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Granada Alhambra
Photograph: ShutterstockGranada Alhambra

14 amazing places to visit in Spain in 2022

The most amazing places to visit in Spain showcase the incredible variety of this spectacular wonderland.

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Spain is one of the most popular destinations on the planet. Every year, millions flock to Barcelona, Madrid and the rest for magnificent experiences, and Spain does not disappoint. Despite its popularity, it remains a country that one should fully explore to get the complete picture, rather than getting too comfy on the beaches or hitting up familiar joints in the big cities. By all means, make the most of those beaches and make fast friends in the big cities, but save some energy for the national parks, the cultural richness and fascinating history of this enveloping country. You’ll find secret wineries, romantic castles, symbolic mountains and more, in a country that is as varied as it is fantastic. Think you know this place? Hit up our selection of the most amazing places to visit in Spain, and you’ll have a pretty decent idea. 

Unmissable places to visit in Spain

Timanfaya National Park
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1. Timanfaya National Park

Where: Lanzarote

Timanfaya is different from those natural parks where you can't tell exactly where they start and where they end. Covered in a black, rugged blanket with no vegetation, its landscape is singular, with a nearly extraterrestrial look and feel. This is the magic that was uncovered after the disaster that happened here in the late 19th century when the area's volcanoes erupted, spewing lava and devastating Lanzarote for several days. Timanfaya was born out of that event, creating the island's only national geological park and a true natural wonder. Red, brown, orange and ochre shades define this warm place, where the earth's temperature is still felt nearly at ground level (about 400°C or 750°F at just going five metres below the surface). If you could lift a rock and pour some water there, you would see the effect. But such behaviour is strictly forbidden, so watch out for the demonstration when you get off the bus route through the park. You'll be well impressed.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
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2. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Where: Basque Country

The Basque Country is gorgeous from Irún to Getxo. It seems to have been created by a supernatural force manifesting itself in the green of its vegetation, the strength of the sea, the joyous cuisine, and some pretty epic sights. See for yourself in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a small island connected to the mainland by a 241-step zigzag path and crowned by an 11th-century stone castle (the literal translation of 'Gaztelugatxe' is 'stone castle'). And when we say 'epic', we're not exaggerating: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe – about 35km from Bilbao – played the role of the fortress of Dragonstone in the seventh season of Game of Thrones.

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Doñana National Park
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3. Doñana National Park

Where: Huelva

Doñana National Park is a 68,236-hectare space created 50 years ago and later declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's a preserve of ever-changing land and untamed vegetation – dunes, marshes, beaches – where you can discover local fauna in its native habitat. Above all, it's a paradise for birds, who stop here before migrating to warmer lands. There are also picturesque hamlets like Almonte, which fills up in June with believers making the pilgrimage to the El Rocío hermitage. The organised routes allow you to get to the most important settlements in Doñana, though you can also explore them on your own. Always treat your surroundings with the absolute respect that any natural space deserves, whether protected or not.

City of Arts and Sciences
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4. City of Arts and Sciences

Where: Valencia

More than a decade ago, the City of Arts and Sciences completely changed the landscape of the city of Valencia and became a first-class tourist attraction while transforming a previously neglected urban area. Believe it or not, the original project was even more ambitious and included a telecommunication tower and four skyscrapers. Its history of cost overruns and deficits, however, shouldn't taint the importance of this impressive space. Included is a massive theatre, a science museum and an aquarium, among many other surprises you can discover only by visiting it.

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Old Town of Cáceres
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5. Old Town of Cáceres

Where: Cáceres

There are plenty of reasons to plan a getaway to Cáceres. You could go for the tasting menu at Atrio, proud bearer of two Michelin stars, and head to foodie heaven with their Neapolonic partridge. You could visit the Vostell Malpartida Museum, located in an old wool washery on the city's outskirts, dedicated to Fluxus art. But to discover the magic of this town in Extremadura, it is enough to take a walk through the Old Town ('Casco Histórico'), one of the best-preserved heritage complexes in Spain dating back to the 15th century. Squares, cobbled alleys, buildings for nobility and impressive churches. Be sure to visit Las Veletas Palace, the Museum of Cáceres, and Golfines Palace. After your stroll, take a break in any restaurant and ask for a 'torta del Casar' to try the traditional cheese of the area, and enjoy a creamy treat while you recharge your batteries.

Marqués de Riscal winery

6. Marqués de Riscal winery

Where: La Rioja

A perfect excuse to visit La Rioja is its wineries. Get on the wine route to learn about the region's evolution, the types of land, the advent of the rail, ancestral techniques, respect for tradition, and more. One winery that stands out is Marqués de Riscal, with its tricolour titanium building designed by none other than Frank Gehry. The rose colour is for red wine, gold for the company's gold wire netting used on its bottles, and silver for the bottle cover. In addition to the winery, the building also houses a luxury hotel, a spa featuring vinotherapy, and two restaurants operated under the expertise of chef Francis Paniego. They organise guided tours that end with a small tasting.

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The Hanging Houses of Cuenca
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7. The Hanging Houses of Cuenca

Where: Cuenca

Teetering on the Huécar river's ravine cliffs, as if they're about to roll from the top of the hill, the Hanging Houses ('Casas Colgadas') of Cuenca make up one of the most famous monuments in Castilla La Mancha. They began as homes in the 15th century, and today, everyone who visits the site is shocked to see how they defy the laws of gravity. One of the houses is now the hotel Posada de San José, home to one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Book a window table for a stunning view to go along with your order of 'Morteruelo', a stew typical of the region, made with ground game meat. One of the finer pleasures in life!

