While some visitors traveling to Spain prefer to spend their time at popular destinations such as Madrid, Costa del Sol, Barcelona, and Seville, the northern coast of Spain is a hidden jewel that has much to offer if you are searching for a unique travel experience. Don’t believe me? Just check out these photos. Miles of rolling green hills, jagged mountaintops, and quaint coastal villages await you up north.
Whether by bus or automobile, start on any one of these 5 Northern Spain road trips and you’ll notice right away that the climate, elevations, vegetation, and general topography are extremely different from the sun-baked plains of Spain and make for some spectacular site seeing.
Equipped with a trustworthy road map, your best camera, and a full tank of petrol (or a bus ticket), you’ll be prepared to explore roads less traveled, where tourists rarely trod. These are five of the most breathtaking and unique road trips you shouldn’t pass up when visiting the northern region of Spain.
San Sebastián to Pamplona
Take the Autovia de Leitzaran or A-15, the main freeway between the two cities. It’s a two-hour drive but is worth every minute. If you are driving from San Sebastián toward Pamplona, you’ll have the opportunity to pull over and view one of the most breathtaking scenes in the entire Basque Country. This is a small pullout where you can stop and overlook a Basque village called Berastegi. Be sure to stop here and snap a photo or two because this is a view you’ll want to show friends back home. If traveling north from Pamplona to San Sebastián, you won’t have an opportunity to pull over as the overlook is only for southbound traffic.
Santander to Gijón or Gijón to La Coruña
Weaving their way along the coast of the Cantabrian Sea are two breathtaking and unforgettable routes. If you only have time for one, take your pick; just make sure you’re on the A-8, Autovia del Cantábrico. What’s important is that you occasionally stop your car to take in some of the small coastal towns, which are opportunities to enjoy the ocean scenery, people, cuisine, and lifestyle. Surprisingly, this stretch of highway has remained hidden from most tourist catalogs and will surely have you convinced that you’ve uncovered a lost civilization.
Bilbao to Guernica (Basque Country Road Trip)
Perhaps the heart of coastal Basque Country, this route will take you on a smaller road that weaves in and out of many small Basque villages. Be sure to take the BI-631 from Bilbao as it will lead you gradually along the Bay of Biscay to visit some lovely coastal villages, such as Bermeo and Mundaka, both famous for their world-class surfing. Your destination is Guernica, a town with historical significance, so do some reading up on your mobile device when you arrive.
León to Avilés
From Castilla y León through Asturias is a route that is not to be missed. Take the A-66 (the actual name of this highway changes, so make sure you follow A-66) high into the Cantabrian Mountains where you’ll get to witness the amazing skill of farmers who grow crops on the sides of virtual cliffs. If you are traveling north along this route, be sure to stop once or twice upon crossing into Asturias to enjoy the breathtaking views and overlooks. As you near the coast you’ll pass through Oviedo and then on to Avilés, a small industrial town with a really great beach called Salinas. Also, Asturias is the Cider capital of Spain, and I’m not talking apple juice. Just ask for la cidra.
Vitoria to Logroño (La Rioja wine country)
From Vitoria take the N-I toward Miranda de Ebro. Before you arrive at Miranda de Ebro, take the N-124 south toward Logroño. Then you’ll have a choice of traveling on the N-232a or taking N-232 to Logroño. Both routes wind you through the heart of the Spanish wine country and eventually lead to Logroño. Some of these roads are small and extremely curvy so you may want to avoid this route altogether or take the larger A-124 freeway—which is less scenic—if you have a tendency to get sick from this type of drive.
Spain is a beautiful country with much to offer. If you feel like getting off the beaten path and away from crowded tourist destinations, don’t be afraid to venture up north where the land is green, the food is from the sea, and the road is wide in front of you!
This article was written by eSpanishTeacher http://www.eSpanishTeacher.com, whose passion is helping people learn Spanish quickly and effectively.
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3 Responses to “5 Northern Spain Road Trips You Don’t Want to Miss”
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Tags: article, basque country, bilbao, pamplona, road trip, san sebastian, spain
November 28th, 2018 at 3:01 am
My self and my wife plan to self drive in Spain next yaer. Which are the best time of the year as well as the route to drive and halts to make during the drive .The number of days required to stay in these places . We prefer to stay in 2 bedroom with 2 bathrooms apt/villa,preferably in small villages.It doesn’tmatter if we are accomadated away from city/town centers.We would like to start from Madrid or any other place other than Barcelona or Ibiza,since we have already visited them.We are used to right hand driven vehicles. I have once driven in Austria, from Vienna to Salsburg via Hallstatt, is it similar conditions. I heard drivers are a little reckless in Spain. Your suggestions would be appreciated. Our plans for this holiday is for 15 days. We are open to combine it with other border countries of Spain too.
November 28th, 2018 at 3:18 pm
I did not find drivers to be reckless in Spain. I found driving there to be unremarkable… in a good way. Much of Spain is quite hot in the Summer so I generally recommend the shoulder season, although some of the Northern Coast is not as hot and would be lovely in June and July. I generally still recommend avoiding August in Europe when everyone goes on vacation. How long you stay in a each place is a personal decision. We like a two night minimum.
May 1st, 2023 at 6:12 pm
Hi there, I am planning to drive from Santander to A Coruna this coming fall (or A Coruna to Santander). Does it matter whether I drive east to west or west to east? Which direction is easier to make stops for photos, etc.? Thank you.