Spain is a fantastic place to live in or visit. The big question is, where in Spain do you want to live? With 50 provinces in 17 autonomous regions, there is a perfect place for everyone. These autonomous regions are where the central government has allowed the autonomous communities to self-govern within the limits set forth in the 1978 Spanish Constitution and their autonomous statutes.
Now you need to ask yourself some questions. Do you prefer the coast or the city? Mainland, the Canary Islands, or the Balearic Islands? Touristy, relaxed, or remote? Let’s breakdown these 17 diverse regions and find the perfect place for you.
Provinces Include: Almeria, Cádiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Malaga, and Seville.
When tourists think of Spain, they probably imagine Andalucía. Covering the entire southern portion of the mainland, it has numerous beaches and whitewashed beaches. The most popular autonomous cities are Seville and Marbella. However, the region also includes Costa de Almeira, Costa del Sol, Costa de la Luz, and Costa Tropical. Andalucía is known for its flamenco dancing, world-class golf courses, and countless fiestas.
Provinces include Huesca, Teruel, and Zaragoza.
This landlocked area is lesser-known, and one of the least visited regions of Spain. This north/north-east area is also home to the Aragonese Pyrenees Mountains. The beautiful part of Spain also borders France, is home to seven ski resorts. It’s the perfect place for those who love a quiet area with the mountains and winter snow.
Asturias is a single province region.
The area of Asturias is one of the few single province autonomous regions. The lush, rugged landscape is home to Costa Verde with beautiful sandy beaches. Picos de Europa National Park is loved by outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, climbing, kayakers, and cavers. This lush area has higher annual rainfall than in other regions.
The region’s capital, Oviedo, and Gijón are the two largest cities. Gijón sits on the west side of the Bay of Biscay, and Oviedo is about 12 miles (19 km) south.
Provinces Include: Álava, Guipúzcua, and Vizcaya.
There is a lot to be discovered in this region of Spain. The three provinces that make up Basque Country border France and the Bay of Biscay. This fiercely independent region has its own version of Spanish and its own flag. Within the hilly landscapes, beautiful beaches, and the cities of Bilbao and San Sabastian. San Sabastian is known for several Michelin Star restaurants.
Cantabria is a single province region.
Located on Spain’s north coast, Cantabria has been inhabited for over 15,000 years. Discover the history and cave paintings at Altamira. The port of Santander and the capital city have daily ferries to and from the UK. Thus, making it a high entry point for UK citizens and those wishing to travel to the UK. The city of Santander rests on the Bay of Biscay and is home to the summer residence of the Spanish Royal family.
Here you can spend some time among the several beaches of Costa Cantabria and Costa Verde.
Castilla La Mancha
Provinces include Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara, and Toledo.
If you like vineyards and castles, then you will like this area. The landlocked region of Castilla La Mancha is the second largest region in Spain and is situated next to the capital of Madrid.
The former capital city, Toledo, is home to the 13th-century High Gothic Cathedral. This mountainous region is becoming very popular due to its Renaissance buildings, museums, and churches.
Castilla Y Léon
Provinces include Avila, Burgos, Léon, Palencia, Salamanca, Segovia, Soria, Valladolid, and Zamora.
This landlocked area of Spain is the largest region. Surrounded by mountains and bordering Portugal, it is a little more challenging to get to. Thus, it makes it a little more off the beaten track with fewer tourists than other areas of Spain.
This area offers authentic Spanish culture and a lot of history dating back to the Celtic era. The regional capital city, Salamanca, is famous for its ornate sandstone architecture, and Salamanca University, which was founded in the 1100s.
Provinces include Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona.
This area of Spain is best known for its capital city, Barcelona. It is a tourist hot spot year-round and a melting-pot of international expats. This cosmopolitan city is known for its museums, Roman archaeological sites, art, and architecture. The cobblestone maze of the city center will bring you to countless shops, restaurants, and bars. The mountains of Montjuic and Tipadado will give you unobstructed views of the city and sea.
Works from Antoni Gaudí, Picasso, Fundació Joan Miró, among others, are scattered throughout the city. Countless beaches and beach communities, including Costa Brava and Costa Dorada, offer open space and hidden craggy coves to enjoy the sunshine. Spanish and Catalan are spoken throughout this region. This community has been temporarily stripped of its autonomy.
Provinces include Caceres and Badajoz.
This landlocked region is almost untouched by tourists. Nestled in south-west Spain, it is surrounded by Portugal to the west, Andalucía to the south, Leon and Castile to the east and north.
With lakes, forests, and mountains, this area is ideal for those who don’t want to live by the water. The historic towns, ancient city walls, and National Parks are perfect for history buffs and nature lovers.
Provinces include A Coruña, Lugo, Orense, and Pontevedra.
Galicia rests above Portugal on Spain’s northwest coast. With mountain ranges, lush landscapes, fjord-like areas, and sandy beaches are different than any other region of Spain. It is a popular area for those following the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route.
Discover a variety of shellfish in the fishing port of Cambados. Visit the Tower of Hercules lighthouse. Be sure to sample Galicia’s tantalizing white wine, Albariño.
La Rioja is a single province region.
When wine-lovers hear the word Rioja, they think wine; and rightfully so. La Rioja is another single province region, and its wines are known globally. There are more than 500 wineries here. The Spanish territory is known for its wine tasting, rural tourism, and summer fiestas.
Madrid is a single province region.
The capital city of Spain, Madrid, sits in the middle of the country. Tucked away in the beautiful Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains are several small towns and villages for you to explore. The three most popular places to visit are El Escorial, Alcala de Henares, and Aranjuez. These are the historical residence of the king, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the King’s spring home.
Murcia is a single province region.
Active sun worshipers love this region in the southeast area of Spain. Home to Costa Calida, it contains many walking trails, top golf courses, and numerous cycling trails. If you are a diver, then this is where you want to be. Some say it is the best area in all of Spain for diving.
Navarra is a single province region.
Located in the northern region of Spain, Navarra is unknown to tourists. However, it is a great place. The La Rioja wine region and Basque Country is next to it. Additionally, France is to the north, making trips there very convenient. The hills and mountains throughout the area attract nature lovers, especially walkers, climbers, and cyclists.
The Region’s capital, Pamplona, is famous for its Running of the Bulls festival. It takes place every July. The southern part of this province is home to olive groves and vineyards.
The Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are a single province region.
The Islands are the islands in the Mediterranean Sea, east of Spain’s mainland. They include the island hotspots of Ibiza, Majorca, Menorca, and Formentera. Every one of them is different. They are known for their beaches, parties, Gothic cathedral, and a Moorish royal palace.
The Canary Islands
Provinces include Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Due to its location off the northwest coast of Africa, most people don’t realize the Canary Islands are part of Spain. A total of 13 islands make up “The Canaries.” The most popular volcanic islands are El Hierro, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, La Palma, Lanzarote, and Tenerife. From white sand to black sand, dry to tropical, each island offers something a little different.
Provinces include Alicante, Castellon, and Valencia.
The country’s national dish is Paella, and Valencia is known for the best Paella in the world. Rightfully so. It is the birthplace of it. Along Spain’s Mediterranean coast, in this region, you will find Costa Azahar and Costa Blanca. Both Valencia city and province and Alicante city and province are here waiting to be discovered.
Each of these regions offers something different for you to explore. If you want to know more about a specific place check out our Destinations or read more about Life In Spain.
Sally is a semi-nomadic traveler. She is the owner of Luxurious Lifestyles – an award winning blog and resource for luxury travelers. Additionally, she is also the owner of Jet Setter Pet Sitter - a blog and resource for independent travelers that love pets.