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My 10 Favorite Underrated Cities in Spain

underrated cities in Spain

There is so much more to Spain than Madrid, Barcelona, Granada and Sevilla. As much as I love those cities, one major goal of mine on this blog is to showcase all of the lesser-known, often-overlooked gems around the rest of Spain. Over the years I have traveled around most of the Iberian Peninsula, and there are some cities that just tugged at my heart and made me fall in love with them, over and over again. Here are my 10 favorite underrated cities in Spain that I’ve been to:

Have you been to Spain? What’s a place you’ve been to that you feel is underrated and deserves recognition?

1. Logroño

Logroño was home for me for exactly 12 months, and it was one of the best years of my life. The capital of La Rioja, wine country in the north of Spain, Logroño has it all. A beautiful little old quarter with more pincho (tapas) bars than you can count, Logroño has long been a stopping point for people walking the famous Camino de Santiago. A small city, situated between many other great cities and towns in the north, it is a good place to base yourself while traveling. It helps that it’s incredible cheap, has amazing food and red wine and it’s almost completely devoid of tourists.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: Take the ALSA bus, not the train from Madrid. It takes the same amount of time and is a quarter of the price and there’s wifi.

When to go: The best time to see La Rioja is in October when the leaves change on the vineyards, otherwise, Logroño’s patron saint festival is in September, San Mateo, a week of sheer madness.

If you only do one thing: tour a winery and go out for pinchos. Bodegas Franco-Españolas is right across the river from the old quarter, a 5 minute walk does great tours. Hemingway used to visit there, which is saying something. Head back across town and get lunch or dinner around Calle Laurel, the famous pincho street.

2. Jerez de la Frontera

One of my good friend’s lived in Jerez my first year in Cordoba, and I would go visit regularly. Located in southwest Spain, Jerez is just north of the beautiful beach town of Cadiz, and it’s traditional Andaluz southern Spain at its finest. Home of flamenco dancing and sherry (Jerez is Spanish for sherry) there are more than enough aging bodegas to tour and taste both sweet and dry sherry. There are castles and ruins galore, along with beautiful cobbled streets and medieval churches unbeknownst to tourists. It’s a really lovely Spanish city to get to know and feel like a local.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: Jerez is on the train line between Seville and Cadiz, and there is a small airport. There are frequent buses around Andalucía and the rest of Spain.

When to go: visit Jerez in the springtime before it gets too hot and humid in the summer. The best time to visit is during their feria, the traditional festival in Andalucia, where everyone dresses up in traditional flamenco costumes and parties from dusk til dawn. Any city in Andalusia is best seen during it’s feria.

If you only do one thing: Tour a sherry bodega, the biggest, baddest one in town is Tío Pepe. I loved it because of its history, founded way back in the day, the aging rooms have blackened ceilings with cobwebbed corners; it even smells old. And it’s vast, feels like a small city.

3. Salamanca

Salamanca was my first introduction to living in Spain back in 2007. Home to one of the oldest universities in the world, Salamanca is a young and thriving city set amid a very historic and beautiful backdrop. Filled with medieval sandstone buildings, there is not shortage of history to be found in Salamanca. Being a big university town, it is also incredibly cheap with more bars and discos per person than any other city in Spain. This means that you’re average Saturday night in Salamanca feels like New Year’s Eve anywhere else.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: Salamanca is an easy 2.5 hour bus or train ride from Madrid.

When to go: If you go to Salamanca, try to go during the school year so you can get to know the city when all of the students are around. Salamanca has it’s festivals in September, making it really fun to visit.

If you only do one thing: go out partying one night. It will be unforgettable, I promise. If partying isn’t your thing, then climb to the top of the cathedral; it’s one of the few places that let’s tourists walk around the parapets and gargoyles, and the views are pretty awesome too. You can even walk along the inside; try to spot the huge cracks in the cathedral walls from a 16th century earthquake.

4. Huesca

I discovered Huesca by accident on a trip to Aragón several years ago. North of Zaragoza and right before the foothills of the Pyrenees, Huesca is a charming small town overlooked by just about everyone. It is a great day trip from Zaragoza, and one of my favorite small towns in Spain. I spent two days here years ago in October, and completely fell in love with it. I even had one of my most moving moments in Spain to date.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: there are regular trains and buses from Zaragoza.

