Spain is one of my favorite destinations. Maybe I am biased because it is my second home, but truly there are so many things to do in the country that you would be willing to travel again, and again. In this Spain bucket list and travel guide, I have picked the iconic and popular attractions as well as offbeat – sustainable and conscious sites – to get you excited about your Spanish vacation!
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30 Things to add to your Spain Bucket list: From the iconic, sustainable hidden gems to off the beaten path
Cycling through Bardenas Reales, amidst dramatic landscapes
Have you heard of the Badlands in Spain? Spain is more than Gaudi’s art and the Mediterranea coastline, it is also home to arid and semi desert landscapes. Enter – Bardenas Reales.
Located in southeast Navarre, Bardenas Reales is a 42,000 hectare area of badlands. This dramatic landscape is unique to the whole of Spain, and you must go cycling through the chalky lunar land, winding through canyons, plateaus, and cabezos.
This is an epic Spain bucket list item that you don’t want to miss!
How to get there? Navarre / Airport: Zaragoza
Spain’s astro tourism gems
From the lunar landscape, let’s take you to starry skies. If you didn’t know this already, Spain has one of the most Unesco Starlight reserves in Europe. Dark Sky preserve sites allow you to enjoy protected and recognized conditions to view stars, cosmos and the wonders of the Milky Way.
Across the country there are various Dark Sky preserve locations, where you can go star chasing! You can find the entire list of 47 main destinations in Spain here.
Discover hidden water paradises
Hit a natural water paradise instead of the touristy beaches in Spain. My pick for your Spain bucket list – the hinterland of the Valencia region.
Valencia is home to natural waterfalls such as Fonts de l’Algar and the hidden lakes of El Salt. Algar waterfalls is a great place to cool off on a hot summer day – an alternative to the crowded beaches.
Where to go? Comunidad Valenciana / Airport: Valencia
Go birdwatching in Monfraqüe National Park
Monfraqüe National Park is home to the world’s largest colony of black vultures, and this bucket list item is perfect if you love to bird watch. At the park, you can easily recognize the scavengers by their brown black plumage and fluffy collars.
From magpies, eagles to falcons the national park is a delight for bird lovers.
The most beautiful viewpoint of Monfraqüe is at the Castle of Monfraqüe. With a climb you are welcomed to amazing views of the mountains and the landscape around it.
At Salto del Gitano, there is an open air observation deck (another viewpoint) located on a cliff of 300 meters, and from here you can also spot Spanish emperors, eagle owls and trap vultures in their natural habitat.
Where to go? Extremadura / Airport: Badajoz via Madrid
Wander the white mountain villages in Andalucia (La Alpujarra)
The Alpujarra is a historical region in Andalusia in southern Spain. From ancient folklore, crafts and white blocks like houses, this picturesque mountain village of La Alpujarra is a must add to your Spanish bucket list.
At La Alpujarra region, admire the history of the Moors, and its architecture. Wander the charming narrow streets in Pampaneira and the church of Capileira.
With the Sierra Nevada mountains in the backdrop, you will love the beauty all around you, and this is your perfect postcard worthy image from Spain!
Where to go? Andalucia / Airport Almeria
Visit the fairytale forest in Garajonay National Park
Garajonay National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a recognized National Park in Spain. Located on the Canarian island of La Gomera, you will be enchanted by the prehistoric laurel forests of the park.
One of the interesting things about La Gomera is that locals can communicate via a special whistle language which makes this island even more mysterious and unique.
Garajonay National Park is also great for outdoorsy as well as natural history lovers who wish to go on hikes, or visit archaeological sites. At the national park, do check out the gorges, ravines and green labyrinths. The laurel forests here have been able to fascinate ecotourism enthusiasts for years.
There are various lookout points in the park where you can soak in epic views. Mirador El Bailadero lookout is worth visiting for views of the Los Roques rock formations and the nearby ravine.
Alto de Garajonay is another viewpoint to consider. This is the highest point of the park, with an altitude of 1,457 metres, and it welcomes you to panoramic views of the whole island.
Where to go? La Gomera / Airport Tenerife
Discover where Paella originated
Wonder where paella was invested? The freshwater lagoon in the Valencian Community in eastern Spain is your answer. L’Albufera de València is located on the Gulf Coast of Valencia and paëlla was once invented on the shores of this lagoon, surrounded by rice fields and wildlife.
Want to try an authentic paella? Head to the beautiful village of El Palmar. Enjoy your meal and a boat ride on the lake here.
Where to go? Comunidad Valenciana / Airport Valencia
Dive into the Seabed of Cabrera
Are you an avid diver? You will love the Cabrera archipelago.
