The northern coastline of Spain

Summer in Spain: where to go and what to do

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Spain is an extremely popular summer destination, however, there's a lot to the country that goes beyond resorts and beaches. Here are a few trip ideas for a summer in Spain, including some favourites and a few more offbeat destinations.

Houses in Peratallada, Spain

1. Empordà, Catalonia

The relatively unknown Catalan region of Empordà stretches from the north of Girona, all the way to the French border. It's a lovely, peaceful region and its sweeping countryside is reminiscent of Tuscany.

Worn, narrow roads meander through a green, abundant region, strewn with vines, olives, fields and trees. It's the perfect place for a leisurely drive, dotted with small and charming, medieval villages including La Pera, Monells and Peratallada. If you're after a place to spot to base yourself for a few days, try Madremanya, a lovely village with distinctive stone buildings.

If you like surrealism, be sure to visit the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, then venture further to Púbol, a hamlet where Dalí (a local) built a fairytale castle for his wife.

Food in Empordà is delicious with rich flavours that hint at their medieval roots. Roast goose with pears is a traditional favourite in the region and is well worth trying while you're there.

The Sanxenxo coastline in Galicia, Spain

2. The Galician coast

If you want a beach holiday that will make you feel like a local, head to Rías Baixas, the five estuaries (rias) that cut into the Galician coastline. Galicia is a lot cooler than southern Spain, however the Rías Baixas are sheltered by a strip of islands – Cíes, Ons, Sálvora, Rúa. The Atlantic coast are surprisingly calm and rias have some of the best beaches in the country, although the water can be a bit colder than you first expect.

Be sure to stop at Sanxenxo, the tourist capical of the Rías Baixas. The port is touristy, however the outskirts of town and fisherman's village have a local flavour and the neighbouring town of Portonovo has a charming harbour. Both are popular with Galicians and will get busy.

If you have the time, a day trip or overnight stay to one of the nearby islands will be the highlight of your stay. Visitor numbers on most are now regulated so apply for a permit in advance. Ferries usually leave from Vigo, Cangas or Baiona, and the Playa del Rodas on the Cies islands has been described as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Frigiliana, a white Andalusia Village with view of the Costa del Sol Spain

3. Malaga and the Costa del Sol

Malaga is one of Spain's well-worn summer haunts, a Mediterranean oasis with beautiful beaches and sprawling terraces serving tapas and sangria. But in order to really take advantage of Malaga in summer, you have to know how to go off the beaten path. There's much more to Malaga than its coastline, and it's worth heading inland to get a better sense of the region's culture and history.

The city of Malaga is 2,800 years old, with more weathered, historical buildings than shiny resorts. It can be busy in summer, but the atmosphere is lively and exuberant, especially when festivals consume the city, particularly the Feria del Malaga in August.

From Malaga, it’s easy to explore some of the coast. Frigiliana is one of the prettiest villages in Span and is only a 45-minute drive from Málaga, making it an easy day trip from the city. Another great option is Nerja which stunning, although quite touristy in summer. Arrive early to grab a spot on one of the beach coves and consider visiting Nerja’s famous cave while you’re there.

From Malaga you can also head inland to experience more of the culture and history of Southern Spain. Archidona isn’t far away and makes a lovely base for a few days – just pick a hotel with a pool. It’s also an easy drive to Grenada for a day trip to see the famous Alhambra palace complex. Another great option is Ronda, also in the Malaga province. Built on a deep gorge, this town has remarkable architecture and a dramatic history. There are also some good walking trails in the nearby national park.

An old city street in Jerez, Spain

4. Jerez de la Frontera

Escape sweltering Seville and head to Jerez in summer for cool sea breezes and nearby beaches. Jerez may sit inland, but light winds from the Atlantic ocean make it a cooler destination than Seville. Plus, you can get to nearby beaches in the blink of an eye!

Firstly, Valdelagrana in El Puerto de Santa María or Cádiz city beaches are both easily reached by car or commuter train in under thirty minutes. Next, if you’d rather get off the beaten path, try the sandy shores of Conil de la Frontera or Los Caños de Meca. Finally, if you’d like a little history to go with your suntan, visit the Roman Ruins at Baelo Claudia.

Jerez also has a flamenco tradition all its own, a dancing and singing style known as bulería. In summer, the city abounds with opportunities to enjoy fierce flamenco performaces alongside locals.

On Friday nights in July and August take in a live show at the Moorish fortress, known as the Alcázar de Jerez. There’s also the International Bulería Music Festival, where singers, dancers and guitar players will pay tribute to this special style of flamenco.

The northern coastline of Spain

5. Basque Country

Euskadi – aka the Basque Country – is a peaceful and lovely part of Spain to visit in summer, with some 45 beaches along 160 kilometres of coastline. The jewel in the crown here is right in the city of San Sebastián (aka Donostia). Filled with beachgoers all summer long, the Playa de la Concha on the Bay of La Concha has shallow, calm waters; and is protected by headlands on either side as well as lined by an elegant boardwalk.

By contrast, if you’re looking for something a bit wilder in terms of both surroundings and waves, head a half hour west of San Sebastián to Zumaia, where the special charm of the Blue-Flag Playa de Itzurun is the enormous escarpments flanking it and especially the series of distinctive ridges that emerge from the water. (Another fun fact: this beach was used in season seven of Game of Thrones to film the scene in which Daenerys Targaryen returns to her ancestral castle Dragonstone.)

Another of Euskadi’s loveliest strands, just 20 minutes east of Itzurun, the Playa de Zarautz, is also the longest of them all, with a generous stretch of tawny sand. The active warm-weather scene here includes bathing, sunning, and surfing (annual competitions are held here), as well as a range of watersports, and a beachfront promenade with plenty of restaurants and bars.

Parrizal de Beceite, Teruel. Aragón. España

6. Matarraña, Aragon

Arriving in Matarraña feels like stumbling on a piece of genuine wilderness. Valleys lined with olive groves and pines give way to high limestone peaks. The area, an hour’s drive from the coast and three from Barcelona, is watered by the fast-flowing Matarraña river, which offers kayaking, swimming and a spectacular (but easy) hike along the Parrizal gorge, with its teetering cliffs and turquoise river-pools.

With little traffic, getting around by car is a pleasure. Memorable drives include the single-track road out of La Portellada towards the village of Ráfales. Wildlife abounds in this sparsely inhabited region. Look out for rare ibex goats, and don’t miss the daily vulture feeding frenzy at bird observatory Mas de Bunyol.

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Roxanne de Bruyn

Author - Roxanne de Bruyn

Roxanne is the founder and contributing editor of Faraway Worlds. She travels as often as she can, usually with her husband and young son. With a background in communications, she is interested in ancient history, slow travel and sustainable tourism, and loves cooking, yoga and dance.

Last Updated November 17, 2021

Frigiliana, a white Andalusia Village with view of the Costa del Sol Spain

Spain

On the southern tip of Europe, Spain is renowned for its beautiful beaches, vibrant cities and fascinating history.
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