When to go: anytime of the year is beautiful. Huesca’s festival, San Lorenzo occurs for a week in August around the 9-15.

If you only do one thing: climb to the top of the little cathedral for views of the whole town and the mountains in the distance.

5. Santillana del Mar

Ok I met be stretching it to call Santillana a city, rather it’s a tiny town on the northern Cantabrian coastline. Ok, it’s a village with around 4,000 people, but it’s incredibly beautiful. Back years ago I rented a car with my parents and drove all along the northern Spanish coast, and my favorite place we stopped was in Santillana in Cantabria. An adorable medieval town, it’s easy to picture it as it must have been 500 years ago.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: There are regional buses around northern Spain and local trains that run to nearby towns. Of course, a great way to visit is by car. More info here.

When to go: Summer is the best time to visit the north coast of Spain because there’s the least chance of rain, but I was there in January and still loved it. This part of Spain doesn’t get too cold because it’s on the sea.

If you only do one thing: try to rent a car and drive around the gorgeous coastline along Santillana. It almost feels like you’re in Ireland.

6. Consuegra

One of the most iconic images of Spain and least visited, home of the famous windmills of La Mancha, you know, as in Don Quijote. This is traditional Spain at it’s finest, and Consuegra is home to the best preserved windmills in Spain. High on a hill set against the typical blue Spanish skies, you can see for miles and miles. It’s a really cool place to visit and not very well-known. There is also a historic castle next to the windmills.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: There are frequent buses from Madrid, it makes for a perfect day trip.

When to go: Not in the summer when it’s a million degrees.

If you only do one thing: Pretend you are Don Quijote fighting the windmills of course.

7. Girona

I discovered Girona this fall when I was in Cataluña for the TBEX travel blogging conference. It was never really on my radar, except for being Ryanair’s budget “Barcelona” airport, but let me tell you, it quickly became one of my favorite cities in Spain. It is a stunningly beautiful city, with plenty of attractions, not to mention amazing food. Starting to see a pattern here? Girona is also an interesting alternative to Barcelona, a city both daunting and overplayed. I love visiting this region in Spain because it almost doesn’t even feel like Spain. Cataluña being a region fighting for independence, to me has stronger European vibes to it than the rest of Spain. An interesting combination. The second best restaurant in the world is in Girona, El Cellar de Can Roca, and if you can’t afford to eat there, make sure to check out their pet project, a fancy gastronomic ice-cream shop, Rocambolesc, affordable to all.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: If you can tolerate Ryanair, there are plenty of flights to Girona from around Europe, otherwise, there are frequent trains and buses from Barcelona, less than an hour away.

When to go: I was in Girona in September, and I’d say that’s a pretty perfect time to go. Not too hot, it still feels like summertime.

If you only do one thing: Eat fancy ice-cream from Rocambolesc and walk along the riverfront.

8. Santiago de Compostela

Santiago is well enough known among tourists but it is often overlooked on classic itineraries to Spain simply because it’s so far from everything! Santiago and Galicia made my list of reasons to go to northern Spain. A difference language, gallego, is spoken in this part of Spain, making it unique from the other regions. Rainy and green, people tend to call it the UK of Spain. If you are looking to do something off the beaten track, I suggest Santiago. Supposedly St. James (Santiago in Spanish) is buried here, and over the centuries, it became the biggest pilgrimage in Europe. Nowadays it has one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve ever seen.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: You can fly very cheaply to Santiago de Compostela from around Spain and the rest of Europe too on Ryanair and Iberia. Otherwise, there are long-distance buses and a few trains.

When to go: Summer is the best weather, but fall is also nice.

If you only do one thing: Visit the cathedral. 

9. Pamplona (not during San Fermín)

When I was living in Logroño, I spent a lot of time visiting Pamplona. Less than an hour away, it has a beautiful old center with a lot of cute shops and things to do; it made for the perfect day trip. Because it’s next to the Basque Country, Euskera is also spoken there and there is a lot of Basque influence, especially in the food and wine. Pamplona is a beautiful city, and as much as I love San Fermin and the running of the bulls in July, it taints the city, both with its reputation and filth; literally it’s disgusting during the running of the bulls, but super fun as long as you’re drinking. The rest of the year, it’s completely underrated and overlooked by tourists.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: There are many buses from Madrid and around the rest of Spain to Pamplona, and the bus station there is pretty sweet, brand spanking new.

