Spain is filled with hidden treasures. No matter what part of the country you’re planning to visit, it won’t be hard to find an “off the beaten path” site to visit on your next trip.
To guide you, check out the list below for 10 of the best secret places in Spain.
Cuenca is a small town in the autonomous community of Castile La Mancha. This community is famous for being home to its most renowned fictional character Don Quixote (Don Quixote de La Mancha--get it? “La Mancha”).
Notable points of interest: Cuenca plays second fiddle to the capital of the region Toledo but has plenty to offer the traveler to make their journey more than worthwhile.
- The most notable landmark in Cuenca is, without a doubt, the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses) which are homes built on top of a cliff that appear, as the name would indicate, to be hanging over the cliffside. These impressive houses can be appreciated best while crossing the San Pablo Bridge.
- Apart from the Hanging Houses, Cuenca boasts the first gothic cathedral in all of Spain and an old zone that was declared an UNESCO World Heritage site in the 90’s.
How to get there: If you’re traveling from Madrid, Cuenca is only a short (less than an hour) train ride away. Take the AVE (high-speed) train for a very comfortable ride.
A tiny fishing village in the northern region of Spain called Asturias, whose collection of stacked houses draw in herds of visitors especially during the summer months, is our second entry on this list of secret places in Spain.
A little more about the Region: First of all, Asturias is a great summer getaway for lots of Spaniards who want to escape from the sweltering sun. It is still a somewhat undiscovered jewel of the north as many foreign tourists tend to turn their attention to the southern region (Andalusia). Although it’s not well-known on an international scale, the entire region of Asturias will not disappoint the eager visitor due to its rolling landscape, mild climate and picturesque beaches--not to mention a gastronomy that takes a back seat to no other region in the country.
Notable points of interest: Cudillero is best for a relaxing afternoon. While the city itself doesn’t offer a wide variety of major attractions, it’s the environment that draws in visitors. Get lost wandering through the tiny, winding streets that climb up the cliff and weave in and out of the houses. Enjoy a relaxing walk along the port, and a delicious meal with some breathtaking views!
How to get there: To get to Cudillero from one of the other major cities in the region (Gijón or Oviedo) you will first need to take a 30-minute bus to Avilés (another major city in Asturias). From there, you will take another short bus ride to your destination. Both of these trips will be through the ALSA bus line.
This is another village in the northern parts of Spain. However, Cadaqués is located in the autonomous community of Catalonia in the northeastern coast of the peninsula just south of the French border. Catalonia is most famous for its capital Barcelona and that is for good reason. But, that is for another list all together.
A little more about the city: At first glance one might mistake this village for a ‘’pueblo blanco’’ from the south of the country, due to its white washed houses with a myriad of flowers hanging from every balcony--as is the norm in Andalusia. Nevertheless, this coastal village was home (summer home, at least) to artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and more recently Mick Jagger.
Notable points of interest: Besides wandering through the city and taking in the beauty and simplicity of it, there are a few must-see attractions to add to your list.
- You can visit the Casa Museo Dalí which is Dalí’s former home, now turned museum, and is a must see for any art-lover.
- For those of you into nature Parque Natural del Cap de Creus is nearby and worth a visit as well.
How to get there: Getting to Cadaqués from the region’s capital Barcelona will take a few hours (so, it’s probably worth staying the night). Departing from the train station, you can take a short ride (between 40-80 minutes depending on if you take the AVE or not) to Girona. From there, jump on a bus, which will take just shy of two-hours, for the last leg of your journey.
Getting away from the northern regions of the country and heading west towards the Portuguese border we find ourselves happily lost in Castile y Leon. This community is home to some of the most picturesque and medieval cities Spain has to offer.
A little more about the city: La Alberca is a small village in the province of Salamanca with a population just over 1,000. It’s a rural town whose history dates back as far as the 14th century and was the first village to be declared a National Historical Monument by the Spanish Government.
Notable points of interest: This is another destination that is, itself, what draws visitors. It’s perfect for a relaxing afternoon trip. It has houses made traditionally of stone and granite supported by wooden beams. Most of the houses were built with the intention of raising livestock, so don’t be alarmed if you see a stray pig wandering around. While taking a walk on its cobblestone streets you will quickly realize how well preserved this quaint little corner of Spain is.
How to get there: Buses from Salamanca leave daily to this popular site and travel time takes around an hour and a half. You can take the Cosme bus line.
A larger town than the previous entries that made the list, Cáceres is a city in the Midwestern region of Spain known as Extremadura. This part of the country is largely rural and has some great spots for nature lovers. El Valle Del Jerte in the springtime with all of its cherry trees in bloom is amongst the prettiest experiences Spain has to offer the outdoorsmen.
A little more about the City: In addition to the fascinating history this place holds (traces of Arabic, Roman, Italian Renaissance can all be seen in its architecture), the gastronomy is second to none and was the Spanish capital of Gastronomy only a few years ago, due to its generous sized tapas and exquisite cheeses.
Notable points of interest: The Old Town in Cáceres, like Cuenca and many other cities, was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- A stroll through said old town will undoubtedly make you feel as if you took a spin in the DeLorean and were visiting a city hundreds of years in the past. The city has done a great job of preserving this type of ambiance by not allowing tons of stores and businesses to set up shop.
- You could also take a quick trip to one of the nearby villages, which hold a fame in their own right (Trujillo being a standout). And Mérida, with it’s ancient Roman ruins is just a quick train ride away.
