Sunshine, beaches and masses upon masses of tourists all vying for the same coveted spots poolside. This is the picture many people have in mind when they put the words ‘Spain’ and ‘Holiday’ together. Yet Spain is a huge country that is as diverse as it is beautiful and with a bit of insider knowledge a holiday here can mean something completely different. How about hidden cascades, picturesque villages and otherworldly rock formations instead of resorts overrun with lobster red tourists? Unknown Spain: These 10 places are genuine insider tips that are as yet unknown, even to the majority of Spaniards
The empty beaches of Spain – Cedeira, Galicia
Galicia is peppered with pockets of undiscovered Spain if you know where to look. The small town of Cedeira certainly belongs in this category and is a fantastic example of how beautiful authentic Spain can be. Located in the Rías Altas region with its fjord-like landscapes, you can even draw comparisons with Norway when casting your eyes out from the hills across the water.
Take a wander through the city and enjoy the typical Galician architecture, beautiful old buildings with large window galleries, and then relax on one of the pristine beaches – up here in the North, you’ll have the place almost to yourself.
Strangely familiar, film-sets in unknown Spain – Bardenas Reales, Navarra
The Bardenas Reales Nature Reserve, found between Zaragoza and Pamplona, doesn’t fit with the picture most Brits have of Spain. A semi-desert, or badlands, with steep slopes, hills, gullies of clay, sand and limestone bordered by steppe-like landscapes. The unique terrain not only attracts hikers but also serves as a backdrop for various film and television productions. Game of … – well, you know.
Journey to the centre of the earth in Lago Azul, Burgos
This lake, with unbelievably turquoise waters in the Rudrón Valley north of Burgos, may seem small at first glance but is actually attached the biggest underwater cave in Spain. A real treat for all the intrepid explorers out there, the cave is nicknamed ‘Everest’ for a reason with parts of it still unmapped or even undiscovered. Naturally, you need a diving license to explore the underground wonder, but swimming the cool waters of the lake knowing what lies beneath you is still an incredible and humbling experience.
About 50 kilometres west of Valladolid you’ll find a very special place that most visitors to Spain bypass without even knowing of its existence. Urueña is a village of approximately 200 people, surrounded by an almost entirely preserved city wall from the Middle Ages. An excursion through the streets of the town to the castle complex is a real journey into the past.
In addition, Urueña is the first ‘Book Town’ in Spain; a concept that combines bookstores with a focus on rare, out of print or specialist books with historic villages or town helping to create a unique and sustainable form of tourism. While the majority of the books here are in Spanish, you can wander the 12 (yes, 12 bookstores and a population of 200) bookstores, breathing in that used book smell, perusing antique tomes with a glass of wine in hand or learning the science of bookbinding. Urueña’s charms are truly unique and you’ll leave feeling like you know a secret that only a few other people share.
Spanish history at your fingertips – Castillo de Alcalá la Real
Above the city of Alcalá la Real, in the south of the country between Jaén and Granada, is the Castillo de Alcalá la Real, and it’s here that you can experience Spanish history up close, free of crowds and queues. Around the imposing 14th-century church spire, you can still see the remains of the former Moorish city scattered amongst the decayed walls of the fortress; ruins built upon ruins built upon ruins. An amazing image that represents the medieval history of the country, starting with the Reconquest of Spain that took place way back in the 8th century.
The Costa del Azahar without the hustle and bustle: Islas Columbretes, Castellón
Unspoilt nature and pin-drop serenity (not counting the raucous din of the seabirds found here) on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Not a chance, mate. Or so you’d think. Until you head to the cluster of islands, located off of the coast of Castellón de la Plana (north of Valencia), known as Columbretes.
This uninhabited volcanic archipelago is a protected area, both on land and underwater, as well as being home to several endemic species of lizard the island is crucial to the recovery of some endangered bird species, Andouin’s Gulls in particular. Day trips are offered, either diving the surrounding waters or touring the island, perfect for an escape from the bustle of the Costa del Azahar.
At peace afloat in the Atlantic – El Hierro (Canary Islands)
In the north of the smallest of the Canary Islands – El Hierro – lies the extraordinary village of Pozo de las Calcosas. The houses here are built in an architectural style typical of the island, the structure is built from volcanic stone and the roofs are thatched with ryegrass.
After a meander through the narrow streets, you can’t help but stumble across the second attraction the village offers; the gorgeous natural water basin, where you can relax and let your troubles be washed away, right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
A fairytale found off the beaten path: Spain in the Pyrenees – Lanuza
The small village of Lanuza looks like it comes straight from a childhood dream of a fairytale town. In the middle of the Pyrenees, on the banks of the reservoir of the same name, Lanuza sat uninhabited for decades after the inhabitants were forced to leave their homes after a dam was constructed close by.
These days, the village is once again populated, but the dreamlike location and the beauty and tranquillity of Lanuza keep that fairytale feeling alive. If you are travelling in Northern Spain, you should make a detour.
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Masca – A pirates hideout on Tenerife
The village of Masca, high in the mountains of Tenerife, was, once upon a time, a popular refuge for pirates – today it is the starting point for all hikers and climbers seeking to conquer the island and face the descent through the bizarre volcanic landscape and down to the sea.
Garrotxa Volcano Natural Park – Gorg del Molí dels Murris, Catalonia
Lush nature, turquoise blue water and a waterfall borrowed from paradise – it may sound like a South Seas oasis, but it’s just two hours drive north of Barcelona. In the middle of the Garrotxa Volcano Natural Park, you’ll have the opportunity to recharge yourself in this heavenly pool after a hiking through the bizarrely-beautiful, crater-pocked landscape.
Note: These rates are based on search queries made on KAYAK.co.uk on May 2nd, 2017. The prices are quoted in GBP. Flight prices are based on results for a return economy flight search. Hotel prices are for double occupancy and include taxes and fees. Prices are subject to change, may vary, or no longer be available.