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  • Coast and country of Green Spain

    Santillana del Mar, Cantabria

    Hotel Palacio de Luces, Asturias

    Gijon, Asturias

    Hesperia Finisterre, A Coruna

    Galician coastline

    Hotel Spa A Quinta da Auga, Santiago de Compostela

    Galician countryside

    Parador de Fuente de, Asturias

    Coast and Country of Green Spain

    Self-drive Tour – 11 nights and 12 days
    Explore the three regions which make up Green Spain, driving along the northern coastline through Cantabria and Asturias towards Galicia before returning via an inland route. Start in the east of the region, passing rugged scenery and picturesque coastal towns as you drive all the way to Santiago de Compostela. The return journey of your touring holiday takes you through the south of the region, passing through historic cities and the lush landscapes of the Picos de Europa Mountains. The regular ferry services from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander allow you to travel with your own car.


    This luxury touring holiday begins in the picturesque town of Santillana Gil Blas, after your arrival via ferry into Santander. On the Cantabrian coast, this mediaeval town is distinguished by its sloping streets lined with ochre-stone buildings. It is at the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas, a pretty hotel that combines the historic with the contemporary, that you will spend your first two nights on the Spanish coast. Explore the Altamira Caves, famous for their prehistoric cave paintings, and the serene beaches of the nearby coastal towns, such as Suances. From here, drive on to Luces, near Lastres, in Asturias, and spend two nights at the Hotel Palacio de Luces, stopping off on the way in Comillas to see Antoni Gaudi’s El Capricho. You are perfectly placed to explore the creeping seaside villages that decorate the verdant shore, like a Spanish twist on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Drive out to Llanes, Lastres, and Luanco to take in the art, architecture, and views. Next, this tour takes you on to the Hesperia Finisterre on the peninsula of A Coruña, Galicia, where you will spend two nights. Your hotel is situated just a short distance from the oldest working Roman lighthouse, commissioned by the Emperor Trajan in the 2nd century. This historic structure sets the tone for your varied and informative stay in A Coruña, visiting the modern museums and aquarium, the various quaint churches, and the Castle of San Antón on its own peninsula. Remain in Galicia for your next two nights, but move south to Santiago de Compostela, capital of Galicia, and the destination of the Saint James pilgrimage route. Your hotel is the A Quinta da Auga Hotel Spa, a charming retreat with an abundance of rustic charm. Use this as the base for your exploration of the Rías Baixas, and the city’s impressive cathedral. This building in itself may prove to be the highlight of your tour. Next, drive inland towards León, stopping off at the rising red cliffs of Las Médulas, an ancient Roman gold mine. The Parador de León, however, awaits you for this overnight stay. Spend the rest of your day exploring the treasures of this walled city, from the stained glass of the cathedral, to the two fairytale works of Gaudi. Move on from here to Camaleño, an idyllic village nestled between the rising hills of the valley, with snow-capped mountains in the background. Take the cable car to the top of the hill behind the Parador de Fuente Dé to witness the breath-taking views. Return, after your last night, into Cantabria for your return ferry to Portsmouth.
    Click here to download a pdf with details about this touring holiday.

    PRICES
    Prices start at £1,590 per person.

    What’s included:
    • Return overnight crossing for car and passengers with Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth to Santander, including an inside cabin for 2 people
    • 2 nights bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas in Santillana del Mar
    • 2 nights bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the Hotel Palacio de Luces in Luces
    • 2 nights bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the Hesperia Finisterre in A Coruña
    • 2 nights bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the A Quinta da Auga Hotel Spa Relais & Châteaux in Santiago de Compostela
    • 1 night bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the Parador de León
    • 1 night bed and breakfast in a standard double room at the Parador de Fuente Dé in Camaleño

    Click the tabs above to view our suggested day-by-day touring itinerary and to find out more about the hotels featured.
    Click here to find out more about how our touring holidays work.

    Coast and Country of Green Spain

    Day-by-Day Itinerary

    DAY ONE:
    Take the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander

    Start your touring holiday by taking the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander - an overnight crossing taking just over 24 hours.

