Historic Cities & Foothills of Northern Spain

Historic Cities & Foothills of Northern Spain

11 Days Starting in Bilbao and ending in San Sebastian

Visiting: Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, Potes, Picos de Europa National Park, Picos de Europa, Oviedo, Santander, Bilbao, Zumaia, San Sebastian

Tour operator:

YellowWood Adventures

Tour code:

SPA-CF

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 12

Physical rating:

Low, 3: Entry Level

Age range:

12-80

Special diets catered:

Please advise requests

Tour operated in:
English
From:
$2550
$2423 (USD) The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$128
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Tour Overview

Discover the flourishing culture of regions such as Asturias, Cantabria & the Basque Country, as well as taking part in guided tours of Oviedo, Santander, Bilbao and San Sebastian, with some easy walking in the Picos de Europa Mountains.



There is something about Northern Spain. You sit down at a table in the crisp sunshine, the waiter comes and pours country cider from a green bottle at arm’s length above his head, down into a pint glass held at his hip to oxygenate the liquid, giving it the fresh ‘zang’ you will experience nowhere else.



A local woman on the next table will ask you where you are from. Prawns will arrive dripping in garlic, then squid sizzling in virgin olive oil. The bread breaks in your hand like tectonic plates, the blue cheese smells like muertos, the Rioja wine adds a twinkle to your eye. Somehow just having lunch becomes a religious experience.



To your left the hazy peaks of the Picos rise up shimmering in the distance, to your right the Cantabrian Sea crashes against rocky coast in sprays of salt that reach up to the fertile campo laden with cows and horses. Squat, Japanese-looking terracotta-roofed Horreos abound, the wooden structures suspended above the ground on stone stilts, the traditional manner of storing maize throughout the snowy winter.



This adventure celebrates the very best of Northern Spain by exploring the culture and charm of the three neighbouring but contrasting regions of Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. These historic kingdoms offer the traveller a wealth of experiences; from the wild beauty of the Picos de Europa mountains, to the striking Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, the mouth watering pintxos in San Sebastian, to the famous Basilica at Covadonga steeped in the history of the Reconquista of King Pelayo against the Moors from the South.



Striking a perfect balance of gentle walking in foothills and along the coast, enjoying informative guided city tours and exploring key sites in the notable towns of Oviedo, Santander, Bilbao and San Sebastian, this fully guided holiday with an English speaking local guide and private transfers will tell you the story of Northern Spain, narrated through its fascinating culture and traditions.

Highlights

  • Covadonga Basilica and lakes

  • Coastal walking on GR121 (8km)

  • Regions of Asturias, Cantabria & the Basque Country

  • Explore the Picos de Europa Central Massif & Iconic Naranjo de Bulnes peak

  • Guided walking tours in Oviedo, Santander, Bilbao & San Sebastian

  • Gastronomic delights: Cabrales cheese, tapas lunches & pintxos tour

Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrival Into Bilbao
Location: Santillana del Mar
Accommodation Name: 4 star hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Arrive into Bilbao and be met and transferred to our hotel in Santillana del Mar. Nestled amid picturesque landscapes, it’s renowned as one of Spain’s most stunning destinations.Situated on the northern route of the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago de Compostela, Santillana del Mar is a beautiful medieval town which was developed around the collegiate church of Santa María. Its various defence towers and Renaissance palaces make Santillana one of the most important historical areas of Cantabria. Depending on your arrival time, freshen up, relax or explore Santillana del Mar independently before meeting your English-speaking Spanish guide in the evening, and enjoying a briefing, a welcome drink of local cider and your first traditional Spanish dinner of the trip. If you need some ideas on what to do on your first afternoon, don't hesitate to ask!Overnight: Hotel Altamira**2025**Please note for 2025 departures, your first night is spent in Bilbao. After arriving into Bilbao you will be transferred to your hotel to check in. Meet your English speaking guide for your welcome briefing, and enjoy your first Spanish evening meal.Overnight: Hotel Barceló Bilbao Nervión **** or Hotel Hesperia****

