Home Must See The best of northern Spain: readers travel tips

The best of northern Spain: readers travel tips


Forget crowded Med beaches: the four coastal regions of Espaa Verde offer cool cities, wild shores and great walking in verdant coast and mountains

Winning tip: Basque Coast Geopark

If youd rather stray far from the tourist trail, the Basque Coast Geopark is a delight. Its a protected area of the coastline around Mutriku, Deba, and Zumaia. There are 13km of cliffs made up of flysch (shale bed) deposits which have created layered and bizarre rock formations. We felt as though we were on the set of Jurassic Park. These staggering cliffs show how the Earth changed over millions of years and fossils are plentiful for the kids to admire. A boat tour is a great way to see it and costs 20 adult, 10 under-12s.
Lisa Anderson


Camino Ingls

Photograph: Nick Haslam/Alamy

The Camino Ingls (the English Way) is the shortest of the routes to Santiago de Compostela, and fits neatly into one week. Starting in Ferrol and passing through the historic towns of Pontedeume and Betanzos, it also takes you along beautiful fjord-like ras and through magical forests, and tiny forgotten villages.

Unexpectedly beautiful Vigo

Photograph: Xulio Villarino/Getty Images

Vigo wont be top of many peoples lists when thinking of Spain but one of the largest cities in Galicia is well worth a visit, with cheap flights from the UK. What Vigo may lack in Mediterranean warmth it makes up for in Atlantic charm. The Casco Vello (old town) has some glorious fish restaurants along with pintxos and tapas galore. This bit of the Atlantic produces some of the finest seafood in Spain.
Sean Livesey

Exploring the woods: Illa Cortegada

Photograph: Alamy

In Galicia, there is an island whose woods smell of bay and seafood: the most mouth-watering combination. The sand banks of the Ra de Arousa produce clams, cockles, razor clams, and other types of shellfish. And the Illa Cortegada provides the bay leaves to flavour these delicious seafood products.
Shaunee Hampshire


Stunning scenery and great food: Cudillero

Photograph: dunc123

Cudillero is a picturesque fishing village accessible from Oviedo on the Feve train. Whether its watching the boats unload their catch in the harbour or exploring the narrow, winding streets, this is a beautiful place to experience everything thats great about Asturias. Local restaurants offer delicious, fresh seafood and there are scenic coastal walks. Pension Alver is a wonderful budget place to stay (doubles from 40 room-only), run by a friendly Anglo-Spanish couple who are full of tips on walks and places to eat.

Small city with a big heart: Avils

Photograph: Alamy

Just 20 minutes from Oviedo airport lies the city of Avils, whose old town is among the most vibrant I have ever visited. Cobbled streets, beautiful architecture and locals who like any excuse for a party. With doubles in the five-star Palacio de Avils hotel on the main square from 95 room-only and complimentary tapas in most bars, this city is heavy on fun while light on the pocket.
Stuart La-Ffin

Embarrassing the children at Torimbia beach

Photograph: Aidan Sheppard

I had been embarrassing the kids with my rather bad Spanish when we went to Torimbia beach near Llanes. Its a beautiful white-sand beach in a perfect semicircle, backed by the most emerald green cliffs I have ever seen. We parked in a field and climbed down the steep path to the beach, passing a little snack bar. As it happens, it is also the largest nudist beach in Asturias and the bashful children were slightly embarrassed for the second time that day!
Aidan Sheppard

Gorge walking: Picos de Europa

Photograph: Sally Robinson

The Cares gorge in the Picos de Europa is one of Northern Spains most spectacular walks. Above a deep ravine winds a 12km path, interspersed with tunnels in the rock and bridges crossing the river. Start at the town of Poncebos early in the morning and follow the path (impossible to get lost) to the hydro-electricity station at Can. There, you can soothe weary legs in the stream before walking back. The stunning views, narrow path (at times precarious) and friendly mountain goats made it the highlight of our trip across northern Spain. Sun cream and plenty of water are essential.
Sally Robinson


A journey into the past: Montana Oriental

Beranga village, gateway to the Montana Orientall. Photograph: Alamy

Serendipity, in the shape of a traffic jam en route from Santander to Bilbao, diverted us into the lushly forested foothills of the Montana Oriental. A few kilometres up vertiginous, winding roads and we had travelled back centuries. Red-bereted shepherds walked their flocks past tumbledown stone watermills and over rushing streams; a griffon vulture circled above the limestone peaks. The Guggenheim could wait. In the village of Beranga we watched a game of petanque, and picnicked on hams and cheeses from a tiny, smoke-blackened shop. Then it was time to return to the main road east and the 21st century.

Take a lead from the locals: Castro Urdiales

Taberna La Cierbanata pintxos bar in Castro Urdiales. Photograph: Tim Graham/Getty Images

Castro Urdiales in eastern Cantabria makes a perfect base. Just 30 minutes from the cultural delights of Bilbao, its a popular weekend getaway for locals and close enough to the Basque Country to boast a great line in pintxos and crisp, chilled txakoli in the narrow streets of the old town. Head for Somos long sandy beach to surf or take the ferry to Santander.
Kate Pickering

Santander: dont just drive away

Centro Botn, Santander. Photograph: Belen de Benito

Santander is often unfairly ignored by travellers who arrive on the car ferry and move on almost immediately. It lacks the chic of San Sebastin and the radical grit of Bilbao, but it does have one of the worlds most beautiful bays, a host of good fish restaurants (visit the Barrio Pesquero for the best of the days catch), a fantastic week-long fiesta at the end of July, a great museum of prehistory, and opened this June – a fantastic art and cultural space overlooking the sea in the Centro Botn. If it rains, and it probably will, you can always head off to see prehistoric cave paintings at Altamira or Puente Viesgo. On fine days, and youll be unlucky not to have several, you have at least six beaches to choose from, or you can take a boat ride across to El Puntal, the pointed spit of sandy beach you pass as the car ferry sails into port. Or take a picnic lunch to the Magdalena peninsula, the hub of Spanish court life in the 1920s, when King Alfonso XIII spent his summers here. Two weeks will barely do it justice.


Tourists dont go home: a Basque welcome

Segura Church of the Assumption, Segura. Photograph: Alamy

The medieval fortified town of Segura is 50km south-west of San Sebastin heading into Basque mountains. The Imaz Hotels friendly staff suggest walks on the Camino, places to eat, local bakeries, goats cheese and cider and the quickest route to Vitoria-Gasteiz, the Basque capital. Walk to St Adrians cave in the Aizkorri-Aratz natural park for eagles and breathtaking views of distant peaks and the gentle ringing of bells from goats grazing in the thick beech forest.

Bilbao Fine Arts

Photograph: Alamy

Bilbao may be famous for the iconic Guggenheim, but families with young kids may find several hours in the museum and a 16 (adult) ticket a bit much. As an alternative I recommend the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum on Museo Plaza: its accessible and free from 6pm-8pm every day, so you can pop in before the restaurants open for dinner.

Museum in the former whaling capital of Europe

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us


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