    DAYS TWO TO THREE:
    After arriving in Santander, drive to Santillana del Mar, where you will stay for two nights

    Arrive into Santander in the early evening and drive under half an hour to Santillana del Mar, a pretty mediaeval town just a few miles away from the coast. Stay for two nights at the Parador de Santillana Gil Blas. Explore the ochre-stone sloping streets and view the numerous historic buildings, some of which have either wooden galleries or iron balconies. These mediaeval streets, dotted with Renaissance palaces and historic defence towers, centre around the collegiate Church of Santa Juliana. This Romanesque church is of a surprising scale and grandeur for a small town, with an intriguing irregular layout, and a beautiful cloister of intricately carved pillars depicting animals, biblical scenes, Arabian and Norman motifs, and flora. One defensive tower, Merino’s Tower, is now a cultural centre that displays temporary, rotating exhibitions. For a taste of contemporary Cantabrian art, the works of local sculptor Jesús Otero can be seen in the museum of the same name. Just two kilometres away are the Altamira Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site sometimes referred to as the Sistine Chapel of the Palaeolithic Age, with rock paintings of up to 20000 years old. Although it is not usually possible to visit the caves themselves, there is an interesting museum where you can find out more about the paintings and the era from which they date, and see a faithful replica of the original paintings. For those looking to spend some time relaxing in the Spanish sun, the beautiful Santa Justa beach is very nearby in Ubiarco. The small chapel of Santa Justa is built into the undulating rock face, giving the effect of a building that is totally at one with the landscape, and making this beach unique among Spanish beaches. Nearby interesting excursions include Dichoso Point in the town of Suances, a natural harbour backed by a cliff which is lined with shallow beaches perfect for sunbathing and swimming. Torrelavega is the second largest town in Cantabria. Its Viérnoles Monumental site is defined by the impressive 17th and 19th century palaces that surround it. Mid-August sees the Virgen Grande fiestas enliven the town with floral galas and parades. At your hotel, the rooms are light and airy, but with the formidable weight of history captured in the oak floors, dark wood shutters, and atmospheric beamed ceilings. Very typically Spanish, this hotel offers sensational food, luxury accommodation, and spectacular scenery, including the hotel’s own serene cloister. The Parador de Santillana Gil Blas and the surrounding area are the perfect start to this tour of Spain, offering a fascinating insight into the Cantabrian way of life that extends far beyond contemporary architecture into the region’s rich and extensive history.

    DAYS FOUR TO FIVE:
    Drive from Santillana de Mar west to Luces, and spend two nights

    Leave Santillana del Mar and drive westwards along Spain’s north coast, passing through coastal towns and villages as you head towards Hotel Palacio de Luces. The second stop on this luxury touring holiday brings you into Asturias, much like its Cantabrian neighbour, but with an even greater focus on the beauty and merits of climbing coastal villages. Perhaps stop to admire the El Capricho in Comillas, designed in the Modernist style by Antoni Gaudi, or take a break in the historic port of Llanes. 40 minutes west of Luces, your destination, Llanes is a town whose shore is lined with colourful ‘Cubes of Memory’, designed by Agustín Ibarrola. The old town stretches out on both sides of the Carrucedo River with rows of red and gold houses. Perhaps stop off for tapas in the early afternoon, or visit the Gothic church and defensive tower. Spend two nights at the relaxing, five-star Palacio de Luces, set amid stunning scenery between the mountains and the sea. You will have plenty of time on your fifth day to explore the surrounding area, including the nearby fishing village of Lastres and the mountainous landscapes inland which stretch to the Picos de Europa Mountains. Lastres is reminiscent of towns such as Positano and Ravello on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, but with clay-roofed houses and deep green vegetation that do not fail to single it out as Spanish. A lookout point at the top of the town allows you to capture the entire essence of the town in one sweeping view across the sea and down the zigzagging streets. A 45 minute drive west will take you to another famous coastal village: Luanco, with its eccentrically designed colourful beach-side houses, each of which seems to have its own unique take on the local architectural style. Further inland is the capital of Asturias, Oviedo, a town inextricably linked with the region’s monarchy and which bears the stamp of its mediaeval history on every street. This is an excellent excursion for those looking to delve into pre-Romanesque Spanish art, and explore another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your hotel for these two nights is another property of gastronomic excellence, which serves highly refined local food. It occupies a privileged position inland from Lastres, in Luces, with rooms decorated with exceptional contemporary warmth, and with a glass-walled dining room that looks out across the fields and mountains in the distance.