Day 2: Cantabrian Highlights
Location: Cantabria
Accommodation Name: 4 star hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Today we explore some of the highlights of the autonomous region of Cantabria, whose delights are disproportionate to its size, which is small! Firstly, we will explore the magnificent Santillana del Mar. The Collegiate Church & Cloisters of Santa Juliana, one of the most attractive examples of Romanesque, has origins dating back to 870, although the buildings visible today date back to the C12th. Also not to be missed is a chance to visit the NeoCave of Altamira; an exact reproduction of the cave of Altamira as it was between 13,000 & 22,000 years ago, with its well known bison cave paintings. Then, we will move to Comillas, a small township in the autonomous community of Cantabria. From the second half of the 19th century, the Spanish royal family started spending their summers in Comillas, as a result, Comillas left an imprint of architectural relics such as palaces and monuments designed by renowned Catalan artists in particular, Gaudí or Doménech i Montaner. Besides this, there are many notable medieval and baroque buildings. Finally, we will go to the lovely fisherman’s town of San Vicente de la Barquera. After lunch we head to our final destination in Espinama, crossing the stunning La Hermida Gorge. Overnight: Hostal Remoña 

Day 3: Excursion To Potes, Fuente De & Santa Toribio De Liebana Monastery
Location: Potes
Accommodation Name: Guest house
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast, we head into the heart of the mountains (150mins), to the Fuente De cable car, for a fabulous and scenic ascent up more than 800m, to the Fuente de Glacier. At the top, we breathe in the stunning views and take a short tour to discover the area. Continuing our journey we visit the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana, one of just 5 Christian sites (Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela & Caravaca de la Cruz) that has the privilege of missing perpetual indulgences; effectively a way of reducing the amount of punishment that one has to undergo for sins. It is also famous for the Lignam Crucis (wood of Jesus' cross) & illustrated religious manuscripts: the first Spanish Codice of the Beato de la Liebana.This afternoon we visit a liquor winery to see how the locally famed 'Orujo de Potes'; a grape-based spirit (40% alcohol!) is manufactured, before returning to familiar Hostal Remoña.Overnight: Hostal Remoña 

Day 4: Panoramic Tour Of The Iconic Peak Naranjo De Bulnes, Cabrales Cheese & The Town Of Sotres
Location: Picos de Europa National Park
Accommodation Name: 4 star hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

The Central Massif of the Picos de Europa, and the National Park with the iconic Naranjo de Bulnes, beckons today. We will make a stop at the "Pozo de la Oración" to see the iconic peak of the National Park to learn about the characteristics of the massive limestone peak and the stories surrounding it. We continue to Poncebos where the majestic Cares Gorge begins, and then we drive to the town of Sotres. We will set out on a gentle walk at Collado de La Caballar, offering beautiful views of the main summits of the Massif. After the walk, we will go to Arenas de Cabrales for lunch. Our destination for this evening is Llanes. Our journey there (2hr) takes us through some stunning scenery.Overnight: Hotel Paraíso or Hotel La Finca La Mansión

Day 5: Covadonga Lakes Circular Route
Location: Picos de Europa
Accommodation Name: 4 star hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

The walk starts from Lake Ercina in the heart of the Picos de Europa mountain range and heads up to the top of La Reblagas and then on to the beautiful Bricial Majada. A Majada is a high mountain meadow where horses, sheep or other animals are put out to pasture during the mild summer months. The route then continues towards the Vega de Enol Majada, crossing a beautiful beech forest, where we will stop to eat with spectacular views of “Las Peñas Santas”. The route continues until Lake Enol. In the afternoon, we will stop in Covadonga to visit the church and the “Saint Cave”, where we can see the Virgin of Covadonga. We also do a stop in Ribadesella, a lovely small town on the coast.Tonight we head back to Llanes for the night and to enjoy dinner. Overnight: Hotel Paraíso or Hotel Finca La Mansión

