Northern Spain road trip

If you are looking to travel to Spain, there are many options. In this article you can read why traveling to Northern Spain is great, what you can see there, what makes it different from other parts of Spain and why this Northern Spain road trip is varied and has a little bit of everything.

We traveled for more than 3 weeks in Northern Spain and we are happy to share our experience in this article. This itinerary has a nice mix between cities, nature, culture, and history. If you like adventure and want something different every day, this is the perfect tour for Northern Spain.

You can take this itinerary through northern Spain and copy exactly what we did. You can also use the itinerary as inspiration to create your itinerary.

Northern Spain road trip
Olite Palace

How many weeks do you need for this Northern Spain road trip

We have been traveling through northern Spain for just over 3 weeks, which is a great amount of day to visit many different places. However, this does not automatically mean that you necessarily need 3 weeks. We have put together this itinerary for 3 weeks based on our trip, you can copy this travel route or use it as inspiration.

If you have less than 3 weeks, you have to make choices. Depending on your personal preferences, you should skip certain destinations.

If you have 2 weeks it is recommended to skip Santander, Oviedo, and Montserrat. Stay at Bilbao 1 day instead of 2. You can follow the rest of the destinations as indicated in this itinerary.

If you have less than 2 weeks it is best to skip Zaragoza, Ordesa National Park, and Barcelona which will reduce travel distances.

When you have more time, you can add western Spain (province of Galicia) to this itinerary. Here you can visit Santiago de Compostela.

How much budget do you need for this Northern Spain itinerary?

Traveling through Spain is not expensive by western standards to travel through. If you have a tight budget, €50 – €80 is enough per day. An average traveler spends between €80 – €120 per day. If you want to know in detail how much it costs to eat, sleep, stay, activities and other expenses, we recommend reading our article: Spain travel budget. In our article, you can also read how much we spent on our trip to give you a good indication.

San Vicente de la Sonsierra

Transport for this itinerary

For this itinerary, you can easily travel by bus, train, or car. It is best to fly to Spain first and use public transport from there. We do not recommend traveling by public transport from outside Spain to Spain because of the long travel times. From the Netherlands, you have to fly to Bilbao and back from Barcelona.

You can easily book all public transport tickets here.

However, the best way to do this itinerary is by car. A Northern Spain road trip gives you a different experience because you have more flexibility during your travel. This means you are not bound by the timetables of public transport.

If you travel by car, you can travel from the Netherlands with your car to the first destination San Sebastian or first fly to Bilbao and rent a car there. You can fly back via Barcelona and drop the car at here. You can book a car for rental here rentalcars.

Where to stay when traveling through Northern Spain?

During our trip through the north of Spain, we searched for the best places to stay in Northern Spain. In our opinion, fun and special accommodations give your trip an extra dimension. In the article you can read the best accommodations for each destination you visit when traveling through Northern Spain. The article is easy to use, you can clearly see all accommodations and book them directly. It saves you a lot of research, we speak from experience ;).

The perfect itinerary of Northern Spain

This itinerary is perfect for travelers looking for a good mix between culture, nature, and cities. Adventurous travelers will love this Northern Spain itinerary because you will discover two beautiful natural parks in Spain. Traveling through northern Spain is awesome because the cities here are still very authentic where you will encounter fewer tourists compared to other parts of Spain. The north of Spain is unknown to many travelers, below you can read briefly about a certain destination per destination. If you are interested and want to read more about it, you can open the article for more information.

In the destination articles, you can read what to do, where to stay, how to get there, and personal tips. Per article, you see a map, which is very useful because you can see at a glance where all the tips can be found.

Tip: below you can see the map with all destinations. You will also see the two airports if you are flying to Spain. Click on the top right corner to view the map larger.

See below overview all destinations listed where you can see per destination how many days you need to stay and which days you will be at a certain place.

DestinationNights*Days*
San Sebastian2Day 1 – 3
Bilbao2Day 3 – 5
Picos de Europa 3Day 5 – 8
Oviedo2Day 8 – 10
Santander1Day 10 – 11
La Rioja2Day 11 – 13
Zaragoza2Day 13 – 15
Ordesa National Park3Day 15 – 18
Barcelona4Day 18 – 22
Total21

*Of course you are free to determine how many nights and days based on your preference. In our experience, this is the best distribution, so you have a good mix between nature, culture, adventure, and relaxation.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian is the starting point of your journey. San Sebastian is located by the sea and is great to visit because this city has a beautiful historic center and the beaches are within reach. Due to the surrounding mountains, the location is phenomenal. In San Sebastian, you can do water sports activities, climb mountains and experience the typical Spanish life. Read everything about what you can do in San Sebastian here.

Tip: stay 2 nights | day 1 – 3

City hall San Sebastian

Bilbao

After spending 2 days in San Sebastian, you continue your journey to Bilbao. Bilbao has grown enormously in recent years in terms of tourism and this is mainly due to one sightseen: the Guggenheim Museum. The Guggenheim Museum is incredible to see because of its architecture. The collection of the Guggenheim Museum is modern, a must to visit! In addition to the museum, Bilbao has more great things to offer, read more via the link.

