1. Santiago de Compostela
Santiago is well enough known among tourists but it is often overlooked on classic itineraries to Spain simply because it’s so far from everything! Santiago and Galicia made my list of reasons to go to northern Spain. A difference language, gallego, is spoken in this part of Spain, making it unique from the other regions. Rainy and green, people tend to call it the UK of Spain. If you are looking to do something off the beaten track, I suggest Santiago. Supposedly St. James (Santiago in Spanish) is buried here, and over the centuries, it became the biggest pilgrimage in Europe. Nowadays it has one of the most impressive cathedrals I’ve ever seen.
Located in central Spain, Salamanca is breathtaking. The glowing light that emanates from the stone at sunset has earned Salamanca the nickname “The Golden City.” A university town since 1218, Salamanca is still home to one of Europe’s finest universities. The city is filled with historic architecture, including the 12th-century Catedral Vieja and Casa de las Conchas, a 15th-century structure ornamented with hundreds of sandstone shells. Visits to Salamanca often begin at the Plaza Major, a Baroque square where students gather at all hours to eat, drink and sing.
To see what Spain might have looked like in medieval times, there is no better destination than the town of Besalú. Located in Catalonia, Besalú is a completely walkable town packed with historic attractions. Don’t miss the magnificent and beautifully preserved Romanesque bridge that spans the Fluvià River and dates back to the 12th century, the historic Jewish synagogues and the 11th century Church of Sant Pere. Be sure to walk across the bridge, which is closed to vehicle traffic, to take a few photos of the quiet, medieval town from this spectacular point.
On the Spanish island of Mallorca, in the heart of the Serra de Tramuntana Mountain Range, you’ll find the charming village of Deià. The village has long been popular with expats who flock to the scenic spot for steep cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea as well as countless olive groves. Literature lovers will appreciate that Deià was the home to author Robert Graves, whose residence is now open to the public for tours. Deià also boasts a beautiful coastal inlet called Cala de Deià that is only accessible by foot.
In the shadow of the Pyrenee Mountains, there is a medieval town called Aínsa. A highlight of a visit to this town is undoubtedly the Aínsa Castle, which is found at one end of the Plaza de San Salvador. Parts of the castle are from the 11th century, although much of the building comes from the 16th century. Two of the towers of the castle itself have been transformed into museums: the Ecomuseo, where you can learn more about the Pyrenees, and the Espacio del Geoparque de Sobrarbe.
Which ones will you visit? Let us know!