Day 6: Vist To Fapas & Excursion To Oviedo, Capital Of Asturias
Location: Oviedo
Accommodation Name: 4 star hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Today, we will do a visit to FAPAS, the most important and old Association to biodiversity & nature conservation in Asturias. They will explain their works in favour of the Cantabrian beard. Then, we will move to Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. It is a stylish city with colourful architecture and bustling markets and squares, located on 2 pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. As such, the cathedral is visited by those setting out on both the Camino Primitivo, for which Oviedo is the starting point, as well as the Camino del Norte, who pass through Oviedo en route from Sanit Jean de Luz to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. The Cathedral boasts a 9th-century UNESCO world heritage chapel housing a piece of cloth said to have been placed around Jesus' head after his death. We also enjoy the church of Santa Maria del Naranjo perched high above the city on the hilltop of Monte Naranco: a fine example of pre-Romanesque architecture. There is some free time today to wander the streets of pedestrianised downtown Oviedo and enjoy lunch in one of the many restaurants. Asturias is famous for its cider (sidra) and the city is packed with lively 'sidrerias', where you can enjoy the speciality. We will also take a drive down to the coast to visit the delightful town of Cudillero - famous for it's incredible restaurants and higgledy-piggledy architecture. We return to Llanes for our final night and dinner at our hotel.Overnight: Hotel Paraíso or Hotel Finca La Mansión

Day 7: Explore Santander
Location: Santander
Accommodation Name: 4 star hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast, we enjoy the highlights of Santander, the capital of the autonomous community of Cantabria. Off the main tourist routes, it is a city often overlooked by international visitors, though popular with Spanish visitors. It has a stunning natural setting, with urban beaches, and meandering peninsulas, and a slower pace than you would expect for a capital city. We visit the golden sands of Sardinero Beach, with crystal clear waters, and the Magdalena Palace set within 24 hectares of the Magdalena Peninsula. The former royal palace has opulent interiors and expansive gardens and was no doubt built here, in the 20th century, for its incredible views overlooking the Isla de Mouro and Bay of Santander. We also visit Santander Cathedral unusually consisting of 2 gothic churches, one above the other, constructed in the 13th & 14th centuries respectively. For a small fee, you can head up to the bell tower for incredible views of the surrounding area. This afternoon we enjoy a leisurely boat trip to explore the Bay of Santander - a wonderful way to appreciate the coastline from a new perspective, before crossing into our 3rd region; Basque Country, and to Bilbao (1hr 15m), another exciting and under appreciated Northern Spanish city. Overnight: Hotel Barceló Bilbao Nervión or or Hotel Hesperia

Day 8: Bilbao And Surroundings
Location: Bilbao
Accommodation Name: 4 star hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

After breakfast, we head to the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, presents an alluring and futuristic space for the mix of modern & contemporary art it houses and is not to be missed. There is a lot to pack into today, and it's from one 'out of this world' experience to another. Next up is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, an islet on the coast of Biscay used by Game of Thrones in Season 7 to represent Dragonstone. The word gaztelugatxe [gastelugatse] comes from the Basque gaztelu, meaning 'castle' and atx, meaning 'rock'; together forming 'the rock castle'.The rock of Gaztelugatxe is a small island off the coast, reached by a man-made stone bridge leading to a narrow path with a mere 241 steps! Impressive and wild, set against the backdrop of the sea, a small church, over a century old, and dedicated to St John the Baptist, perches atop the rock. In the afternoon, on the way back to Bilbao, we visit the lovely Basque town of Bermeo, famous for the fantastic surf.Overnight: Hotel Barceló Bilbao Nervión or Hotel Hesperia

Day 9: Zumaia Coast
Location: Zumaia
Accommodation Name: 4 star hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast

Today, for those that would like to walk and enjoy the coastal air, we walk the well established and stunning 'Flysch' coastal pathway (around 8km at a steady pace). This route is a section of the GR 121 - also known as the Tour of Guipúzcoa - a walking route around the perimeter of the stunning Basque province, stretching over 300 kilometres (186 mi). For those that are not so keen on the walk, you have the option to head straight to Zumaia and explore / relax until the rest of the group joins you. You may also fancy a trip to the coastal town of Zarautz, known for its 2.5km sandy beach, restaurants and shops - maybe time for a spot of souvenir shopping?Overnight: Hotel Barceló Costa Vasca or Sercotel Hotel Europa

Day 10: Explore San Sebastian
Location: San Sebastian
Accommodation Name: 4 star hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast

Last, but definitely not least, the fantastic city of San Sebastian awaits us today. We enjoy a guided walking tour around the main sites of the city including the Plaza de la Constituzion with its majestic Town Hall, Old Town (La Parte Vieja), and fishing port at the foot of the Urgull Mountain. We end the morning with a private 'pintxos' tour (pronounced 'pinchos', and meaning 'tapas'), accompanied by a specialist in Basque gastronomic culture. After the tapas, enjoy the afternoon at your leisure; we are staying in San Sebastian tonight. Overnight: Hotel Barceló Costa Vasca or Sercotel Hotel Europa

Day 11: Departure
Location: Bilbao
Meals Included: Breakfast

Your adventure has come to an end - it must be time to plan your next holiday! Enjoy breakfast before your transfer to Bilbao for your journey home.

What's Included

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as detailed

  • Airport Transfers at Destination

    Yes

  • Fully Guided

    Supporting you on your holiday, and accompanying the group each day (including during meals), will be a local, English speaking Spanish travel guide who knows Asturias, Cantabria & the Basque Country like the back of their hand! This ensures you are in excellent hands and that you have access to local knowledge.

  • Meals

    Meals as detailed

What's Not Included

  • Insurance

  • Additional Services

  • International Travel

Accommodation

We fully believe in, and practice, Responsible Tourism, using hotels run by locals. The accommodation on this adventure are comfortable and welcoming hotel accommodation offering rooms with ensuite facilities.

We put time and effort into building our relationship with accommodation suppliers to ensure you have a great trip;

We choose accommodation based on cleanliness, comfort, safety, proximity to our route (to avoid unnecessary extra travel) and a warm client welcome, as well as reliability in their service to us.Wherever we can we will choose smaller, more characterful, individual hotels, but in areas where tourism is still developing, or in remote areas (like the mountains), we may not have a wide range of options. An aspect of our adventures is to escape the ‘trappings’ of modern Western lifestyles and to experience new things with are exciting and memorable and reflects the countries we are visiting.

The list below gives information on our first choice of accommodation for this adventure. Where hotels and refuges are fully booked or unavailable, we will use an alternative of a similar standard, and equally well situated. We will provide you with an accurate list of accommodation, with contact information to leave with relatives, prior to departure on your adventure.

Gran Hotel Paraiso, Llanes, Asturias: (Day 1 - 2): Calle Pidal, 33500 Llanes, Asturias. Ensuite rooms, air con & Wifi

Casa Cayo, Potes, Asturias (Day 4 & 5): Characterful mountain Hotel Restaurant in Potes Ensuite rooms.

Santander, Cantabria (Day 6): to be confirmed.

Bilbao, Basque Country (Day 7): Basque Boutique, Bilbao. Ensuite rooms with wifi and air conditioning. Relaxed & characterful ambiance- each room is individually decorated with handmade furniture. Central location.

Zumaia, Basque Country (Day 8 & 9): Casa Jesuskoa, Zumaia, Basque Country. Boutique rustic hotel with charming grounds and restaurant serving home grown foods.

San Sebastian (Day 10): to be confirmed.

Check out our Q&As

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    Yes, Supporting you on your holiday, and accompanying the group each day (including during meals), will be a local, English speaking Spanish travel guide who knows Asturias, Cantabria & the Basque Country like the back of their hand! This ensures you are in excellent hands and that you have access to local knowledge.

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    Yes, For those of you who choose to fly into Northern Spain, Asturias Airport (OVD) is a fully functioning, international airport welcoming domestic flights and those from Europe. On arrivals where you will be met by a driver / guide with a YellowWood Adventures sign.

  • Are flights included in this tour?

    No, Flights are not included in the cost of your holiday, and whilst we are happy to help advise you, responsibility for booking the correct flights rests with you. We recommend that you use a comparison tool when searching for flights, such as skyscanner or www.momondo.co.uk.

  • What is the maximum group size?

    The max group size is 12 people.

  • What is the standard of the hotels on this tour?

    As detailed in the itinerary

  • Is there any free time to explore places during the tour?

    As detailed in the itinerary

  • What is the fitness level required to do this tour?

