If you are planning to move to Spain or trying to find your next travel destination, this post will help you discover the country’s different regions better. There are a total of 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities.
Even though Spain can be considered a small country, the regions can differ a lot and they all have their own cultural traditions.
I am going to divide the 17 regions and 2 cities into three groups. I am doing so because that’s how the regions are presented in the Teaching Assistant program application form.
Asturias is one of the greenest regions in Spain. It has a few national parks. One of the most famous is Picos de Europa, where you can see some beautiful Spanish wildlife.
The Cantabrian Mountains lay in the south providing some good areas for climbing. To the north, there are some beautiful beaches where people go surfing.
The only drawback I see is that the water is glacier cold. Rainfall is high and the temperature is milder than in most parts of Spain.
Fishing and farming drive the economy so the quality of their product is remarkable. They take pride in their gastronomy. Some of the dishes you should try are cachopo and fabada asturiana.
Asturias is famous for its cider. They have a particular way to pour it from high up.
Ceuta and Melilla
These two cities are located away from the Spanish peninsula. They are in the northern part of Africa. You can access these two cities from southern Spain by ferries.
The Spanish region of Extremadura borders southern Portugal. Although it’s not very touristic, there are some hidden gems in this region.
Extremadura has some great national parks for bird watching. You can see some breath-taking ruins of the Roman Empire in Mérida. Trujillo and Guadalupe are two towns worth-visiting as well.
Regarding gastronomy, Extremadura has one of my favorite Spanish dishes: Migas. If you happen to go to this region of Spain, I would totally recommend trying Migas.
La Rioja is famous for its wines. Some of the best wineries in Spain are located in this autonomous community. Many of them are located in Haro. Go and take a tour if you have the chance.
There are miles and miles of vineyards where the variety Rioja is produced. The wine produced here is exported all over the world.
The region of Navarra is located in northern Spain between the Pyrenees and the river Ebro. San Fermín, the running of the bulls, takes place in this autonomous community.
Navarra’s culture is influenced by the Basque Country, and they speak Spanish and Euskara depending on the area.
One of the most popular dishes in Navarra is pimientos rellenos—red peppers stuffed with cod.
The Basque Country has a large variety of beautiful landscapes. There are some incredible hikes in the Oma forest and wonderful beaches to go surfing or just hang out.
In País Vasco, apart from Spanish, they speak their own language: Euskara.
Some of the best Spanish chefs come from this area. So, it’s not surprising that many tourists and Spaniards go to País Vasco just to enjoy their food. One of the most popular things to eat are pintxos, which are little snacks similar to Spanish tapas.
It’s a region heavily influenced by politics and a sense of independence from Spain. If you want to know more about it, I would recommend reading the bestselling book of Patria.
In my opinion, Bilbao and San Sebastián are two of the prettiest cities in País Vasco. Every year the international film festival of San Sebastian attracts actors and directors from all over the world.
Aragon borders France and encompasses a big part of the Pyrenees. This region had major importance throughout history. The capital Zaragoza stands out for its architecture and its Cathedral.
My favorite part of Aragon is skiing. Some of the best Ski resorts in Spain are located in this autonomous community: Formigal, Cerler, Candanchú.
The typical cuisine relies on lamb and beef.
This region is in northern Spain, next to Asturias. It’s very green with lots of nature. There are 7 national parks as well as sandy beaches and impressive cliffs.
The rainfall in Cantabria is higher than most parts of Spain. The capital is Santander.
Cantabria is also famous for Las Cuevas de Altamira, which is home to the most ancient prehistoric paintings in Spain.
There’s good fish and seafood in Cantabria since one of their main activities is fishing. Like in Asturias, they serve more than a fair amount of food at restaurants.
Castilla la Mancha
This region is home to one of the most read books in history —Don Quijote de la Mancha—.
This autonomous community is famous for its windmills which are a distinctive feature that separates this region from the rest.
Castilla la Mancha has a dry climate, especially in the summer when people go to their pueblos. There are many Casas Rurales, vacation rentals in small towns, that are perfect to spend a relaxing weekend.
The capital is Toledo, a city shaped by three cultures —Muslim, Christian and Jewish— that cohabited this city for hundreds of years. You can still notice these unique influences if you look at the different architecture.
Cuenca is also an astonishing city that’s underrated, even by Spaniards.
This Spanish community is home to the Manchego Cheese, which combines quite well with the red wine produced there as well.
In this region that borders France and the Pyrenees, the official languages are Spanish and Catalan. It has a warm Mediterranean climate, which makes the Catalan coast—Costa Brava— one of the most preferred tourist attractions. Along the Costa Brava, you’ll find amazing beaches with turquoise waters and great holiday resorts appropriate for all ages.
In winter, you can go skiing at Baqueira Beret, which is a four-hour drive from the capital, Barcelona.
Barcelona is one of the most touristic cities in Spain. There are many things that Barcelona has to offer, from its architecture to city life.
The architecture in Barcelona is unique. In the city, you can see some of the most impressive buildings and parks designed by Gaudi. A great example is La Sagrada Familia, a modern cathedral that’s still being built. There are tours inside and it’s totally worth visiting.
Cataluña is home to Cava—a sparkling wine similar to champagne—. One of my favorite foods in this region is pan tumaca, a toast topped with crushed tomato, olive oil and salt.
Galicia borders Portugal and is located in the northwest of Spain. Gallego is the official language along with Spanish.
It has a coastal landscape that reminds me of the fjords in Norway.
