7 Charming Villages in Spain You Will Love Discovering
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There are so many incredible villages in Spain that are overlooked by the average visitor. And for whatever amount of time you’re here, there are some particularly great ones you should see. They’re where you’re going to experience the charm of rural Spain and discover things you probably don’t know about this country. Not to mention that they’re just downright beautiful. We’re talking film-set worthy (and Game of Thrones thinks so too!).
There’s romantic Templar castles, the smell of freshly baked bread from a local bakery’s oven, old church bells ringing out the hour, and (the most endearing) the old-world ways of local life that live on. You might even encounter a donkey-drawn cart in a main plaza or a shepherd herding his sheep. Experience this and more in these seven charming villages in Spain that we’ve visited, and connect with Spain on a truly authentic level.
The medieval village of Alarcon is like a place frozen in time. It’s traditional castle and village make quite the stunning scene, sitting on the top of a promontory surrounded by a deep gorge and the River Jucar.
Located exactly between Madrid and Valencia, it’s only a 2-hour drive from either popular city. Since it’s quite small, only 120 km squared (50 square miles), you can enjoy strolling around the town in one day. But trust us, you’ll want more time to also explore the hiking trails through the gorge.
Alarcon is a great place for nature-lovers and a relaxing getaway from the city. The castle, first built as an Arab fortress in the 12th century, is today a Parador Hotel and restaurant where you can enjoy a luxurious stay or just have a delicious meal, all in a medieval setting.
Did you know?
Alarcón is declared a Historic Artistic Site because of the harmonious beauty of its monuments and natural surroundings.
There are also several churches still boasting beautifully preserved styles of Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. One such church is unique in that it houses the UNESCO recognized Mural Paintings of Alarcón by Jesus Mateo.
And those walking trails we mentioned? They’re glorious. Hike along the bottom of the gorge and the river’s edge, cross two old roman bridges, and visit the five watchtowers that are still standing guard.
We now head northwest of Madrid, to the medieval walled-village of Avila. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is more well-known, especially because it’s only 1.5 hours from Madrid, by car or train. But don’t worry, the visiting tourists won’t take away from its charm.
The highlight of visiting Avila is touring its epic medieval walls, which are still intact and wrap around the entire village. Along half of the walls, you can walk along the very top and climb up into some of the semicircular towers, enjoying expansive views that look out over the green valley and distant mountain peeks.
Did you know?
Avila has the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain.
It’s no surprise that writer Jose Martinez Ruiz has described Avila as “perhaps the most 16th-century town in Spain” (in ‘El Alma Castellana’, ‘The Castilian Soul’). The view of the town walls as you arrive is certainly impressive, but enter through any of the various gates in the medieval wall and the sensation that you’ve traveled back in time will feel complete.
Explore along the cobblestoned streets that weave between rows of beautifully maintained stone homes and through quaint plazas. Then, admire the inspiring architecture of various Romanesque and Gothic churches. To put your visit over the top, stay in one of several 16th-century palaces that are now restored into boutique hotels, or in the exquisite Piedras Albas Palace that is today the Parador de Avila hotel.
Altea has the best of both worlds – charming old-world architecture and gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, but without the unconscious development and tourist crowds of the beach towns further down the coast.
Its white-washed rows of traditional homes form an alluring maze of narrow stone streets and staircases that zig-zag their way down to gorgeous beaches of turquoise waters. Visiting here will have you wanting to get lost.
Spread out over a gently sloping hill is the old town, formed by a fortress wall that used to defend against pirates. From the highest point, the dome of the main church stands out like a beacon with its rich cobalt-blue tiled dome, indicative of the Community of Valencia.
Did you know?
The mountains come right down to the sea here, making for a wonderfully mild microclimate and gorgeous coast line.
Set against a backdrop of razorback ridges just inland, almost any spot in town affords incredible views and nature to explore of both mountains and sea. Back in town, gourmet restaurants and boutique shops give a wonderful chic vibe, especially along the scenic seaside promenade.
Located on the lesser-known Costa Blanca, Altea is easy to get to by car or train from Alicante and its international airport. Or, driving from Valencia is just under 1.5 hours, with bus routes available as well.
The rugged, green terrain here gives way to dramatic cliffs that plunge into the frigid ocean, reminding many of the Celtic lands with which they share history. Seeing this place will make it easy to believe the legend that it was founded by Vikings.
The village itself is a cascade of brightly colored homes hugging the steep sides of a small bay. Most of them can only be reached by walking paths. Few cars are allowed in the center (and few streets can fit cars), but walking everywhere is one of the main attractions.
Did you know?
This region of Spain, Asturias, has many Celtic influences, like tartans and kilts, bagpipes, making natural hard cider (called Sidra in Asturias), and religious symbols resembling the Celtic cross. Not to mention the ruins of Celtic settlements that are called ‘castros’.
