Spain is a stunning country and you have probably heard of and maybe visited Barcelona, Madrid, and the dreaded tourist trap of Costa Del Sol but this country has so much more to offer.
From the stunning Basque country to the north to off-the-beaten-track fishing villages and stunning national parks, there is a lot to explore and discover but knowing where to start is the key, as blindly roaming the Spanish plains will probably get you nowhere.
Luckily, we are going to take a dive into 10 hidden gems in Spain so that you can spend time with locals and off-beat travelers to see a side of Spain you might have thought never existed.
The stunning small town of Setenil de las Bodegas is a hidden gem of note in both Spain and Andalusia. Setenil de las Bodegas is famous for its whitewashed houses that were built under a huge rock so the owners never had to replace their roofs ever again, which is pretty astute if you ask me.
This hidden gem of a town is off the beaten track in central Andalusia in the south of Spain. Its streets are narrow and windy, there are many small streams flowing through and away from it, and it’s amazing picturesque.
Home to 3000 residents, Setenil de las Bodegas isn’t all that big but it’s busy enough and you get a real feel of Spanish culture while you’re there.
You’re not far from the other hidden gems of Andalucia while you’re there either with the beautiful beaches of Nerja just an hour or so away easily done on a day trip, and the cultural and gastro cities of Seville and Cordoba are close by too.
One of the most beautiful hidden gems in Spain is the fishing village of Cudillero north Spain’s Asturias region. This little fishing village rises out of the ocean with beautiful multi-colored terrace houses that create an amphitheater of peacefulness for any traveler to relax in.
Unlike other fishing villages in Spain, Cudillero hasn’t been spoiled by resorts or shops, it remains immensely traditional with the fishermen going out to sea and coming back with their fresh catch to sell each day. The surrounding area is covered with stunning cliffs and beautiful beaches which you can either hike or drive to.
One thing you have to do in Cudillero is head down to the port at around 5 pm to see the fishermen come in with their catch. You can watch the village trade begin and get involved too, taking home some of the freshest fish money can buy for a lovely home-cooked meal.
While taking some fresh fish home is lovely, you should also go to some of the seafood restaurants in the small town as they know how to cook fish better than anyone, and wow does it taste amazing!
Cudillero is one of the secret gems in Spain and it really is a must-visit place. Waking up to views over the sea and the noise of buoys banging together is hard to forget.
While you’re in the Asturias region, one of the hidden gems you have to day trip to is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in the Basque country of Spain.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is an old medieval chapel that was built in the 10th century that sits on the top of a rock island that you have to climb 200 steps to get to. If you have seen Game Of Thrones, you might recognize San Juan de Gaztelugatxe as it was used to film the island fortress of “Dragonstone” in the seventh season of this HBO hit show.
Getting to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is one of the best parts of seeing it. You’ll find it just off the beaten track and to the east of a beach village called Bentalde and from the parking area, the hike down through the forest and around the coastal cliffs is stunning. From there, you can walk down the steps, across to the islet, and up the steps to the chapel.
The views from the chapel across the Bay of Biscay are beautiful and it’s tradition to ring the chapel bell three times after climbing the steps. The chapel has quite a history in itself and has been rebuilt a few times over the years and used as a place of worship, a covenant, and military post, and more.
A visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is one of the best gems in Spain you can day trip to and is highly recommended.
One of the most off-the-beaten-track national parks in all of Spain and maybe Europe is the Picos De Europa National Park and it’s one of the hidden gems of Spain every nature lover should visit.
Picos De Europa National Park sits on the border of Asturias and Cantabria in northern Spain and is easily accessed on a day trip from the beautiful coastlines of the two regions.
The Picos De Europa National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that is home to jagged mountainous landscapes, huge gorges, rivers, meadows, lakes, and two of Spain’s coolest mammals, the Iberian wolf, and the Cantabrian brown bear.
If you love to get off the beaten track to hike and camp and be am0ngnst nature, you couldn’t find a better hidden gem to explore (See Our Favorite Hikes In Picos de Europa). There are numerous trails that will take you all over the natural park and you can choose to do a 4-hour hike or a 4-day hike, as there are hikers cabins with water dotted around.
When on a day trip to the Picos De Europa National Park you can use the cable car to take you high up into the peaks and within a 30-minute walk and on a clear day, you can see the peaks of Picos De Europa National Park and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s not just the natural surrounding that makes Picos De Europa National Park so special, it’s also the culture around it. There are 11 villages spread across the natural park and they are a quintessential look into rural Spanish culture plus the food is pretty amazing too, so stopping at a restaurant is something you have to do in the region too.
Ronda isn’t as off the beaten track as you might like but it’s one of the gems in Spain that everyone should visit. The small town of Ronda sit’s in southern Span’s Andalusia region and at the top of a mountain inland from Marbella, it’s a quick day trip from the beautiful beaches on the coast.
What makes Ronda such a hidden gem is that the town is built around a huge gorge called El Tajo. On one side of the gorge, you’ll find the old town which dates back to the 1400s and the Moors, and on the other side of the gorge the new town of Ronda.
Joining the two sides of Ronda is an incredible stone bridge called Puente Nuevo and standing in the middle of it gives you incredible views down the gorge and to the small waterfall inside it.
Ronda is also home to some interesting historical sites such as the Baños Arabes Yacimiento Arqueológico, an old bathhouse that dates back to the 13th century and the 18th-century bullring and museum of bullfighting including the legendary matador Pedro Romero.
