31 Fabulous Bucket-List Spots to Visit in Spain
Spain is the 2nd largest country in Western Europe. Each region is like a little country in its own right and has its own culture, history, food and sometimes even language. Needless to say there is a huge variety of things to do and see in the fascinating, vibrant country.
I asked some fellow travellers and bloggers to tell me what they would put on their bucket list if they were to come to Spain this year and only see one place. Comments have poured in about all areas of Spain—from the capital cities, to off-the-beaten-track villages, from deserts to islands, from north to south, from coast to mountains. So whatever your fancy is, there will no doubt be a spot for you in this list. So, grab yourself a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and have a look and see where you can add to your own bucket list:
Andalusia is always a huge favourite with visitors as it seems to really sum up the essence of what people think of when they think of Spain: white washed villages gleaming in the sun, turquoise Mediterranean Sea beckoning in the distance, warm weather year round, Flamenco dancing, colourful tiles and architecture.
Tom Bartel from travelingafter50 starts us off in Córdoba:
When you realize the Mezquita, or Mosque, of Córdoba was constructed 1200 years ago, its beauty and geometry are even more impressive. After the Reconquest of Andalucia by the Christians, the Spanish Christians destroyed a significant portion of the building to install a mediocre cathedral smack in the middle of the simple mosque. We are lucky, though, that a large expanse, including the spectacular Mihrab, or prayer niche, was preserved.
The Mezquita is not the only thing to recommend Córdoba. Recently, there's been a foodie revolution afoot, and there are several restaurants serving interesting turns on traditional Andalucian dishes. Yes, have the jamón, but also keep your eye out for such delicacies as shrimp seared on a bed of rock salt and gazpacho with an asparagus, instead of the traditional tomato, base.
For entertainment check out any of the traditional flamenco venues. Be sure you ask a local where they go. If you are lucky, you'll be there for the annual late June "noche blanca" of Flamenco where you'll get to stay up all night and see the very best dancers and players the city has to offer.
For more on the wonders of Spain head over to Tom’s article on The seven wonders of Spain.
I can’t imagine talking about bucket lists for visiting Spain and NOT mentioning the Alhambra and the other treasures in Granada. Dhara, from notaboutthemiles.com takes you to the majestic fairyland city of Granada.
Granada is a fabulous city to visit in southern Spain. Granada is known primarily for the famous Alhambra Palace.
Together with the adjoining Generalife Gardens, the Alhambra is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. They are often the reason many people put Granada on their itineraries, and they are totally worth all the hype. The Alhambra contains some of the most stunning Moorish architecture in Andalusia, and the gardens, with their fountains and topiary, are breathtaking.
But outside of the Alhambra, you'll find lots of things to do in Granada. Wander the historic barrios of the Albayzin and the Sacromonte. The Albayzin is included in the Granada UNESCO designation, and you will love exploring its alleyways. Browse the Alcaiceria market, where you can find everything from silks to spices. Watch a performance of zambrano, the local form of flamenco. You can even watch it in a cave in Sacromonte! Visit the stunning Granada Cathedral and the adjoining Capilla Real.
However you choose to spend your time in Granada, you will be captivated by the charms of this Andalusian city!
3. Eating Tapas in Granada
While we are on the theme of Granada, let’s talk about the food. Eric Hoffman, husband of the With Husband In Tow , gives us the scoop on tapas in Granada:
For food travelers, particularly ones who love tapas, Granada has to be on the top of any Bucket List place to visit. The tradition of tapas in Granada is legendary. It’s not the birthplace of tapas but it is the Spanish city with the most authentic tapas experiences. This means free, tasty dishes presented with each drink ordered. Eating tapas in Granada is an event to be enjoyed with friends and family seven days a week. Move from one tapas bar to the next searching out specific delicious tapas like migas, Rabo de Toro, and of course, mouth-watering jamon. In between rounds of tapas, venture up to the spectacular Alhambra for breathtaking views of Granada. By the time you walk back down, you’ll be ready to dive into more tasty tapas.
