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It’s no secret that Spain has my heart. The views, the culture, the language, the food, and the people always make me feel at home. And if there’s one thing to know about Spain, it’s that it’s full of surprises. It’s a diverse destination with so much to see, from beautiful cities and villages to stunning mountains and beaches (that will make you want to take a road trip through Spain). There are so many beautiful places in Spain I haven’t seen yet, but after visiting 10 out of 17 regions, I’ve decided to share my ultimate Spain bucket list (including the regions I still need to visit).
MY ULTIMATE SPAIN BUCKET LIST REGION BY REGION
1. COMMUNITY OF MADRID
Obviously, the most famous city in this region is Madrid, and I’m head over heels for it. Although it’s getting more touristy, visiting Madrid is still one of the best things to do in Spain. It combines modern and traditional so well together that anyone can find something to enjoy about it.
Whether you only have a few days in Madrid or you have some extra time for less touristy things, it is a must-visit in Spain (To have the best trip, read all my Madrid travel tips including the best cafes, what to pack, where to stay in Madrid and the best walking tours to take in the city!).
But there are also beautiful towns and villages in this region. Some are easily reachable by public transportation from Madrid, and some require renting a car. Apart from these small yet charming towns around Madrid like Chinchon and Buitrago de Lozoya, here are a few famous places you should also consider visiting.
Alcala de Henares
Maybe you’ve heard of a writer called Cervantes. You know, the one who wrote a little book called ‘Don Quixote.’ Well, how would you like to visit his hometown?
Besides a museum dedicated to him and a beautiful main square named after him, the city even hosts an annual Cervantes festival on his birthday (October 9th). Alcala de Henares’ university and historic center are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the city was also home to a Jewish community.
The Royal Palace in Madrid is not the only royal residence you need to see in this region. The Royal Palace of Aranjuez, along with the many gardens surrounding it, is the main reason why Aranjuez was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also has an old town when you can discover many other historical buildings.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial
Dating back to the 16th century, the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is an important historical royal residence. It is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in the region and a popular day trip from Madrid.
Catalonia is one of the main tourist places in Spain thanks to the city of Barcelona and the beaches of the Costa Brava coastline. However, there is more to this region than just one city and beaches. There are literally dozens of insanely enchanting coastal and inland towns and villages that are well worth a road trip like Cadaques, Peratallada, and Besalu. Here are several other must-see places in Catalonia.
With Roman, Arab, and Jewish history, exquisite medieval architecture, and ‘Game of Thrones’ filming locations, Girona is a popular day trip you can easily take from Barcelona.
Often overlooked, the city of Tarragona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site priding itself in its Roman ruins like the Tarragona Amphitheatre and Roman walls.
I LOVE the Spanish Netflix show ‘La Casa de Papel.’ Although the artist Salvador Dali doesn’t need any introduction, I’m pretty sure this series has made him even more popular (If you haven’t seen it and don’t know what I’m talking about, go and watch it now!). If you want to visit Dali’s birthplace and a museum dedicated to him (that was also designed by him), you shouldn’t miss Figueres.
Possibly the most famous range of mountains in Spain, the Spanish Pyrenees are a paradise for nature lovers, hikers, extreme sports lovers, and skiers (in winter).
The Pyrenees stretch beyond the region of Catalonia, but many travelers love to visit the region’s Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park. There are actually more than 15 parks in Catalonia, so there’s no shortage of stunning natural scenery.
3. VALENCIAN COMMUNITY
The Valencian Community is another region that’s famous for its coastline and capital, Valencia. Valencia has both modern and traditional sides to it, and although it’s getting more and more popular, it’s still quite underrated.
You might have heard about the Fallas festival, but this colorful city offers a variety of things to do and see all year round including some amazing hidden gems (if you’re planning a trip, check out all my tips for visiting Valencia).
There are also plenty of places you can visit as day trips from Valencia like the Albufera National Park and the town of Sagunto, and here are a few other spots to visit in the region.
Sitting on the Costa Blanca, Alicante is the second-largest city in the region. Besides its port and beach, it’s known for its castle and charming old quarter.
Who doesn’t love strolling through a maze of cobbled streets with whitewashed houses? Throw some beaches and a beautiful old church into the mix, and you’ve got yourself one visit-worthy town called Altea.
Guadalest is a small mountain town with a Moorish history. It’s home to quite a few landmarks and museums, but you can’t miss the panoramic views over the Guadalest Reservoir.
Mostly known for its impressive ancient castle, Xativa is an easy and popular day trip from Valencia.
With a Moorish castle overlooking the city and diverse cultural influence of Greek, Islamic, Napoleonic, and other cultures, Denia is a coastal city you’d want to have on your Spain bucket list.
