Immerse yourself in Northern Spain's breathtaking natural beauty, medieval history, and world-class gastronomy on this 13-day road trip. Traverse the dramatic Basque coast, sail to the stunning beaches of the Cíes Isles, and explore the foodie hotspot of San Sebastián. Along the way, you'll discover the world's first winery under the Cantabrian Sea, tour the best of Bilbao's pintxos bars, and marvel at the masterpieces of the legendary Guggenheim Museum.

Highlights

  • Set sail to the stunning Cíes Islands 
  • Hike the remarkable Picos de Europa
  • Explore San Sebastián's stellar culinary scene 
  • Tour Bilbao's iconic Guggenheim Museum
  • Discover the world's first underwater winery at Plentzia Bay

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Santiago de Compostela, Free Evening to Explore Santiago de Compostela
Day 2 Train Journey to Vigo, Private Tour of The City Vigo
Day 3 Explore the Cíes Islands Vigo
Day 4 Drive from Vigo to Oviedo, Explore Playa de Las Catedrales Oviedo
Day 5 Drive from Oviedo to Picos de Europa, Visit Llanes Picos de Europa
Day 6 Hike the Picos de Europa Picos de Europa
Day 7 Drive from Picos de Europa to Bilbao via the Covadonga Sanctuary Bilbao
Day 8 Guggenheim Museum Tour, Pintxos Gastronomy Experience Bilbao
Day 9 Drive From Bilbao to San Sebastián, Guided Tour of the City San Sebastián
Day 10 Discover an Underwater Winery, Relax on Playa de La Concha San Sebastián
Day 11 San Sebastián Free Day, Optional Day Trips San Sebastián 
Day 12 Drive From San Sebastián to Bilbao, Free Day to Explore Bilbao
Day 13 Depart Bilbao  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Santiago de Compostela, Free Evening to Explore

Santiago's famous cathedral
Stroll around the beautiful Santiago di Compostela

Welcome to Santiago de Compostela! Upon arrival at the airport, your driver will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel. This historic city is both the capital of Spain's autonomous Galicia region and the culmination point of the Camino de Santiago, the historic pilgrimage route. Tucked into the northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula, the Galician capital feels a world removed from other parts of the country.

After a refresh at your hotel, stretch your legs with a walk around this captivating city. Adorned with medieval architecture and grand plazas, the must-see jewel in Santiago's crown is the 12th-century Romanesque Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Take time to explore the Old Town and the myriad cobblestone streets dotted with terrace cafés and restaurants. As the afternoon fades, grab a glass of local wine paired with a plate of fabulous Galician seafood, and relax as you settle into the ancient art of watching the world go by.

Day 2: Train Journey to Vigo, Private Tour of The City

Street life in Vigo
Wander the characterful streets of Vigo's Old Town

Head to the station this morning, where you'll catch a train to the bustling port city of Vigo. Just over an hour from Santiago, the city is an excellent base to explore the villages dotted around the estuary and the stunning Cíes Isles. Get to know this coastal gem with a two-hour private tour, and discover areas off the beaten tourist track with spectacular views of Vigo and its estuary. See the famous sculpture of El Sireno and wander the Old Town's myriad main streets and squares.

Visit the Vigo Maritime Station and hear stories of local legends, shipwrecks, and lost treasures buried beneath the waves. After a morning spent seeing the city's sights, head to one of the many local bars and dine on exceptionally fresh seafood and tapas with a glass or two of the local Albariño wine. Afterward, explore Vigo's "golden mile of art" and discover the many museums and exhibitions dotted around the city.

Day 3: Explore the Cíes Islands

Enjoying the Cíes Islands
Enjoy the white sands and crystal clear waters of Rondas Beach on the Cíes Islands

Today you'll discover the stunning marine park of the Cíes Isles—an archipelago so beautiful the Romans called them the "Islands of the Gods." Lying 10 miles (16 km) west of Vigo, two of the islands, Monte Agudo and O Faro, are linked by a crescent strip of white sand known as Rodas Beach, considered one of the most stunning beaches in the world.