If you are heading to Granada and want the inside scoop on where to get these great tapas, have a look at Amber and Eric’s article: What and where to eat tapas in Granada
Web: With Husband in Tow
A bucket list of Spain wouldn’t be complete without Seville, and sure enough, Justine Ancheta from Latitude 41 agrees with me and has this to say about Seville:
The capital of Andalusia, Seville delights visitors with its festive flamenco culture, aromatic orange blossoms, and the white patios of the Barrio Santa Cruz. The local Sevillanos are proud of their modern city that cherishes their traditions, and rightly so. It's a sunny city to be enjoyed outdoors, where you can admire the horse-drawn carriages, drink a refreshing Cruzcampo beer at an outdoor bar, or enjoy tapas on a terrace decorated with fountains. Visit the famous Alcázar Real (Royal Palace), where you'll find Moorish and Renaissance architecture, a visually stunning blend of past cultures. Discover the behemoth Cathedral of Seville, the largest Gothic church in the world and the ostentatious sepulchre of Christopher Columbus. If you're looking for a romantic spot, visit the photogenic Plaza de España, a landmark square with a beautifully tiled pavilion and large central fountain, also a popular filming location like Game of Thrones. The city is divided by the Rio Guadalquivir, a refreshing place to admire the Torre del Oro, sit by the riverbank, or have drinks at the lively Calle Betis. Seville is my favourite city to visit every year, and you will not be disappointed!
Want to spend more than a day in this amazing city? Have a look at Justine’s itinerary for 3 days in Seville.
If you are looking for a charming quaint Andalusian village, Benalauria is the place for you. Haley who writes www.borderlass.com, gives more reasons to pay a visit to Benalauria:
Benalauria is a pretty much unheard-of village. With a population of around 500, it’s tiny. Benalauría is 143 kilometres from the city of Malaga and 30 kilometres from Ronda. It makes a pleasant day trip from either city.
Set with the copper forest in the background, its roads are too narrow for cars. A pleasant way to escape the mass of tourists in more popular places is to spend the afternoon here having a walk around the whitewashed, quaint streets and perhaps visit the 18th-century olive oil museum/factory or pop into the local winery (at just 28 square metres, its allegedly the smallest winery in the world) and only produces a limited number of bottles per year. Try some local wine and payoyo cheese. If you’re feeling more energetic there are plenty of hiking and cycling trails set within the picturesque countryside surrounding the village.
6. Mijas Andalucia
Joanna Nemes, writer of theworldinmypocket.com, recommends Mijas, a traditional white village tucked in the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean Sea:
Mijas Pueblo is probably the most beautiful white village of Andalucia, easy reachable from Malaga by public transport. Mijas is a small village up a mountain, surrounded by old walls which used to be part of the citadel, in the past. From there, you can admire stunning views over the Mediterranean Sea, and, if you are lucky, even see Morocco on a clear day.
All the buildings in Mijas Pueblo are white and it’s a pleasure to walk alongside its narrow cobbled streets, discovering houses decorated with flowers, little tapas bars and artisan shops. There is even a wine museum in this tiny place, where you can taste the sweet Malaga wine, produced out of Moscatel grapes in the mountain villages around Sierra Nevada.
Visitors who come on Wednesdays and Sundays have the chance to see free flamenco shows in the main square of the village. Watching it is a great way to learn about the Spanish culture.
For more on Joanna’s take of Mijas, check out her article The Charming White Village on the Costa Del Sol
Christina from explorenowornever.com suggests heading to the white villages of Andalucia for a bucket list special:
Nerja is a gorgeous little beach town on Spain’s southern coast, the Costa del Sol. When we spent a few days there at the end of our two weeks in Spain, it was like taking a vacation from our vacation! Unlike nearby Malaga, which is a busy tourist mecca (and convenient airport), you can enjoy the soft sandy beaches and turquoise Mediterranean practically on your own. So eat some delicious paella (Spain’s famous savory rice dice) on the beach and join the party in the Balcony of Europe in the center of town for evening fun. We were here on a fiesta day and loved watching all the women flaunting their form-fitting flamenco dresses. This town knows how to party! (Top Nerja tip: Try the caramel vodka that’s an after dinner staple here. And buy a bottle to take home! It’s impossible to find anywhere else in Spain.)
If you haven’t made it to the “pueblo blancos”—or white hill towns—in Andalusia, now’s your chance. It’s an easy day trip to nearby Frigliana. Walk the tiny streets and take in the clean, white washed ambiance here. There’s also a fabulous archaeological museum there!
