover this littleuninhabited volcanic rchipelago, located 30 nautical miles from Castellón. The island Grossa or Grande, Ferrera, Foradada, Carallot and other small islets, which until the 19th century were hiding places for pirates and fishermen, form the Natural Park and the Marine Reserve of Columbretes. Their access is controlled by the high ecological value of their bottoms - with unique species in all the Mediterranean, like the red gorgonia, a type of coral - and the species that inhabit it, like the gull of Andouin, the hawk of Eleonora and the migratory birds that call in their migrations between northern Europe and Africa. Our recommendation? Make a boat crossing to Isla Grossa, the only one with a guided tour by the reserve's guards. It is also possible to snorkel to discover the species that inhabit its waters. And if the day is clear, you will see the Sierra del Espadán, Irta, Peñagolosa and the desert of Las Palmas.

How to go. Barracuda Diving makes day trips from the port of Las Fuentes (Alcocébre), 110 euros. Where to sleep. Gran Hotel Las Fuentes, in Alcocéber. Double room 96 euros. + Info: parquesnaturales.gva.es, barracudabuceo.com and granhotel-lasfuentes.es.

3. ABERDEEN-SHIRE (Scotland) The enchanted valley of the River Dee

The Balmoral Castle in Aberdeen-Shire, Scotland. d.

If this is one of the favorite landscapes of Elizabeth II of England and the Scottish nobility, it is undoubtedly because it is one of the most beautiful of Scotland. The queen has there, 30 miles west of Aberdeen, the Balmoral castle (his summer residence, which You can visit until August) and the nobles, fortresses, mansions and cottages. In addition to visiting them, you can explore the course of River Dee, which is born in the Cairngorms National Park, the largest in Scotland, and follow the Royal Deeside route to discover the villages of Banchory, Aboyne, Ballater and Braemar. You can do it in off-road, mountain bike or hiking. Essential: the reserves of Glen Tanar and Muir of Dinnet, gateway to the Highlands, and the ruins of Dunnotar Castle, an impressive castle on the coast.

How to go. Ryan Air flies from Alicante, Barcelona and Malaga to Aberdeen, from 137 euros. Easyjet, from Madrid to Edinburgh, from 227 euros i / v. The train links Edinburgh and Aberdeen in 2.5 hours. Where to sleep. Moorfield House, in Braemar, near Balmoral. Double room with breakfast, from 110 euros. + Info: visitbritain.com, visitscotland.com, moorfieldhousehotel.com, ryanair.com and easyjet.com

4. LOS ALCORNOCALES (Cádiz) Forests near the Strait

Park of the Alcornocales, Cádiz. d.

A few kilometers from the beaches that each summer become the destination of thousands of tourists, is the cork oak forest largest in the world: almost 170,000 hectares between the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga, which form one of the most important protected areas of Andalusia. Its pastures of cork oaks and wild olive trees are mixed with lush forests of rodondendros, ferns and laurels, which grow in their special microclimate. You can explore it on horseback, bicycle and off-road routes, or dare to kayak in its rivers or walk its walking paths. What areas should you visit? The bed of the Virgen de Horganza river; El Aljibe, which is the highest point of the park; the Dehesa Boyal road, an ancient Roman road where there are anthropomorphic tombs; El Picacho and its lagoon; and the Guadalmesí river. Do not miss the gastronomy of its villages and the spectacular views of the Mediterranean, the Rock of Gibraltar, the Strait and Africa.

How to go. From Medina Sidonia, by the C-346 to Alcalá de los Gazules, or by the entrances of Castellar and Jimena de la Frontera. Where to sleep. La Almoraima, a restored 17th century convent, 3 km from Castellar de la Frontera, from 95 euros twice. + Info: www.cadizturismo.com and laalmoraimahotel.com

5. SAN GALO (Switzerland) Cycling on Lake Constance

Lake Constance, in Switzerland. d.

With its historic center full of 16th and 17th century buildings with striking balconies and its Rococo monastery, St. Gallen It is already a destination in itself. But also, this university city located just an hour by train from Zurich, is the perfect place to discover the Lake Constance, the third largest in Europe and serving as a natural border between Germany and Austria. The best way to do it? Definitely, cycling. You can go by train with her from San Galo to Romanshorn in just 20 minutes, and from there make the 23 km route that runs along the western shores of the lake to Kreuzlingen. This route will take you to the beautiful peninsula where the German city of Constance lies, where the Rhine also passes. In addition to visiting its historic center, do not miss out on the Niederburg district and visit the Mainau Island or the flowers , connected by a bridge, to enjoy its castle and its beautiful botanical garden.

How to go. Swiss Air flies to Zurich from Barcelona, ​​Madrid and Valencia, from 117 euros i / v. From the airport there is a direct train to San Galo which takes an hour. Where to sleep. Hotel Dom, double room from 110 euros. + Info: myswitzerland.com, swissair.com and hoteldom.ch

6. THE MERINDADES (Burgos) The Castilian kingdom of water

The Merindades, Burgos. d.

To the north of Burgos, a region intertwines the Castilian plateau, the Ebro valley and the Cantabrian mountain range. Are The Merindades, where more than 370 towns and villages with castles, Romanesque churches and houses with coats of arms (essential Medina de Pomar or Espinosa de los Monteros) dot a privileged nature. Activity program? From discovering the waterfalls of Orbaneja del Castillo, the beech forest of Pisa, the Ebro canyons (in Pesquera del Ebro you can go rafting) and the Hilo gorge until you fly over the valleys of Manzanedo and Tobalina in a balloon or visit Puentedey, with its bridge of stone. A geological surprise that you can not miss: the cave complex of Ojo Guareña, which with its 110 km of galleries is one of the largest in the world, which is also next to the hermitage of San Bernabé. Athletes have trails available for all levels and can do kite surfing, sailing and canoeing in the Arija reservoir.

How to go: from Burgos, on the N-623/627 and the CL 629 to Pontocillo and Villarcayo. Where to sleep: Cottage Manzanela, cabins and apartments in Nela, from 50 euros. The Prado Mayor, real inn in Quintanilla del Rebollar, from 75 euros. + Info: turismoburgos.org, manzanela.com and pradomayor.es.

7. ISTRIA (Croatia) The mini-villages of Croatian Tuscany

Istria, Croatia. d.

In addition to 242 km of coastline, the peninsula of Istria, in Croatia, It's one of the the most charming places in Europe. If your thing is the slow travel and you prefer driving on secondary roads, do not miss the medieval fortified towns from this area they call the Croatian Tuscany. On its hills, dotted with olive groves and vineyards, there are castles, churches with beautiful frescoes and cobblestone villages of Venetian influence. Hum, with only 17 inhabitants and two streets where cars do not fit, presumes to be the smallest city in the world. In Motovum, 300 m above the valley of the Mirna River, you can see its slender Campanile, its palace, which is World Heritage, and you will go to the Adriatic. Groznjan, with its bohemian atmosphere, has Renaissance and Baroque palaces. Oprtalj, Roc or the historical centers of Buje, Buzet, Pazin and the waterfalls and mills of Kotli complete the route.

How to go. Croatia Airlines and Vueling fly from Barcelona to Zagreb, from 190 euros and 207 euros i / v. Venezian Lines links by ferry, in one hour, Venice with Pula, Umag and Rovinj. Where to sleep. Hotel Kastel, in Motovum, from 96 euros. + Info: croatia.hr/es, hotel-kastel-motovum.hr, croatiaairlines.com, vueling.com and venezianlines.com

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