Love Spain but hate overcrowding? Study reveals the best alternatives to the biggest tourist traps 

A STUDY has revealed the best ‘dupes’ of over-crowded tourist destinations, swapping packed island and city breaks for relaxed holidays in cultural havens. 

Overtourism is the word on everyone’s lips this Spring. 

As visitors start to roll into Spain’s most popular destinations in droves, anti-tourism movements are growing across the country and politicians are taking notice. 

Tourist tax has increased in Palma de Mallorca while you will soon be charged to enter Sevilla’s Plaza de España.

So, why not help alleviate the strain on the likes of Malaga, Barcelona and Tenerife by checking out some lesser known locations? 

Leading tour comparison site, TourScanner, has conducted a study to discover the best alternative options. 

They found similar locations to popular tourist spots and ranked them based on the amount of annual visitors.


One of the most visited cities in Spain, Madrid is well worth a visit. 

But if you can’t handle the crowds, Salamanca receives just 13,000 tourists a year compared to Madrid’s 60.2 million. 

Madrid sees over 60 million visitors each year in comparison to Salamanca’s 13,000. Photo: Jordi Moncasi and Darci Ribero/Unsplash

Found in Castilla y Leon, the city is just a 2 and a half hour train ride away from the Spanish capital. 

It is home to the oldest university in the Hispanic world and still maintains a vibrant student community, with plenty of bars, cheap food and nightlife.

Similar to Madrid is the Plaza Mayor, complete with Baroque style architecture to rival its neighbouring city. 

Unlike Madrid’s Catedral de Almudena, Salamanca boasts two cathedrals.

The Old Cathedral is a ‘truly magnificent’ Roman monument, while the New Cathedral is built in an inspiring gothic style. 

The city also has a river flowing through it and you can walk along it over the roman bridge. 

It also has many museums, including the impressive Museo de Art Nouveau. 

READ MORE: The best hotels in Spain’s Andalucia are in this lesser-visited province – according to The Telegraph


Cadiz is Andalucia’s answer to metropolitan beach destination, Barcelona. Photo: Kaspars Upmanis and Mitchell Orr/Unsplash

The Catalan capital was one of the first cities in Spain to begin an anti-tourist movement. 

Some 12 billion visitors flock to the city each year to see the mix of the jostling old town, impressive art and bustling city centre. 

That has not only made Barcelona overcrowded but expensive and in some areas, dangerous. 

Cadiz, Andalucia has been suggested as a great alternative, with 49 million fewer tourists each year. 

Just like Barcelona, Cadiz perfectly mixes beach days and city culture, with lots of museums and historic monuments. 

While the cathedral is no Sagrada Familia, its grand facade and the views from its tower make it worth a visit. 

The Parque Genoves bears many similarities to Barcelona’s Parc de la Ciutadella, with sandy pathways and overhanging palm trees providing shade from the summer heat. 

Much like the Costa Dorada, Cadiz is surrounded by beach side hamlets and fishing villages, all with clear water and golden sand. 

READ MORE: Luxury train journeys across Andalucia will start next week: Peek inside the Al-Andalus cabins that could give the Orient Express a run for its money


Mallorca has become overcrowded in recent years, prompting fury from locals. Photo: Tom Podmore and Pelayo Arbues/Unsplash

Tourism is a key political issue in Mallorca at the moment, with protestors even putting fake posters at popular beaches warning of ‘dangerous jellyfish’ and ‘falling rocks’ to scare off tourists. 

Visitors outnumber locals 70 to one, threatening the beauty, peace and culture of the island. 

Nonetheless, holidaymakers are still searching for holidays in the area, with 201,000 monthly searches. 

But, if you prefer not to increase tensions, why not try Menorca? 

The island welcomes just 4 four million tourists a year, 27 million fewer tourists than Mallorca’s 31 million. 

Menorca has equally picturesque coves, clear waters and dramatic rocks lining their beaches. 

Although it isn’t hilly like Mallorca, Menorca is still great for cycling and hiking amongst its vast nature. 

The towns of Mahon and Ciutadella are small in comparison to La Palma de Mallorca but nonetheless historic, with a relaxed vibe as you wander through the charming streets. 

READ MORE: It’s fiesta season! The best festivals happening across Spain this spring

Yzabelle Bostyn

After spending much of her childhood in Andalucia and adulthood between Barcelona and Latin America, Yzabelle has settled in the Costa del Sol to put her NCTJ & Journalism Masters to good use. She is particularly interested in travel, vegan food and has been leading the Olive Press Nolotil campaign. Have a story? email [email protected]

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