Cudillero is quite the small town and the highlight of visiting is to explore the paths that meander between the homes and to the various lookout points. There’s also the marina and fish market, and the lighthouse and old lookout tower that are a must-see. Complete your experience by savoring the delicious Asturian cuisine and fresh seafood.
The namesake town of Eric. Did you know that his last name is Trujillo? This is the village of conquistadors, renown for being the hometown of Francisco Pizarro and his brothers, who conquered the Inca Empire and a large part of what is today South America. Today, you can visit the Pizarro House Museum to learn more about this history.
Located in the overlooked region of Extremadura, Trujillo has a formidable castle you can tour, a splendid old-world plaza, and is especially known for its palaces that were built by the returning conquistadors. Many of these palaces have been restored and are luxurious boutique hotels or villas that you can stay in. The castle also boast the Parador de Trujillo, a hotel within part of the castle itself. And Game of Thrones filmed in Trujillo Castle for scenes in episode 7 of season 7.
Did you know?
Trujillo has a National Cheese Festival, which takes place every year in May and features over 300 different types of cheese from throughout the region, Spain, and internationally.
Walking throughout Trujillo is another amazing experience of going back in time. Spread out on a hill, the small village still maintains centuries-old architecture, evident in everything from homes to the main plaza to its several churches.
There are narrow stone streets to wander down and romantic plazas and gardens you can get a peek of through villa gates in stone walls. Also known for their delicious cuisine, Trujillo is a great gastronomical experience for Spanish cured meats, cheeses, local wines and more.
Read More: Road Trip Through Extremadura, Spain
Jerez de los Caballeros
Set among rolling hills carpeted with oak and olive trees is Jerez de los Caballeros, standing out beautifully with its whitewashed walls and red Spanish tiled roofs. It’s truly off-the-beaten-path, located in the southern end of the region of Extremadura. Few foreigners know about it, and for that matter few Spaniards.
The town is most famous for the Knights Templar, who were given the town in 1232 by Ferdinand III the Saint. Driving up to it, you get a beautiful view of its castle, which sits on one of two hills the town is spread out on.
Did you know?
This region of Spain, Extremadura, has its own strong dialect. They love to shorten words and drop off the last letters or parts of words. It can sometimes throw your Spanish-understanding for a loop.
The old town is full of 15th-century palaces, churches and plazas. A Moorish wall still encircles most of the historical center today and out of the six gates that existed, two are still being used. Thanks to its Templar history, this town has a distinct feel and charm. It was also the birthplace of the explorers, Hernando de Soto and Vasco Nuñez de Balboa.
When visiting, make sure to walk the castle grounds, where you can admire the outdoor amphitheater, beautiful gardens, a tower famous for some of the last of the Knights Templar, and gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.
Fregenal de la Sierra
Only a 30-minute drive from Jerez de los Caballeros is Fregenal de la Sierra. We only know about this town because Amalia’s mother lives in the even smaller village next door. It’s known to have preserved aspects of all the cultures that have settled there throughout its history. At first glance, you would maybe not expect much, but it will pleasantly surprise you.
The Castle of Fregenal de la Sierra is also a Templar castle and one of the only castles in Spain that still houses a bullring inside. It also has a traditional market space that is still used as the weekly local market.
Did you know?
This is the part of Spain where on every visit we’ve seen donkey-drawn carts ridden into town and had to get out of the way of Shepherds herding sheep down country dirt lanes.
This is a great castle to tour, because you can walk along the top of the battlements, the seating of the bullring, and the market. Then make sure to also visit the Church of Santa María, which is attached to the castle. We loved that when we went to visit, we had the castle all to ourselves, even though it was summer time.
Throughout the town is a route that tours the buildings of particular interest. There’s several more beautiful churches, a Jesuit College, and two convents, all of which are worth a visit for their historical architecture.
If you like hiking and want to explore the nature of this area, there is a great network of trails in the beautiful countryside surrounding Fregenal. Keep an eye out for the famous black Iberian pigs eating acorns in the fields and the variety of birds that call this area home.
What villages in Spain have you visited?
From Spain’s white villages to fishing villages, to unsuspecting country villages, there is so much culture and rich history to be experienced. The big cities are still wonderful to visit, yet getting into a Spanish village can really take you back in time and immerse you in the culture.
Fortunately, you can enjoy both when you’re in Spain.
Which of these villages in Spain would you love to visit? We’d love to hear about any villages in Spain that you’ve enjoyed, or let us know of any questions you have. Just join the discussion in the comments below.
Written by Amalia & Eric
Founders & Producers of Move to Traveling
We’re Amalia and Eric – a traveling couple who are living a traveling lifestyle. Do you love to travel? Perfect! Come along…