James Ian at Travelcollecting.com, chose one of my favourite Andalusian towns, Ronda:
Ronda is a highlight of any visit to Andalusia in southern Spain. The hill town is perched right on the edge of the deep El Tajo gorge. The Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) spans the gorge and leads into town. The bridge was new when it was built in 1793. Nowadays, it makes for beautiful photos, framed by layers of white buildings built on the gorge’s rim.
Ronda is also home to the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain, also dating from the last 1700s. Even if you never want to see a bullfight, the bullring is well worth a visit. Standing in the center of the perfectly circular building, with simply designed symmetrical layers rising for the sawdust ring all around you, is a unique experience. Get lost wandering the narrow streets, and then ask your way back to the Plaza del Socorro. With classic Spanish architecture, this is a delightful center of town. Ronda is also a great place for tapas and relaxing at an outdoor table with tiny bites and a glass of sangria is a highlight.
9. Cabo de Gata—Nijar
Linn Haglund, who writes Brainy Backpackers is giving the insider’s scoop on where to find a non-touristy part of Spain that has fantastic beaches and few people:
Cabo de Gata-Níjar is a nature reserve east of Almeria, and one of the few places on the Spanish coast that is not yet ruined by mass tourism.
This area possesses the only desert area in Spain. Also, you find one of Spain’s most stunning coastlines there with both volcanic cliffs and fine virgin beaches. The chill hippie vibe makes it a perfect getaway.
With a car, you can drive from bay to bay and explore hidden beaches, natural pools and breathtaking views. The most known beaches are Playa de los Muertos, Playa Monsul and Playa de los Genoveses.
Otherwise, the tiny town of San Jose is a good starting point for hiking along the coast from beach to beach. The longer hikes are quite steep and require good footwear, but the reward is immense. The views and the hidden beaches you will encounter are some of the best you will get in Spain.
Another small village, Las Negras, is the startpoint of a hike to La Cala de San Pedro where hippies live all year around and backpackers camp on the beach. This is probably the only beach in Spain where police let you camp on the beach.
Web: Brainy Backpackers
Alice, a solo female writer of teacaketravels.com gives the inside scoop on Malaga—if you are an art fan (or a foodie) Malaga needs to be on your bucket list.
When planning a trip to Spain, most people immediately think of Madrid, Barcelona or Seville. While these are all must see destinations for good reason, you need to turn your attention to another Spanish jewel: the characterful, arty city of Malaga!
With its sea location, grand architecture, galleries and glorious food, it's going to tick a lot of your city-break boxes for all the right reasons. One of the highlights ia the Catedral de la Encarnación, a magnificent example of Baroque architecture. And when it comes to art, Malaga has so much to offer, you won't quite believe your luck! It is the birthplace of Picasso after all (true fact!). At the Picasso Museum, there are over 250 of his works on display. Get a guide to get the inside goss on Picasso to make the experience even better!
For some free art, take a walk around the streets of the Soho neighbourhood and be amazed at some truly stunning street art. All this walking will help you build up a nice appetite and Malaga won’t disappoint in satisfying your hunger.
Head to Mercado Central to stock up on goodies like olives, hams and delectable cheeses then finish off the day at one of the bars along the promenade for some alfresco drinking while soaking up the views and atmosphere. Olé!
Guadalupe is a town cut off in the hills of Extremadura that offers numerous surprises for those willing to go just a little off the beaten path. Wendy, blogger of the thenomadicvegan.com gives a bit more insight about why someone should put Guadalupe on their bucket list.
The Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe is one of the most striking surprises awaiting visitors to the Extremadura region. It has been a place of pilgrimage for faithful Catholics for centuries, mainly because it houses a statue that was supposedly carved by Luke the Evangelist himself.
The monastery is also where the Spanish king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, signed the documents giving the go-ahead to Christopher Columbus to set out on his first voyage in 1492. Many of the Spanish conquistadores were from Extremadura, and it was thanks to them that Our Lady of Guadalupe became a popular subject of devotion in the New World.
You might be more familiar with the basilica dedicated to her in Mexico City. That one is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world! But the tradition started in Extremadura, in the sleepy little town of Guadalupe. Part of the monastery has been converted into guest quarters, so you can even sleep inside this architectural masterpiece for just 65 euros for a double!
An al fresco dinner at one of the tables in the cloister courtyard is the perfect way to finish off a visit to this hidden gem.
