When someone says Spain, you can’t really help but think of Gaudi, flamenco, and Camp Nou Stadium. Spain has come a long way with spoiling us for choice with some of the world’s biggest attractions but what happens when you start craving for its unexplored side?
It actually comes as no surprise to discover that there is so much more to Spain than meets the eye. That’s why you have to pay a visit to the next 8 unique places in Spain to uncover its off-the-beaten-path attractions to add the final touch to the major show-stoppers along with the likes of Sagrada Familia and Guggenheim Museum.
1. Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid
Spain’s capital is home to so many museums that you will probably need months to visit them all, explore their exhibitions, and admire such a rich cultural heritage.
Little do people know that Madrid also hides one of the most haunting museums whose past sends shivers down the spine. Back in the 18th century, the building served as a hospital, treating the dying and the mentally ill.
During the Spanish Civil War, its premises echoed with shrieks of the tortured souls who lay at their dying beds. It wasn’t until 1982 that it was transformed into the museum we know today. Even at the early stages of reconstruction, workers and porters reported peculiar activities taking place on the premises, such as apparitions, doors creaking, and strange noises reverberating through the dark hallways. Despite these disturbing details, Reina Sofia is actually a real treasure of the 20th-century art, exhibiting Picasso’s Guernica and Woman in Blue accompanied by some of Dali’s and Miró’s masterpieces.
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2. Castillo Torre Salvana, Barcelona
Located on the outskirts of Barcelona just minutes from the village of Colonia Güell, this 10th-century castle is one of the most emblematic spots in Catalonia.
It is largely neglected and dilapidated which is a real shame seeing as its one of the oldest castles in Spain. Its history is one of many destructions, especially those that took place during the Catalan Civil War in 1224. At one point, James II of Aragon took hold of the property and partially restored it to its former glory but unfortunately, since 1715, the castle has stood in ruins. Nowadays, visitors can explore its interior which still bears some semblance of the long history it withstood.
If you climb to the second floor of the castle and look out the window, you can see the abandoned factory village of Colonia Güell and its central piece – the old church designed by Gaudi himself. Castillo Torre Salvana is a real hidden gem very few locals even know exists and it’s a great opportunity to take some unique photos and also see one of the less known Gaudi’s works.
3. Ochate, Burgos
Shrouded in a veil of mystery and strange events dating back to the 13th century, this little abandoned village is a must-visit for anyone who loves exploring haunted locations.
Among the unique places in Spain to visit for some hair-raising sensations, this one probably takes the win. It has been claimed to be a place where many supernatural events and disappearances took place and to top it off, the village is claimed to have been abandoned twice – once in the 13th century and again in the 19th, for the reasons yet unexplained. Some say it was a plague, others assert it was the famine or even paranormal activity. In any case, what remains today are the vestiges of the village covered in moss and debris which evoke an eerie feeling of a ghost town whose mystery still remains unraveled and ideal for an off-the-beaten-path adventure.
4. Ronda, Málaga
This mountaintop city in Málaga is one of the most unusual places in the province, if not in the entire state. Breath-taking and precariously perched above a yawning El Tajo gorge which separates its old and new town, this picturesque town is one of the must-see unique locations in Spain.
The Puente Nuevo is one of its main highlights ever since it was completed in 1793 and it offers spectacular vistas of the surrounding area. Apart from the Puente Nuevo, Ronda is also home to the ancient 13th century Roman baths, incredibly picturesque cascading Cuenca Gardens, and Mirador de Aldehuela and Balcón del Coño viewpoints situated on the walls of the city.
If you happen to visit Ronda on your next Spanish vacation, make an effort to explore some of the attractions in the vicinity too. Topping the lists are The Cueva del Gato (the Cat’s Cave) – a one-of-a-kind freshwater swimming location and Acinipio Ruins, vestiges of the old Roman settlement. Both attractions are just 20 minutes’ drive from Ronda making them ideal for some additional exploration of the area.
5. Cave of Altamira, Cantabria
Limestone plateau area in Altamira is home to several natural caves which is the exact place where the museum is located, built right next to the cave where the original cave paintings dating back to the Paleolithic era were discovered.
Although the original cave was closed at some point to preserve its archeologically important remains, there is a precise replica which has been recreated inside the museum. Items depicting the way of life in the Paleolithic times are also displayed here, along with prehistoric paintings considered to be humanity’s earliest accomplished art.
Being one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the original cave is permanently closed for conservation reasons. However, if you get your streak of good luck, upon entering you might be chosen to be one of only five visitors who are allowed to enter the cave every week. Yes, the odds are slim but it’s still worth the shot.
6. Caminito del Rey, Málaga
Far away from the cities and major tourist spots, there is a captivating Guadalhorce River canyon, located in the heart of Desfiladero de los Gaitanes area.
El Caminito del Rey Path runs through one of the area’s most stunning portions and until a few years ago, it was one of the world’s most dangerous hiking routes.
Today, things have changed for the better and the visitors who have a knack for adventure and don’t have a fear of heights can walk along the walkways dangling 100 meters up on a dizzying cliff. The beginning of the route is not accessible by car so you will probably have to park at the nearby El Chorro, a small village near the town of Álora. The entire route is almost 8 kilometers long, comprising around 5 kilometers of access ways and passages and around 3 kilometers of boardwalks suspended on the cliffs. Caminito del Rey is by far one of the most exciting and captivating trails in Spain, providing visitors with spectacular views and amazing natural surroundings.
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7. Bardenas Reales, Navarre
Southeast Navarre region is one of the most spectacular regions and authentic Spanish regions, primarily known for its surprising rock formations, plateaus, and canyons created by water and winds which gradually shaped its peculiar and distinctive appearance.
It is one of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, covering 42.500 hectares of unique and rather striking landscapes. The Bardenas Reales is a natural park in Navarre whose capricious formations are almost lunar-like and seem to be out of this world.
In the park, there are several signposted routes to explore this magnificent natural area divided into three zones – El Plano, the Bardena Blanca, and the Bardena Negra. The area is vast and abundant in flora and fauna, ideal for nature enthusiasts. However, as there are so many winding paths and routes, it’s easy to get lost unless you strictly follow the signposts or else go with a group of other visitors under the instructions of well-versed and experienced guides.
8. Museo de las Brujas (The Witch Museum), Zugarramurdi
Zugarramurdi is a town in Northern Spain and many of the visitors flock there attracted by the stories and legends surrounding the alleged occult activity in the inquisitorial era in the 17th century, infamous for its witchcraft and supernaturalism.
A dark episode in the history of Zugarramurdi tells us a story about a girl whose dream of flying with several other locals caused panic and fear of witchcraft among the residents, provoking a harsh response of the clergy and the authorities and consequently, of the Holy Inquisition. The Inquisition’s intervention became gruesome bloodshed, forever connecting this little town to devil worship and disturbing past.
Today, there is the Witch Museum in Zugarramurdi, very close to the Cave of Zugarramurdi known as the place where rituals were held a long time ago. It was opened in 2007 and it portrays the society of Navarre back in the age of Inquisition, with an emphasis on men and women who fell victim to the harsh punishments for their alleged devilish activities. Artifacts, informative videos, garments, magic potions, and many other items are displayed in the museum, making it one of the most striking and unique locations to visit.
It’s not hard to see why Spain still remains one of the most attractive destinations in the world. The usual suspects really come a long way in contributing to its unmistaken appeal but those other unusual and atypical locations only add the irresistible charm to it, making it even more interesting and well worth the visit.