Being a part of Europe and its far-reaching history, Spain is no exception when it comes to a large number of local stories and tales. Let me share with you these 10 Fascinating legends from Spain to Fuel Your Wanderlust.
Fascinating legends from Spain to Fuel Your Wanderlust
Discovering a passion for Spanish legends
How about fueling your Wanderlust with a few mystical Spanish legends? My non-stop travels across the Iberian Peninsula during the past 10 years have unexpectedly brought into my life lots of local myths and folktales. Although, if I´m completely honest with you, all of these have never felt so captivating for me personally till recently. It all changed when I started exploring Spain with kids.
Everyone knows that the best way to ignite a child´s interest in a new place, castle, or city is to tell an exciting story. So, on the road, you either research for one (as we did during our Don Quijote Road Trip) or create one (as it happened during our Gaibiel Castle Hike). But the truth is that in this whole process of trying to motivate my kids, I´ve rediscovered a passion for legends myself. As a result, I began traveling across Spain with “new eyes”, constantly eager to dig up new traditional folktales and ancient legends on the road.
I´m sure I won´t get an argument from you on that: in a certain way, folktales, literature heroes, humor, and superstitions are the best things that can help you understand any culture on a whole new level. Therefore I encourage you to the Spanish legends a try.
The land of legends
Let´s admit it, some dreamy castles, magical forests, fairytale places, and stunning landscapes in Spain feel so otherworldly that it´s like they already come into our lives with a mystical legend tag. But if there´s an actual story behind it, carefully passed down from generation to generation during centuries – everything feels even more exciting, don´t you agree?
So, if you feel tired from daily duties and routine or simply want to infuse your Spain Bucket List with a mystical twist, let´s jump together into the world of magic carefully hiding behind these 10 fascinating legends from Spain.
10 Fascinating Spanish Legends you´ll love
1. Lovers of Teruel / Amantes de Teruel
While you can’t find Teruel on the lists of most romantic travel experiences around the world or most romantic cities in Spain, it might actually belong on both. Mausoleum of the Amantes de Teruel is your ultimate proof. If you’re a fan of Spain you just can´t ignore the famous national legend of the Lovers of Teruel, as it has inspired Spanish artists and poets since the XIII century. It is one of Spain´s most iconic landmarks.
According to the legend, Diego and Isabel were in love since their childhood, but the girl’s wealthy family didn’t want her to marry someone out of their social class. However, they gave Diego 5 years to build a fortune, so he left the city. In 5 years he returned rich, but Isabel’s family had already arranged her marriage to another man.
Also read: The Most Beautiful Villages in Teruel
Diego didn’t want to believe that Isabel was married to someone else, so he went to see her and asked for a kiss. She refused, cause now she belonged to another man. This is why, if you check the picture of the monument, you’ll notice that their hands aim to hold but don’t actually touch as the sign of this kiss she refused to give him. The next day Diego died and during his funeral ceremony Isabel passed away by his side. The legend claims both died for love.
This is the only love legend on this list of Fascinating Legends in Spain. But for Valentine’s Day, I´m already preparing for you another lovey-dovey list of The Most Romantic Legends in Spain to get you in the mood.
2. The Legend of The Aqueduct of Segovia
While The Aqueduct of Segovia is one of the top Spanish landmarks and one of the most impressive Roman sites in Spain, according to a local legend its creation was more than a Roman masterpiece – it was an evil project of the all-mighty Devil.
The story says that there was once a local girl, who would climb every day to the top of the mountain and back with her pitcher full of water. She was so fed up with this daily job that she made a wish to the Devil. The girl was asking him to create some means so that she won´t need to go up and down every day ever again. The Devil decided to make a deal with her and asked for her soul in exchange. The agreement would only be valid if he managed to finish the Aqueduct before the cockerel crowed.
The Devil began constructing and the girl started regretting her decision. However, right before he was about to lay the last stone of the ambitious project – the cockerel crowed and the girl´s soul was saved. Nowadays, in the remaining gap, one might see the Statue of La Virgen de Nuestra Señora de la Cabeza.
3. The 9th island in the Canary Islands
With the stunning landscapes of the Canary Islands, like Masca in Tenerife or lunar fields of The Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote, it´s honestly hard to resist any legend originating at the beautiful archipelago.
One of the top legends in Spain tells the story of a secret 9th island near El Hierro that sometimes comes to a surface and then disappears. Some even assure it might be seen from Spain´s highest peak – Mount Teide, even despite the constant blanket of clouds.
The origins of this Spanish legend take us back to the Irish monk Saint Brendan, who documented his journey of Atlantic explorings in the VI century. He referred to the 9th island in the Canary Islands as a giant fish, which brought him to the magical paradise on earth.
Surprisingly, you can find the 9th island on lots of the ancient maps from the XIII century till 1755, but no one ever has been able to prove its existence. Although many sailors across centuries had sworn by seeing this mystical gem with their own eyes.
4. The Secret Tunnel of the Cordoba´s Mosque
While the Mosque of Cordoba is one of the must-see places in Andalusia and one of the Most Beautiful Cathedrals in Spain, you´ll hardly find another building on the Iberian Peninsula surrounded by so many different legends, from romantic tales to unsolved mysteries.
Also read: Blue Smurfs Village of Juzcar in Andalusia
One of the most mysterious legends in Spain might be the story of The Secret Tunnel of the Cordoba´s Mosque.
While no evidence has ever been found, many locals assure there once was a secret tunnel connecting the palatial city of Medina Azahara with the Mosque-Cathedral. It was built under the dynasty of Abderraman III and allowed him to travel directly between the city of Medina Azahara and the Mosque on horseback for his daily prayers.
