by Julie Day
With such a diverse and interesting landscape, it’s no wonder that many people living in Spain don’t feel the need to travel abroad. We’ve got it all here: stunning beaches, paradise islands, medieval villages, bustling cosmopolitan cities, picturesque hills and valleys and great big mountains. Many of us have done the typical tourist destinations such as Ibiza, Barcelona, Magaluf (lived there for eight years), Madrid and Granada, but how many of us have really hit the road and explored this beautiful country?
Well, this week’s guide may just give you some inspiration to pack up and head off the beaten track in search of something a little different. Interested? Brave enough? If the answer is yes, then read on.
Júzcar – Andalucía
Well, despite only having 200 inhabitants, this village has made somewhat of a name for itself, and attracts thousands of visitors every year. The reason why Júzcar is famous is because it is the setting of the Smurf Village in the Hollywood film “The Smurfs”. For this, all the houses and buildings in the vicinity had to be painted blue. A few months after the film crews had packed up and returned home, the Mayor and the inhabitants decided to maintain the painted-blue buildings rather than return them to their original white. A friend of mine recently visited Júzcar and commented that it was a fantastic day out.
Canfranc – Aragón
This is an ideal place for hikers, skiers and mountain-lovers alike. With over 300 routes for walking and just a stone’s throw from some of the country’s best and most popular ski resorts (Jaca and Formigal), this little village has so much more to offer the visitor. This is the location of the famous international train station of Canfranc, which was inaugurated in 1928 and stands at 1,194 m above sea level. Its splendid building has been awarded the title of ‘Property of Cultural Interest’.
La Costa de los Dinasaurios – Asturias
Known as the Dinosaur Coast, this part of the Spanish coastline between Gijón and Ribadesella is characterized by an abundance of fossil remains and footprints of dinosaurs and other reptiles that were alive during the Jurassic period. Some of them are more than a metre in diameter and definitely a sight to see. A great place to visit for scientists, archaeologists and dinosaur fanatics!
Liencres – Cantabria
This place is just one of those magical delights in which beauty surrounds you, whichever direction you look in. At just 72m above sea level, and only a 15-minute drive from Santander, Liencres boasts 8km of stunning beaches, perfect for surfers. The Natural Park of las Dunas de Liencres is located here.
Peratallada – Cataluña
This is one of the best-conserved and well-maintained medieval villages of the region of Cataluña in northeast Spain. Located in the province of Gerona, strolling through the narrow, cobbled streets within the medieval walls is like taking a big step back in time. The castle and church have to be visited too.
La Albufera – Comunidad Valenciana
Situated only 10km south of Valencia, Spain’s third city, is the L’Albufera, a massive freshwater lake, which was declared a natural park in 1986. The L’Albufera expanse of water is one of the prime wetland habitats for birds in the east of the country, homing around 250 different species. It is located along the coast, next to one of that stretch of water’s prettiest beaches – El Saler – but it is cut off from the sea by a wooded sandbar and is surrounded by kilometres of rice fields from which a third of the country’s rice is produced.
After taking a peaceful boat ride around the Albufera, it is almost obligatory to stop off at one of the many restaurants and enjoy a typical Valencian paella and ‘horchata’.
Cáceres – Extremadura
This city was voted the Gastronomy Capital in 2015 and was one of the top places to visit in Spain that year. Cáceres was also awarded the title of World Heritage Site in 1986 for its historic buildings, medieval walls, well-preserved Jewish quarter and exceptional architecture. Although Cáceres is not a large city, it offers plenty to the tourist, especially lovers of the outdoor, history, good food and excellent wine.
Combarro – Galicia
This is one of the most picturesque fishing villages of Rías Baixas region of Galicia. It is located just 6km from Pontevedra and is known for its ‘hórreros’ or granaries, roadside crosses and rustic fishing buildings, symbols of a time gone by. On exploring, you will discover some spectacular views of quiet beaches and forgotten islands, some of which can only be accessed by special permission; women collecting seashells from the beaches and some of the most unique rural settings around.
La Graciosa – Canary Islands
La Graciosa is an 8km long and 4km-wide volcanic island located just 2km north of Lanzarote. It is referred to as the ‘eighth island’ and is probably one of the very few places left in the world that while having a human population of around 700, there are no tarmac roads anywhere on the island. The only cars to grace La Graciosa are a couple of taxis.
People come here to get away, to enjoy the silence, the stillness, the nature and the beauty. While it is only a 30-minute ferry hop from its tourist-hotspot neighbour, Lanzarote, La Graciosa is most certainly a place that tourism hasn’t reached – nor is it likely to. Yes, there are two little villages, Caleta de Sebo and Pedro Barba, a handful of apartments, which are available to rent to holidaymakers, but people mainly come here to do very little at all, although it’s a great place to hire a bike and cycle around. The restaurants are inexpensive and its specialities are, of course, the fresh seafood and fish.
Cartagena – Murcia
This south-eastern city that lies on the coast was founded in 227 B.C. by the Carthaginians. It was then conquered by the Romans not long after in 209 B.C. and was a very important merchant city during Roman times. It is one of the country’s most complete tourist cities in terms of history and architecture, with its impressive Roman theatre, Roman quarter, castle and the Byzantine wall, which was built between 589 and 590. Not only is it a gem for historians, but Cartagena also has some fantastic beaches, a great shopping district and some excellent restaurants that offer fantastic fresh fish, seafood and rice.
La Calle Laurel de Logroño – La Rioja
If you ever find yourself in the city of Logroño in La Rioja, you must make sure that you go to Laurel Street. Although it only consists of one road, it’s one that will make you feel as if you are on an eternal holiday! But take note, this street houses at least 60 wood-beamed bars and restaurants that offer the best of the best of La Rioja wines, as well as their corresponding tapa – garlic mushrooms, tortilla, patatas bravas, croquettes, ham … you name it, it’s there. There is a reason why this road is also known as the ‘tapa pilgrimage’.