Barcelona? Amazing! Madrid? Cool city! But there is so much more that Spain has to offer. So join me in this off the beaten path in Spain trip :-)!
The definition of off the beaten path refers to something or somewhere that is out of the way or out of a central, popular or touristy area | by yourdictionary.com
Because I love doing things a bit differently, I put together this amazing list of unknown places to visit in the south of Spain for you! Some of these places you may have heard off, some places will be completely new to you 🙂 Lots of fellow travel bloggers helped me with their input to make this an awesome and complete list – make sure to check out their pages as well for great info on traveling in Spain!
What's coming up
- 1 Why go off the beaten path in Spain?
- 2 Off the beaten track by car or campervan
- 3 15+ Non-Touristy Places in Southern Spain
- 4 Elche
- 5 Pinoso
- 6 Almería
- 7 Cabo de Gata
- 8 Trevelez
- 9 Monachil
- 10 Nerja
- 11 Iznajar
- 12 Antequera
- 13 Mijas Pueblo
- 14 Setenil de las Bodegas
- 15 Grazalema
- 16 Ronda
- 17 Tarifa
- 18 Jerez de La Frontera
- 19 Chipiona
- 20 Merida
- 21 Guadelupe
- 22 Off the beaten path in Spain: tours of South Spain
Why go off the beaten path in Spain?
While on our roadtrip through the south of Spain with our campervan, I noticed that we were looking more and more for non-touristy places to park up and enjoy the surroundings. The bigger cities were a nightmare to park in (let alone camp!) and a drain to our minimal vanlife budget. Although Valencia, Alicante, Seville, Granada and Malaga are amazing places to visit, we were looking for more undiscovered places in the south of Spain. This way we would be more relaxed, our budget would go a longer way and we would experience the “real” Spain, instead of only the touristic highlighs.
Off the beaten track by car or campervan
Going off the beaten track in Spain is best done by car or campervan. If you live within Europe you can take your own car, or rent a car at one of the local airports (in winter this is ridiculously cheap!).
When you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll most likely fly into one the main airports in Spain (Barcelona or Madrid). You can either rent a car here or somewhere close. Both cities have excellent train connections, so if you want to hire a car or campervan more in the south that shouldn’t be a problem either!
15+ Non-Touristy Places in Southern Spain
Alrighty! Got your 4×4 ready? (alright no 4×4 necessary 😛 ) Here we go! I’m taking you on a trip from the Costa Blanca, all the way along the coast and the mountains towards the Portuguese border, to end up in the Extremadura just underneath Madrid! Enjoy the ride 🙂
p.s. Of course you can squeeze some amazing cities like Murcia, Malaga, Granada and Seville in your itinerary, no one would blame you 😉
In the shadows of Alicante, Elche is definitely one of the most underrated cities in Spain.
The main attraction here is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Palmeral, or Palm Grove. As the name suggests, the Palm Grove is an enormous collection of date palm orchards, covering an incredible 3.5 square kilometres. Altogether, there’s 97 separate orchards in the area, totalling around 70,000 trees. As you’d expect, it’s one of the largest palm groves in the world, and the only palm grove in Europe. It’s believed that the first trees were planted in around 500 BC by Phoenician traders from modern day Lebanon, and the gardens were greatly expanded by both the Romans and the Moors when they ruled Spain.
Elche is pleasant to visit year-round, with a typical southern Spanish climate: hot and dry summers, temperate and mostly dry winters. Shoulder seasons like spring and autumn are generally the best. As a small town, a day or two is enough to fully appreciate what Elche has to offer, though if you really like immersing yourself in local culture it’s a great place to do so! Access is very easy, thanks to Elche’s proximity to the tourist haven of Alicante. There’s a nearby international airport, good Renfe train connections, plenty of buses, and the nearby A7 freeway as well. If you’re after visiting some World Heritage Sites in other parts Spain, Elche is a good place to start!
Contributed by Joel from World Heritage Journey
If you want to go off the beaten path in Spain, this is definitely a good destination! Moving a bit further inland from Elche, Pinoso is a small town (8000 inhabitants), about 40 minutes inland from Alicante. There is about a 1000 foreigners living in and around the town but it’s predominantly visited by Spanish tourists.
