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Head on a North West Spain road trip, an experience bound to be special. Spain's Atlantic coast is full of charming fishing villages and unspoilt beaches. Besides, food in Northern Spain is renowned for being one of the best in the country without being expensive.
As your campervan heads west from Bilbao alongside the rugged coast, you’re greeted with views of the brave sea to the right and green mountains to the left. No buzzing Mediterranean coast here, but instead a rewarding combination of unspoilt nature, quaint villages, and historical sites.
For travellers looking for a unique trip, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia are the regions of Spain most promising.
San Vicente de la Barquera is one of Cantabria´s most beautiful villages. It’s a historical fishing village located next to the green slopes of Oyambre National Park.
The village’s old quarter has been declared a Historical Site. San Vicente’s famous estuary of sandy beaches makes an ideal first stop on this North West Spain road trip
Pick up your campervan in Bilbao and drive west to San Vicente through the excellent free A-8 motorway. Spend half a day visiting Santillana del Mar, one of Spain’s oldest and better-preserved villages.
Santillana is just 40 km (~25 miles) away from San Vicente, and besides its charming stone houses, it’s mostly known for the Altamira Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Halfway between the two villages, Comillas is worth a short visit too. It’s a charming aristocratic villa set on rolling hills that shelter a secluded port and a beautiful beach.
Famous architect Antonio Gaudí built a modernist palace in Comillas, known as El Capricho (The Caprice). Kids will love its fairytale architecture.
San Vicente de la Barquera
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Forestal Park Bilbao
Climb rocks and walk ropes before driving off
Santillana del Mar
Village of cobbled streets and medieval marvels
Old aristocratic villa with stunning architecture
Good seafood, local institute
Estación de Autobuses
Waterfront parking lot with motorhomes
Parking las Hazas
Motorhome parking in Cobreces with facilities
The province of Asturias is famous for its wonderful landscapes. Ribadesella is a small coastal town ideal for exploring not only the coast, but also the nearby mountains.
Picos de Europa National Park is less than an hour away, and offers several hiking routes suited for all fitness levels that start from the Covadonga Lakes.
Ribadesella is a great spot for enjoying the beach, strolling around its old streets, or kayaking on the Sella River.
From San Vicente de la Barquera, get back to the A-8 motorway and continue your North West Spain road trip until you meet the Ribadesella exit. The fishing village is split in half by the Sella river delta, forming the spectacular Santa Marina beach.
Ribadesella´s old flamboyant architecture reminds us of the times when it was a buoyant town thanks to the Indianos, returning emigrants who had made their fortune in the Americas.
from San Vicente de la Barquera
Cangas de Onis
Gateway to the mountains, don't miss its Roman bridge
Two glacial lakes surrounded by stunning scenery
Sidreria el Tarteru
Typical local cider place
Calle Marqueses de Argüelles
Public parking next to the river
Ribadesella Motorhome Parking
Campervan area, 5 spots available
Castropol is an enchanting fishing village that overlooks the river Eo’s estuary from the top of a hill with splendid views of the river mouth. The Eo’s Estuary is a protected nature reserve for its marine ecosystem, as it’s one of the most important wetlands in Northern Spain.
Located on the Northern Route of the Way of St James, Castropol is the last village of Asturias before this North West Spain road trip enters the Galicia region.
Just a few minutes away to the north of Castropol, Playa de Peñarronda is a gorgeous wild beach the shape of an elongated shell, a round rock in the centre lending the beach its name.
Across the bridge over the Eo River sits Ribadeo, Galicia´s very first town. From there, head west just 15 minutes in your campervan to reach one of Spain’s most famous beaches, Playa de la Catedrales (Beach of the Cathedrals). While pretty around the clock, visit the beach during low tide to fully appreciate its natural arches and caves.
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Old Galician town just across the bridge
Playa de la Catedrales
Magnificent cliffs and picturesque sea caves
Meson La Santina
Great views of the estuary
public parking across town
Tapia de Casariego
10 km (~6 miles) away on the north coast
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the Galicia region. The city’s origin is the shrine of Saint James the Great, now the Cathedral of Santiago and final destination of the Way of St. James, a pilgrimage route since the 9th century.
Santiago’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and welcomes thousands of pilgrims and tourists to its well-preserved stone streets every year. It’s a must on any North West Spain road trip for culturalists, historians and travellers alike.
The cathedral is Santiago’s main attraction. Recently refurbished, it’s a stunning piece of architecture, particularly its towers and the Portico de la Gloria, the cathedral’s main entrance.
Because there’s much more to see in Santiago, consider giving your legs a break (and the kids a great time!) by hopping on the tiny tourist train that runs through the hilly town. Santiago is a university town, hence it’s very lively and offers plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from.
Santiago de Compostela
Impressive architecture containing the tomb of St. James
Museum of the Galician People
Colourful puppets, pipe bags, and wooden clogs
Next to the food market
Bico de Xeado
Best artisan ice cream in town
Big parking lot near cathedral
Milladoiro Motorhome Parking
Bus to the center every 15 min
Your final destination on this North West Spain road trip, the Galician coast is truly unique. Its long and deep estuaries, locally called rias, are not only of extreme beauty but also hold some of the best seafood in the world. Galicia’s long coast is divided between the Rias Altas and Rias Baixas.
Ria de Arousa is one of the main rias in the lower section, and Illa de Arousa, the island at the centre of the estuary, is the perfect place to park your campervan and enjoy this privileged location.
On the southern tip of the island is Carreiron Natural Park, great for a short family stroll. There are some secluded beaches with pristine waters within the park. On the mainland, Cambados is an old town worth a visit.
From there, head south towards another island: Illa da Toxa, one of Galicia´s most famous tourist areas. Visit the nearby Lanzada beach and the O´Grove peninsula for a complete family day out.
Bonus: spend a day in Porto, Portugal before returning your van at the Porto depot!
Illa de Arousa
from Santiago de Compostela
Contemplate the Pazo de Fefiñanes, typical old Galician palace
O´Grove & Illa da Toxa
Take the kids to O´Grove Aquarium
All about seafood
Parking just after crossing the bridge
Next to Carreiron National Park
from Illa de Arousa