Spain holds some of the most diverse landscapes in Europe – islands, city beaches, lively cosmopolitan cities, tiny remote villages, tall mountain ranges, and even a desert. With such stunning scenery and rich cultural history, the country offers some pretty unusual things to do. From hiking across the Tabernas desert to scuba diving with statues in the turquoise waters of Lanzarote – a trip to Spain can be a truly unique experience.

    Below are some of the most remarkable attractions available in Spain, which will take you off-the-beaten track to a side of the country that you’ve probably never seen before.


    The Valley of the Fallen

    Visit a basilica where more than 30,000 soldiers are buried

    The Valley of the Fallen, otherwise known as Valle de los Caídos, holds an eerie and chilling history. The attraction consists of a 150m-tall cross and a basilica, which are tucked into a hillside. The structure was built on General Franco’s orders, who wanted it to commemorate those who died in the Spanish Civil War. The basilica contains a huge crypt and it’s said to hold more than 30,000 soldiers in its walls and in the hillside surrounding it. 

    There is a certain unease visiting this monument dedicated to Spain’s troubled past – make sure to read up about it before your visit or even arrange a tour of the grounds. Despite its controversy, the structure is a truly monumental construction – almost impossible to capture in a single camera frame. The monument is closed every Monday.

    Location: Carretera de Guadarrama/El Escorial, 28209 San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid, Spain

    Open: Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +34 918 90 54 11


    Caminito del Rey

    Walk pathways 100m-above a gorge

    Caminito del Rey is a walkway pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near Málaga. The walkway, which is 100m-high, takes you across the heart of the Gaitanes Gorge. This attraction allows visitors to experience that vertiginous feeling only experienced climbers would normally feel; the 100-year-old path has been fittingly named ‘The Walkway of Death’. A new walkway, opened in 2015, is a lot safer than its older counterpart. The old pathway sees chunks of concrete missing and rusted poles jutting out – these pathways frequently run along the new ones, giving visitors an insight on its daredevil nature.

    This attraction is certainly not for the faint-hearted, although the views presented on the pathways are phenomenal. Make sure to book well in advanced, as the attraction is hugely popular with adventure-seekers.

    Location: Caminito del Rey, MA-5403, 29550 El Chorro, Spain

    Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +34 918 90 54 11


    Tabernas, Almería

    Explore the Wild, Wild West seen in films

    The Tabernas Desert is Hollywood’s Wild, Wild West. There are 3 film sets: Fort Bravo, Western Leone and Mini Hollywood, which all attract a substantial number of tourists as well as famous film and TV crew. The sets hold a Moorish castle’s ruins, a refurbished Teatro Municipal and an old church. Wild West aficionados will be more than pleased with the wild, barren landscape and eagles soaring across the blazing blue skies. The desert is worth exploring on your own accord as well. Rent a car and take the route via Sorbas; you’ll come to be surrounded by striking displays of dramatic rock terrain and the occasional large cacti. If you dare, go on one of the many walking trails in the desert, but be aware that you may not see anyone else.

    Location: Tabernas Desert, Almería, Spain


    Setenil de las Bodegas

    Discover a town built into mountain cliffs

    Setenil de las Bodegas is a town in southern Spain that has charming, whitewashed houses built into the cliffs of a mountain. The town literally grew out of a network of caves found in its surrounding cliffs – the result is a unique display of white brick merged with jagged, sandstone cliffs. A wander around this quaint town is the best way to take in the unusualness of the town’s structure. In this small town, not far from the stunning Ronda, a peaceful atmosphere resonates, and locals have only friendly words to exchange. The most picturesque streets in the town are named Cuevas del Sol and Cuevas de la Sombra, which are found on either side of the river. In winter, you can even see stalactites on Cuevas de la Sombra.

    Location: Setenil de las Bodegas, 11692 Cádiz, Spain


    Museo Atlántico Lanzarote, Canary Islands

    View art sculptures underwater

    The Museo Atlántico, found on Lanzarote’s coastline, is the first underwater museum in Europe boasting sculptures 12m deep and artificial reefs that attract an array of sea-life. The museum provides a thought-provoking commentary on human society in an out-of-the-ordinary setting. It’s worth checking weather conditions to estimate the visibility of your dive – the better the visibility, the more you’ll enjoy your dive. The museum offers a very unique diving experience that takes you across the island’s sapphire waters. You’ll be surprised by how much wildlife has accumulated among the statues.

