With a sunny climate and fantastic beaches just a short hop from home, Spain is a holiday favourite. But there’s much more to this diverse country than sun, sand, and sangria.
Beyond the well-known tourist destinations are hidden treasures waiting to be discovered – perfect for anyone willing to venture off the beaten track.
To help inspire your adventure to hidden Spain, we’ve partnered with TUI – a world-leading tour operator with over 40 years travel experience. TUI’s trusted experts specialise in organising unique, inspiring, and hassle-free holidays at affordable prices.
On a TUI holiday, you can explore the best that a country has to offer from a comfortable base, knowing that you’re in safe hands.
With that said, we’ve put together a list of nine hidden gem holiday destinations to help you make the most of Spain’s rich culture, fascinating history, and outstanding natural beauty.
1. Ronda, Andalucia
Described as the city of dreams by Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ronda is a remarkable town in Andalucia, just an hour’s drive inland from the popular Costa del Sol in southern Spain.
Here, white-washed houses sit atop a deep gorge which is connected by one of the most spectacular bridges in Spain.
Ronda counts Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway as past residents and has a rich history stretching back centuries. Stroll through the Moorish old town and you’ll find Arab Baths and the 14th-century Mondragon Palace. It’s also the home of bullfighting and houses the oldest – and one of the finest – bullrings in Spain, the Plaza de Toros.
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, which is known for its dramatic gorges and caves, is less than an hour’s drive away too. En route, you’ll take in the photogenic white villages of Andalusia, with their distinctive Moorish architecture.
In Gaucín – one of the prettiest of the white villages – tiny galleries and quality restaurants can be found in the tall houses that line the narrow medieval streets. And in Grazalema, white houses topped with terracotta tiles lie on a rocky ledge cradled by towering mountains.
Explore the white villages of Andalucia
2. Calella de Palafrugell, Costa Brava
A stone’s throw from lively Tossa de Mar in the Costa Brava, northeast Spain, is Calella de Palafrugell – one of the country’s best hidden gems.
This charming Catalonian fishing village, with colourful boats and crystal clear coves, is a Mediterranean idyll.
The Cap Roig Botanical Gardens wind around the cliptop castle and housing 1,000 plants from all over the planet and sculptures from renowned artists, it’s one of the country’s best.
Culture vultures can also explore an ancient Iberian village at Sant Sebastián de la Guarda, or take a day trip to the city of Girona, which is known for its grand baroque architecture.
Because Calella de Palafrugell is on the Camino de Ronda – a coastal footpath along the Costa Brava coast – it’s easy to hop from beach to beach on foot or by bike too. One of the best beaches in Costa Brava, the wild Cala del Golfet, is set beneath dramatic red cliffs and is an unmissable picnic spot.
A perfect way to end the day is at a family-run taverna, dining on the catch of the day or traditional Catalan food, while looking out over the sparkling sea.
Chill out in Catalonia
3. Altea, Costa Blanca
The Costa Blanca, or White Coast, is one of Spain’s most popular destinations – stretching 200 kilometres along the Mediterranean coast.
But, just over the mountain from Benidorm, in the province of Alicante, is Altea, a peaceful haven with an authentic Spanish flavour.
The old town of Altea is considered one of the most beautiful on the White Coast. Stroll along its cobbled streets lined by white-washed houses and you’ll find the striking neo-baroque Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Consuelo – a hilltop church with blue-mosaic domes.
Nature lovers can wander around the Jardin de los Sentidos (a tropical garden with displays of exotic plants from around the world); or hike in the Serra Gelada Natural Park, which has a mountain range that plunges into the sea.
Stuffed with tiny galleries and workshops, this charming idyll is a magnet for painters, sculptors, and craftspeople; and foodies are drawn to the authentic Spanish cuisine dishes, such as squid ink paella, that are served along the seafront.
Enjoy a peaceful haven on the Med
4. Mojácar, Costa de Almeria
With clusters of idyllic houses perched on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean, the Moorish town of Mojácar is a hidden gem on the Costa de Almeria, in southeast Spain.
Known as Spain’s secret coast, Costa de Almeria sits between the Sierra Nevada mountains of Andalucia and the Mediterranean Sea – boasting rugged coastlines, desert landscapes, and wild beaches.
It’s a region ripe for exploring. Why not wander around the film sets of old Spaghetti Westerns in the surreal Tabernas Desert? Or take a guided tour through the subterranean Sorbas Caves, which have impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Nature lovers can enjoy a spot of hiking or birdwatching in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, which has flawless secluded coves, dramatic rock formations, and salt flats. At the gateway to the park, you can also taste local cuisine in the charming restaurants of San José’s harbour.
And, if you’re looking for culture, Mojácar offers day trips to the awe-inspiring Alhambra palace in Granada, which is one of the country’s main attractions.
Explore Spain’s secret coast
5. Zahara de los Atunes, Costa de la Luz
From Zahara de los Atunes – a traditional fishing village on the Costa de la Luz (the Coast of Light) on Andalucia’s Atlantic Coast – you can see across to Africa.
With a beautiful 40 kilometre stretch of white sand beaches lined by clear waters and surrounded by nature reserves, this authentic coastal village has kept its wild beauty.
