I bet you share my secret obsession with discovering secret villages in Spain. The most unique feature of this country is that traveling here is either all about the big touristy names and trendy national landmarks or it´s about the mysterious places, local legends, and lesser-known locations you won´t find in any guidebook. 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 from my Blog Series Undiscovered Spain.
Somewhere no tourist has ever been before
The best thing about being an expat in Spain is the opportunity 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 the most popular Spanish landmarks, like Gaudi Art Works in Barcelona, the imperial charm of Madrid, and unique Mudejar decorations in Granada´s Alhambra.
But the more I roam across Spain, the more I feel like all that makes excited the millions of visitors every year, doesn’t electrify me personally any longer. On the other hand – planning a spontaneous Spanish road trip, packing my handbag, getting the car started, and heading somewhere no tourist has ever been before – brings up a twinkle in my eyes.
Hidden gems in Spain
All these are places where you won´t hear a word in English. You won´t see a bunch of tourists waiting in line for their tickets either. While 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.
In this post, I try to cover secret villages in Spain that belong to different regions and provinces of the Iberian Peninsula. Potentially, it might end up as a series of posts, as you can imagine – there are far more than 10. Want more small-town-charm ideas? – Check these posts: Beautiful villages in Asturias, Mojacar: The prettiest of the prettiest, Charming villages in Teruel, Valencia´s Hidden Gem – Bocairete, Visiting Morella, Top small towns in Spain.
10+ secret villages in Spain you´ve never heard of
1. 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 or Pueblos Mas Bonitos de España. Alongside the Don Quijote route, this secret Spanish village is a must-stop in the Castile-La Mancha Province.
The most emblematic monuments of Alcala de Jucar are The Castle, The Roman Bridge, San Lorenzo Chapel, San Andres Church, and The Bullring. Although the most peculiar local landmark is the impressive Caves where locals used to live. It reminded me of The Bata caves in Paterna, the eye-catching location from the last Pedro Almodovar movie “Dolor y Gloria” with Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas.
Top caves in Alcala de Jucar you must visit – Cueva del Diablo, Cuevas de Masago y Duende, Cueva del Rey Garaden.
Also, during the Easter week in Spain, the little town of Alcala de Jucar turns into one of the coolest medieval fairs in Spain.
2. Medinaceli / Castile and Leon
Medinaceli was a part of our recent road trip around Madrid with kids. With its Roman Arch dating back to the 1st Century A.D, this small town forms part of the most important Roman ruins in Spain. 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 secret Spanish village.
The main sites you should not miss in Medinaceli are: 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 sightseeing tips and ideas check the Soria Tourism Board website.
3. Villanueva de los Infantes / Castile-La Mancha
Villanueva de los Infantes near Ciudad Real is one of the top-secret villages in Spain you´d rather not miss. During my Don Quixote Road Trip, I´ve already shared with you that Miguel de Cervantes has made Villanueva de los Infantes a Don Quijote´s home in the book (although it’s not mentioned directly, rather concluded by scientists: so there´s still a debate around it). There´s a monument to Don Quijote and Sancho Panza at the Plaza Mayor square.
Also read: The Most Beautiful Cathedrals in Spain
This small town is full of beautiful architecture: Convento de Santo Domingo, El Hospital de Santiago, Casa del Arco, La Casa de los Estudios, Tribunal de la Inquisicion, Cervantes street, Plaza de San Juan, Casa Palacio de Marques de Entrambasaguas.
While walking around 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 Inquisition. You might have heard that the Spanish Catholic Kings (Fernando II and Isabel I) who reached to unite Spain, mostly based their political forces on the support of the Catholic Church, 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. I often suspect that because of the Spanish Inquisition there are more places for my list of the mysterious and haunted places in Spain than I could ever find out.
4. Culla / Castellon
Here´s a brief preview of the upcoming post about the most beautiful villages in the Province of Castellon (which is still in the works) – the secret Spanish 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.
Culla looks like a storybook place lost in time – I could enjoy the magical views all for myself. If visiting in October you should also check the nearby village of Benassal for their Hazelnut Gastronomic Weeks.
5. Valderrobres / Teruel
Valderrobres is one of those secret villages in Spain when you could never understand why they aren´t well established on the tourist track yet!
Also read: Top Romantic Legends from Spain You´ll Love
Most likely, if Valderrobres were more conveniently located to either of Spain’s biggest cities – it would be a hit. However, for now, it´s such a find for all the fans of Undiscovered Spain. 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!
6. 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 sea level.
Top things to see in Ares del Maestre: the ruins 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 the nearest Morella, one of the top fairytale places in Spain and Zorita del Maestrazgo.
7. Mirambel / Teruel
Mirambel is one of the tiniest secret villages in Spain. 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 military orders, like Orden del Temple.
Also read: The Most Epic Cliffs in Spain
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.
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.
8. Alquezar / Huesca
While I can’t include all of the beautiful secret villages in the Spanish Pyrenees within this post, Alquezar is one of my absolute favorites. This beautiful medieval town was a complete discovery during my trip to the Huesca region.
Also read: The Legend of Bride´s Jump in Navajas
Huesca is mostly 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 one of the top places for skiing in Spain during the winter months. Although there are quite a few dreamy castles (like Loarre Castle) and medieval villages (like Ainsa or Montañana) in the region.
9. Maderuelo / Castile and Leon
Mederuelo is one of the secret villages in Spain with a quite special atmosphere. It´s not on my list of the Spanish haunted places only because there´s no such official data. But honestly, there´s something strange about this place…
Mederuelo is located near Segovia and Burgos, but you won´t find it in between the popular travel destinations of the region. This place is full of creepy ghost buildings and there´s little information about the village and its history.
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 in Mederuelo. However, during the Spanish Reconquista in the 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 castles. 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 Spanish 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. Any history geeks here to shed some light on this?
10. Vilafames / Castellon
In the old city center 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 the Local Contemporary Art Museum, one of the secret museums in Spain, with 39 rooms covering the evolution of the Spanish avant-garde, visual poetry, abstract and contemporary art.
You can combine your visit to Vilafames with a few other interesting things to do in the Province of Castellon.
Alarcon is totally the most picture-perfect one on this list of secret villages in Spain. It´s an authentic tiny gem of the Spanish province of Cuenca. Ideally, you may visit Alarcon during one of your Spanish road trips (especially on the way from Valencia to Madrid). It´s a bit too much driving for a Valencia day trip though (around 2h). Also, you can check my IG Reels on Alarcon for more inspiration.
Alarcon is an absolute storybook location in Spain, as it is known for some of the best-preserved medieval walls in the whole of the country. Top local sights are Iglesia de Santa Trinidad (a XIIIth century church), Plaza del Infante Don Manuel (a central square), Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Silos, Castillo de Alarcon (the castle of Alarcon, which is also a hotel of the Paradores Nacionales chain), Mirador de la Peña (lookout area near the castle), Torre de los Alarconcillos (one of the ancient defence towers of Alarcon).
For more travel tips, stories, and ideas about Spain check my Pinterest board – Travel to Spain.