What you can do in town? Well, eat and drink! Pinoso is famous for its gastronomy and sits smack in the middle of amazing wineries! The town counts 5 bodegas and within 30 minutes drive you will find another 100! The region is famous for the Monastrell grape which thrives in hot, dry areas. Pinoso is worth a day trip or a stop-over on your road trip through Spain. A perfect itinerary for the day would be to spend your morning visitig one of the local wineries of Pinoso such as the Bodegas Pinoso. Then have a true Spanish Paella with local wine in one of the local excellent restaurants and afterwards (count on 5pm or later!) enjoy a drive through the surrounding area (tip: come in February when the almond blossoms make everything SO beautiful!)
Almería is not a city that’s standard on everyone’s list of things to do in Spain. It does, however, make for a great day-trip and stop-over on your roadtrip! Almeria is a city full of history! One of the most popular and most visited sites is the Alcazaba. Out of all the things to do in Almeria, this is a definite highlight! You can walk along the castle walls, enjoy shady courtyards and the gardens and explore the bathing areas. You could spend a fine morning roaming about the Alcazaba and enjoy all the details and views. And a bonus: visiting this awesome historic site is for free for EU citizens and even on beautiful sunny Sundays, there were no waiting lines!
When you’re done at the Alcazaba, you can head to the city centre for some tapas. Spend the afternoon strolling through the city and enjoy the beautiful cathedral and the central market which are both worth a visit.
Cabo de Gata
Located just outside Almería, Cabo the Gata is a stunning natural park lined with volcanic rock situated on the edge of the beach. The natural park is easily explored by car, and a lot of hiking trails are really well indicated. In the nearby area, you can find various other small villages and towns such as Níjar and Las Negras which offer a network of beaches and footpaths that connect all the towns and pueblos together. In these lovely small towns you’ll meet locals and can practice your Spanish conversation skills as you connect with a different pace of Spanish life.
The road towards Cabo de Gata is already a highlight by itself! It’s really like being in a cowboy movie when you’re driving through sort of a Wild West film set on the way to the beach. The climate around this area is one of the driest in Europe so be sure to carry adequate sun protection and bring enough water, especially in the hot months of July and August!
Contributed by Danel from Layer Culture
From the culture and beaches of Almería, we’re heading even more off the beaten track all the way up to Trevelez. Trevelez is a tiny tiny town in the Alpujarras, the lower part of the Sierra Nevada and it’s absolutely worth visiting if you like Jamon Serrano. Trevelez is known for it’s amazing ham that is cured in the dry mountain air. The town is also the base for some amazing hiking routes and is a great stop-over for anyone wanting to visit some undiscovered places in Spain.
You can visit all throughout the year, but be aware that Trevelez lies quite high up the mountains! With snow, the place may become very hard to reach and it will be freezing! Also shops and restaurants are on limited opening hours in winter – call ahead to make sure places you want to visit are open! In summer (and especially on weekends) Trevelez can feel a bit crowded with some touring cars dropping in during the day. If you spend the night, you will appreciate the quietness and non-touristy feel of the town 🙂
Monachil is a destination that is often overlooked, but it is absolutely stunning to visit. Located outside Granada, this quaint town is home to a few great local restaurants and cafes, a garden in the city center, and the trailhead for a jaw-dropping hike.
The main reason people visit Monachil is that it is the trailhead for Los Cahorros hike. This wonderful hike takes you up a canyon, crossing multiple times on beautiful swing bridges, and back to a beautiful waterfall. This area attracts climbers as well, so if you enjoy climbing, this is the place to be.
Downtown Monachil is extremely cute. Other than hiking, you can walk the city streets, grab an ice cream cone, and have a glass of wine on the patio of a local bar. The town is so relaxed, it even has a beautiful co-managed garden in the center of town for you to enjoy.
Contributed by Zach & Julie from Ruhls of the Road
Nerja is one of the most scenic little towns in Southern Spain. Often overlooked, it attracts visitors with plenty of intriguing sights. There’s the Nerja Cave, the Europe Balcony (often referred to as the best view in Europe) and of course all its white-washed houses. Not to mention all the tapas bars that are awaiting you.