At Cabrera archipelago, you will find one of the best preserved seabeds in the country along with 19 main islands and 12 small ones. It is also a recognized national park in Spain, located in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern coast of Majorca.
The Submarine meadow neptune grass of the national park is almost endless, and this is what makes the marine fauna flourish. You can spot hawksbill turtles, octopuses and even dolphins at the park!
Where to go? Balearic Islands / Airport Palma de Mallorca
Surf along Playa De Somo
Playa de Somo is a beach, located across the bay from Santander. What makes this beach truly special is that it is the first surf reserve in Spain.
You can visit the beach all year-round via ferry. Although quite popular in the summer months for surfing, it is pretty quiet and lovely in the shoulder seasons for a visit.
How to reach there? Take a ferry from Estación Marítima Los Reginas, Santander, Cantabria
Explore the Castroviejo Rocks – Castile y León (Castile and León)
Mountains always hold so many secrets; their inhospitable shape often covering up thousands of year’s worth of geological stories. And one of the best places to see evidence of this is at Castroviejo.
Located about 2 hours south of Bilbao on Spain’s northern shores, Castile and León is an amazing and offbeat destination in the country. It is a true find and very far from the radar of most tourists in Spain.
The unique characteristics of the Castroviejo Rocks is that these are rock formations caused by erosion, and shaped by the forces of nature in Castroviejo.
Also nestled on a high plateau and surrounded by mountains, are a 12th-century university along with Renaissance churches, Alcazar castle and baroque Plaza Mayor.
Do add this to your Spain bucket list, and visit this hidden gem from Bilbao. A day trip is perfect for that!
Nearest city: Bilbao. Castile and León is located 2 hours south of Bilbao
Unique Unesco World Heritage Sites in the Pyrenees
The Pyrenees are a mountain range in Europe (in the Iberian Peninsula). It sort of divides or forms a partition between France and Spain. The mountains are great for hikes and skiing in the winter.
But what should be on your bucket list for Spain are the beautiful Romanesque style buildings.
Nowhere in Europe will you find so many structures in Romanesque style located closer together as they are in Vall de Boi, a valley in the middle of the Spanish Pyrenees.
Together, there are nine intact buildings that form one cultural heritage site along a 25-kilometer route. Completely surrounded by fenced fields and steep mountains, the valley of Vall de Boi stands still in total harmony with their virtually untouched environment.
Nearest Airport: Catalonia / Airport Barcelona
Burgos Cathedral – Spain’s very first classical Gothic building
The beautiful Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos is located in the city of Burgos. It is a Catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and dates back to 1221. According to experts, this imposing building is said to be one of the most remarkable from the Spanish Middle Ages.
The catholic church is known for its stunning Spanish Gothic architecture. Due to its vast history and uniqueness it is recognized as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And it has even been on that list for 40 years.
This is Spain’s very first classical Gothic building, and it will complete its 800th anniversary in 2021.
Where to go? Castile And León / Airport: Bilbao
Explore the Iberian ham route: the secret of the Iberico ham
Iberian ham is one of Spain’s culinary delights. There are tapas hopping tours, and then there are Iberian ham routes, especially designed for tourists to discover Spanish gastronomy.
What is special about this experience is a combination of heritage, culture and culinary. This route takes you through a unique ecosystem navigating a sustainable balance between exploitation and nature conservation (Badajoz).
Iberian pigs mainly feed on acorns, which gives the meat it’s typical flavor. When you embark on this journey, you can walk among the pigs in the hesaweides along the Iberian ham route.
Popular Iberian ham routes are
- The Jabugo Route (50 km route between Aracena and Aroche)
- The Guijuelo Route (near Salamanca)
- The Los Pedroches Route (Córdoba)
Check out Lavender fields in Brihuega – Spanish Provence
Every year in the month of July, a lovely lavender festival is held in the town of Brihuega. Festival de La Lavanda, as it is called, started only 9-10 years ago by a lavender field owner.
During your visit remember to wear an all white or yellow outfit for the perfect shot!
Tickets for this festival sell out quickly, so plan and book in advance. You can visit the beautiful fields in full bloom in July only, as harvest season starts in August.
Where to go? Castile La Mancha / Airport Madrid
El Rocío and Doñana National Park
Doñana National Park is one the largest and most important wetland reserves in Europe. Located about an hour away from Seville, this national park is also a Biosphere Reserve.
If you love eco tours, you must add the Doñana National Park to your southern Spain bucket list. Doñana offers a variety of natural ecosystems from lagoons, marshlands, to sand dunes, Mediterranean forest and beaches.
