A Guide to the Regions in Spain for Auxiliares de Conversación

Sharing is caring!

regions in Spain

It’s that time of year again. The applications are about to open for the auxiliar de conversación teaching English in Spain program that I’ve done for the past two years. Let the mayhem commence!

With many many posts on here about being an auxiliar, from tips and tricks, to expat stories, to travel and tapas advice to problems with the program, I’ve written about it all. I get a lot of emails and messages about the auxiliar program, and now what many of you are asking about are the regions. There are 17 regions in Spain and it can be daunting to pick the one that will be home for you over the next year. Let me help!

With over 3 years experience living in Spain, I’ve traveled around most of the peninsula and always have an opinion. I decided it would just be a good idea to share here my opinions and thoughts about all the different regions (comunidades autónomas) in Spain to help you decide more when you pick your top 3 choices for the application.

Before you chose, you need to ask yourself some important questions about what kind of experience you want. Do you want to live  in a remote place or somewhere convenient to travel around Europe? Do you want a big city or would you be ok with a small village or commuting? Do you know any Spanish already-some regions are bilingual or have very heavy accents which makes learning Spanish trickier. I always used to laugh at people who would tell me they wanted to go to Spain to learn Spanish and then they go to Barcelona. And finally, the auxiliar program is notorious about paying us late, some regions are better about it than others. For example, Galicia usually always pays on time whereas in Murcia, you’re guaranteed to go months and months without seeing a penny. Do you have a lot of savings and are planning to work outside the schools in Spain? Some things to think about.

Here’s Spain’s take on the different regions, not too far off base.

regions in Spain

Here is my take for the different regions around Spain including my thoughts on the payment and language situation.

Make sure to check out my page with a budget breakdown for over 30 cities in Spain before you make the move to help plan expenses. Seriously, I spent over a month collecting all that data and building it up as a resource. Share the love.


regions in Spain

Auxiliar program: yes, with many spots

Notable cities: Seville, Granada, Córdoba, Málaga, Almería, Huelva, Jaén and Cádiz

Paid on time: Depends, Andalucía is a huge region with thousands of auxuliars, the payments depend on where the funding comes from, and some people will be paid on time, others not, and some schools will lend money while others can’t

Language: Spanish, though Andalucía is famous for it’s very thick accent, andalú, it can be challenging when you first arrive, even knowing Spanish. I lived in Spain for a year and spoke Spanish fluently and I struggled my first few months in Córdoba

Thoughts: Andalucía is a popular choice for the auxiliares because it’s seen as “traditional” Spain, with flamenco, bull fights, the ferias and Semana Santa. It is known for being more laid back than the rest of Spain but it is also seen as “lazy and poor” by others. At the risk of being called a racist blogger (again) Andalucía is rather known for it’s gypsy/Romano population. Many people love living there, it is very beautiful and there are many amazing cities and festivals to experience; seriously, they know how to party in the south. I have written a lot of posts about Andalucía and living in Córdoba though ultimately I preferred living in the north; it felt more modern, at least in my opinion. Córdoba, Sevilla and Málaga are all on the high-speed AVE train line which means you can get to Madrid in around 2 hours and there are airports in Málaga and Sevilla.

Read more: 5 Reasons to Go to Southern Spain

Castilla la Mancha

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: No, they cut it last year because of funding issues in 2012

Notable cities: Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Toledo

Language: Spanish, easy to understand

Thoughts: Castilla la Mancha is the land of windmills and Don Quijote, vast and sprawling, it is home to beautiful cities and is very historical. Toledo is one of my favorite places in Spain, and worth a trip there, no matter where you are living. It’s on the high-speed AVE train line that connects Madrid to the south coast.

Read more: Photo Friday: Castilla la Mancha


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Noble cities: Murcia

Paid on time: No, late every year, and very very late at that, totally inconsistent

Language: Spanish with a heavy accent typical of Andalucía and southern Spain, dropping “s”s and slurring words together.

Thoughts: I haven’t been to Murcia nor have I heard much about it. They seem to have many problems with the auxiliar program there and many people leave early, huge payment problems. I feel like it gets a bad reputation and I am sure there are many people who like it. It is very traditional with beautiful beaches and the ancient city of Cartagena is worth a visit and the people are very welcoming, something very typical in southern Spain and in less tourist-trafficked destinations. It is close to the airport in Alicante for travel and near Almería and the beautiful remote beaches of southeast Spain.

Read more: Why I Hate the Auxiliar Program-there is a long comment in there about someone who lived in Murcia and the problems she had there. I have nothing nor know of any blog posts about Murcia. Anyone got any links to share?


