A Five-Day Itinerary to Cantabria and Asturias

Asturias, Spain
Asturias, Spain | © Spanish Coches / Flickr
Esme Fox

Cantabria and Asturias sit next to each other right at the top of Spain. They are among its least-visited regions, but are some of its most rewarding – filled with spectacular natural parks, dramatic coastal views, historic villages and fascinating cities. Here’s how to see these two regions in just five days. This itinerary works best if you have your own transport or hire a car.

Day 1

Begin your trip in the capital of Cantabria, Santander. A city with a strong maritime heritage, it has an important harbour area, elegant architecture and various beautiful beaches. Start your day discovering the contemporary art at the futuristic Centro Botin, before learning all about the city’s maritime history at the Museo Marítimo del Cantábrico. For lunch, head to one of the city’s great restaurants. In the afternoon, make your way to the Magdalena Peninsula to see the magnificent Palacio de la Magdalena, then finish up your day relaxing on the beach nearby.

Visit the Palacio de la Magdalena in Santander

Day 2

In the morning, head west from Santander to the picturesque village of Santillana del Mar, around 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) away. Known as one of the most beautiful villages in Spain, it’s a perfectly preserved medieval town, complete with quaint cobbled streets, honey-coloured stone houses and charming squares. Look around the village for a couple of hours, not forgetting to visit the collegiate church of Santa María, before making your way to the site of one of Spain’s most important ancient cave paintings at Altamira. In the afternoon, continue your journey by heading west again to Comillas, around 19 kilometres (11.8 miles) away. Here you can visit one of Gaudí’s little known masterpieces, El Capricho de Gaudí, a colourful house in Gaudí’s iconic, whimsical style. Spend the night in the small village of Comillas.

Santillana del Mar, Spain

Day 3

Set out in the early morning to continue your journey west and then south for 87 kilometres (54 miles) into the Picos de Europa Natural Park, across the border into Asturias. From the village of Cangas de Onís, drive up the windy road into the park for 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) to the Lakes of Covadonga. Stop at the Mirador de La Reina to snap a picture of the incredible views, then park your car to hike around these stunning mountain lakes. Head back to the village of Cangas de Onís for the night.

Go hiking around the Lakes of Covadonga in Asturias

Day 4

In the morning, travel one hour northwest to the coastal city of Gijón. Spend the day wandering around its fascinating attractions, such as the Museu del Pueblu d’Asturies to learn all about Asturian culture, the Gijón Aquarium, and the Atlantic Botanical Garden. There are also many excellent beaches nearby to enjoy, as well as great seafood restaurants, and a selection of great hotels to spend the night.

Visit the city of Gijón in Spain

Day 5

Half an hour’s drive south of Gijón you’ll find the capital of Asturias, Oviedo. Oviedo has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique and historic architecture, which dates back to Romanesque and pre-Romanesque times. Among these are Oviedo Cathedral and the Santa María del Naranco church and palace. The city is also known for its excellent traditional cider bars. At night, treat yourself to a stay at one of the city’s best luxury hotels to complete your trip.

Visit Oviedo Cathedral in Asturias
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