Discover some of the key destinations in the North of Spain in this itinerary starting from the capital, Madrid. Head to Basque country to visit the gastronomic gems of San Sebastian and Bilbao with a stop in Burgos. Continue to explore the rugged coastline of this part of Spain as you drive past beautiful fishing villages and evergreen meadows including the beautiful port city of Santander. Visit the mountains and lakes and stunning scenery of the Picos de Europa National Park before heading back to Madrid via León and a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Segovia.
Arrive at Madrid Barajas airport. Overnight in Madrid.
Leave the city lights and drive to the picture book city Burgos (242 kms/2 hrs 40 mins). You can enjoy lunch here and admire the beautiful limestone buildings that give the city its unique character such as the Burgos Cathedral.
Continue to Basque country onto to the city of San Sebastian (214 kms/2 hrs 15 mins). Overnight in San Sebastian.
Also known as Donostia, this city is a gastronomic gem with the highest concentration of Michelin Stars in the world: 17 to date, and it is a unique experience to dine in one of these restaurants. Visit the Old Town (Parte Vieja), sample Pintxos(tapas) in Casco Viejo (Downtown), stroll around La Concha Beach, one of the most beautiful bays in the world or take the funicular to Monte Igueldo for fantastic views of the city.
If there is time, drive 23 kms (30 mins) near the French border to the lovely town of Hondarribia, known for its seafaring tradition and a must visit. Overnight in San Sebastian.
Drive along the dramatic coastline of the Basque Country to Bilbao, also famous for multiple Michelin star restaurants and the Guggenheim Musuem. Visit the Ribera market, one of Europe´s largest indoor food market, sample the pintxos in the Old Town and admire its unique architecture found all over the city.
Enroute to Bilbao, you can also choose to stop by at the colourful coastal village of Bermeo, the surfer’s paradise of Mundaca, the lovely islet of San Juan de Gaztelugaxte or the charming town of Lekeitio. (San Sebastian – Lekeitio – Bermeo – San Sebastian: 152 kms/ 2 hrs 40 mins) & (San Sebastian – Bilbao: 102 kms /1hr 10 mins).
Continue to the capital of the Cantabrian Region, Santander, known for its amazing beaches, incredible food and surrounding mountains (100 kms/ 1 hr 10 mins). Overnight in Santander.
Spend the morning relaxing on the beaches of Mataleñas, Los Molinucos, Sardinero or Magdalena or admire the magnificent royal Magdalena Palace and explore the surrounding peninsula.
Post lunch, head to the medieval town of Santillana del Mar (30 kms/30 mins) or the UNESCO World Heritage Altamira Caves (36 kms/32 mins) just outside the town or further ahead to the coastal village of Comillas, known for Gaudi´s iconic ‘El Capricho’ building. (54 kms/45 mins). Overnight in Santander.
Continue to drive along the Cantabrian coastline to the Asturian coastal resort of LLanes (91 kms/1 hr). Take a walk along the San Pedro walk leading from Sablon beach for lovely views, visit the sculpted rocky cliffs and unique geological formations called ‘jesters’ of Cuevas del Mar beach and photograph the interesting ‘Cubes of Memory’ breakwater stones along the harbour.
Continue to the the mountain town of Potes OR Cangas de Onis to use as a base to visit the breathtaking Picos de Europa National Park, depending on which part of the park needs to be explored.
OPTION 1: LLanes - Potes
From Llanes, head to the small town of Potes in the heart of Picos de Europa (65-85 kms/1 – 1.5 hrs depending on the route). Overnight in Potes.
OPTION 2: Llanes – Cangas de Onis
From LLanes, head to the town of Cangas de Onis, located at the edge of the mountains, stopping enroute at the colorful town of Ribadesella (LLanes – Ribadesella – Cangas de Onis: 55 kms/1 hr). Overnight in Cangas de Onis.
Overnight in Potes OR Cangas de Onis.
OPTION 1: From Potes: Explore Picos de Europa national park characterised by high massifs, deep ravines, lush mountain meadows and vast glassy lakes. You can enjoy hiking, trekking, biking or any of its walking trails. You can also also visit Fuente Dé (23 kms/24 mins) and take the cable car, one of the longest single-span aerial lift in Europe, up into the heart of Picos de Europa.
Overnight in Potes.
OPTION 2: From Cangas de Onis: Explore Picos de Europa national park characterised by high massifs, deep ravines, lush mountain meadows and vast glassy lakes. You can enjoy hiking, trekking, biking or any of its walking trails. Visit Covadanga from where you can enjoy magnificent views from the mountain lakes of Enol and Ercina.
Overnight in Cangas de Onis.
OPTION 1: From Potes: Today, head to the historic city of León (155 kms/2.5-4 hrs). You can head straight to the city or take the scenic route via Riaño.
OPTION 2: From Cangas de Onis: Today, head to the historic city of León via Riaño(160 kms/3 hrs). You can head straight to the city or take the scenic route.
Overnight in Leon.
Depart back to the capital city of Madrid (337 kms/3.5 hrs), with a stop in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Segovia. Explore this medieval city including a visit to the Roman Aqueduct and the Alcazar, stroll along its medieval streets and shop for local souvenirs.
You may wish to extend your stay in Madrid and spend more time visiting this iconic city or depart to Madrid Barajas airport for your flight back home.