Four lesser-known travel destinations to explore in Spain
Not just its bustling cities, Spain's smaller towns are worth a visit
It can be very tempting to spend lazy days roaming around Barcelona’s La Rambla and stop for a glass of sangria at one of Gràcia’s many hipster bars, or follow travel guides, that will point you to Madrid’s shopping plazas and Malaga’s buzzing harbour. But take a train or a bus few hours out of these cities and you’ll find yourself closer to everything you came looking for—the real Spanish experience.
The historic hilltop
Tagus River flows along the periphery of Toledo
The azure skies, with clouds rolling by, make for the perfect backdrop to the ancient town of Toledo. Steeped in history and grandeur, its distinct Moorish influence and architecture reminded me of a forgotten fairy-tale land. The Alcázar of Toledo, which was a Roman palace in the third century, and is still the most prominent structure, greets you as you enter this sleepy town. So does the winding Tagus River, which runs along the periphery and flows all the way to Portugal. As you walk down the uneven cobbled streets, you’ll spot pastel-coloured buildings existing in harmony with the old grey stone structures. Stop by MasaMadre in the town centre, for its freshly baked biscuits and pies that will keep you company on long walks.
PRO TIP: Take a bus tour of the town (tickets are available at the train station) and discover the Jewish quarter on foot.
BEST WAY TO GET THERE: Toledo is a half-hour train ride from Madrid.
An Andalusian heaven
Frigiliana’s cobbled streets are lined with many cafes and restaurants
The all-year-round warm and mild climate of Andalusia has always attracted tourists. So, whether it is the stunning and glamorous beaches of Costa del Sol or the stark landscape of Granada dotted with neatly trimmed olive plantations, there’s something for everyone. However, the pueblos blancos (white villages),with their emblematic maze of paved streets and pristine bleached homes top the list. And Frigiliana is one of Andalusia’s best-kept secrets. Perched atop the gradual hillock of the Sierras de Tejeda, just above Nerja (another stunning village), this romantic town overlooks the turquoise Mediterranean coast that is best enjoyed from its many outdoor cafes.
PRO TIP: Visit the bustling street market at the entrance of the town and ask for Alexis Churros, for one of the best churro-hot chocolate experiences the region has to offer.
BEST WAY TO GET THERE: Frigiliana is a 50-minute car ride from Malaga.
The hidden gem
Outdoor seating at Molino de Los Abuelos in Comares
The view from Molino de Los Abuelos in Comares
View of the Axarquia mountains from Comares
Untouched by commercial tourism, Comares is a little-known white village hidden in the Axarquia region. It is the ideal holiday spot for those looking for a bit of respite from bustling Malaga or the crowded beaches of Marbella. Look out for hidden alleys and whitewashed homes draped with geraniums and bougainvillea. Walk along the chest-high walls that line this small village for stunning views of the snow-capped mountains.
PRO TIP: Get a table by the window at Molino de Los Abuelos and sip on a glass of local Spanish wine as you take in the view.
BEST WAY TO GET THERE: Comares is an hour-long car ride from Malaga.
A private retreat
The beach at L’Escala
While summer is the best season to hit the beaches of Costa Brava in Girona, my stay during peak autumn was equally enchanting. The beaches were deserted, which means, hello private heaven. This popular coastal region has a number of small beaches like Montgó and Moll Grec, with fringe clear, blue shallow waters that are ideal for a quick dip. If you’re visiting during off-season, pack a picnic hamper; most restaurants and cafes are shut. But honestly, who wouldn’t trade in a meal for a private beach party?
PRO TIP: Art lovers, set a few hours aside for a trip to Figueres (half an hour by road) for a surreal stopover at Dalí Theatre-Museum.
BEST WAY TO GET THERE: L’Escala is a two-and-a-half-hour train ride from Barcelona.
Visit ELLE.in to read our story on tourist traps to avoid in Spain
PHOTOGRAPHS: Rakesh Krishnotula/Rabbit On Steroids