Your journey begins in the Basque city of Bilbao, home to the famous Guggenheim Museum, and gateway to some of northern Spain's best beaches. From here, it's a scenic drive west to the pretty village of Santillana del Mar, passing charming seaside towns and majestic mountain landscapes, before spending two days exploring the stunning scenery and wonderful walking trails of the Picos de Europa National Park. Next, head to Gijon, a beachside city with a lively food and drink scene, and Oviedo, where medieval monasteries and cathedrals dominate the characterful Old Town. Finally, follow in the footsteps of the Christian pilgrims of the Middle-Ages as you visit the great cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, said to be the final resting place of St James the Apostle.
Day 1: Arrive in Bilbao
Arrive in the Basque city of Bilbao, collect your hire car and make your way to your chosen hotel. Spend the rest of the day relaxing, or exploring the city at your leisure.
Stay: Hotel Carlton Bilbao
Day 2: Bilbao
If there's one building in Bilbao that's hard to ignore it's the Guggenheim Museum. Twice the size of its New York counterpart, the dazzling titanium- and stone-covered edifice has been described by some as 'the greatest building of our time' - a fitting tribute to the rotating exhibits that it houses inside. On your second day you may wish to venture further afield. Along the coast to the east is San Sebastian, the great Belle Époque resort of the Basque coast, complete with crescent-shaped beach, La Concha. Zarautz and Getaria also have good beaches, while inland the Sanctuary of Loyola, built around the birthplace of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, sits beautifully in the green hills of the Basque Country.
Stay: Hotel Carlton Bilbao
Day 3: Santillana del Mar
Today drive west into Cantabria, a region famed for its breathtaking coastline, majestic mountains and characterful seaside towns. Visit the capital, Santander, packed with pretty plazas and tempting tapas bars; the great curving beach of Castro Urdiales; and perhaps the caves of Altamira, home to some of the oldest and most impressive cave art in the world. Whichever route you take, be sure to end among the medieval mansions of Santillana del Mar, which Jean-Paul Sartre described as the 'prettiest little village in Spain'.
Stay: Parador Santillana Gil Blas
Days 4-5: Picos de Europa
Continuing west, stop at the resort town of San Vincente de la Barquera before driving into the magnificent Picos de Europa National Park, a compact area of the vast Cordillera Cantábrica blessed with spectacular scenery, superb walking and abundant wildlife. After stretching your legs, descend into Asturias and check in to your hotel in Cangas de Onis. The highlight here is a superb medieval bridge across the Rio Sella. Return to the mountains the following day, perhaps to the Holy Cave of Cabadonga or to the beautiful glacial lakes, Enoi and Ercina.
Stay: Parador Cangas de Onis
Day 6: Gijon
Returning to the coast, stop for lunch at Gijon, a lively city set around two sandy beaches and a harbour. Perhaps take a short trip to Oviedo, the elegant and beautiful capital of Asturias, home to the best of the pre-Romanesque architecture left by the Asturian monarchs, or relax in Gijon, your base for the night.
Stay: Parador de Gijon
Days 7-8: Santiago de Compostela
Continue along the Asturian coast to the village of Luarca, one of the most attractive fishing harbours on the coast. Finally, at Ribadeo, leave the coast behind and enter Galicia, aiming first for the Roman town of Lugo, whose impressive 3rd century walls are still in excellent condition. Finally you'll arrive in Santiago de Compostela, one of Christendom's three principal pilgrimage sites (the others being Rome and the Holy Land). Over the last 1,000 years millions have flocked to its extravagant cathedral, which is said to house the relics of St James the Apostle. What more fitting end to this stirring Spanish journey?
Stay: Parador Santiago de Compostela
Day 9: Departure
Check out of your chosen hotel and transfer to Santiago de Compostela Airport in time for your flight home.
Valid for travel: January to December 2018
Please note a one way fee is payable locally and varies depending on car hire company and can be between 50 and 300 Euros per one way
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
** If you see this next to a price, a specific price in your currency has not been provided, this is an estimated-only price based on a currency conversion, the price you pay may be different to that shown
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