Hiking Sierra de Aitana in Spain

I never had an interest in visiting Spain or even knew there was decent hiking in this country, until my favorite hiking friend, Betty, suggested we meet there during her time in Europe.

We joined a group with Exodus Travels which works with a local team of guides from Aitana Adventures. Our German guide - now based in Spain, Sara, was wonderfully hilarious and informative about the local mountains and fauna growing among the sharp-edged mountains.

Group trips can go one of two ways: you either find the positive in everything or you dwell on the features that fall short. Betty is the most positive, thoughtful, and easy-going person I know, so even if we were served cockroaches for dinner, she would still have a bright smile! I am lucky to have her as my +1 during this group trip. Her positive radiance influenced my time in Spain.

Experiencing our 6-day hiking adventure with random strangers in a family-run hotel almost sounds like a setting for a reality show. I took Betty’s attitude of living in the moment and appreciating what we have instead of complaining about what we didn’t. Sure, the food wasn’t great. The rooms were very basic. Most of us couldn’t sleep well - none of us had any idea why! The mountains were not the most impressive. The landscape was mostly rocky and bare.

With the help of Betty’s rosy-colored vision, all those negatives became positives. I’m glad the food wasn’t tempting. It enabled me to eat light and be light on my feet during the long hikes instead of being weighed down by heavy meals. I actually started to see ab definition and toned arms after one week! I was also becoming more flexible from moving all day. Now, I see the trick in balancing my body. Hike/walk at least 7 miles a day, stretch in the morning and night, do not eat any processed/packaged foods and my mind and body are in harmony.

I was hoping to get more fit and lose weight, and that’s hard to do when you’re constantly surrounded by irresistible food. The daily sandwiches were the best meal of the day and gave me sustenance for the steep hills and long descents. The triple-decker sandwiches were the highlight of our days. They were outstanding and have inspired me to come up with P.S. & Co. sandwiches soon! We did have a fresh salad and paella after our hardest hiking day, which was surprisingly delicious compared to all the other simple meals we were served. If we had something as delicious as that paella every day, I think I would have had a harder time on the hikes with a very full belly.

Not sure why most of us had trouble sleeping, but the wakeful nights helped me bounce out of bed at 6 am in the morning to squeeze in extra stretching and strength training before our daily hikes. If I was in a cushier environment, sleeping in would have been too tempting! I was more productive on vacation than I am at home, and this new schedule inspired me with all the things I can do once I return home.

The rocky landscapes were a great introduction to more challenging hikes such as the Dolomites or GR20. I started to use our daily hikes and terrains as practice for more hiking to come. (Especially to help my feet and legs be used to the ascents and descents for Mont Blanc come July.) The terrain was rockier than I’ve experienced. Some of the paths were walking on the edges of precipices - types of trails you would never see in the U.S.! I was thrilled with each day’s surprises. The climate also produced the most wonderful wild herbs such as asparagus, rosemary, lavender, and curry leaves along our trails. We also passed almond and carob crops on our treks. I couldn’t believe such expensive culinary gems growing wild or easy for someone to pick!

Towards the end, the effort of making conversation was more difficult than the physical exertion of climbing rocky terrain! Our group was lovely by the way. I think I’m just not so much a people person! Dinners were long and leisurely, which was tough for me when I had shop emails to answer. I secretly wished I could have all my courses at once, so I could eat and go about my business. Am I too American?! It was a bit of an adjustment for me to chill out! I have two more group hiking trips coming up this year. I’m curious to see how those group dynamics compare to this one.