Spain. The land of flamenco, tapas, and Gaudi architecture. It’s a country that screams culture and soul from every corner. From the iconic landmarks of Barcelona to the pristine beaches of the Costa del Sol, it’s easy to see why so many tourists always flock to the same destinations. But there is so much more to Spain than what you see on the tourist brochures. In fact, when you step off the beaten path, it is hard to imagine that Spain is the second most visited country in Europe! 71.6 million tourists visit Spain annually, yet the vast majority of the country remains untouched! In today’s post, I want to share some of the hidden gems I’ve discovered while travelling around Spain. So skip the crowds and explore the most underrated spots in Spain when you next visit! 

Unlocking the Hidden Gems of Northern Spain

Are you looking for a quieter, more authentic Spanish experience that doesn’t involve crowded beaches and tourist traps? Look no further than Northern Spain! Often overlooked by travellers, this region boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery and historic towns in all of Spain. From vibrant cities like Bilbao and Santander to rugged coastlines and mountains, Northern Spain has something for everyone. Here are some of my favourite spots.

Me posing inside a red rock cave in Las Medulas - a real hidden gem in Spain

Hidden Gems of Asturias

Cangas de Onís

Nestled in the foothills of the Picos de Europa, this charming town in Asturias has a unique history. It was the first capital of the Kingdom of Asturias, the remnants of which are still standing. One of them is the famous Roman Bridge that crosses the Sella River,  built in the 14th century and is still standing strong.

Another must-see attraction is the Santa Cruz Chapel, a small shrine that is considered the cradle of the Reconquista, the period when the Christians reclaimed Spain from the Moors.

Aside from its beauty and history, Cangas de Onis is also known for its delicious food and drinks. The local cuisine is based on fresh fish, cheese, and cider, which are all produced in the surrounding area. Trust me, you haven’t tasted cider until you’ve tried it in Cangas de Onis. It is flat cider poured from a height and drank in small glasses. Dining in Asturias is as much about the taste as the experience!

The town is surrounded by lush greenery and mountain peaks, making it the perfect place to explore the outdoors.

Somiedo Natural Park

If you’re a nature lover, then you should definitely visit the Somiedo Natural Park. First of all, the landscape is absolutely breathtaking. There are rugged mountains, lush forests, and crystal-clear lakes that will make your jaw drop. And the wildlife? Don’t even get me started on the wildlife. You can spot brown bears, wolves, and even golden eagles if you’re lucky.

One of the best things about Somiedo National Park is that it’s a biosphere reserve, which means it’s designed to promote sustainable development of the area while protecting the incredible wildlife and natural resources. Because of this, the park has incredible biodiversity and is home to several endangered species. So, not only will you be awestruck by the park’s beauty, but you’ll also feel good about supporting a vital conservation effort.

The park also has many hiking trails ranging from easy to challenging, so there’s something for everyone. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even take a guided horseback ride through the mountains.


Cudillero is one of my favourite underrated spots in Spain. Located in the northern region of Asturias, this charming fishing village is a true gem often overlooked by tourists, making it even more worthwhile to visit!

This small fishing village is nestled in a beautiful natural harbour that offers breathtaking views of the Cantabrian Sea. As you make your way through the narrow and winding streets, you’ll quickly discover the town’s unique architecture: the brightly coloured houses are built into the steep hillside, creating a cascading effect that is truly stunning.

But the real draw of Cudillero is its excellent seafood. In fact, the village is famous throughout Spain for its fresh and delicious seafood dishes. Whether you’re in the mood for traditional Asturian specialities like fabada (a hearty bean stew), arroz con bugre (rice with crab), or something more contemporary, you’ll have no trouble finding a great meal here.

Of course, there’s more to Cudillero than just seafood. For history buffs, there’s the 16th-century Church of San Pedro and the Municipal Museum, showcasing the town’s rich fishing and maritime heritage. And if you’re looking for outdoor activities, the nearby Playa del Silencio is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Spain.

Muros de Nalón

Muros de Nalón is a tiny coastal town with one of the most picturesque and colourful harbours in Asturias. A true hidden gem of Spain that not many people know about. The town is situated on the banks of the Nalon River, which gives it a unique charm. The river flows into the Bay of Biscay, creating a picturesque estuary. And if you’re a beach lover, you’ll be happy to know that Muros de Nalon has some of the most beautiful beaches in the region, such as Aguilar Beach and Las Llanas Beach.

