Northern Spain road trip: Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela via Cantabria and Asturias

A road trip through northern Spain is the best way to see the enthralling greenest parts of the country. A car is a must for a pleasant trip around northern Spain, as it lets you do it in just a few days. Centauro gives you the flexibility of hiring a car at Santiago de Compostela or Bilbao airport so you can start your trip wherever suits you best. Here are our tips for a road trip through northern Spain.

Holiday road trip around northern Spain

A road trip around northern Spain is a one-of-a-kind experience that will see you discover stunning landscapes, fantastic monuments, and delicious food.

Although it might be your starting point, Bilbao is a city you cannot overlook. We recommend you explore the old neighborhoods and visit the famous Guggenheim museum. Close to Bilbao there is a beautiful landscape you should visit: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, made famous by Game of Thrones.

If any city can wield the title of the prettiest in northern Spain then that would be San Sebastian. A walk along the Concha beach there is a must, as this is one of the most delightful city beaches in southern Europe. You can try the famous pincho bar snacks and go on a food tour in San Sebastian. Make sure to explore the old town and get lost among the cobbled streets as you take in the great variety of architecture.

Panoramic view of San Sebastian Donosti

When you leave the Basque Country, you enter into Cantabria, a place of rolling, green hills.

Ideas for a road trip through Cantabria

If you are planning on doing some mountain climbing, head to the Picos de Europa mountain range through the Desfiladero de la Hermida gorge. This road winds through spectacular scenery. Either before or after, you also have the chance to visit cities such as Santander. There you can, for example, pay a visit to the Centro Botín, designed by Renzo Piano. To stretch your legs, we recommend you take a walk along one of the majestic seafront promenades at the Palacio de la Magdalena or towards the Faro de Cabo Mayor lighthouse.

Another must-see in Cantabria is Santillana del Mar, a perfectly preserved medieval masterpiece. The cobbled streets, abundant flower baskets, medieval towers, and Renaissance-era palaces are an opportunity for you to travel back in time. What’s more, just five minutes’ drive from Santillana del Mar are the Cuevas de Altamira caves, a place where you can explore the prehistoric past of humans which is home to cave paintings that date back more than 36,000 years.

Santillana del Mar old town

Places to visit on a road trip in the green paradise of Asturias

Asturias is well-known for its green mountains and its fabulous cuisine, including dishes such as the fabada asturiana bean stew and cachopo steaks. There are several places on your way that cannot be missed. Starting in the capital, Oviedo, you will find a wealth of historical heritage. This is a wonderful place to explore, with an elegant old town, several excellent museums, and quite a lively atmosphere. The Lakes of Covadonga in the Picos de Europa are another of those green places in the heart of the countryside that will take your breath away.

Another place you cannot afford to miss is the coastal city of Gijón. Its incredible location next to the sea, the endless summer leisure options, and the unbeatable nightlife make it a popular destination for travelers who visit Spain every year. A great way to make your trip pass through Gijón is by following what is known as the Dinosaur Coast which will also take you to Candas and the Cabo de Peñas headland on the way to Cudillero. This is widely held to be the prettiest town in Spain. It is nestled among hills and has its own special charm.

Scenery at the Lakes of Covadonga in Asturias

Santiago de Compostela: the pilgrims’ city

The last stop on this tour is the historic city of Santiago de Compostela. The first place you should visit is the famous cathedral. Make sure you go up to the rooftop to take in the spectacular views of the city. Take a stroll through the old town, a maze of winding granite streets and picturesque squares, Romanesque churches, and museums. Try Galician cuisine on your road trip in Santiago de Compostela! Dishes such as pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus), Padrón peppers, lacón ham, and pote gallego soup will have you falling in love with Galicia.

In short, we hope you decide to go on a road trip through the north of Spain. We are sure that wherever you chose to go on your #road trip, you will want to come back again and again. It will definitely make for an unforgettable adventure.

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Hire your car for your road trip through northern Spain