Where To Go In Spain

Including Europe's answer to Hawaii, golden beaches and plenty of tapas

Seville, Madrid and Barcelona are at the top of every list of must-visit places in Spain, the country expected to overtake the U.S. as the second most popular destination in the world in 2018, according to the World Tourism Organization. Though the big guns are magical cities in their own right, it's time to get off the beaten track and explore these five destinations.

Oviedo (Asturias)

If your idea of paradise is mountains, cider and artisanal cheese, look no further. This green northern province is where many Spaniards flock when the heat in the south is unbearable. Oviedo, Asturias's capital, has outstanding examples of unique pre-Romanesque architecture worth visiting. Don't miss the art of pouring and drinking cider the traditional Asturian way on Gascona Street. Nicknamed the Land of Cheese, Asturias produces some of the finest in Europe, such as Gamonéu, Casín, Cabrales and Afuega'l Pitu, all easy to find in Oviedo's gourmet shops on Fierro street.

Tenerife North (Canary Islands)

The Canary Islands are Europe's answer to Hawaii. Tenerife is the archipelago's largest island and home to Mount Teide, the highest peak in Spain. The north is lusciously green with black sand beaches. While exploring, don't miss UNESCO World Heritage site La Laguna and dig into comfort foods like wrinkled potatoes with mojo, traditional stews and goat's meat. Discover Tenerife's renowned low-intervention volcanic wines and the island's five wine appellations at the Casa del Vino in El Sauzal.

Cáceres (Extremadura)

Cáceres's medieval, walled Old Town—UNESCO protected since 1986—includes samples of Roman, Islamic, Northern Gothic and Italian Renaissance architectural styles. Located roughly the same distance from Madrid as Lisbon, Spanish gastronomy can't be understood without two of its most acclaimed food exports, Ibérico de Bellota ham and Pimentón de la Vera (paprika). Visiting the idyllic nearby dehesas, holm oak woodlands where Ibérico pigs roam freely and are part of a high ecological value ecosystem, is a must.

Rías Baixas (Galicia)

Rías Baixas is no secret to Spanish tourists, and it's not hard to see why. Located in Pontevedra (northwest Spain), it combines golden beaches such as La Lanzada and the stunning tropical-esque Rodas beach on the offshore Illas Cíes with the freshest, most delicious seafood in the country. In Rías Baixas, you are never far from the water, and eating clams, sea lampreys, mussels and oysters is mandatory—as is washing everything down with Albariño wine, the main varietal in the area.

Huelva (Andalucía)

Founded more than 3,000 years ago by Phoenician traders, Huelva is one of western Europe's oldest cities. Washed by the Atlantic Ocean, it sits along the Gulf of Cádiz, a privileged spot for sourcing Huelva's renowned white prawns. If Jabugo rings any bells, it's most likely among Ibérico ham connoisseurs. Located in the Sierra de Aracena, the fabled village is the epicenter of the DO Huelva-Jabugo, where some of the best hams in the world are produced. While in Huelva, try popular local tapas like cuttlefish with potatoes or garlic coquina clams and, when in season, local strawberries.

Mónica Goya is a travel and food journalist and photographer based in London. Follow her on Instagram at @monicargoya.