Although the south of Spain and the Mediterranean coast get plenty of attention from holidaymakers, the northern regions have so much undiscovered natural beauty that is worth getting to know. What’s more, no Spain road trip offers such dramatic countryside and a diverse cultural experience as the stunning northern Spain regions. Read on to discover one of the best ways to enjoy a holiday in Spain by car.
Zaragoza to Santander
The starting point for this northern Spain itinerary is the capital of the Aragon region. It has an airport and numerous car hire outlets to begin your road trip. The city is worth exploring before you begin travelling through Spain and its northernmost landscapes. In fact, no northern Spain travel guide would be complete without mentioning the city’s remarkable Mudéjar architecture, a distinctive building style which is now protected because of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage status. The historic centre has plenty of examples of this unique approach to architecture. Don’t miss out on the city’s Museum of Fine Arts which includes pieces by El Greco and Goya among other luminaries.
There are many good hotels in Zaragoza to base yourself in for a few days. The Catalonia El Pilar hotel is particularly well located in the centre of the city, a short distance from the stately 15th-century stone bridge, the Puente de Piedra which is one of the main sights. However, when you are ready to head out, take the AP-68 westwards along the charming Ebro valley. Turn north at Castejón on the AP-15 to head towards one of the most famous, if small, cities in the whole of northern Spain.
This city has been world-renowned since Ernest Hemingway published a novel that centred on the area. Located in Navarre, the city is most famous for its tradition of running with bulls, something that occurs each year during the festival season in July. Park up and explore the area on foot for a while to soak up the atmosphere. The fortified citadel is well worth exploring especially given the attractive parkland that surrounds it. The city also has a world-class planetarium which is a great place to head for on a rainy day.
One of the main reasons for visiting the city is to enjoy the local cuisine. Navarre is famous for artichokes and ham as well as its stunning chorizo sausage. There are plentiful restaurants with fine food around the main square, the Plaza del Castillo, where you can find a great spot for lunch. Then it is time to drive on. Take the A-12 out of the city towards Estella.
About an hour behind the wheel brings you to this wonderfully inviting city of around 150,000 inhabitants. Since it is the capital of Rioja, you will find some of the best wine in the whole of northern Spain in this city. The Catedral de Santa María de la Redonda and the Museo de La Rioja are two of the main tourist sites that you should take time to visit. In addition, try the lesser known Peña Bajenza, which is a massive rock formation that is a short drive outside of the centre.
Spend at least 24 hours in the city to get to know it – after all, it is one of northern Spain’s best-kept secrets and one of the main reasons to embark on this road trip anyway. If you are searching for where to sleep in Logroño, then the Catalonia Las Cañas Hotel occupies an excellent spot and is very comfortable. Located just to the north of the Ebro, the Catalonia Las Cañas Hotel makes for the perfect base for getting around the city.
Continue on the A-68 to Bilbao, one of the major urban centres of northern Spain. From here it is just a short drive along the A-8 to the main port. The two big coastal cities of the Basque Country and Cantabria are culturally diverse and have plenty of modern urban design, making a big contrast to some of the smaller places you will have driven through on your road trip. Whether you choose to fly back or take the ferry, these cities are no mere stopover points and constitute destinations in their own right.