Zahara de los Atunes is famous for its seafood – in particular, tuna (the clue is in its name which, translated, is ‘Zahara of the tunas’!). You can dine at top-notch fish restaurants along its quaint narrow streets – and there’s even an annual tuna festival held in May, where tuna with ice cream is among the specialities.
If you’re seeking adventure, there’s hiking and birdwatching in Sierra de la Plata and Sierra de Retín nearby. It’s also close to the Alcornocales Natural Park, which is famed for its cork oak forests and birds of prey.
Plus, a short drive away is laid-back Tarifa (the most southerly point in Europe), where the Moors first landed and wind-surfers and kitesurfers come to catch the breeze.
Wander in the wild beauty of Southern Spain
6. El Gastor, Andalucia
Another of Andalusia’s hidden treasures is El Gastor – a peaceful hilltop village with breathtaking views of the lake and mountains.
Only an hour’s drive from the coast, this traditional village with cobbled streets, whitewashed houses adorned with colourful flower pots, and delightful tapas bars offers an authentic taste of Andalucian life.
It’s ideal for relaxing and drinking in the views. But, if you’d like to get active, there’ll be plenty to keep you occupied too.
You could go swimming, kayaking, or paddle boarding in the warm turquoise waters of Lake Zahara; take a hike in the dramatic Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park; or spread your picnic blanket on the shores of La Playita lake.
Enjoy a slice of authentic Andalusian life
7. Bilbao, Basque Country
Surrounded by green mountains that slope down to the deep blue seas of the bay of Biscay, Bilbao is the capital of the ancient, free-spirited Basque country. This fabled region has its own language and a strong food culture.
The city’s Guggenheim museum, housed in an impressive curvy, titanium-clad building is a cultural must-see and the streets of the historic old town are a delight to wander too.
If you fancy a road trip, why not journey down the string of Basque fishing villages along the 100-mile coast? One of the most beautiful is Lekeitio, where, in the old town, there’s a Gothic basilica and brightly-painted half-timber buildings that sit around a photogenic harbour. You can visit the Santa Catalina lighthouse on the rugged headland or wade out to tiny San Nicolás Island at low tide.
Games of Thrones fans might also recognise Gaztelugatxe, which is home to a small-island medieval hermitage connected to the mainland by a stone bridge featured in the show..
These villages are ideal places to hole up in tiny bars and try the delicious pintxos (Basque-style tapas), washed down with some txakoli – the local sparkling white wine.
Explore the free-spirited Basque country
8. Menorca, Balearic Islands
With unspoilt natural beauty, crystal clear waters, and charming villages, Menorca is a hidden gem of the Balearic Islands.
A laid-back vibe fills its low-rise hotels, fairy-lit marinas, and family-run restaurants. Its capital, Mahón, on a bluff overlooking a large harbour, with Georgian mansions, is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. You can stroll to its harbourside wine bars, elegant eateries serving Menorcan specialities, and visit its top-end boutiques.
Menorca also has endless, impressive Blue Flag beaches (mostly in the south) and a rich marine life. Choose from long, golden sweeps of sand and pine-fringed bays, or 200 small coves – on the Mediterranean sea – including a ‘secret beach’ called Cala Presili.
Beyond the beach, you can hike along trails through rolling countryside, past tiny villages which grind to a halt for the afternoon siesta. Or why not follow the signs to fascinating prehistoric ruins, like the abandoned village of Torre d’en Gaumes, which dates back to 1400 BC?
Take a slow holiday in unspoiled Menorca
9. La Gomera, Canary Islands
A tiny lozenge of land in the Canary Islands, La Gomera is a scenic natural paradise of craggy volcanic mountains, tangled rainforest, deserted black sand beaches, and sleepy villages.
Resorts here mean single-story accommodation and family-run restaurants, and on this island, hiking is the main activity. Top of the list is a hike from the tropical town of Hermigua to El Cedro waterfall – a trail which takes you through the fairytale forests of Garajonay National Park, right in the heart of the island.
Another island favourite is a dramatic descent through the Valle Gran Rey canyon, which passes the cliffside village of La Calera, with its pastel-coloured houses. This hike ends with a much welcomed swim at a black-sand Atlantic beach.
You can also follow in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus, who allegedly prayed at the ancient Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in the capital, San Sebastian, before setting sail for the Americas.
La Gomera is known for whale-watching, and for an unusual experience, you can dive with barracudas on its pristine coral reefs.
Once you’ve seen the landscape, you’ll understand the origins of the island’s centuries-old whistling language, Silbo, which was once used to communicate across the deep ravines.
Go hiking in gorgeous La Gomera
Spain is full of hidden gems that sit beyond the well-travelled routes, and discovering these secret treasures can be an enriching experience.
From the stunning white villages of Andalucia to the art and food culture of Basque Country and the hiking trails in La Gomera, there’s something for every kind of traveller.
And the good news is that many of Spain’s lesser known sights are just a stone’s throw from tourism hotspots, which makes them easily accessible too.
If you’re looking for more inspiration off the beaten track in Spain, you can browse holidays to other hidden gems on TUI’s website.