Totally Spain has paired up with Spanish Paradores, one of our favourite Spanish hotel chains, to bring you this unique 10-night Self-Drive Northern Spain Parador Tour of one of our favourite parts of the Iberian Peninsula – Northern Spain and the stunning regions of Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia. Experience some of the best food in Spain along with some of the finest beaches and coastal scenery. As well as dramatic mountain areas and charming towns and cities such as Bilbao, San Sebastian, Santander and Santiago de Compostela. And best of all? No crowds. This tour provides a terrific overview of the area and will no doubt leave you wanting to return for more.
Northern Spain Parador Tour
Days 1 & 2: Bilbao – Friday & Saturday night
Your Northern Spain Parador Tour commences with your arrival in Bilbao where we transfer you privately from Bilbao airport to your centrally located 4-star Bilbao hotel.
Enjoy all this wonderful city has to offer including pre-booked tickets to the Guggenheim museum so you don’t have to wait in line. Tuck in to delicious Basque tapas and local Riojan wines in the city’s many idyllic cafes and bars. Discover the charming Old Quarter and riverside walkway. And shop to your heart’s content at unique independent boutiques and big name stores. All within easy walking distance of your hotel. First-timers to the city can take part in a walking tour of the city of Bilbao with an expert guide whereas repeat-visitors might prefer a tapas tour, cookery class or wine-tasting in the city’s old quarter. On the second day you might like to make a day-trip to Gaztelugatxeko – made famous in the Game of Thrones. Stop off at one of the many fine eateries in the Basque country for lunch – you have to try ‘al pil pil’. If you want something really exclusive make a booking at the Michelin-starred restaurant Azurmendi (near the city) or Asador Etxebarri (30-mins drive) which was voted 10th Best Restaurant in the World in 2015. For more ideas on what to see and do, read our city guide to Bilbao.
Day 3 Hondarribia – Sunday night
It’s time to go east towards the French border to one of Northern Spain’s most picturesque fishing towns. If it’s your first time in Northern Spain, why not stop off in San Sebastian on your way – to walk on the famous Concha beach and dine on some of the exclusive tapas. Read our guide to San Sebastian city here. We can arrange a tapas tour for you or a cookery class if you’d prefer a structure activity there. Later that afternoon, drive onto Hondarribia to the Parador (the first of six on this trip!) and relax in the sumptuous surroundings.
Day 4 Argomaniz – Monday night
Today you say good-bye to the coast as you’re driving inland on your Northern Spain Parador tour to a Parador that’s closeby Vitoria-Gasteiz – the capital city of the Basque Country with a few wonderful squares for dining out. Argomaniz itself is a stunning building and you’ll find many charming monasteries and chapels on its doorstop that are well-worth exploring. Read more here about Vitoria and its nearby villages. You can also reach some great wineries – and we can book a tasting tour for you in the many Rioja-Alavesa or Riojan wineries that are closeby – read our guide to Laguardia here.
Days 5 & 6 Limpias – Tuesday & Wednesday nights
We’re leaving the Basque Country today for Limpias in the Cantabria region. Drive to the Parador of Limpias and after a relaxing stroll on the grounds, head for the coast at Laredo or Santona – home to some amazing fish and seafood. We can book a table for you at one of the many Michelin-starred dineries in Cantabria – read the guide here. For your second day in Cantabria we’ve included a visit to the Centro Botin in Santander. Afterwards we suggest you enjoy a meal in a typical tavern or take in some tapas in Santander’s Puertochico area. Later perhaps take a boat tour of the bay offered by Los Reginas and enjoy the wonderful views of the Magdalena Palace and the Lighthouse. Or you might want to visit the charming UNESCO-listed Santillana-del-Mar medieval village.