    Location: Dive College Lanzarote, Calle Lanzarote 1, Playa Blanca, 35580 Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain

    Open: Monday to Friday from 9.15 am to 4.45 pm

    Phone: +34 606 41 67 01


    La Tomatina Festival

    Throw tomatoes at random strangers

    La Tomatina Festival is really just a tomato battle between the 2,000 residents of the town of Buñol. The town is found approximately 40 km away from Valencia and attracts hundreds of visitors on the last Wednesday of August each year. The history of the festival is somewhat unclear, however, residents of Buñol have partook in the food fight since at least 1944. During General Franco’s dominance, the festival was banned for having no religious significance and reinvigorated in the 1970s. This festival is messy but a lot of fun. The fight itself is short, sharp and sloppy and the street parties afterwards extend the fun into the early hours of the morning. Come in a group for maximum enjoyment.

    Location: Buñol, 46360 Valencia, Spain


    Limite Zero: leave Spain by zipline

    Travel to Portugal at 50mph

    Limite Zero allows you to travel an hour back in time from Spain to Portugal. The zipline connects Sanlúcar de Guadina in Spain with Alcoutim in Portugal and stretches 2,365ft long. The journey lasts a mere 60 seconds and travellers zoom into Portugal at 50mph, taking you over Guadiana river. On a sunny day, views from the zipline are remarkable with rolling hills and the sparkling water of the river in sight. The ‘La Tirolina’ zipline costs approximately €15 – a modest amount to spend crossing a border. Your stay in Portugal won’t be too long with ferries ready to transport zipliners back to Spain after their journey.

    Location: Avenue de Portugal, 21595 Sanlúcar de Guadiana, Huelva, Spain

    Open: Daily from 10.20 am to 6.40 pm

    Phone: +34 670 31 39 33


    Restaurante el Diablo

    Eat food cooked over an active volcano

    Restaurante el Diablo, located in the Timanfaya National Park of Lanzarote, allows diners to enjoy a meal cooked by the active volcano found next door. Not many restaurants can boast this unique cooking method. Eat a volcanic-barbecued chicken with a gorgeous view of the national park in sight. While the décor of the restaurant is modest and somewhat old-school, this only adds to the off-the-beaten-track aspect of the meal. Given its location next a volcano, it can get pretty hot at the restaurant, so bring a fan or a mist spray.

    Location: Montaña del Fuego, Carretera General Yaisa, 35560 Tinajo, Las Palmas, Spain

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +34 928 84 00 57


    The Rio Tinto Mines

    Visit Mars on Earth

    The Rio Tinto Mines are located in the province of Huelva in southern Spain. It is reputed to be the oldest mines in the world. Rio Tinto translates as ‘Red River’ and it certainly lives to its name – intense shades of red, orange and its concoctions merge in and out of each other to make a real-life masterpiece of colour and texture. The mines are considered by many to be the birthplace of the Iron and Copper Age; gold, silver, copper and many other minerals have all been extracted here. Visitors are recommended to take the 22km scenic train through the mines and through the lush flora that lines the Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche Natural Park. Have your camera ready for a journey of impressive colours and contrasts.

    Location: Minas de Río Tinto, Huelva, Spain


    Sobrino de Motín

    Dine at the oldest-running restaurant in the world

    Sobrino de Motín’s history is enough of a reason to visit it in itself, spanning over 300 years of life. The restaurant is made of different lounges according to each floor and walls are decorated with old pictures and paperwork from over the centuries. The menu does appear short and limited, however, the pork and lamb are stars of the show, having been cooked in the same oven from the very beginning. The atmosphere is bustling with busy waiters. This a definite must-see for first-timers in Madrid. Keep in mind that the Spaniards eat late, so if you want the lively atmosphere, come towards 10 to 11pm.

    Location: Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain

    Open: Daily from 1 pm to 4 pm and 8 pm to 12 am

    Phone: +34 913 66 42 17


    photo by Tamorlan (CC BY 3.0) modified

    Sophia Macpherson | Contributing Writer

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