When to go: My favorite season is the fall, when the leaves start to change in the parks and the days get cooler. It’s also harvest time so there are lots of delicious wines and dishes to try around town.

If you only do one thing: Go out for pinchos in the old quarter for lunch or dinner and hang out in one of the city’s beautiful parks for a mid-afternoon siesta.

10. Burgos

Burgos is another Spanish city that is also overlooked by tourists and Spaniards alike. North of Salamanca, it is located in traditional Spain, the region of Castilla y León. A historic city, there are a lot of great places to visit and it’s close to many other towns and cities around north and western Spain. Famous for its blood sausage, morcilla, we discovered a booming tapas scene last time we were there.  Well known for its sprawling gothic cathedral, the whole complex is a UNESCO world heritage site.

underrated cities in Spain

Getting there: There are frequent buses from Madrid on ALSA.

When to go: Summer and autumn are nice times to visit Burgos

If you only do one thing: Go inside the cathedral, famous Spanish legendary hero, El Cid, is buried inside. It is also one of the nicest cathedrals I’ve ever been to, and that’s saying something.

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87 Responses to My 10 Favorite Underrated Cities in Spain

  1. Matthew Hirtes February 7, 2013 at 6:03 am #

    Some interesting selections, Liz. My three to see were very different:

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

      Those look great, I really want to go to tarragona one day 🙂

      • Rick May 7, 2014 at 7:42 am #

        I am 7 days into my 10 day exploration of the East Coast of spain. I have been to Alicante, Malaga (not impressed), Cordoba, Granada, Cartagena (spent one night – great beach north of that), Valencia amd just arrived in Tarragona. Tarragona is a jewel and by far my favorite. There is so much attention to some of the cities I visited and while I appreciate them for what they have to provide, i would rather visit the smaller cities such as Tarragona and others you mentioned.

      • Vitaly May 28, 2014 at 10:33 am #

        Liz did much better job (even though I’m not 100% agree with her, especially on Pamplona and Logrono), Matthew’s list is just super lame — looks like he travelled to Spain a couple of times just to lie on the beach

        • Pablo2 December 28, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

          I did all of Castilla & Leon, La Rioja, South Basque Country, most of Cataluña (interior is amazing), Navarra and Aragon in three months. Completely doable. You just need a guidebook and interest (and yes, 28 Euros a day, that was my budget).

          Spain is a beautiful country, many pretty little towns, many “secrets” (that the locals obviously know). I don´t understand why people need bloggers when Lonely Planets & Rough Guides (and extensive local guidebooks if you can understand the language) are already in bookstores, but, I never believed that people would pay to watch other people play videogames, and there you have, people do.

      • Augustine,ansah September 10, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

        Celebration to Spain

  2. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas February 7, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    I haven’t been to all of them, but am a large proponent of Jerez, Arcos de la Frontera, Santiago and anywhere in Castilla. This was the point I was trying to make with my BCN post, that it’s the “Spanish” city many foreigners travel to, when it is so far different from Spain. Huesca, however, has never been a draw for me.

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

      Yeah exactly. That bothers me too. Huesca is cute, I love Aragon!

      • Ahmed February 4, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

        Hi how are you my friend I com spain can you meet me

  3. Alexis February 7, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I agree with you for sure on Girona. I thought it was amazing and regretted that I only got to spend one day there as a side trip from Barcelona.

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      Girona rocks. I totally fell in love with it when I was there!

  4. Cassandra February 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    I really want to make it to Girona, that city has really been garning a lot of attention recently!

    Also, I´m afraid I have to disagree about Santillana del Mar being underrated/lesser known. I was here overnight and it was astounding how many tourists pour into the city during the day. Spanish tourists, especially, come in hordes, and the charming streets just aren´t that enjoyable with a 30-person tour group trampling all over you.

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

      Wow that’s crazy. When I was there, we were the only tourists and it was a Saturday. Still though, if you say “Santillana del Mar” to someone (not Spanish, and even spaniards not from the north) I’m sure no one will know what you’re talking about haha.