But it’s not just the natural beauty that makes Muros de Nalon unique. The town has a rich history that dates back to Roman times, and you can still see some of the remnants of that era, such as the Roman bridge over the Nalon River. Additionally, Muros de Nalon has a beautiful old town with traditional Asturian houses, cobbled streets, and charming squares. And let’s not forget about the local gastronomy, which is simply delicious. The town is known for its seafood, especially its famous “callos a la marinera,” a stew made with tripe, seafood, and beans.

The stunning Aguilar Beach, a true gem in Asturias

Hidden Gems of the Basque Country

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

This tiny hermitage perched on a rocky islet off the Basque Country coast is one of the most picturesque sights in all of Spain. The 10th-century church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is reached by a winding staircase which you might also recognise as Dragonstone, from Game of Thrones. The views from the top are breathtaking, and it’s well worth the climb. But wear comfortable shoes, as it isn’t just the 241 stairs you need to tackle, you do have to walk down (and back up!) from the car park on the main road. Sadly, it’s not a hidden gem anymore, not the way it was when I was growing up, but it is still worth a visit! I recommend visiting on a week day as it will be much quieter and please note, you need to reserve a place in advance!

But it’s not just the location that makes San Juan de Gaztelugatxe so special. The island itself is steeped in history and legend, with tales of dragons, witches, and miraculous healings. There’s even a bell at the top of the hermitage that you can ring three times for good luck.

Valderejo National Park

Valderejo National Park is a hidden paradise for adventurers and nature lovers. The park covers an area of 32.8 square kilometres and is home to a remarkable array of flora and fauna. Located in the Basque Country, this park is a protected area preserved for its stunning wildlife and geography.

One of the most striking features of Valderejo is the canyon of the Purón River that runs through the park’s centre. The canyon is an impressive natural carving of towering rock walls that rise up to 700 meters in some places. In addition, the park is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including otters, martens, eagles, vultures, and wolves, amongst other species. You are most likely to spot the resident population of wild boar, roe deer, and chamois that roam free through the park.

Valderejo National Park is not only a haven for wildlife and natural beauty, but also has important cultural and historical significance. The park is home to ancient settlements and several thousand-year-old burial sites, making it a time capsule of human history. Additionally, the park hosts various cultural events and festivals that showcase the Basque culture and traditions.

There are no end of trails running through the park, so I recommend you download the Alltrails App, pack your walking shoes, and explore on foot. I most recently hiked from Las Lastras to Ribiera and then through the canyon and up to the peak of Santa Ana. A stunning hike well worth every last bit of effort!

Zumaia Geopark

Lying on the coastline between Bilbao and San Sebastian lies one of the most impressive natural landmarks in the world, the Zumaia Geopark. The Zumaia Geopark is a unique natural site stretching over 8 kilometres of coastline and boasting impressive geological formations sculpted over millions of years. In fact, it’s considered one of the most important areas in the world for studying the Earth’s history.

The park is home to many spectacular cliffs, flysch formations, and rock layers that date back to the Triassic period. The cliffs consist of alternating layers of rock that reveal the Earth’s history. You can see the progression of the different geological periods and even touch the remains of extinct creatures. The best way to explore the park is by hiking the famous Flysch Path, which takes you to the heart of the cliffs. Not only will you be surrounded by stunning landscapes, but you’ll also learn a thing or two about the planet’s history.

You can also take a boat tour to appreciate the geological formation from the water. For the more adventurous ones amongst you, there are also many caves and natural pockets to explore and discover. And, if you are a Game of Thrones fan, then some scenes were also filmed here!


Vitoria is such an underrated destination in Spain. Despite being the capital of the Basque Country, it is often overshadowed by tourists in favour of its more famous Basque siblings, Bilbao and San Sebastian. Did you know that Vitoria was named the European Green Capital in 2012? That’s right. It’s a city that takes sustainability seriously. You’ll find plenty of parks, green spaces, pedestrianised streets, and bike lanes – perfect for exploring the city on foot or by bike.

The city is a great place to immerse yourself in the Basque culture, as it has preserved its traditions and customs over the years. It’s home to one of the largest and most famous festivals in Spain, the La Blanca Festival. For a week in August, the city comes alive with music, dancing, and traditional Basque sports.