Andalucia is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Spain. Located in the southern part of the country, this region is the perfect definition of Mediterranean charm. With big historical cities, enchanting villages, stunning beaches, and views of vast olive tree fields, it is an excellent destination for a road trip. Some of the main places to see in Andalucia:
Celebrating both the modern and the traditional at the same time, Malaga is one of the oldest cities in the world (and Picasso’s birthplace!).
Seville is a vibrant city with a rich Moorish heritage and several UNESCO sites like its cathedral and Alcazar. You can find many ‘Game of Thrones’ filming locations in the city, as well as amazing flamenco shows and some of the best tapas bars in southern Spain.
A bit underrated, Cordoba is a beautiful city that preserves the heritage of three cultures (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim). It was home to a thriving Jewish community, and you can visit many Jewish landmarks in the city.
If you’re planning a trip to Andalucia, you absolutely cannot skip out on Granada. I was first inspired to visit the city by ‘The Return’ – an incredible novel set in Spain during the civil war. It did not disappoint and I fell in love with Granada. The city itself is filled with historical landmarks and enchanting old streets, but its crowning glory is the iconic Alhambra Palace dating back to Moorish times.
Although it has its traditional side, Marbella is mostly known for being a beloved resort city and luxury destination.
Cadiz is an irresistibly charming city sitting on the Atlantic coast. It’s the oldest city in Western Europe (and one of the best cities to visit in Spain), and well-known for its exquisite cuisine.
With all due respect to Andalucia’s cities, the traditional white-washed villages and towns are a must-visit in the region. Amongst the ones you should add to your itinerary are Ronda, Mijas, Zahara de la Sierra, Frigiliana, and many more.
Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park
With a mix of lesser-known villages, dreamy beaches, and vast natural landscapes, this park is filled with magical spots do discover.
5. CASTILLA Y LEON
Castilla y Leon is the largest region in Spain, spreading over most of the lands that used to belong to the Kingdom of Castilla and the Kingdom of Leon. Offering both World Heritage Sites (more than 60% of all of Spain’s heritage sites) and natural landscapes, this surprising region should not be missed. Main places to visit in Castilla y Leon:
Taking a day trip from Madrid to Segovia is a must. This gorgeous World Heritage City is famous for three main landmarks – its Roman aqueduct, its cathedral, and its castle, and it is an absolute delight to explore.
As a World Heritage City, there are many things to do in Salamanca, including visiting its cathedral, university, museums, and palaces. You can easily visit it as a weekend getaway from Madrid.
Usually visited as a day trip from Madrid, Avila is yet another World Heritage City known for its ancient walls and cathedrals.
The famous pilgrims’ route, Way of St. James (or Camino de Santiago), passes through the city of Burgos. Its cathedral is a remarkable example of Gothic architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Picos de Europa
Picos de Europa is a huge national park that offers mesmerizing views, and activities like hiking, cycling, and kayaking. The park also spreads to two other regions – Asturias and Cantabria.
Spain is full of surprising landscapes, and Las Medulas is one of them. It is a historical gold-mining site with unique views that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
6. CASTILLA-LA MANCHA
Does the name Castilla-La Mancha sound familiar to you? Let me give you a hint: I’ve already mentioned a book about Don Quixote (de La Mancha). Besides being the setting to one of the most famous books taking place in Spain, this region also offers a combination of World Heritage Cities and natural areas. Main places to visit in Castilla-La Mancha:
With rich Jewish, Christian, and Arab heritage and countless historical landmarks including Toledo‘s cathedral and synagogue, this UNESCO World Heritage City is a must-take day trip from Madrid.
You must have come across some photos of Cuenca’s iconic ‘hanging houses,’ but the World Heritage City is home to many other landmarks like the Cuenca Cathedral and the remains of an ancient Arab castle.
La Ciudad Encantada
La Ciudad Encantada is a geological site near the city of Cuenca with extremely unique rock formations.
With its famous windmills, it’s THE place to feel like you’re in Don Quixote’s book. You can also find windmills in several other towns in the region like Campo de Criptana.
Cabañeros National Park
Castilla-La Mancha also prides itself on the natural areas you can visit. In the Cabañeros National Park, you can see more than 1,000 plant species, dozens of endangered animal species, and more than 500 million years old fossils.
7. BASQUE COUNTRY
The Basque Country is heaven for lovers of high-quality food, art, architecture, coastal villages, and beaches. It’s also another region where the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) passes. The weather in this region is a bit cooler than other areas (as well as the rest of northern Spain), making it an excellent destination for spring and summer. Main places to visit in the Basque Country:
A foodie’s heaven, San Sebastian is the capital of Michelin-starred restaurants and pintxo bars. It is also home to one of the best beaches in Spain – La Concha.