      It was the same in Besalu. Lots of day trippers which to me was shocking because I’d never heard of it til this summer

      • Cassandra February 7, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

        Funny how that works, isn’t it?! Another reason my friend and I thought Santillana was touristy is because, since we did stay over night, we had to find a place to eat dinner. But it was extremely hard to find a place that was open after 9 because the few eateries that did exist in the center were open way early for tourists!!

      • Pablo2 December 28, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

        Santillana is one of the most famous towns in Spain. Is known as Cesky Krumlov is known in Central Europe.

  5. Caitlyn February 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Ooh you’ve definitely whet my appetite for seeing more of Spain this year! I’ve heard such great things about Jerez and Girona so they’re both on my list. Definitely agree with you on Salamanca, it’s a definitely fave! Only one I’d disagree with is Consuegra – the city depressed me, and it feels like you can be blown across La Mancha, with all the wind up on the hill. Others that I love include Ronda, Bilbao and Peniscola (terrible name, lovely old town and beach).

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

      Agreed! I need to check out Peniscola but I will probably act like an idiot there haha. I’m not very mature hehe

  6. Trevor Huxham February 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    I think the Japanese would beg to differ about Consuegra and other windmill-adorned cities in La Mancha; from what I’ve heard (and experienced, in nearby Campo de Criptana), Japanese tourists are gaga for Quixote and his windmills, so much so that many tourist signs are translated into Japanese and/or there are Japanese tourist guides there—in rural La Mancha, of all places! BTW what do you mean by “typical blue Spanish skies”? Not trying to be a dick here, but…I feel like skies are typically blue most anywhere on Earth 😛

    You are totally right about the September-through-July Pamplona as being very underrated. I stayed there for two nights in January and really liked the place—I ate WAAAY too many pinchos, got lost in the old town, was blinded by sunlight in the morning in the ciutadella, and even ran into a parade that poured into Café Iruña! And there were no bulls involved in the whole visit! 😀 It’s the perfect transition between the Basque Country and the rest of Spain.

    If you ask me (I know I’m biased because I live here right now), Úbeda & neighboring Baeza in Jaén province—to the east of Córdoba between Granada and Madrid—definitely gets passed over by the vast majority of tourists. Although it’s a small town (~35,000), it’s just dripping with beautiful Renaissance architecture, many museums, and good food (read: free tapas!). It’s surrounded by rolling olive groves (I recommend the almond-flavored arbequina variety of olive oil) with the mountain ranges of Las Villas, Segura, and Cazorla in the distance.

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      Haha l love your comment. Sometimes I forget I’m writing with an audience, which is ridiculous but it happens. In my head, I love regions like La Mancha I. Spain because the are so wide and vast, and I feel like the sky is so much bigger and bluer than anywhere else. I have a thing for skies lol

      I also had quite a lot of Belgian beer before I wrote this post last night which might explain some things lol. I’ll do some editing tonight hehe

      I didn’t spot a single Japanese person or really any person when I was at the windmills but that was just my experience. This post is mostly geared towards encouraging people to check out a lesser know side of Spain that is equally beautiful. And I can tell you, poll 9 out of 10 regular people they probably haven’t heard of any of these places 🙂

      • Trevor Huxham February 7, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

        Hahaha Belgian beer 😀 but in all seriousness I would completely agree with you on all ten that most people either bypass them or have simply never even heard of them at all!

        And thanks to this post I am more seriously considering visiting Girona next weekend while in Barcelona, Jerez de la Frontera this spring, and Santillana del Mar next year. 🙂 Speaking of which, is Santillana right next to the Caves of Altamira?

        • Lauren February 8, 2013 at 4:49 am #

          Yes, Santillana is extremely close to the Caves of Altamira. There are also many similar caves in the region like the Caves del Monte Castillo in Puente Viesgo or El Soplao. Cantabria is a great place to visit! 🙂

  7. Alex @ ifs ands & butts February 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    How I’d love to just do a huge tour of Spain – so many amazing cities and I haven’t even heard of most of these. Unfortunately, looking like it’ll just be weekend stops this year.

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      There is so much to see! Over 3 years there and I still haven’t seen it all! Where do you want to go?

