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Six places in Catalonia that don’t get many tourists

Looking to escape the crowds in Spain's Catalonia region this summer? Our Catalonia-based writer Esme Fox recommends some of her favourite places in the region where you can avoid the hordes of tourists. 

Six places in Catalonia that don’t get many tourists
The places in Catalonia with fewer tourists. Photo: Madara Parma / Unsplash

Catalonia is regularly the most-visited region in Spain. According to recent data, the northeastern region welcomed a total of 4.29 million during the first three months of 2023. 

Of course, most tourists head to the capital of Barcelona, one of the most popular cities in the whole of Spain, well as nearby beach towns such as Sitges, day trips like Montserrat, the historic city of Girona, and the spectacular Costa Brava coastline. 

But, just because it receives the most, doesn’t mean that the whole region is busy and touristy, far from it. Catalonia covers 32,091 square kilometres and there are plenty of inland towns and villages, as well as natural parks, where you can get away from it all. 


It’s only a one-hour drive from Barcelona to the southernmost part Montseny, which is both a natural park and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Because of this, you would think it would be very busy, but because it’s difficult to reach by public transport, it doesn’t get so many.

The park’s other advantage is that it covers a total of 50,000 hectares and contains over 30 different marked trails for hiking, meaning there’s always space to get away from other visitors. Even though it welcomes two million people a year, they’re very spread out. Much of the park is forested, keeping it shady and cool in summer and there plenty of small waterfalls and streams to explore too. One of the best times to visit is autumn when all the trees turn to shades or crimson, amber and mustard. 


The Penedès lie in the hills above coastal towns such as Vilanova i la Geltrú. Catalonia’s premier wine region, it’s primarily responsible for making cava, Spain’s answer to French champagne. While this does make it popular, tourists tend to head only to a couple of key towns, leaving the rest of the 16,637 hectares ripe for exploration. Visitors tend to mainly head for the famous cava producers in the village of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia or the capital of the region Vilafranca del Penedès.

But, if you steer clear of these two and visit smaller lesser-known villages such as Castellví de la Marca, Subirats or Avinyonet del Penedès, you’ll find it’s very quiet. One of the best things to do in fact is to drive around the countryside or hike along the many trails through the vineyards, stopping at the small independent wineries for tastings along the way. 

Explore the lesser-known areas of the Penedès. Photo: Pablo Valerio / Pixabay

This quirky little town lies to the southwest of the Penedès. Although it can be reached on the train from Barcelona in two hours, it rarely receives a lot of visitors. One of the most interesting aspects of the town is that it’s home to an exact replica of Seville’s famous La Giralda belltower, except only half the size. Inside, however, it was designed as a Mudéjar palace with Moorish-style tiles and fountains. The town is also home to several other gorgeous Modernista buildings and even holds a yearly Modernista festival, where the townspeople dress in period costumes. 

A short hike from L’Arboç brings you to the Pantà del Foix reservoir, a bottle-green lake surrounded by steep forest-clad hills. On the shores of the lake sits the tiny village of Castellet i la Gornal and its imposing 10th-century castle of Castellet. While the village can get busy on weekends or bank holidays with locals from nearby towns, there are plenty of hiking trails around the lake, where you’ll very quickly find yourself alone once more. 


Ripoll sits high up in the foothills of the Pyrenees, where the Ter and Freser rivers meet. It may not get a huge number of visitors because of its location, but it played a very important role in the history of Catalonia.

The town was built around the 9th-century Benedictine monastery of Santa María de Ripoll, which was commissioned by Guifré el Pilós or Count Wildfred The Hairy, said to be the founder of Catalonia. Legend also has it that also Guifré el Pilós was responsible for the creation of the Senyera, the Catalan flag. The story goes that when he was injured in battle, he dipped his hand in his own blood and smeared it across his golden shield, creating the four red stripes of the flag. Oddly enough, it is thought that he wasn’t very hairy at all.  

Vall de Gerber

Part of the Parque Nacional de Aigüestortes y Estany de Sant Maurici, the only National Park in Catalunya, right in the corner of Catalonia with France to the north and Aragón to the west, you’ll find the Vall de Gerber. The valley was originally created by glaciers many thousands of years ago and is situated on the northeastern edge of Aigüestortes. Here you’ll find several glassy mountain lakes, verdant meadows, and unusual hikes up and over rock boulders. 

Explore the Vall de Gerber without the tourists. Photo: rodolfo7 / Pixabay

Delta del Ebro

The Delta del Ebro sits south of Tarragona, right before it meets the border with the Valencia region. Although the coastline right above it – the Costa Daurada – can get very busy in summer, such as in towns like L’Ametlla de Mar, the Delta itself is rarely busy. The delta covers an area of 320 km2 and is where the River Ebro finally reaches the sea. It’s one of Europe’s most important wetland areas, home to big colonies of pink flamingoes, as well as many other species.