The Old Town is a maze of narrow streets and stunning architecture that will transport you back in time. You can spend hours wandering around the medieval squares, churches, and palaces. If you’re interested in art, make sure to check out the Basque Museum of Contemporary Art. For a taste of the local cuisine, head to the Mercado de Abastos, a vibrant market where you can sample the region’s delicacies. One of my favourite spots is the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, the central square where locals gather to socialise and enjoy a drink or two. Perfect for enjoying a pintxo with the locals.

Chairs under parasols in the middle of one of Vitorias streets.

Hidden Gems of Cantabria

Santillana del Mar

Located in the Cantabria region, this medieval town looks like something out of a fairy tale. The cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, and Gothic-style churches transport you back in time. Santillana del Mar is often called “The Town of Three Lies” because it isn’t a saint, it isn’t flat, and it isn’t by the sea as its name suggests.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Santillana del Mar is its beautifully preserved medieval buildings. The town is home to several stunning examples of Romanesque architecture, including the Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana, which dates back to the 12th century and is one of the most important religious buildings in the area.

But that’s not all – Santillana del Mar is also famous for its cobbled streets and charming squares, which make for a delightful stroll. You can grab a coffee or a glass of local wine and soak up the atmosphere in one of the many outdoor cafes or explore the various craft shops and boutiques that line the streets.

Another highlight of Santillana del Mar is the Altamira Museum, which houses some of the world’s most impressive prehistoric cave paintings. These incredible works of art were created more than 15,000 years ago, offering a fascinating glimpse into the lives of early humans.

Of course, no visit to Santillana del Mar would be complete without trying some of the local cuisine. Cantabrian cuisine is renowned for its seafood, so be sure to try some of the fresh seafood dishes on offer. And don’t forget to sample the local cheeses and wines – they’re some of the best in Spain!

Picos de Europa National Park

This stunning national park spreads across the regions of Asturias, Cantabria, and Castilla y León. One of the coolest facts about Picos de Europa is that it was actually the first national park to be created in Spain. It’s also one of the largest, covering over 260 square miles of land. And let me tell you, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Picos de Europa is known for its jagged and dramatic peaks, steep cliffs, and lush valleys. It’s truly a nature lover’s paradise.

One of the most popular activities in Picos de Europa is hiking, and for good reason. There are countless trails to explore, ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes. One of the most famous hikes is the Ruta del Cares, a 12-mile trail that winds through a stunning gorge. The views are incredible, with towering cliffs on either side of the trail and the river rushing below.

But hiking isn’t the only thing to do in Picos de Europa. There are also plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting, especially if you’re a bird lover. Picos de Europa is home to over 100 species of birds, including golden eagles, griffon vultures, and peregrine falcons. There are also plenty of other animals to spot, including chamois, brown bears, and wolves (although these are much harder to see).

If you’re looking for a unique experience, you can even go caving in Picos de Europa. There are over 6,500 caves in the park, many of which are open to the public. The Cueva del Soplao is one of the most popular, with an incredible array of stalagmites and stalactites to explore.

Will you be adding Northern Spain to your Spanish itinerary?

Northern Spain is a hidden gem that deserves to be explored. There’s so much to discover, from romantic medieval towns to dramatic mountains and coastlines. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or a culture vulture, there’s something for every kind of traveller. So next time you’re planning a trip to Spain, be sure to include these underrated destinations in your itinerary. You won’t regret it!

Discover the most underrated region in Spain: the West!

It is fair to say that Northern Spain is growing in popularity, but Western Spain still remains very much undiscovered. I did a two-week tour driving through the Western provinces of Spain, and I was left in awe by the beauty of its medieval cities and the charm of the national parks. Next are the destinations I most enjoyed during my discovery trip to Western Spain.

Hidden Gems of Castilla y Leon


I was left enchanted with Zamora. This small city is bursting with history, culture, and charm, and I didn’t see a single international tourist while I was there!

Located in the northwestern region of Castilla y León, Zamora is known for its impressive Romanesque architecture. In fact, it is said to have the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in all of Europe! You can spend hours wandering the narrow streets, admiring the striking buildings and soaking up the atmosphere.

