REGIONS of Spain

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Which Regions of Spain Should I Visit?

Spain is a diverse country with a long history and over 47 million inhabitants. The country is made up of 17 autonomous regions known as “comunidades autónomas.” Those regions are further divided into 50 provinces. Spain’s regions have distinct identities and sometimes even distinct languages. Which region you should visit depends on what you are looking for. Do you want to discover Moorish castles and palaces? Then Andalusia is your best bet. Do you want to eat amazing food? Then check out the Basque Country. Do you want to relax on the most beautiful beaches? Then go to the Balearic Islands. To help you decide which region you should visit, we have put together a list of the best regions of Spain, starting with the top 5.

Map of the regions (autonomous communities) of Spain
Map of the regions (autonomous communities) of Spain Galicia Asturias Cantabria Basque Country Navarre Castile & Leon La Rioja Aragon Catalonia Extremadura Madrid Castile La Mancha Valencia Murcia Andalusia Balearic Islands Canary Islands

Top 5 Spanish Regions

1

ANDALUSIA

Alhambra Palace at sunset – Granada, Spain
Alhambra Palace in Granada

Andalusia occupies Spain’s entire southern coast. It is stereotypical Spain – there’s warm weather, outgoing locals, flamenco music and tapas. Add on to that some of the best historical sites in the country and you’ll understand why we think Andalusia is the best region in Spain to visit.

The region was known as Al-Andalus by the Muslim Moors who occupied a large portion of Spain for 700 years. Their civilizations left behind several architectural wonders that can still be admired today such as Granada’s Alhambra, Cordoba’s Mosque and Seville’s Royal Alcazar.

The colorful neighborhood of Triana in Seville, Spain
Colorful Triana Neighborhood – Seville

Seville is the capital of the region and one of the absolute best cities to visit in Spain. With so many things to do and see in Seville, we recommend staying for several days. Other cities worth visiting are Cordoba, Granada, Cadiz and Malaga.

Andalucía also boasts 800 km of coastline. The most popular beach areas (due to their amenities and close proximity to the Malaga airport) are found along the Costa del Sol. However, there are beautiful beaches all along the coast. The beaches of Almeria are some of our favorites and especially those found in the Cabo de Gata Nature park.


Provinces: Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Malaga, Sevilla
Capital: Seville

2

CATALONIA

Casa Batlló from architect Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain
Gaudí's Casa Batlló in Barcelona

Catalonia is situated next to the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea in the northeast corner of Spain. Barcelona is the capital of the region and the most popular destination. This coastal city is one of Spain’s most beautiful and there is no shortage of interesting architecture. Barcelona was home to the star architect Antoni Gaudí and his unusual buildings can found dotted throughout the city, such as the still unfinished Sagrada Familia church and the unique Güell Park.

Catalonia’s coast sees a lot of beach tourism. The most famous areas are Costa Brava located to the north of Barcelona and Costa Dorada to the south. Cadaqués is a small whitewashed village on the Costa Brava. Famous artists such as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró spent much time in this charming area. Another notable mention on the Costa Brava is Tossa de Mar with its seaside medieval castle, defensive walls and towers that preside over a picturesque beach.

Tossa de Mar in Catalonia's Costa Brava, Spain
Tossa de Mar in Catalonia's Costa Brava

Sitges and Tarragona are both located within an hour south of Barcelona and are worth a visit. Tarragona is home to several Roman ruins. The most notable ruin is an amphitheater located steps away from the beach.

In addition to Castilian Spanish, the Catalan language is also spoken in Catalonia. It is best described as a mixture of Spanish and French.


Provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, Tarragona
Capital: Barcelona

3

MADRID

Plaza Mayor (Main Square) in Madrid, Spain
Plaza Mayor (Main Square) in Madrid

Madrid is situated in the heart of Spain. As one of the smaller autonomous communities in the country, Madrid is largely made up of the city itself plus about a 60 km (37 miles) radius. As such, it is the most densely populated area of the country with almost 7 million inhabitants. It’s also the most visited Spanish region.