12. Gran Canaria
Moving onto the islands Suzie from the appropriately named blog, ourbucketlistlives, sent in her suggestions for the lovely Island of the Gran Canaria. (who wouldn’t want to have one of the Canary Islands on their bucket list?) Here is what Suzie has to say:
We would highly recommend a stay at Mogan beach in Gran Canaria. Gran Canaria is part of Spain but it lies west of Africa and forms part of the Canary Islands. It has fabulous weather all year round which makes it a great winter escape if you are in need of some sun. Mogan beach has a wonderful sandy beach. Just around the corner from this there is the old town with a beautiful harbour which is a great spot for going on a boat trip along the coast. We loved the street performers that seemed to be out every day entertaining the kids. A favourite of our son's was the man who was making the biggest bubbles that he's ever seen in his life.
Along the stretch of beach and also around the harbour you can find many restaurants serving the most wonderful local food. Gran Canaria is a wonderful part of Spain and although Mogan beach was our favourite we equally fell in love with the rest of the island.
It would be difficult to find one a part of the Canary Islands that Shouldn’t be on a bucket list— but Greta Omoboni from Gretastravels.com gives yet another reason to visit these lovely islands.
If you're looking for one of the best places to visit in Spain in 2019 Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands has to feature on your Spain bucket list. Located just 100km away from the coast of Africa Fuerteventura is blessed with sunshine and warm temperatures all year round.
Fuerteventura is the second biggest island in the Canary Islands and is the perfect island if you're looking for a warm getaway this winter. It's a very popular beach destination and very famous amongst water sports lovers. The prime wind and wave conditions make it perfect for windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing and surfing, even for beginners.
If you don't want to try your hand at water sports worry not, there are plenty of fun things you can do in Fuertventura. You can go quad biking on the sand dunes of Corralejo Natural Park, you can relax on a beach, eat tapas and paella in a cute restaurant along the harbour, go snorkelling at the nearby island of Lobos or even get the ferry to Lanzarote. If you're looking for a chill beach holiday make sure to add Fuerteventura to your Spain 2019 bucket list.
Who needs the Caribbean when we have these islands on Spain’s doorstep (well, at least closer than the Caribbean). Joanna Dąbrowska from overhere.eu has numerous non-beach suggestions for Tenerife:
Tenerife is the biggest and most popular Spanish Canary Island. It is well-known for its sandy beaches and lively tourist resorts.
But there is much more to Tenerife than pubs and beaches. Actually, Tenerife is a paradise for mountain lovers, hikers, cyclists and all other outdoor enthusiasts. In Tenerife there are many non-beach things to do.
The biggest and most beautiful area is Teide National Park located in the central part of the island. The landscape is breathtaking - exotic volcanic region presents many peculiar land formations. In this park tourists can climb the highest peak in Spain - Teide volcano, which reaches whopping 3718 metres. The peak is accessible for all kinds of tourists. Families with children can get up by cable car, and hikers can climb along hiking trail. Besides Teide volcano, there are lots of other hiking trails which allow to get to explore the amazing mountains of Teide National Park.
Architecture aficionados should visit La Orotava - charming colonial town with eye-catching monuments.
Families with children and all those who love water slides should definitely visit Siam Park. Some consider it the best water park in the world! The best or not, it offers loads of attractions, the biggest of which are water slides. Beware - Siam Park is very popular, so it is best to get there as early in the morning as possible.
If you aren’t convinced with the Canary Islands, you can head over to the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Jennifer Dombrowski and Tim Davis from luxeadventuretraveler.com suggest getting away from the party scene of Ibiza and hopping islands to the quieter Formentera:
Just about everyone knows Ibiza, famed for its party-until-dawn club scene. But there's an island just six kilometers off of Ibiza with an entirely different vibe. It's Formentera, the smallest of Spain's Balearic Islands. The crystal clear waters surrounding the island, along with the laid back vibe have earned Formentera its reputation as the Caribbean of the Mediterranean.
The pulsating clubs of Ibiza feel about a million miles away. On Formentera, it's kicking back over a long lunch of fresh seafood specialties like Formentera octopus or lobster before whiling away the hot afternoons on a patch of sandy beach. There's just a smattering of tiny fishing villages on the island and a lot of natural beauty to explore. Rent a bike in one of the villages to explore the forts that once protected Formentera from pirates or hire a boat to take you around the island to the secluded caves and coves.
A fan of Rafael Nadal, Priyanko Sarkar writer of constanttraveller.com, headed to Mallorca to explore the non-touristy spots and found a number of bucket list spots to check out.