How to get there: You can get to Cáceres from Madrid. It’s a 3-hour train ride, so, if you’re planning a trip here, why not stay the night and enjoy an evening stroll through the charming old town?
Setenil de las Bodegas
We all knew it would be a difficult task to make it through this list without including a ‘’pueblo blanco’’ or white village. Sure, Vejer de la Frontera, Ronda, Mojácar and Frigiliana would all be more than deserving candidates to fill that slot but Setenil de las Bodegas simply has a more secretive feel to it.
A little more about the city: As you can see from the picture the houses here have all been built under cliffs which makes it look as if the dwellings themselves emerge from the rocks. Some of these houses even have rock roofs.
Notable points of interest: Great sites, interesting architecture, and a quaint, relaxing feel--what else could you need? Just in case you want to add a few more things to your “to-do” list, here’s a few notable points.
- Not unlike most villages in Andalusia, Setenil de las Bodegas is home to a rich and thriving tapa culture. Take a stroll around and try all the yummy food!
- While here, make sure you make a visit to the Moorish Castle and Christian Church (iglesia de encarnación) as well as a wine house or two (Bodega in Spanish is wine house).
How to get there: If you’re visiting Seville and want to see this charming pueblo you can get there by bus. Like some of the previous entries, the trip is longer, so you may want to spend the night. The bus will go from Seville to Puerto Serrano, where you’ll transfer to the line that will take you to your destination.
If you do a quick search of the prettiest villages in Spain and click on a list, nine out of ten times you will find this charming settlement, tucked under the Pyrenees, not only on the list but probably toward the top.
A little more about the region: Aragón has the privilege of claiming this village as one of its own. Aragón is located in the north east just to the west of Catalonia and is considered to be the halfway point between Madrid and Barcelona.
Notable points of interest: Aínsa is home to only a couple thousand residents yet its old quarter was declared a national historic site by the Spanish Government.
- Its castle, main square, and 11th century church are all worthwhile sights during your stay.
- However, as is often times the case in Spain, it is best to let yourself get lost amongst its narrow, winding streets and appreciate the old time feel of this tiny mountainside village that time seems to have forgotten about.
How to get there: If you are visiting Barcelona and want to get away from the hustle and bustle, Aínsa is easy to access via car--a three-hour drive. There are also buses. You will first go to Barbastro before heading on to Aínsa.
This little piece of paradise is located a 45-minute ferry ride away from the port city of Vigo. Vigo is the most populous city in Galicia, the region that is home to the world famous Santiago de Compostela and its glorious gothic cathedral which marks the end of the road for pilgrims embarking on the way of St. James.
Notable points of interest: The beaches here at Islas Cíes were named the best beaches in the world by The Guardian in 2010--a feat not to be scoffed at. A fun feature of the islands is that you can pay a little extra to camp overnight and enjoy an evening walking along these amazing beaches. The water in this region of Spain is surprisingly invigorating (likely due to its less than tepid temperatures) and is sure to leave you feeling refreshed. So, if you want to get away, these islands could provide just the summer paradise you’ve been looking for.
How to get there: If you’re taking a trip through Galicia and happen to be in Vigo, jump on the ferry and take the short 30-minute ride out to this amazingly beautiful part of the region.
Yet another village of Aragón, Albarracín shares many similarities with Aínsa due its geography and medieval style architecture. Many consider it to be one of the prettiest villages in the country and it was proposed as a possible UNESCO World Heritage site.
Notable points of interest: If a quick stroll through this amazing city isn’t enough, add some of the following sites to your visit. You won’t be disappointed.
- Visit the Museo de Albarracín, the city museum, that has artifacts dating back to many points in its tumultuous history as it was once under Moorish rule like many places in Spain.
- Also worth a visit is the castle, which is atop the bluffs that overlook the city and form part of the impressive landscape.
- You probably won’t be surprised to find out that this medieval village also holds a cathedral and main square that shouldn’t be overlooked.
How to get there: Teruel (the province where this village can be found) is only two hours northeast of Valencia and makes for a nice getaway from the big city. Sadly, it’s a little difficult to get there. The best option is to rent a car. However, if that’s not an option for you, you can take a train from Valencia city to Cella, then you’ll need to grab a taxi for the last leg of your trip.
We will close the list with a larger city than the majority of places that have made the cut. Burgos is in the autonomous community of Castile and León and is often overshadowed by other cities in this sizeable region.
A little more about the City: Like most Spanish cities, Burgos hits you with a one-two punch, offering not only monuments to appreciate but also excellent cuisine. Take my word for it--try the morcilla and don’t ask what it is! Another famous specialty of the region is sheep’s cheese and wine, of course.
Notable points of interest: Being a larger city, there is plenty to do to keep the visitor entertained. The must-sees are, however, the following:
- First and foremost, when anyone tells you about Burgos they will never fail to mention its Gothic Cathedral which looms high over the city and also is the resting place of a national hero, El Cid.
- Apart from the fairy tale like cathedral one should also stop at Las Huelgas Reales, a monastery, and at the Museum of Human Evolution.
How to get there: If you’re traveling to Burgos from Madrid your quickest option will be by bus. It’s a little less than three hours and runs through the ALSA line.
Spain has a lot more to offer than just Madrid and Barcelona. It doesn’t take much to find whatever it is you’re looking for from a secret escape, whether it be history, culture, gastronomy, or breath-taking landscapes--or all bundled up into one! Don’t be afraid to venture out a little to discover what else Spain has to offer.
What do you think? Have you been to any other Spanish hidden gems that didn’t make our list? The country definitely is full of them! Add your favorite in the comments section.