Spain 2022

Back again for the final recap from our time in Europe earlier this year!

If you missed the first 2 posts, check them out below ⤵️

In today’s post, I’ll be recapping my time in Spain 🇪🇸 After Portugal, Hoch flew back to Texas and I headed to Spain to meet up with a girlfriend whom I hadn’t seen in years!!

Jessie and I met while teaching English abroad in Chile back in 2017. She is from Australia, but has been living in London and then Spain for the past couple of years. I’d been wanting to visit her for a while, but my trip kept getting postponed once the pandemic hit. So I knew I wanted to take advantage while we were already in Europe for this trip!!

Since I’d been to Spain once before and Jessie has been living and traveling around there, we came up with an itinerary to visit an area of the country that neither of us had been to before! The NORTH!

We met in A Coruña (on the Northwest coast) first, took a bus down to Vigo, then rented a car from there and made stops along the way as we made our way east and dropped the rental off in Bilbao. Then from there, we flew to Alicante and ended the trip in Madrid.

Check out our itinerary on the map below:

Here’s a breakdown of each stop along with pics!!

A Coruña:

We spent a couple of nights here, mainly catching up with each other, but also checking out some of the local attractions.

This included a walking tour of the city, visiting the Tower of Hercules (a local lighthouse), and eating at Cervecería Estrella de Galicia, which is the original brewery for the Spanish beer, Estrella.

Side note: The airline lost my luggage (or left it in Madrid since the layover was so short), so I was without all my stuff for the first couple of days while here, but luckily they delivered it before we were set to leave! (Hence why I have the same clothes on in all these photos! 🤣)

Vigo:

After A Coruña, we took a short bus ride down to another port city, Vigo, to spend the next few nights.

The highlights here included getting lost in the old city, walking to Parque Monte del Castro for the views, getting oysters from Rúa Pescadería (a street where they sold seafood), and taking a ferry to the Cíes Islands.

It ended up being a bit rainy and cloudy the day we planned to visit the islands, but we still enjoyed it a lot. There were a few hiking trails and beaches and so we did a mix of both!

Santiago de Compostela:

From Vigo, we rented a car to continue the rest of our trip of the north. Our next overnight stop was going to be in Gijón, but we wanted to also stop in Santiago de Compostela to explore the old town, grab lunch, and break up the drive.

Santiago de Compostela is known mostly because it is where the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, ends. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well. While there, we saw a ton of people who had just finished walking the pilgrimage.

We wandered around the city a bit, stopped at a cafe to try a Tarta de Santiago, which is an almond cake that the area is known for, and also ate a late lunch before hitting the road to head to Gijón.

Gijón:

Gijón is another coastal city known for its old fishermen’s quarter of Cimadevilla and Santa Catalina hill which has a clifftop park and sculpture. We only stayed one night here, but really enjoyed our evening and following morning walking around.

It has a somewhat hipstery vibe and the entire area is known for it’s cider and Fabada Asturiana (a hearty dish made with beans). Since we had eaten a late lunch, we ended up skipping dinner and saving the cider and beans for the next day while visiting a nearby city Oviedo.

Up until this point, we decided this city was one of our faves so far. It was just quirky and different with a lot of personality.

Here’s a short video of a bunch of locals hanging out and drinking cider:

(I moved the camera a little too fast, but it was a cool vibe in person!)

Oviedo:

The following day, we drove to a nearby city, Oviedo, for a pit stop before heading to our next overnight destination.

Oviedo is inland a little and is the capital of Asturias. It’s known for its medieval old town including the site of the Gothic Oviedo Cathedral. The city definitely had a newer vibe in certain areas, but a lot of character as well.

While here, we made sure to try Fabada Asturiana (the famous bean dish), for lunch. We also walked to Calle Gascona, which is a street with several cider places, to sample some cider while in town. Check out the video below to see how they poured the cider and why!

We asked why they pour from such a high height. It’s supposed to create lots of air bubbles and only one or two gulps are poured at once. You take it as a shot and then do it all over again to really enjoy the full favor of the drink.

After Oviedo, we then drove to our next stop (and highlight of the trip!) for the next 3 nights, Picos de Europa National Park!!

Picos de Europa National Park:

Jessie and I both enjoy hiking so we spent the most time here out of all the places that we visited in the north. There were several trails to choose from so we did our best to hit up as much as we could without overdoing it either.

Day 1: The most popular hike in the area is called Ruta de Cares. Known as the “Divine Gorge”, this hiking trail literally runs along the side of a gorge.

We started the hike in a town called Caín and made our way towards another town, Poncebos, before taking a break, eating our packed lunch, and doing a U-turn. One way is a little less than 7 miles so we didn’t walk the entire trail, but still by the end of the day, my Fitbit tracked more than 12 miles.

Day 2: We decided to do a peak hike and picked one called Torre de Horcados Rojos. You have to take the Fuente Dé cable car up first and then the trail begins.

There was a bunch of melting snow along the way which made it a bit more difficult in certain parts, but was also fun sliding down. The end became steeper and steeper, but it was a nice challenge! We hiked around 10.5 miles that day.

Lunch Stop with a visitor and views! Sound on for a laugh!!

Day 3: The weather wasn’t looking so great on our last full day of hiking. It was a bit foggy and calling for rain. However, we still were able to visit 2 different places before the rain started. And the second hike of the day ended up being one of our faves. 🙂

We started at Covadonga Lakes in the northern part of the National Park. Once in Covadonga town, we had to take a bus up to where the lakes were (due to limited parking) and were told it was super foggy. But we risked it anyways and actually had a few moments of clear skies to see one of the lakes.

