Do you share my secret obsession with discovering pretty little villages in Europe off the beaten path? – I bet you do. Otherwise, you´d never land on this post in the first place. Spain is a unique travel destination because it´s either all about the big touristy names or the complete secret unknowns. Let´s skip the first ones and move on straight to the second ones, shall we? Check this list of 10 secret villages in Spain you´ve never heard of to experience Undiscovered Spain.
Somewhere no tourist has ever been before
The best thing about living in Spain is being able to explore its hidden gems on a daily basis. Spain that I first visited as a teenager almost 15 years ago, before settling down here, and Spain I know now are simply two different countries. Like every first-timer on the Iberian Peninsula, I went through different stages of admiration for Gaudi Art Works in Barcelona, the imperial charm of Madrid, unique Mudejar decorations in Granada´s Alhambra.
But you won´t find those stories on the pages of my blog. All that makes excited the millions of visitors coming to Spain every year, doesn’t electrify me personally any longer. But packing my handbag, getting the car started and driving somewhere no tourist has ever been before – this brings up the twinkle in my eyes.
Life vs. blogging
These past two years of being a newbie mom were challenging for me. Little kids require so much attention that effective blogging is almost a mission impossible. I often face the choice of spending an evening writing and sharing it, or simply heading somewhere new. In 90% of the cases, I go for the second option. As a result, I have material for 100 articles about my Spanish travels and end up publishing one.
But there´s a good thing about all this – you have no idea what´s coming towards you!
There were almost no social media shares of all the Spanish hidden gems I´ve kept scouting out over the last few years. This year I have fewer international trips scheduled. Therefore, I plan to focus on my Spanish content.
2020 is officially the year of Spanish revelations! Besides, I´m working on some exclusive Spanish content for my loyal readers – make sure you subscribe for the updates and be the first one to discover what am I up to.
Hidden gems in Spain
Let´s start with my favorite topic – beautiful medieval towns. I´ve handpicked for you and created the list of 10 secret villages in Spain you´ve never heard of. These are places where you´ll never hear a word of English or meet a bunch of the international tourists waiting in line for their tickets. Welcome to Undiscovered Spain. Some of these villages are known locally in Spain, others stay incognito even for the Spaniards. But from now on, you belong to the group of those few in the now.
I tried to take a few pretty villages from the different regions of Spain. Because honestly, if I am to talk about beautiful villages in the lesser-known (internationally) provinces of Castellon, Teruel, or Castile-La Mancha -literally every single medieval town belongs on this list. Even beautiful villages in Asturias might be quite off-the-beaten-path for some of you. So, I´ve tried to create a list of secret villages in Spain full of completely new names and locations.
Actually, we might keep this secret village club running for a while, as I have information on many more hidden villages in Spain. Potentially, it might end up as a series of posts. What do you think of it? However, if I am to sandwich it all in one travel story, you´ll get exhausted from scrolling down. So, let´s take it step by step and savor Spanish unseen gems one by one.
10 secret villages in Spain you´ve never heard of
Alcala de Jucar / Albacete
Alcala de Jucar might have never been on your radar, but it forms part of the official list of the Most Beautiful Villages in Spain (also Pueblos Mas Bonitos de España). Alongside the Don Quijote route, it is a must stop in the Castile-La Mancha Province. During the Easter week in Spain, the little town of Alcala de Jucar turns into one of the coolest medieval fairs in Spain.
The most emblematic monuments of Alcala de Jucar are The Castle, The Roman Bridge, San Lorenzo chapel, San Andres Church, and The Bullring. Nevertheless, as it´s already happened once with the Spanish city of Bocairente, Alcala de Jucar has surprised me with its impressive Caves (Cuevas in Spanish). You really can´t miss Cueva del Diablo, Cuevas de Masago y Duende, Cueva del Rey Garaden. It was extremely interesting to get inside of the Casa Cueva “El Castillo” (Cave House under the Castle of Alcala de Jucar) and to check all of the rooms and interior decorations.