If you are traveling through Basque Country, San Sebastian and Bilbao are the two best places to visit.

Tip: stay 2 nights | day 3 – 5

Guggenheim Museum

Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa is a national park located in the north of Spain. This is our favorite destination of this itinerary. Picos de Europa has something special, it enchanted us during our trip. You can do beautiful hikes here. The hikes are magnificent because you are far away from civilization and during your hikes you can enjoy breathtaking views. In addition, Picos de Europa is unknown to many people, so you will encounter few other tourists here, making the experience unique.

If you want to make awesome hikes in walks in Picos de Europa you can read all about it in our article. We share our experience, which hikes are recommended to do, and many other tips!

Tip: stay 3 nights | day 5 – 8

Picos de Europa hike aliva

Oviedo

Oviedo is the cultural capital of the province of Asturias. This is one of the most important cities for pilgrims to visit in Spain. Oviedo is the city where the northern Camino de Santiago started. The best thing about Oviedo is that there are many old buildings to see. In addition, you can also make fun day trips from Oviedo to Gijon, mirador de Cueva and Cudillero.

If you like culture, like to have the feeling of walking through an open-air museum, Oviedo is a must to visit. Read more about the fun things to do in Oviedo here.

Tip: stay 2 nights | day 8 – 10

Plaza de la Constitución

Santander

If you like to take a day off at the beach during your trip, Santander is the place to visit. Santander has some beautiful beaches, each with its characteristics. You have small romantic bays and large, imposing sandy beaches. In addition to the beaches, you can visit a pleasant historical center and a peninsula in Santander.

Santander is a perfect destination to spend a day soaking up everything you’ve seen until then and recharge before continuing your journey to La Rioja. Read the best things to do in Santander here.

Tip: stay 1 night | day 10 – 11

Magdalena Peninsula

La Rioja

La Rioja is the wine region, it is comparable to Tuscany only than it is Spanish. In La Rioja, you can visit many vineyards, authentic villages, special monasteries, royal palaces, and castles. Just for La Rioja alone, 3 weeks is not enough. To help you get a good idea of ​​La Rioja, it is important to visit the best sights of La Rioja. There are many options. In our article, you read the best things to visit in the Rioja wine region.

Tip: stay 2 nights | day 11 – 13

Palacio Viejo

Zaragoza

Zaragoza is one of the largest cities in Spain and is unknown to most people. In Zaragoza, you can have a great city trip because there is a lot to discover. Here you can find one of the largest basilicas in Europe. The Spanish artist Goya is also from Zaragoza, so visiting the Goya Museum is a must when you are here. Besides many other cathedrals, a Moorish castle, and beautiful buildings, Zaragoza is above all a city to experience how it is to live in a Spanish city.

In the evening this city comes alive, making it fun to walk in the historic center through the small streets that are full of people enjoying their evening. Many bars and cafes can be found here, Are you curious? Read here the best things to do in Zaragoza.

Tip: stay 2 nights | day 13 – 15

Palacio Viejo

Ordesa National Park

Ordesa National Park is like Picos de Europa a national park where you can do great hikes. In Ordesa National Park you can do one of the best hikes in Spain called Cola de Caballo. This hike is also called the most beautiful waterfalls hike of the Pyrenees. During this hike, you will pass a couple of impressive waterfalls.

In addition to this hike you can do many other fun things like horseback riding, take a day trip through the mountain passes by car, visit different mountain villages where it seems like time has stopped, or if you like something more adventurous, do something like mountaineering.

The absolute highlight is visiting Monte Perdido, from this mountain you have an amazing view over the entire valley.

As you can read there is a lot to do. Read in our article which Ordesa National Park hikes you should do and more tips.

Tip: stay 3 nights | day 15 – 18

Waterfalls Cola de Caballo
hiking in Ordesa trail

Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe to visit. For a city trip to Barcelona, you need 3 days because there is so much to see. Whether you love to visit museums, want to discover the Sagrada Familia, admire works of art by Gaudi or want to see a football match of FC Barcelona. It’s all possible in Barcelona.

You can find a lot of information about Barcelona, ​​in our article about Barcelona we give local tips, we can do this because we have visited Barcelona 100 times (our family is from here). Barcelona is a special place for us, we hope through our article that you will have the same experience. Discover our Barcelona itinerary for 3 days here.

Finally, you can have a great day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat. Montserrat is a mountain range where you can find a monastery. This monastery is beautiful to visit due to its location. The nice thing about this day trip is that you can combine culture with nature. You can do a hike in the mountains after visiting the monastery. We explain everything about the day trip Montserrat from Barcelona in our article.

Tip: It is recommended to visit Montserrat on the 2nd or 3rd day (day 20 or 21 of the program) when you are in Barcelona so that you can spend the last day in Barcelona itself. The reason is that you will be traveling the day after, so you want to be on the road as little as possible the day before.

Tip: stay 4 nights | day 18 – 22

Barri Gòtic
Montserrat day trip from Barcelona

Spain Travel Guide

Compiling an itinerary is part of the preparation for the trip to Spain. If you want to know more about Spain, we recommend that you read our Spain travel guide. In this travel guide you can read what the best period is to visit Spain, which items you have to bring and much more useful information.

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