FROM white washed pueblos clinging to rocky crags in Andalucia to golden stone-built villages nestling in verdant hidden valleys in Asturias, the mountain settlements of Spain are amongst the most beautiful the country has to offer.
They offer a tantalising glimpse of old Spain, many unspoiled by the ravages of uncontrolled development that has blighted parts of the Spanish costas.
Spring is a wonderful time of year to explore these spectacular towns and villages as temperatures start to rise but before the full blast of the summer heat.
Not only are each of the pueblos we throw the spotlight on well worth a trip in their own right, but also their spectacular settings are perfect for mountain hikes for the more active amongst us.
The most outstanding feature of this village is its Romanesque-style architecture. Two of its churches, San Clemente and Santa Maria, have been declared World Heritage Sites and attract thousands of tourists every year. The apse of San Clemente de Tahull is one of the main jewels of the Bohi valley, a place with the highest concentration of Romanesque art in Europe.
The city that saw the birth of Pope Luna ( Benedict XIII) in 1328 – considered an antipope by the Catholic Church – is brimming with art in every corner. It is dominated by its most famous monument: the castle-palace of Pope Luna. This enormous building, which was begun in the 14th century, is a renaissance palace of Italian influence with its interior a masterpiece of Baroque-Mudejar plasterwork. The village is an excellent destination as it has beautiful natural surroundings for hiking, both along the banks of the river Aranda and around the Sierra de la Virgen, a beautiful mountain range that forms part of the iberian system.
It may not be well-known amongst foreign tourists but Candelario is justly famous among Spaniards. Perched at an altitude of 1,100 metres above sea level its sandstone buildings are characteristic of the region, with wide stone walls, large wooden balconies and the famous batipuertas – an extra half door that protects the house. The town was named after the Sierra de Candelario, a protected natural area located around the municipality. It was declared a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco in 2006
This small Extremaduran hamlet is surrounded by towering mountains, with agricultural terraces many hundreds of years old. It attracts hikers for long walks through the spectacular scenery. One of the most famous routes is the path of Maja Robledo, which is a perfect walk to discover the stunning vistas of the landscape and views of the village itself.
This is a mountain village with a difference – it actually lies on the coast! Traditionally it was – and remains – one of the most important fishing ports on the Cantabrian Sea, but despite its nearly sea-level altitude, we think it qualifies as a mountain pueblo. The houses cascade down steep slopes giving a real mountain feel to the municipality, with the Asturian architecture reinforcing the mountain vibe. The result is a landscape with great sea views in one direction, while the Asturian mountains provide a scenic backdrop.
The Alpujarra region of Granada’s Sierra Nevada is host to many charming white villages. Perhaps the most famous is the grand spa town of Lanjaron. World renowned for the healthy properties of its waters, this town is located at an altitude of 659 metres and visitors can enjoy its thermal baths and gastronomy as well as soak in the ‘genteel’ atmosphere.
Founded in the 9th century, Alquezar is considered one of Huesca’s most beautiful towns. It is located on the right bank of the Vero river and part of its municipal area is occupied by the Sierra y Cañones de Guara natural park. It owes its name to the castle built to defend the access to the Barbitania – a district of al-Andalus that extended over the northwest area of the current province of Huesca – al-qasr.
The Andalucian town made famous by the works of Ernest Hemingway is justly internationally renowned for its spectacular beauty that dominates the Sierra de Ronda. It is divided by the Tajo gorge into two distinct parts: the ‘new’ town – dating from the 15th century – and the old part, of Muslim origin. Both are connected by the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), which was completed in 1793. Ancient palaces and renaissance architecture, as well as remnants from the Islamic period are round every corner of this maze of picturesque streets and alleys.
In the heart of the Salazar valley, in the Pyrenees, this small village has the Arduña river flowing through it. Its historic stone bridge is emblematic and its streets filled with mediaeval palaces and coat-of-arms emblazoned facades. The architecture is typical of the Spanish Pyrenees, although it is not far to the French border.
Buitrago de Lozoya, Madrid
Located in the Sierra de Guadarrama – an hour’s drive from Madrid – this village has several points of interest that gave it the status of historic-artistic site and cultural interest in 1993. From the ancient walls to the Mendoza castle and from the clock tower to the church of Santa Maria del Castillo there are many enchanting and striking nooks and crannies to explore.