Despite being named by locals as 2018’s “most beautiful town in
Spain”, Albarracín remains relatively untouched by tourism.
Teetering on a rocky promontory carved out by the winding
Guadalaviar River, this medieval settlement is blanketed in history
– the Museo de Albarracín, set inside the town’s former hospital,
makes a great starting point for curious travellers. Alternatively,
head to the nearby pine forests of Rodeno, in which hiking trails
afford vistas of across Albarracín’s gypsum-tinted buildings.
Setenil de las Bodegas
Setenil’s 3,000 residents live under a rock – no pun intended.
Burrowed beneath the cliffs of the Río Trejo, the town’s cave
houses provide shade during hot summer days and trap heat in
winter. Originally occupied by 15th-century Moorish residents, many
of these dwellings have now been transformed into some of Cádiz’s
best restaurants and bars, serving the olive oil, almonds, chorizo
and pastries for which the town is famed. Setenil makes a perfect
day-trip destination from the nearby city of Ronda, a 30-minute
Whitewashed villages framed by rolling countryside are an emblem
of Andalusia, and Frigiliana is among the region’s best-kept. Found
in east Malaga, this mountainside enclave is a tangle of alleyways
and Moorish-Mudéjar architecture. Explore the ninth-century
Castillo de Lízar before stopping by Vinos el Lagar for a glass of
muscatel and local tapas. The Festival de Las Tres Culturas is a
highlight of the local calendar – come in August to experience this
village-wide celebration of Christian, Muslim and Jewish
The cobalt waters of this bohemian port town have inspired the
likes of Matisse and Picasso, though it’s Salvador Dalí who put
Cadaqués on the map – the surrealist spent holidays here and lived
in nearby Port Lligat. A happy marriage of nature and culture, this
slice of the Costa Brava is best enjoyed out of high season, when
the population increases tenfold. Meander among Cuban-inspired
houses to the Dalí Museum-House or the Església de Santa María, get
stuck into local culture at the travelling Monday market or explore
the Cap de Creus Natural Park.
Built on a rocky headland, this fortified fisherman’s village is
nicknamed the “Gibraltar of Valencia”. If you thought it looked
familiar, you wouldn’t be wrong. The Plaza Santa María, Castillo de
Peñíscola and the Parque de la Artillería set the scene for Meereen
in the Game of Thrones. While visitors don’t have to contend with
dragons today, they can visit the hilltop fortifications for
360-degree views and enjoy a long, leisurely walk along the Paseo
Marítimo promenade to neighbouring Benicarló.
An hour-long scenic train ride from Palma, Sóller is surrounded
by Edenic woodland, mountains and sea, making it a tranquil base
from which to explore
Mallorca. You can breathe deeply here; the ocean breeze is
tinged with the aroma of orange blossom thanks to the region’s
abundant citrus groves. Sóller life revolves around the Plaça
Constitució, from where you can catch the heritage Tranvía de
Sóller tram to the main station which doubles up as a museum
dedicated to Picasso and Miró.
Santillana del Mar
Santillana del Mar is known as “The Town of Three Lies”; it is
neither holy (santi), flat (llana) nor by the sea (del mar). The
use of cars is limited here, meaning you can wander the cobbled
streets overhung with flower-strewn balconies in relative peace.
Among Santillana’s must-sees is the Cave of Altamira – a Unesco
World Heritage Site and the so-called “Sistine Chapel of cave art –
which contains paleolithic paintings that date back over 36,000
Take the hour’s drive north of Girona to Besalú and you’d be
forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a fairy tale. Straddling
the Fluvià river, its 12th-century Romanesque bridge gives way to
arcaded streets that congregate around the Plaça de la Llibertat.
Vestiges of the town’s Jewish past can be seen in its restored
mikveh (an 11th-century bathhouse) and the remains of a medieval
synagogue. The Museum of Miniatures and Microminiatures makes for
an unlikely but eye-opening pitstop – literally, some of the models
are so small that they must be viewed with a microscope.
San Vicente de la Barquera
A fisherman’s refuge, San Vicente de la Barquera is among the
most picturesque spots on the Cantabrian coast. It’s hemmed by
magnificent beaches – try Fuentes, Primera de San Vicente or Merón
– an estuary, the Oyambre Natural Park and the snow-capped Picos de
Europa mountains. Attractions include the 13th-century church of
Santa María de los Ángeles and the Puente de la Maza, a low-slung
bridge with 28 arches. Seafood is spectacular here – try
sorropotún, a stew prepared with tuna and potatoes.