Days 7 & 8 Picos de Europa – Thursday & Friday nights (Fuente De Parador (1nt) & Cangas de Onis Parador (1nt))
Prepare to go back inland as you head to the Picos de Europa mountain range. En route, you might want to stop off briefly to see El Capricho by Antoni Gaudi in Comillas. The drive from the coast to Fuente De is a dramatic one – as you travel through the Hermida Gorge and finally get your first glimpse of the majestic Peaks. On the way, stop and discover some of the local wine, cheeses or liquor makers in the market town of Potes before checking into the Parador at Fuente De. This afternoon – time permitting – or tomorrow morning, take an included ride on the cable-car (it’s right beside the Parador) to see the beauty and expanse of the Picos mountain range. Later, set off for Asturias and the other side of the Picos mountains.
You’re staying inside the mountains for another day – and passing into Asturias to enjoy the Roman bridge, the Lakes of Covadonga and the Sanctuary which is located inside a cave containing the remains of Pelayo – a king and symbol of Christian resistance in medieval Spanish history and literature. Overnight at the Parador at the Cangas de Onis by the River Sella and enjoy the local meats, fish and cheeses over dinner.
Day 9 Vilalba – Saturday night
After the mountains, it’s time to explore Galicia. You’re staying at the Parador of Vilalba – a small town best known for its medicinal springs. You can visit the nearby walled city of Lugo and what about taking on some of the Camino de Santiago? The Camino del Norte actually passes through Vilalba so if you want to stretch your legs, you walk along some of the Way and get a sense of the history of the route which continues onto Arzua when the Camino meets up with the French route and carries on into Santiago.
Day 10 Santiago de Compostela – Sunday night
Today after check-out, you drive to Santiago de Compostela, your final destination on your Northern Spain Parador tour and a magical place. The pedestrianised old quarter of Santiago is very charming and atmospheric with the Camino pilgrims giving the city centre a very medieval feel. The jewel in the crown of this enchanting city is Plaza del Obradoiro where you’ll find the cathedral and the Parador, known as Hostal dos Reis Catolicos. After check-in, enjoy a refreshing drink on the Parador terrace overlooking Obradoiro Square. You’ll want to visit the Cathedral and if you’re in luck you’ll get to see the botafumeiro in motion. If you arrive in early, we recommend a visit to the city food market and for later on in the day, you might wish to take in a wine tasting – remember, Galicia is home to some wonderful wine territories such as the Rias Baixas. You can read more about our guide to Galicia & the Rias Baixas wineries here. Seafood is king here in Galicia and we encourage you to try the delicious ‘pulpo’, clams, mussels and more.
Day 11 – Santiago Airport – Monday
Today is when you drop off the car rental and fly home from Santiago’s Airport. Buen viaje and we hope it’s just the first of many trips with us. We pride ourselves in repeat custom and hope you will be no different! [NB You might be tempted to follow up with our Southern Spain Parador tour here]
Tempted to take this trip?
We’ll take care of everything on the ground for you as well as pre-booking some top sights. We’ll arrange your car rental too and provide you with comprehensive documentation so that you make the very most out of your time in Northern Spain so as you see all the best places.
Trip Price: from 1,289 euros per person sharing, which includes:-
- 10 nights accommodation in a standard double room with ensuite bathroom (8 nights in Parador hotels and 2 nights in a 4-star hotel in Bilbao including buffet breakfast daily)
- Car Rental (VW Golf or similar) with unlimited mileage, basic collision damage waiver and theft insurance. Pick-up Day 3 in Bilbao. Drop-off Santiago de Compostela city Day 10.
- Pre-booked entrance tickets to Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Centro Botin in Santander
- Return journey on cable car in Fuente De, Picos de Europa National Park
- Comprehensive documentation including road & city maps, guides & suggested itineraries
- All taxes
Itinerary Terms & Conditions
- Price is valid for travel in 2019 and subject to availability.
- This tour must commence on a Friday
- The itinerary is not available in July and August
- You need to book and manage your own flights
- Your hotel in Bilbao will be advised at time of booking