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The eight least touristy cities in Spain (and why you should visit them)

They may not be as popular as Barcelona, Seville or Valencia but it’s worth getting off the beaten track to discover some of the least touristy cities in Spain, and the wonderful things they have to offer.

The eight least touristy cities in Spain (and why you should visit them)
Cuenca is one of the under rated cities of Spain. Photo: acieroDepositphotos

While the regions of Madrid, Catalonia, Andalucia, together with the Canary Islands and the Balearics, attract some 90 percent of all the foreign tourists to Spain tempting them with their world class museums. Unesco heritage sites and of course, the beach, Spain has so much more worth seeing, if you just bother to explore a little.

Data collected by Spain’s Statistics Agency (INE) reveals the provincial capitals in Spain which have the least overnight visitors. But does that mean they have nothing to offer? On the contrary. Stopping off at these places will not only provide a glimpse of the real Spain, without having to battle through crowds of tourists, you will also find prices are cheaper and people are more friendly.


Photo: acciero/Depositphotos

Despite being just one-hour from Madrid and Valencia by high speed train, Cuenca is among the ten cities in Spain which attract the least overnight visitors. But it’s hard to understand why.

The impressive hanging houses cling to the rugged outcrop where the walled city is built overlooking the vast plains of Castilla-La Mancha. There is also a maginificent cathedral in the heart of an old city that remains little changed since Medieval times. The enormous arches of the Plaza Mayor are a sight to behold, plus Cuenca has carved out a reputation as the capital of Spanish abstract art, containing several galleries and museums dedicated to the genre.


Photo: phbcz/Depositphotos
Perhaps the joke associated with the name of this provincial city in Castile-Leon is to blame for the lack of interest from tourists. But in fact “Zamora se visita en una hora” – Zamora can be seen in an hour – does the city a great disservice.

Full of churches and chapels that will excite fans of the Romanesque-style, the old city is dominated by an enormous castle and a cathedral famed for its huge dome.
With its picturesque terrazas and river views, you’ll want to spend some time bar-hopping sipping vermut and enjoying the free tapas.

Photo: avarand/Depositphotos

Overshadowed by Santiago de Compostela, the biggest tourist draw in Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia, the city of Ourense is a jewel just waiting to be discovered.

A small old city filled with winding cobbled streets, ancient plazas with old fountains and pretty churches, the gateway to the cathedral is worth the visit alone.

Plus there is a Roman bridge, a spa dating to medieval times, with hot springs famed across the region for its health benefits.

And of course, this being Galicia, you can dine on amazing seafood washed down with the local Albariño for less than anywhere else in Spain.


Photo: Depositphoto

Despite having Mudejar style architecture that won the city Unesco World Heritage status in 1986, Teruel remains one of the least visited cities in Spain.

Out of the way in the abandoned interior of Spain somewhere inland between Valencia and Barcelona, this Aragonese city is famed as the city of lovers and each February holds a romantic festival to commemorate the legendary lovers of Teruel, the Romeo and Juliet of Spain.

But it also has an impressive aquaduct, quaint old squares and is somewhat of a gourmands dream destination. Expect to dine on truffles and Teruel’s famed jamón.


Photo: karsol/Depositphotos

The province, which alongside Teruel most struggles with the depopulation of the countryside, is home to this city full of architectural beauties dating as far back as the Roman era. Look out for the doorway at the Santo Domingo church and the arches of San Juan de Duero (above)-
Spend an evening grazing in the little bars and restaurants of Calle del Collado and make sure you don’t leave without trying a dish containing wild mushrooms grown nearby.

Photo: pabkovDepositphotos

More often in the news for the latest attempt by migrants to reach Spain over the fence from Morocco, the largest of Spain’s North African enclaves sees few tourists.

A ginormous and impenetrable wall protects the old city from seaborne invaders, behind which is a collection of neighbourhoods that represent the geographical position and multicultural nature of the place.

Fortifications, synagogues , mosques and churches can all be found in Melilla as well as modern architecture, wide boulevards and seafront prominades and of course, that double razor wire fence that separates Spain from Africa.


Photo: AFP

The city of Avilés, capital of one of the eight comarcas that make up the Prinipality of Asturias in northern Spain fails to have the draw of nearby Oviedo and Gijon, even with the creation of the architectural wonder that is the Centro Niemeyer arts and culture complex. While it failed to have the Guggenheim effect that saw Bilbao transform thanks to the museum, Avilés is still worth a visit in its own right.

Lush parks and gardens, ornate palaces and churches are a beautiful back drop to a stroll along the banks of the river that encircles this northern city.


Photo: Depositphotos

Forever in the shadow of its Andalucian neighbouring cities of Granada, Málaga, Córdoba and Sevilla, Jáen sees few visitors venture within its walls.

Rising up from the endless olive groves responsible for producing some of the best olive oil in the world. Jaén is a beautiful city with a stunning cathedral, elegant squares and well preserved Arabic baths.

Dine out on Andalusian classics for half the price than you’ll find in the more touristy cities.

READ ALSO: Off the beaten track: 14 best kept travel secrets in Spain

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For members


How Spain’s air traffic control strike could hit your travel plans

Many of Spain’s air traffic controllers have been called to strike over the next month. Find out which dates and which airports will be affected.

How Spain's air traffic control strike could hit your travel plans

The workers’ unions USCA and CCOO have called around 162 air traffic controllers working at privatised control towers around the country to organise walkouts throughout February, affecting 28.5 percent of all air traffic in Spain.

The walkouts began on Monday January 30th and will continue every Monday until February 27th during “all work shifts that begin between 00:00 and 24:00,” they stated. Specifically, the strike days will occur on February 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th.

The airports affected by the strike will be A Coruña, Alicante-Elche, Castellón, Cuatro Vientos (Madrid), El Hierro, Fuerteventura, Ibiza, Jerez, Lanzarote, La Palma, Lleida, Murcia, Sabadell, Seville, Valencia and Vigo.

The Ministry of Transport has set minimum services depending on the type of route, which reaches 100 percent for emergency flights, the transfer of citizens or foreigners guarded by police officers and the transport of post and perishable products.  

For commercial flights with routes originating or ending at non-peninsular airports, the minimum services range between 52 percent from Lleida to 84 percent from La Coruña, depending on the estimated occupancy.

In the case of routes between foreign or Spanish cities whose travel time by road is at least five hours, the minimum services will be between 44 percent from La Palma and 57 percent from Alicante.  

For routes that can be replaced by other means of public transport in less than five hours, the minimum guaranteed services will be between 18 percent from Castellón and 30 percent from Vigo.

The workers are asking for a 5.5 percent salary increase but the proposal offered by their employers, which is 2 percent in 2023 and 2.5 percent in 2024, is “very far from their demands”.

The USCA and CCOO unions have decided to call the stoppages due to “the failure of the negotiations” with the Business Association of Civil Air Traffic Providers of the Liberalised Market (APCTA). They finally gave up trying to find a solution after several “unfruitful” meetings.