One of the must-visit landmarks in Zamora is the Zamora Cathedral. This stunning cathedral was built between the 12th and 13th centuries and boasts a unique blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles. The interior is equally impressive, with intricate carvings, beautiful stained-glass windows, and awe-inspiring altarpieces.

Another fascinating spot in Zamora is the 800-year-old Zamora Castle. Although it is now in ruins, it is still a wonderful site to explore, especially for history buffs. From the top of the castle, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city.

Not far from the castle is the Puente de Piedra, meaning “Stone Bridge.” This iconic bridge dates back to the 13th century and crosses the River Duero. It’s a great spot to take a leisurely stroll and take in the sights of the city and its surroundings.

Besides the historical landmarks, Zamora is also famous for its delicious food and wine. Make sure to try the local roasted lamb dish, lechazo, which is cooked in a traditional wood-fired oven. And of course, no visit to Zamora is complete without tasting the region’s renowned red wine.

La Alberca

I discovered La Aberca by luck. I spotted a brown sign as I was driving to my hotel and decided to follow it. And I am so glad I did! What a hidden gem! A small village located in the province of Salamanca, it is guaranteed to be entirely off the beaten path for most international tourists!

One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive is the charming traditional architecture of the village. The houses are made of stone and wood, with red-tiled roofs, and the narrow streets are paved with cobblestones. It feels like stepping back in time!

One of the main attractions is the Plaza Mayor,  the heart of the village, where you’ll find the impressive arcade of the 18th-century Town Hall. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes where you can try the local cuisine, such as the delicious black pudding, roasted lamb, and honey desserts.

But La Alberca is not just about food and architecture. It’s also an excellent base for hiking in the nearby Sierra de Francia mountains. You can explore the beautiful forests, streams, and waterfalls and enjoy breathtaking countryside views.

And if you’re lucky enough to visit La Alberca during one of its festivals, you’re in for a treat! The most famous one is the Fiestas de la Santa Cruz, which takes place in May and involves the whole village dressing up in traditional costumes. As you would expect, there is lots of traditional dancing and singing. When I was there, it was just a sleepy old town that I was able to explore entirely to myself.


Salamanca is an absolute gem hidden in the heart of Spain. It could easily have been the setting for Kings Landing had Dubrovnik not stolen the show! This underrated city boasts a wealth of historical and architectural beauty, yet often gets overshadowed by the more popular tourist destinations.

Did you know that Salamanca is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1218? The only universities older than Salamanca are Bologna, Oxford, and Cambridge. I went on a fascinating walking tour of the city and learned a rather interesting fact about university degrees back in the day. The students would have to present their thesis to the entire town. If they passed, they would then buy the whole town lunch and put on a running of the bulls and bullfight. When the bull was killed, they’d use its blood to write their name on the university wall. The red names can still be seen today!

Salamanca has so much to offer. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to magnificent buildings like the Plaza Mayor, a stunning Baroque square filled with lively cafes and bars, and the impressive Casa de las Conchas, a 15th-century mansion covered in 365 seashells. Legend has it that each shell represents a day of undying love between one important man and the woman of his dreams. I’m guessing he planned on giving up his love after one year?

La Casa de Conchas in Salamanca

Salamanca also has two cathedrals. They never expected Salamanca to become an important city when they built the first one. When it did though, they felt the need to build a bigger one. The new one was built between the 16th and 18th centuries and is a masterful blend of different styles. I challenge you to find the ice cream and astronaut on the façade!

Salamanca is also known for its lively student population, meaning there’s always a buzzing nightlife scene and plenty of fantastic cheap restaurants to choose from.


Avila might be less of a hidden gem than some other cities in this guide, since it is only an hour and a half away from Madrid and therefore does see a fair few day trippers. However, it is still worth the visit! And as it happens, I saw no international tourists when I was there!

The city is most famous for its walls, which date back to the 11th century. They’re incredibly well-preserved and are the largest and most complete set of city walls in Spain. Walking along the top of the walls is a must-do activity apparently, although sadly, when I was there, they were closed.

But there’s more to Avila than just the walls. The city is also home to one of Spain’s most important medieval Gothic churches, the Cathedral of Avila. It was built in the 12th century and features a mix of Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance styles.

Avila is also known for its cuisine, particularly it’s roast meats and beans. So if you’re a foodie, be sure to stop by one of the many restaurants and try the local specialities. And if you love sweets, make sure you pick up some yemas de Ávila, a local delicacy made from egg yolk and sugar.