Serra de Tramuntana
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8. Serra de Tramuntana

Where: Mallorca

A World Heritage Site since 2011, the mountainous area of Mallorca from the island of Sa Dragonera to the cape of Formentor is uncommonly beautiful, with sunsets at sea, formidable coves and heaps of history behind it. British poet Robert Graves lived here (in Deià), and this place also inspired the likes of Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, Spanish painter Santiago Rusiñol and Catalan painter Anglada Camarasa. Take the tram from Puerto de Sóller, get off at Cala Deià and visit the Cartuja de Valldemossa, to devour crispy 'coca' bread with potato.

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The Laguna Negra
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9. The Laguna Negra

Where: Soria

This region is a wonderland of nature, but the Laguna Negra, which you can get to by car or bus from the town of Vinuesa, is one of the most beautiful spots in Soria. And it's easy to see why; not only is it in lovely forested surroundings that are perfect for hiking, but it also boasts an incredible landscape. Its name translates literally to 'Black Lagoon', and legend has it that the body of water is bottomless and links with the sea through caves. The ice, eroded for thousands and thousands of years, is responsible for the rock walls that flank it. The best times to visit are spring or autumn when temperatures are milder. Walk the wooden pathways along the shore to admire the beauty of the Laguna Negra in all its splendour.

The Alhambra
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. The Alhambra

Where: Granada

There was a time the Alhambra was among consideration to become of the new seven wonders of the world. And it's not surprising. If you want to know what Stendhal syndrome is, you have to visit the red walls of this Nasrid fortress, that rises high on the hill of al-Sabika, to the left of the Darro River, imposing its shape on the entire city. Marvel at the decoration on the walls, from the 13th and 14th-century verses of the Court of Granada poets in ornamental calligraphy to the tiles with plant motifs that fill the spaces with colour. The most famous is the Court of the Lions, so named because in its centre there's a fountain mounted on the backs of a dozen stone lions, waiting eternally for the arrival of any possible invader. Be sure to get your tickets in advance from the official website.

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Montserrat

11. Montserrat

Where: Catalonia

Montserrat is the most magical and symbolic mountain in Catalonia. Depending on your point of observation, its beauty is constantly changing, guaranteeing an incredible sight from all angles. The best option for admiring this mountain range is to hike to the top, where you can see the peculiar rocks of Cavall Bernat. Montserrat is also a treat for day-trippers, hikers and climbers, a Natural Park full of trails and routes. It's also a spiritual destination, receiving believers and pilgrims from all over the world (you can queue to visit the 'Moreneta', the Black Madonna statue). For others, it's a symbol of all things Catalan and of resistance. Some even believe the mountain has magic powers: Himmler went there in search of the Holy Grail, and ufologists head up to Montserrat on the 11th of every month to see if they can spot any UFOs. So make your way up on the funicular and get ready to explore... Montserrat won't disappoint. Watch out for the aforementioned UFOs.

Picos de Europa
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12. Picos de Europa

Where: Asturias

If you go to Asturias, save at least one day to visit the Picos de Europa mountain range. Even if you're not in top physical shape, you'll still be able to find an excursion that suits you, where you can fill your lungs with fresh air and your eyes with natural beauty. With every step, you'll encounter amazing landscapes: mountains in impossible shapes, stony paths, sparkling rivers, tranquil meadows, wild animals and more. Among all the things to see and do in the Picos, we recommend you take the opportunity to stop by the Covadonga Lakes; visit the picturesque village of Bulnes, which you can reach on foot or by funicular; and take the Fuente Dé hanging cable car (proceed with caution if you're prone to vertigo).

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The Bardenas Reales
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13. The Bardenas Reales

Where: Navarra

There's no need to go as far as the Mojave Desert or suffer from the heat in Death Valley. Much closer than you think, you can find natural forms as curious as in Cappadocia and a feeling of solitude like you might find in Mongolia's Gobi Desert. Southern Navarra boasts its own surreal landscapes in the Bardenas Reales, with its terrain of clay, gypsum and sandstone sculpted like monuments by water and wind erosion to form sinuous ravines, plateaus with a tubular structure straight out of Western films, and mysterious hills called 'Cabezas'. It is like taking a trip to another planet without leaving the Peninsula.

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
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14. Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Where: Santiago de Compostela

You don't have to be religious or make a long pilgrimage to admire the baroque majesty of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and the serenity transmitted by the Romanesque masterpiece that is the Pórtico de la Gloria (no good can come to the blasphemer who desecrated an effigy with the face of the drummer from Kiss!). Reserve a whole day and a guided tour to visit this monumental paradigm that summarises all the Christian art of the Peninsula. While you're in the area, don't miss the Playa de las Catedrales in Lugo – which is better at low tide when you can best appreciate its spectacular arches and caves. 

Ready to explore Spain's best beaches?

The 15 best beaches in Spain
  • Things to do

The incredible turquoise waters of the Balearic Islands, the Catalan and Valencian coasts, the green landscapes of the beaches in the north, desert enclaves, others that are rocky and hidden: these are just some of the magical elements that make up the best beaches in Spain.

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