7 amazing Spanish road trips to try on your next holiday
Sick of the airport but looking to book the perfect trip to Spain? All you need to do is pack up your car and drive.
Brittany Ferries currently offer two overnight sailings per week from Cork to Santander in Northern Spain, offering holiday makers the chance to explore a part of Europe that boasts glorious weather, great food, stunning scenery and the warmest of welcomes.
Sailings depart from Cork on a Wednesday and Friday, with departures from Santander on Thursdays and Sundays, making it easy to plan a short trip or a longer holiday.
One thing is for sure - the best way to see Northern Spain is by road. If you’re looking for some holiday inspiration, here are some amazing road trips that you’ll never forget.
1. Santander to San Sebastian
Once you disembark in Santander, we strongly recommend driving along the rugged Basque coast to the incomparable San Sebastián. This resort town boasts some of the region’s finest restaurants and beaches, with Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondarreta framed by a magnificent promenade.
This is the perfect place to stop and watch the world go by before taking a walk into the cobblestoned Old Town (Parte Vieja), past the many shops and pintxo bars.
Pintxos are bite-sized portions of the best food that Spain has to offer. Tourists and locals alike will enjoy nothing more than stopping for a quick glass of wine and a pintxo before moving on to the next venue, and the next, and the next!
For those of you with an adventurous spirit, try the San Sebastian electric bike tour. It’s one of the best ways to see the city, its surrounding hillsides and some truly incredible architecture.
We recommend an overnight stay and dinner in Arzak, considered one of the best in the world with three Michelin stars to its name. They specialise in nueva cocina vasca, or new Basque cuisine, and it’s an experience not to be missed.
2. San Sebastián to Bilbao
You won’t want to leave San Sebastián, but the good news is Bilbao is situated just 100km to the west. You’ll love exploring this cultural wonderland of fine art and amazing food, with its tiny streets of Casco Viejo, Bilbao’s Old Town, where you can truly shop until you drop in Ribera Market.
This is a place where you’ll see stellar, fresh food treated with respect and, if you’re not hungry going in, you’ll be ravenous by the time you leave. Good thing there are scores of pintxo bars lining the surrounding streets.
You can’t visit Bilbao without seeing the Guggenheim, home to some of Europe’s finest modern artistic creations.
3. Bilbao to Santoña
Known for its anchovies, Santoña’s most famous export, this delightful village is located just 70km from Bilbao and is perfect for exploring the cliffs, forts and ancient rock dwellings of the Monte Buceiro peninsula.
Santoña is best known as a holiday destination for locals, as opposed to overseas visitors. That makes it more affordable than many of the bigger towns and cities in the region, but no less charming! For the perfect place to relax, visit Berria beach, with its golden sands and sheltered bay.
4. Santoña to Santander
Having started out in Santander, it’s time to return to really experience the best that the Cantabrian capital has to offer.
We recommend visiting Playa de Somo across the bay to enjoy the best possible views of the city, while some of the best food in Santander can be found in the wonderful El Diluvio, where the tortilla is to die for.
Santander is home to the Palacio de la Magdalena, once the royal family’s summer residence, a popular tourist destination set against an ocean backdrop on the Magdalena Peninsula.
5. Santander to Llanes
Continuing to head west, drive along the coast for just over an hour to the evocative coastal resort of Llanes. This is where you’ll truly find some of the coast’s most attractive cliffs, coves and beaches, and the medieval walls and tower speak to the town’s rich history.
Llanes’ old quarter has been listed as an ‘historic and artistic complex’, while the harbour features the unique Cubos de Memoria (Cubes of Memory), a colourful breakwater designed by the artist Augustin Ibarrola and decorated to reflect the town’s past.
6. Llanes to Oviedo
If your biggest motivation for visiting Spain is the food, you have to spend some time in Oviedo.
An hour’s drive inland from Llanes, the city is known for its gastronomic heritage and delicious local cuisine. Try the Fabada Asturiana (bean stew), Pitu de Caleya (special free range chicken) and the Cabrales cheese.
The Iglesia de Santa Maria del Naranco can be found in a grassy area at the foot of the Monte del Naranco, and offers the best possible views of the city in serene surroundings. This is a place with untold historical value, earning its UNESCO World Heritage status.
7. Oviedo to A Coruña
It’s time to hit the open road again, and enjoy the beautiful scenery as you drive a couple of hours west towards A Coruña, a place where the locals are known for living well.
Why not join them? This is a place for sitting, eating, enjoying a glass of wine or cider and letting the atmosphere wash over you on Plaza de Maria Pita.
Style and fashion are key in A Coruña, with a mix of the old and the new along the modernism-infused Cantones to the city’s many museums, gardens and exhibition centres.
Brittany Ferries have done all the hard-work for you by offering great choice touring holidays as an easy way to explore the many highlights of Spain. Start your holiday early by sailing overnight from Cork before enjoying the stunning scenery and excellent sightseeing opportunities on one of their new car tours starting in Santander.
Choose from the 7-night Hiking and Nature in Green tour from €1,074pp, discovering Green Spain with exhilarating walks through some incredible scenery; or the 4-night Galicia and the Pilgrim’s Way tour from €435pp, exploring Galicia’s rolling countryside, spectacular coastlines with rocky coves and fine beaches.