I mean, honestly, after visiting places like Ronda´s Bridge and Granada´s Alhambra – I´m ready to believe in the existence of any other architectural wonder, created during the times of the Moorish Al Andalus (i.e modern Andalusia).
5. Viriato and The enchanted City of Cuenca
One of the places in Spain that is often overlooked by international visitors – The Enchanted City of Cuenca . It is a forest full of stunning rock formations, sculpted over the centuries by ice, wind, and water. Most of the giant outcrops seem to completely disobey the rules of gravitation.
According to one of the local Spanish legends, Viriato, a Lusitanian leader from the nearest Segobriga town (currently one of the top Roman ruins in Spain) was walking across the Enchanted City of Cuenca with his beloved wife. He was so stunned by the impressive rock formations, especially Tormo Alto, that Viriato expressed the wish to be buried nearby after his death (if he dies of natural causes) or his ashes to get scattered nearby (if he dies in a battle).
Viriato was killed by three of his guards, who betrayed him for money. His body was incinerated near Tormo Alto, following his last word, and his ashes were scattered across the Enchanted City of Cuenca.
Ever since many witnesses have insisted on seeing every once in a while a strange reflection of a bonfire on the rock of Tormo Alto.
6. The Mermaid of Castro-Urdiales
Another one of the mysterious legends in Spain is the tale of Sirenuca – the mermaid of Castro-Urdiales.
In the mythology of the Cantabria region, we´ll find a slightly different vision of sirens: they actually helped the sailors instead of enchanting them towards their death.
The Cantabrian mermaid Sirenuca was a local girl, who loved to fish at the most dangerous local cliffs of Castro-Urdiales, despite her mother’s warnings. The mother was so worried for her, that driven by emotions she cursed the girl by shouting: “Asi permita el Dios del Cielo que te vuelvas pez!” (Eng. “So may the God of Heaven allow you to turn into a fish!”).
Since that moment a beautiful girl has turned into a mermaid. According to some legends in Spain, lost sailors might hear her singing warning them if they accidentally approach too much the dangerous cliffs of Castro-Urdiales.
7. The Guimar Pyramids and their origins
The Guimar Pyramids is a mysterious complex of six pyramids, which is still a source of debate in the Spanish press.
The famous Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl believed these were left by Egyptians on their way to America, while the Spanish investigators Cesar Esteban and Antonio Aparicio claimed that the Guimar pyramids were nothing more than an agricultural construction. You´re free to pick sides here – an agricultural complex or an unrecognized wonder of the world?
One way or another, The Guimar Pyramids is a curious place to visit on the island of Tenerife. I also really liked their exposition dedicated to the pyramids of the world.
8. The Legend of Las Medulas
According to one of the ancient legends in Spain, the otherworldly beautiful landscape of Las Medulas was once a constant battlefield between Celts (led by king Medulo) and Romans (led by general Carisio).
Carisio wanted to win above all. So he pretended to fall in love with Medulo´s daughter Borenia. King Medulo was against their union and hid his daughter in one of the local caves. However, the persistent general still managed to find the girl and convinced her that both nations should make a peace treaty. According to him, this was the only way for him to declare his love publicly and marry her.
While king Medulo was celebrating the end of the war, he was killed by the Romans and his treasures were melted into golden flakes, scattered over the mountains. In the morning Borenia returned to her town and discovered the mountains were stained with the blood of her people. She realized that Carisio had lied to her and from her tears appeared a local Lake Carucedo.
Some say Borenia´s silhouette with beautiful golden hair sometimes appears on the shores of the lake.
9. The Legend of Lo Rat Penat of Valencia
Lo Rat Penat is a mysterious bat on Valencia´s Coat of Arms and another source of a few controversial legends in Spain.
There are different theories upon the origins of Lo Rat Penat, most of them rolling around King Jaime I and the Spanish Reconquista.
The legend has it the Moors had domesticated bats to end up with the mosquito plague from the nearest Albufera region. A prophet predicted to Jaime I that as long as the bats will keep flying over the city it will never fall. So, when one of the bats landed on the top of the king´s tent he saw it as a sign of good luck and ordered his soldiers to treat the animal as well as possible.
Later on, when the Morrish troops attempted a surprise attack, the sound of a drum awoke the Christian army of Jaime I. The Spanish king won the battle and sought to reward the man who had beaten the drum in order to warn his troops. To his surprise Jaime I discovered it was a bat flapping its wings against the drum. As a reward, the king placed the symbol of the bat on Valencia´s Coat of Arms – Lo Rat Penat.
10. The Legend of Peñon de Ifach
According to another one of the magical legends in Spain, the coast of Calpe was once the kingdom of mermaids. This Spanish legend took place long ago near one of the most unique cliffs in Spain – Peñon de Ifach.
Although in this story the main activity of the mermaids was enchanting and tricking the fish into falling under the nets of local sailors. This was a secret pact between the sirens and the locals in order to maintain peace.
But one day an evil Genie started to chase sirens and threatened to turn them into stones if they would come close to any fish ever again. The scared mermaids were hiding and stopped helping the fishermen as promised. Those in return thought the sirens were ignoring their sacred pact and helping fishermen from the other villages.
So, a mad group of fishermen with iron spears jumped into the sea to end with the siren traitors. Desperate mermaids asked for help from Neptune, the all-mighty God of the Seas. Neptune was furious and couldn’t leave in trouble his favorite sirens. He chased the Evil Genie and turned him into the rock when he tried to escape the sea. The name of this rock nowadays is Peñon de Ifach.
Hope you´ve discovered some new inspiring legends in Spain from this post. Let me know in the comments – I have at least 20 more Spanish legends up my sleeve to keep sharing with you.