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Notable cities: Badajoz, Cáceres, and Mérida

Paid on time: Late but sometimes the schools would advance payment, depending where you are placed.

Langauge: Spanish with a very heavy accent distinct to this region, known as extremeño.

Thoughts: One of the lesser known regions in Spain, it is very traditional and beautiful. It’s right next to Portugal and between Madrid, Castilla y León and Andalucía which means you are well situated to travel around Spain. It’s central and unknown, so if you are looking to blend in and have an authentic year abroad without lots of foreigners, Extremadura is the place for you.

Read more: 10 Reasons Why I Love Caceres from the infamous Will Peach


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: No, they cut it last year because of funding issues

Notable cities: Valencia and Alicante

Langauge: Spanish and Valencian. Spanish is spoken everywhere but they also speak a local dialect called Valencian, similar to Catalán.

Thoughts: Valencia is a very cool city and it was a very popular choice for the program before it was cut, mostly second-years were placed there. It even has a Starbucks (swoon)! Famous for its fire festival in the spring (Las Fallas) and its beaches in the summer along with its paella, Valencia is a beloved city in Spain. Unfortunately it is extremely corrupt and in huge debt problems along with Cataluña which is one reason why it was cut.

Read more: Check out Zach’s blog, Not Hemingway’s Spain, an expat living in Valencia for more info


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, huge program, only region that requires 16 hr work weeks and offers 1000 euro monthly stipend, also starts Oct. 1 and ends June 30 instead of May 31.

Notable cities: Madrid and Alcalá de Henares. Madrid is both a city and a region, so you might have to commute

Paid on time: Yes for the most part. Some funding comes from different sources, so some people have been paid late, but for the most part, people are paid on time

Language: Spanish. The Spanish spoken in Madrid is easy to understand and some of the most “typical” Spanish you will hear around Spain.

Thoughts: the cost of living is higher in Madrid but you are paid more which evens it out. Barajas airport is there so you can fly all over Europe cheaply and easily. Madrid is a beautiful city with a lot to do and see, and there are lots of young people there now because of the job market and studying. It’s a great place to be located in Spain but there are also a lot of Americans and tourists there which can downsize your hopes for a truly “local” experience. It’s so big that you can find your niche.

Read more: Expat interviews with Lauren from Spanish Sabores and Casey from Gee, Cassandra

Castilla y León

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, also starts Sept. 15 and ends June 15 instead of October 1-May 31.

Notable cities: Salamanca, Valladolid, Segovia, Burgos and León

Paid on time: Yes, this year they paid 3 months late.

Language: this is the region that is where modern Spanish was born, so it’s very easy and clear to understand everyone. It’s a great region to learn Spanish though it is known for having people who are “cold” whatever that means. Salamanca is a big university town, and I had the time of my life studying there from 2007-2008. It is close enough to commute to Madrid and also Portugal and the north and there are many beautiful cities and castles there. The famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage runs through northern Castilla y León. This is a great region to “go native.”

Read more: about Castilla y León here


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes with plenty of spots

Notable cities: Santiago de Compostela, Vigo, Orense and La Coruña

Paid on time: yes

Languages: Spanish and Gallego. The Spanish spoken here is very musical because of the Gallego and Portuguese influence. Gallego is one of the official languages in Spain and it’s a romance language which means it’s not too hard to pick up. There are bilingual schools.

Thoughts: Many people chose Galicia as their third choice or get placed there by as a last resort. I think it’s because Galicia is simply so far from the rest of Spain. It’s a pain in the ass to get there but it’s worth it. There are several airports, and you can even fly into Porto, Portugal just south of the border, which is a beautiful place. Galicia is known as the Ireland or UK of Spain because it’s very verdant and green. It rains a lot but the coast is beautiful and the food is great. It is also very cheap. I have heard nothing but good things about the auxiliar program in Galicia. Whoever is in charge knows what they are doing and it sounds like the best organized region of the bunch.

Read more: About Alisa’s experience as an expat in Galicia


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, small amount admitted, competitive. Most people here are 2nd years

Notable cities: Oviedo and Gijón

Paid on time: Yes as far as I know

Langauge: Spanish

Thoughts: I would live in Asturias if I had the chance and I haven’t even been there! It’s supposed to be an amazing little region, very green and mountainous with the famous Picos de Europa mountain chain on it’s south side and then a rugged, beautiful coastline. The only downside is just how far it is from everything else, it’s very isolated. For the most part, the best food in Spain can be found in the north (in my humble opinion) and Asturias is well-known for their food and their hard cider. Also, Vicky Christina Barcelona, anyone?

