Spain holds a multitude of hidden gems that most people are yet to discover.
At the time of writing, much of the world remains in lockdown due to COVID-19. That said, the world will surely return to normal in the foreseeable future and, when that day comes, you’ll want to grab your passport, hop on a plane and get exploring all the fab places you’ve been planning!
For many travellers, one of the top countries on their list is España. We dream of strolling down Barcelona’s Ramblas, watching a bullfight in Seville and chowing down on a bocadillo de calamares (that’s a fried squid sandwich!) in Madrid’s mythical plaza mayor (main square).
Of course, off the beaten track, Spain holds a multitude of hidden gems that most people are yet to discover. So for a taste of the real Iberian peninsula, check out these secret spots. Also, to learn if you need a visa to visit Spain, consult an online service such as Byevisa.com.
1. Los Pueblos Negros (Black Villages) in Guadalajara
About 125km north-east of Madrid in Spain’s Guadalajara province, you’ll find the so-called pueblos negros (black villages). These are a group of beautifully-conserved rural hamlets built entirely from the local area’s stone slate, including the houses, churches, bridges and fountains.
As a result (and in contrast to the typically white-washed villages you’ll find in Andalusia!) these villages possess a distinct, charming blackish hue. It’s a pleasure just to stroll around, take it all in, snap some photos and breathe in the pure countryside air.
2. The Molinos de Viento (Windmills) in Consuegra, Toledo
Most folks are familiar with Cervantes’ famous tale of Don Quijote, the mad knight who tilts at windmills in the mistaken belief that they’re giants. Well, Cervantes’ story has a basis in reality, at least so far as the windmills are concerned, and they can be found in Consuegra, in the province of Toledo.
It’s a 130km journey straight south from Madrid to arrive at Consuegra. Once there, you can soak in the sight of these medieval monuments, some of which are still working today, dotted around Consuegra’s superbly-conserved thirteenth-century castle. Visit in late October, during the local village’s Festival of the Saffron Rose, for the fullest authentic experience!
3. Pazo de Lourizán (Palace of Lourizán) in Pontevedra, Galicia
Pontevedra was one of the first cities in Spain to completely pedestrianise its city centre and, as such, it’s a real pleasure to walk around. Located on the outside of this lovely city you’ll find the Pazo de Lourizán (Palace of Lourizán), a near-abandoned, epic nineteenth-century seigniorial manor.
These days the grounds around the pazo are occupied by the Centre for Sustainable Development of the Environment, yet it’s perfectly possible to explore the area, admiring the romantic stone architecture like something from a fairy tale. Famously, Evita Perón, the Argentine first lady of the film starring Madonna, ate in the gardens of the pazo where you too can now enjoy a snack!
4. Las Tablas de Daimiel (the Boards of Daimiel), in Ciudad Real
Spain’s national parks offer a surfeit of natural wonders. Less than an hour from Madrid there’s la sierra de Guadarrama (the Guadarrama mountain range), to enjoy hiking in Summer and skiing in Winter. Go a bit further afield though, approximately 200km south to the village of Daimiel in the province of Ciudad Real, and you’ll happen upon Las Tablas de Daimiel, one of the best-preserved wild bird reserves in Europe.
It’s well worth spending a weekend in the area, sampling some of the local gastronomy at one of the excellent restaurants and then, one morning, getting up just before dawn to enter the reserve. As you watch the sunrise, you’ll be greeted by the sights and sounds of thousands of birds waking up and getting ready for the day. It’s a nature lover’s paradise, and an experience you’ll remember forever!
Salamanca may be less well-known than Madrid, Barcelona or Seville, yet it’s equally deserving of a visit. It’s Spain’s Ciudad de Conocimiento (City of Knowledge), hosting the city’s most ancient, reverend universities. So at every turn, you’re faced with gorgeous, yellow stone buildings dating back centuries, similar to the UK’s Oxford or Cambridge.
What’s more, Salamanca is famous for its cured meats, so it’s the ideal place to try some Spanish classics, whether that’s jamón Iberico (Iberian ham), chorizo or salchichón (Spanish sausage). The traditional dish of Salamanca is called hornazo, a thick pastry filled with different sorts of meat and even boiled egg! Be sure to try some while you’re there.
We hope these 5 secret spots have whetted your appetite to explore more of España! Be sure to include them in your itinerary the next time you find yourself in the Mediterranean.