Green Spain is a region in Northern Spain that earned its name for its dense forests, lush pastures, and wet, temperate oceanic climate. Stretching along the Atlantic coast between the borders of Portugal and France, vibrant cities line the green coast.
Four autonomous communities make up the Green Spain region, which include Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Here is just a sample of the beaches, foods, museums, and parks that travelers can discover in the area’s smaller historic cities.
In Cantabria, the city of Santander sits on Sardinero beach near the Magdalena Peninsula. Strolling through the city, you might spot penguins playing in a small marine park near the water and small fish markets serving calamari. Historic mansions line the streets and the bay. Enjoy the smell of the ocean by walking on the sand down the coast.
Approximately 21 miles from Santander sits the Altamira Cave, which holds some of the most famous prehistoric cave art and charcoal drawings in the world. The Altamira National Museum and Research Center reconstructs the original cave and offers information on the origins. Afterwards, it is a short drive to Santillana del Mar, a beautiful village of medieval towers and Renaissance palaces.
The port city of Bilbao in the Basque Country, the eastern most autonomous community, and home to cobblestone streets, local artists, and small bars serving pinchos. The “Seven Streets” in the old town are the origins of the city with a medieval layout. The streets link the Cathedral of Santiago and the La Ribera Market, one of the largest covered markets in Europe.
Famous for its contemporary art and architecture, Bilbao is home to the Guggenheim Museum as well as the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao. There are 30 other art galleries that surround the Albia gardens in the heart of the city. Funiculars, like cable cars, take travelers up and down Mount Artxanda for a panoramic view of the city. For a different perspective, there are boat rides that ride along the river for a look at the city’s architecture.
Located on the Bay of Biscay is the city of San Sebastián, with a seafront promenade, sandy beaches, and vibrantly colorful sunsets. There are several fine dining restaurants credited to its 19 Michelin stars. Popular pinchos, include anchovies, seafood, and mushrooms. Live music, modern bars, and five-star cuisine line the wide streets, along with shops nestled into the 19th century architecture.
Picos de Europa National Park
Although the Picos de Europa National Park spans multiple regions, it is a popular place to visit while in the Asturias area. Here, travelers can visit the two Lakes of Covadonga, which include Lake Enol and Lake La Ercina, and are perfect for hiking.
The churches of San Miguel de Lillo and Santa María del Naranco in Oviedo are some of the best example of pre-Romanesque Asturian art. Traditional cake shops here serve carbayones or moscovitas, popular and traditional pastries. It is also home to the 9th-century Foncalada fountain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spending a few hours in Gijón is worth it for a visit to the small fishing neighborhood of Cimadevilla, with cider houses, traditional foods, and perfect sunsets over the bay. San Lorenzo beach is also a top spot to stop, with historic Roman baths and the Church of San Pedro nearby.
In the farthest western community of Galicia, the area of Ribeira Sacra is home to monasteries dug into rocky mountains across more than 60 miles. Cliffs and trees line the horizon with wineries dotting the countryside. Travelers can even explore the area by taking a catamaran trip down the Sil and Miño rivers or riding in a hot air balloon.
Santiago de Compostela
In Santiago de Compostela, explore the old town and its cathedral before stopping at a restaurant for octopus, empanadas, pork shoulder, or some delicious seafood. The city is home to the Galician Centre of Contemporary Art and the park of San Domingos de Bonaval. Nearby, the Cíes Islands, which the Romans regarded as the islands of the Gods, are accessible by boat each summer.
See each distinct area of Green Spain in this short video…
Explore Oviedo and Gijón, on Insight Vacations’ Northern Spain 11-day itinerary filled with fine wine, local produce, and art tours. Departure is available on select dates between April and October 2021 starting at $3,146.
Spain is a destination filled to the brim with hidden gems in nature, culture, and cuisine. Mediterranean beaches, green National Parks, historic towns filled with contemporary art, and fresh seafood paired with world class wine make it a top pick for American travelers. When travel resumes, it is at the top of our bucket list.
Find more travel tips, news, and inspiration by visiting the Tourist Office of Spain.
Plan your visit with a tour operator by visiting www.ustoa.com/dream-vacation/Spain