Read more: Jessica from Hola Yessica’s take on Oviedo and Gijón


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Notable cities: Santander

Paid on time: as far as I know, yes

Language: Spanish

Thoughts: Beaches and cows, that’s what I think of when I think of Cantabria. It’s a small region that is also overlooked but I’ve driven along the coast there, and it’s beautiful. There are green forests, mountains and beautiful seaside towns. it’s also smack in the middle of many other beautiful cities like Oviedo, Bilbao and Burgos. It also has an airport.

Read more: Erik’s an expat in Cantabria, check out his blog for more info

Pais Vasco

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Notable cities: Bilbao and San Sebastián

Paid on time: Paid in three month stints, once in the beginning of December, in March and in May.

Thoughts: I LOVE the Basque Country! Great food, interesting culture and history, nice people and a beautiful landscape. Seriously, it’s one of the most beautiful regions in Spain with lots to see and do. It’s more expensive than other regions but it’s manageable and you make more money giving private English lessons. San Sebastián is one of my favorite cities in Spain, and it’s right next to France so you can easily travel around the north. Bilbao has a major airport and is a fun city on its own. The Basque country is industrialized and modern.

Check out my friend Liz’s guide of why you should chose to live here.

Language: Spanish and Basque (Euskera). There are two official languages in the Basque Country, so all signs, many schools, ect are bilingual. Basque is unrelated to any other language in the world which means it’s very difficult to learn, read and pronounce but it’s very interesting and very cool to learn about. Everyone speaks Spanish, only in the remote villages will be Basque be spoken predominantly, so you don’t really have to be concerned about learning it since everyone speaks Spanish

La Rioja

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes

Notable cities: Logroño

Paid on time: No, but most of the time the schools advanced the money to the auxiliars

Language: Spanish, easy to learn, the “typical” Spanish is spoken here

Thoughts: I love La Rioja, end of story. A tiny region smack in the middle of northern Spain, it’s sandwiched between many of the great northern cities, Pamplona, Bilbao, San Seb, Zaragoza. It’s very beautiful here with all the vineyards and mountains and it’s very cheap to live there. The downside is it’s a 4 hour bus ride to Madrid and the trains up there aren’t all that great. There are lots of buses that are cheap and easy to get around. Logroño was named the gastronomic capital of Spain last year so the food there will blow your mind. I can’t say enough good things about La Rioja.

Read more: My Rioja posts are here and many articles I’ve written about it here.


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: No, they have their own auxiliar program geared mostly towards Brits.

Notable cities: Pamplona

Languages: Spanish and Basque, schools are bilingual, has the most advanced language learning programs in Spain and Europe, most schools teach 4 languages, highly educated kids here

Thoughts: I love Navarra, it’s one of my favorite regions. Most people only go to Pamplona during San Fermín in the summer, which is a very fun and debauched festival, but there are many other lovely places to visit in this region too. It’s very diverse because of the Basque influence and the landscape is awesome because it’s at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. It’s near a lot of great northern cities but far from Madrid and Barcelona.

Read more: Here are all my Navarra posts


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, small amount admitted, competitive

Notable cities: Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel

Paid on time: Yes, as far as I know

Language: Spanish, clear no heavy accent

Thoughts: I’ve been to Aragón half a dozen times and I really love. Zaragoza is a big city in Spain and completely overlooked by tourists. It’s a great modern region to be based, with big cities and you can fit right in with the locals without huge crowds of tourists. Zaragoza has an airport and it’s on the high speed AVE train line between Madrid and Barcelona so you can get around Spain quick. Zaragoza and Aragón are a great place to have a very integrated, “Spanish” year abroad.

Read more: I wrote about Zaragoza here


regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: No, they cut it last year because of funding issues

Notable cities: Barcelona, Girona Lérida, and Tarragona

Langauge: Spanish and Catalán, Catalán is one of the official languages in Spain. Unlike the other bilingual regions, people here speak Catalán for the most part and some people can be rather haughty about it and not want to speak Spanish to you.

Thoughts: I’m not the biggest fan of Barcelona but I love Cataluña. It is a very magical region that’s very different from the rest of Spain, hence the strong separatist movement. There are lots of little towns and the Costa Brava will blow your mind it’s so pretty. Ultimately it doesn’t feel like the rest of Spain which can be both positive and negative, depending on what you are looking for.

Read more: I stayed in Girona for the TBEX travel blogging conference in September and fell in love with this smaller city. I also stayed in Besalú for a few days at the BlogHouse. Read about Barcelona here and here.