Nerja is the perfect place to relax: wander through the cobblestone streets, have a café con leche with views on the Europe Balcony and relax on some of the beaches close by. Nerja is close to Malaga and therefore many people put it on their Malaga Itinerary.
The best time to visit is in spring or in autumn when the temperatures are still bearable. It’s recommended to stay at least half a day and if you visit the Nerja caves, calculate at least 1 day. Tip: combine Nerja with a quick stop in Frigiliana, one of the prettiest white villages in Costa del Sol.
Contributed by Paulina from Paulina On The Road
Iznajar is a charming village located in the province of Córdoba in Andalucia, about 1 hour from Málaga by car. It’s located on top of a rocky outcrop from where you can see the largest reservoir in Andalucia, namely the Embalse de Iznájar. From the top of the castle, you can enjoy magnificent views of the natural scenery and stroll through historic alleys. Nearby the castle, you can visit the wonderful big outdoor patio. It is full of blue pots on the white house walls and is one of the most picturesque scenes in all of southern Spain. Good thing: only a few tourists know about this place!
The town itself is quite small with very steep hills. That’s why it’s recommended to have good walking shoes when exploring Iznájar. The best time of the year to visit is right before the summer season or after to avoid the hottest days of the year. A day trip is enough to enjoy Iznájar. Nearby, you also find El Torcal, which is a spectacular natural wonder some 30 minutes away.
Contributed by Christine from Christine Abroad
Antequera is located about 1-hour north of Málaga in southern Spain. It’s quite the hidden gem despite it strategic position in the country and the railway run from Madrid to Málaga running through!
Nearby natural wonder El Torcal de Antequera draws mosts tourists, but the city itself features several historic sites as well! You can enjoy the Alcazaba of Antequera, which is an old Moorish castle. Additionally, there are numerous beautiful churches in the town. Above all: Antequera is a great place to experience the real Spain without too many tourists.
There are also two Bronze Age burial mounds, known as the Dolmen de Menga and the Dolmen de Viera. These are some of the largest of such structures in all of Europe. They are inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2016.
Parador de Antequera is a beautiful hotel with a great location. A 2-3 day trip to Antequera is perfect, although a day trip is also worth doing! The best way to get to Antequera is by car or train. There is a central parking garage where you also get a fantastic view of the city.
Contributed by Alexander from Gourmand Trotter
Mijas Pueblo is a cosy little town located in the mountains, just half an hour southwest of ever-popular Malaga. It’s one of the pretty white villages of Andalusia, complete with winding cobblestone streets and cute little bars and restaurants. In several places around town, you’ll find stunning views of the Costa del Sol. Luckily on hot days, you’ll get a much welcome relief from the sun in the narrow alleyways.
Mijas Pueblo is a small town but it is entirely possible to get lost in the charming old quarters. One of our favourite inspirational travel quotes goes: “When you see a fork in the road, take it” and we really had a great time practicing that in Mijas Pueblo. You’ll feel taken back in time as you explore the antique streets. And when you get tired of walking, why not check out one of the many local art galleries and craft shops?
During summer, it can get rather hot in the area (which goes for all of southern Spain), so you might be better off with a visit during spring or fall. If you do happen to drop by on a hot summer day, you’ll be glad to learn that Mijas Pueblo is just 10 kilometres from the seaside town of Fuengirola. A good suggestion: base yourself down there at sea level and visit the beautiful village on a day trip instead. You’ll surely have a wonderful time. Enjoy!
Contributed by Nick from The Danish Nomads
Setenil de las Bodegas
Setenil de las Bodegas is a magical town in the Spanish province of Cádiz. It is known for its white-washed houses that are built into and around the cliffs above the Rio Trejo. One of the pueblos blancos (or white villages), Setenil de las Bodegas is a wonderful destination to visit in spring. This is when the lush landscapes and olive groves around the village are in full bloom.
Visitors can walk around the meandering streets of Setenil de las Bodegas, admiring and taking photographs of the vast rocky overhangs and cave-like dwellings that make this town so special.