The rest of the time, we got a little lost in the fog and came across a ton of grazing cows along the trail, some of which seemed to be a bit aggressive. So we kept our distance from them as much as we could!

Since it was so foggy, we decided to head to a different hiking spot on our way back to the Airbnb. We chose a trail called the ruta Poncebos Bulnes, which is part of a circuit that starts in the town of Poncebos and ends in Bulnes. Once in Bulnes, you can continue onto the next town or take a fernicular back down to Poncebos (which is what we did).

In retrospect, I would’ve liked to hike the entire circuit if we had the full day. It reminded me of the ABC circuit that Hoch and I did back in Nepal, where you hike from one town to the next, taking breaks along the way.

Of course the scenery was different than Nepal, but it was the same concept. While it was cloudy, the views were still pretty amazing and we were able to finish it before the rain kicked in!

By the end of the day, we had walked over 8miles at both the Covadonga Lakes and ruta Poncebos Bulnes.

Day 4: Pretty much woke up, ate breakfast and headed out to our next destination. We debating fitting in a short morning hike before leaving, but ended up sleeping in and decided against it.

Saying goodbye to our Airbnb! (we stayed near the town of Potes BTW!)

Highly recommend checking out Picos de Europa National Park when in northern Spain!

Santander:

Our next stop was a day trip to Santander, which is the capital city of the Cantabria region. Known for its beaches, parks, and royal palace, we spent a few hours visiting all of the above!

Lunch started out a pinchos bar which is pretty much tapas from Basque country. Then this was followed by walking to the Palacio de la Magdalena before walking back to Plaza Pombo (where we parked) to meet up with a friend of Jessie’s who is teaching English in the area.

It was a quick stop overall, but we enjoyed having a more low key day and simply hanging out with a new to me friend!

Donostia-San Sebastian:

Our final overnight stop was in Bilbao. We dropped off our rental car here and had 3 nights to hang before our flights. So on our first full day in town, we actually took a bus to spend the day in Donostia-San Sebastian.

San Sebastián is a resort town on the Bay of Biscay. It’s known for its beaches and cobblestoned old town (Parte Vieja), with tons of shops and pintxo (pronounced pincho) bars. It’s a really, pretty city and is one of the most expensive cities to live in in Spain (after Madrid & Barcelona).

We got there early and found a breakfast place before walking around the city. We made our way to Parque de Urgull followed by exploring the old town, ended up doing a little bit of shopping, ate more pinchos, and then headed back to Bilbao. It was another great day exploring a new and beautiful city!

Bilbao:

Our last couple of nights in the north were spent exploring Bilbao, an industrial port city. It’s the de facto capital of Basque Country, and has a big city feel with skyscrapers and faster pace. It’s also known for the Guggenheim Museum.

Even though there were tourists around, it didn’t have a super touristy feel. If anything, we felt like we were amongst locals and commuters while walking around.

While in town, we were able to meet up with another girl who taught English in Chile at the same time that we did. She’s currently teaching English in Spain and was able to give us some recommendations on places to visit while in Bilbao.

It’s pretty cool to think that we all met in Chile and because we stayed in touch, we’re able to meet up again 5 years later in a completely new country. The world is a small place!

Alicante:

Once we completed our road trip of the north, I wanted to head somewhere to relax for my last week in Spain. Jessie had a work event in Madrid, so we split ways temporarily and I flew to Alicante, a beach town in the south.

Alicante is known for its beaches, old town, esplanada (like a promenade next to the ocean where people walk and stop at shops/restaurants along the way), and Santa Bárbara Castle. It is south of Valencia (which is known for it’s paella) so of course there were a lot of paella places to choose from as well.

I explored my first couple of days solo and Jessie met me for the weekend. We honestly didn’t do too much other than walk around and explore. We both felt a bit sick (I think it was the water there), so we rested a lot. I also fit in a massage to treat myself.

Our last day there was the start of the Fogueres (bonfires) de Sant Joan Festival. This festival kicks off summer and includes various events, parades, and the main event in which they burn large satirical statues made of cardboard and wood. We saw a lot of the statues being set up and even heard a gun powder type show. It was interesting since it was like a firework show, but in the middle of the day, so it wasn’t focused on the firework display, but the loud sounds instead.

We ended our time in Alicante with a final meal of paella (a must try!) before taking a BlaBlaCar (a car service, like Uber) to our next stop, Madrid.

Madrid:

Jessie had to get back to work while we were in Madrid, so I spent my last few days exploring solo and then meeting up with her after she got off.

I did quite a bit for the few days I was there including running at El Retiro Park, visiting the Reina Sofia museum, walking to the Royal Palace and Temple of Debod (an ancient Egyptian temple), and getting a little shopping in.

Jessie and I took a break from Spanish cuisine and ate pizza one evening and ramen my last night in town.

It was bittersweet leaving! While I was ready to be back home, it was a great trip in a country that I LOVE with someone who I consider one of my best friends!

Even tho Jessie and I don’t speak everyday, we always pick up where we leave off. And this trip brought us even closer together! I can’t wait for our next trip together, probably in a new to us country!

This was a bit of a longer read, but I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful if you’re planning a visit to northern Spain! 🇪🇸

If you’ve been before, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

Until my next post,

Kimberly

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