Las Islas Baleares 

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Yes, small amount admitted

Notable cities: Palma de Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza

Paid on time: Yes as far as I know

Langauges: Spanish and Catalán

Thoughts: I spent a weekend in Mallorca 5 years ago and I can’t wait to go back one day. Crowded mostly during the summer months, the Balearic Islands are equally as beautiful in winter. Lots of foreigners living on these islands but they have their own unique culture and language thanks to the Catalán influence. There are regular flights to the peninsula and around Europe, and the cost of living is only a little higher than the rest of Spain.

Read more: Casey has spent some time in Mallorca, see what she’s got to say about it on her blog Gee, Cassandra

Las Islas Canarias

regions in Spain

Auxiliar Program: Not for Americans, only British Council teachers are placed in the Canary Islands

Notable cities: Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma

Languages: Spanish, though it’s such a big destination and beach capital, most people speak English along with German and many other European languages because of the tourists and expats there.

Thoughts: The Canary Islands are a very popular beach destination in Spain, warm all year round, though living there all year round might be more challenging to some. It’s a solid 3 hours flight from Madrid, which is hefty if you want to travel a lot, though many of those flights are on budget airlines. I’m not a beach destination traveler, but I totally fell in love with Lanzarote when I went for a long weekend last February. Definitely a great weekend getaway from Europe, especially in winter.

Read more: I spent a long weekend in Lanzarote, read about it here.

*Images for Valencia, Extremadura, Asturias, and Murcia came from my Wander Pinterest board

*Funny Spain may source

About the author

128 Comments on “A Guide to the Regions in Spain for Auxiliares de Conversación

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. First of all I would like to THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU on behalf of myself and I’m sure dozens of other first year applicants! Seriously I’ve read just about every one of your posts and they been so helpful! I appreciate that you always add a touch of humor to your posts no matter the subject 🙂

    Second, I studied in Murcia in 2011 and though I LOVED studying there and loved the city, I can see why it would be very disorganized. I was supposed to receive a stipend from the university in Murcia to cover food, living, etc and it was supposed to come the month I arrived (January) and we didn’t end up getting it until March. This was a huge region why I decided not to request Murcia for the auxiliar program even though the city itself was wonderful, inexpensive and the people were super friendly. It will be tough not going back to la ciudad donde vive el sol (seriously. it is ALWAYS sunny in Murcia)

    Third, I put Andalucia as my first option because I loved the atmosphere and moorish influence of southern Spain but I was just wondering if you had any tips on the weather there? In Murcia it maybe rained twice for the entire seven months I was there and it was horrendously hot in May, June and July (I managed to survive by going to the beach almost every single day) and I was wondering if the weather in Andalucia would be similar to this? Also how was the public transportation system there, as I’m worried I will have to commute long distances.

    Thank you again and while I’m waiting to hear back from the program I will definitely be re-reading all your posts!

    1. Hi, I am responding to your question about the weather in Andalucía. It’s very rainy. Andaluces lie and claim it “never rains”, but I just came back from studying in Sevilla (Sept-Dec) and I can tell you that during Dec it rained at least every other day. However, until maybe November(?) it only rained a few times. It’s humid but not horrible, and generally it’s pretty dry. I went to a few other cities in November (Granada, Córdoba) and in both of these cities it rained while I was there.
      It doesn’t rain 24h of the day, but make no mistake, it does rain.

    2. To clarify: It’s only rainy in the winter, to my knowledge. During the summer it is like a giant frying pan, and there is NO rain.

    3. Thank you! There is decent public transport in Andalucia to get around and you hitch rides with fellow teachers. Many teachers have to commute thanks to the shitty system in place for getting tenured.

      Andalucia is rainy in winter, don’t let the stereotype fool you. It’s dry in spring summer and fall winter it can rain a lot and be cloudy, I’m sure it’s similar to Murcia. Also look at my apartment hunt post bc it’s standard in Andalucia not to have heat and I almost died that winter, so cold. Good luck and in glad you have found my posts helpful

    4. hello, I was a student in Huelva last year and the whole time I was there, it rained 4 if not less times. You have to remember that Andalucia is a huge region which includes all the way to Portugal and there are many small cities. When I lived in Huelva they have a really good transportation system however you had to be careful because one time my bus driver decided to take a smoke break in the middle of the route but it didn’t matter if we were late to class because they didn’t really take things too seriously to begin with. The good thing about Andalucia is being near the beach and if you get a coastal city you will have a completely different climate. In Seville and Cordoba the temperature gets hotter during summer and colder during winter. It just really depends on the city. I hope this helps you at all. Remember that Andalucia is very slow at doing things in general so understanding to be patient especially in the smaller cities. If you do go to Andalucia make sure to look up, Pego de Infermo which is Portugal’s best kept secret- only locals know and it is really beautiful.

