Secret Spain: 5 hidden gems you must see

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While Spain remains one of the most popular destinations for British holidaymakers, there are still plenty of landmarks on the mainland – and its numerous islands – that most people have never heard of, never mind visited. Here’s a quick list of places you may not immediately recognise, but are most definitely worth visiting.

Secret Gardens

Where – Madrid
What is it – Local sightseeing spots that evoke a bygone era.

From the Gardens of the Prince of Anglona Palace in La Latina (where you can experience what it must have felt like to have lived in the court of 18th Century Spain) through to the bizarre, huge palm trees at Jardin de la Estacion de Atcocha situated in the Atocha train station (apparently there are tortoises in there too!) Madrid’s collection of secret gardens are a must for anybody wishing to gain an alternative view of the city. Other must-see gardens include Parque de El Capricho, Parque Fuente del Berro and the Reina Sofia National Museum Gardens.

1Atocha train station, Madrid is an usual spot to house palm trees.

Cies Islands

Where – Galicia
What is it – Paradise for beach lovers and birdwatchers

The Cíes Islands, off Spain’s north-west coast, are part of the Galician Atlantic Islands National Park where visitor numbers are limited to just 2,200 a day making this a truly exclusive destination. But don’t expect to land in the lap of luxury as there are no hotels here – just a campsite and a couple of restaurants. The Cíes used to be a secret hideaway for pirates, but today, the real treasures are the white sandy beaches which have earned the islands the nickname of the Galician Caribbean. The 1,200m long Rodas beach is the best, but the more active may fancy a trek inland to check out the amazing resident bird life – which includes the world’s largest colony of seagulls.

2The Cíes Islands’ National Park status means they remain utterly unspoiled.

Burgos

Where – Castile
What is it – Off the beaten track but an impressive historical city

Often unfairly overlooked, Burgos’ extraordinary Gothic cathedral rivals Barcelona’s far better-known Sagradia Familia and towers over the Medieval city. The recently opened Museum of Human Evolution has created a real buzz in Burgos, and it operates a shuttle bus to ferry visitors 10 miles to the west to the Sierra de Atapuerca – a Unesco world heritage site where some of the world’s most important human fossils are found. Famous for its cuisine, foodies will enjoy sampling the city’s three local specialities: black pudding, sheep’s cheese and wine.

3Burgos Cathedral is known as one of Spain’s jewels.

Cabo de Gata

Where – Almeria
What is it – Spain’s last unspoiled stretch of Mediterranean coastline

Cabo de Gata, or the Cove of the Cat, is the driest location in Europe (it hardly ever rains) and the continent´s only subtropical desert. Dotted with picture postcard beaches, the region is also home to a number of health retreats offering holistic therapies like meditation and yoga. Though its pleasures are no secret to the Spanish, Cabo de Gata remains relatively unsung in the UK – despite its relative proximity to popular resorts like Malaga.

4Pristine sand and perfect sunsets in Cabo de Nata.

Cuenca

Where – Castile-La Mancha
What is it – Dramatic medieval city with an artistic flair

The city of Cuenca is another Unesco World Heritage site and one of Spain’s best-kept secrets. Known for the gravity-defying hanging houses that cling to the steep gorges above the Huécar and Júcar rivers, the city is also a centre for the arts, with the Museum of Abstract Arts, the Museo Fundacion Antonio Perez and a host of quirky independent galleries that line its narrow streets and alleys. Located in the centre of the Iberian peninsula, Cuenca is easy to reach with high-speed rail links to Madrid and Valencia.

5Hanging houses cling to the rocks in Cuenca. Igor Plotnikov / Shutterstock.com.

Published 1st October 2015

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