Spain: Lost in the Northern Spain

January 1, 1970

by Laura Kia Maria

When I say Spain, what things floats in to your mind? Let me guess, sun, sangria, señoritas and long beaches. Well, you are completely wrong! Now you are probably thinking I am a complete loonie. Everything listed above is correct when talking about the touristic, southern parts of Spain, but there is so much more Spain to discover.

If you split Spain in two halves from the height of Madrid, what is left above is the most interesting Spain for me personally. That is the reason why I am located to Zaragoza, the Capital of Aragon. I do not want in any means to disrespect the southern Spain, but my interests are mostly found on the northern side. Also there is a lot of information to be found about the southern parts, but very few regarding the North!

Santander shot from the Beach of Loredo

Santander shot from the Beach of Loredo

We can start unwrapping the awesomeness of Northern Spain by naming the big ones. Firstly, there is both giants, Madrid and Barcelona. Two big and trendy European weekend getaway destinations. I have visited both and I like them both for very different reasons. There is no really comparing these two, they are so different. So different that they even have different languages!

Then there is the less known big Spanish cities. Zaragoza, Pamplona and San Sebastian. Some of you might know Pamplona for its notorious festival San Fermín, commonly known as the running of the bulls. The whole city is filled with people dressed in white from head to toe, with some read accessories. The sight is incredible, because really, seems like absolutely everybody from babies to grandpa’s in the city got the memo to wear this traditional outfit.

Visit San Sebastian, even on a budget

The expensive city can be discovered with little money

For the beach lovers, there is also destinations found in the Northern Spain. San Sebastian is the most popular city among the summer tourists. This Basque pearl of the north coast is an amazing destination with many possibilities to do along side with the sightseeing. The water sports are blooming in the beaches of San Sebastian and the surrounding areas are perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities. San Sebastian in general is a bit more expensive then the other cities in the Northern Spain, so if you are traveling with a budget, this could be a perfect destination for a day trip from Bilbao or other nearby cities.

The Cantabrian mountains

The Cantabrian mountains

From San Sebastian we can start moving by the coast line towards Portugal. Next great destination we come across is Bilbao. Yet I have not visited Bilbao, just passed it by, but I am very eager to go visit this Basque capital and see how the city functions with the two completely different languages, Basque and Castellan. I promise to go there soon and tell you all about it!

After leaving the Basque country, we will find a lovely Cantabria. My personal favorite of the Spanish autonomous communities. This is where “the Green Spain” really hits you hard. Cantabria has kind of a “Lord of the rings” sort of vibe in it. The landscapes with mountains, glimpses of the ocean and green, green fields, as far as your eye can see. Also for me, the weather here is most optimal. In the summer many Spanish cities hit the 40 Celsius degree mark and it gets unbearable. In cities like Santander though, the ocean keeps the temperatures around 25 and the light breeze makes you not sweat your bottoms off, even in the hottest days of August.

The great escape in Santander

Santander is a very good destination for someone who is looking to mix the benefits of visiting cities, lying on the beach and active, sporty holidays. In the city of Santander there is many very interesting sights to visit, memorabilia from the civil war, open zoo and spectacular buildings like the bank of Santander.

The Church of Pilar in Zaragoza

The Church of Pilar in Zaragoza

Already from the main “paseo maritimo” you are able to reach the beaches of Santander, but If you would rather get away from the city, take the ferry to Somo. The beaches and the landscapes are like from an other world and it is just a 20-minute boat ride away. I will soon write a whole article about Santander and the near areas, where I will give more specific advices of getting around.

When you travel further west you will come across with Asturias and Galicia. They both continue the hurrah of the green, fresh Spain with the mountains and ocean. I have visited both but very shortly. I hope I am able to reach these regions in no time and tell you all about it. And for my sake, I really hope to get back to Galicia soon, because the “Galegos” really know their way with the food!

My 5 favorite things in the Northern Spain.

  • People

I don’t know if it is my Finnish heritage, but these people really have found a place in my heart. There is saying that with a Spanish person from the North, It is harder to make friends, but when you do, it is a friend for life. They actually do say the same thing about the finnish people!

  • Climate

Ok, I have to admit, Zaragoza for example gets way too hot for me in the summer, but all the locations by the sea are perfect weather-vice. Sunny, warm but not too warm. Love it.

  • Nature

I am from a country, which is mostly flat and the sea surrounding us is polluted and waveless. So the Pyrenees, Sistema Cantabrico –mountains, the Bay of Biscay and the endless amount of beaches to wander. It is just a magnificent combination.

  • Food

Spain in general is known for its amazing food culture, but in the northern Spain I have come across with some extraordinary meals. The meat here is different, their habits of drinking the “Sidra” the Spanish cider, Sea food in Galicia, the Basque “Pinxos”. Here they really know their way around the food and eating local products has never been so easy.

  • Activities

For an active person, the northern Spain offers endless options of things to do. You can go for example hiking, horse back riding in the beach, climbing, surfing, skiing, the options is yours!

Official travel information about Spain Here.

Laura Kia Maria

By Laura Kia Maria

My name is Laura and I am a Finnish freelance writer and a photographer. I am currently living in Barcelona, but I travel the northern parts of Spain, always looking for the great and original Spanish experiences. Im originally from Helsinki, the capital of Finland, but I studied journalism and filmmaking in the University of Lapland.


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