There are several small villages to stay here including Riumar, Deltebre, L’Eucaliptus and El Poble Nou del Delta, which have a couple of hotels each. There are also several hiking and biking trails around the natural park and vast stretches of beaches all the way around, where you’re guaranteed to find a place to lay your towel and go for a dip. 

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Spain’s lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Spain is the fourth country in the world with the most sites inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list, just behind Italy, China and Germany, and with so many there's bound to be several you haven't heard of.

Spain's lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Spain is home to a whopping 50 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, spread across the country from the northern shores of Galicia to the mountains of Andalusia and even in the smallest of the Canary Islands. 

While most people are familiar with the world-famous UNESCO sites of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona or the Moorish marvels of the Alhambra in Granada or the Real Alcázar of Seville, Spain has a whole host of spectacular sites that remain relatively unknown. 

So, if you want to see some ancient and natural wonders without the crowds or worry about having to book in advance, these are the places you should go. 

READ ALSO: The best places in Spain to see the autumn leaves

Antequera Dolmens, Andalusia 

Located in central Andalusia, just outside the historic city of Antequera lie the Dolmens, three megalithic monuments, believed to be ancient tombs, built during the Neolithic and Bronze Age out of colossal stone blocks. They have been inscribed onto the list along with the face-like mountain of nearby La Peña and El Torcal, a natural karst landscape filled with otherworldy rock formations and ancient fossils. 

Entrance to Dolmen Menga in Antequera. Photo: julie3jax / Wikimedia Commons

Renaissance Monumental Ensembles of Úbeda and Baeza, Andalusia

In the province of Jaén, not far from the city of Jaén itself, lie the twin towns of Úbeda and Baeza. They have been noted for their spectacular Renaissance architecture. Both towns underwent a big renovation during the 16th century and their streets were filled with grand palaces, churches, universities and noble homes. According to UNESCO, they are some of the greatest Renaissance architecture ensembles in Spain and one of the most important in Europe.

One of the main squares in historic Baeza. Photo: José Luis Filpo Cabana . Wikimedia Commons


Las Médulas, Castilla y León

Located near the town of Ponferrada in Castilla y León, you’ll find a strange scarred landscape, where paprika-coloured rugged rocks rise up between an otherwise bottle-green scene. These are in fact what has been left behind from an ancient Roman gold mine. In the 1st century AD the Romans decided to exploit the gold deposits in north-west Spain, using a technique based on hydraulic power to crumble the mountains from within and gain better access to the gold. 

Las Médulas Roman gold mine. Photo: Karsten Wentink / Wikimedia Commons

Poblet Monastery, Catalonia 

Located close to the city of Tarragona, the Poblet Monastery is one of the largest and most impressive Cistercian abbeys in all of Spain. It features a 12th-century church, plus a fortified royal residence and the tombs of several of Aragón’s most important kings and queens. 

Poblet Monastery in Catalonia. Photo: FRANCIS RAHER / Wikimedia Commons

Prehistoric Sites of Talayotic Menorca, Balearic Islands  

The Prehistoric Sites of Talayotic Menorca were only inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2023 and are Spain’s newest site. They reveal evidence of prehistoric communities living on the island and comprise several prehistoric settlements and burial places, dating from the Bronze Age (1600 BCE) to the Late Iron Age (123 BCE). 

The Prehistoric Sites of Talayotic in Menorca. Photo: Dreizung / Wikimedia Commons
Garajonay National Park, La Gomera, Canary Islands 
It’s not just manmade sites that UNESCO honours, it features natural ones too. One little-known natural wonder is the Garajonay National Park on the tiny Canary Island of La Gomera. It is listed for its unique make-up of 70 percent laurel trees, which are almost permanently shrouded in mist. The forest here has been nicknamed the Bosque Encantado or Enchanted Forest because of the way the moss covers the branches and the way they twist together towards the sky. It almost looks like a fairy dell. 
The Bosque Encantado in Garajonay National Park on La Gomera. Photo: Diego Delso / Wikimedia Commons


Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí, Catalonia

The Vall de Boí is situated in the high Pyrenees in the region of Catalonia and comprises several small villages surrounded by mountainous peaks. In each of these villages sits a unique Romanesque church built between the 11th and 12th centuries. They have been inscribed on the list because they make up the largest concentration of Romanesque art in Europe. 

Església de Sant Climent de Taüll, Vall de Boí. Photo: wsrmatre / Wikimedia Commons