Spain is full of fabulous places just waiting to be explored. With charming villages, stunning natural wonders, ancient history, and fantastic food, there’s something for everyone in this diverse and beautiful country. If I asked you to name some Spanish cities, I’m sure places like Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and maybe Valencia would come to mind. But away from the big cities are some special Spanish spots, known only to locals and passionate travelers. Read on for a taste of the many hidden gems waiting for you on your next trip to Spain.
Cadiz really is the hidden gem of Andalusia. Not as well-known as the Andalusian cities of Seville and Granada, this is the perfect town for a day trip or a weekend visit if you are in the south of Spain.
Cadiz is a beautiful coastal city known for its stunning beaches, historical landmarks, and vibrant culture, and if you’re into history then this is the city for you too — this is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe. Founded by the Phoenicians 3,000 years ago, the Romans also settled here. The historic center of Cadiz is a maze of narrow streets, colorful buildings, and charming, tree-lined plazas. You can spend hours wandering and discovering hidden corners, historic landmarks, and local shops. Visit the Mercado Central, a bustling indoor market that’s a great place to sample local seafood and soak up the atmosphere. Be sure to try some of the local specialties, such as fried fish, prawns, and squid.
But there’s more to this city than history. Cadiz is surrounded by miles of beautiful sandy beaches, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. La Caleta is a popular beach located in the city center, while Playa de la Victoria is a larger beach located just outside of the city. Cadiz is located on a peninsula, and you can take a boat tour around the harbor or to nearby islands like Isla de Sancti Petri.
Cadiz has all the charms of Andalusia but without the crowds.
2. Canillas de Aceituno
The little village of Canillas de Aceituno is a white “pueblo” set in the countryside of Malaga, in a stunning region known as the Axarquia. Often overlooked by travelers, this beautiful village in the southern part of Andalusia is situated at the foothills of the Sierra de Tejeda mountain range, making it a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
The village itself features narrow streets lined with white-washed houses and colorful flowers, giving it a charming and traditional feel. Visitors can explore historic landmarks, including the 16th-century Church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario and the Moorish castle of Bentomiz, which dates back to the 9th century.
The charming main square is perfect to have a coffee and Spanish tostada for breakfast, or a drink and some tapas after a hike. The village is known for its delicious cuisine, including traditional Spanish dishes such as paella and tapas.
If you are visiting in April, one for the foodies is the annual Día de la Morcilla or “Black Pudding Day.” Usually around April 25 to 30, the festival, in honor of the Virgen de la Cabeza, revolves around the consumption of morcilla (‘black pudding’ or ‘blood sausage’ in English), a speciality of the village with a sweet, smoky taste, spiced with paprika and oregano, and rich with pork fat, onion, and rice.
Nominally a religious festival, the day is just all round fun with free morcilla, a glass of sweet Malaga wine for all, and usually performances by local dance troupes and musicians and a bar set up right in the middle of the village. The fiesta starts around 9:30 a.m., with flowers being laid before the Virgin de la Cabeza (the patron saint) in the church. Starting at 10:00 a.m. there’s a procession around the village and then at around 1:30 p.m. the food is served — it’s said that over 650 pounds of morcilla is served!
Pro Tip: If you are looking for your own special getaway in Canillas de Aceituno try the privately owned El Carligto Estate, with its two stylish private villas perched on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean and the Moroccan coast beyond. Alternatively, try the Olive and Ivy Guesthouse in the heart of the charming village.
Siurana is a beautiful and historic village located in the province of Tarragona, in the Catalonia region of Spain. The village is one of the prettiest in Catalonia, perched on a rocky hilltop, with stunning views over the surrounding countryside.
The drive to the village is bound to be one of the highlights of your visit: a 4-mile drive up a narrow road with nine hairpins, sheer drops, and spectacular panoramas over the vineyards and vibrant turquoise reservoir below.
