Santiago de Compostela is 360 miles (580 km) from Bilbao, Basque Country’s largest city. The two are set almost directly across Northern Spain’s coast, crossing some of the country’s most cherished scenery. The fastest way to travel between the cities is by plane in just one hour.
Because of the distance, it takes much longer to go by car. Both rental cars and private transfers are available, following the coast and arriving in Bilbao in 5.5 hours. You can also opt for the train, with the regional service reaching Bilbao via the cities of León and Burgos in about 10.5 hours.
Regional buses take a similar route as driving, but only offer two daily departures. Buses make numerous stops and arrive 11.5 hours later, making it the slowest option. If you have a few extra days to extend your trip, this 5-day itinerary further explores scenic Basque Country.
Duration: 1 hour
The Spanish airline Iberia offers direct flights from Santiago de Compostela to Bilbao in just one hour. The route flies daily, but direct flights are limited to just a few departures each week. Flights tend to leave in the morning or evening.
By Rental Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 5.5 hours
You can also make the trip by car, either rental or private transfer. Santiago de Compostela and Bilbao are well-connected by the E-1/E-70 highways, so the drive is fairly straightforward. You’ll leave Santiago de Compostela from the northwest, following the E-1 highway towards A Coruña. A Coruña is an excellent detour, offering rocky seasides and a hike to a lighthouse.
You’ll eventually connect to E-70 and follow the scenic coastline east. There are so many picturesque towns and cities along the way, you could easily make your drive a multi-day tour of Northern Spain. Coastal towns like Luarca, Cudillero, Ribadasella, and Llanes are all worth the stop, as are the exceptional beaches like the famous Praia das Catedrais (Beach of the Cathedrals) and Playa del Silencio (Beach of Silence).The cities along the route are historical and provide great places to grab some pinxtos, Northern Spain’s version of tapas. These include Oviedo, Gijón, and Santander.
Duration: 10.5 hours
Although the journey time is doubled, trains are a great alternative if you prefer public transportation. Direct routes leave once per day at about 10:00 AM and arrive in Bilbao around 8:30 PM. They pass through the cities of León and Burgos before turning north to Bilbao.
The route is quite scenic, starting with views of Galicia’s hilly countryside before heading into the valley near León. As you enter Basque Country, you’ll catch glimpses of mountains.
Duration: 11.5 hours
The regional bus is the longest option, traveling between Santiago de Compostela to Bilbao in 11.5 hours. It takes the same route as driving, sticking to the highway along the coast, through Gijón, and around Santander. There are two direct buses each day, one in the morning and an overnight bus that leaves in the evening and arrives in Bilbao the next morning.