Check out our essential guide to where to go in Spain, from its sun-drenched islands and costas to its thrilling cities and charming fishing villages. Spain is vast and varied, a beautiful country blessed with remarkable landscapes, fascinating culture, and a spectacular coastline. Whether you’re coming for the sunshine or the tapas, the hiking or the museums, this is truly a country that has something for everyone.
The Canary Islands are located just 100 kilometres from the coast of North Africa, and have become a world-famous tourist destination thanks to their stunning scenery, fabulous beaches, and crystal-clear seas. Tenerife, the largest of the islands, is dominated by the volcano of Mount Teide (Spain’s highest peak), and is famous for its explosive carnival celebrations. Fuerteventura, is famed for its 150 kilometres of beaches and fantastic opportunities for water sports. Gran Canaria has marvellous beaches of black lava and white sand, and a dreamy, rural interior where you can escape the busy resorts along the coast. The entire island of Lanzarote is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, and boasts the spectacular Timanfaya National Park, as well as gorgeous beaches and vibrant resorts. The volcanic peaks that are scattered across La Palma are protected in the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, and have created the island’s stunning black sand beaches. La Gomera provides the perfect rural escape, attracting hikers and nature-lovers to its rugged, forested hills.
The beautiful Balearic Islands, set in the Mediterranean Sea, each have their own character. The largest is Majorca, home to the charming Balearic capital of Palma. Its tranquil interior is scattered with quiet villages and the Tramuntana mountains in the north are ideal for walking. Along the coast is a clutch of popular resorts, blissful beaches and tiny coves. Menorca is quieter and sleepier, with gentle, green hills, and two historic cities, Mahon (Maó) and Ciutadella. Its pretty resorts largely attract families and couples. Ibiza is considered the party capital of the Mediterranean, and attracts some of the world’s top clubs and DJs in summer: much of the island, however, remains quiet and unspoilt.
Long a favourite with visitors, the Costa del Sol has guaranteed sunshine all year round, fabulous beaches and a wide range of resorts from buzzing Torremolinos to chi chi Marbella. In Malaga, you can visit the superb Picasso and Carmen Thyssen Museums, and inland there is the handsome Baroque town of Ronda, a string of charming, whitewashed villages, and rugged hills, gorges and forests to explore.
The Costa Daurada is a splendid stretch of Mediterranean coastline, that boasts stunning sandy beaches, pretty coves, plus a string of bustling resorts. The biggest is Salou, which appeals to everyone with its wide range of water sports and activities, restaurants and entertainment. It’s also home to Spain’s biggest theme park, PortAventura World. You can visit the magnificent Roman ruins in nearby Tarragona or head into Barcelona for some shopping and sightseeing.
Spain’s Costa Blanca (‘White Coast’) gets its name from the gorgeous beaches of dazzling white sand, and the charming whitewashed villages that run along the coast. Its undisputed capital is Benidorm, which has grown from a small fishing village into a major Mediterranean resort. The twin beaches of fine sand are Benidorm’s biggest draw, but it also offers a dazzling array of restaurants, nightlife and entertainment (not least the Terra Mítica theme park) to suit visitors of all tastes. If you’re looking for something quieter, try Javea (Xàbia in Valencian) or Altea, or head to the pretty provincial capital of Alicante for a shot of authentic Spanish life.
The Costa Brava (‘rugged coast’) lives up its name with rugged cliffs dipping into turquoise coves, framed by Mediterranean pines. There are some larger resorts, such as Lloret de Mar and Calella, but this stretch of coast is mainly home to smaller seaside towns. The many attractions of the resorts – water sports, great dining and nightlife – are combined with the quieter charms inland, where you can enjoy some excellent hiking or explore timeless medieval villages.
City breaks in Spain
Tapas bars, history, culture, shopping, eating out, nightlife – Spanish cities are ideal for a city break. Madrid, the Spanish capital, has a trio of world-class museums in the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía, an enticing historic quarter, fabulous tapas, and some of the best shopping and nightlife to be found anywhere. Barcelona is crowned by Gaudí’s vast and as-yet-unfinished basilica of the Sagrada Família, and oozes a relaxed, beach-town vibe thanks to its 5 kilometres of Mediterranean strands. Its enchanting historic heart is one of the best-preserved medieval neighbourhoods anywhere in Europe. Seville retains all the magic of old Al-Andalus in its secret courtyards perfumed with jasmine, and amazing views from its thousand-year-old belltower, La Giralda. Valencia has a lively, walled old town packed with enticing bars and cafés, and the City of Arts and Sciences, a futuristic complex with a science museum and enormous aquarium. Plus, of course, a glittering port and fabulous beaches.