For many parts of Europe, it’s been a long, hot summer – perhaps a bit too hot for some. But, as temperatures begin to cool, the next few weeks are a great time to discover new areas.
Spain has always been a favourite destination for travellers, who flock to its beaches, yet there’s so much more to the country of rolling vineyards, dramatic mountains and historic hilltop towns.
According to data from the Spanish Tourist Office, more and more of us are beginning to realise what’s on offer.
“We are pleased to see that our latest tourism statistics show an upwards trend towards exploring more areas of Spain, and particularly some of those areas that are lesser-known,” says Manuel Butler, the office’s UK director.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some of Spain’s secret locations to be explored.
Calahorra, La Rioja
The capital city of the Rioja Baja region in northern Spain has a rich history dating back to the Roman times, notable in its Romanesque and Gothic architecture – including a grand 15th-century cathedral. Located along the fertile plains of the Ebro River, it’s the gateway to 500 wineries. If you’re planning ahead for next year, the area is especially known for its Calagurritana Easter week celebrations and Roman Mercaforum – an event featuring birds of prey, roman minting workshops, and recreations of roman military camps flood the streets.
This cobblestone village in the region of Las Villuercas in Cáceres province is famous for its Royal Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1325, a farmer found a statue of the Virgin Mary buried in his field, rumoured to have been carved by St Luke, and now thousands of visitors come each year to see it. Take a tour of the monastery to see numerous illuminated manuscripts and works of art. Extremaduran cuisine, including the iconic Iberian pork, seasoned with paprika, is also an attraction.
Costa da Morte, Galicia
Formed by 17 towns and villages in northwest Spain, Costa da Morte (coast of death) was long thought to be the end of the known world. As well as being the final destination for many pilgrims walking on the Camino de Santiago, this coastline in A Coruña has superb clifftop views and charming fishing villages with traditional stone houses.
In the heart of the Spanish Pyrenees, close to Ordesa Natural Park and Spain’s third-highest peak, Monte Perdido, this is a spot for nature lovers and photography fans. The golden eagle and bearded vulture are regularly spotted in a landscape of deep valleys and steep cliffs.
Oviedo is a stately city in the northern region of Asturias, dominated by several UNESCO World Heritage sites that hail back to the eighth century. One of the few Spanish towns never conquered by the Moors during the Middle Ages, it has a distinct medieval feel.
Sierra Espuña Regional Park, Murcia
Perfect for cycling and hiking, Murcia’s prime ecotourist destination has a varied landscape, from the Paredes de Leyva cliff faces and ravines of Gebas or la Hoz to the Muela plateau waterfall and surrounding reservoirs. Nicknamed the ‘tree apostle’, philanthropist Ricardo Codorníu campaigned for several reforestation projects in the late 19th century to create the protected space.