Sure, it’s in the news because of over-tourism but that doesn’t mean Mallorca can’t be seen anymore. Instead, a few tweaks here and there regarding your time of travel and places you visit can make all the difference in the crown jewel of the Balearic Isles.
My reason for travelling to Mallorca was to fulfill my personal bucket list of wanting to visit my hero Rafael Nadal’s birthplace. So I went off to Menorca to see his tennis academy and gawk at his collection of trophies, including all of his ten French Open titles. From there, I went to see the island’s intricate caves with natural rock formations at Cuevas del Drach and then go to Soller to take the wooden train along the popular beach town.
Only when I was satisfied that I had seen Mallorca outside of Palmas where most tourists base themselves did I decide to explore the city centre. Palmas de Mallorca is much more than its cute old town and impressive cathedral. I immersed myself in paintings by Miro and hiked up Castell de Belver that gave me a bird’s eye view of Mallorca’s harbor. With so many things to do in Mallorca, it deserves to be on anyone’s Spain bucket list.
Dianna Millos, writer of dianamiaus.com sings Ibiza’s praises. And taking a look at her photo it is hard not to jump on a plane right now and head off into the Ibizan sunset.
Ibiza is world wide famous for its party scene and beautiful beaches, and it’s for a reason.
The island is a little summer paradise, and even when it’s quite touristy it still preserves the hippy vibe from the 60’s, present in the markets celebrated everyday throughout the island. It offers everything for the perfect summer holiday: beautiful beaches, pretty sunsets, and amazing hotels and restaurants. The best thing to do is rent a car to explore the island on your own and find all its hidden gems - and if you can afford to rent a boat and take a tour around the island, oh well, that’s heaven on earth.
Madrid may seem like a little bit too obvious of a bucket list stop for a visitor to Spain, but there are endless things to see and do in this vibrant city. Alison Green, writer of eternalarrival.com also explains why she prefers Madrid over its rival Barcelona.
One of my favourite places in Spain is by far the capital, Madrid!
While to me, Barcelona feels very touristic (almost to the point where it becomes difficult to enjoy), Madrid has a far more livable and local vibe to it - even though it is of course rather beloved by tourists as well. Perhaps this is because the main sights of the city are well-dispersed throughout, so that you never feel too surrounded by tourists—unless, of course, you’re waiting line for the Prado, Madrid’s equivalent to the Louvre!
There are countless things worth putting on your Madrid itinerary from exploring the food scene around Puerta del Sol, visiting the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral, and exploring the wonderfully lush Retiro Park and the cool Palacio de Cristal inside. But beyond the typical Madrid must-dos, some of my favourite activities include walking around the offbeat neighbourhoods of La Latina, Malasaña, and Chueca and stumbling into local markets and eating my way through relaxed tapas bars. Madrid’s central location in Spain and high speed rail connections also make it quite easy to use as a hub for day trips such as to Toledo, Avila, and Segovia.
19. Altea, Costa Blanca
Arzo from arzotravels.com takes us to a small town that not many people have heard of along the Costa Blanca:
Spain has quite a lot of bucket list destinations but have you ever heard of Altea? No? Then you are not alone. I am pretty sure, this little town is hardly known by anyone yet it is extremely cute and something totally different to many other top destinations.
Located at Costa Blanca, near Alicante, this town sits on a hill and not only offers lovely views over the ocean, but also has a little Santorini-touch. Whitewashed houses, colorful flowers against white walls, and pretty ocean views - Altea has all that and it comes without the crowds and the price tag.
Given its very small size, strolling the town will take a few hours maximum - if you take it slowly and also visit the church. So, for the day trip to Altea, I suggest having lunch/dinner in one of the restaurants that come with a view. While I visited Altea with a friend, I considered it as a very romantic place (so a perfect place to spend a day with your loved one).
On a sunny day, you can take a break and relax at the beach for an hour or two. Altea - so small and yet so cute!
If you want to read more about Altea, head over to: The cutest town on the Costa Blanca
I have to agree with Helen’s (helenonherholidays.com) assessment of Valencia—it seamlessly manages to merge its elegant history with its contemporary architecture with grace and style.
I love Valencia for the way the city manages to seamlessly merge its history, its present, and a sci-fi version of the future.
