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12 of the most beautiful places to visit in Spain this autumn

With the crowds gone, autumn is the perfect season to do some exploring around Spain. Whether it's hiking in nature, visiting quaint mountain villages or stopping at a local winery, here are 12 top getaways to enjoy this 'otoño' (autumn).

12 of the most beautiful places to visit in Spain this autumn
The turquoise waters of the Urederra river, which runs through Urbasa National Park in Navarre (northeastern Spain), another amazing autumn destination in Spain. Photo: Maria Ostolaza/Flickr

Spain is famous for its long hot summers and amazing beach holidays, but that doesn’t mean the country shuts down for the rest of the year.

Indeed, much of the more enjoyable travelling in the country happens after the usual tourists crowds head home and temperatures become milder.

Autumn is a more intimate season in Spain, a chance to explore quieter corners and the great outdoors as landscapes turn from vivid green to orange and ochre.

From incredible hiking in the Pyrenees to subtropical forests in the Canary Islands, The Local has put together a list of some of Spain’s best autumn getaways.

Val d’Aran, Catalonia

The unique Aran Valley is the only part of Catalonia on the northern side of the Pyrenees. In winter it’s a popular ski area but in autumn its dramatic mountain peaks and exquisite villages make for perfect hiking country.

The valley is also a paradise for linguists with locals here speaking Spanish, Catalan and their very own Aranese, a dialect of Occitan which only a few locals speak.

Photo: Paco CT/Flickr

Castañar de el Tiemblo, Ávila
A visit to this charming chestnut forest near Avila makes for a perfect day trip from Madrid, and can get pretty busy on the weekends. But don’t let that you put you off. If your aim is to see the autumn colours in all their glory at all costs, this is a fabulous spot to drink in the oranges, reds and golds of the season.

Photo: Javier R. Linera/Flickr

La Gomera, Canary Islands

If fog, mists and open fires aren’t your thing, head to Spain’s Canary Islands for some autumn sunshine. And while all the islands offer something special, tiny La Gomera is a chance to really get away from it all. This volcanic island is only 22km (14 miles) in diameter, but don’t let size fool you. Here you’ll you find spectacular beaches and cliffs, and an incredible array of microhabitats, including subtropical rainforest. What are you waiting for?

READ MORE: Seven wonders that make a visit to Spain’s La Gomera worth it

la gomera teide
Photo: Jörg Bergmann/Flickr

Penedés, Catalonia

The Penedès wine region where cava — Spain’s answer to champagne — is produced is less than one hour’s drive from Barcelona but hiking around vineyards once there can be thirsty work. The solution? Whizz through the wineries on a Segway for a tipsy two-wheeled tasting tour.

Photo: hlehto/Flickr

Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park
Could this be the most spectacular part of the Spanish Pyrenees? The deep autumnal colours of Ordesa’s ancient forests, plus its incredible rock formations, certainly make this UNESCO World Heritage Site a strong contender.

Photo: Porschista/Flickr
Frank Gehrey’s Hotel Marqués de Riscal, La Rioja
This architectural masterpiece by the man who created the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is in the middle of Spain’s world-famous wine region. Visit one of La Rioja’s 1,200 wineries after the early-autumn grape harvest then sip a glass of something good at sunset while admiring the hotel’s undulating lines.
Photo: AFP
Cala Morell Necroplois, Menorca
The ancient Cala Morell necropolis is particularly busy on All Saints’ Day (on November 1st in 2021), but it remains beautiful throughout the autumn. Just another reason to visit this Balearic gem– as if anyone needed it.

Photo: tuulijumala/Depositphotos
Sierra de Aracena, Huelva
This is Andalusia as you never pictured it, a Lord of The Rings-style landscape of oak forest and ancient walkways. Best of all, Aracena is just over an hour from downtown Seville making it the perfect autumn getaway for people in the know. Rent a house, read a book by an open fire, or wander through the chestnut forests: whatever you choose you can’t go wrong here. Oh, and the local jamón ibérico is among the best in Spain.
Photo: Jorge López/Flickr
History (and Jazz) in Cartagena, Murcia
Spain’s Murcia region is sadly overlooked by many tourists but in recent years more people are starting to discover the wonders of lovely Cartagena. With average highs of 21 degrees in November, over 2,000 years of history and a Roman theatre to prove it, this is a sleeper hit for autumn travellers. A jazz festival through most of November only adds to the appeal. In 2021, it runs from November 1st until November 23rd.