    DAYS SIX TO SEVEN:
    Drive west to A Coruña in Galicia, where you will stay for two nights

    Continue along the Asturian coastline from Luces into Galicia to the maritime city of A Coruña. Stay for two nights at Hesperia Finisterre, a five-star hotel located by the city’s harbour where you can easily walk to the Tower of Hercules, the oldest Roman lighthouse still in use today, dating back to the 2nd century and commissioned by the Emperor Trajan. The old town of A Coruña stretches out onto a pretty peninsula. Its Romanesque streets and squares lead you past its collection of mediaeval churches. The Church of Santiago is perhaps the most beautiful, as it is the oldest in the city and is comprised of a number of pointed arches. The Santa María del Campo holds a very interesting Museum of Religious Art, and has been declared a Historic-Artistic Monument; while the Convent of Santa Bárbara and its eponymous square are listed as a Historic-Artistic Site. Such traditional, austere buildings seem to submerge the town in its history, and radiate a peaceful atmosphere. To see some of the town’s Baroque architecture, we would recommend visiting the 18th century Los Capuchinos church, and the narrow tower of the Convent of Santo Domingo. At the very centre of the town is the remarkable San Carlos Garden, encased in the walls of the fortress of San Carlos. This site also houses the tomb of Sir John Moore, an English soldier, and the Archive of the Kingdom of Galicia, making it an exceptional site with a rich and complicated history. At the end of the harbour, sits the Castle of San Antón, which dates back to the 16th century and houses the Provincial Archaeological Museum, specialising in Galician prehistory. A sprawling, low-lying structure, it is surrounded on three sides by short rocky cliffs and the sea. The ramparts of the castle offer fantastic views back into the harbour, or off into the horizon. Three ultra-modern museums are dotted around the town: the Aquarium Finisterre, one of the largest in Spain; the Domus museum of human history; and the Science Museum with its inspirational planetarium. During your stay in northern Galicia you can also discover the wild ‘Costa da Morte’ and explore the Rías Altas, which are interspersed with quaint fishing villages. A wonderful stop-off point from which to explore the wonders of the Galician coast, its gastronomy, and its history, the Hesperia Finisterre is a contemporary hotel with refined chic designs and a private roof terrace.

    DAYS EIGHT TO NINE:
    From A Coruña, drive on to Santiago de Compostela, your host for the next two nights

    Drive around one hour southwards to the Galician capital, Santiago de Compostela, where you stay for two nights at A Quinta da Auga Hotel Spa, a relaxing hotel just outside the city centre. Santiago de Compostela’s Romanesque cathedral was begun in the 11th century, but it wasn’t until the 13th century that it was finished. As a result, its design is a menagerie of different styles, which makes it a thoroughly fulfilling afternoon activity. It is reportedly the resting place of St James the Apostle, whose tomb can be viewed on-site. On the exterior, the wealth of decorative and iconographic details were added in the early 18th century, and are a breath-taking example of perfected Baroque art. The merit of this architectural tour-de-force continues inside with the Plateresque cloister, believed to be one of the most important in Spain. The annex rooms off this cloister include the library, Chapter Room, and the Chapel of Relics, which houses a series of wonderfully ornate golden pieces. The Ceremonial Room has a grandiose arched ceiling and corbels that depict a royal banquet. As the final destination of the Saint James Pilgrimage Route, it is not hard to understand the attraction this building affords the city. Taking place in July, the fiestas in the name of the Apostle Santiago have been given the badge of International Tourist Interest, and fill the city’s streets with music, games, entertainment and, above all, colour. Perhaps venture westwards to the Atlantic coast, where you can enjoy more of the stunning scenery from the inlets of the Rías Baixas, taste the sensational shellfish and white wine, and visit picturesque towns and villages. The green surrounding countryside is perfect for those looking to explore the area on foot, by hiking or fishing; while a range of sports such a golf and cycling are also available. The landscape is punctuated by the undulating roofs of Pazos, or ancient homes, Hórreos, or stone granaries, and forts, monasteries, and acropolises. To finish off your nights in Galicia, try some of the regional specialities. So close to the coast, seafood plays a large part in the local cuisine, particularly small crabs, barnacles, and a delicious angler fish stew. Besides this, Galician pork and beef are very well received, and best accompanied by local wines such as Monterrei, Ribeiro, Rías Baixas, and Valdeorras.

