Located to the west of the Costa del Sol, between the border with Portugal and Gibraltar, the Costa de la Luz has managed to some extent so far to escape the oppressive over-development of its neighbours. If its Atlantic coastline offers some beautiful wild beaches, the often strong winds which blow through the area have made it famous for watersports. The sleepy surfer town of Tarifa is renowned for its beaches lined with hundreds of kite-surfers, wind-surfing, land-sailing and more. If you’re looking for an action-packed holiday with plenty of outdoor activity, then the Costa de la Luz is calling.
If white sand beaches, turquoise waters and dramatic coastline dotted with hidden alcoves sounds like your idea of paradise, then head to the Costa Brava. The stretch of shoreline running from just north of Barcelona up to the border with France, the Costa Brava is a popular destination and can be busy in the summer, but is perfect for a later spring or early autumn break. Explore the seaside town of Cadaqués, where Salvador Dalí used to spend his holidays, or rent a boat for the day and explore the tiny coastal village of Sa Tuna and Aiguafreda bay.
The westernmost corner of Spain, perched on top of Portugal, Galicia is a proud Spanish province with a unique culture and stunning countryside. The shoreline abounds with vertiginous cliffs and small fishing villages, while inland you’ll find lush green pastures and rolling hills. Here you can swap your typical whitewashed villa and swimming pool for a rustic farmhouse with a large outdoor fire and its own vegetable garden – those with an appetite will appreciate Galicia’s famous food culture and its reputation for having the finest seafood in Spain.
Somehow Formentera has managed to remain something of a well-kept secret among the Balearic islands. Smaller, less well-known and yet dreamily enchanting, the island is popular with the wealthy and glamorous from Barcelona and Madrid. The only way to access the island is by sea, and in fact travelling by boat is the preferred mode of transport for many once they’re on the island, leisurely cruising from one picture-perfect beach to the next. You’re just 30 minutes away from Ibiza if you felt the need for a big night out, though once you’ve familiarised yourself with the beach bars and restaurants of Formentera, you’ll find you’ve very little reason to leave.
Meaning the ‘Golden Coast’, the Costa Daurada is Catalonia’s lesser-known coastline. Located to the south of Barcelona, it stretches along the shores of the province of Tarragona, a historic city home to some of the country’s oldest ruins. If the coast isn’t always quite as dramatic as that of the Costa Brava, the Costa Daurada is often a little warmer, less busy and more affordable even during the summer months. There are a number of charming Catalan towns dotted around which make for great excursions, and there’s no shortage of entertainment with the PortAventura waterpark nearby.
While the Basque Country‘s more unreliable weather might not be for everyone, if you’re not desperate to spend every day in the sunshine then the epic countryside here should more than make up for a few grey days. The area’s rolling hills and verdant valleys are like something out of Lord of the Rings, only instead of Mordor you have world-famous gastronomic capitals such as San Sebastián on your doorstep. Plus the Atlantic coast means lively waters which offer some of the best surfing in Spain and scenic beaches with crystalline waters.
If the Costa del Sol is now (in)famous for being one of Spain’s most popular summer holiday destinations, inland Andalusia offers all the charm of southern Spain but with less of the madness. Renting a villa near Ronda or Granada means quick access to bars, restaurants and culture, but with the ability to spend the day lounging by the pool – an absolute must-have for anyone considering renting a villa in the area – or visiting fruit farms, artisan markets and historic Mudéjar monuments.