10 Places You Should Visit in Spain Beyond Madrid & Barcelona
Spain has so many famous landmarks and there are so many parts of the country that are worth going to. Barcelona and Madrid are undoubtedly at the top of many people’s wish list. Both cities are known for incredible history, warm weather and welcoming and open-minded locals. In fact, the country as a whole is considered one of the most progressive countries in Europe and Spain is well known for being very gay-friendly. But once you’ve checked them off, where to next? Here are some other gay friendly Spanish destinations – the best places you should visit in Spain after seeing its two biggest cities.
The Canary Islands
This might seem to be a very traditional destination for many people and indeed it appears that there are plenty of places that are overrun by tourism in the Canary Islands, but there is an equal number of places untouched by it. The islands of La Gomera and El Hierro in particular are good contenders in this regard. The other islands are also extremely diverse. From Gran Canaria with its old walled capital, beautiful beaches and natural diversity, giving it the nickname of ‘the mini continent’ to the lunar landscapes of Lanzarote and the endless, desert-like sand dunes of Fuerteventura. This group of islands off the coast of Morocco, but which are very much culturally and politically part of Spain, has a lot to offer including a year-round temperate climate. Gran Canaria in particular is a gay haven and Maspalomas is famous for its gay nightlight, clothing optional guest houses and popular drag culture.
Spain is not all arid farmland and olive groves, but also lush, green forests and harsh, pebbly beaches that make you think more of Scotland than Spain. Galicia may be one of the wettest and coldest parts of Spain due to two Atlantic coasts, but the rich verdant landscapes that result are what pull you in to experience more of this region in the extreme north-west of the country.
If you’re a city person, Valencia is a great option after Madrid and Barcelona. This Mediterranean city offers quirky and unique architecture, café culture, and a creative spirit. Being right on the Mediterranean coast and having some excellent street art doesn’t hurt either. Valencia is 3rd largest city in Spain so there is quite a decent gay scene including bars, clubs and a gay sauna. Although a bit farther out from the city center, Valencia does have long stretches of beaches which are nice for relaxing during the summer months or strolling the boardwalk during the cooler months.
Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, is the largest of the seven as well as the most visited by tourists and therefore deserves its own spot on the list. It’s the most populated of all Spain’s islands as well. One of the things you can look forward to doing is visiting Parque Nacional Las Canadas del Teide. The spectacular views and strange volcanic rock formations are the attractions here. For a beach day, you can head to Playa de las Vistas. This popular beach is kept clean, has plenty of space and soft sand, and there’s no shortage of restaurants and cafes for a tasty treat.
There are many reasons to visit this beautiful city in southern Spain. The gardens at Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Palace of the Christian Monarchs), a 14th century castle, are a great place to start especially if you enjoy gardens. There’s also the Light of Cultures, a water, light and sound show within the gardens during the evening. Then there’s the Mezquita, a sort of religious crossbreed between a mosque and a cathedral. It was constructed in 785 AD as mosque, but when the Spanish reconquered Córdoba it became a Christian Cathedral.
Granada is one of the first destinations people visit in Andalucia. Though there are palaces and cathedrals that are certainly worth the visit in Granada, you should also experience the different neighborhoods that make up the city. Albayzín is the old Moorish quarter with historic buildings and winding cobblestone paths that create an atmosphere in which you know that just being there is the activity for the day. Views of the Sierra Nevada and Alhambra (a palace) can be enjoyed from the Mirador San Nicolás. Sacromonte is somewhat of a gypsy (gitano) quarter in Granada. The cave homes, flamenco shows, and views of the Sierra Nevada are what make it worth a visit.
Many parts of Costa Brava have been specifically developed to promote tourism so this is generally a more packaged vacation destination, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. From a rough coastline to sandy beaches, Costa Brava has quite a few options for experiencing its shorelines. The Camí de Ronda is a footpath with marvelous views that connect some of the coves and tourist beaches along the coast. One of the recommended beaches from this path is Platja Sa Conca, a gorgeous and quiet spot. It’s perfect for a daytime stroll or hike and hopefully just the beach you’re looking for. Perhaps you’ll have to just see where the Camí de Ronda takes you.
You should not miss a vineyard opportunity while in Spain and La Rioja is one of the most popular wine regions in Spain. In addition to touring the vineyards and museums, check out a couple of their annual events, like La Batalla del Vino and La Fiesta de San Mateo. La Batalla del Vino occurs June 29th of every year in the town of Haro. People throw and squirt wine at one another in a tradition that originates from a land dispute with Miranda De Ebro. La Fiesta de San Mateo is a week long harvest festival in Logroño that begins the Saturday before September 21st.
Most travellers to Andalucia visit Seville, Granada as well as Córdoba and Cádiz on the coast, but never get any further east. It’s worth seeing what gay friendly Spanish destinations this part of Spain’s largest region has to offer, like Jaén or the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada National Park, which boasts a large variety of unique flora and fauna. Also, because much of the park is at high altitude, it is often covered in snow, giving it a remarkably different appearance to the rest of this region of Spain. Beachside resorts like Fuengirola near Malaga and small costal towns like Almuñécar in Costa Tropical make for great stops on a road trip of Spain’s southern coast.
Taking an escalator into a city center may be one of the more unique ways to make an entrance. Located at the top of a steep hill just 70 kilometers south of Madrid, Toledo makes for an easy day trip from the capital. It’s well connected to Madrid via a 45 minute bus ride or a 30 minute train ride. If you enter the historic center from Puerta de Alfonso VI, there’s an escalator that allows the steep walk to be avoided. It was once the capital of Spain until the 16th century when this status was moved to its current city of Madrid. Toledo is a perfect representation of the many religions that have influenced Spanish history over the years of power shifting between cultures. At its height, the city maintained a relatively amicable cohabitation of Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. Though this was short lived when the reconquest of Spain turned on the Jews and Muslims. Today the remaining mosques, synagogues, and cathedrals echo what was once a diverse multi-religious, thriving capital.
Have you been to any of these places? What other gay friendly Spanish destinations would you recommend visiting in Spain?