The Ultimate Northern Spain Itinerary
Yesss. You’re looking for a route through the undiscovered North Spain. Good job! Because while most people are heading south or on their way to the big cities, this part of Spain is often a bit overlooked. And believe me, these people are missing out. From medieval villages, the beautiful coastline of the Bay of Biscay, excellent surfing conditions, imposing mountains, and incredibly tasty food. Northern Spain has it all.
So what are you waiting for? Get in that car, toss the tent in the back, hitch up the caravan or just take the camper and go! As you drive west along the rugged coast, you’ll be greeted by the sparkling sea on your right and the imposing green mountains on your left. It’s the perfect combination of everything!
We left without a plan and a month’s time and would like to share what our Northern Spain route eventually became with you.
Overview route North Spain
Travel Itinerary: Road Trip through Southwest France and North Spain
Day 1 – 3: Southwest France
Start your trip just before the border of North Spain to first enjoy a few days of the French Surfers Existence.
Day 4: Hondarribia
A place to spend the night with a spectacular view and that for absolutely nothing, zip, nada.
Day 5 – 7: San Sebastian
FOOD HEAVEN! Do I need to say more?
Day 8 – 10: Itxaspe
Beautiful environment. High GOT content.
Day 11: Bilbao
The capital of North Spain, so a must-visit.
Day 12: Santander
A beautiful luxury city with a camper spot right in the city.
Day 13 – 18: San Vicente
A We Wander Why Favorite! San Vicente has everything: beautiful beaches, nice town, beautiful surroundings and mountains of the Picos in the background.
Day 19 – 20: Potes
The perfect starting point for your road trip through the Picos.
Day 21 – 24: Picos de Europa
Pull out your hiking shoes from the closet.
Day 25: Faro Cabo Busto
Beautiful place to spend the night with a breathtaking view of Spain’s rugged coastline.
Day 26 – 27: RIbadeo
Visit the impressive Praia das Catedrais beach here.
Day 28 – 29: Santiago de Compostela
One of the most visited cities in Galicia.
Southwest France – 3 nights
Okay, we start our north Spain route not entirely in North Spain but make a small stop just before the border of Spain in the cozy surfers village Contis. But actually, you can enjoy yourself very well anywhere in Southwest France. Recommendations besides Contis are Mimizan, Cap del Homey, Hossegor, and Moliets. It’s the ideal place for a quick stopover and perfect for bulking up on croissants and catching a few hours of sun.
Hondarribia – 1 night (only for campers)
Just across the border and just before San Sebastian, you will find a really cool wild camping spot to stay with your camper. Apart from a few sheep and wild horses, you have nothing here, except for a breathtaking view over San Sebastian
San Sebastian – 3 nights
Everyone loves food, so everyone loves San Sebastian. San Sebastian is Spain’s food heaven. For us, San Sebastian is the gem of the Spanish Basque Country. Apart from the fact that you can eat very well here, it is also a very nice city. Visiting San Sebastian with a camper is a bit more difficult. There are a number of campsites nearby with free shuttle services. You can easily arrange a taxi from the city.
Itxaspe – 3 nights
Itxaspe is a small place between San Sebastian and Bilbao. Right on a hill, you will find a cute campsite with a breathtaking view of the sea and the rugged coastline of Northern Spain. The campsite was not very cheap, but the environment makes up for a lot.
Bilbao – 1 night
Bilbao was once known as a dreary industrial city, but in recent years it has transformed into a trendy student city with lots of hotspots.
Bilbao is in the Basque Country, making the city feel and taste different than “normal Spain”. The region has its own kitchen and even its own language. With the camper, you have a very nice place to stay on a hill on the edge of the city.
Santander – 1 night
You won’t be short of nice cities in Northern Spain. Santander is also definitely worth a stop. This city offers a combination of green mountain landscapes with white sandy beaches, imposing cliffs, elegant historic mansions, royal architecture, and a beautiful past. A city to explore!
San Vicente – 5 nights
San Vicente is undoubtedly a We Wander Why favorite and should not be missed on your northern Spain route. We don’t often return to the same place, but we visited San Vicente three times in the past year alone, and that speaks volumes. San Vicente is a small fishing village with a beautiful coastline and the snow-covered mountains of the Picos in the background. From Spanish families, to lifers, to surfers: San Vicente is there for everyone.
Potes – 2 nights
The Picos de Europa should not be missed during your road trip through Northern Spain and the town of Potes is the perfect first stop. From San Vicente, it’s about an hour’s drive to the village of Potes. With an old Mercedes Bus, it’s about 2 hours ;p. The route to the town is truly stunning. Be sure to add a good amount of extra time to your route, as you’ll want to stop quite often along the way. From beautiful historic buildings to the babbling brook that runs through the city, Potes is simply right. So, if a visit to the Picos is on your itinerary, be sure to also stop in the village of Potes.
Picos de Europa (Posado de Valdeon) – 4 nights
The Picos were declared a national park in 1995, and for good reason. This area is truly stunningly beautiful. They may not be the highest mountains in Spain, but they are certainly the most beautiful. It’s the place to pull your hiking boots out of the closet (or in our case, the trunk) and head into the mountains. We stayed in the town of Posada de Valdeón. This is a well-known stop for people who want to do the famous Ruta del Cares hike. You can do this hike from the nearby Cain or from Poncebos. Read more about Ruta del Cares and the hike to Bulnes.
After the Picos de Europa, we had some trouble finding other enjoyable places, which was partly due to Covid. Many places were still closed, so we passed through various places more quickly. A few nice destinations to possibly add to your route are:
Faro Cabo Busto – 1 night (camper only)
At Faro Cabo Busto, you’re situated on a cliff next to a lighthouse with an unforgettable view over the sea. Besides a stray chip stand, there isn’t much here, except for one of the most beautiful bays in Spain and a view you will never ever forget.
Ribadeo – 2 nights
The coastline of Ribadeo is truly beautiful. Here you’ll find the Praia das Catedrais. It’s a bit touristy, but truly beautiful to visit. When the tide is low, you can walk through the beautiful cliffs and sea caves. A truly spectacular sight.
We spent 2 nights at Camping Rino Costa near Ribadeo. And while you’re there, you should definitely try the pulpo dish.
Santiago de Compostella – 2 nights
Santiago de Compostela has been on the World Heritage List since 1985 and has been attracting visitors and pilgrims from all over the world for centuries. It is one of the most visited cities in Galicia. The city is a bit more difficult to reach by bus or camper. So, park outside the city and take the bike or public transportation. Check out the location of the camper site here >>
Send We Wander Why Some LOVE
Completely thrilled with this article? Show We Wander Why some love by leaving a comment or follow us on Instagram.