For lovers of historic old towns, there’s a fabulously atmospheric maze of medieval streets, a stunning 13th-century cathedral, beautiful squares with pavement cafes and a traditional market selling authentic Valencian food.
In 1957, the river Turia, which ran through Valencia, flooded - with devastating effects. The following year, the city agreed to divert the river away from the city centre, and the old river bed was turned into a wonderful public park. The Turia Gardens are now one of the largest public parks in Spain and a fabulous place to spend time. Rent a bike and ride around the gardens, passing underneath the old river bridges.
At the eastern end of the Turia Gardens, you’ll find Valencia’s most amazing attraction, but it’s so other-worldly you’ll forget you’re in Spain at all. The City of Arts and Sciences is an amazing, futuristic collection of arts centres, museums, aquariums and indoor gardens, quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere else.
Mar from onceinalifetimejourney suggests a trip to the thriving party town of Sitges, just minutes away from Barcelona.
The small coastal town of Sitges is one of the most open-minded towns of Spain with a rich past and a quaint town center with several notable landmarks like the oldest pizzeria in Spain or a famous church that has become the symbol of the city.
Sitges is located 30 minutes south of Barcelona by train and has around 30,000 inhabitants, although that number probably doubles in the peak summer months. It has always been a popular day trip from Barcelona due to its proximity and the usually warmer better weather guaranteed by the Garraf mountain range.
The town's history starts 53,000 years ago with human remains found in a cave nearby dating back to the period and considered the oldest in Catalonia. But today's popularity is the result of a boom in the beginning of the 20th century when the Americanos, Catalan migrants who started successful businesses in the lost colonies of Cuba, returned to Sitges and built mansions and helped develop Sitges to what it is today, with a long and fashionable promenade and a vibrant cultural and progressive outlook. One of them was Facundo Bacardi, whose museum you can visit in town. Sitges enjoyed a booming period since then the first hotels opened in 1916 and Spain's first race-track in 1933.
Today, with 50 festivals every year, one for almost every week, sometimes two, there is always a reason to visit. There are also a few museums which tell the history of the Americanos and the artistic past of the city and, of course, the 3 km of beaches, the main draw to the town.
Even though Barcelona is one of the most popular spots for tourists in Spain, there are good reasons for putting this active city on your bucket list. Claire Sturzaker, writer of thistravellover.com, lived in Barcelona for over 3 years and said she never ran out of new places to explore.
Barcelona is a perennially popular destination. It is a city which really does have everything – beautiful beaches, a strong local identity and culture, beautiful architecture, amazing food and a buzzing nightlife. What more could you ask for?
I adore Barcelona, and after living there for three years there is still plenty to see and do that I haven’t done before!
Although Barcelona has a reputation for over-tourism, as long as you avoid peak times in the city during August and explore a little more off the tourist trail than La Rambla, you can enjoy Barcelona for what it is, a beautiful, cultural gem of the Mediterranean.
Don’t miss Gaudí’s architectural masterpiece La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, and some of his other works in the city like Casa Batlló which are just as impressive from the outside as they are inside.
Try to catch some of the local festivals where ‘Castellers’ make gravity-defying human castles, building towers several people high. As well as the maze of streets in the Gothic Quarter, be sure to visit some of Barcelona’s other neighbourhoods too, like Gracia which was its own town before being swallowed up in the city’s expansion. Gracia still retains a small-town feel and has some wonderful bars and restaurants to visit.
Jessica Norah, writer of independenttravelcats.com suggests heading to an area in Cataluña that seems to have it all—outdoor activities, medieval villages, Romanesque architecture, fantastic food, friendly people and beautiful scenery. So, what are you waiting for?
One of my favourite areas of Spain that we have visited so far is the La Garrotxa. La Garrotxa is an area of Spain located within the Girona province within the region of Catalonia. The area is probably best know for volcanic landscape, as the La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park helps preserve about 40 in active volcanoes.
The largest city in the area is Olot which contains a number of tourist services and a large market. But it is the smaller villages, Besalú, Sant Joan les Fonts, and Santa Pau, that are the most scenic with medieval streets, buildings, and bridges. All are a delight to explore.
The area is also a great place for hiking, walking, and cycling with lots of trails available for those who want to be active outdoors. In terms of culture, it is also an area with a high concentration of Romanesque architecture and has several small but worthwhile museums.
