Spain, the country that captured our heart. So much that we actually decided to move there and live for close to 2 and ½ years. We could say we know a thing or two about this country, more than just the regular touristy places found on the web or on Instagram. Not to say anything bad about the usual places people visit when coming to Spain. I mean, you have amazing food, endless tapa choices, the Mediterranean, one of the best wines in the world, Spanish football, skiing in the winter and then you have great cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. Having travelled all across the country, we have found that there is much more to Spain than Madrid or Barcelona. Especially if you´re like us that like to wander off the beaten path and search for those lesser known places that sometimes can give you a better taste to a country than the more popular cities. If that is the case, then here are 5 lesser known town that we understand will give you a better overall taste of Spain, without the crowds and are also on the cheaper side. Here are what we call the hidden gems of Spain.
Located on the north of Spain in the region of Asturias and tucked away in the coast after you pass the mountains lies one of the most beautiful fishing towns and towns in general that I have ever seen. It feels like if it was meant to be isolated in purpose from the rest of Spain. As soon as you get to the town, you will marvel at the sight of cute colorful little houses with their terracotta roofs all perfectly adorning the mountain and overlooking the sea. This truly is a postcard town. There´s 2 things that I think makes this town unique: number one is uncrowded. Even though it’s so picturesque, it is still relatively unknown, even to Spaniards, let alone to people outside. You could be sipping Sidra, feasting on the best seafood of Spain and watching the sun set on the coast, while feeling relaxed with relatively few people around. Think of it as little Positano, but without the crowds or the hype. Number two: feels like stepping into a different country. Even though this is Spain, the fact that it is hidden away in the coast and surrounded by mountains gives anyone the impression of being somewhere else. For me, this are the main reasons why this place is so special.
SETENIL DE LAS BODEGAS
Following the line of unique places in Spain, we reach this town called Setenil de las Bodegas. Named after its once flourishing wineries, Setenil is part of the “Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos de Andalucia.” Different from the rest of the towns along this route in which most towns were built over pinnacles, this town grew out of a system of caves and its white houses were built directly within the rocks sitting below the cliffs. Yes, you read correctly, houses in this town are constructed inside the rocks, creating different nooks and streets that don´t end in mountains, instead roads pass through the mountains. The most famous street in this town is called “calle de las Cuevas del Sol.” Aside from admiring the unique architectural pattern of this little town, the coolest thing to do here is to step into one of the small shops or café´s and experience how unusual this houses look from the inside. You will see that the actual roof of each house is the rock or mountain itself. Head over to the once Arab fortress “Torreon del Homenaje” on the hilltop which offers great views of the town and countryside.
Zumaia is a small town located in the north of Spain in the Basque Country. Btw, ask any “vasco” if they consider themselves Spanish and let me know. For us, the beauty of this town is purely focused on its peculiar natural wonders. Yes the town itself is pretty as well, but in this case it’s the town´s two main beaches which make this place an amazing destination to experience. The beach of Itzurun is not your typical beach, nor its landscape. Actually it’s a geological wonder part of the Basque Coast UNESCO Geopark that consist of some impressive and unusual rock/cliffs with archeological formations called Flysch. This are a sequence of sedimentary rock formations caused by coastal sandstones and formed mainly by the rapid changes in sea level. They can reach several meters in height and date back to more than 100 million years. This surely makes for impressive views as well as amazing sunsets. This peculiar landscape was made famous when it was featured as one of the filming sets for season 7 of Game of Thrones. If you are a fan of the series, then you may have found this place familiar. It was also featured in the Spanish comedy “8 apellidos Vascos.”
This is one of those places which seem to be just perfect. Frigiliana is located in the Costa del Sol on the slopes of the Sierra Almijara, about 2hrs from Malaga. This could easily be one of my favorite places in all of Spain. This little town is also part of the “Ruta de Pueblos Blancos de Andalucia.” To be honest for us, it´s the cleanest and most perfectly preserved town in all of Spain, not to mention one of, if not the pretties town of Spain. Actually for the past 10 years this town has been named one of the 10 most beautiful towns of Spain and also of Europe. They proudly showcase this sign on the town entrance, and who can blame them. Picture a sea of white washed houses with traditional Andalusian façades all carefully decorated with ceramics and flower pots, cute colorful doors and great views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Trust us, the best thing to do here is just to stroll along and get lost in its narrow cobblestone streets that make you feel as if you were walking inside a painting. One other thing to mention is that this town will give it´s visitors one of the best examples of the mix of Moorish and Spanish heritage combined.
We can´t deny that we have a fascination for small fishing towns. Llanes falls under that same category of fishing village, but it also boast a very busy old town which has some terrific night life. Llanes makes our list because we unexpectedly loved every aspect of this town. It has a beautiful coastline, and a pretty nice urban beach, right in the middle of town. We fell in love with the marina and all the cute houses along the channel. You also have great views overlooking the town and its spectacular green mountains that characterize the region of Asturias. But the reason we loved Llanes so much is that this is a great place to sample food in one of Spain’s most famous gastronomical regions, Asturias. Since the town is so alive, you got lots of restaurants, tapa bars and “cidrerias” in which you can experience what Spaniards consider to be the best cider, Asturian cider. And yes, I mention experience and not just sample or taste, because drinking cider in Asturias is an experience all in itself. You order a bottle of cider for about 4 or 5€ and then your waiter will come up to your table and pour the cider almost without looking at the glass making quite a show. It´s really cool and this people are like artist in this region, plus it´s tradition. There´s tons of cidrerias with outdoor terraces, all of them facing the marina. That´s the main reason why we enjoyed this town so much and that´s why it makes our list.
Spain has lots of places all worth discovering and visiting. Trust us, there’s much more to Spain than just tapas, beer, Madrid and Barcelona. We are 100% there are lots of hidden gems all across this country. The best way to find them is to head out and explore.