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July 17, 2022 10:12 AM   Subscribe

If you had a week to explore the Picos de Europa in Spain: which two or three places would you visit? Difficulty level +2: you do not have a car of your own.

Spain is offering free cross-country trips via train this fall, which means I will probably be able to get myself from Andalucia to Cantabria (Santander) without paying a penny. Yay! I will not have a car, thankfully.

The Picos de Europa are calling me! Good news for the car-free: there's a lovely narrow-gauge railway called FEVES that I can take from Santander to get myself close to the Picos de Europa. I can take inter-town buses just about everywhere else.

I am a fiftysomething solo female traveller in decent hiking condition. I love exploring little medieval towns, historic places, woodsy haunts, and quaint beachside towns. And I love me a good bowl of seafood stew.

I have a low budget, so I'm limiting myself to a week (arrive Santander -> depart Santander eight days max).
  • What should I not miss, and which towns are best to access those places?
  • Which optional side trips would add a lot to my itinerary without a ton of cost or travel time?
posted by Sheydem-tants to Travel & Transportation around Cabrales, Spain (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not quite in the Picos but Santillana del Mar is an hour's bus ride from Santander and it's a beautiful little medieval town. I've spent a fair amount of time in this part of northern Spain and there are many gems, but Santillana is my absolute favourite. You can also apparently get a bus from Santander to the cuevas de Altamira (possibly the same route, they're just outside Santillana), which are stunning.

San Vincente de la Barquera is on the coast and has a medieval castle and good food.

If you can swing a train ride as far as Oviedo there's lots to see, and in the other direction Bilbao is also achievable as a day trip. Also in the other direction is Santoña, which I have a weird soft spot for after living there for a summer. Not as much medieval stuff, but some interesting Franco-era sculptures along the waterfront. And Castro Urdiales which also has medieval stuff iirc.

I recall Torrelavega being mostly industrial, so probably one to avoid, but basically everywhere else I've been in that part of Spain has been charming in one way or another.
posted by terretu at 11:17 AM on July 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

One of my favourite ever holidays was to this part of Spain - Cantabria and the Picos.

Fuenta De is an excellent place for hiking, if you can get there. There’s a (pretty vertiginous) cable car straight up the mountain, from where there are loads of trails - you can either explore at the higher level or, as we did, walk your way back down again. The trails aren’t generally technically difficult, but the walk down is pretty long; you’ll want to allocate a day for it.

Comillas is a nice seaside town with a Gaudi-designed villa that is well worth a visit.

You will not struggle to get absolutely incredible good seafood (and food in general).

Seconding Santillana being worth a visit and Torrelavega being one to skip.
posted by parm at 12:11 PM on July 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Note that it's only local and middle-distance trains that will be free from september - long-distance (and AVE) aren't included. So make sure you have your trip from Andalucia to the north planned-out taking that into account.
posted by gregjones at 1:10 AM on July 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

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