After breakfast, make your way to the port and set sail to your first stop—a group of nearby Spanish fjords known as Rias Bajas. Both beautiful and functional, these inlets are where Galicians harvest much of their famously delicious shellfish. The microclimate of these fjords makes an ideal breeding ground for scallops and a perfect spot to cultivate mussels and oysters.

Rest on the islands for some beach time, then enjoy a delicious lunch onboard your boat as you feast on locally sourced produce, the freshest seafood, and a drop of something cool and refreshing. Afterward, you'll return to Vigo and have the remainder of the day to explore as you wish.

Day 4: Drive From Vigo to Oviedo, Explore Playa de Las Catedrales

Explore the captivating Playa de las Catedrales

After breakfast at your accommodation, pick up the keys to your rental car and hit the road for the first leg of your trip. It's a 257-mile (413 km) drive north to Oviedo, the capital of northwest Spain's Asturia province. The region, bordered by Cantabria to the east and Lugo (Galicia) to the west, is known for its rugged coast, mountains, religious sites, and medieval architecture.

Around a four-hour drive in total, you'll reach the historic city of Lugo roughly mid-way on your journey—with some of Galicia's best restaurants, it's a perfect stop for lunch. Settled on the hilly banks of the River Miño, this fortified city's 1,000-year-old UNESCO-listed Roman wall encloses a historical center. Venture inside and admire the quiet pedestrian streets and wide piazzas as you decide on the best spot to sample Lugo's famous cuisine.

Hop back in the car and split the remainder of your journey with a 70-mile (113 km) drive to Playa de Las Catedrales. Visit the spectacular beach at low tide to see the sculpted arches and vaults on the slate walls. From here, it's roughly a 90-minute drive to Oviedo. Settle into your accommodation and then head out to experience the many excellent restaurants and bars in this lively, sophisticated city.

Day 5: Drive From Oviedo to Picos de Europa, Explore Llanes

Discover the beautiful medieval village of Llanas
Make a detour to discover the picturesque medieval town of Llanes

Today you'll head north to the stunning national park of Picos de Europa. The park's mountain range spans 165,560 acres (67,000 ha) and provides a magnificent backdrop to the Cantabrian coast, a mere 9 miles (15 km) away from the northernmost part of the park. Lying between the Sella and Dobra Rivers to the west, and the Cares Gorge to the east, sits the most extensive of the range's three plateaus—here, you'll find the Covadonga Mountain and its famous lakes.

It's worth breaking up the journey with a detour to the gorgeous coastal town of Llanes. Sixty-five miles (106) km from Oviedo and just over an hour's drive, it doesn't add much to the overall route and allows you to explore this breathtaking stretch of Asturia. Chosen as the setting for numerous films and commercials, Llanes became a prominent town under King Alfonso IX of Leon in the 13th century. Explore its many architectural and historic treasures, including the Basilica di Santa Maria, the medieval Torre del Castillo, and the beautiful Llanes Casino

Plan your trip to Spain
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Lunch at one of the local tapas bars or restaurants, and discover the artisan cheeses for which the Llanes province is famous. Cider houses or Chigres are abundant here, so do as the locals do and order a glass of sidra (natural cider), accompanied by a beautiful tabla de quesos (plate of local cheese). Once fortified, make your way to the photogenic fishing port, head to the charming beaches, or discover one of the nearby coastal walks for a more ardent stretch of the legs. Your destination is 27 miles (44 km) away inland, so take your time.

Day 6: Hike the Picos de Europa

Hike Adventure in Picos de Europa
Spend a day hiking in the breathtaking Picos de Europa

Enjoy a hearty breakfast at your accommodation before setting out for a day's hiking in the Picos de Europa. Start in the small town of Fuente Dé, where a cable car takes you up into the mountains. Along the way, you'll cross rivers, forests, small villages, and the famous Hermida Gorge—considered one of the most spectacular routes in Western Europe. The cable car ride is just four minutes and takes you nearly 6,000 feet (1,823 m) above sea level. Enjoy stunning views and explore the nearby shepherd trails.

