Leave Spain’s busy beaches and venture into the lesser explored green north.
Spain often conjures images of sun-kissed beaches and whitewashed villages. Yet, there’s a corner of the country that offers a refreshingly different experience: ‘Green Spain’.
Galícia, Cantabria, Euskadi (Basque country) and Asturias make up this northern region, a tourist treasure yet to be fully explored by international travellers.
“Green Spain is an ideal destination for those seeking a cool summer filled with authentic experiences,” Blanca Pérez-Sauquillo, Deputy Director of Marketing Turespaña, tells Euronews Travel.
Green Spain stretches 100 kilometres wide along the coastline of the Cantabrian Sea. Its geographical diversity allows for a stunning juxtaposition of natural wonders, from seaside landscapes to mountains that soar above 2,500 metres in height.
In its entirety, the region encompasses over 2,500 kilometres of coastline, presenting a vast array of diverse landscapes – with a natural haven for every kind of traveller. Whether you’re a beachcomber, a mountain enthusiast, or someone seeking the charms of rural life, Green Spain has something for you.
Here’s how to get the best out of your visit to Green Spain.
The crown jewel of Green Spain: el Camino de Santiago
Cutting through the heart of Green Spain’s lush landscapes, the Camino de Santiago traverses all the region’s provinces, originating from France.
The Camino de Santiago del Norte, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and snaking 900 kilometres from the French border to Santiago de Compostela, has been a main route for pilgrims coming from Europe for centuries.
During the Middle Ages, the various paths crisscrossing the heart of Green Spain became some of the safest routes for Christians to reach the apostle’s tomb in Santiago de Compostela, as they avoided Muslim-occupied lands to the south.
Travellers and pilgrims will enjoy awe-inspiring landscapes, from green meadows and native forests to agricultural land with moss-covered stones.
Find cultural connection in sleepy fishing villages
Take the route running parallel to the sea and you can traverse small mountain ranges, river estuaries, beaches and quaint fishing villages.
Some of these seaside towns have transformed old fishing boats into unique tourist experiences. Boarding one of these vessels and participating in mussel production in a floating nursery or ‘batea’, while learning about endangered artisanal crafts, offers authentic connection with the region’s rich culture.
Drive along the coast and make a stop in villages like Ribadesella, San Vicente de la Barquera, Baiona, Santoña, Bermeo, Cudillero, Elatxobe and Pasaia. There, you can journey into the heart of maritime traditions, where the sea shapes both livelihoods and diets.
Venture behind the scenes on a tour of an anchovy canning factory, and taste the finest preserved treasures from the Cantabrian Sea.
Green Spain’s agrotourism offers more than just gastronomy
After getting to grips with these coastal delights, foodies can head inland to discover artisanal cheese dairies and organic cider houses.
“At the heart of Green Spain is a specific programme: the Ecotourism Corridor,” says Pérez- Sauquillo. This project opens up unique experiences in the protected natural spaces of northern Spain. From sighting the majestic brown bear to agrotourism adventures, you’ll find plenty of ways to immerse yourself in natural and cultural riches.
On this journey, you can discover the authentic essence of northern Spain’s traditional cuisine. “Asturias leads the way with its Cocina de Paisaje [farm to table] project, showcasing the flavours of the land and rescuing Indigenous products,” says Pérez-Sauquillo. This experience goes beyond the palate, connecting with the history and traditions of the region.
In Euskadi you can venture into the heart of the countryside to discover charming ‘caseríos’ crafting natural cider, offering an intimate glimpse into the production process during a ‘petit comité’ experience. Indulge your taste buds with Idiazabal cheese, all while getting acquainted with the flocks of sheep grazing in the fields and the homes of the skilled shepherds.
In the lush landscapes of Asturias, immerse yourself in the apple-scented air as you explore the Cider Route. While Galícia beckons you on a maritime adventure. Step aboard a fishing boat and live a day in the life of the crew for an unforgettable journey into the heart of Spain’s seafaring heritage.
Be immersed in northern Spain’s surf culture
The allure of northern Spain extends far beyond its awe-inspiring landscapes and rich culture. It has become a paradise for surf enthusiasts. Here, surfing transcends being merely a sport; it’s a lifestyle that seamlessly intertwines with nature and the sea.
The diversity of the coastline provides a vast array of surf spots. Catch beginner’s level waves at Zarautz beach in Euskadi and Rodiles beach in Asturias), or head to Mundaka in Euskadi for world class waves favoured by experienced surfers.
Indulge in wellness in Galícia’s thermal paradise
For those in pursuit of wellbeing, Galícia stands as a haven for healing waters, where the appeal of spas continues to grow among both locals and visitors from across Spain and beyond.
“Spas are no longer exclusive to the adult public but have adapted to all ages, following the growing trend of caring for both physical and mental health,” explains Pérez-Sauquillo.
Explore some of the finest spas that Galícia has to offer, where the therapeutic allure of the waters promises a rejuvenating escape: La Toja, Mondariz, Cuntis, Augas Santas or Laias are some of the best.
Green Spain is much more than a tourist destination; it’s an invitation to discover the authenticity and diversity hidden in the country’s north. “This summer, venture beyond the sunny beaches and immerse yourself in the freshness and authenticity of Green Spain”, encourages Pérez-Sauquillo.