While Spain is full of grandiose palaces, world-renowned museums and captivating customs, there is much more to this marvelous country than the emblematic attractions that draw in millions of tourists every year. Full of natural beauty, culture and history, there is plenty to explore along the mountains, vast open spaces and rugged coastlines.
Truth be told, very few places are unspoiled, but there are some that are quieter and offer a more authentic experience. If you’re looking for the real Spain, away from the masses, check out these fascinating destinations.
Considered to be one of the last remaining unspoiled regions of Spain, Extremadura, is truly a remarkable place. This arcadian location bordered by Castile, Portugal and Andalucía, is sparsely populated and has a character all its own. Don’t let its extreme seasonal temperatures and peaceful atmosphere fool you. There are a plethora of historic attractions to visit, including three UNESCO World Heritage sites, and rustic villages that offer a one-of-a-kind experience. The best collection of Roman ruins and art are found in Merida, while Caceres has a unique Renaissance quarter and Guadalupe houses a royal monastery. The extensive parks, mountains and trails in the countryside, such as the Sierra de Gata, provide the perfect respite from the minimal tourists that do visit.
It’s almost a mystery as to why the idyllic beaches and villages of Murcia are not teeming with tourists. With nearly 3,000 hours of sunshine, pristine white sand and refreshing waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the “costas” (beaches) are heavenly. The 250km of coast, called La Costa Calida has a rich ecosystem. Among the curious geographical attractions is the Cartegena Coveand the rock erosions of Mazarrón. While there is plenty of exploring to do, the spa-like atmosphere is alluring. The Mar Menor boasts hyper-saline waters and mud that have therapeutic properties. There are also numerous spa resorts and wellness centers. The city is also known for its strong cultural ties, gastronomy and stunning cathedral. With very few visitors, the area remains tranquil and is perfect for those who want a relaxing cheap holiday deal.
Referred to as Lleida in Catalan, this is one of the most mountainous and least known provinces in the Catalonia region. The area offers multiple opportunities for rural tourism, sightseeing, adventure sports and tasting exquisite culinary creations.
The province also boasts Catalan Romanesque churches, art museums and modern buildings that are reminiscent of those in Barcelona. The two nature reserves of Aigüestortes y Estany de Sant Maurici National Park are great for outdoor enthusiasts, as are the Pyrenean and pre-Pyrenean landscapes for snow sports.
Cabo de Gata
Just east of Almeria, lays a paradise for sun-lovers. The picturesque beaches, flanked by grand cliffs and hidden coves, are some of the most beautiful in Spain. What’s even better is that very few tourists venture here. The minimal traffic in the area is in part due to the natural park being the largest coastal protected area in Andalucía. The country’s largest volcanic rock formation flows into the warm turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. White sand beaches, extensive coral reefs and diverse marine life, make for an enchanting and relaxing getaway. The nearby fishing villages of Agumarga and San Jose are quaint and welcoming.