Next, head to the Monastery of Santo Toribio, one of the four holy places of Christianity. The monastery houses the Lignum Crucis, the largest piece of preserved wood from the Cross of Jesus. You can also enjoy the scenery from the viewpoint of the San Miguel Hermitage.

Finally, explore Potes, the capital of Liébana and one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. Highlights of this town are its cobbled streets, bridges, and the medieval Torre del Infantado. Take your time exploring the Old Quarter and exceptional views of the mountains.

Day 7: Drive from Picos de Europa to Bilbao via the Covadonga Sanctuary

Self Guided Visit of The Covadonga Sanctuary
Make time to visit the pilgrimage destination of the Covadonga Sanctuary

It's back on the road today, with a three-hour drive to Bilbao. Before you head off, visit the Sanctuary of Covadonga—a must-see in the Picos de Europa region. A common pilgrimage destination with a cave chapel, the sanctuary is surrounded by mountains and forests. Farther down the road is the Lagos de Covadonga (Lakes of Covadonga), two alpine lakes with an observation deck. It's a truly spectacular spot.

Continue along your route and if you're not in a hurry, make a short detour to the charming seaside town of Castro Urdiales, which lies on the Basque border. Standing prominently above the harbor as you arrive is the impressive Iglesia de Santa María de la Asunción. The 13th-century church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Cantabria's most important Gothic monument. Make your way around the headland and discover the Castillo de Santa Ana, dating back to 1163. Stop for a bite to eat in the Old Town, and as you hop back in the car, Bilbao is just a 30-minute drive away.

Day 8: Guggenheim Museum Tour, Pintxos Gastronomy Experience

The Guggenheim Museum
Explore Bilbao's magnificent Guggenheim Museum

It's your first morning in Bilbao, and after a leisurely breakfast, spend today getting to know this buzzy port town. A visit to the Guggenheim Museum is a must, and this morning you'll discover Frank Gehry's contemporary architectural masterpiece with a 1.5-hour private tour. Explore the museum's most important works from the mid-20th century to the present, from artists such as Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, Anish Kapoor, Fujiko Nakaya, and Eduardo Chillida.

After your tour, wander Bilbao's Casco Viejo (Old Town). Stroll along Las Siete Calles (The Seven Streets), home to the city's classic landmarks and many bars, restaurants, and boutiques. Located right on the waterfront, the area houses significant sights, including the 18th-century Baroque Church of San Nicolás with its two imposing cupolas and the 16th-century Church of San Antón. Take in the colorful architecture, cafés, and markets as you wander the cobbled streets, stopping for a café cortado or two along the way.

The Basque country is best known for its gastronomy, and people travel worldwide to come here and eat. Rich in local produce, the region is famed for delicious pintxos (Basque tapas) as well as its high-end dining scene. Tonight, find out where the locals go with a tour around the city's best and most authentic pintxos bars. From delicious, simple bar snacks to artistic and elaborate savory delicacies, immerse yourself in Bilbao's world-renowned food scene while your guide regales you with tales of the city's culinary history.

Day 9: Drive from Bilbao to San Sebastián, Guided Tour of the City

Flysch Cliffs
Don't miss the spectacular Flysch Cliffs at Zumaia 

Your road trip continues today with a drive to San Sebastián and the opportunity to take in some of the region's stunning seaside towns. Travel inland from Bilbao to the picturesque fishing village of Zumaia—it's around an hour's drive and your first stop along the coastal route. Located in a charming bay where the Urola and Narrondo Rivers join, the town is famous for its Flysch Cliffs. These incredible rocky cliffs, sculpted by sea erosion, show 60 million years of the earth's history and are one of Spain's most important geological phenomena.