  8. georgemills25 February 7, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Nice list. I would say – however – that I don’t think Salamanca and Santiago (DC) are underrated. They are hugely popular tourist destinations. My own underrated list might include Caceres, Oviedo and Cadiz, just to name 3. But as you know, the list is endless.

    • Liz February 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

      The list is definitely endless. I only picked places I’ve been to, and I haven’t been fortunate enough to get to Asturias or extremadura yet. One day!

      While there are tourists in Salamanca and Santiago, I don’t really consider them to be popular tourist spots in Spain. They do not compare with places in the south or madrid or Barcelona. Most tourists I find that go there are seasoned Spain travelers or expats but that’s just my 2 cents.

  9. Crazy sexy fun traveler February 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    This is a great list! Sadly, I have been just to Girona and didn’t even check it out properly!

    • Liz February 8, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

      Next time! Girona is pretty awesome! I’m so glad I got to visit!

  10. Idaira February 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Those poaces are great, but in the map you missed something… The Canary Islands! Seven beautiful islands really different from the rest of Spain but as Spanish as any other. You should visit. Love your blog!

    • Liz February 8, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

      Oh yeah I love the Canary Islands! I spent a long weekend in lanzarote last February. So beautiful but not underrated at all! Swamped with tourists all year round! I’ve never heard so much English spoken in Spain before!

  11. Julia February 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    You are amazing. Thanks for putting this together! I swear your blog will be my main guide in Spain next year haha

    One of my best friends was born and raised in Girona and she’s always telling me about little charming spots and amazing restaurants nearby. I can’t wait to get there! xx

    • Liz February 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

      Wahoo! Girona rocks you have to visit. I love it more than Barcelona !!

  12. Lisa February 7, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    Good call with Jerez, that’s a great city, and you’re right, it really is underrated. Girona is my favourite city in Spain and I go there at least once a year without ever growing tired of it. You don’t have anything from Balearics 🙁 didn’t you ever travel there?

    • Liz February 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Agreed! I’ve been to Mallorca but I want to go back! I don’t know about it being underrated though haha, it’s called little Germany for a reason lol

  13. Ashlee D. [Polyglottony] February 7, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Love that you included Santiago, my former home! It’s also home to some of the best food and amazing free tapas!! Apart from the peregrinos, there are few tourists which makes it a relatively unspoiled location as well!

    I also loveeee Santillana! Great list of cities!

    • Liz February 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Love Santiago!!!

  14. Cristina February 8, 2013 at 3:05 am #

    Hi Liz! I just discovered your blog! i love this list. I’m planning to explore more of Spain so this is an awesome resource I’m bookmarking right now! 🙂

    • Liz February 8, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

      Excellent, that’s what I like to hear!

  15. amelie88 February 9, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    I actually have heard of Consuegra. 😀 I always meant to go visit while I was living in Madrid but never got around to it. The bus times were Madrid were really sporadic and really weird on weekends so it was always hard to find a time to go. I also feel like Salamanca isn’t that underrrated. I know most American tourists don’t really know about it, but both times I went there there were plenty of French people! And I also went during Semana Santa with my parents–place was super packed with tourists and Spanish people alike. Though my mother did feel like she was the only American there along with me.

  16. Anita February 13, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    your post gives some great inspiration for my further spain trips. I’ve only been to Madrid,Barcelona and Toledo so far but would love to explore Salamanca, Granada and Santiago in the near future 🙂

  17. Marta February 23, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    Wow…now I see I still have a lot to visit in Spain, I’ve been to Salamanca, Santiago, Burgos and Girona, loved them all! I would add Pedraza near Santiago, I really loved it.

  18. Andy February 24, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    I think that Spain is full of these types of cities, but you definitely left up a good list! It is funny how most people who visit Barcelona fly in to Girona, but rarely visit the city itself. Just jump on the quick bus to Barcelona.

  19. Mike February 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    I loved this post! I’ve been to Burgos, Huesca, and Pamplona before. I’ll definitely have to try and get to these other ones next year when I’m teaching in Spain! Another small city that I really like is Zarautz. It’s a beautiful small town in País Vasco.

  20. John March 14, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    Just a suggestion but the best way to experience Santiago is as walker/pilgrim on the Way of Saint James (Santiago). There are several routes and you don’t have to be religious.

