ESP - How to feel the spirit of Spain's unspoiled northern coast Lonely
With its cliff-crashing waves, moody landscapes, and incredible recipes, northern Spain is a gorgeously green gem overlooked by many travelers. Its dramatic coasts and rugged mountains have been home to unique cultures and traditions, from the Celtic Galicians to the mysterious Basques, for millennia.
Beyond the outdoor vistas, the culinary riches of Green Spain are also on display – spread across tables and bar tops. Nature has blessed the region with flavorful and fresh seafood drawn straight from cold waters, and fascinatingly salty wines cultivated on seaside slopes.
The stunning coasts of Galicia, colorful fishing ports of Basque Country, infinite views of Cantabria, and beaches galore of Asturias can be explored in a week, though you’re guaranteed to be left wanting more. Here’s how:
Day 1: San Sebastián
The ocean and the mountains collide to form the boundaries of San Sebastián, a small town on the northern coast. It all comes together at La Concha Bay, one of the most beautiful in Spain, where elegant art nouveau buildings look out over its waters and green Mount Urgull rises from its edge.
Below this historic hill is where you’ll find the city’s modern cultural monuments, the pintxo bars. The city’s Old Part – once rumored to have more bars per person than anywhere else in the world – is the birthplace of the pintxo, a small snack like a Spanish tapa, but more elaborate. Bar tops throughout the district are often covered with these delicious bites, so elbow up with the locals, grab a pintxo, a glass of wine, and repeat down the street.
Many of these bars have been in the same family for generations, serving up delicious skewers of seafood conserves and pickled vegetables. On the city’s oldest route, 31 of August Street, is La Viña, where the original Basque burnt cheesecake is sliced in droves, the perfect way to end a meal. Afterward, take the easy hike up Mount Urgull for some of the best views of the city’s gorgeous Isla de Santa Clara and coastal promenade.
Day 2: The Basque Coast
When heading west out of San Sebastián, get your camera ready. On the coastal road, every turn reveals a new breathtaking discovery; from the gray flysch (sedimentary rock stacks that jut out of the sea at abrupt angles), to low-lying storybook fishing villages, where red and green-painted boats bob in ports. The cultural and natural richness is on full display in coastal towns like Lekeitio and Bermeo, the latter of which has multiple hiking routes with infinite blue ocean on one side and green hills on the other.
Continue to the west and spend an afternoon in Bilbao, Basque Country’s largest metropolitan area, walking through the twisted titanium halls of Frank Gehry’s iconic Museo Guggenheim Bilbao. Or pass on the architectural allure of the city and land instead in Santurtzi, where you can take a boat out to sea to spot large whales and orcas in their natural habitat.