    DAY TEN:
    Continue on to León and stay overnight

    Drive eastwards through rolling green countryside and wooded hills towards León, an attractive walled city with an impressive cathedral, a Royal Pantheon, and a picturesque old town. On the way, perhaps stop off at Las Médulas, an ancient Roman gold mine with tunnels that can be explored. These craggy red cliffs rupture the serenity of the green countryside in quite a surreal way, and appear almost to be a civilisation by themselves. Stay at the Parador de León for one night, situated within the Convent of San Marcos, which was once a hospital for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The town’s 13th century cathedral is known as The House of Light because of its beautiful stained glass, which is radiantly colourful and casts a golden glow across the cavernous building’s interior. Also standing out on León’s streets are Gaudi’s Casa de los Botines and his Palacio Episcopal de Astorga. Somewhat reserved in comparison to his other works, the Casa de los Botines has a soft, rounded appearance, reminiscent of fairytale inventions of mediaeval castles, both typical and atypical of his style, and tall, thin turrets. The MUSAC houses a vast collection of prestigious contemporary art. It aims to take a revolutionary outlook on modern work, which means that many of its exhibitions are very experimental and challenging. Modern aspects of the city contrast delightfully with the older features, such as the fairytale Palacio Episcopal de Astorga, with its thin arched windows and narrow turrets, framing León as a vital insight into the progression of this region of Spain.

    DAY ELEVEN:
    Drive north to Camaleño for your last night in Spain

    Head northwards towards the Picos de Europa Mountains which divide Green Spain from the region of Castilla y León. Stay for one night at the Parador de Fuente Dé, a simple hotel nestled in a verdant valley, with the contrasting scenery of snowing mountain peaks. Its main building absorbs the beauty of the landscape through its many glass walls and windows, reflecting the green of the hills and the grey of the irregular rock faces. Visitors here can ascend the steep cableway which takes you to the Áliva viewpoint, from which you can take in breath-taking views of rocky peaks and forested valleys and appreciate the idyllic seclusion of this series of quaint, traditional villages and hamlets. Before leaving Cantabria, be sure to spend a few hours at the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana near the villages of Mieses and Turieno. Dating back to the 7th century, this is the former home of the monk Beato, known for his commentary on the apocalypse. This charming gold-stone building sits against a backdrop of densely packed trees, and with views down into the valley. The well-maintained building exudes a feeling of calm, which draws on the sublimity of the landscape. This seems a very fitting end to this diverse, luxury tour of Northern Spain.

    DAY TWELVE:
    Return to Santander for your return ferry

    Drive northwards to Santander to board your return ferry for the homeward journey, arriving in the UK the next day.

    Driving times for this touring holiday:
    Santander to Santillana del Mar: 35 minutes
    Santillana del Mar to Luces: 1 hour 15 minutes
    Lastres to A Coruña: 3 hours 5 minutes
    A Coruña to Santiago de Compostela: 55 minutes
    Santiago de Compostela to León: 3 hours 35 minutes
    León to Camaleño: 3 hours
    Camaleño to Santander: 2 hours

    Click the 'Hotel Information' tab to find out more about the hotels featured in this touring itinerary.

    Coast and Country of Green Spain 2

    Hotel Information

    These are the contemporary and historic hotels that overlook the sea, the mountains, and the forests on in this touring holiday of Northern Spain. Alternative hotels are available in some destinations – please contact us for full details.

