Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque region: explore Spain’s least-known coastline

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Why go?

Spectacular scenery, including the Picos de Europa mountains in Asturias. Glorious beaches: Galicia and Asturias stand out especially. Well-deserved fame of Basque cuisine

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Pros

Less crowds, lower prices, local holidaymakers and great food – seafood in Galicia; pintxos & fine dining in the Basque region. Fabulous hiking & mountain biking in Picos de Europa

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Cons

Well… the weather. The coast is green because it rains a lot more than in the rest of Spain. So go with the idea of building in gastronomy, walking, hiking or sightseeing into your break

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Practical info

EasyJet, Iberia & Vueling fly to Bilbao; Ryanair covers Santiago de Compostela & Santander; Iberia and Vueling, La Coruña. Brittany Ferries operate to Santander and Bilbao from the UK.

Asturias hotels

Asturias hotels

Hotel Arredondo

A great location near the small resort of Llanes, which has some of Asturias’s best beaches stretching either side. This country hotel is family-friendly but gets an extra thumbs-up for welcoming four-legged friends, too. A small restaurant and bar on site, with others a ten-minute drive away. Part of the highly-recommended Casonas Asturianas rural hotel network: casonasasturianas.com.

Asturias beaches

Asturias beaches

Barro

One of our favourite family spots in Spain. When the tide goes out, it leaves behind dozens of rock pools, perfect for fishing; some even big enough for child-size dips. A beach bar nestling in the dune on the left, near those same pools, means you’ll still be here at sunset. Pick your own perfect stretch of sand from a long list at llanes.com/playas.

Asturias restaurants

Asturias restaurants

Casa Tista

Not easy to find but worth it, for a laidback seafood blowout. This family-owned restaurant, with a small outside terrace, is on the outskirts of the tiny village of Torielló, about 15 minutes from the resort of Llanes. No longer as cheap as it used to be, but worth the treat if you love fish and shellfish.

Asturias beach bars

Asturias beach bars

El Xiglu

This is a hard one to share! One of our favourite beach bars in Spain, or chiringuito, as the locals say. For over 20 years, El Xiglu has served up drinks and light meals on their shaded terraces set in the dune overlooking Barro beach. Pick a lower table and you can keep an eye on the kids in the rock pools…

Galicia beaches

Galicia beaches

O Vicedo, near cape Bares

The water along this coast is definitely not the same temperature as the Med, but the sand is as white, if not whiter, the crowds non existent in most parts and the sea is teeming with life.
Galicia curves around the top left corner of Spain. The coast from Viveiro to La Coruña and on to the corner is wild; this area is known as the Rias Altas.
As your drop down near Vigo, close to Portugal, the Atlantic ocean cuts deep into the coastline, creating inlets and safe, sheltered swimming. The temperature here, in the Rias Baixas area, is several degrees warmer. About 15km offshore from Vigo lie the Cies islands, a small archipelago now protected as a marine reserve. Named by the Romans as the islands of the gods, the sea here is glassy clear and the sands are shell white. Visitor numbers to the islands are limited; you can camp overnight – booking essential – or just take a day trip by boat.
Have a look at turismo.gal/portada-rias-e-praias?langId=en_US for more inspiration.

Galicia hotels

Galicia hotels

Casa rural O Vilar

This gem was uncovered when the boys ventured off on a cycle tour. Set in lush vegetation near the coast at Ortegueira, it doesn’t have a restaurant on site but the friendly owners are full of suggestions. Five bedrooms available in the 250-year-old farmhouse and they also rent out an appartment.

Galicia restaurants

Galicia restaurants

Meson Doña Teresa/Carnota

Not a looker from the outside, this seaside bar is near the fabulous sands of Mar de Lira, in Carnota, on Galicia’s west coast. Benches and wooden tables set the scene for a simple, reasonably-priced seafood blowout. The owner, if still the same from our visit, is a charismatic Galician who emigrated to New York, returning after 9/11 for a quieter life in his homeland.

Galicia Cycling

Galicia Cycling

Rias Bajas

Mountain bikers will relish tackling the routes in Asturias, but for anyone wanting an easier ride, the cycle paths below Vigo heading towards Portugal are a delight, crossing the sands at many points. A first point of call could be turismodevigo.org/es/cicloturismo. Other websites: bikeasturias.net; http://turismodecantabria.com/rutas-por-cantabria; tourism.euskadi.eus/en.

Galicia National Parks

Galicia National Parks

Cies Islands

Looks like the Caribbean, doesn’t it? It’s actually a beach on the Cies Islands, around 15km from Vigo. Water’s a tad colder, of course…

Galicia National Parks

Galicia National Parks

Cies Islands

So beautiful, the Cies get featured twice. Boat trips tour the islands but leave you plenty of time for a Robinson Crusoe-style picnic…

Galicia nature

Galicia nature

Ézaro waterfall: fresh water cascading into the ocean

One of the few waterfalls in Europe emptying into the ocean. The river Xallas pounds into the Atlantic at the foot of Mount Pindo, near Finisterre. In summer, a guide can take you kayaking on the waters near the action and the falls are lit up at night.

Galicia wine

Galicia wine

Albariño and Ribeiro

Touring Galicia, you weave in and out of the vineyards, particularly along some of the coastal regions. We’re leaving suggestions here to experts like the journalists at Wine Enthusiast winemag.com/listicle/the-best-galician-wines. The local tourist board also have great information on the link below.

Basque hotels

Basque hotels

Villa Lorenea, Fuenterrabia

Fuenterrabia, near San Sebastian, is famous for its lively bars and pintxos (tapas) restaurants and has a boat service running across to its French neighbour Hendaye. Villa Lorenea is a stylish B & B, with parking, a short stroll from all the best eateries. Come summer, they serve breakfast in the garden

Basque restaurants

Basque restaurants

Fuenterrabia

It’s hard to single out restaurants in this gastro town, but here goes:
The Hermandad de Pescadores has shared tables, is noisy and even a bit chaotic, but absolutely worth it. The freshest fish, great local wines and charming ladies smoothly working the tables to make sure everyone’s happy. Book or prepare to queue. Facebook.com/ LaHermandadDePescadores
Perched on a hill in a residential area, Aroka Berri is quieter and more formal, with first-class ingredients. The seafood is an obvious choice but they even work magic with a plate of beautifully presented steamed vegetables if you need a rest from the fancy stuff.arrokaberri.com
For informal Pintxos dining, work your way through the pedestrian old town: Bar Gran Sol on San Pedro street is famous for its innovative take on tapas: bargransol.com/en
More ideas, and local events, at bidasoaturismo.com