This park is also great for wildlife enthusiasts. Doñana is home to a variety of birds such as the Spanish Imperial Eagle, reptiles, amphibians, mammals (Egyptian mongoose) and many endangered species.
When you visit the National Park from Seville, you will travel through El Rocío. This is a Spanish village recognized worldwide for its pilgrimage and celebration of the ‘Romería del Rocío’. The pilgrimage takes place in May and the hermitage houses the famous Rocio´s Blessed Virgin.
Where to go? Nearest airport is Seville.
Hike the Via de la Plata/Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is a network of pilgrimages that lead to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in Galicia in northwestern Spain.
Part of the Camino de Santiago route is the Via de la Plata, which is considered to be the toughest section. The Via crosses four Spanish regions; Andalusia, Extremadura, Casilla y Leon, and Galicia.
This route is filled with pretty countryside views, impressive Roman ruins, and spectacular medieval cities and towns.
At 620 miles or 997.79 km long, Via de la Plata hike is the longest hiking trail that navigates through Spain. It follows an old Roman road north from Seville to Santiago de Compostela.
The Camino de Santiago route takes about 35 days to complete for a seasoned hiker. The trail passes through several major cities, and smaller towns and villages. Over 500 miles or 804 km are over hilly terrain as well.
Are you ready to lace up?
Soak in the Spanish sun at one of the beautiful beaches
Nowhere on our planet will you find more beaches with the blue flag award than in Spain. No fewer than 590 Spanish beaches bear this international quality label for sustainable beach management.
So when you visit the stunning coastline in Spain, you will experience Blue Flag distinction with excellent services. Care and cleanliness at these beaches showcases the sustainability of the coast, water and its species.
Some of the sustainable beach destinations to include on your Spain bucket list are – Costa del Sol (in Malaga), Costa Brava (in Girona) and Salou (in Tarragona).
Sustainable travel impact in Spain
When visiting Spain, do away with over tourism and choose sustainable and conscious travel attractions!
Here are some of Spain’s most fascinating places that exemplify sustainable tourism from the natural, ecological, to cultural and social nuances
- In Barcelona head to the Born neighborhood (Mercat de Santa Caterina) instead of the popular La Ramblas or the Boqueria market
- In Seville visit the offbeat district of Triana, and wander the center, check out local cafes and shops!
- In San Sebastian, explore Mercado de San Martin instead of the popular tourist attractions
Attend La Tomatina Festival
La Tomatina Festival is one of the popular festivals in Spain. Held in the Valencian town of Buñol (in eastern Spain), La Tomatina is a fun event where participants throw tomatoes at each other, crush them barefoot and get involved in a friendly tomato fight.
The Tomatina Festival dates back to 1957, when a tomato burial parade was held as a protest. Since then it has been celebrated annually on the last Wednesday of August. And this event is FREE!
Where to go? Buñol in Valencia
Check out Gaudi’s iconic creations in Catalonia
As a first time visitor to Spain, you might want to explore some of Gaudi’s iconic creations. Although touristy, an art lover must hit the following attractions in Barcelona.
Start with the Sagrada Familia which is the unfinished project of Anthony Gaudi and one of the most visited spots in Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic minor basilica, and a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Barcelona.
Park Guell is another must visit for Gaudi fans. There is a Gaudi museum located at the park, which was Gaudi’s home for 20 years, and has a collection of furniture and objects on display.
Other attractions include: Casa Mila, and Casa Batllo.
I hope you found this post on must see Spain bucket list items useful in curating your own list!
10+ Additional Items for your Spanish Bucket list: Perfect for the first time visitor
I will leave you with 10 more common things to do in Spain, that you may want to check off if this is your first ever trip to the country
- Visit San Sebastian in the Basque country for warm weather in the winters. Explore the old town and stunning beaches and enjoy Michelen Star culinary delights
- Check out the Game of Thrones movie locations in the southern part of Spain – Seville, Roman Ruins of Itálica, and Cordoba. In northern Spain Girona has a ton of GoT sites that you can visit
- Go on a day trip to Monserrat via train or a cable car from Barcelona. Montserrat is a unique mountain range in Catalonia and is also home to the Abbey of Montserrat
- Football fans must visit Camp Nou in Barcelona
- Visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and check out amazing contemporary art on display
- Hang out at the Sobrino de Botín in Madrid the oldest restaurant in the world
- Explore the Moorish architecture in Granada’s Alhambra
- Snap a photo of the ever popular Plaza de Espana in Seville – a hit with travel bloggers and Instagrammers
- Visit the vineyards of La Rioja in northern Spain
- Spend a summer filled with electrifying music and events in Ibiza, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands