By: Helen Schenck
Most of those teaching English in Europe want to country hop during their vacation time, but they forget to fully explore the country in which they are actually teaching! As an English teacher in Spain, you're living in a region that is not only manageable, but also very affordable to navigate & travel from top to bottom and left to right. Most teachers will visit Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, but that is just scratching the surface of Spain.
During some your long weekends (they do love their holidays in Spain!), be sure to check out some of these hidden gems:
This port city nestled up in northern Spain is a true nautical gem. It is near the more well-known city of Bilbao, and offers all of the charm and less of the touristy vibe as its neighboring town! A must see for any beach bum, Santander offers some sick waves for surfers of all levels! Head to the breath-taking beach called Playa Primera de El Sardinero where a new surfer can take lessons or a pro can rent a board for 10 euros for the day.
After a day of shooting the curl, be sure to grub on some of the year-round fresh seafood fare that is synonymous with the region. Some local favorites are: salmon with Santander style rice (Arroz Santanderino), amayuelas (clams), and fried calamari, called rabas!
On the exact opposite of Spain lies the modern beach town of Huelva. It is located on vast southern coast that stretches to the National Park of Doñana (known for its rivers, dunes, marshes, and wildlife), which has been declared a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Use some of your holiday time around the summer to experience the El Rocio Pilgrimage in Huelva.
This is a festival celebrating their patron Virgen del Rocio (Virgin of the Dew) that brings yearly over a million people to the town of under 150,000 citizens! But anytime of the year is good to visit as it is an affordable beach paradise with warm weather year round!
If you need an escape from the bustle of city life of Barcelona or Madrid, consider a retreat to the town of Azpeitia, hidden in the Basque country. The town itself is made up of fewer than 15,000 citizens, but there is a specific one that attracts tourists from all over the world: Ignatius of Loyola!
Saint Ignatius founded the Jesuits, and the town celebrates him through the stunning Sanctuary of Loyola. Tourists and pilgrims alike can visit (and even stay) in the sanctuary where views from the monastery windows offer infinite backgrounds of sprawling greens hills and mountains sprinkled with sheep and their shepherds! Don’t be surprised if you (and other visiting Spaniards) don’t understand the inhabitants of this storybook town when they speak...that’s because Euskara is spoken there! Don’t recognize this language? Don’t fret! To ask someone to slow down when speaking, you just have to say “Astiro-astiro hitz egin mesedez.”
After just a 2 and a half hour train ride from Madrid, you will find yourself in the whitewashed town of Alicante. Don’t forget to bring your hiking shoes just to get around town as it is nestled in the hills along the Mediterranean sea. Be sure to put in the hour need to hike up to the Santa Bárbara Castle.
There you will sit atop a castle that faces hundreds of kilometers of sea and seaside homes fit for a king. Alicante also boasts cheap public transportation to pristine beaches just 15 minutes outside the city. No need to bring a lunch to the beach: after soaking up rays for a couple hours hop into a beachside restaurant where you will find world famous mediterranean paella….but cheaper than in nearby Valencia with fewer tourists too!
This town, an easy bus ride from both Madrid and Barcelona, can be an easy add on to any trip up north! This is a charming town found along the Camino de Santiago. In Burgos, you will bump into pilgrims from all over the world making their way across Spain and France on their journey to Santiago de Compostela.
Start your day at Burgos' Cathedral to revel in the beauty of this Gothic Cathedral whose construction took over two centuries to construct (from the 13th through the 15th century)! Then, stroll around the cobbled streets and rivers running through the town. If you have an extra day in the region, be sure to wind (and wine down!) at some of Spain’s most renowned Bodegas (wineries), such as La Bodega Tobia, less than an hour from Burgos!
Because most teachers live in the biggest cities in Spain, they can sometimes miss out experience the true essence of Spain, which can only be experience from some of these hidden gems! So pack your bags, rent a car (make sure you can drive stick!), book a flexible bus ticket, or an insanely affordable train ticket, and in around two hours, you will find yourself in one of these hidden gems!
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- Spain Country Profile Page
- Top Tip for Getting a Job Teaching English in Spain
- What Type of Visa Can I Use to Teach English in Spain?
About the Author: Helen Schenck
A western girl at heart, Helen grew up in Texas and New Mexico, and gained her love of travel on her first trip abroad to India. From there she knew she wanted to travel and see as many cultures as she could. Helen had the amazing opportunity of living and teaching in Madrid for a year.