  21. Lexie R. April 12, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Thanks for this. I’m planning my first trip back to Spain since I lived in Sevilla, I never got to travel up north, so your tips are super appreciated!

  22. mee May 21, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    Just to add to the list, when I went for a road trip around Spain, I was nicely surprised by Elche – near Alicante. Really neat little town!

  23. Ina June 17, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Hey Liz, I’m just planning my trip to Spain this summer and as always the beginning is the hardest. This post was a good start and I’m curious to browse your blog more. Greets, Ina from 🙂

    • Liz June 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Thanks Ina, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  24. Doug August 3, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    Hi Liz…It’s interesting to read your list. You’ve whetted my appetite to really visit Logroño I passed through once or twice. It really depends on whether you stop and explore or not, because almost every place in Spain is worth a piece of your life. You´ve touched on mostly mid-sized cities, so I will add a couple more…plus a smaller gem.

    My favorite mid-sized cities to live and spend time are Alicante and Segovia. Alicante doesn´t feel touristy even in summer (since it´s a living, breathing Spanish city and most tourists are passing through on their way to true beach resorts (in summer) like Benidorm, etc. The old town, center city is easily walkable with a long waterfront ‘rambla’ lined with cafes and restaurants with wonderful tapas and Spain’s best Paella hands-down! (You can’t wait to eat paella again the next day at lunch.) The surrounding area includes wonderfully remote-feeling mountain villages (the road to Alcoy) where you can escape the heat for an afternoon or a week. The people are warm and friendly and their is a with-it vibe as young entrepreneurs are opening new restaurants, shops…but you don’t lose the traditional feel either.

    Segovia is a couple of hours north of Madrid and it’s cooler in the summer because you’re at altitude between mountain ranges. A fantastically historical (Romanesque, Gothic) city, the old part of town is fabulous for walking and musing. The stones are eloquent here. Great town for tapas and, of course, roast suckling pig, lamb. Lots of university programs here so the town is a mix of traditional Castilla with funky student-friendly activity. A great city to live and spend time whether for a few days or…forever. It helps that nearby there are fantastic villages to explore: First and foremost of these is the town of PEDRAZA. Imagine Santillana del Mar with almost no tourists. Plan a day trip from Segovia just to walk the cobble-stoned streets and try the roasted cochinillo. You won’t regret it!

    Keep up the good work!

  25. Teresa - The Nomad Chronicles August 15, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    I see another commenter mentioned Caceres in Extremadura – I concur. But the town in Extremadura that blew me away the most was Guadalupe, famous for its absolutely amazing monastery and blood sausage.

  26. Joachim August 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    I went two days ago to Santillana de Mar and while it was truly beautiful it was surely not at all underrated. Though very small indeed as the author of the blog rightfully mentioned it was full of day tourists. They have large parkings but when we came at noon they were full. Nevertheless I recommend this town together with Comillas, the zoo of Cabarceno ( more like a wildlife refuge) and then the Picos de Europa about an hour or so away ( e.g. staying in Cabrales (famous for the cheese) and

    • Joachim August 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      … then hiking up to Bulnes or taking the Furnicular… Alternatively hiking from Poncebo to Cains…

      Cheers and keep up with thecgood work!

  27. Immy September 16, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    such a great post to come across before i set off on my year abroad in Northern Spain! Will be sure to check out Santillana del Mar as well as many of the other places. Thanks for a brilliant list!

    • Liz September 16, 2013 at 7:01 pm #


  28. pep October 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Don’t forget Granada, Menorca, Santiago de Compostela, Altea, Seville and Cáceres.

  29. sam October 12, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    Thanks for the list. Haven’t been to Spain, but exploring the lesser known places is what I & my fiancé love. Planning honeymoon march next year and this surely is coming handy to us. Thanks a ton!

  30. Jessie February 20, 2014 at 6:09 am #

    Hi Liz!

    I am going to Spain for a month in May, and I was having a headache trying to plan the trip (there is so much stuff out there for the average tourist, and I really love exploring the less-explored towns) and then I stumbled across your blog. This is a dream! Thank you so much for sharing – this is going to be my go-to source for travel planning now.