We have visited this region several times now and will likely stop by when we are back in Catalonia next month. We have also been greeted by friendly people, good food, and beautiful scenery.
Laurence Norah, who blogs findingtheuniverse.com, talks about one of my favourite towns on the Costa Brava:
Besalú is one of the most beautiful medieval era towns of the Costa Brava region of Spain - and that's saying something, given that this is a region with no shortage of stunning old villages, towns and cities to explore.
It's hard not to be impressed by Besalu though. The entrance to the town is across the 12th century "Pont Vell", which translates to old bridge". As you walk across this bridge and under the defensive tower (complete with portcullis), you'll feel yourself stepping back into time. This is a feeling that won't go away as you continue to explore the maze of old streets that make up the old town center.
There's lots to see in Besalu too, beyond the bridge. As well as exploring the old winding medieval streets, there's a monastery, a church, well preserved Jewish baths which date from the 12th century - and even a museum of miniatures. For more inspiration on your visit, see our guide to things to do in Besalu.
Bilbao which is an eclectic mix of history and modernism just happens to be a foodies paradise. Where else will you find 7 of the world’s top 100 restaurants all in one city? Leyla from womenontheroad.com tells her favourite things about this amazing city.
For many years Bilbao's tourist attractions stayed in the background, with many potential visitors afraid of the violence as the Basque people fought for their independence. Many (though not all) of those fences have been mended and today Bilbao has thrown open its cosmopolitan arms to throngs in search of history, culture and gastronomy.
The city is visually enticing, not because of its beauty but because of its contrasts. Turn one way and you’ll see Frank Gehry’s breathtaking Guggenheim Museum masterpiece. The museum itself is considered one of the best collections of its kind. Turn the other and the curlicues and floral swirls of Art Nouveau will grab you and won’t let you go. Bilbao is an architectural treasure.
The city is also renowned for its food. Let’s face it, in 2018 seven of the world’s top 100 restaurants were Basque. The food in this city is superb, from sit-down steaks to the pintxos (tapas mounted on a piece of bread) that tend towards towers of culinary art rather than simple nourishment. Hopping from bar to bar tasting a pintxo here and there is a quintessential Bilbao outing. A surprising city, which won't allow you to visit only once.
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Sander, writer of arscurrendi.com spent time in university city Salamanca. Beyond the learning he did on campus, he got to know the city well and is able to recommend it as a clean, safe and beautiful city that should be on anyone’s bucket list.
In Salamanca, the city where UNESCO world heritage and a vibrant student scene go hand in hand, it’s not hard to be amazed at all aspects of life. The contrast between the cultural history every building seems to be embedded in and the thousands of international students who come to Salamanca for a semester abroad is striking.
There are some things in the city you can’t miss. First and foremost, the Plaza Mayor, which is generally considered to be the most beautiful central plaza in all of Spain. The Puente Romano is a roman bridge that crosses the Tormes river on the south side of the city. Barrio del Oeste is a quirky neighbourhood where graffiti and street art seem to come to life. The city’s university buildings are scattered among the city centre, although many of these beautiful buildings can be found at Plaza de Anaya. Lastly, the Old Cathedral and the New Cathedral (yes, Salamanca has two cathedrals) join in Patio Chico, generally considered to be one of Salamanca’s most lovely neighbourhoods.
27. Ferrol, Galicia
I am happy that Galicia got a mention from Inma, from aworldtotravel.com. I have never been to Ferrol, so it will have to be on my bucket list for this year!
Whether you belong to the lucky bunch that has already discovered how cool the North West corner of Spain is or you are still to be impressed by Galicia and its many gems; I can't stop recommending you make Ferrol a priority on your itinerary. From its unreal beaches, that host World Surf League qualifying series competitions yearly like the Pantin Classic Galicia Pro in nearby Valdoviño, to the architectural heritage the city showcases on its Magdalena neighborhood, the hearty local products and seafood its restaurants offer, and the rich history its locals will be able to tell you among many other things; Ferrol is a city well worth visiting all year round.
If you take my advice, go there in September. You will still enjoy warm temperatures and nice weather without the Summer masses and yet will be able to witness the annual Meninas de Canido street art festival. Win-win!
28. San Sebastian
One of the most elegant cities of the north, San Sebastian is always a pleasure to visit. Campbell and Alya, writers of the stingynomads.com share why they think San Sebastian should rightly make your bucket list.