The impressive wall of Avila

Las Medulas

Las Medulas National really surprised me. In fact, when I shared the photos on Instagram, nobody guessed I was actually in Spain!

One of the main highlights of Las Medulas National Park is its unique geology. It is home to a striking red rock formation created by the ancient Romans when extracting gold from the area. The landscape they left behind completely differs from anything else I’ve seen in Spain.

Las Medulas National Park is excellent for hiking. The park contains several well-marked hiking trails, ranging from easy to challenging, which offer stunning views of the park’s geological formations and the surrounding countryside. It is also an excellent location for birdwatching, with several species of birds living in the area, including the golden eagle, the European griffon vulture, and the common blackbird.

In addition to its natural beauty, Las Medulas National Park also has a rich cultural history. The area has been inhabited for centuries, with the Romans, Moors, and indigenous peoples all leaving their mark on the landscape. Visitors can learn about the park’s history by visiting museums and interpretive centres.

Overall, Las Medulas National Park is a place of incredible beauty and rich history, yet it remains largely undiscovered by tourists. So why not step off the beaten path and experience this incredible destination for yourself? Who knows, you may even strike gold! But in all seriousness, whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or just someone looking for a unique travel experience, Las Medulas National Park is definitely worth a visit.

Hidden Gems of Extremadura


Located in the region of Extremadura, Caceres is a beautiful city filled with ancient history, charming streets, and delicious food.

One of the highlights of Caceres is its Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking through the city’s narrow, winding streets feels like stepping back in time, with its well-preserved medieval architecture and Roman ruins. It’s a history buff’s dream come true.

But Caceres isn’t just about the past – it’s a lively city with a thriving food scene. You’ll find plenty of restaurants serving traditional Spanish tapas and local specialities like pork with paprika and migas, a dish made with breadcrumbs and meat. But the thing Extremadura is best known for is the Jamon Jabugo, the best jamon in all of Spain. Don’t miss it!

If you’re a nature lover, Caceres also has plenty to offer. The city is surrounded by lush countryside and rolling hills, perfect for hiking and exploring. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the area’s famed black Iberian pigs roaming around.

The other cool thing about Caceres is that it has also been used as a set for many Game of Thrones scenes. Unlike many other locations where the amount of CGI makes them unrecognisable though, you can get a screen grab online and identify the places you are walking through.

Monfragüe National Park

Monfragüe National Park is a hidden gem in the western region of Spain, nestled between two rivers. It is a sanctuary for a diverse range of species, including vultures, eagles, and the elusive Iberian lynx.

Mountains, cliffs, and shrubs characterise the park’s breathtaking landscape. In the heart of the park lies the Tagus River, which attracts a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. One of the highlights of Monfragüe National Park is the Salto del Gitano viewpoint, which offers panoramic views of the Tagus River and the cliffs that surround it. It’s a perfect spot for birdwatching, as vultures and eagles can often be seen soaring overhead.

It was at the Salto del Gitano that I first enjoyed bird watching. Forty pairs of Griffon Vultures call this spot home, and they were all flying above and around me as if putting on a display. They weren’t close enough to capture with my phone, but they were close enough to see every last detail with the naked eye. I was utterly in awe, watching them glide and dive in front of my eyes. The swoosh of their wings and their cries of “that’s my space” completely consumed me for an hour.

For those who are interested in history, Monfragüe National Park offers plenty of opportunities to explore the ruins of ancient castles and forts that date back to the 9th century. The park is also home to several charming villages where visitors can discover local traditions, cuisine, and culture.

Did you know Spain had so many hidden gems?

Considering how many people visit Spain every year, I love that it remains such an underrated country. Whenever I return to the UK after spending time at home (in Northern Spain), people are always in awe of the photos. They find it hard to believe that the Spain I know is so different from the hot spots they have visited. Spain is a vast country with a diverse culture, many languages and some of the best gastronomy in the world. So please do me a favour, and next time you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination, consider exploring the hidden gems of Spain.

If you are looking for a hidden gem in the South of Spain, then I highly recommend Cordoba. You can read all about it in my Cordoba Guide. If you are heading to Spain you might also want to brush up local etiquette so that you can blend in with the locals for a more authentic experience. And if you plan on driving, then make sure to read my tips for driving in Spain!

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