It is the queen city of architecture and art. One of the main things to do in Bilbao is to visit the Guggenheim Museum, but there are dozens of unique buildings and museums in Bilbao to satisfy any culture lover’s needs.
This coastal town is known for its unique and colorful old town buildings, walls, and castle. It sits right on the border with France, which means you can overlook the French town of Hendaye and even take a boat ride to visit it.
The Germans bombed this town in the ’30s as an ‘experiment.’ The act inspired Picasso’s creation ‘Gernika,’ and the town is now ‘a symbol of peace.’
If you’re wondering what to do in Spain besides seeing the touristy areas, consider visiting Cantabria. It is one of the most beautiful places to see in northern Spain and a more peaceful area in the country. Vast green landscapes, prehistoric caves, famous monuments, and charming towns and villages are what you can find in this fantastic region. Main places to visit in Cantabria:
Santillana del Mar
Many people consider Santillana del Mar as one of the most enchanting medieval towns in Spain, and you can wander around it for hours. It is also known as ‘The Town of Three Lies’ since it is neither holy (Santa), nor flat (Llana), nor is it by the sea (Mar).
This cute coastal town is rich with beautiful architecture. In Comillas, you’ll find the famous building of ‘El Capricho,’ one of the few creations of Antoni Gaudi outside the region of Catalonia.
Cueva de Altamira
The Cave of Altamira features prehistoric drawings and paintings of human hands and fauna. It was, of course, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Picos de Europa National Park
As I’ve mentioned, this park spreads over three different regions, and Cantabria is one of them.
Asturias is a paradise in northern Spain for anyone who loves nature and coastal towns. It’s also home to several historical monuments and archeological sites. Some of the main places to visit in Asturias:
Oviedo is the capital of the region. With old churches and palaces alongside shopping streets and Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s an intriguing city you don’t want to miss.
Cangas de Onis
The small town was actually the capital of Asturias back in the 8th century. Its most famous landmark is the Roman bridge, dating back to the 14th century.
Cudillero has to be one of the most unique fishing villages in Spain. It’s pretty difficult not to fall in love with its small port, colorful houses, and laid-back atmosphere.
Picos de Europa (and Lagos de Covadonga)
Asturias is the third region in which this national park is situated. The Covadonga Lakes are an absolute must-visit in this part of the park, which feels more like Switzerland or Ireland rather than Spain.
Somiedo Natural Park
Forested mountains and valleys dotted with lakes and rivers, hundreds of species of flora and fauna, and unique stone cabins used by herdsmen are exactly what makes this park a paradise for nature lovers and hikers.
The incredible coastline, green landscapes, big gorgeous cities, and the sweetest villages are the essence of Galicia. It’s also home to the Ribeira Sacra wine region and several UNESCO Sites. Some of the main places to visit in Galicia:
Santiago de Compostela
The capital of the region and the endpoint of the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago), Santiago de Compostela is one of the most visited and religiously important cities in northern Spain. Its crowning glory is the cathedral, which dates back to the 11th century.
With a beautiful historic center, relaxing beaches, and plenty of museums, the coastal city of Vigo is worth a visit. That said, my favorite activity was taking a day trip to the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park. The islands are an exotic paradise where you can soak up the sun but also take some amazing hikes.
Lugo is extremely unique because it is the only city in the entire world that is completely surrounded by perfectly intact Roman walls! It’s no wonder why these 3rd-century walls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Combarro has to be one of my most favorite fishing villages in Spain. Its streets and alleys boast with beauty, and it knows how to celebrate and preserve traditional Galician architecture.
From natural landscapes and wine regions to historical towns and vibrant traditional Spanish festivals, it’s obvious why Navarra is the ‘land of diversity.’
You’ve probably heard about its most famous festival San Fermin which is a bull-running festival that takes place in Pamplona (that I, personally, don’t encourage attending). However, there’s a lot more to this region. Main places to visit in Navarra:
Ernest Hemingway wrote about Pamplona and the cruel San Fermin festival in his book ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ which made the city famous. However, Pamplona is also known for its historic quarter and parks.
Spain is home to some pretty gorgeous castles and palaces. But if you want to see a medieval royal palace that will make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale, go to Olite, and pay a visit to the Palace of the Kings of Navarre of Olite.
Tudela is a historic city that was home to one of the most important Jewish communities in Navarre. It also preserves the heritage of Arabs and Christians, so there are plenty of landmarks to see.