Photo: mmedp/Depositphotos
Sierra de Francia, Castilla y León
Despite the name, this region has nothing to do with France, and is actually near the Portuguese border in Castilla y León. This beautiful corner of Spain is full of forests, streams and hidden historic villages like the one pictured here: La Alberca. Rarely visited by tourists, this is a unique part of the country, and is particularly atmospheric in autumn.
Photo: Turel Jones
Gorbea Natural Park, Basque Country
If it’s autumn colours that you are after, head north to the Otzarreta forest, located in the natural park surrounding Mount Gorbea in the Basque Country. It is one of the best places in Spain to see the change of colours when the landscape transforms into a palette of vibrant oranges, burnt umbers and deep browns. 

Photo: mimadeo/Depositphotos
Las Medulas, Castilla y León

Photo: Munea Viajes/Flickr

This amazing landscape on the border between Galicia and Castilla y Leon is really worth the effort. Once the Roman Empire’s most important gold mine, archeologists have since uncovered several Roman settlements nearby too. With its red earth and wooded hills, it’s a great place to enjoy autumnal walks. 

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Q&A: What’s Spain’s invitation letter for visitors and how do I get one?

What's the 'carta de invitación' for non-EU tourists staying with friends or family in Spain, do you have to get one, what details do you have to provide, how long does it take to process and how much does it cost? All these questions and more answered.

Q&A: What's Spain's invitation letter for visitors and how do I get one?

What is it?

The invitation letter (carta de invitación in Spanish) is a form which can be asked for from non-EU nationals when entering Spain as a way of proving to Spanish border officers that they have a legitimate place to stay at in Spain and an address on record.

Note this is generally for people visiting to stay with friends and family who haven’t booked commercial tourist accommodation.

Non-EU nationals who either need or don’t need a visa to enter Spain may be expected to produce it, but their ‘host’ or invitee must actually be the one to arrange and send it to them.

READ ALSO: Which nationalities need a short-stay visa for Spain?

It is not a requirement per se for non-EU nationals who don’t have a hotel booking or other accredited accommodation, nor a replacement for any other required documents for entry, but according to Spain’s Foreign Office “police controls can deny entry” for those on private or tourist trips if they can’t produce “proof of lodgings or an invitation letter from an individual, if you’re staying at their address”.

Who can request it?

In a sentence: anyone who is legally living in Spain and wants to have a non-EU guest stay with them.

That means it could be a Spanish citizen, an EU citizen living in Spain, or a non-EU citizen legally residing in Spain with the proper residency permit to prove it.

The carta is requested by the person living in Spain on behalf of the guest, and must be sent to the guest to show on the border (more on that below).

How do I write one?

Though the name might suggest you actually write a letter yourself, the invitation letter is nowadays basically a legal form that you need to request at the police station. 

You will need to fill out personal details of both yourself and your guest.

How long does it take to get an invitation letter for a visa?

As Spanish bureaucratic processes can be a bit unpredictable, it takes from 10 days to 2 months to get the invitation letter for a foreigner who wants to visit Spain.

Therefore, it’s advisable to complete the application process at least a month in advance, if not two.

What do I need to bring with me to the police station?

There are several documents you’ll need in order to request the carta de invitación.

  • Rental contract or house deed, if you own the property.
  • A copy of your empadronamiento to prove you’re registered.
  • Your Spanish ID or residency document, so a TIE, green certificate or DNI.
  • The exact dates of the guest’s travel and stay, including flight details (it’s important they have a return flight booked).
  • A copy of their passport.
  • The form to pay the fee, which must be paid.

To process the form it will cost you €75, then it will be a further €6.48 for the actual invitation letter, plus €1.08 for each extra document related to the application process.

This means it will likely work out to around €80 or €90, depending on how long they stay.

You can download the form you need here. Below is an example of what it looks like.

What should your carta de invitación include?

You’ll need details of both the host and guest, including:

  • Name
  • Proof of address
  • Passport copy
  • Residency status
  • Contact info
  • Employment details
  • Relationship to guest/host

There will also be sections on the purpose of the visit itself, ie. businesses vs pleasure.

You’ll have to include the dates of their stay, and evidence of how you’ll cover the cost of the trip. For non-EU nationals it is currently €95 for every day they are in Spain.

The form will also require further supporting documents like the travel itinerary (including evidence of return flights) as well as the proof of accommodation and travel insurance. 

Will Spanish border guards ask to see the carta de invitación?

It’s unlikely, but they could. If you don’t have any evidence of reservations in hotels or other tourist accommodation, and don’t have the carta, you could theoretically be denied entry in Spain.

For British tourists, Spanish border guards seem to have gone out of their way to make post-Brexit travel as smooth as possible to Spain. As far as The Local knows, and judging by Spanish media reports, the border authorities are not actively asking for the carta de invitación but just remember that in theory they could.