Green Spain! From slow local gastronomy to hiking adventures, discover a different side to Spain with our guide to the best off-the-beaten-track experiences
- Head north to discover mountains and rugged coast, hilltop villages and harbour towns.
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From mountainous peaks and lush valleys to crystalline rivers and wild beaches, Northern Spain couldn’t be further away from its well-known cities and costas.
They call this Green Spain, four regions of raw beauty that arc along the northern coastline, liberally sprinkled with medieval villages, natural parks and historic vineyards, woven together with hiking and biking routes and alive with farm-fresh cuisine and vibrant cultures.
Green Spain encompasses four regions of raw beauty that arc along the northern coastline
Journey from Galicia, in the north-west, via Asturias and Cantabria to the Basque Country in the north-east and you’ll be immersed in experiences that take you far off the beaten track.
Taste Michelin-starred tapas, surf Atlantic waves, explore ancient settlements and wonder at futuristic architecture; these northern territories offer a different vision of Spain.
Farm to fork dining
A good holiday begins with good food.
Fresh ingredients grown locally, traditional dishes and authentic gourmet experiences. Blessed by the briny waters of the Atlantic and rich, fertile soils, these northern regions enjoy a unique cuisine that can be found in seaside cafes, hilltop villages and inner-city restaurants. It is no wonder Green Spain glitters with 53 Michelin stars.
The varied culinary delights of the Basque Country reflect its seafaring heritage, with seafood dominant on all menus
The varied culinary delights of the Basque Country reflect its seafaring heritage, with seafood dominant on all menus. Cod plays a starring role, perfectly paired with garlicky pil pil or tomato Biscay sauce.
In Asturias, meats, fish and the dairy delights of local cheeses are top of the menu – head to Agua in Gijon for the ultimate Michelin experience.
Nutrient-rich waters and a unique ecosystem offer Galicia a strong seafood cuisine
In the Cantabrian Sea, fine fish and smaller molluscs swim in abundance, landing on the plates alongside goat meat, lamb, freshwater salmon and trout
Nutrient-rich waters and a unique ecosystem offer Galicia a strong seafood cuisine, with the famous pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus) a shining star on tapas menus.
While in the Cantabrian Sea, fine fish and smaller molluscs swim in abundance, landing on the plates alongside goat meat, lamb, freshwater salmon and trout.
Take to the water
Playa de los Locos, Suances in Cantabria
Adventure awaits on the sparkling coastline.
Flecked with picturesque towns and windswept bays, staggering cliffs provide a charming backdrop to your aquatic adventures. With rocky coves, fragrant pine forests and mountain rivers cascading into the sea below, it’s the perfect escape.
Surf is said to have landed in Europe through the Basque Country, a likely story considering its rugged beaches, perfect breakers, and ideal coves for any and all abilities.
Yet surfing in Cantabria brings strong competition, with charming surfing towns and plenty of surf schools dotted along the pretty coast.
For a moment of respite, head to the white sands of Rodas Beach in the Cies Islands archipelago, a tranquil Galician sanctuary
With a wide range of watersports on offer, Asturias is also a great spot for thrillseekers. From windsurfing to wakeboarding, surfing to scuba, parasailing to paddleboarding, these spectacular waters offer a world of adventure.
And for a moment of respite, head to the white sands of Rodas Beach in the Cies Islands archipelago, a tranquil Galician sanctuary, once the haunt of pirates and smugglers and now a peaceful spot for some calm reflection.
Follow the Way of St James
The various ancient ways meander through Green Spain, ending before the doorway of the magnificent Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia
For centuries past, religious pilgrims and adventurers alike have been following the sacred way of St James. With starting points scattered throughout the European continent, as far away as Budapest, Naples, Krakow and Copenhagen, this famous walk can follow a multitude of routes, with options fit for all abilities.
The various ancient ways meander through Green Spain, ending before the doorway of the magnificent Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, where the remains of the apostle are said to be buried.
The pilgrimage can be undertaken on foot, by bike or on horseback, although to claim your pilgrim certificate you must travel under your own steam and meet certain distance requirements.
No matter the reason for your walk, you’ll enjoy a well-sign-posted route which passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in Spain.
Hike dramatic landscapes
The stunning coastline with the incredible peaks of the Picos De Europa in the background
Over 100 years of active conservation have left the Picos De Europa as a stunning example of what nature can achieve when left alone by humanity.
Originally known as the Covadonga Mountain National Park, these mountains became part of the Picos de Europa in 1995 and fan out across Cantabria and Asturias, playing host to some of the most mesmerising hiking routes and cable car journeys in the country.
Beyond the breathtaking peaks, Green Spain is laced with long-distance hiking routes.
In Asturias, the GR-109 hiking trail passes verdant valleys, riparian forests and traditional structures as it wends its way through the charming countryside. The Nature Trail is 6,067 kilometres long in total, and passes through several Nature Parks and Biosphere Reserves.
Beautiful walks through gorgeous scenery abound in Asturias
The dramatic landscapes of Aizkorri National Park in Basque Country
Or you can follow the journey of Idiazábal cheese from the pastures where sheep graze, to the markets where it’s sold, hiking the GR-283, which passes through some of the finest landscapes in the Basque Country.
Ramblers in Galicia shouldn’t miss the mountains of A Lasta, where limestone peaks and grotto caves await. Here you’ll encounter a multitude of bird species, as well as the largest colonies of bats in Spain.
Sip fine wines
The family-run wineries and lush vineyards of Rioja Alavesa in Euskadi offer some of the most delicious wines in Europe
How to pour the famous cider from Asturias
A trip to Spain wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of its award-winning wines, the ideal accompaniment to some Basque pintxos, Galician octopus, Asturian cheese or Cantabrian shellfish.
From the fresh flavours of on-trend albariño wines in Galicia to ruby-red riojas in the Basque Country, don’t neglect to try the sparkling ciders of Asturias or the increasingly popular white wines of the Cantabrian coast.
The family-run wineries and lush vineyards of Rioja Alavesa in Euskadi offer some of the most delicious wines in Europe.
From modern establishments to centuries-old cellars following traditional techniques, immerse yourself in a world of aroma in any of the charming wineries. And why not enjoy a glass of Txakoli, the local sparkling white, too?
Among the abundant treasures of Galicia, the vineyards in the Rías Baixas area produce albariño grapes, creating a delicate layered white wine with peach and citrus notes, perfect for pairing with the local seafood, while the Ribeira Sacra region of Galicia, specialises in the production of dry red wines from the Mencia grape.
Why not try them both?
The Ribeira Sacra wine region of Galicia
Explore villages and cities
From charming fairy tale villages to picturesque harbour towns, vibrant cities to isolated hamlets, the northern regions of Spain offer every kind of settlement.
Visit the charming town of Getxo or experience some of Spain’s finest gastronomy in Euskadi’s stylish San Sebastián, where, as in the elegant Santander, the architecture is a reminder that these two coastal towns were the favourite summer residences of the Spanish royal family.
Getxo in the Basque Country
Tour the quaint fishing villages like Muros, sampling the freshest seafood of Galicia, and take in the colourful historic sights in the Asturian city of Oviedo.
However you decide to explore Green Spain, by car or train, on foot or two wheels, you’ll have the chance to discover a little-explored region of emerald landscapes and dramatic coastline, creating memories to last a lifetime.
Discover more and plan your trip at ingreenspain.es
Cathedral of San Salvador of Oviedo
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