Medinaceli / Castile and Leon
Medinaceli was a part of our recent road trip around Madrid with kids. The most emblematic landmark of this little town is The Roman Arch dating back to the 1st Century A.D. The site´s elevated setting offers some truly magical panoramic views of the region. Medinaceli holds quite an impressive heritage for such a hidden gem. Celtiberians, Romans, Muslims, and Christians have left their traces in between the tiny streets of this city.
The main sites you should not miss in Medinaceli: the castle, The Chapel of Beato Julian de San Augustin, The Arabic door, The Collegiate, The Town Square (Plaza Mayor), Medieval snowfield and walls, Convent of Santa Isabel. For more ideas and tips check the Soria Tourism Board website.
Villanueva de los Infantes / Castile-La Mancha
Despite the fact that I´ve recently shared with you a beautiful oasis of greenery, called Lagunas de Ruidera, spotted during my Don Quixote Road Trip, the hidden gems in Castile-La Mancha simply did not end there.
Villanueva de los Infantes near Ciudad Real is another off-beaten-track village in Spain you´d rather not miss.
The city´s vibrant life rolls around Plaza Mayor, a majestic local square from the XVII century. Your main stops while exploring the city should be San Andres and Sand Domingo Churches, General Perez Ballesteros street, the medieval building of the Santiago hospital, Casa del Arco.
You can also spot a few emblems left from the times of the Spanish Saint Inquisition, like the one on the door of Casa de la Inquision. These dark places always give me some goosebumps, but you can´t change history. The Spanish Catholic Kings (Fernando II and Isabel I) who reached to unite Spain, mostly based their political forces on the Catholic Church support, as well as the Saint Inquisition. Those were the times of religious intolerance and repressions. Thousands of innocents across the country were convicted as heretics, locked up, and tortured. While Jews and Muslims were forced to convert or leave The Kingdom of Castile forever.
Culla / Castellon
A brief preview of the upcoming post about the most beautiful villages in the Province of Castellon, which is still in the works, – the hidden mountain village of Culla. Cobblestone streets, ruins of an ancient Arab castle, and breathtaking views – all this makes Culla your must-stop in the Province of Castellon.
Also read: Undiscovered Spain: Visiting Morella
Culla looks like a fairytale village lost in time. I´ve taken so many pictures that they might end up making it to the separate blog post. Besides, if visiting in October you could also check the nearby village of Benassal for their Hazelnut Gastronomic Weeks.
Valderrobres is one of those charming little towns you could never understand why they aren´t touristic at all!
Most likely, if Valderrobres were more conveniently located to either of Spain’s biggest cities – that would be a hit. However, for now it´s just a find for the fans of off-the-beaten-path places and budget travelers.
Also read: Undiscovered Spain – Teruel Exists!
Valderrobres reminds me of a fairytale village stuck in time. With its Gothic castle and church, a renaissance town hall and pretty cobblestone streets, Valderrobres is definitely one of the most beautiful villages in Teruel!
Ares del Maestre / Castellon
Ares del Maestre immediately captures your attention on the road with its peculiar landforms and panoramic location by the Muela de Ares mountain. This tiny little town overlooks the whole province from 1.195 m above the sea level. Top things to see: the rests of an ancient castle, Santa Elena chapel, La Cova Remigia with its rock paintings, declared UNESCO world heritage, Antigua Lonja ( Medieval Market) with its Gothic-Mudejar arches. You could combine your visit to Ares del Maestre with Morella, one of the most fairytale places in Spain and top gems of the Valencia region.
Mirambel / Teruel
I´ve already told you that Teruel is one of the Spanish big unknowns. In places like Mirambel, there´s no guidebook telling you where to go. The point here is to let yourself wander around – no maps, no names of places, only your instincts turning you. Just follow the cobblestones.
Home to more or less 130 inhabitants, Mirambel feels like an open-air museum. Reconquered from the Arabs in 1169, the city has been connected for centuries to the military orders, like Orden del Temple.
