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Why This Iconic Region Of Spain Is Surging In Popularity With Travelers Right Now

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There’s no doubt about it, Spain is one of the hottest destinations in all of Europe – both literally and metaphorically.

The sunny shores of this cultural gem have been attracting travelers in record numbers for the past year, with visitors from the United States growing by 38% year-on-year.

female traveler looking out at blue water and white buildings of the harbor town of cadaques in costa brava spain

Spain is not shy of fantastic destinations, but new data from the Spanish Ministry of Industry and Tourism has shown that by far the most popular region for international visitors is Catalonia

More than 18 million visitors headed to this iconic region, which is home to Barcelona, with second place belonging to the Balearic Islands (14 million visitors), and third to the Canary Islands (13.9 million visitors).

So, why is this relatively small region tucked in the far northeast of Spain bordering the Pyrenees Mountains such a hit with travelers?

Beautiful Barca

There’s something about Barcelona that just gets under your skin, in a good way.

The city is rich in history, brimming with art, and has its own very distinct culture and style that is hard to define. 

view over barcelona from park guell with colorful mosaics in the foreground

You’ll know all about icons such as the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, but there’s a lot more to see in this city.

Take a hike out to the green slopes of Montjuïc to see incredible panoramas of the cityscape below and witness the Olympic Stadium, which is currently the home of the famous Barcelona soccer team while their Camp Nou stadium is being renovated.

Despite all this and Barcelona being Spain’s most visited city, you may want to reconsider visiting in the busiest months.

It was recently highlighted as one of the most overcrowded tourist destinations and can be an unpleasant experience if you get the timing wrong and arrive smack in the middle of the peak summer season.

cable cars ascending the hill at montjuic in barcelona

The Hidden Gem Of Girona

If crowds of tourists are a big turn-off for you, consider making the short 60-mile hop north of Barcelona to the handsome and historic city of Girona.

Featuring architecture from almost every era dating back to 2,000 years ago, you will certainly want your camera with you when exploring this Catalonian charmer. 

view of old buildings on the banks of the river ter in girona spain

Girona has become somewhat of a cult destination in recent years after several parts of its medieval streets were used as settings in the popular television show Game of Thrones.

The city is particularly alluring in the spring when a special festival to celebrate the coming of the season occurs in April, while in May everything bursts into color as public buildings and gardens are adorned with pretty floral displays. 

aerial view of cathedral and medieval buildings in girona spain

A Lot Happening In 2024 And Beyond

For fans of sailing, 2024 will be an excellent year to visit Catalonia, as Barcelona will be hosting the 37th America’s Cup between August and October.

This prestigious sailing event will see competitors battling it out on the turquoise waters around Port Vell and Port Olimpic along the stunning coastline here. 

Even if you’re not a long-time sailing fan, the event will bring a lot of fanfare and interesting side shows to an already fascinating city.

Catalonia was also recently awarded the World Region of Gastronomy for 2025 – an award that celebrates its excellent food scene and will no doubt have plenty of interesting events attached to it when it takes place.

a sailing boat off the shore of port olimpic in barcelona spain

It’s one to mark in your calendar if you are a foodie!

Ideal For Digital Nomads

Spain is already a popular destination for digital nomads since it launched a specific visa for this type of traveler in 2023.

While many head for the island locations, Catalonia is also a perfect place to spend some time as a nomad. 

As well as modern and forward-thinking cities, you can find more affordable places to stay if you search the coastal towns along the Costa Brava or head north towards the stunning Pyrenees. 

small spanish town of puigcerda with pyrenees mountains in the background

The digital nomad visa has a minimum income requirement of roughly $2,700 per month, but it does allow you to work for Spanish companies, provided it makes up no more than 20% of your total income. 

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