San Sebastian or Donostia how locals call it is probably one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. San Sebastian is located in the Basque Country region, Northern Spain and is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches, picturesque bays, delicious cuisine and many attractions in and around the city.
The best time to visit Donostia is late spring and early autumn when the weather is great but there are less tourists, summer months, July and August is the busiest time here its better to book accommodation in advance. San Sebastian is a great place for outdoor and water sport lovers, it offers great opportunities for surfing, kitesurfing, sailing, jet skiing and more. If you enjoy walking there are several coastal routes around the city with some breathtaking look-outs, hidden beaches and quiet bays on the way.
Another great way to spend a day is to go wine tasting, there are several great wine estates nearby, there you can try local wines or combine tasting with lunch. A great way to spend an evening in San Sebastian is to go out for pintxos. Pintxo is a typical for Northern Spain snack that usually goes with a drink (wine or beer). San Sebastian is famous for its pintxo bars, the variety that you get here is incredible, local pintxos is not just a simple snack but an exquisite dish e.g. Gilda (pickled anchovy with olives), smoked bacalao, shrimp skewer and more. The best way to try many different pintxos is to eat one pintxo per bar with one drink and move on to the next place. Whichever way you prefer to spend your holiday; chilling on the beach, going out, doing outdoor activities, wine tasting or trying local food you’ll find plenty of things to do in San Sebastian.
29. Camino de Santiago
If you are looking for a truly unique experience that you will remember for the rest of your life, you might want to think about taking on the Camino de Santiago. Bradley Williams, writer of dreambigtravelfarblog.com went on the camino and shares his tale here:
If you’re looking for a unique and exciting way to discover the entire northern region of Spain, then the Camino could be for you. It’s a roughly 800 km walk that stretches from just over the border in France in the East all the way to Santiago de Compostela in the West. I completed this Camino in June 2018 and it took me a little over 30 days.
And it really was the adventure of a lifetime! I’ve been to Spain many times before but never had I had so much chance to see the true beauty of the north. You pass through many famous Spanish wine growing regions, and the endless vineyards make for some of the best photo spots anywhere in the country.
As it is an old pilgrimage route, the Camino is passed by dozens of old style churches, many dating back hundreds of years. I recommend doing the Camino in either May to June or September to October. This way you miss the incredible heat of the summer months, as well as the massive crowds.
30. Picos de Europa
Jane Clements from Scarlet Jones Travels also has an active idea—hiking through the Picos de Europa:
The Picos de Europa are a spectacular mountain range in the north of Spain and are within easy driving distance of the northern coastline. They span the regions of Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y Leon and are a magnet for hikers and climbers; as well as for birdwatchers and animal lovers – many drawn by the possibility of a bear sighting!
One of the attractions in the Picos is that despite attracting tourists, rural life continues much as it has for centuries. Some villagers still live in their houses above their animals and cows graze in the high pastures complete with bells around their necks. Herds of goats wander around guarded by large dogs and cheese is matured in the caves that riddle the rocks.
There’s a small but well maintained road network taking you past breathtaking views and also a cable car at Fuente De if you want to get even higher. The distinctive outline of the high peaks will have you reaching for your camera at every turn as will the clear mountain streams, the forests and the eagles that soar in the skies above.
If you would like more information about travelling through Asturias, have a look at Jane’s article called Asturias Road Trip
Pinterest: Scarlet Jones Travels
31. Cies Islands, Vigo
Jub, the tikitouringkiwi.com recommends some quiet islands that even many Spaniards don’t know about. This is a place that I want to put on my bucket list!
The Cies Islands, are a set of three islands that are 45 minutes from Vigo by Ferry. They're a well-known destination for Spaniards, but for international tourists, Vigo, the gateway to the Cies Islands, is often overlooked, therefore you can consider this off the beaten track. You can camp here too.
Two of the islands (the northern two) are accessible via public transport, the third you'll need a private boat if you want to visit. You can't bring a car around the island, but that's the way it should be with lots of hiking trails taking you all over. The island does have some trees, but the trails aren't lined with trees for 90%+ of the time, meaning you get great views consistently. The best views are found up towards the lighthouse at the top of the hill. The beaches can be crowded on the island in summer, but there are plenty to choose from and everyone is respectful in my experience.
Thank all of you for taking the time to send in these fantastic suggestions. If you have other spots that you think should be included on this list, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
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