    I was hoping to sort of plop myself in one place for quite a few days and up my Spanish and really get comfortable. It looks like Logrono is going to be it for me (I’d like it to be Girona, but I think I’m going to end my trip in Barcelona so it’ll have to be towards the end of the trip). Since you lived there for a year, I was wondering if you know if it’ll be easy to try and get accommodation in someone’s house for a few days, and if people are very willing to learn English? I’m hoping to up my Spanish that way, by sort of doing an ‘Eat-Pray-Love’ language learning approach haha.

    Anyway, would love your advice! If it’s easier, my email address is Thanks so much in advance! 🙂


  31. Jessie February 21, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Also – I only just realized you’re living in NZ. I grew up in NZ – in Auckland! I’m living all over the place at the moment, but currently in New York and headed back to Sydney (which is where I call home for now) after my Europe adventures. Anyway – that was a very cool coincidence. Hope you’re loving Wellington – it’s a wonderful little city. 🙂

  32. Oiane May 1, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    Hi Liz!
    Thank you for your post, it has been great to read that Spain is much more than “tapas and fiesta”!
    We have lots of great small towns to discover, not only Salou and Ibiza parties.
    I live in Bilbao, please if you are coming someday let me know!
    Thank you again!

  33. Beatriz July 27, 2014 at 2:34 am #

    I’m going to Santiago this tuesday, It’s really nice to see that other people who aren’t Spanish realize there are other places in Spain bar Barcelona and Ibiza! I go there every year and I love it. The beaches are beautiful, If you go there again you should definitely check out Muxia and Noia they have some of the nicest, most private beaches.


  34. Mig August 10, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    Nice list. I add a few citys for visit. León, Zamora, and Puebla de Sanabria. All are in north of Castilla y León Region.

  35. Antonio August 11, 2014 at 2:20 am #

    It’s nice to see that there are people who discover that there are many unknown and charming places in Spain. I’m from Zaragoza, I recommend watching the Aljaferia Palace, the Basilica del Pilar and the Roman theater for example but if you’ve been through here already have seen everything. I’m glad you like both Aragon territory with over 2000 years of history, if you like I recommend Huesca Loarre Castle or the monastery of San Juan de la Peña, birthplace of the ancient kingdom of Aragon 1000 years ago. Greetings.

  36. Shawn October 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    Thanks for this, Liz. Really sweet to get another view into Spain off the beaten path.

  37. Jackie De Burca December 11, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    Hi Liz,

    Great article, it’s so refreshing to see some cities that are not churned out time and time again. I would also agree with 2 of Matthew’s suggestions, they are big favourites of mine – Tarragona and Valencia.


  38. Kunal Chaudhry @lbluerucksack February 26, 2015 at 7:34 am #

    Hey there! Am planning a trip to Spain this summer and one of our criteria was to find some small quaint towns in Spain. Your post was really helpful! Thanks!

  39. Cris March 23, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    My favourite undiscovered city is Cuenca. It is amazing!!!!

    • Raymond September 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

      I agree. Cuenca is truly an undiscovered gem.

  40. Voyage Way April 14, 2015 at 2:21 am #

    Thank you for this post. I have just discovered some cities. Next week, I will visitZaragoza, I will try to go to Huesca.

  41. Tricia April 25, 2015 at 8:33 am #

    Hi Liz, can you give advice on a city in Spain to send a high School exchange student to for the Spain cultural and language. They will be going through a program in the US and will be going over alone. Will be attending school for 2nd half of the year. Jan-June. Looking for friendly area for a 18 year old with good schools. May attend public or private, safety is a concern as we do not know the area. We may have some say on the area she will be going to.

  42. Oscar May 22, 2015 at 3:12 am #

    Thank you Liz for your list. Im going to recommed another place you may find interesting. Teruel,City between Zaragoza and Valencia and all Teruel region, really. Towns like Albarracin,awarded as the prettiest village in Spain or Alcañiz, Calaceite,Valderrobles all in the Matarraña river region. It´s known as Spanish Toscana. The only thing i would say is not visiting in winter, as Teruel is really really cold, but from May to november, it´s wonderful…

  43. Rob June 7, 2015 at 1:01 am #

    Having visited off-the-beaten track Spain a good few times. This posting and comments here are really spot on and much better than the generalities found in guide books.

