A villager drinking coffee at the only bar in Peleas de Abajo. | Reuters (Susana Vera)

Instead of the traditional sand and sea holidays, foreign tourists are invited to enjoy the charms of the Spanish countryside, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Saturday, launching an ambitious plan to save Spain's dying villages.

A 10 billion euro plan aims to save rural life in a nation where 42% of villages are at risk of depopulation compared to a European Union average of 10%.

"I would especially like to emphasize that (tourists) should enjoy the rich rural tourist attractions that our country has, one of the jewels in the crown," Sanchez told a meeting in Madrid of mayors from rural villages.

Improving digital connectivity for rural holiday companies is part of the plan, which also envisages expanding sustainable tourism.

The government plans to increase internet access in rural areas, improve transport routes, offer grants for young entrepreneurs and small businesses and launch a rural Erasmus educational scheme.

Sanchez said that Spain's 47 million people occupy just 12.7% of the land, compared to 67.8% of the territory populated in France and 59.9% of German territory. Many rural villages have an average density of less than twelve people per square kilometre.

* By contrast with the mainland and in the interior in particular, Mallorca's villages haven't been suffering from depopulation in recent years, while they have benefited from a growth in tourism. This has been especially evident because of the increased availability of holiday homes. Such has been the explosion that there have even been cases where town halls have pointed to concerns about resources.