THERE’S nothing better than finding a hidden gem that transports you to ‘the real Spain.’
From hilltop pueblos to unreported foodie hotspots, there’s still huge parts of this country which have yet to be saturated by hordes of tourists.
In a bid to recognise the rural wonder of Spain, the Association of Beautiful Villages was created to celebrate some the country’s most unsung wonders.
Each year, 15 pueblos are added to the list, which, following the latest batch released this week, will have 94 from January 1, 2020.
See the latest 15 below…
This town has enough walls to make Donald Trump jealous. Founded in the 13th century, it remained in Portuguese hands until 1801.
You can only enter Olivenza through the huge gates which would have been used as the entry and exit for cavalry, soldiers or visiting diplomats in the medieval era.
Once inside, Instagrammers will go snapping mad for its white-washed streets, featuring stately homes, charming squares and historic buildings.
Robledillo de Gata, Caceres
This small town, nestled in the Sierra de Gata, stands out for its unique combination of architecture. Stone, mud, wood and slate houses surround its historic centre, just a stone’s throw away from its perfectly preserved oil mill and the church of Santa María de la Concepción – a small jewel from the 16th century.
It’s no surprise it has been declared a site of Cultural Interest by Extremadura.
Pastrana is the capital of the Alcarria region, south of Guadalajara. Sitting 760 metres above sea level, what it lacks in size it sure makes up for in rich architectural heritage.
Cue the 16th century Ducal palace and the 16th century church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. There’s also a fascinating tapestry museum, exhibiting the medieval equivalent of Snapshot stories.
Ponte Maceira, A Coruna
Ponte Maceira, in Galicia, wouldn’t look out of the place in Lord of the Rings.
Adorned with cobbled streets, the town sits next to the Tambre river, and is accessible by a 13th century bridge which was actually built on the foundations of a Roman bridge.
The natural landscape effortlessly blends in with the town, with plant life, water and vegetation around every corner, offering an ‘at-one-with-nature’ vibe.
Situated in the north of Mallorca, Alcudia has a rich history, having been inhabited by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, which all left behind clues of their civilisations, some of which remain on view in the stunning old town.
The town has been praised for its period homes, ancient walls and two huge historic gates at the entrance of the city.
Castellar de la Frontera, Cadiz
Located on a mammoth rock formation, the old town of Castellar de la Frontera has played host to human civilisation since the bronze age. The population is divided into the old town of Castellar (pictured), the new town of Castellar that began to be built in 1971, and the hamlet of Almoraima. The 12th century fortress sits in the old town, looking down on the narrow streets and modest homes which give this town such a genuinely Spanish vibe.
Teguise is the largest municipality on Tenerife and one of the oldest, and, like much of the island, is surrounded dark volcanic plains. Strolling through its steep and narrow streets, you will find white-washed houses with wooden balconies, palaces and different religious buildings which point to a long and complicated history.
Head to Santa Barbara castle, which now homes a Pirate Museum, or the Spinola palace, located in a stately mansion from the 18th century. The old church of Guadalupe and the convent of San Francisco are also noteworthy stops.
A small medieval town of just 200 people, Culla sits atop a 1,100-metre high hill. It has two distinct areas, the historic center (casco antiguo), featuring houses made of thick stone walls, and the lower area boasting rows of whitewashed houses. Remnants from its past include the ruins of the old Arab castle, the Frare Pere tower and several walls and towers from the 13th century.
Located 460 metres above sea level, Mogrovejo is surrounded by beautiful forests of oaks, holly and chestnut. Its historical centre has remained virtually intact throughout the centuries and is home an important group of popular Lebaniegas houses. It also preserves other unique buildings, including a 13th century watch tower.
Monteagudo de las Vicarias, Soria
Monteagudo de las Vicarias boasts narrow alleys leading to a medieval walled enclosure. Housing a majestic castle, the fortress sits on the edge of a steep hill, making it perfect for looking out for would-be enemies back in the day.
The town is packed full of centuries old architecture, including the church of Nuestra Señora de la Muela and the chapel of Our Lady of Welcome.
Pollenca is a bustling Mallorca town blessed with colourful Arab tiles and an irregular layout which only serves to make it unique.
Meanwhile its main square, which has a parish church dating from the 17th century, hosts one of the best markets on the island. Its other tourist attractions include the Calvary, a staircase of 365 steps leading to an exceptional viewpoint, the convent of Santo Domingo, the Roman bridge, and the watchtower of Albercuix.
Vinuesa is located at the foot of the Urbion Peaks and the Cebollera mountain range, at an altitude of 1,107 metres.
Surrounded by forests and streams, its medieval old town is full of traditional houses and buildings from the 16th to 18th centuries, such as the Casa de Los Ramos, and palaces such as the Marquis de Vilueña or Don Pedro de Neila. It is also a fantastic place to enjoy nature.
Surrounded by volcanic plains, Betancuria was founded in 1404 by Gadifer de la Salle and Jean de Bethencourt, and became the ancient capital of Fuerteventura. Despite being one of the least populated municipalities, it has a very important past, highlighted by the church of Santa Maria, which was the first ever cathedral in the Canary Islands.
Castrillo de los Polvazares, Leon
This town is located in the region of Maragateria, some 850 meters above sea level. It retains its original medieval architecture, with its streets and houses of red stone with green windows and white frames, which has been declared an Historic-Artistic site by Leon. It’s also famed for its fantastic and varied offerings of traditional Leon cuisine.
This historic town in the Sierra Norte de Guadalajara is full of medieval references. Its famous castle, situated at the highest point of the town, was built as far back as the 800s!