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There is no doubt that Spain’s most famous cities and regions like Madrid, Barcelona, Andalucia, and even the Spanish Canary Islands are incredible, but honestly, you have to see the stunning places that exist in northern Spain. From beautiful green sceneries and surreal beaches to historical cities and picturesque villages, this undiscovered area in Spain will surely win you over. To make my point, here are ten reasons why you need to visit northern Spain and mark it as your next Spanish road trip destination.
TEN REASONS WHY YOU MUST VISIT NORTHERN SPAIN
While the rest of Spain can be unbearably hot and humid, the weather in northern Spain is perfect for a vacation in late spring, summer, or early autumn. Usually, the temperatures by day are 18-22 °C (64-71 °F) in May and June, and 22-26 °C (71-79 °F) in July and August. It might get a bit rainy sometimes, but overall, it is excellent weather for a vacation during these times of the year.
2. UNBELIEVABLE LANDSCAPES
If there’s one thing to know about Spain, it’s that this country is much more diverse than people think. Northern Spain is basically one giant green carpet, loaded with nature reserves and national parks. Now, I know it’s probably not what you would expect, but some of the views in this area could easily make you believe you are in Austria or Switzerland. The scenery is full of hills, mountains, valleys, lakes, and rivers. I don’t know about you, but to me, it sounds pretty irresistible.
3. DREAMY BEACHES
Although I have much respect for Spain’s Mediterranian beaches, I have to say that northern Spain’s coastline is INCREDIBLE. Along with famous beaches like Playa de la Concha and Playa de las Catedrales, there are many wild, less known beaches where you can escape the crowds. Just take a look at some of these beaches in the regions of the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia, and you’ll see why you have to visit northern Spain.
4. BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES AND TOWNS
If you drive along the coastline, you’ll find charming fisherman villages and towns like Luarca, Cudillero, and Combarro (some resemble the villages of northern Italy). However, the ones that stole my heart were actually the small hidden inland villages.
Dotting the green scenery, you’ll stumble upon picture-perfect hamlets of 10-15 (or even less) rustic stone houses, adorned with lively gardens of Hortensias, corn, and grapevines. If that doesn’t sound like pure magic, I don’t know what does.
5. STUNNING CITIES
It’s not all about the countryside when you visit northern Spain. If you are looking for city views as well, then this area has a lot of fantastic options to offer, each with its own characteristics and vibe. Indulge yourself with exquisite food in San Sebastian (which many people consider as the foodie capital of the world), appreciate modern art at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, or visit Oviedo if old town streets are more up your alley.
6. HISTORY AND CULTURE
Northern Spain is full of historically and culturally important cities and sites; the San Juan de Gaztelugatxe hermitage; the Haro Wine Festival in La Rioja region; prehistoric caves and paintings in Asturias; reproduction of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ in the town of Guernica; all of these are just a small taste of the cultural and historical diversity of this area in Spain.
7. DIVERSE ARCHITECTURE
I’m pretty sure architecture is not what comes to mind when you think about reasons to visit northern Spain. However, there are so many stunning buildings, and it’s impossible not to appreciate the work that was put into them.
From modern architecture at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to old rustic houses in Santillana del Mar, and from quirky, unique structures like ‘El Capricho de Gaudi’ to traditional Galician granaries, northern Spain showcases a beautiful mix of astonishing architectural styles.
8. FOOD, FOOD, AND MORE FOOD
If after seven reasons I still haven’t convinced you to visit northern Spain, maybe the food will.
First of all, let’s talk about the city of San Sebastian. As I’ve mentioned, it is considered a food capital, and with award-winning restaurants and the second-highest number of Michelin stars per square meter, it’s easy to see why.
Apart from San Sebastian, throughout all the regions in northern Spain, you can indulge in fresh seafood, local cheeses, quality fruits and vegetables, and of course, Pintxos. Pintxos is northern Spain’s version of tapas, consisting of a mixture of ingredients placed on a piece of bread. Even for a vegetarian (well, pescatarian) like me, there are more than enough mouthwatering options.
9. LOCAL WINE, BEER, AND CIDER
Both La Rioja and Galicia are well-known wine regions in Spain, so you are guaranteed some high-quality wines. If you’re more of a beer person, then there’s the famous Estrella Galicia, and other local craft beers.
My personal favorite drink in northern Spain has to be the cider since you get a show as well as a good drink. You get a small thin glass, and the waiter pours a gulp of cider from a great height, producing air bubbles into the cider. If you don’t consume it all and the bubbles disappear, the waiter will spill the rest on the floor, and the pouring ritual will begin once more.
10. A HIKER’S HEAVEN
If you’re into hiking, you must visit northern Spain. With so many nature reserves and national parks, this area offers countless hiking trails at different difficulty levels.
Amongst the famous hikes you can take, are the Ruta del Cares and Camino de Santiago, which crosses all the way through northern Spain (there are actually several options for walking the Camino de Santiago). However, you can also find shorter, easier, and more relaxed trails as well.
GETTING TO NORTHERN SPAIN
Depending on where you want to go to the north of Spain, you can get from Madrid to one of the main cities by flight, by train or by car. We took a flight from Madrid to San Sebastian and started our road trip there, but I think we could have rented the car in Madrid.
Whether you decide to focus on one region or visit a few, I think the best way to get around northern Spain is by driving. Moving between central cities, you could use trains or bus services, but to comfortably travel through villages, beaches, and national parks, I recommend renting a car.
WHERE TO STAY
First of all, I recommend staying in little villages and towns and not in the big cities (unless you have no choice). It’s cheaper, more comfortable to park, and you can find some beautiful, secluded places you can wake up in. There are lots of budget-friendly hotels, hostels, and B&Bs all over the area.
Have I convinced you to visit northern Spain? Tell me in the comments below!
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