    To second Oscar’s comment about the town of Teruel – it is a really unique little town. Due to it’s location I definitely would not like to be there during winter but in summer this town is really pleasant with it’s small square, windy medieval streets and is delightfully free of the tourist hordes.

    Girona is nice – but compared to other Spanish towns like Granada, it has a very sedate vibe to it. This can make the town a little bit boring after a day or two.

  44. Hockey Jockey October 15, 2015 at 4:54 am #

    Have you visited any horse racing facilities?

  45. Colin Smith November 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

    We try and visit somewhere new and not usually mentioned by tourists, about four times each year from our home in Andalucia. Extremadura is a must with Trujillo top of the list. Secondly, Merida has the best Roman ampitheatre and theatre. You can imagine you are in ancient Rome. Caceres is O.K. But nowhere near as spectacular as the Plaza in Trujillo. I also rate Ubeda and Baezia, already mentioned. When we first started going to Spain, a Spanish student told us that Salamanca is the best place of all to visit in Spain. Many years later, we can confirm he was right.

  46. Toni December 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    In my opinion, speaking of Catalonia “as a region fighting for independence” was rather superflous. I’m a Catalan myself and I’m not a supporter of Catalonia’s independence. According to the last elections held on September 27th, non-independence parties got 53% of the votes. There are many people who support independence here and they make a lot of noise (as you may have propably noticed) but they are not a majority yet. Congratulations on your blog though, I really enjoyed it!

  47. Derek December 8, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

    Hi Liz – you may be young and adventuress but I wanted you to know that us ‘getting on and adventuress’ like your site too! We are a 56 & 60 year old couple and we are FREE of our children and have our lives back. We love Spain and we’re gradually travelling all over so this list is a great help. We particularly love the Spanish parts of Spain with no tourists. Luego!

  48. Patricia December 15, 2015 at 12:20 am #

    Hello, I found this blog by accident, I am Spanish , specifically Salamanca , I love my city and of course I loved you to make reference to your blog. So if someone will come I will do guide ! lol in Spain there are cities and charming villages , but do not know all the diversity of climate , landscape and history in a not very big country means there all to see!

  49. PatriciaJameson December 26, 2015 at 12:32 am #

    Great article, I have been to Salamanca, and it’s truly a magical place! Definitely worth seeing all of those underrated places.

  50. M. Resort World February 9, 2016 at 4:32 am #

    Great insight into different areas Liz. Santillana del Mar sounds like a great secret get away!

  51. Maya April 4, 2016 at 1:23 am #

    Madrid is like any other big city. Its not the easiest to naiagvte, so you need more time there than other cities. Granada is like a big university town. I would suggest at LEAST two nights. The Alhambra takes a day all by itself and you CANT MISS IT! I wasnt that crazy about Seville although the Mosque truly is amazing IF you know the history. Malaga isnt a bad place to spend a couple nights. Its pretty and right on the beach. Salamanca has great night life. It is famous for having one of the oldest universities in Europe. Tons of college kids study there and the main strip at night is a trip! BUT if you can make it up north I would suggest Bilboa. Its in Pais Vasco (look up something on ETA if youre curious to what that means) The Guggenheim is one of the most amazing museums in the world. The city is pretty urban for Spain for Pais Vasco especially.

  52. Valentin June 3, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    Spain seems so attractive ! Working in an events promotion company, I got to attend a spanish cooking class last week, discovered flavours I would have never guessed it exists. During summer break, I’ll travel to spain with my wife and eat some amazing food, for sure I will visit some of the cities you’ve listed.

    Valentin @ jorlio

  53. Raushan Gullivant July 7, 2016 at 10:12 pm #

    Jerez de la Frontera first Impressions are amazing. The rest of the 9 are no less. Found this sentence humerous: “It’s easy to picture it (santillana del mar) as it may have been 500 years ago”

  54. chris October 1, 2016 at 4:00 am #

    i was there

    • chris October 1, 2016 at 4:02 am #

      really thats crazy

  55. Jesse November 15, 2016 at 12:17 am #

    Thanks for this amazing blog with great info! I have not made any decision to take a tour in Spain. But after reading your blog I have to change my list for my next holiday.


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