The Navarran Pyrenees
Nature lovers, as well as rural tourism lovers, will appreciate this vast green area. Forested mountains and striking valleys hiding medieval villages could be a great destination for an off the beaten track trip.
I told you Spain is full of surprises, and the Bardenas Reales Nature Reserve is one of them. It is a semi-desert natural park with unusual sandstone formations, uniquely-shaped hills, plateaus, and canyons. It was also a filming location of the ‘Game of Thrones.’
12. LA RIOJA
When you hear the name ‘La Rioja,’ the first thing that probably comes to mind is wine. This region has over 500 wineries, and it even hosts an annual wine festival in the town of Haro. Apart from world-famous wines, La Rioja is also home to historical and cultural landmarks, and several nature reserves.
Some of the main places to visit in La Rioja:
- Logroño: The capital of the region.
- Ezcaray: A charming and quiet small town.
- Sierra Cebollera Nature Reserve.
Offering a mix of nature, history, and culture, Aragon is a Spanish hidden gem. It’s the birthplace of the famous painter Francisco de Goya, home to several UNESCO Sites, and renowned for its ski resorts. Main places to visit in Aragon:
The capital of the region, Zaragoza houses a medieval Moorish palace and several important churches that are a UNESCO Site.
The mountainous medieval city of Teruel is famous for its Mudejar-style landmarks. This architectural style is essentially referring to Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance styles combined with Moorish elements.
As a former capital of a Moorish kingdom, this medieval small town preserves both Christian and Islamic heritage. It’s also a popular rock-climbing spot, thanks to its surrounding rocky hills.
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park
As a part of the Spanish Pyrenees, this national park is another amazing place to enjoy outstanding natural views and outdoor activities such as hiking, canyoning, and rafting.
Another region that both history and nature are its main characteristics is Extremadura. It’s less touristy than other areas, so it’s perfect for anyone who likes to travel off the beaten path.
Main places to visit in Extremadura:
- Caceres: A city whose medieval historic center is a UNESCO Site.
- Hervas: A small town with a famous Jewish quarter.
- Merida: The capital city of the region and home to a significant Roman archeological site.
- Monfragüe National Park.
- Tajo International Nature Reserve.
15. REGION OF MURCIA
The Region of Murcia can be a perfect destination for whoever wants to relax on sandy beaches and enjoy a variety of wellness centers and spas. Due to their relatively high salinity, many of the beaches of Murcia are considered natural spas.
Main places to visit in the Region of Murcia:
- Murcia: The capital of the region.
- Cartagena: A coastal city that has many museums and archeological sites.
- Los Alcazares: A coastal spa town.
16. BALEARIC ISLANDS
With such dreamy turquoise beaches, it’s no wonder that the Balearic Islands are a popular Medeaternian summer travel destination. Besides sitting on the beach, you can enjoy a variety of water sports, fishing villages, and nature views. The Balearic Islands consist of five islands:
It is the largest island of the Balearic Islands and one of the most significant places of interest in Spain. Here you can find a fantastic coastline, mountains, and hiking trails. You can also visit cities and towns like Palma, Deia, and Valldemossa.
Slightly more quiet and peaceful than Mallorca, this island is famous for water activities (especially diving), archeological sites, and traditional fishing villages.
Its nightlife and beaches are what makes this island so famous, but it’s also home to several UNESCO Sites and natural parks.
Little fishing villages, water activities, and turquoise coves are what you can expect to find in this small island.
Cabrera Archipelago National Park
It is the smallest of the islands and a protected area. You can visit this inhabited island as a day trip from Mallorca.
17. CANARY ISLANDS
Although these islands’ location is near Morroco, they are European territory. Due to their incredible beaches, unique views, and mild temperatures, they are a perfect destination all year round. The Canary Islands consist of seven main islands (and a few smaller islands):
Apart from more than 200 km coastline, this island is a great place to engage in water sports and hike in nature reserves.
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands. It’s mostly known for its volcanic landscapes and Carnival. The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife takes place in February and March, and it is the second-largest Carnival in the world (after Rio de Janeiro).
This island offers a mix of white-sand beaches, water sports, and nature reserves.
Due to its extensive and unique volcanic scenery, Lanzarote is always described as having ‘lunar’ landscapes. Thanks to these unusual formations, it is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
From black-sand beaches to wide green national parks, this island is a paradise for nature lovers.
Although it is a small island, it features many different types of scenery like black-sand beaches, forests, and canyons.
El Hierro is another small island with diverse landscapes. It’s a perfect place to visit in Spain if you like diving, snorkeling, and other outdoor activities.
Did you get inspired by these beautiful places to see in Spain? Pin this post for later and check out these Spanish Instagram accounts you have to follow!