NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC´S SPAIN NORTHERN COAST BY PRIVATE RAIL

Climb aboard the brand new luxury Transcantábrico Gran Lujo* near Santiago de Compostela and set off on a rail journey along Spain’s splendid northern coast. Passing through medieval hamlets and historic towns, the train traces the fertile tract between the Cantabrian Mountains and the scalloped beaches on the Bay of Biscay. Explore the Basque country and charming seaside ports, and follow the legendary St. James pilgrimage route.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

Travel in refurbished 1920s British Pullman cars on the elegant Transcantábrico Gran Lujo, spaciously remodeled in 2010.*

Admire diverse architectural styles, from the pre-Romanesque gems of Oviedo to Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum.

Stroll through the remarkably preserved medieval village of Santillana del Mar.

Stay in a historic parador in Santiago de Compostela, and savor the region's cuisine and fine wines. 

Itinerary

Days 1 & 2 — U.S. / Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Depart on an overnight flight. Arrive in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia and the ending point of the historic Way of St. James pilgrimage route. Check into our beautiful parador, considered one of the oldest hotels in the world. Gather for a welcome reception and dinner tonight.

Parador Hostal Dos Reis Católicos (D)

Day 3 — Santiago de Compostela / Ferrol / Viveiro

This morning, explore Santiago’s historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the middle of the city sits the majestic cathedral, allegedly the burial place of St. James and the destination of many thousands of pilgrims for the past 1,000 years. After lunch, drive to Ferrol, where we board our train and continue on to Viveiro. Enjoy dinner, and settle in for the night.

El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo* (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Ribadeo / Luarca

Our first stop this morning is Ribadeo, a stately seaside town. Wander beneath soaring rock formations at a magnificent beach aptly named Las Catedrales. Enjoy lunch at the historic Parador de Ribadeo, a traditional Galician country home. Then board the train for the whitewashed fishing village of Luarca and spend the night.

El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Gijón / Oviedo

Today our train makes its way to the port city of Gijón. Discover the old town, and take a stroll along lovely San Lorenzo beach. Venture into the Cimadevilla, a labyrinth of historic buildings clustered on a tiny spit that protrudes into the bay. Enjoy a lunch of regional specialities before continuing to Oviedo, a city known for its unique pre-Romanesque Asturian architecture. Visit the church of San Julián de los Prados, a stunning example of this style and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Tonight, gather for dinner at a local sidrería, or cider bar.

El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Picos de Europa National Park / Covadonga / Llanes

Continue east in the Asturias region, tracing the coast as the Cantabrian Mountains rise along the southern horizon. Stop in Arriondas for an excursion into Picos de Europa National Park, where stony, snow-dusted peaks jut into the sky. Venture into the village of Covadonga, site of the first victory of the Spanish Reconquest; and visit its basilica, an important pilgrimage site. After lunch in Cangas de Onís, continue by train to Llanes for the night.

El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Potes / Cabezón de la Sal

Journey to Potes, a beautiful village of medieval buildings and bridges nestled in the hills below the Picos de Europa mountains. See the Infantado Tower, a 15th-century bastion that dominates the village, and venture along the narrow cobbled lanes of the Old Quarter. Pay a visit to Santo Toribio de Liebana monastery, where monks have long venerated what is alleged to be the largest fragment of the Lignum Crucis—the Holy Cross discovered by St. Catherine in Jerusalem. After lunch in Potes, our train continues to Cabezón de la Sal, our home for the night.

El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Santillana del Mar / Santander

After breakfast, visit the Altamira Museum and learn about the prehistoric cave paintings found here. Continue to Santillana del Mar, one of Europe’s best preserved medieval villages. Have lunch at the Parador Gil Blas, a stunning ancestral home dating back to the 8th century, and then explore this enchanting village. Reboard the train for Santander, the seaside capital of Cantabria. Stretched out along narrow spits and scalloped beaches, Santander was a royal retreat in the early 20th century. Enjoy dinner and then spend the night here.

El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Bilbao / Mercadillo

Pull into Bilbao, a shipbuilding center and the largest city in the Basque region. Enjoy a city tour that includes the Guggenheim Museum, which houses works by Picasso and Warhol, but is better known for its cutting-edge design by Frank Gehry. Continue by train to Mercadillo.

El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Donostia-San Sebastián

After breakfast, disembark in Donostia-San Sebastián, the lively culinary capital of Basque country, just 12 miles from the French border. Stroll along the narrow lanes of the picturesque old town this afternoon before checking in to our hotel. Tonight, toast our Spanish rail adventure at a farewell dinner.

El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Donostia-San Sebastián / Home

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight.

Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra (B)

 

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