Madrid city is the cosmopolitan capital of Spain. It’s worth a visit, especially if you are into art. The “Golden Triangle of Art” is formed by 3 of the best art museums in Europe: Prado Museum, Reina Sophia Museum & Thyssen Museum.

Exterior of El Escorial Palace in Madrid, Spain
El Escorial Palace – Madrid

The vast city has many different neighborhoods to explore as well as a historic old center and the Palacio Real (royal palace).

Outside of the city (45 km or 28 miles) there is the massive El Escorial Palace which has been the historic residence of the king since 1584.


Provinces: single province
Capital: Madrid

4

BASQUE COUNTRY

Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum at sunset, Spain
Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum at sunset

The Basque Country is located in northern Spain on the Bay of Biscay. This region is known for its strong cultural identity and long-standing independence movement. Euskara, the language of the Basques, is the last remaining descendent of the pre-indo-european languages. This means that it has no relation to Spanish or any other European language.

Although there is good food all throughout Spain, the Basque Country is known for having particularly outstanding gastronomy – from pintxos to haute cuisine and everything in between. The Basque Country is without a doubt one of the regions of Spain where you can eat the best.

Delicious pintxos in the Basque Country, Spain
Pintxos in the Basque Country

The elegant coastal city of San Sebastian is one of the best places to experience the delicious Basque kitchen. It is also home to one of the most beautiful city beaches in all of Europe, La Concha beach.

Bilbao is another great place for food. But it’s also known as a design and art mecca with the Guggenheim Museum from architect Frank Gehry being the biggest draw.


Provinces: Alava, Biscay, Gipuzcoa
Capital: Vitoria-Gasteiz

5

BALEARIC ISLANDS

Views of the bay at Calo des Moro, Mallorca – Spain
Calo des Moro, Mallorca

The Balearic Islands are stereotypical Mediterranean in all the best ways. The archipelago is made up of 4 main islands: Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. All are very popular holiday destinations with amazing beaches.

Mallorca is by far the largest island and it has the most to offer. There are countless beaches with crystal clear water and several well manicured villages to check out. Our favorites are Soller, Valldemossa & Alcudia. Plus there is the trendy capital city of Palma de Mallorca which has plenty to see in its own right.

The historic Soller Tram in Mallorca, Spain
Soller Tram in Mallorca

Ibiza has the impressive beaches as well, but in general there is a younger demographic that visits – especially those looking to party at some of Europe’s top electronic music venues.

For a more relaxed vibe that is mostly beach focused, head to Formentera or Menorca.

The Balearic Islands is one of the regions in Spain with the most beautiful beaches.


Provinces: single province
Capital: Palma de Mallorca

More Regions of Spain

6

VALENCIA

Benidorm the Costa Blanca of Valencia, Spain
Benidorm in Valencia's Costa Blanca

Valencia is a long coastal region that stretches along the Mediterranean Sea south of Catalonia. It’s very popular for beach tourism. The Costa Blanca is the most visited area and is where the over-developed resort town of Benidorm is located. Most of the coast has been developed, but with that comes lots of amenities and competitive hotel prices. It is still possible to find relatively untouched areas though.

Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) in Valencia, Spain
City of Arts and Sciences – Valencia

Valencia city is the capital of the region and the 3rd largest city in Spain. It’s famous for being the birthplace of paella, a rice dish with meat or seafood prepared in an over-sized pan that is heated by a wood burning fire.

Valencia city also has a nice historic center and a former river bed that has been converted into a massive park. However, today the city is best known for the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) which is a complex of futuristic buildings designed by the star Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.


Provinces: Alicante, Castellon, Valencia
Capital: Valencia

7

CANARY ISLANDS

The famous dunes of Maspalomas in Gran Canaria, Spain
Dunes of Maspalomas in Gran Canaria

The Canary Islands are located off the northwest coast of Africa. Throughout history, they have served as a bridge between Europe, Africa and America. The subtropical climate with year-round sunshine and thousands of beaches have been attracting millions of visitors every year. It is one of Europe’s top beach destinations.

