There are so many reasons to visit Spain: amazing culture, delicious cuisine, and natural beauty, just to name a few. But where should you go to experience it all?
Spain is a diverse collection of cultures, with each of its 15 mainland regions featuring different traditions, sights, and even languages. It can be overwhelming deciding where to go, but don’t worry—we have 12 suggestions for things you absolutely must see on your next trip to Spain.
Santiago de Compostela
Spain’s Atlantic Northwest is great for those looking for something a little different. Rainier weather makes Galicia greener and grayer than the rest of the country.
No matter the weather, the Santiago de Compostela is always a brilliant sight to behold. Tucked away in the city of Santiago, the cathedral sits at the end of a world-famous pilgrimage honoring Saint James. Towering spires loom over you as you enter the cathedral, with gilded ornamentation and artwork within.
Afterwards, head to a nearby shop or restaurant for some souvenirs or delicious Galician octopus.
The Mountainous Santa Cueva de Covadonga
The small region of Asturias rests in the northwest of Spain. While it borders the sea, the coastline is more rugged rocks than soft beaches, which befits a region as mountainous as Asturias.
The Santa Cueva de Covadonga is a fantastic example of a Spanish must-see awaiting in the mountains: it features a church sanctuary built into a massive mountain cave. The earthy tunnels and stunning views are like nothing else in the country!
The Beaches of Zarautz
Even in a country of disunited regions, the Basque Country stands out as unique. Sitting on the border of France, Basque has a distinct cuisine, history, and language. The small community is often ignored by tourists, and unjustly, especially when there are amazing locales like Zarautz.
The small coastal town features a breathtaking beach and vast expanses of sand dunes. You can admire the shoreline from a distance thanks to a long wooden walkway, or opt to spread out your beach towel and go sunbathing.
Riverside Beauty at the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar
A landlocked region in eastern Spain, Aragon has an incredibly diverse geography for visitors to explore. Glaciers and plains await guests, along with the Ebro River.
A perfect blend of river landscapes and Spanish architecture awaits at the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. The glittering gold and shining marble of the interiors are worth the trip, but the true beauty lies in the spires outside reflecting off the waters of the Ebro.
Barcelona’s Plaça de Gaudí and La Sagrada Familia
The region of Catalonia lies on Spain’s eastern coast, and houses Barcelona, one of Spain’s most famous cities.
La Sagrada Familia cathedral and park are among Spain’s biggest must-see attractions. Both were designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, and it shows in the park’s intriguing structures and the breathtaking spires of the cathedral.
The cathedral requires reservations to enter, but it’s worth the trouble—the high ceilings and ornate decor must be seen to be believed.
Step into the Future with Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences
If you’re looking for a beach vacation in mainland Spain, you won’t find a better region to explore than sunny Valencia. Located in the southeast, the gorgeous beaches are known far and wide, especially near the eponymous main city and on the world-famous Costa Blanca to the south.
Don’t spend so much time sunbathing that you forget about other sights, including the City of Arts and Sciences. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the futurist development features stunning architecture to admire. The City of Arts and Sciences has plenty of museums to explore, including the Oceanográfic, Europe’s largest aquarium.
The Many, Many Sights of Madrid
The capital of Spain, Madrid is smack-dab in the center of the country. There are so many Spanish must-see attractions here that you could spend a whole vacation in the city!
Madrid has too many attractions to do justice, but if you’re looking for the absolute top hits, be sure to check out the bustling Plaza Mayor and Puerto del Sol.
If museums are more your style, the Paseo del Arte features a wide selection of art, including the famous Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and Reina Sofia Museum, while the Royal Palace is the largest in Western Europe.
Castile and Leon
Segovia’s Famous Alcázar of Segovia
Castile and Leon lie a short distance north of Madrid, making it an excellent region to visit on a day trip during a stay in Spain’s capital city.
The city of Segovia is one of the region’s largest, chock full of history. While the town’s famous Roman Aqueduct gets plenty of attention, the nearby Alcázar de Segovia is definitely worth a visit. The restored 12th-century castle sits on a distinctive rocky crag near town, and offers architecture and sights right out of a history book, including an armory, throne room, and towers.
The Fresh Air of Monfragüe National Park
The western region of Extremadura is less populated than many others in Spain. What the region lacks in large, bustling cities is more than made up for by the wide-open geography.
Spain’s must-see natural beauty is waiting to be explored, including the stunning Monfragüe National Park. Between the rocky terrain, heavy forests, and rushing river, there’s something here for every visitor to enjoy. If you venture far enough into the park, you can even find the overgrown ruins of Monfragüe Castle.
Seville’s Breathtaking Real Alcázar
The largest region in southern Spain, Andalusia covers everything from mountains and lakes inland to the breathtaking beaches of Costa del Sol. The culture is varied, with influences from both the North African conquest and the Christian reconquista of the late 15th century.
The Real Alcázar—sitting in Seville, the region’s capital—is an excellent example. Built by the Moors, but restructured after the reconquista, the palace has hallmarks of both Christian and Muslim architecture. From the fountain outside to the columns of the courtyard, the grandeur of the Real Alcázar has to be seen to be believed.
Lanzarote’s Otherworldly Timanfaya National Park
When most people think of the Canary Islands, they think of Tenerife’s stunning beaches, or the culture and dining awaiting in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the isle’s largest city. The island and its soft, sandy shores are well worth their hype, but you shouldn’t forget that Tenerife is only one island in an archipelago. The others are also well worth the visit!
Lanzarote, for example, has something you won’t find on any of the other islands thanks to its unique volcanic geography. Black ashy soil, barren hills, and massive craters make Timanfaya National Park an incredible sight to behold, whether you explore it on foot or on the back of a camel. Don’t worry about packing a lunch—a restaurant at the park uses volcanic geothermal energy to cook incredible meals.
Mallorca’s Breathtaking Cuevas del Drach
A surprisingly well-kept secret, the Balearic Islands are far closer to Spain than the Canary Archipelago, with beaches and cities that are every bit as amazing as those of their cousins to the south. In fact, the isle of Mallorca has something that you’ll never find in the Canaries in the form of an amazing cave complex.
Nestled on the southern end of the isle’s east coast, the Cuevas del Drach are a jaw-dropping sight: four underground caves with stalactites reflected in still pools of water, almost like something from a fantasy movie. If you opt for the official tour, you’re even treated to a small musical performance at the end by a quartet on a boat.
From the Basque Country bordering France to the rocky ocean crags of Galicia to the west, every region in Spain is incredible in its own way. Spain’s many must-see sights await you, so get out there and start exploring!
Featured photo courtesy of ORNELLA BINNI
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