Due to the average rainfall and milder temperatures, Galicia is greener than most parts of Spain.
Food-wise, Galicia provides seafood for Spain, so it’s a good place to enjoy some fish and other sea delicacies. I recommend pulpo a la gallega—octopus with paprika. They also produce great white wine called albariño which is sweeter than other white wines.
The capital, Santiago de Compostela, is known worldwide for El Camino de Santiago—a pilgrimage that crosses Spain from the Pyrenees to Santiago’s Cathedral.
Islas Canarias – Canary Islands
Islas Canarias is a group of seven volcanic islands located near Africa. As a result, they are in a different time zone—Spain time minus one hour.
It takes almost 3 hours to get from Madrid to Tenerife.
Islas Canarias has one of the best climates all year round. The warm temperatures and clear skies make them perfect tourist destinations, even in winter.
Tenerife is the largest island. It has some great tourist attractions like Teide’s national park, with the highest peak in Spain, and Carnaval de Tenerife, which is the second most popular carnival celebration worldwide.
The other main island is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. One of its main natural attractions is Maspalomas—a sandy dune-like beach.
Islas Canarias are also good spots for surfing, since it can get pretty windy.
If you go to Islas Canarias, try their delicious papas arrugas and mojo picón—a typical spicy sauce—.
Andalucia is the highest populated region in Spain with a total of 8 provinces. Andalucía is the most touristic autonomous community in Spain. It has very high temperatures, especially in summer.
The Moors lived in this region for hundreds of years. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice the influence of the Arabic culture everywhere.
The inland provinces like Sevilla or Córdoba have some interesting traditions like Semana Santa in Sevilla, or Patios de Córdoba—where they decorate their patios with flowers for two weeks.
This autonomous community has some beautiful pueblos blancos and it’s home to flamenco music and sevillanas.
The coastal provinces have great white-sand beaches, which are some of the best in Spain.
Andalucía has some delicious food that’s worth trying. I love many dishes from this region, including Cádiz’s tortillitas de camarones, tuna, Málaga’s espetos and gazpacho—similar to tomato soup.
If you like beer they have Alhambra, my second favorite beer in Spain.
Castilla y León
Castilla y León is the biggest region in Spain, yet not very touristic. The landscape is dry and they go through cold and long winters.
They produce some good red wines, like Ribera del Duero. While in Spain, you could try it anywhere, just ask for a Ribera del Duero and they’ll know what to pour in your glass.
In this autonomous community you can visit some of the most historic cities and towns in Spain. It’s an area that played a decisive role in what Spain would turn into over the years. Some cities you might want to see are Segovia, with the famous Roman aqueduct, or Salamanca, with the oldest University in Spain.
This group of islands is located on the east coast of Spain, in the Mediterranean Sea.
The most important islands are Ibiza, Formentera, Mallorca and Menorca. Each island has its own personality. For example, when I think of Ibiza, I think of parties and nightlife, whereas Formentera would be more nature-oriented with small coves to explore.
This autonomous community is a touristic hotspot. The weather is nice and sunny and the waters are warmer than in the Atlantic Ocean. There are a lot of tourists from Europe and the UK that make Islas Baleares their vacation homes.
Madrid is the capital of Spain, and it’s a city of extremes, with cold winters and hot summers.
It’s located right in the center of Spain, which makes this region a great headquarters to live in and visit other parts of the country.
The closest beach is about three hours away in the Spanish region of Valencia. Madrid also has easy access to nature by bus, where you can go hiking or take a day trip to another city.
Spain’s biggest airport is within a metro ride, which makes it convenient to travel around Europe.
You can find everything in Madrid, no matter what your interests are: museums with the finest art exhibits, green areas in the city like Retiro park, history and nightlife.
You can watch Real Madrid play a game and visit the stadium Santiago Bernabeu.
Madrid has a strong tapas culture. It’s common to see people hanging out at bars with friends any day of the week. Gastronomy wise, cocido madrileño is one of the most traditional dishes. It’s a stew with chickpeas, meat, potatoes and vegetables.
Spaniards joke about how little there is to do in Murica, and how it’s not a very exciting place. However, there’s always some beauty everywhere, you just have to find it.
This region has its own climate and it’s especially hot in summer. Some of the attractions of this area are the golf courses and the fantastic soft sand beaches.
La Manga del Mar Menor is a unique place where a narrow strip of land separates the Mediterranean Sea from a shallow inland sea creating a salt lagoon. This lagoon is warmer than the Mediterranean Sea and sometimes you can see migration birds like flamingos hanging out there.
This autonomous community is on the East coast of Spain. Its capital Valencia is the 3rd biggest city in the country. There are many little historic old towns to visit in this region.
Retirees from other parts of Europe and the UK love this region and they spend all year round there. Valencia is also one of the favorite vacation spots for people from Madrid. Probably because of its proximity to the capital of Spain and the quality of the beaches.
Valencia is home to paellas, and believe me, don’t tell any local that you had a paella anywhere else in Spain. They are very particular and take pride in their dish. If you happen to go to Valencia you should try horchata.
There are some unique festivals in this autonomous community such as Tomatina—where participants throw tomatoes at each other— and Fallas, as well as some major sports events like Formula One and Moto GP.
I hope you found this post about the different regions in Spain useful. There are so many things to discover in Spain and festivals to experience. If after this article you are thinking about moving to Spain, check 7 reasons why you should live in Spain. I am sure you’ll like it.