Four miles (6 km) along the coastal road from Zumaia, you'll find Getaria. Stop here and dine on exquisite freshly caught fish. Those in the know flock to the town's waterfront restaurants for simply grilled monkfish, sardines, and lobster, washed down with the local txakoli (dry white wine). Stretch your legs with a visit to the Old Town before hopping back in the car and continuing your drive to San Sebastián. Surrounded by lush hillsides, this sophisticated coastal town is known for its exquisite dining, grand architecture, and sweeping sandy beaches. 

After a refresh at your hotel, get your bearings with a personal tour of this remarkable city. Start in the Parte Vieja (Old Quarter) and meander the cobbled streets as you discover its maze of churches, bars, and buildings dating back to the early 19th century. Toward the edge of the Parte Vieja is the iconic City Hall, which overlooks the bay and the elegant promenade that runs along the crescent-shaped La Concha Beach. Once the sun goes down, head out and dive into San Sebastián's famous dining scene.

Day 10: Discover an Underwater Winery, Relax on Playa de La Concha

Playa de la Concha
A strong contender for Europe's best city beach - Playa de la Concha

It's a wine-tasting tour with a difference today! Make your way north to the picturesque Plentzia Bay, where you will take a guided boat tour to visit the site of the world's first underwater winery and artificial reef, 50 feet (15 m) beneath the Cantabrian Sea. Discover the secrets and history of this unique process of underwater aging and the crucial conditions that aid the maturation of these limited-edition wines. Enjoy a relaxed wine tasting onboard the boat before returning to the shore.

Head back to San Sebastián, and the rest of the day is yours to spend as you choose. Stroll through the Parte Vieja, browse the local boutiques, and make the most of the gorgeous coastal location by unwinding at beautiful Playa de la Concha—easily among the best city beaches in Europe. 

Day 11: San Sebastián Free Day, Optional Day Trips

San Sebastian
Spend the day exploring sophisticated San Sebastián 

Today is yours to do as much or as little as you like. Start the day with a leisurely chocolate con churros (hot chocolate with doughnuts) and ponder your plans for the day. One option is to head for an excursion to the nearby fishing towns of Hondarribia and Pasai Donibane. Take a guided walking tour from Hondarribia's Old Town to the marina and drive on to Pasai Donibane for a stroll and a delicious lunch before going to a local txakoli winery.

Or, if you're feeling energetic, take a guided hike of part of the infamous Camino de Santiago's coastal section. Commit to memory the views along the stunning Basque coast until you reach the charming fishing village of Pasajes San Juan. Enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the town's impeccable restaurants as you gaze out over the sea—the same views that inspired french writer Victor Hugo when he lived here. Whatever you decide, San Sebastián's famous nightlife will await you upon your return.

Day 12: Drive From San Sebastián to Bilbao, Free Day to Explore

Plaza Nueva Bilbao
Relax with a café cortado in Plaza Nueva, Bilbao

It's back in the car one last time to drive the short hour-long route to Bilbao. The entire day is yours to continue exploring this fascinating city. Stroll the cobbled streets and visit 14th-century Bilbao Cathedral before stopping for a café cortado at one of the tables lining the Plaza Nueva (New Square). Make your way to Plaza Moyua and admire the beautiful Flemish-style architecture of the 19th-century palace, Txabarri Jauregia. If there are any sights you didn't get to see on your first visit or wish to revisit, now is your opportunity!

Before you depart, don't miss the Mercato de la Ribera, the largest covered market in Europe and home to exquisite food and drink stalls. Either lunch at one of the nearby restaurants or take advantage of the vast choice of local produce on display and take a picnic at the beautiful Parco Casilda Iturrizar, filled with gardens and fountains. Spend the evening soaking up Bilbao's lively atmosphere and enjoy an aperitivo as you watch the sun go down on your European adventure.

Day 13: Depart Bilbao

Bilbao and Guggenheim at nighttime
Until the next time, Spain!

Sadly, it's time to bid farewell to Spain and the Basque country. Drop your rental car off at Bilbao's airport and prepare to board your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of North of Spain Ultimate Roadtrip - 13 Days
Map of North of Spain Ultimate Roadtrip - 13 Days