A Guide to the Regions of Spain

Penyal d'Ifac
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About 75 percent of the size of Texas, Spain features 17 autonomous regions that are further divided into 50 provinces. Given its size, it's no surprise that visitors will find a diversity of landscapes and cultures here: Moorish cities to the south housing world-famous architecture, Pyrenees mountains in the Northeast boasting incredible skiing, and islands promising year-round sunshine off the coast. Before you begin planning your trip to Spain, though, you may want to familiarize yourself with each of the country's different regions—you may just discover a new city to add to your itinerary.


Located in the south of Spain, Andalusia covers the entire coastline, including the areas of Costa del Sol, Costa de Almería, and Costa Tropical. The provinces in Andalusia are Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Malaga, Sevilla, Huelva, Jaén, Almeria. The main attractions in this region are the Moorish cities of Seville, the birthplace of flamenco; Granada, home to the famous Alhambra palace and fortress; and Córdoba, which has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other city in the world.


The northern Aragon region is near the French border and is home to the Aragonese Pyrenees mountains, where you'll find a number of ski resorts, including Aramón Cerler and Aramón Formigal-Panticosa. The provinces of Aragorn are Zaragoza, Huesca, and Teruel.


Comprising just a single province of the same name, the region of Asturias is famous for its more than 200 miles of lush green coastline, known as the Costa Verde. The capital city of the region is Oviedo, which is known for its pre-Romanesque churches and sidra (cider).

Cala Santanyi Mallorca Spain coastline
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Balearic Islands

Another single-province region, the Balearic Islands comprises Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. The islands are famous for their nightlife and glamour—but outside the party hubs, it's a different story, with traditional villages that offer a slow, leisurely pace of life. If you love to hike, consider exploring Menorca's S'Albufera des Grau National Park, the island's largest wetland area, or trekking the 115-mile-long Cami de Cavalls. Or, escape the crowds and head to Formentera, the least-visited of the Balearic Islands, and stretch your legs on Ses Illetes beach.

Pais Vasco (Basque Country)

This autonomous community has a culture all of its own, including a unique language: Basque. The northern region has three provinces: Vizcaya, Álava, and Guipúzcua. The major city in the area is Bilbao, an architecture and design hub famous for its outpost of the Guggenheim Museum. Foodies should plan a trip to San Sebastian; filled with pinxtos bars and Michelin-star restaurants, it's often considered one of the top food cities in the world.

Canary Islands

Located off the northwest coast of Africa, the Canary Islands archipelago attracts over 12 million visitors annually thanks to its year-round sunshine. It comprises the provinces of Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Top tourist destinations include Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, and Tenerife, the latter of which claims the highest point in Spain: Mount Teide, a 12,198-foot active volcano.


The small northern region of Cantabria, which is its own province, is located on the Bay of Biscay. It's famous for its prehistoric caves and sites, including the famous Altamira cave (a UNESCO World Heritage Site that's been referred to as the "Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic Art") and El Castillo cave.

Consuegra windmills at sunset. Castilla La Mancha, Spain
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Castilla-La Mancha

Castilla-La Mancha is an arid and sparsely populated land whose windmills were featured in Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote." It lies between Madrid and Andalucia. The ancient city of Toledo is the region's most popular tourist destination (its 13th-century cathedral is a premier example of Spain's Gothic architecture), and there are fine cheeses to discover throughout Castilla-La Mancha as well (this is where Manchego is produced, after all). Its provinces are Guadalajara, Toledo, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, and Albacete.

Castilla y Leon

Castilla y Leon is the largest of Spain’s autonomous communities. It borders 10 other Spanish regions as well as Portugal. The university city of Salamanca and the Roman city of Segovia and two of the region's tourist highlights, with the latter boasting a circa A.D. 50 Roman aqueduct that is thought to have been one of the empire's largest. The provinces here are Léon, Palencia, Burgos, Zamora, Valladolid, Segovia, Soria, Salamanca, and Avila.

Aerial view of Barcelona skyline with Sagrat Cor temple, Catalonia, Spain
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Catalonia in the northeast of Spain is home to the popular cities of Tarragona, Girona, and Barcelona, with Catalonia's capital drawing around 20 million visitors a year due to its excellent beaches and Catalan modernism architecture. The region also has the Costa Brava, which offers many breathtaking views. Catalonia's provinces are Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona.


Extremadura is an underrated gem of Spain. The Roman city of Merida is one of the region’s highlights along with the Moorish city of Caceres. A number of travelers visit on their way to Portugal, which shares a border with the region. There are two provinces here: Caceres and Badajoz.


Santiago de Compostela is the highlight of the region for most visitors, but this Celtic region of Spain is known for great seafood and wild and untamed landscapes from mountains to beaches. Its provinces are A Coruña, Pontevedra, Lugo, and Orense.

Architecture in Madrid
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The name Madrid applies to not only the capital of Spain, but also one of the nation’s autonomous regions that houses it. Within Madrid, there are world-class museums (including the Prado and Reina Sofía), the mid-17th-century Retiro park, and an incredible tapas scene. Outside the city, you'll find the beautiful countryside and the scenic Guadarrama mountains. It's a single-province region.


The southwestern region of Murcia, which is its own province, is famous for its 155-mile-long Costa Calida coast. Here, you can visit one of the Iberian Peninsula's largest Roman amphitheaters, check out Europe's largest saltwater lagoon, or simply post up on the beach. Inland, the Parque Natural de Sierra Espuña offers the active crowd lots of trekking experiences.


In the northern region of Navarre, the city of Pamplona is the most well-known destination. But you can also head to the Navarran Pyrenees for trekking and wildlife experiences. The region, which comprises just one province of the same name, is also famous for its wine.

Viñedo y pueblo de Briñas en la comarca de Haro - Vineyard and village of Briñas in the district of Haro
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La Rioja

You're probably familiar with the region of La Rioja because of its wines—there are more than 500 wineries in the small single-province area, with Bodegas Muga and Bodegas Marques de Riscal being some of the more popular places to imbibe. But there's more to La Rioja than wine. Some of the top things to do in the region include exploring the Sierra de Cebollera Nature Reserve and visiting the Suso and Yuso monasteries in San Millán de la Cogolla.


While some travelers visit Valencia, Spain's third-largest city, most visitors to the region head to the popular holiday resorts of the Costa Blanca to the south (a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, Denia is especially popular). The provinces are Valencia, Castellon, and Alicante.