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Let’s face it – secret and beautiful monasteries in Spain often hold the key to understanding cultural and religious history across the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. These places of worship offer a perfect setting to enjoy a few quiet lonesome moments, as well as an opportunity to marvel around in search of new artworks. Hope you enjoy this list of secret and beautiful monasteries in Spain!

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Beautiful Monasteries in Spain

The Catholic Cultural Heritage in Spain

There is no way you can visit Spain and never get inside a beautiful ancient monastery along the way.

The long-rooted religious tradition across the Iberian Peninsula has resulted in numerous architectural and cultural marvels. But what´s even more important – despite all the human intents to destroy our cultural heritage through wars or revolutions, the Catholic Church has been able to preserve a vast number of valuable objects and artworks.

Also, most of the beautiful Spanish Cathedrals have their own museums, incorporated within the religious buildings. This cultural twist makes it so interesting and revealing to explore beautiful monasteries in Spain, even for those of us who are not Catholics.

Unique Atmosphere of the Spanish monasteries

Once inside a new monastery – you never know what to expect, as some of these places were keeping their treasures away from the public eye for so long.

At times, even the complete absence of lavish decorations feels enchanting in its own way. Like for instance, on my last trip to Navarra – one of the absolute highlights was getting inside the 11th century crypt at the Monastery of Leyre. Oh, those mysterious places in Spain, where the walls are literally whispering to you. Every visitor ends up mesmerized by the atmosphere, the shapes, the forms, and often a unique Spanish legend behind it.

This is honestly the essence of visiting Beautiful Monasteries in Spain for me. You never know what´s waiting for you behind an ancient doorway and simply get driven away from the atmosphere of silence and secrecy, which dominated these ancient halls for centuries.

Also, many of the monasteries do not allow photos inside. Therefore, you somehow become the accomplice of their confidentiality, as you can´t really show someone what you have seen inside. Plus, the no-picture policy also means that with time you might not be able to recall this experience fully.

Popular vs Secret Monasteries in Spain

Let´s divide the beautiful monasteries of Spain into the touristy and the lesser-known ones. This is to say, the monasteries that made it to the list of the top Spanish landmarks are still extremely beautiful and unique from an architectural point of view. Although in my opinion, they obviously lose part of their secret charm, when crowds come into the picture.

Popular Monasteries in Spain

  • Montserrat Monastery
  • San Lorenzo de El Escorial
  • Saint Pere de Rodes
  • San Juan de los Reyes Monastery of Toledo
  • San Clemente of Seville
  • Pedralbes Monastery in Barcelona

All of the Spanish monasteries mentioned above are amazing, but let´s switch the focus to the lesser-known religious gems in Spain.

Secret and Beautiful Monasteries in Spain

El Real Monasterio Santa Maria de Poblet / Tarragona

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El Real Monasterio Santa Maria de Poblet/ Tarragona – one of the most beautiful monasteries in Spain

El Real Monasterio Santa Maria de Poblet is one of the most emblematic landmarks of the Catalonia region, located 40 km away from the city of Tarragona. Ir is a popular stop on any Tarragona road trip.

The current monastery building dates back to the XIVth century. Although it was originally founded earlier – back in 1129 by the order of Ramon Berenguer IV, the Count of Barcelona.

Aside from unique artworks and ancient documents, the Santa Maria de Poblet Monastery is full of unique architectural elements, decorations, altarpieces, carvings, and doorways, influenced by Gothic and Baroque styles. The most valuable artworks can be found in the monastery´s museum.

It is the biggest monastery on the Cistercian route of Catalonia.

Monasterio de Ucles / Cuenca

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Monasterio de Ucles / Cuenca – one of the most beautiful monasteries in Spain

Located near one of the top Roman Ruins in Spain – Segobriga, Monasterio de Ucles or The Ucles Monastery is often called el escorial of Castile-La Mancha, after the popular Spanish landmarkSan Lorenzo de Escorial, near Madrid.

The Ucles monastery was built on the ruins of an old castle in the fifth century, but the current building could be traced back to the XVth century. One of its most emblematic decorations is the main doorway, created by Pedro de Ribera.

Monasterio de Ucles is a popular stop on any Madrid to Valencia road trip.

Monasterio de Yuso / La Rioja

One of the lesser-known beautiful monasteries in Spain is Monasterio de Yuso or the Monastery of Yuso. It´s one of the places with the longest religious tradition in Spain, located in San Milan de la Cogolla / La Rioja.

