Undiscovered Spain – get off the tourist trail
Spain remains the UK’s number-one holiday destination. That’s no mystery – it’s sunny and warm, incredibly hospitable, cheap and just an easy flight away. But seekers of authentic Spain can feel like they’ve mistakenly landed back home, among all those sports bars and English breakfasts.
However, cheap holidays to Spain don’t always have to lead to any of the busy Costas and islands. There are plenty of affordable ways to discover Spain without the tourist trappings.
Wild beauty – northern Spain
Tourists tend to ignore Spain’s magnificent north. So leave the crowds behind, and make the most of its rolling landscapes, deserted beaches, historic towns and sophisticated cities.
In Galicia, on Spain’s northwestern coast, you’ll enjoy unbeatable scenery between sea and mountains and, in towns like Noia, a very special mix of ancient, medieval, and modern.
Head east to Basque country, and you’ll discover cosmopolitan Bilbao (with its brilliant Guggenheim museum and legendary nearby surf beaches) and the foodie paradise of San Sebastián.
Best for: dramatic scenery and authentic flavours
Your cultural fill – Seville
You could argue that Seville’s not really off the beaten path. But then it is largely overlooked as a city-break destination by comparison with ever-popular Barcelona and Madrid. But there’s no reason this should be the case.
Seville’s Moorish past has left it with an extraordinary architectural heritage, including the unmissable Alcázar and its gardens. But newer landmarks delight too – especially the playful Metropol Parasol, which became the world’s largest wooden structure when it was finished in 2011.
Best for: a city break with a difference
A quieter island – La Palma
La Palma, at the north-western limit of the Canary Islands, has rich volcanic soil to thank for its thriving agricultural industry – and lesser dependence on tourism. You won’t find sprawling beach resorts here. In fact, although La Palma boasts some lovely fine black sand beaches, the island isn’t known as a beach destination.
It is, however, a renowned paradise for walkers and nature-lovers. Highlights include soaring volcanic scenery in Caldera de Taburiente National Park and the lush UNESCO-protected biosphere of Los Tilos.
Best for: unspoilt natural beauty
New sights – by foot or bike
Any outdoorsy Spaniard can let you in on one of the country’s best-kept secrets: the vías verdes (green ways). This network of walking and cycling paths are converted from disused railways. They’re well maintained and way-marked, and roll at the gentle gradients past beauty spots, beaches, rural retreats and incredible towns all over the country.
Best for: active escapes