In addition to the unique layout of the town, Setenil de las Bodegas is also famed for its excellent produce and cuisine. Here you find some of the best chorizo, pastries and local veg in the land! It’s a top spot for both photographers and foodie lovers and makes a wonderful off the beaten path in Spain weekend trip.
There are various towns in the region that could be used as a base for exploring some of the pueblos blancos . Think of Setenil de las Bodegas, which include Ronda, Olvera, and Zahara de la Sierra. Staying in one of these towns allows you to explore the villages as well as enjoying some hiking in the nearby area. Please note you will need your own car to get around!
Contributed by Chrysoula from Travel Passionate
Grazalema is a small town nestled in Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park in the province of Cadiz. It’s a really off the beaten path location: not many tourists find their way there unless they plan to spend some days in nature. You find some of the best hikes in Spain in Grazalema. Some of them are free, while for others you’ll need a permit and even a guide to explore. The little town is popular among Spanish nature lovers and bustling with life, especially in the spring and autumn months.
Besides the whitewashed houses worthy of any true Andalusian village, the little town church overlooks a small but quaint square. A couple of bars have put out their tables and chairs for hungry and thirsty mountaineers returning from their hikes in the evenings. You can wander around the streets and find small local boutiques. Also there. are a few hiking shops selling anything you might need for discovering the surrounding trails.
The best way to get to Grazalema is by car. This is especially the case if you plan to do some of the more popular hikes as they don’t start from the village itself. However, if you don’t have a car, there are still some incredible hikes that start just above the village, like El Simancón y El Reloj. You can get to Grazalema by bus from major cities like Málaga, Ronda, and Seville.
Contributed by Linn from Brainy Backpackers
Ronda is a historic city built in the 15th century during the Moorish times. The city is built over a spectacular gorge called El Tajo – it separates the city’s new town and old town. The most spectacular point of interest in Ronda is its stone bridge built over the gorge. It’s possible to walk the bridge and Puente Nuevo offers some great vistas over the surrounding areas. Other points of interest include The Cuenca Gardens (overlooking the bridge), Ronda’s Bullring and some fine wineries where you can sample Ronda’s best wines.
In summer, Ronda may not be the best “off the beaten path in Spain location”. In the off-season and during weekdays, you may have the place to yourself!
Ronda is located in Malaga province, 100 km from Marbella Airport and 137 km from Sevilla Airport. The easiest way to get to Ronda is to rent a car on one of the nearby airports and drive. The best time to visit Ronda is late spring and early autumn – just outside of the summer heat. 1 or 2 days are enough to spend in Ronda, but you’ll need more for the surrounding areas 🙂
Contributed by Mal from Raw Mal Roams
Tarifa is famous for being one of the largest immigrant entrances in southern Europe. But that’s not all! Tarifa offers its visitors history, charm and above all calm and tranquility. It is a great off the beaten path location, except for the high season months. In summer tourist flock to Tarifa during the day (at most they stay one or two nights there). But the rest of the year Tarifa welcomes lots fans of windsurfing and kitesurfing – the wind on its beaches is real! Also many vanlifers and digital nomads find their way to this little paradise in southern Spain.
From two hours to two months, you will enjoy Tarifa. The best way to visit this Tarifa and the surrounding region is to embark on an Andalusia road trip. Otherwise, you can also take a bus to Tarifa, departing from one of the nearby cities such as Cadiz, Malaga or Seville. Enjoy!
Contributed by Inma from A World To Travel
Jerez de La Frontera
Jerez de la Frontera is one of those underrated cities in Spain that will charm you with beauty and culture. Not many tourists make it to Jerez, which makes a visit to this city even more authentic and affordable!
Jerez de la Frontera is best known for three things: the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts (which is among the fourth most prestigious in the world), the production of sherry wines and the birthplace of flamenco.
Even if you spend only one day in Jerez de la Frontera, you will get to experience the romantic side of the city. If you visit in spring, a delicate aroma of orange tree blossoms will guide your steps along the narrow roads between the white houses of the historic town of Jerez, all the way to the majestic Cathedral, which impresses with the amount of details and statues sculpted in stone. A visit to one of the many sherry bodegas around town will immerse you into the world of sweet wines. Afterwards, have dinner at a classic pena in the old barrio Santiago while enjoying authentic flamenco performance.
