While cities like Barcelona and Madrid are excellent spots for metropolitan living, nightlife, art, and fine dining, there are a multitude of other opportunities in Spain. Getting out of the cities can add a whole new flavor to your holiday, and let you appreciate the authentic Spanish pace of life firsthand (hint: it’s slow, and it’s wonderful). Here are five great rural destinations across the breadth of the Spanish countryside:
1. Los Pueblos Blancos
The White Towns are a series of small villages in the hills of the Andalucían Spain. They are charming, slow-paced, and full of local color. From hilltop Zahara, with an ancient castle overlooking a reservoir, to cliffside Ronda, with an immense chasm running through the center, each has its own features. Public transport is difficult to obtain here, making tourists much more of a rarity than elsewhere. Rent a car and take as long as you want to explore these little pieces of heaven.
While many visitors’ trips start and end in Barcelona, on the north end of this beautiful coastline, a wander down the entire stretch is very worthwhile. Peach orchards, olive groves, charming villages, and great seafood all greet the slow-moving traveler. Some companies, such as Headwater.com, offer non-challenging weeklong bicycling tours along this coast that allow you to take your time exploring and finding which is your favorite.
The northwest region of Spain gets surprisingly few tourists. This may be due to the history of attacks by Basque separatists against the Spanish government, but it is truly a safe place to visit. The culture is entirely unique, to the point that you’ll feel like you’ve entered an entirely different country (which locals would argue that really, you have). Food, music, language, and many other cultural identifiers differ from traditional Spanish norms, and you’ll get to appreciate the distinctiveness of this special region
4. Rural Tenerife
While the south is most often known for big cities, parties, pollution, and intriguing possibilities in transport to Morocco (do it, you won’t regret it), it’s also possible to escape all of that. There are beautiful hikes where you can find near total solitude outside of the tourist resorts. More white villages, protected forests, and great views wait for the adventurous.
5. El Camino de Santiago
This ancient pilgrimage route has become very famous in recent years with exposure from figures like popular author Paulo Coelho, but it is actually one of the oldest in the world. Walking or biking along the path, staying in converted monasteries and bunkhouses, and learning the significance of each church between A and B can be a very special experience. Forget the tour buses and nightclubs, and experience real countryside.
Any of these destinations offers a refreshing departure from the big-city life that so many visitors to Spain experience. Slow down, take more siestas, drink more wine, and eat more food. The Spanish way is perhaps the most relaxing approach to life, and this easily applies to travel as well.