The seven main islands – from largest to smallest – are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. As with much of Spain’s Mediterranean coast, some areas have been over-developed. But there is still virgin coast for those seeking solitude.

Small village in La Gomera, Canary Islands – Spain
The island of La Gomera

Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are the most touristic. La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro are much quieter. They don’t have that many sandy beaches and attract visitors interested in active tourism such as hiking and cycling.

The highest mountain in Spain is the Teide Volcano found on Tenerife.

If you are looking for sun and beach, the Canary Islands are one of the best regions of Spain.


Provinces: Las Palmas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Capital: shared by the cities of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

8

CASTILE AND LEON

Roman aqueduct in Segovia (Castile & Leon) – Spain
Roman aqueduct in Segovia

Castile & Leon is the largest of Spain’s regions. It is located just north of Madrid and its border continues all the way to Portugal in the west. Its great cultural heritage is exemplified by its large number UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the cities of Segovia, Salamanca and Avila.

Segovia is famous for its enormous Roman aqueduct that is constructed solely with stone – no mortar was used. Avila is best known for its old town and fortifications which are the most complete in all of Spain. They include 82 towers and 9 gates. Both Segovia and Avila can be reached in about an hour from Madrid.

Salamanca is simply a beautiful city that is also home to Spain’s oldest university (3rd oldest in Europe). This historic university was founded in 1134 AD by King Alfonso IX. The city is about 2 hours from Madrid.


Provinces: Avila, Burgos, Leon, Palencia, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valladolid, Zamora
Capital: Valladolid

9

LA RIOJA

Vineyards in La Rioja with the village of Briones in the background – Spain
Vineyards around Briones in La Rioja

In Spain, La Rioja is synonymous with wine. Although its red wines are known worldwide, it is among the least visited regions of Spain. But if you are into wine, you will be in heaven. There are over 500 wineries and many of them offer tastings and guided tours. You can visit state-of-the-art wineries and see contemporary architecture from Zaha Hadid (López de Heredia winery) and Frank Gehry (Marqués de Riscal winery) or you can visit small family run wineries that are still operating as they have for hundreds of years.

When looking at a map, take note that the wine region of La Rioja also extends into the Basque Country. The towns of Haro and Laguardia are among our favorites. The region’s capital, Logroño should also not be missed. It is known for its “tapas crawls” and you can eat very well for little money.


Provinces: single province
Capital: Logroño

10

CASTILE LA MANCHA

Traditional windmills in Castile La Mancha, Spain
Windmills in Castile La Mancha

Castile La Mancha is a land locked region between Madrid and Andalusia. It is sparsely populated and mostly arid. This is where Don Quijote famously attempted to fight the windmills.

Toledo, which is just about 1 hour outside of Madrid, is the region’s best known city. Until the 16th century, it was the capital of the Spanish empire. Toledo’s charming old town is surrounded by a natural mot (the Tagus River) on 3 sides and a medieval wall on the 4th. At one time, Christians, Jews and Muslims all lived together in Toledo which created and interesting exchange in styles which can be seen in the city’s architecture.


Provinces: Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Toledo
Capital: Toledo

12

EXTREMADURA

Ruins of the Roman Theater in Merida, Extremadura – Spain
Roman Theater in Merida

Extremadura is a small land-locked region in Spain’s south-west that borders Portugal. It is one of the most remote and least visited regions in Spain. If you are willing to take the time to get there, then there are a few places worth visiting.

Merida was once an important Roman city and to this day has some of the best Roman ruins in the whole country, including a bridge and a large theater. Some say that Merida is one of Spain’s best kept secrets.

Caceres is also worth a visit. It has a perfectly preserved medieval city center. Walking through it is like stepping back in time.


