EVERY cloud has a silver lining and for some villages you may never have heard of in Spain, the COVID-19 crisis has been an opportunity to shine and show off their uncrowded, idyllic spaces.
Traditional tourist hotspots like Marbs and Palma de Mallorca have been knocked off page one on Google by demand for more out-of-the-way places. But with more than 8,000 small towns and villages competing for our staycation euros, the choice overload is still overwhelming.
Thankfully, a new study by tourism and events website Musement has done the hard work for us, pinpointing the most popular village in each of Spain’s 50 provinces in terms of internet searches.
The results have been displayed in a handy colour-coded infographic map highlighting the most sought-after spots in each province:
The most Googled village in Spain, with 74,000 monthly searches, is Peñiscola, a beautiful coastal town with cobbled streets in the Valencia region.
All municipalities with less than 20,000 inhabitants in Spain were taken into consideration in the study, together with Google search trends data.
Check out our pick from the Top 50 pueblos you should definitely set about discovering now that travel around Spain is once more permitted.
Guadalest (Alicante): This lofty Costa Blanca village comes with photo opportunities to die for but you won’t be alone. Everyone who has ever been to Benidorm, just up the road, has paid homage to this beauty spot and Asset of Cultural Interest. Perched on a hilltop with soaring views over the lush green valley, images of San Jose Castle and the white bell tower of Penon de la Alcala are all over Instagram.
Guadix (Granada): If you’ve ever had a yen to return to your troglodyte roots, this provincial town in the Sierra Nevada foothills is that place. Guadix is renowned for its 2,000-plus cave dwellings hewn out of the earth in centuries past largely to escape the heat, many with families still in residence. You can even rent one. When you’ve had enough of life underground you should emerge to visit the imposing Renaissance-baroque cathedral, the Tower of Ferro, the historic quarter and the excellent, tourist-free tapas bars.
Setenil de las Bodegas (Cadiz): Hiding in the crevice of a river gorge, the other curiosity of this quaint white village, apart from the location, is its main street. Every shop, bar and home on both sides of the river Guadalporcún is embedded into the rock face and sheltered by the overhanging cliffs. Enjoy the cool darkness of a cave tavern or sit outside in the sunshine with river views. Setenil, declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1985 and listed on the official White Villages Route, is always a crowd pleaser.
Valldemossa (Mallorca): Set on the Tramuntano’s wooded slopes 400 metres above sea level this idyllic mountain village has been a bucket list destination since it was discovered in the 19th century by a travel writing Austrian Archduke.
Crowned by a Carthusian monastery where Chopin composed a Prelude and George Sand wrote a novel, the history of Valldemossa can be traced back to Moorish times. With its sand- coloured stone houses and labyrinth of quaint cobbled streets the car-free old quarter is still perfection to behold.
Peñiscola (Castellon): Peñiscola Castle, perched on a promontory overlooking a scimitar-shaped bay, is the big attraction of this charming Castellon seaside town, after its fab beaches. Once the residence of Pope Benedict XIII, the 13th century fortress offers breathtaking views of the Costa del Azahar (Orange Blossom Coast). Artillery Park for olive trees and purple lavender, the Museum of the Sea for maritime history and the Sierra de Irta nature reserve for hiking and mountain biking, also keep visitors coming.
Moratalla (Murcia): Declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity asset by UNESCO, this sleepy town perched on a panoramic hilltop is an open history book on civilisation. Its prehistoric cave paintings, Bronze Age settlements, Roman bridges and Moorish castles bear witness to centuries of human occupation. As do the Moratalla tamborados at Easter, a Holy Week tradition of collective drumming that often goes on all day!
Bocairent (Valencia): This picture-perfect town hiding out in the Sierra de Mariola Natural Park is an undiscovered gem as well as a history buff’s dream come true. With a mere 5,000 inhabitants today, its Roman aqueducts, fountains and steep and winding cobbled streets speak of centuries of civilisation. A walk through the old hilltop town will take you right back there. Bocairent’s unusual bullring carved into the rock is the oldest in Valencia, dating back to 1843. If the dust of ages gets too cloying you can always head into the hills for a fix of pure mountain air.
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