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In northern Spain, on the Camino de Santiago, from Irun to Compostela

Discovering Northern Spain


One could say, exaggerating a little but not too much, that “all roads lead to Santiago de Compostela”. The cathedral at the end of the religious path par excellence can in fact be reached by following different and varied routes, to be covered on foot, by bicycle or on horseback. The Pilgrim's Way to Santiago, characterised by signs with a shell (concha), can thus be undertaken from various cities in Spain, France and Portugal.

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Un post condiviso da Santiago de Compostela (@todosantiagodecompostela)

The northernmost version of the Camino starts in Irun, in the Basque Country, and continues for about 800 kilometres to Santiago. Although Spain normally conjures up images of hot, parched moorlands, of asphyxiating heat to be soothed with tequila (no, this might have been Mexico...), the northern coast of the country instead offers verdant places and sheer cliffs. It is no coincidence that it is called Costa Verde: for a moment, lost in the lush landscape and oceanic climate, you will have the impression that you are on St Patrick's Path.

From Irun, with its permanent exhibition of 7,000 butterflies from all over the world, we continue on to Bilbao, Santander, Gijon and Ribadeo. Each of these stops deserves a proper stop, as they are cities rich in history and attractions. Bilbao rightly ranks among the most interesting cities in Spain and not only for the Guggenheim museum and Puppy, its giant guard bear. There are also the Town Hall, the Artxanda funicular, Santiago Calatrava's Zubizuri Bridge, the old Café Iruña and the Contemporary Art Centre “Spazio Alhóndiga”. Not to mention the numerous venues where you can really indulge in all kinds of culinary delights. And remember that in the second half of August, the city is ablaze with Semana Grande, a colossal festival with memorable fireworks.

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Un post condiviso da Bilbao Secreto (@bilbao.secreto)

Santander is worth a visit for the rocky Magdalena peninsula alone, dominated by an elegant building, the Palacio de la Magdalena, erected in the early 1900s. But there is also the open-air museum “El Hombre y la Mar”, dedicated to the Spanish navigator Vital Alsar, a small zoo and plenty of green spaces. I recommend them to spend a few pleasant hours outdoors and maybe even have a nice picnic. There are also plenty of beaches to enjoy the sea and sun: El Sardinero, El Camello, Mataleñas, La Concha and Los Peligros. Staying close to the waves, on the docks of the port is the curious Monument to Los Raqueros, poor children who used to dive to retrieve coins from the bottom of the sea.

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Un post condiviso da 𝕯𝖊𝖒𝖎 𝕽𝖔 (@picotademi)

Gijon, is the city where the writer Luis Sepulveda lived. It is the capital of Asturias and has an historical centre where Roman remains, palaces and old fishermen's dwellings coexist. My personal favourite area is the one between the large beach of S. Lorenzo and the Park of Isabella the Catholic, along the Rio Piles, with large trees and animals roaming freely in the alleys. While the walk to the top of the Cerro de Sta Catalina offers an extensive panorama of the city and the coast.

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Un post condiviso da Luis (@leasturcom)

And finally we come to Ribadeo, which is located “only” 180 kilometres from the coveted Santiago. Here, the rocky coastline offers a spectacle of fjords and indentations, alternating with beaches. The remains of the Fort of San Damian can also be found on the sheer cliffs, and not far away, the Faro da Illa Pancha towers over the ocean. Before tackling the last few days of the walk, it is a good idea to refresh oneself properly, perhaps with a visit to one of the polperias where the marine animal in question is transformed into a delicious Galician dish.

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Un post condiviso da Nora Urdampilleta (@noraurdampilleta)

Image Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash