Spain is a geographically and culturally diverse country, which allows for a trip full of different adventures. And each region has a significantly different identity to the next.
Blessed with a beautiful Mediterranean climate, sun-kissed beaches, incredible food, and a history that runs from as far back as the Roman Empire, Spain is one of the richest countries in the world for culture, history, and nature.
But there are a total of 17 different regions, each fiercly proud of their own regional culture and heritage. And from mainland Spain to the Balearic Islands, from the cities to the coast, the region you choose to visit will have a big impact on your trip.
To ensure that you get the most out of your trip to Spain, the following are our 5 favorite Spanish regions to tick off your travel bucket list. That’s not to say that the other 12 aren’t just as noteworthy, though these are our favorites:
5 Best Regions to Visit in Spain
Basque Country is set in the North of Spain and boasts diverse geographical features like picturesque coastlines, vast areas of flora, and grand mountain ranges.
The destinations you can visit here include Bilbao, San Sebastián, Getaria and Vitoria-Gasteiz, and it’s worth noting that the region has it’s own flag, and version of the Spanish language (fun fact, Bilbao has one of the most beautiful train stations in the country).
Taking a day to explore Basque’s landscapes on foot or going on a hike to the very top of a hillcrest is as exciting as it is challenging but nonetheless a rewarding experience. But this is a well known region for cultural landmarks and museums.
For art enthusiasts, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao features an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, and the Castillo de Butron is considered the hidden gem of all Spanish landmarks (a neoclassical castle that dates originally from the Middle Ages).
You can explore Basque Country and make your way between it’s many destinations with Spain trains. There are 82 train stations dotted throughout the region, so getting around by train is the best way.
Located in the country’s northeast, Catalonia is most famous for its scenic landscapes and world-renowned beach-filled shores. And its most famous city is Barcelona.
Divided into 4 provinces, you can explore Tarragona, Lleida, Girona and Barcelona, and there’s plenty of history to explore, with notable influences in architecture and culture from the Greeks and the Romans.
Catalan is the main language spoken in the region, which is not a dialect of Spanish, but its own separate language originating from latin. And the region has many unique traditions and cultural heritage.
Most visitors come to Catalonia for the sun, sand and sea, as becahes here are spread across 300 km of coastline. From Barcelona you can explore cities like Girona (45 minutes by train), Costa Brava (1-2 hours by car), Tarragona (1 hour by train) and Sitges (30 minutes by train).
Barcelona’s most famous attractions include the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Casa Batllo, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Park Guell, La Pedrera, and it’s famous Gothic Quarter.
Click here for a 7 day itinerary which takes in the best of Catalonia, including Barcelona and Costa Brava.
Although Madrid is known by many as the capital of Spain, it is, in fact, considered by residents as a conglomerate of history-filled towns such as Aranjuez, El Escorial, and Alcalá de Henares.
Madrid, positioned at the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, stands on a plateau of sand and clay, which was optimal for the foundation of its magnificent architecture, which can be seen in the likes of The Hospital of Maudes, The Royal Palace of Madrid, and The Cybele Palace.
Alongside all the architecture sightseeing to be done, there are many other activities that you can do to familiarise yourself with Spanish culture.
Visiting the El Rastro flea market that is home to 3,500 stalls where locals sell anything from hair clips to hand-made memorabilia, taking a stroll along through Madrid’s green heart that is the Retiro Park, and admiring the famous Flamenco tablaos dancing at local bars and restaurants.
Click here for a post on free things to do in Madrid, and here for a post on safety tips for traveling from Madrid to Barcelona (if you’re packing in multiple Spanish regions).
Located on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Valencia is yet another excellent place to visit, home to the Costa Balnca, where Benidorm and Alicante can be found, and the less well known Costa Azahar, which is noted for its orange groves.
Go on a journey to the town of Gandia and pay a visit to the Palau Ducal dels Borja Gandia 14th-century palace, take a day tour around Valencia’s Central Flea Market, enjoy a dinner at Cullera’s famous seafood restaurant Voramar, or do all three!
Valencia is the birthplace of the country’s national dish, paella – and many say this is the best place in the world to eat it!
Extremadura is a Western Spanish region bordering Portugal, and how this autonomous community has managed to stay under the radar is a wonder, especially when you consider it boasts half a dozen locations that are recognized by UNESCO.
This is our favorite hidden gem of all 17 Spanish regions, and while it has something to offer every type of traveler (an amazing combination of food, festivals, history, and nature), my favorite thing about this region is its off-the-beaten-path World Heritage Sites.
If we rewind the sands of time, Extremadura’s capital of Mérida was one of the Roman Empire’s most significant cities. And it would give rise to many legendary Spanish conquistadors that set out to seek great fortunes.
Its rich history has been recognized by its three World Heritage Sites which include Cáceres, Mérida, and The Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe. In addition to these incredible sites, the region contains exceptional wildlife and natural landscapes.
Throw in a scattering of lively and exciting festivals throughout the year and it truly makes you wonder how Extremadura has managed to stay such a secret Spanish gem.