    Parador de Santillana Gil Blas
    Santillana del Mar
    Bordering the Plaza de Las Arenas in the historic Cantabrian town of Santillana del Mar, the four-star Parador de Santillana Gil Blas is a gem amid the rustic cobbled streets. The setting is wildly romantic; wander through the pedestrian-only town centre and admire the beautiful architecture and atmospheric squares. The Parador itself dwells within a large noble house, whose stone façade dates back to the masonry of the 18th century and is scantly decorated to preserve its original charm – its only embellishment, a family crest. As you step inside, you will notice that the cobbles continue underfoot, exposed beams guide you overhead, and a stone archway leads to the rest of the property. This lobby area establishes the tone for the rest of the hotel; its mismatched sofas, antique wooden furniture, canary yellow walls and the glow from the lanterns lend a true sense of Cantabrian tradition and authenticity. The style stays true to the mountain dwellings of the noble classes. Other public areas include cute hideaway lounges furnished with plush sofas, while an outdoor terrace can be found to the rear of the building. Adjacent to a luscious patch of lawn and cast into shadow by towering trees, the tables here promise atmosphere and charm, overlooked by cute guestroom balconies. With dark wood floorboards, richly embroidered soft furnishings, and shuttered windows, guestrooms and suites maintain a rustic style to suit the setting. As the town is totally pedestrianised, feel free to sleep with the shutters thrown open to benefit from night-time breezes. Dine on traditional Cantabrian cuisine such as stews, meats and cheeses at Restaurant El Jardín de Gil Blas Café, which also offers a children’s menu, a selection of vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, and desserts suitable for diabetics. For lighter bites, there is also a tapas and cocktail bar.
    Find out more here.

    Hotel Palacio de Luces
    Luces
    Hotel Palacio de Luces is a five-star Relais & Châteaux property located between the Sierra de Sueve Mountains and the Cantabrian Sea, just outside the fishing village of Lastres. Observing the estate from a distance, you will just be able to distinguish between its historic heart – the 16th century palace building – and subsequent additions to the architecture. Where the original building is authentic, its style mirrored in nearby buildings, there is a more angular modernity to the rest of the property. This is seen in restaurant Balcón del Sueve, which takes centre stage behind vast panes of glass that maximise panoramic scenery. Here, the hotel’s vibrant orange roof tiles are typical of the locality; these colourful dots the only interruption to the never-ending greenness of the Asturias countryside. Diners can indulge on traditional Asturian dishes created under the instruction of Chef Ignacio García Canellada in an environment of refined subtlety. You can also seek an outdoor decking area or the rooftop terrace for casual snacks in the fresh air. Interiors feature a well-considered colour scheme of complementary hues; a spectrum of mustard and gold tones meet bold red accents to create warmth in all public areas. This is often accompanied by abstract modern artwork and atmospheric lighting. Take comfort at Hotel Palacio de Luces after a day of outdoor exposure with active pastimes ranging from low-key hikes to more demanding pursuits such as water sports, mountaineering, and skiing.
    Find out more here.

    Hesperia Finisterre
    A Coruña
    On a hook of land that extends into the Atlantic, yet facing inwards to the mouth of a vast estuary, the five-star Hotel Hesperia Finisterre is located at the centre of the action in the Galician city of A Coruña, or La Coruña in Spanish. A distinctive structure right beside the water, the hotel can be spotted from a distance, its deep red-hued walls like a beacon on the shores. The architecture is contemporary and mimics the style of an urban dwelling to give the effect of a large townhouse by the sea. From the water, its vast façade can appear semi-industrial, but the entranceway befits a five-star hotel, with huge arches under which the glow from the lobby shines invitingly. Inside, the attractive and contemporary lobby interiors feature marble floors, dark wood furnishings and comfy couches, at once smart and welcoming. The lobby bar is adjacent. Wherever you go, an impression of space fills the scene, and the guestrooms and suites are no exception. Novo restaurant harbours a yacht club vibe, with lots of natural light and marina views provided by wall-to-wall windows. It is here that guests can sample a menu of international cuisine influenced by local flavours. In the summertime, La Terraza is the place to surround yourself with La Coruna’s delights – both visual and gastronomic – with tapas and local dishes amid city-to-sea views. A major benefit of Hesperia Finisterre is the endless facilities of Metropolitan La Solana Sports Centre, which surrounds the hotel with its three heated outdoor swimming pools, gym, massage treatments, tennis courts, and children’s facilities. This is a great city centre base for those looking to alternate city exploration with relaxation and active pursuits.
    Find out more here.

