Spain itself is a natural wonder. The Pyrenees and Picos de Europa are as beautiful as any mountain range on the continent, while the snowcapped Sierra Nevada rises up improbably from the sun-baked plains of Andalucía. The wildly beautiful cliffs of Spain’s Atlantic northwest are offset by the charming coves of the Mediterranean. Here are Spain's top natural wonders.
Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.
Playa de la Concha
Fulfilling almost every idea of how a perfect city beach should be formed, Playa de la Concha (and its westerly extension, Playa de Ondarreta) in San Sebastian is easily among the best city beaches in Europe. Tanned and toned bodies spread across the sand throughout the long summer months, when a fiesta atmosphere prevails. The swimming is almost always safe. At night, the view of the bay's twinkling lights and illuminated monuments is magical.
Picos de Europa
Jutting out in compact form, just back from the rugged and ever-changing coastline of Cantabria and Asturias, the Picos de Europa comprise three dramatic limestone massifs, unique in Spain but geologically similar to the Alps and jammed with inspiring trails.
These peaks and valleys form Spain’s second-largest national park, with some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the country – no small claim considering the presence of the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada. The Picos de Europa deservedly belong in such elite company.
Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido
This is where the Spanish Pyrenees really take your breath away. The national park extends south from a dragon's back of limestone peaks along the French border and includes Monte Perdido (3355m/7398ft), the third-highest summit in the Pyrenees.
The wonderful scenery of plunging canyons, towering cliffs, thick forests, rivers, waterfalls, snow peaks, mountain lakes and high-level glaciers makes this the place to head for if you can manage only one destination in the Spanish Pyrenees.
Chief among the valleys and canyons slicing down from the high ground are the Valle de Ordesa (west), Cañón de Añisclo (south), Valle de Escuaín (southeast) and Valle de Pineta (east). The main access towns are Torla for the Valle de Ordesa; Aínsa for Añisclo and Escuaín; and Bielsa for Pineta.
Cueva de Tito Bustillo
Some of Spain’s finest cave art, including superb horse paintings, probably done around 15,000 to 10,000 BCE, is within this World Heritage–listed cave in East Coast Asturias. Daily visitor numbers are limited, so reservations (online or in person) are essential.
Of the cave's 12 clusters of paintings, only the Panel Principal (Main Panel; mostly deer, horses, goats and bison) can be visited. The one-hour visit (guided, in Spanish) includes some slippery stretches, and children under seven are not admitted.
Acantilados de los Gigantes
These astonishing, dark rock cliffs soar sublimely 600m (1969ft) from the ocean, forging a magnificent natural geological spectacle right on the edge of Los Gigantes. Try to stop by when the sun sets for an added wow factor. The best views of the cliffs are from out at sea (there’s no shortage of companies offering short cruises) and from Playa de los Gigantes. You can clamber up and along to the end of Calle Tabaiba to a natural lookout point for superb views.
La Geoda de Pulpí
In 2019, the world's second-largest geode opened to the public in northeastern Almería's Sierra del Aguilón. Measuring an astounding 8m (26ft) long by 2m (7ft) tall, this rare geological marvel was discovered by Madrid-based mineralogists in the abandoned Mina Rica, where iron, lead and silver were mined until the Spanish Civil War. Guided tours lead visitors 60m (197ft) underground down corridors and metal steps, culminating with a chance to clamber inside the geode and view its dazzling collection of translucent gypsum crystals.
According to one count, the emerald-green northern Spanish region of Asturias boasts more than 600 beaches. While the coolness of the Atlantic may be a drawback for those planning on catching some sun and taking the plunge, the beauty of many of these frequently wild and unspoiled stretches is utterly breathtaking. Even better, the villages of the coast and hinterland are among the prettiest anywhere along the Spanish shoreline, and the food served in this part of the country is famous throughout Spain.
Providing Granada’s dramatic backdrop, the wild snowcapped peaks of the Sierra Nevada range are home to the highest point in mainland Spain (Mulhacén, 3479m/11414ft) and Europe’s most southerly ski resort at Pradollano. The Sierra Nevada extends about 75km (47mi) from west to east, with 15 peaks over 3000m (9843ft). The lower southern reaches, peppered with bucolic white villages, are collectively known as Las Alpujarras.
Some 862 sq km (333 sq mi) are encompassed by the Parque Nacional Sierra Nevada, Spain’s largest national park, designated in 1999. This vast protected area is home to 2100 of Spain’s 7000 plant species, including unique types of crocus, narcissus, thistle, clover and poppy, as well as Andalucía’s largest ibex population (around 15,000). Bordering the national park at lower altitudes is the 864-sq-km Parque Natural Sierra Nevada (334 sq mi).
Cueva de los Verdes
A yawning, mile-long chasm, the Cueva de los Verdes, located in Malpais de la Corona in Northern Lanzarote, is the most spectacular segment of an almost 7km-long lava tube (23ft) left behind by an eruption 5000 years ago. As the lava plowed down towards the sea, the top layers cooled and formed a roof, beneath which the liquid magma continued to slither until the eruption exhausted itself. Guided 50-minute tours, in Spanish and English, run every 30 minutes; you'll wander through two chambers, one below the other.
The ceiling is largely covered with what look like mini-stalactites, but in fact no water penetrates the cave: the odd pointy extrusions are where bubbles of air and lava were thrown up onto the ceiling by gases released while the boiling lava flowed, and, as they hit the ceiling, they hardened in the process of dripping back down.
Piscinas de Punta Mujeres
One of the most magical swimming spots on Lanzarote, this cluster of glittering turquoise natural pools dots the coast in the tranquil whitewashed fishing village of Punta Mujeres, 2km (1.2mi) northeast of Arrieta. A few ladders provide access to the pools, overlooked by sun-soaking spots.
A wonderful tapas bar, La Piscina, overlooks one of the most popular pools.
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