Looking for some fun, different activity to do while travelling? Geocaching may become your new hobby! Not only will it give your a fun thrill and game, it will also take you through some of a city’s most beautiful and uncovered spots that you would never discover any other way - while adding a fun twist to the more standard sites to be seen! Book your Renfe-SNCF train tickets today that will take you speeding along from one destination to the next in a matter of hours, and come and see the amazing cities of France and Spain through the eyes of a geocacher!
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is, essentially, a 21st century, worldwide treasure hunt based on GPS signals. Dave
Ulmer was the pioneer of this activity back in May 2000, when he
decided to take it upon himself to test the accuracy of the new GPS
technology. The story goes that on the 3rd of May in the year 2000, he
hid a black bucket with a notebook and a pen, and a bunch of random
items such as videos, software, a slingshot and books. He then posted
the bucket’s exact coordinates online in a GPS user’s forum to see who
could find it, with only one rule - to take something from the bucket,
you had to leave something from the bucket. And so geocaching was born,
and within days there were several people out hunting for his, and
creating their own geocaches.
People using geocachers in the forest
Nowadays, anyone can create a geocache and post it on the official geocaching website, where anyone also has access to the millions of geocaches hidden in every nook and cranny of our fascinating planet. Some of them may be near world renowned monuments or buildings, other in more secret, hidden places of a city, others in the depths of a forest or on the peaks of a mountain. Whether for the location itself, the scenery that surrounds it, the way to get there or the pictures you can take when you are there, all of these spots are places that someone found to be worth sharing with the world. And there, hidden under benches, behind loose rocks in a stone wall, inside cracked tree trunks and hidden under heaps of seemingly uninteresting objects, you will find them: the waterproof containers we call geocaches, with travel logs with comments, stories and signatures from all the fascinating people from all over the globe who have felt the triumph of finding it. Depending on the size, some contain tradable trinkets (such as small toys, keychains or foreign coins) from all over the world that still follow the Golden Geocaching Rule - leave something to take something. And of course, to be as discreet as possible during the whole process - to avoid any prying eyes or overly curious passersby to accidentally stumble upon and take our hidden treasures. They range from easy finds to mazes full of puzzles and riddles - but all of them guarantee fun and exploration!
Man writing on the geocaching notebook
Just be sure to always do a little bit of research on the geocache of you choice, as there may be certain tricks to pay attention to, or ‘tools’ to take with you, as well as read the latest reviews people to make sure it is still functioning. Although the a lot of the fun lies in the mystery, on occasion there are cases of geocaches that go missing, taken by police, janitors, curious people, etc.
What are the best cities in Spain and France for Geocaching?
Barcelona landscape from Parc Güell
Barcelona is an incredible city for geocaching. From the largest of Gaudi’s magnificent, swaying masterpieces to the tiniest of winding alleys, from seemingly endless beaches to towering, green mountains, this city has absolutely no lack of spectacularly special places worth putting a geocache, and hidden crevices to hide them in. There are just under 2,000 geocaches registered on the official website for you to uncover, in all kinds of exciting places. Some of the most popular ones in Barcelona are related to Gaudi and his fabulous work around the city, the truth his his weird and wonderful layouts make for awesome hiding places. You can find them around his legendary church, La Sagrada Família (and one of them even inside - making even more of a thrill to avoid someone noticing your somewhat peculiar behavior and exaggerated interest in each cubbyhole of the architect's fabulous design), within the bounds of the Parc Güell and his marvelously designed La Pedrera house. Log on to Geocaching.com for the option to do Gaudi themed geocaching routes around the city, and many more!
Hungry after all that treasure hunting? Treat yourself to some of the world’s most famous restaurants in France and Spain!
Sunset in the centre of Madrid
Much like Barcelona, Madrid is a stunning city absolutely exploding with stunning places to hide our intriguing treasures, big or small. With over 1,800 caches littered around the big city, you will have absolutely no lack in finding ones to spend your day discovering. Madrid houses geocaches of all shapes and sizes, ranging from micro caches which are no bigger than a small coin (with a tightly rolled up log and a miniscule pen or pencil) - making all that more challenging to locate, to bigger trading spots and riddle caches that require special tools and sharp thinking to uncover. Whether all you want is to walk through random paths of the magnificently massive city of Madrid, or to hit all the big monuments and sights (while having some secret undercover fun), there are geocaching routes of all kind that you can take though the city. Some very happy users have recommended some of the many geocaches located in the Parque del Retiro, spread throughout the Casa de Campo (the largest park in madrid, which was once a royal hunting estate) and some located just outside the Prado Museum.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
With so many incredible and amazing things to do and see in the City of Love and Lights, it can often be very challenging to decide exactly what things to do on your (far too) short vacation, and what order to do them in. Well, Paris’ elaborate, genius and smart multi-cache geocaches might just be some of the perfect ways to have a fun and interesting tour set out for you. Multi-caches are a combination of several geocaches, each containing a riddle or clues (some are in English and others in French, so be sure to look this up, or come prepared with a translator) that points to the next. We recommend trying the beloved Vestiges et Indices Multicache, combining 6 different caches which take hunters on a beautiful and special tour around the Île de la Cité - one of the two natural islands located on the river Seine, in the very heart of the city. It is also the point where the city of Paris was founded, which dates back to approximately 250 BC, offering unparalleled cultural and historical viewpoints. A word of warning for first time geocaches however - performing this art in Paris in particular can be a little tricky - or all the more exhilarating - due to the at times overwhelming amount of people, both tourists and locals, busying about. The challenge of this “Top Secret” activity is to make sure it stays top secret, so be prepared to pretend to be tying your shoe or looking for the ring you just dropped if you happen to come across any prying muggles (known in the geocaching world as non-geocaching people) wanting to know what is going on!
Need some ideas of gifts to take back to your friends and family? Read here about the best local products to buy as gifts from France and Spain!
Lyon views over Saona river
Lyon is yet another wonderful city absolutely bursting with hidden treasure for curious geocachers. With stashes ranging from micro caches to multi-cache deals, geocaching will take you through some of Lyon’s finest spots: the secret passages of Les Traboules du Vieux Lyon, the Croix-Rousse, the Parc de la Tête d’Or, and even the beautiful hiking mountains of Les Monts d’Or. Once you become somewhat more or a geocaching regular (or if you already are one!) be sure to keep an eye out for Travel Bugs also! Travel Bugs, or Trackables, are basically any item (which are normally stuffed animals or characters, or toys, but can be anything) that have an ID tag with a trackable number printed on it. Any time you come across one of these, you can look up the tracker ID on Geocaching.com and read all about this particular bug’s profile, mission and where it has been and who it has stayed with. The point is that every time you come across one, take it with you to your next geocache (ideally in another country or city) and leave it the next geocache for someone else to find and continue on its journey. Don’t forget to login and update its profile, take some selfies and pictures of it in its new destination, and have some fun! There are travel bugs who are just along for the ride to go anywhere they’re taken, and other who have specific missions - like travelling around the global, visiting every city in a certain country or making their way to a special place! Join in on the fun and help them make their dreams come true!
So look up your geocaches of choice, book you Renfe-SNCF train tickets and get packing for some holiday fun for the whole family!! Book your tickets today.