Northern Spain is full of rugged cliffs, beautiful beaches, inhospitable deserts and adventurous high mountains. Highlights that you wouldn’t expect to find in this combination in such a small area. If you want to make a road trip through northern Spain, you should definitely include the following northern Spain sights.
PS: Are you looking for an overview of the most beautiful beaches in Northern Spain? We have a list for you here:
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
The Best Things To Do In Northern Spain
The north of Spain has an incredible amount of great places and nature highlights to offer. Spectacular looking cliffs are a dime a dozen here. We present you the most beautiful places in the north of Spain in the following chapters..
For the sake of simplicity, we have sorted the most beautiful places in Northern Spain from west to east.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is known as the destination of the Way of St. James. But even if you are not interested in the insignia of pilgrimage, this city in the very west of northern Spain is well worth a visit.
The highlight of Santiago is certainly the large square in front of the cathedral, where all pilgrims arrive after a long journey and celebrate the end of their journey. No matter when you arrive here, you will definitely be able to see some pilgrims happily on the floor of the cathedral square.
But even apart from that, the old town of Santiago de Compostela is very beautiful and invites you to take a long walk around the city.
Cabo Ortegal is a cape on the north coast of Galicia and a very special highlight in northern Spain. Here stands a lighthouse, built in the 80’s to protect shipping in the often very rough sea from the steep cliffs and numerous rocks in the water.
Right next to the lighthouse a visitor parking lot was built a few years ago where you can park for free.
The view from this small cape is really indescribably beautiful. You look at the numerous rocks that rise from the sea in front of you and on which thousands of sea birds nest.
Southwest of the cape is the Serra da Capelada with its numerous cliffs, which look really fantastic from Cabo Ortegal.
Serra da Capelada
The Serra da Capelada is a 20 km long mountain range in Galicia and with 620 meters it represents the highest elevation in southwestern Europe. At the sea, the cliffs drop steeply and offer an impressive spectacle with the rugged coastline and the rough sea.
The road winds at some distance from the coast over the numerous hills and through many tight curves along wind farms and great nature and always offers beautiful viewpoints of the coast.
Fun Fact: Throughout the Serra da Capelada are free-roaming horses and herds of cattle that can sometimes stand right on the road. So be sure to drive carefully here.
Cova da Doncella
The Cova de Doncella is a small but nice cave right on a cliff in the northern Spanish region of Galicia. The way here is not very easy to find. You have to park at this parking lot (Google Maps) and then walk about 500 meters through a beautiful forest. When you reach the cliff, you have to turn right into a small path and after a few meters you are already in front of the small cave entrance.
To get through you have to almost crawl, but at the end a very nice view awaits you. By the way, you can also walk around on the narrow rock that you can see from the cave opening.
Cabo Vidio is a beautiful cape in the northern Spanish region of Asturias. From here you can overlook the cliffs of Asturias for miles and also see, for example, the rocks of the spectacular Playa Silencio in the distance. At the top of the cape stands a lighthouse that is over 70 years old and still active.
The special feature here is that you can walk around the lighthouse and that on partly dangerously narrow paths, next to which it goes a hundred meters steeply into the depth. Behind the lighthouse you can climb around on the partly steep rocks and have a great view of the cliffs and the seagulls breeding here.
Picos de Europa
The Picos de Europa are a high mountain range on the coast of northern Spain and totally remind us of the Dolomites in South Tyrol. The mountain massifs are over 2000 meters high and there are many opportunities to hike and discover the fantastic mountain scenery.
One hike in particular is considered one of the most beautiful hikes in Spain and definitely the most spectacular in the Picos de Europa. On the Ruta del Cares you hike over 11km along a gorge, which is partly only a few meters wide.
But there is also a lot to discover here. Beautiful mountain lakes in picture book scenery, authentic mountain villages and narrow serpentines winding up the mountains.
- More about the Picos de Europa: Picos De Europa | 6 fantastic highlights you have to see
Cliff near Santander
Right next to the city of Santander, the capital of the region of Cantabria, there is a very impressive cliff in almost untouched nature. Here you can walk for miles directly along the sea and climb over the rough rocks.
It is best to park behind the soccer field on a large meadow (Google Maps) and start walking from there. There are great views for several kilometers in both directions.
Although we are not really city people and prefer to be in nature rather than civilization, San Sebastian totally blew us away. Our Northern Spain travel guide said something about the “most beautiful city in the world” and although we tend to have an aversion to such exaggerations, we wanted to give the city a chance. And what can we say, it was really worth it.
The old town of San Sebastian is super small, but also super worth seeing. There are medieval walls, beautiful churches, authentic restaurants and a lot of charm. In addition, there is a great town stand here, framed by the Concha Bay. You can also climb the hills of the Concha Bay and have a wonderful view of the sea and the city from up there.
- You can read more about San Sebastian here: San Sebastian Donostia | 6 Highlights for an unforgettable day
The spectacular Bardenas Reales in Spain is a rugged and inhospitable desert in the Navarre region and is already some distance from the coast of northern Spain.
Nevertheless, the desert is a spectacular highlight in northern Spain and should not be missed on any northern Spain road trip.
The Bardenas Reales consists for the most part of bizarre, ocher-colored clay landscapes, which are spread over several hundred square kilometers. Partly one feels here like in the Grand Canyon, although here of course everything is much smaller.
The semi-desert Bardenas Reales de Navarra is more than 400 km² in size and thus roughly corresponds to the size of Cologne. More information about the incredible desert can be found here:
The most Beautiful Beaches in Northern Spain
Northern Spain has of course not only spectacular cliffs and rocky coasts to offer, but also gorgeous beaches that reminded us of the Algarve. For a listing of the most beautiful Northern Spain beaches just check here:
We hope you enjoyed our report about the most beautiful places to visit in Northern Spain. If you have any questions or further tips, please leave us a comment.