Since its construction in 1067 monks of different religions lived here, like those of St. Millan, as well as the Benedictine and the Augustinian monks. You can check the full guide in English here.

Nearby you´ll find another monastery – Monasterio de Suso (from VI – XIth centuries). Its most unique sight is the ancient caves where hermits used to live. Both Monasteries of Yuso and Suso are often visited together: actually, suso from Latin sursum means “up” (known as the elder monastery), and yuso from Latin deorsum means “down”.

Monasteries of Yuso and Suso were declared UNESCO heritage sites back in 1997. Both are conveniently set on the Way of Saint James (or el Camino de Santiago in Spanish) and El Camino del Cid.

Real Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña / Huesca

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Real Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña, one of the most amazing monasteries in Spain

Real Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña was such an epic stop on my Spanish Pyrenees road trip this summer.

This monastery dates back to the 20th century. What particularly stands out here is the impressive natural setting. San Juan de la Peña was built under a massive rock aiming to give shelter. Till the present day, it houses the remains of an ancient Mozarab church.

The old walls of San Juan de la Peña are often referred to as “The Old Monastery” or Monasterio Viejo in Spanish. If you follow the road upwards for 1,5 km you´ll find The New Monastery/ Monasterio Nuevo (where you actually need to buy an entrance to visit both places). In order to get inside The Old Monastery of San Juan de la Peña you’ll need to join a guided tour.

Monasterio de Leyre / Navarra

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The 11th-century crypt inside the Monastery of Leyre, one of the most serene monasteries in Spain

Monasterio de Leyre or the Monastery of Leyre is one of the most important monuments of Navarra. Aside from its beautiful architecture and serene natural setting, the most impressive landmark of the complex is an 11th-century crypt. Apparently, the function of the crypt, set below the Romanesque church, was to save the unevenness of the steep slopes of the Sierra. It feels surreal, so silent and majestic inside.

While the Monastery of Leyre can’t compete with Santa Maria de Poblet or Guadalupe in terms of interior decorations I really enjoyed the visit. One can download a free interactive PDF at the official website and scan the QR codes for guiding info. Additionally, once you purchase your entrance they provide you with a key to get inside the crypt and chapel at your own pace.

Monasterio de Santo Domingo de Silos / Burgos

Santo Domingo de Silos Monastery is on my bucket list for the next trip to Soria, Castile Leon. The origins of this monastery could be traced back to the 7th century.

Santo Domingo de Silos is a Benedictine monastery known for its stunning Romanesque architecture. Nowadays, part of the monastery is transformed into a museum (although the guided tours are only available in Spanish).

The Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos is known for its unique Gregorian chants, also called Vespers (you can listen to them during the Sunday mass at 9.00 a.m or 12.00 p.m on the holidays). To visit the cloister check the schedule (note, that it is closed on Mondays).

Real Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe / Caceres

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Real Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, one of the must-see monasteries in Spain

Real Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe or the Monastery of Guadalupe is definitely a must-stop in the region of Extremadura. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage sight back in 1993.

The Monastery of Guadalupe was built between the XIII and XIV centuries. The gothic elements prevail outside, while inside you can find Mudejar, Barocco, Renaissance, and Neoclassic decorations. Originally, it was a small and humble church till the Spanish King Alfonso XI, who used to go hunting nearby, decided to build a splendid monastery.

There are a few local legends reassuring the divine appearance of the Virgin Santa Maria de Guadalupe at the very same place the monastery is situated. The fame of the monastery extended across the Iberian Peninsula while attracting numerous pilgrims. For almost 400 years, till 1825, the monastery of Guadalupe belonged to Hyeronimites (or Orden de San Jeronimo in Spanish). But since 1908 it has been under the protection of Franciscans ( or Orden Francisca in Spanish).

The Monastery of Guadalupe has a no-pictures-inside policy. I mostly enjoyed their collection of huge ancient hand-made books. Although there were honestly a few things I did not like. First of all, they allow guided group visits only so you can´t explore things at your own pace. Most of the tours are in Spanish, and they begin every 30 minutes. For English, you´d need to book in advance.

Secondly, while this place is relatively unknown to international visitors, it is largely popular with huge groups of retired Spaniards. The significant number of cheap souvenir shops and buses parked around felt a bit of a drawback, for me. Nevertheless, the Monastery of Guadalupe is definitely a must-see at least once.

Have you ever visited any of these Secret and Beautiful Monasteries in Spain?

Which one would you like to see the most once in Spain?

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