The tiny village of Siurana is home to 30 houses, five bars and restaurants, two hotels, a Moorish castle constructed in 800, a simple 12th-century Romanesque church of Santa Maria, and just 32 people, some of whom run the 6-room Hotel Siuranella and restaurant. Visitors to Siurana can explore the village’s narrow cobbled streets and historic landmarks, including the famous Pont de l’Estrelicia, a stunning Romanesque bridge spanning the nearby river. The area is also a major attraction for outdoor enthusiasts, with numerous hiking and climbing opportunities available in the nearby Montsant Natural Park.
Pro Tip: Siurana can get busy in peak tourist season, but if you visit on a weekday you’ll hopefully almost have the place to yourself.
4. Calella de Palafrugell
Calella de Palafrugell, in the province of Girona, north-eastern Spain, is one of the most beautiful villages on the Costa Brava, and a perfect place to enjoy the peace and quiet of an authentic, old fishing village. Whitewashed buildings fringe the waterfront, fishing boats line its shores, and the coast is sprinkled with rocky coves and sandy beaches. The town is also home to the Cap Roig Botanical Garden, which offers visitors the chance to admire a wide variety of plants and flowers in a stunning setting overlooking the sea. Spend some time relaxing on the sand, swimming in the clear waters, and soaking up the sun on El Golfet, Canadell, or Port Bo beaches.
Calella de Palafrugell is a great place to enjoy some of the best restaurants and cafés in the Costa Brava region and is renowned for excellent seafood and delicious traditional cuisine. For pintxos and tapas served in a cool, laid-back place with big windows, sea views, and sidewalk tables, head to Calau. For classic Catalan dishes like seafood paella, fish, and shellfish, all served in a homey, beachfront setting, try Sol i Mar Calella. Just a few steps from the church, BarK is a small, atmospheric, and reasonably priced restaurant in the heart of Calella de Palafrugell with a menu that includes excellent seafood tapas.
Pro Tip: Calella de Palafrugell is located within easy reach of other popular attractions in the region, including the city of Girona, the medieval town of Pals, and the Dalí Museum in Figueres.
Moraira is a picturesque coastal town in south-eastern Spain and is one of the most unspoiled on the Costa Blanca with 5 miles of beautiful coast surrounded by mountains and vineyards. This is the kind of small seaside destination that you dream about visiting for a seaside holiday. With beautiful beaches and a temperate climate that’s never too hot, even in the middle of summer, Moraira is situated on the beautiful mountainous tip of the Costa Blanca. Over time, the town has grown from a small fishing village to a holiday and retirement destination, all without losing its Spanish charm and character.
Moraira’s town center is charming with its narrow streets, whitewashed houses, and a historic castle. Take a stroll through the streets, visit the castle, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Moraira Castle, which dates back to the 18th century, offers stunning views of the surrounding area. Moraira has several beautiful beaches, including L’Ampolla, Platgetes, and El Portet, an impressive marina, a variety of local shops, markets, harbor-side fish restaurants, and bars.
The weekly market in Moraira is held on Fridays and is a great place to shop for local produce and handicrafts — it’s a bustling and colorful event that’s not to be missed. There are handbags, carpets, ceramics… well, just about everything except furniture. Leather goods are especially good value; if you buy a leather belt the vendor will cut it to fit you exactly.
With over 320 sunshine days every year, Moraira is known for its natural beauty and is well situated for exploring other popular attractions in the region, including the nearby town of Javea and the stunning Calpe Rock.
Pro Tip: The Los Limoneros hotel offers all the comforts of a 3-star establishment and is in a good position being only 500 yards from the sea. If you are looking for somewhere to eat, try Terra Vina, a tucked-away tapas wine bar, rather than a restaurant. The tapas are homemade, and an eclectic selection of wines by the glass is available.
Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach vacation, a challenging hiking adventure, or a cultural and historical break, Spain has it all. So why not plan your next trip to this amazing country and explore some of its many hidden gems for yourself?