Provinces: Badajoz, Caceres
Capital: Merida

13

GALICIA

Celtic heritage in the Ancares Nature Park (Galicia – Spain)
Celtic heritage in Galicia

Galicia is located in the northwestern tip of Spain, just above Portugal. The local language is known as Galician and it is considered to be a sister tongue of Portuguese.

Galicia is surrounded by the rough Atlantic Ocean. Its coastline is actually the longest of any region in Spain due to its thousands of indented estuaries that are like mini fjords. Because of Galicia’s strong connection with the ocean, it is known for its seafood, shipbuilding and trade.

Like much of northern Spain, Galicia has a strong Celtic heritage. It even looks more like Wales or Ireland than Spain. The landscapes are lush and green – a stark contrast from southern Spain.

Santiago de Compostela is the most visited city and the endpoint of the extremely long Saint James pilgrimage.


Provinces: A Coruña, Lugo, Orense, Pontevedra
Capital: Santiago de Compostela

14

ASTURIAS

Stream and green mountains at the Picos de Europa Nature Park in Asturias, Spain
Picos de Europa Nature Park – Asturias

Asturias is a small region in northern Spain on the Cantabrian Sea. It has over 200 km of rugged coast that is known as the Costa Verde (green coast). There are beautiful beaches but they are mostly just visited by Spaniards from the surrounding areas during July and August (when the weather allows for it).

The interior of Asturias is made up of dense green landscapes. The best example is the stunning Picos de Europa National Park. Picos de Europa which is often referred to as “Switzerland on the sea,” is popular among hikers, climbers and kayakers. For nature lovers, Asturias is one of the best Spanish regions to visit.

Asturias is also well known for its cider house restaurants. The hard apple cider that is produced locally can be found throughout Spain.


Provinces: single province
Capital: Oviedo

15

CANTABRIA

Street in Santillana del Mar, Cantabria – Spain
Street in Santillana del Mar, Cantabria

Cantabria is another small region on Spain’s northern coast. There are plenty of nice beaches, however like in Asturias, the season for swimming is rather short due to the weather. While it does get some visitors in summer, it by no means experiences mass tourism.

Cantabria is famous for the prehistoric caves of Altamira. The ancient drawings inside are said to date back 15,000 years.

The capital of Cantabria is Santander, a small but majestic coastal city. Spain’s king has his Royal summer residence in the Magdalena Palace of Santander.


Provinces: single province
Capital: Santander

16

ARAGON

Zaragoza's cathedral at sunset – Aragon, Spain
Zaragoza's cathedral at sunset

Aragon is a land-locked region located along the French border. The Aragonese Pyrenees mountains in the north are home to snow-capped landscapes and several ski resorts. However, Aragon’s south is fairly dry and arid.

Zaragoza is not only the capital of Aragon but also the 5th largest city in Spain. Its Moorish heritage can be admired in several of its mudejar buildings which are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Zaragoza is also known for its beloved Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar (Cathedral-Basilica or Our Lady of the Pillar) which sits along the banks of the Ebro River.


Provinces: Huesca, Teruel, Zaragoza
Capital: Zaragoza

17

MURCIA

Beach in Murcia, Spain
Beach in Murcia

Murcia is located in the southeastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula on the Mediterranean coast. Although it is one of the smallest regions of Spain, it’s actually one of the largest producers of fruits, vegetables and flowers in Europe.

The capital is Murcia city which has a lovely old town with a cathedral that is a great example of Mediterranean Baroque.

On the coast is the historic city of Cartagena that is over 2,500 years old. The city has fortifications, castles and a Roman theater that is a reminder of this once important Roman port city known as Carthago Nova.

Murcia is also a beach destination. The most unique coastal area is La Manga del Mar Menor (the sleeve of the Minor Sea). The Mar Menor is a coastal saltwater lagoon – the largest lagoon in Spain. It is separated from the Mediterranean Sea by La Manga (“the sleeve”), a 22 km long sandbar.


Provinces: single province
Capital: Murcia

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