Spain attracts travellers from across the world for a myriad of reasons. Whether you have been to this country on Iberian Peninsula before or not, you have got to include these lesser-known Spanish destinations in your itinerary for a memorable experience.
Try Toledo instead of Madrid
A one-hour drive from the Spanish capital, Toledo is a great stop-off for authentic immersion. Known as the “City of Three Cultures,” Toledo was a place where Jewish, Arab and Christian communities lived side by side for many centuries, and it has plenty in store for fans of historical sites.
With synagogues, cathedrals and mosques, visitors can take in the rich history of this medieval city in central Spain at their own pace. As the capital of the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha, visitors can soak up Toledo’s past as an Imperial City though its fortified walls and castles, or wander through the streets of the old town. A stroll among the city’s Cigarrales mansions leads to a viewpoint offering a bird’s eye view of the city and its surroundings. Finally, no trip to Toledo would be complete without visiting the cathedral and the Alcazar.
Another option in the region: Visitors can travel on from Toledo to Ciudad Real, the heart of Don Quixote country. The city and its surroundings are also peppered with picturesque windmills.
Done Barcelona? Head to Girona
If Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and the bustling Ramblas are already familiar sights, then why not give Barcelona a miss and head to a nearby city instead. Girona, for example, is only 100km (62 miles) away, and offers visitors a different perspective of Catalonia. Its cathedral, built between the 14th and 17th centuries, is the biggest church in Catalonia.
City breakers can also explore the Jewish Quarter, which was one of the most important in Europe during the Middle Ages. What’s more, Girona is a great destination for food lovers, who’ll need to book a table at El Cellar de Can Roca several months in advance.
Another option in the region: head off the beaten track to the north of the city and up to Figueres, the famous hometown of Salvador Dali. Art fans can visit the Dali Theater and Museum, a site that’s as popular as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Check into Cadiz rather than Gibraltar
As the last stop on European’s coast, with the African continent just over the water, Gibraltar is a popular destination for holidaymakers. But there’s more to Southern Spain than this British Overseas Territory and Costa del Sol hotspots like Malaga. To escape the hustle and bustle of the tourist trail, try heading west to the Costa de la Luz instead. Cadiz is the perfect stop-off for tourists looking for calm and tranquillity.
The town centre is fully pedestrianised with only taxis permitted in the historic old town. Key sights include the cathedral, the Torre Tavira and the Museum of Cadiz. More adventurous travellers can use Cadiz as a stepping-stone to the Canary Islands thanks to the city’s many ferry links. There are beaches to enjoy, as well as strolls in the old town and new town before catching a boat.
Another option in the region: The village of Arcos de la Frontera is built on a rock overlooking the Guadalete River. This tranquil but touristy village will delight amateur photographers with its views over Andalusia.
Switch Seville for Cordoba
In inland Andalusia, Granada’s Alhambra palace attracts hoards of visitors, while scores head to Seville to soak up the Spanish lifestyle in the cobbled streets of the Santa Cruz neighbourhood. But the region has more to offer than these two destinations. The historic centre of Cordoba, for example, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Head to the Mezquita, a mosque-cathedral considered the most important Islamic monument in the West, then onto the historic centre, home to the Alcazar castle and the Jewish quarter. Soak up Cordoba with a stroll through its maze of small streets, with a trip to a Moorish-style hammam — or Arab baths — or with a flamenco show.
Another option in the region: A memorable historical discovery waits on the road to Baena, where the Roman town of Torreparedones remained buried under the ground for several centuries. The archeological site has been open to the public since 2011 but still hasn’t revealed all of its secrets.
Go to Oviedo instead of Gijon
Escape the trendy vibes of Gijon by heading inland to discover more of Asturias. Oviedo, the capital of the Principality, is a more authentic destination with a pedestrianized centre and old town that are ideal for strolling tourists. There are several sights to enjoy as you meander through the streets sampling the local specialty, carbayones, almond pastries topped with icing.
Walk through the town taking in Plaza de Porlier, Patio de la Universidad and the El Fontan market and square. San Salvador cathedral is a must-see too. Its holy chamber (Camara Santa) is home to the Shroud of Oviedo, a piece of cloth that is claimed to have been wrapped around the head of Jesus after his crucifixion.
Another option in the region: Head to Mount Naranco on the outskirts of Oviedo, where the church of Santa Maria del Naranco is an interesting architectural and historical building that was original built as a palace. In fact, in its early days, it was the summer residence of the King of Asturias in the 15th century.
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