Walking around Ronda is also lovely. The small streets, cafe’s and restaurants are all very chilled and the slow pace of life around the small town is relaxing.
While spending some time in the most beautiful regions of Spain, the north in my eyes, one has to take a day trip to see one of the oldest gems in Sapin, the Roman Walls of Lugo.
The ancient city walls of Lugo are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are the best-preserved Roman military architecture in Western Europe. The old city walls date back to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD and were built to protect Lucu, the old Roman town.
The city walls were made from a mixture of granite and slate and they go on and on for over 2 kilometers reaching up to 10 meters high and 7 meters thick.
It’s hard to imagine they built such a huge defensive wall back then and when you at the 10 gates and 85 towers that are all featured on the wall along with the ramps. moat, and staircases, you can see why this is such a great example of ancient roman architecture.
Seeing the ancient roman city walls in person is a must. While they have been renovated and restored, they still have all their original features and layout. The texture of the walls is beautiful and the sheer size is pretty mind-blowing.
Lugo as a town is very busy and home to close to 100,000 people. It’s not the best place in the region of Galicia to stay in but it’s worth a day trip and a wander round if you can bear to leave the beautiful beaches of the coast.
Juzcar, a small town a few hours drive from Malaga and Marbella used to be so off the beaten track that it used to receive just 300 tourists a year, but then something changed to make it one of the hidden gems in Spain you should visit.
Juzcar used to be a classic Spanish pueblo blanco (village with whitewashed houses) until Sony Pictures approached them to request to film the Smurfs 3D movie in the village with one huge non-negotiable, they needed to paint all the houses in the village blue.
The residents of Juzcar agreed and is no time the Sony film crew had taken this Pueblo Blanco and made it a stunning sky blue instead, with the promise they would paint it white again once the filming was complete.
Once the film was done, the residents decided to leave their house blue, and today the stunning village of Juzcar is a blue town in the hills which really helped put it on the map. Instead of receiving just 300 tourists a year, it now has over 60,000 visitors who come to see the blue village where the smurf movie was filmed.
Visiting Juzcar is easy and can be done as a day or even a half-day trip from almost anywhere in the Andalucia region. It’s actually on the way to Ronda so you can combine seeing Ronda and Juzcar in a single day away from the beautiful beaches of the southern coast.
Cardona is a stunning little medieval town just an hour and a half drive north of Barcelona and is known for being one of the last bastions of Catalonia freedom remaining after the Spanish Civil War.
It was built by Wilfred the Hairy as a natural fortress and it was never ever breached despite many attacks. It quickly became a very powerful town as no one could attack it and the duke of the town was known as the King without a Crown simply because he lived in a fortress that could not be defeated.
Seeing Cardona today is a bit like a fairy tale trip through military history. The town features huge city walls with a fortified castle on a hill that looks down onto all the resident’s homes. You can actually stay in the castle if you want to as today it’s a 4-star hotel and imagine seeing the same views as the Dukes of medieval times.
As well as being one of the historical gems in Spain, Cardona also holds a natural gem in the form of a salt mountain (literally a mountain of slat). It was formed when the tectonic plates of the Pyrenees forced the land to rise out of the sea and form a slat mountain that is 86 meters tall and continues to grow as the salt is said to go down 2000m meters into the earth and have been mined for centuries which you can visit while you’re there.
Another one of Spain’s hidden gems in Catalonia is the stunning area of Garrotxa which is home to the natural park – Parc Natural de la Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa. Imagine a mountain landscape full of medieval villages, romanesque bridges, delicious Spanish cheese, and some amazing hiking.
The highlight of the area is certainly the La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park which is home to extinct volcanoes, old volcanic cones, and lava flows, but that’s not all. Amongst the volcanoes, you’ll find little parts of Spanish history dotted around such as Santa Margarida de Sacot, a church built into the middle of a volcanic crater.
If there is one medieval town to visit in Garrotxa it’s Olot which is also the largest city in the area. Olot was built on the summit of two extinct volcanoes and is filled with stunning architecture and some of the best restaurants in the region.
The most beautiful village in Garrotxa and a real hidden gem is Besalu. This little mountain village is home to an old 12th-century bridge that crosses a river and Jewish quarter both of which have put it on the map for off-the-beaten-track travelers like us.
The area of Garrotxa is also on the foothills of the Pyrenees and is an amazing place for hiking and enjoying the mountains. There are numerous trails that run through Garrotxa that link the Pyrenees to the Meditteranean meaning you can walk for days in either direction if you’re so inclined.
If you’re looking for a quintessential Mediterranean Spanish town that is off the beaten track then this is one of the hidden gems in Spain for you.
Llafranc is a small town on the coast of the Mediterranean around 90 kilometers north of Barcelona. Somehow the crowds of tourists have yet to discover this stunning coastal refuge and it’s used more by locals as a getaway destination for some peace and quiet.
This means that Llafranc has a wonderful traditional Spanish atmosphere to it with amazing seafood restaurants, crystal clear seas, uncrowded beautiful beaches, local markets, and lots more. You can visit botanical gardens, ancient ruins, a lighthouse from the 1400s, and lots more.
The town of Llafranc was an old haunt for both Salvador Dali and Ernest Hemingway, they returned often to spend time in the peaceful surroundings and it’s not hard to see why once you have been there.
We have only just scratched the surface of the hidden gems you can find in Spain. It’s such an immensely diverse country with a stunning coastline and a huge depth of history and I hope this article has inspired you to take a closer look at the off-the-beaten-track regions of Spain so you can begin to discover your own hidden gems.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!