Also read: Beautiful villages in Spain – Bocairente
In between all these old sophisticated decorations, ancient murals, coats of arms on the walls, wooden balconies, and ornamental arches, one piece of artwork stands out particularly – Portal de las Monjas. According to the local website, this peculiar structure belongs to the local convent Convento Monjas Agustinas. There´s a cell/room behind these curious geometric ornaments, which by the way, were made with clay. Most likely the cell belonged to the founder of the convent, Sister Violante DeCastellvi, and the lattices prevented her from being seen as she looked out to the lively atmosphere of the main street.
Alquezar / Huesca
While I can’t include all of the pretty villages in the Spanish Pyrenees within this post, I also have no right to hide away from you the prettiest of the prettiest – Alquezar. This beautiful medieval town was a revelation during my trip to the Huesca region in Spain.
Huesca is famous for its national parks: Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, Posets-Maladeta National Park, Sierra y Los Cañones de Guara National Park, Valles Occidentales National Park. It is an ultimate hiking destination in summer and ski-lovers target during the winter months.
Also read: The Legend of Bride´s Jump in Navajas
Nevertheless, the first time we visited Huesca my youngest daughter was only 3 months old, so we were not quite on the hiking stage. But we focused on sightseeing, local medieval villages, and castles. So that she could have a nap inside her stroller (or I could get inside the car to feed or change her at any moment). In case you’re asking yourself how could the stroller on the cobblestone streets be a good idea – for this trip we left at home our practical and compact Babyzen and opted for the bulky Joolz we normally leave at home. Otherwise napping would be impossible with all the bumping and elevations. The front carrier could be a better alternative, it worked with my oldest daughter on Tenerife, but the youngest one never really liked it.
Anyway, what I really loved about Alquezar and Huesca is that besides all the pretty things you might see around, you breathe in the fresh mountain air. You might even spot some occasional snow caps on the backdrop.
Maderuelo / Castile and Leon
Mederuelo is one of the secret villages in Spain that has a special atmosphere. There´s something strange about this place, something hard to put into words. Mederuelo is located near Segovia and Burgos, but you won´t find it in between the popular travel destination of the region. Nevertheless, Maderuelo just struck me with its secretness, creepy ghost buildings, epic hilltop location, complicated and protected access,as well as almost no existent information online.
Maderuelo was settled by the Christians in the X century and often attacked by the Almazor military forces of the Arabs. It was one of the bordering regions between the Arabs and Christians. People were afraid to settle down there. However, during the Spanish Reconquista (XI century), Maderuelo proudly formed the front line of the Spanish defense forces.
All this conflicted past resulted in the construction of medieval walls and castle. But once you walk around a bit you can´t help the feeling that history is hiding something from you here. The roman Churches of San Miguel and Santa Maria clearly indicate Mederuelo was of great importance during the Middle ages. Yet, the historical insights of this place are very abstract.
For instance, there´s an eery pillar in front of the Santa Maria church called Picota. It has a cross on the top and rests of chains ( it seriously looks like one of those pedestals the Saint Inquisition used to burn witches during the Middle Ages). But despite googling it through the Spanish websites for hours I was not able to find any reasonable description or explanation for this strange pillar. Maybe you have any ideas?
Vilafames / Castellon
Vilafames closes the list of secret villages in Spain for today, but it´s actually one of my personal favorites. It could be reached as a day trip from Valencia, Castellon, or Peñiscola. You could combine your visit to Vilafames with a few other interesting things to do in the Province of Castellon.
In the old city of Vilafames you can´t skip a walk through the narrow streets, which would take you back to the Muslim era in Spain. Besides, the city´s setting on the top of the mountain offers some really nice views. Don´t miss Local Contemporary Art Museum (Museo de Arte Comteporáneo in Spanish) with its 39 rooms covering the evolution of the Spanish avant-garde, visual poetry, abstract- and contemporary art.
For more travel tips, stories, and ideas about Spain check my Pinterest board – Travel to Spain.