    Although you will be visiting the stunning Picos de Europa mountains (part of the Cantabria range) during your holiday, the focus of this holiday is a cultural exploration. To get the most of out of this adventure, you need to be in good physical condition and able to walk for around 3 - 4 hours (the city tours are a mix of walking tours with short transfers as required). You also need to be comfortable on coastal paths which may be narrow or uneven and naturally will include some gradient changes, in order to enjoy the rural and wildlife aspects of the adventure. Any walking is at the natural pace of the group, with regular stops and there is an alternative option if you are not wanting to join the 8km walk on Day 9.

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Since 2015

  • Risk Assessment

    YellowWood operates a Safety Management System which encompasses a planned, researched, implemented and reviewed approach to your Health & Safety. A risk assessment is a careful examination of what could cause harm (hazards) and the assessment of likelihood of hazards occuring, as well as the severity of the outcome of a hazard.

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    Please contact us for our latest Covid-19 policies

  • Experienced Leaders

    On all of our adventures you will benefit from the daily presence of an experienced, English speaking local guide. You will also have additional guides at various points during the trip (see itineraries for details).

  • What Ethical Travel credentials does the tour company have?

    As a visitor to a foreign country, we inevitably leave our mark. At YellowWood Adventures, we are determined that this ‘mark’ will be a positive one. Tourism is not always beneficial and we are conscious of treading lightly in the lands we explore.

Reviews of this Operator

Ruth  

FANTASTIC TRIP TO EITHIOPIA!!

2020

From guiding us through the crowded alleys of Lalibela at Genna to clambering up the dizzy heights of Abuna Yemata this was a trip that surpassed all expectations! Yellowwood hits the right balance of organised small group travel with adventurous, 'off the beaten track' experiences all the while making you feel as if you've travelling with a small group of your friends. Ethiopia is truly a beautiful country with wonderful friendly and generous people throughout. I highly recommend this trip and am already planning for my next Yellowwood adventure!

Ethiopia Adventure, 2020
Sophie  

Absolute trip of a lifetime

2019

This trip was one of the best I've ever done. Getting into the Tian Shan mountains was really quite magical; experiencing the scenery and feeling isolated from the rest of the world, thanks to the personalised feel of the trek, was unrivalled. The quality of the food was also a highlight, and I was catered for as a vegetarian (in a very non-vegetarian place!). Kyrgyzstan is a relatively undiscovered gem, and it was lovely to do a road-less-travelled style trip. Thanks to Sam and YellowWood for taking us on a genuine adventure with a fantastic itinerary. I look forward to joining some more non-traditional trips when possible!"

Kyrgyzstan Adventure, 2019
Ken  

People and Landscapes of Oman Adventure

2022

Every day was a highlight for me, no specific favourite. Oman deserves all the superlatives it gets -magnificent scenery, safe, friendly environment, welcoming and engaging people. YellowWood delivers a winner on this trip! Kudos to all.

Oman Adventure, 2022

Dates & Availability

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Friday - Monday

May 03, 2024 - May 13, 2024
$2550 $2423 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$128 (USD)

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Friday - Monday

Jun 14, 2024 - Jun 24, 2024
$2550 $2423 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$128 (USD)

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Friday - Monday

Jul 19, 2024 - Jul 29, 2024
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The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$128 (USD)

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Thursday - Sunday

Aug 29, 2024 - Sep 08, 2024
$2550 $2423 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$128 (USD)

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Saturday - Tuesday

May 03, 2025 - May 13, 2025
$2550 $2423 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$128 (USD)

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Saturday - Tuesday

Jun 14, 2025 - Jun 24, 2025
$2550 $2423 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$128 (USD)

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Saturday - Tuesday

Jul 19, 2025 - Jul 29, 2025
$2999 $2849 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$150 (USD)

Instant Booking Available

Saturday - Tuesday

Aug 30, 2025 - Sep 09, 2025
$2550 $2423 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: -$128 (USD)

Book with Confidence

  • Low Deposit

    YellowWood Adventures requires a minimum deposit of 400 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 56 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of yellowwood adventures charges.

    Up to 57 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 56 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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