Today we'll be taking a trip westward, along the Mediterranean Coast to the Iberian Peninsula. And much like Italy, Spain is another European destination which falls victim to its own beauty. The charm and attraction of more populous cities like Madrid and Barcelona cast a shadow over many less-frequented locations. However, unbeknownst to many people, there lies a plethora of opportunities for breathtaking views and Instagram-worthy snapshots just beyond the major metropolitan centers.
Thus, without further ado, here's the second rendition of Top 5 Places You Haven't Seen Before: Spain.
The first location is situated in Spain's Northeast. Jaca is a mid-sized town relatively close to the French border. Its main attraction is the 16th century style Ciudadela de Jaca, with its distinct pentagonal structure surround by ample lawns. The city presents its guests with many hiking possibilities within a one hour car ride due to its proximity to the Pyrenees, though one could also venture on several segments of the famous Camino de Santiago, whose path runs just beyond the outskirts of the city. However, for those who prefer a more sedentary vacation style, Jaca's Romanesque and Gothic churches are definitely worth a visit. Combine that with lovely plazas and fresh mountain air, and you've got yourself an unforgettable experience.
This little municipality in the autonomous community of Aragon can be both extremely peaceful and adventure-packed. Sitting adjacent to the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Natural Park, gives the town easy access to the excursions nearby. One of the most popular activities for the locals during summer time is called "canyoning." If you've ever wanted to do the famous "The Narrows" hike in Zion National Park, Alquézar would make a perfect addition for your bucket list.
Let’s face it, sometimes a relaxing beach getaway beats even the most fun, adventure-filled day, and that’s exactly what you’d get in Palafrugell. The little town on the Mediterranean is about 90 minutes East of Barcelona, whose beaches are equally nice, but often much too crowded. Palafrugell offers all the benefits of the soft Mediterranean sand, combined with the deep blue waters, without the chaos of urban life.
Taking a slight detour, we now head towards southern Spain, in the culture-filled city of Granada. Its most famous attraction is the Alhambra, a fortified hilltop Moorish complex that overlooks the city. Unlike the other destinations that have been listed so far, Granada has a pretty sizeable population of 230,000, and though it presents a more “modern” feel in comparison to the aforementioned towns, it has a very rich history. From the Roman Empire, to the Moors and the Reconquista by the Catholic Church, the city has accumulated tens, if not hundreds, of building, monuments, and sights that cross time and culture. Truly, a must-see for the historian living in all of us.
Point Anywhere on the Map!
You know the drill by now! Similarly to Italy, when it comes to Spain you can’t go wrong with visiting any mid-sized town that shows up on a map. Yes, there are some hits and misses here and there; not every place can be the 8th wonder of the world, but it’s really worth a shot! Just to give you an idea of how strongly we believe in the “Point and Go” strategy here at Adventure Cascadia, I have to give you a little behind-the-scenes insight into this very article. Prior to visiting Alquézar, we had no idea it even existed! When we visited Spain, we landed in Barcelona, and we had a few days to spare before meeting some friends in Pamplona. So, we asked a local if we should make any stops along the way, and Alquézar was his recommendation. Low and behold, it ended up being one of our favorite stops of the whole trip. Moral of the story, get out there and explore! You’ll never know what could be waiting for you!