Contributed by Joanna from Andalucia in my Pocket
With its flower-potted old town and endless stretch of sun-blistered beaches, it’s incredible that the Spanish have managed to keep Chipiona such a secret – especially considering how close it is to Seville.
But with its fascinating history, which dates back to Roman times, thriving gastronomy scene and diverse natural habitats, Chipiona offers so much more than sun, sea and sangria.
Rent a bike and cruise the award-winning ‘vias verdes’ (green ways), where caballeros gallop through the pine-scented forests and nature reserves that fringe the coast. Stroll the waterfront Paseo Costa de la Luz, stopping for fresh fish feasts, tapas and vino as you go. If you’re feeling energetic then climb the 350 dizzying steps to the top of the town’s emblematic lighthouse – the 3rd tallest in Europe! The views from the top are well worth the effort and offer impressive views over Chipiona’s ancient ‘corrales’. These man-made corals trap fish with the ebb and flow of the tide and were built by Roman fishermen..
Oh, and you’d be wise to stop by at the Museo del Moscatel! Here you can sip the region’s famous sweet muscatel wines and learn about them!
Note: Chipiona is one of those sunny places worth visiting at any time of year. But you’ll want to go during spring or early autumn to avoid the summer crowds (mainly holidaying Spaniards). You can get there easily by bus from Seville or Jerez – be sure to stay for at least two or three full days.
Merida is a hidden gem in the South of Spain (Extremadura), 200km north of Seville. The city is famous for its Roman ruins, the best preserved Roman ruins in the Peninsula. Emerita Augusta, the Roman name of the city, was founded in 25BC as a Roman colony. For centuries Merida was one of the most important cities in Roman Hispania. The settlement was named after Augustus the Roman Emperor who governed at the time it was founded. Since 1993 Merida has been a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ruins of Merida are truly impressive, many of them are well-preserved.
There are several other attractions in Merida that can’t be missed! Go have a look at he Acueducto de los Milagros, Roman Theatre, Circus, Roman Amphitheatre, Roman Bridge over the Guadiana River, Temple of Diana and the Arch of Trajan. These are the major sights, smaller Roman ruins can be found at every corner of the street in Merida!
Merida is located on the Via de la Plata, a modern pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela that used to be a strategic Roman road that connected the city with the gold mines in the region.
A couple of days in Merida is enough to see the main archaeological sites and museums. Spring is the best time for visiting Merida: everything is blossoming and fields and parks are covered in flowers – definitely the most beautiful time of the year. The easiest and fastest way of getting to Merida is by train from Madrid, there are several daily trains from the Spanish capital. The journey takes between 4h30min and 5 hours. To get to Merida from Seville by train takes 3h30min.
Contributed by Campbell & Alya from Stingy Nomads
Want to take a tour to Merida? Check out this one:
Guadalupe is a small town in the remote Extremadura region and is definitely one to put on your “off the beaten path in Spain” list! Its greatest feature is undoubtedly the royal monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe. For centuries, this was the most important monastery in the country, thanks to its royal patronage. In fact, Ferdinand and Isabella even signed the documents authorizing Columbus’ first voyage right here on the monastery grounds.
It was the conquistadors who took their devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe with them to the New World, where it spread like wildfire. The Caribbean island of Guadeloupe is named after the Virgin who is venerated here at the monastery, as is the nowadays more famous Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
While you don’t need much time to see Guadalupe, do try to stay overnight so you can have the experience of sleeping inside the monastery. Summer is the driest time of year, but it can be unbearably hot. The best time of year to visit is probably spring, as the weather is pleasant and the flowers are in bloom. There’s also the added bonus of the Semana Santa processions in many towns throughout the region.
Contributed by Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan
Off the beaten path in Spain: tours of South Spain
If you do not want to travel by yourself, or you’re not a driver, you can think about joining a tour. These tours are mostly regional, but travelling throughout Spain by bus and train is easy!
I hope you enjoyed this list of places to visit in Spain! Let me know if I have forgotten any must-see but hidden treasures locations 🙂
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