    5. sorry they didnt pay you upfront in murcia.we are a private english schol of 37 teachers in murcia..21 americans and 16 british.we usually meet the students from abroad who visit murcia..didnt see you!! murcia is a great city .many say its like la joya california or san diego..mountains sun warm orchards vinyards..Thank for coming to our city…

  2. As a first year applicant, this post was SO helpful! Thank you for putting so much time into it! The one thing that’s still tripping me up is that you say here that a few of the regions (Valencia included) no longer has an auxiliary program. But the application still lists these regions as an option to choose… does anyone have any light to shed here? Based on my previous experience with the Spanish gov’t already, I’m inclined to take Liz’s word over the application.

    1. Great glad to have helped 🙂 they always list every region bc the application is open for more than just Americans and some have different programs, I think it comes down to funding and who knows, maybe they can come up with the necessary $ needed

  3. I was placed in Galicia from 2010-2011, and at least the year I was there, which was the first year Galicia hosted auxiliares, they did not pay us for the first time until December, and then we were not always paid on time after that. Some schools in the region the first year were not very prepared for us coming and were somewhat aloof. I have heard it has improved a lot. Regardless, I had an absolutely amazing experience.

    Galicia is stunningly gorgeous and magical, even with the rain. In my humble opinion, Galician food is the best in all of Spain (and I’ve been to all but 2 comunidades autónomas!), and the people, while they may not be as open as the andaluces upon first glance, I found that once you make a Galician friend, you are henceforth a part of the family. It is definitely not “Spain”. The music, food, landscape, architecture, etc. are all very different; when I would go to other parts of Spain, it would feel like I was traveling to a different country. Hospitality in Galicia I also found to be better, as I feel many Gallegos aren’t as indifferent to visitors an Galicia is not (yet) overrun with tourists. Chances are, if you hear someone speaking English on the street, even in the bigger cities of Santiago and A Coruña, they’re probably someone you know from the Auxiliar program!

    A trip to Galicia would not be complete without a visit to the smaller towns too; Combados and Combarro are both must-see towns with a great nightlife and ambiente, despite their small size!

    Anyway, a very great and comprehensive post! If I were to go back, I would be so torn; I absolutely loved Galicia and miss it every day. However, part of me would love to experience life in Andalucía.

    1. Very cool! I had heard the same thing, that the program drastically improved this past year up there, one can only hope that it continues and that other regions step up to base in the future. I’m glad you had a good time, I’m definitely adding those pueblos to my must-see list!

      1. Ooops, I just realized I wrote COmbados instead of Cambados jajaja but those towns are part of what they call the “Rias Baixas”… definitely worth the visit, especially in the summer on a sunny day!

  4. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for the mention! And I like the description of Valencia… a wonderful place to live, horrible place for politics and balancing budgets. That sums it up well. The Fulbright ETA program also got cut this year. One thinks this must be like cutting peanuts, budget-wise, but then things have been pretty tight in the region, so it’s hard to complain much about the tragedy of losing this talented, enthusiastic source of native-speaking teachers.

    One clarification: Valenciano (or really Valencià) is a dialect of Catalan, not Spanish. So really you should write the “Language” section the same as you did for the Balearic Islands: Spanish and Catalan. It’s a complicated subject —politically, not linguistically— which I wrote a very long entry about here:

    Much of the confusion about all of this is because Valencians often resent being lumped together with Catalans, so a small but loud minority claim (ideologically) that Valencian is a distinct language from Catalan. No linguist would accept this claim, but the Valencian government propagates it and legally the Spanish government has to respect the regional government’s claim. Thus, “Valenciano” is listed separately as one of “five official languages” in Spain, even though it is really a dialect of Catalan. (The other three languages are Galician, Basque and Spanish, as you describe above… though there are a couple of other distinct languages spoken here and there… such as aranés, a variant/dialect of Occitan spoken in a few towns in Aragon.)

    And now I will apologize in advance for the avalanche of angry, opinionated comments you might get from embattled Spaniards on this subject. As an English teacher living in Valencia, married to a Valencian-speaking Valencian, and who has taken Valencian (i.e. Catalan) classes, I’ve had to fight this battle for clarity a lot. It’s crazy. (It’s not like Americans worry about being mistaken for Brits just because their language is “English”!) Ugh. Sorry for the digression into rant.


    1. Thanks for this Zach! Valenciano was never really clear to me because I haven’t spent very much time in the area, usually only for the beaches :/ I didn’t know it was considered one of the official languages in Spain either, very interesting. I can only imagine how people there feel about it

1 2 3 4 5 6 22

Related Adventures