Spain is easily the most popular destination for tourists and avid travelers. The former might want to take advantage of the fine cuisine and visit the typical sights for a shorter period of time, while the latter is more about exploring the off-the-beaten-track spots for a longer period of time. But no matter what type of visitor, it’s always about the experiences. Of course, one cannot leave Spain without visiting popular sights such as the Sagrada Familia, or seeing a flamenco performance and eating delicious traditional tapas. Nevertheless, there are places and things that are not touristy and still retain the authentic charm. These underrated places include medieval villages, historical and cultural sites, and unspoilt landscapes with very few people. If you want to discover unique cities worth visiting and immerse yourself in the local culture, then read on to find out more.
Certainly Zaragoza is not a tourist place in Spain. Those who come here can see the other side of Spain, where they can travel back in time by visiting famous sites like the Basílica del Pilar and marveling at the exquisite Mudéjar architecture. Nestled near the longest river in the Spanish peninsula, specifically the Ebro, the basilica honors the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Pillar and is also hailed as the “Mother of the Hispanic Peoples” by Pope John Paul. From the avant-garde bridges to the fortified medieval Aljafería Palace, this city exudes beautiful medieval architecture. And of course, Francisco de Goya’s masterpieces do not go unnoticed in the museum. Those looking to explore the place can try biking along the banks of the beautiful Ebro River from the Old Town to Agua Luis Buñuel Metropolitan Park. Zaragoza is also known for its local tapas in the city center of El Tubo, which is close to the popular square. Find plenty of traditional tapas in several bars and enjoy the relaxed ambiance of the streets.
- Where shall we eat: El Tubo town center for its tapas
Las Cuevas de Canart
Las Cuevas de Cañart makes it onto the list of underrated places to visit in Spain. It’s nothing but the typical attractions with lots of crowds, a wide range of upscale restaurants and beaches packed with tourists. Instead, one can find solace in visiting this place. Nestled on the southern slope of the Sierra de la Garrocha, Las Cuevas de Cañart is all about historic sites and dramatic landscapes dotted with mesmerizing waterfalls. Its main highlight is undoubtedly the Maestrazgo Mountain, tucked away at the eastern end of the Iberian System mountain range. In the Middle Ages, the city was inhabited by the Knights Templar. It was also a strategic point, serving as the defensive core of the southern border. There are many historical places to see. The parish church of San Pedro Apostal and the monasteries are places that can take you back in time. Just take the narrow, winding passages to reach them. The arches and intricately designed reliefs are sure to amaze visitors. Next is the cascading Chorro de San Juan waterfall, a place to relax and enjoy the fresh water on a hot summer’s day.
If you want to skip the crowded beaches like Bogatell or La Playa de la Victoria in Cádiz, consider a visit to Benicàssim, a more low-key seaside resort about 8 miles (13 km) north of Castelló de la Plana. It is a place where you can find long white beaches with the right temperature in summer. There are several Blue Flag beaches including the unspoilt Playa Voramar. There are also numerous activities to do. Think sailing on Els Terrers beach or kayaking. History buffs may find it interesting to know that Benicàssim was inhabited in the eighth century by the Kutama Berbers (Amazigh), a Berber tribe from northern Algeria.
- Recommended attraction: Desierto de las Palmas
- Incident: The four-day music festival (Festival Internacional de Benicassim)
While there are few underrated places in Spain that are stunning for their landscapes and historical architecture, Peñíscola simply takes it to the next level. This heavenly city is about 40 minutes drive from Benicàssim. And what makes it exceptional is its picturesque, whitewashed, 15th-century Castillo de Papa Luna (Castle of Peniscola), built in the 13th century by the legendary Knights Templar on top of an ancient Arab settlement. Its beautiful architecture is in authentic Gothic style, tucked away on a rocky outcrop overlooking the striking blue Mediterranean Sea. For this reason it is nicknamed the “City in the Sea” and was featured in the popular TV series Game of Thrones as the “City of Meereen”. The castle was also the home of Pope Benedict XIII from 1415 to 1423. Stroll the winding streets and check out the beautiful Casco Antiguo (Old Town) for an up-close look at the picturesque port.
- Entrance fee to Peniscola Castle: €5
- Other places to visit: Casa de Las Conchas (House of Shells)
- Incident: Annual comedy film festival
The landscape in the southern part of Spain is an arid plain in contrast to the northwestern part where Galicia is located. This emerald green region feels like Ireland, where you’ll find lush forests, rolling mountains that peak at 2,000m and crystal clear lakes. The area is just magical. No wonder why the Celtic tribes in the last millennium BC. decided to stay on the Douri River. Visit this place and learn about the local legends and stories. For a scenic driving experience, depart from Ribadeo, near the Asturias border, and head to the northern Galician coast for absolutely stunning views of bays, small villages on the shore and rolling hills with green eucalyptus forests as a backdrop.