    A Quinta da Auga Hotel Spa
    Santiago de Compostela
    Just outside Santiago de Compostela, the four-star A Quinta da Auga Hotel Spa Relais & Châteaux is a delight to behold, with gardens filled with the lull of the River Sar’s waters. This grand Galician house is evocative of a Provençal manor, its window boxes an explosion of colour beneath terracotta roof tiles and its stone façade creeping with foliage. From the one-hectare grounds and manicured lawns to the refined service, attention to detail is key. Guestrooms are installed with fittings of the highest quality, including chestnut shutters, oak wood floors, and marble bathrooms. Throw open the latch windows to see luscious garden views and invite in the sunshine and trickling sound of the river. The 18th century stonework is visible everywhere, the history of which is juxtaposed against a contemporary colour scheme, luxurious linens, and mood lighting. Dine on innovative and traditional meals at Restaurante Filigrana, where the elegant dining room spills through patio doors for al fresco meals. Lantern light illuminates the tables by evening, while the fragrance of vivid purple and white petunias fills the senses by day. For indulgence by another name, seek the serenity of the spa, where access is available at a supplement. Cutting-edge facilities here include an indoor pool circuit which is located in the attic space with views over the rooftops to the woodland beyond. You can also participate in a range of massages, therapies and beauty treatments. A Quinta da Auga Hotel Spa offers all you could desire for a restful retreat not far from the historic sites of Galicia.
    Find out more here.

    Parador de León
    León
    Housed in the Convent of San Marcos, this 16th century five-star hotel is rich in local history. Originally built as the headquarters of the Military Order of Saint James, the building also served as hospital for pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela on the Saint James Way. The downstairs of this hotel pays testament to this prestigious history, with its stately function rooms, beautifully preserved cloister, and chapter house. The guest rooms are elegant and spacious, with intriguing period details that vary from room to room. The gastronomic restaurant serves excellently refined local foods in a grandiose setting of black, white, and gold, with large windows that bring the life of León within. Some rooms overlook the Plaza de San Marcos and the Roman Bridge which crosses the River Bernesga, and brings the city’s two halves together.

    Parador de Fuente Dé
    Camaleño
    Amid the scenic alpine landscapes of the Liébana Valley in Cantabria, Parador de Fuente Dé occupies a contemporary mountain lodge dwarfed by the oversized scenery. A comfortable three-star hotel in a dramatic setting, it promises to immerse guests in the impressive natural environment of the Picos de Europa National Park and facilitate an array of active and adventurous pursuits. The famed cableway to the Áliva viewpoint departs from the surrounding lawns, giving you direct access to stunning panoramas nearby. An angular arrangement in the foothills, the hotel’s contemporary – though not modern – architecture is at odds with the natural setting. Meanwhile, interiors offer all the warmth of an alpine lodge, so that guests can feel totally at home, while broad windows allow picturesque views to remain within sight. There is ample room for relaxation at the end of a demanding day’s wandering, with fireside warmth supplied to lounges complete with deep plush armchairs. In the warmer months, you can take a snack or beverage on an external terrace overlooking the lawns. A children’s playground is available here for the younger members of the family to play. Guestrooms continue the contemporary alpine lodge theme, with wooden floorboards underfoot and dramatic views from your own personal balcony. Upon an evening, hearty meals are served up at Restaurant Alfonso XIII, where you can sample Cantabrian favourites that exploit mountain ingredients in home cooked dishes. Meanwhile, the bar service is the perfect antidote to the end-of-the-day fatigue, allowing you to warm your bones.
    Find out more here.

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