My partner and I and 6-month-old baby are going to Spain in September to visit family, flying into Madrid but based in Alicante. Can you recommend places or activities to keep us busy and make our short trip a memorable one? Is it too time consuming to take day trips to Madrid, Barcelona, Ibiza or Benidorm? Also, without the need for food and accommodation (as we are staying with family), what kind of budget would you recommend?
- Shelley Greco
Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater write:
Alicante is a dynamic town, the second largest in the Valencia province. A major highlight is El Barrio, a historic quarter of narrow streets and unmistakably Spanish nightlife.
Alicante's location on the spectacular Costa Blanca (White Coast) and proximity to other sites means you should have no trouble filling two weeks. We'd rule out Madrid, Barcelona and Ibiza because of travel time.
Costa Blanca is one of the most visited places in Europe, expect a lively social scene and beaches. A one-hour tram ride from Alicante is Benidorm, its foreshore is magnificent and there are many and varied attractions.
Just under two hours away, the regional capital of Valencia is known for museums and restaurants. If you're interested in modern architecture, visit Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences). There's space-age splendour in spades and plenty of room to push a pram. Just south of Valencia city is Parque Natural de la Albufera, it offers birdwatching on the lagoon and is paella central. The rice fields of the area are said to be the birthplace of this famous Spanish dish.
There are plenty of other places you can visit from Alicante. Refer to Lonely Planet's new Spain guide, and Derek Workman's Inland Trips from the Costa Blanca.
A sample of current prices are similar to those of New Zealand, although there are plenty of museums either free or €2-€3; main course meals are typically €7-€15; the one-hour tram trip to Benidorm is less than €5.
* Reader Shelley Greco will receive a copy of the new edition of Lonely Planet Spain ($55).
Santiago to Lima
My husband and I and our two daughters, Holly, 9, and Mia, 6, are going backpacking for eight months around the world. First stop Santiago, Chile, and we're flying out of Lima, Peru, two months later. We'd love to visit Bolivia too. How do you suggest we spend the two months in the three countries making our way from Santiago to Lima?
- Carolyn Carr
Two months should be ample to get from Santiago to Chile with a detour to Bolivia. Chile has many spectacular sights, so planning an itinerary can be difficult. Fortunately, it has excellent transport infrastructure, allowing plenty of scope for changing tack. Santiago is courteous and orderly, and a great place to find your feet. From there a visit to the bohemian port city of Valparaiso is a must. Considered Chile's cultural capital, it is also a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Travelling northwards, the coast boasts plenty of beaches and neo-colonial cities such as La Serena. Inland is the funky oasis of Valle del Elqui and a number of astronomical observatories. The Atacama Desert is a refuge for flamingos, and offers vistas of cacti, sculpted moonscapes, geysers and snow-tipped volcanos.
On the way into Peru, Bolivia can be readily factored into your plans. It is, however, a poor, raw and undeveloped country, so you may wish to stick to the well-worn visitor paths of the Altiplano Plains, a byway between Chile and Peru. Highlights include the world's largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, and Lake Titicaca.
Presumably you will largely be exploring southern Peru on your way to Lima, which puts you in the vicinity of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Brace yourself for lofty Inca citadels. Lonely Planet's South America on Shoestring is an invaluable planning tool.