Spain’s a popular holiday destination for good reason – something about the sea, sun and sangria, right? For a city break, there’s Barcelona and Madrid. Or, you’ve got the Balearic beauties of Ibiza and Majorca and can always count on the Canary Islands for some winter sun. You might have heard of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, too, but have you ever thought of visiting Santiago de Compostela? And of course, Andalucia’s having a moment with its trending hotspots like Malaga and Seville. Spoilt for choice? We hear you. To help you find your perfect pick, here’s the lowdown on the best places to visit…
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Sun, sea and sand? Si, Spain’s got plenty of that. We’re talking 729 Blue Flag beauties – that’s the most in a single country in Europe. Made up of the Costa del Sol, Costa Dorada, Costa de Almeria, Costa de la Luz and Costa Blanca, the whole country’s bagged itself 4,900km of coastline, so there’s loads to pick from. 200km-odd goes to the island of Menorca alone, making up 49 beaches, so you know you can bag a chilled spot. Inland, there’s plenty of picturesque walking routes too.
Over on the Canaries, Gran Canaria’s Maspalomas is one of the most impressive beaches, known for its sand dunes that make for a mini Sahara. Corralejo in Fuerteventura is also famous for its watersports if you’re a fan of surfing, windsurfing or sailing.
On the mainland, San Sebastian’s got the waves and Sitges – just down the road from bustling Barcelona – shows off its sand. The 17 beaches are worth a daytrip from the city.
You might head to the Costa del Sol for all things sandy, but it’s also got the city of Malaga, which is loaded with history and foodie finds. On the south coast, this spot gets a decent share of sun all year round.
Another Spanish city catch is its capital, Madrid, claiming a ‘Golden Triangle of Art’, AKA the Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. They’re home to some of the most prestigious art collections in the world – if you’re an artsy type, this one needs to be on your travel moodboard.
Seville’s a Moorish capital that combines Islamic, Gothic and Renaissance styles, shown off with royal palaces and a mega cathedral. You’ve got lush parks, pretty plazas and the Guadalquivir River, brimming full of tapas bars along its banks.
If food is what calls you to Spain, San Sebastian should be your first pick. This place has got the most Michelin stars per capita in Europe – and second most in the world. Go there for the pinxtos – tapas-like bar snacks – and stunning surf beaches.
One more to check out – Valencia. There’s Italy and pizza, and then there’s Valencia and paella. These two have been making a Spanish storm together since the 10th century and being right on the coast, the seafood is as fresh as it comes.
Get going to Granada – sitting at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and where four rivers meet, this beauty was born to be hiked. If summer in Spain is too obvious for you, swap the sea for a set of skis here and take on the snowy peaks through winter.
If you prefer your winters warm, the Canary Islands are your best bet. They might be a top Spanish spot but they’re geographically closer to Africa than Europe. In terms of outdoor adventure, Fuerteventura activates sports mode, with surfers and sunrise-lovers starting the day as the partygoers finish their nights. Or, take to Tenerife’s hiking tracks in Tiede National Park to climb Spain’s highest peak, Mount Tiede. Not packing your boots? Get the cable car up instead – you can’t miss out on these views.
A little less talked about is La Palma, the baby of the Canary bunch. UNESCO’s stamped its seal of approval over the entire island, making it a biosphere reserve and one of the world’s best stargazing spots. Insta-worthy views are everywhere, from trails along the Cumbre Vieja ridge to Blue Flag, black-sand beach beauties.
The Balearic Islands are known for their prime party scenes – heard of the little party spot called Ibiza? San Antonio and Playa d’en Bossa are the biggest spots for all your DJ sets, pool parties and neon lights.
Majorca’s nightlife hub, Magaluf, offers up some ancient ruins and UNESCO-backed mountains to explore in the day, but as the sun starts to set, it’s all about the strip. Save your energy for an all-night sesh and sip on cocktails in the town’s 24-hour superclubs.
Like to party but feeling tired at just the thought of it? (We feel you…) Tenerife’s home to the second biggest carnival in the world – the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival. For two weeks around February, the city of Santa Cruz is full of colour, dancing and music, so skip the clubs and take to the streets with a drink in hand.
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Author: Lily Owen
Last updated: 06/10/2023
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