From sleepy fishing villages, mountain walks and quiet beaches to world-class vineyards, near-ancient cathedrals and look-at-me contemporary architecture, the charms of northern Spain are wonderfully diverse. Having visited regularly, our Spain specialists will happily share their tips and tailor an itinerary to take in the very best of the region, from self-drives to walking tours of the Camino de Santiago.
And the fiercely proud Basque Country is a microcosm of it all. Introductions are made at its Bilbao showpiece, a city whose industrial past has been shrugged off in a skyline defined by great modernist sweeps. Even the Renaissance buildings of its delightful old town seem to shine with new enthusiasm.
Bilbao, Basque Country
From here, continue along the dramatic coast, past cliff-perched villages to reach San Sebastián’s heady mix of white sands, pintxo bars and Belle Époque grandeur. It’s all a postcard-perfect front to rolling vineyards, stone villages and such pretty medieval towns as Vitoria. The Basque Country even has the most Michelin stars per capita in the world.
In fact, perhaps northern Spain’s only common thread is a shared love of good food. Whether it’s delicately spiced chorizo, peppers stuffed with salted cod or hearty albondigas meatballs, expect every inch of your tapas table to be quickly covered. No more is this true than in Galicia, whose fertile natural world of fishing-village-lined beaches and rolling, vineyard-capped hills produce some of Spain’s finest dining experiences.
It’s the idyllic backdrop to everything from prehistoric settlements to medieval fortifications, best taken in on the Camino de Santiago. This ancient pilgrims’ trail ends at Santiago’s cathedral, its Romanesque spires reaching skywards in grandeur only matched by its gilded interior.
The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia
Navarra & Rioja
There are also the neighbouring delights of Navarra and La Rioja. Moving out of the citadel-bound Navarran capital, Pamplona, and its world-famous ‘Running of the Bulls’, this is your chance to head off the beaten track. Lose yourself in Pyrenean peaks, centuries-old monasteries, castle town mazes and, yes, a seemingly endless collection of vineyards.
Rioja wine region