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Top 10: Spain Off The Beaten Track
Feb 19, 2014 by MaxWhile hoards of tourists head to one of Spain's famous ports or cultural capitals, there are a set few who deviate away from the mainstream stay and set out to find quaint and beautiful Spain, Spain with a medieval twist or Spain's luxury hidden beaches. Few tourists actually take the time to recognize and appreciate the vast amount of options that Spain has on offer. Unfortunately, the reputation of Spain doesn't quite stretch beyond vibrant and cool Barcelona, cultural Madrid or, for the really adventurous, down to sunny Seville or Valencia. Same goes for the beaches and islands. Ibiza, year on year, attracts more and more tourists, while neglected beach towns and villages sit unspoiled and serenely perfect. This list pays homage to the endless beauty that Spain contains and manifests why Spain needs to be explored in more depth and appreciated with more fervor and appraisal. Here is Spain off the beaten track:
1. Pueblo de SanabriaLocated next to Portugal's northeast border and in the province of Zamora, Pueblo de Sanabria is one of the oldest, not to mention prettiest, settlements in Spain. This picturesque little village contains a myriad of cobbled alleyways that surround an almighty 15th Century castle. Quiet, peaceful and indescribably romantic, this quaint hamlet leads down to an abundance of countryside walks. Perfect for a couple of nights of romantic Spain.
2. AlbarracinSituated in the middle of the Barcelona-Valencia-Madrid triangle, in the province of Teruel, lies Albarracin, a breath-taking village that sits in a meander of the Guadalaviar River. It would be rude not to, especially if you just so happen to be doing the likes of Spain's top guns. A refreshing stop in one of Spain's most picturesque villages will certainly be a rewarding one. Surrounded by the ragged fortress walls that closes the village off from incredible stone valleys and spectacular undulating landscapes, an exploration of Albarracin will leave you craving more of Spain's hidden charms.
3. Cies IslandsFamed for their bustling Mediterranean beaches, Spain's small stretch of west coast has sneakily crept under the radar and managed to avoid mass tourism. This comes to the great advantage of those who do head west to the Galicia province of Spain and then set off into the sunset to "Galicia's Caribbean": Cies Islands (Islas Cies). Made of 3 stunning islands, the Cies archipelago consists of staggeringly beautiful white beaches that surround a protected national park in the middle, offering the perfect excuse to lift yourself out of the soft white sand and stroll through a string of lovely park walks. Boats leave from Vigo and cost 18 Euros and the pick of the bunch is certainly the majestic Rodas beach.
4. Ainsa and La Seu D'Urgell, Spanish PyreneesAinsa is located just south of the of the Pyrenees and boasts some of the best scenery in Spain. Choose your next hike from atop the strategically situated medieval village with the incredible panoramic views and stunning forestry and mountain walks spread around you. To the east, and tucked away in the Catalan Pyrenees, is the historic city of La Seu D'Urgell. Situated at the confluence of two rivers and overlooked by monumental snow-capped mountains and spectacular valleys, this city is the gateway to Catalonia or north to Andorra. The Cities cathedral alone is worthy of a visit, not to mention the copious amounts of adventure activities in the region.
5. The Cliffs of TavertetThe Tavertet cliffs, considering they are located a mere 100km north of frenetic Barcelona, are the perfect reason to escape and reinvigorate your inner-adventure. Sitting 900 meters above sea level, the cliffs offer captivating views and unrivaled mountain walks. The cliffs are within the boundaries of Parc natural del Montseny and one of Catalonia's gems. So if you want to avoid that bombardment of sweaty tourists melting on top of the tourist trail, and you're keen on reawakening your jaded self, then head to these mesmerizing Catalan cliffs and be the envy of all your friends.
6. Restaurant FussimanyaFound yourself diving at the last minute into one of Barcelona's overpriced unauthentic restaurants as you and your partner were strolling down Las Ramblas with a distinct lack of planning or information, then this pick by Albert, our Catalan IT technician, will ensure you receive the best of Spanish cuisine. Fussimanya restaurant, set along the the beautiful hills between Tavernoles and the Parador Vic-Sau, serves mouth-watering traditional Catalan cuisine and maintains great quality, quantity and value. The website has pictures, descriptions and directions how to get there.
7. Cala Rostella and Cap de Creus - Roses (Costa Brava)Explore some of Roses hidden coves and secluded beaches. Cala Rostella is a 100m long sand cove only accessible by boat or 20 minute dirt road walk but is well worth the visit. Within the boundaries of Cap de Creus national park is also the beach town of cadaques, a perfect diving spot and a walk to the Cap de Creus lighthouse shouldn't be missed.
8. National Parks of Asturias: Picos de Europa and Parque Natural SomiedoAsturias is a small province in Northern Spain and contains woody Allen's favorite city in the world - Oviedo. Just southeast and southwest of this romantic town is Asturias' romantic alternative to beautiful cobbled streets and medieval architecture - the National parks of Picos de Europa and Parque Natural Somiedo. Both National parks have well sign-posted routes and have an abundance of trekking options. For lush green valleys and walkways then Picos de Europa is your pick but for me the Ruta de Silencia in Parque Natural Somiedo boasted exquisite views and was very rewarding to see the tranquil lakes along the way.
9. Playa de las Catedrales, GaliciaGalicia's northern coast boasts one of the nicest beaches in the world, Playa de las Catedrales, but not for the usual reasons. Not your typical sun-bathing, pristine golden beach with crystal clear water beaches, it is all about the intriguing rock formations and hidden coves. The spectacular vaults and cliff arches that were formed over time by the wind and sea are the reasons behind the name. The powerful seas and coastal scenery are breathtaking but it is paramount that you go at low tide.
10. La AlbercaPicturesque La Alberca is a charming and traditional Spanish village located just to the south of Salamanca and close to the Portuguese border. This quaint village is the perfect destination to unwind and indulge in the finer things that Spain has to offer.
------------------------Where in Spain did you stumble upon a hidden gem? Was it one of these off the beaten path spots?