Itinerary Highlights
    • Leave the car at home and discover the charms of northern Spain by rail, from Santiago de Compostela to Bilbao
    • Explore the cities of Santiago de Compostela and Bilbao with clued-up local guides
    • Delve into the art scene of Bilbao, from trendy murals to the Guggenheim’s modern masterpieces

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Far from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona, Seville and Madrid, the Spanish northwest basks in the glory of its independent and individual way of life. It flies elegantly under the radar and that’s just the way we like it. Travel by train from the revered pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela to the Roman spa town of Ourense; then from Leon, a regal medieval capital, to its stylish neighbour of Burgos; and finally, finish your trip in style as you soak in the quirks and curiosities of bohemian Bilbao. This rail route passes through major stops on the Camino de Santiago, autonomous communities and centuries of history. And at every stop, the culture changes. Jump from old stone to more modern facades, from Galician to Castilian to Basque, and from tapas to pintxtos (Basque tapas).
Along the way, we can arrange tours with lively locals and entrance tickets to must-see sites, but you’ll also be free to contact our knowledgeable Concierge team for personalised recommendations and assistance on the go. And with everything from garish gastronomy and delectable wine to Roman baths and authentic art, there is something surprising at every stop. Let the adventure begin…

Route

Everything is 100% tailored to you
DAY 1

BUENOS DIAS, SPAIN

Spain is calling. Today your adventure across the enchanting northwest of the Iberian Peninsula kicks off. Head to the airport, whizz through security and enjoy a premium pitstop in the airport lounge as you await departure. Flight time to your first destination of Santiago de Compostela is around two hours, just enough time to brush up on your Spanish before touching down in warmer climes.

A private driver will be waiting for you on arrival to whisk you off to your first hotel: a historic property nestled in heart of the elegant old town. The rest of today is then yours to spend settling into your new surroundings at your own pace. We recommend strolling around the historic part of town before stopping for some nibbles and refreshments at one of the eateries found in your Dossier. If, however, all the travel has zapped your energy, then why not spend this afternoon like a true local: enjoying a siesta in your suave new digs?

DAY 2

SIGHTSEEING IN STYLE

In the spirit of getting totally immersed in local life, we’ve arranged for a knowledgeable compostelano guide to show you around some of the city’s top sights. Deeply entrenched in Christian symbolism, Santiago de Compostela was a pillar of resistance against the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages. More recently (by which we mean the ninth century), the tomb of Jesus' apostle, St. James, was believed to be discovered, turning the city into the second-largest pilgrimage site in Europe after Rome. Even today, the cobblestone streets of the city are awash with weary travellers from all walks of life who come to rest their legs on the glorious steps of the cathedral after weeks of walking. Discover the superb curiosities of the cathedral, from its humble foundations to its grand architectural additions, before touring the Cathedral Museum and the Pórtico de la Gloria (Portal of Glory), a grand Romanesque-style entrance.

DAY 3

SAVOUR LIFE IN SANTIAGO

Rise and shine; it's your final day in Santiago de Compostela and there's not a moment to waste. The list of Medieval delights found here is both impressive and insatiable, so we recommend dedicating a fair slice of today to touring the monasteries, temples and palaces sprinkled across the city. The quaint bars and restaurants that line the winding cobblestone streets of the old town are an ever-present reminder that, beyond its religious status, the regional capital is a flagship destination for Galician gastronomy. At the popular Mercado de Abastos food market, eager gastronomes are met with a smorgasbord of quality local products, from fresh fruits and veggies to hearty pastries and succulent seafood. Some of our favorite specialties include pulpo á feira (Galician-style octopus), caldeirada (seafood broth), caldo gallego (Galician stew) and the emblematic tarta de Santiago (almond cake). Those with a penchant for indulging in destination wines could also opt to spend this afternoon tasting a variety of Galician wines and cheeses on a private visit to a market.

DAY 4

R&R IN THE THERMAL BATHS OF OURENSE

It’s time to properly kick off this rail adventure across northwestern Spain as you take a short but scenic 40-minute train to the revered riverside city of Ourense. Hang up your hat for one night in an elegant spa hotel in the historic centre and spend the rest of today exploring the city. Boasting warm thermal baths that rival the finest in Japan, Ourense markets itself as the thermal capital of Galicia. Head to the Chavasqueira baths for some serious R&R surrounded by nature, or to As Burgas, a historic bathhouse in the heart of the old town. When you’re ready for a stroll, we recommend heading to the river to crisscross your way along some of Ourense’s eight bridges. The story of the city is woven into these very bridges, from the Ponte Vella, a Medieval Roman footbridge built nearly two millennia ago, to Millennium Bridge, a symbol for contemporary Ourense completed in 2001. For those eager to take a deep dive into the city’s long history, we can arrange a private walking tour that takes you through the ages.

DAY 5

LOCOMOTIVE TO LEON

After some soothing downtime in the spas of Ourense, it’s time to get moving and explore more of northern Spain. Your next destination is Leon, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Leon and a historic stop-off on the Camino de Santiago. Thankfully, your method of transport is much more comfortable; trade the weathered hiking boots of pilgrims for a seat on a luxurious locomotive. The train ride takes around four hours and passes through the pristine green scenery that characterises the northern realms of Spain. On arrival in the city, check-in for one night in an arty and elegant hotel nestled within the historic centre. After settling in and freshening up, head out and make the most of your one day here in Leon. If this Medieval metropolis is a treasure chest of historic and cultural delights, then the Santa Maria Cathedral is the crown jewel. Often described as the ‘Sistine Chapel of Spanish Romanesque art’, this towering architectural wonder is a spectacle of stained-glassed windows and classic Gothic features. Other unmissable monuments include the Casa Botines, a rare jewel by Gaudí outside of Catalonia; the San Isidoro Basilica, with its royal pantheon; and the former convent and hospice of San Marcos.

DAY 6

GET LOST IN THE STREETS OF BURGOS

Head back to the station this morning and continue by train to Burgos, the cradle of Old Castile, just a one-and-a-half-hour journey away. Set down your suitcases for two nights here in a historic hotel that exudes the character of old Spain. After a busy few days of exploring, we’ve left the rest of today’s agenda clear for you to carve out as you please. We recommend heading out for a stroll to take the pulse of the city. You can meander to the riverside Paseo del Espolon walkway for a stroll under the shade of willows and poplars before rubbing shoulders with the locals in one of the many gastro bars that call Burgos home. Make sure to tuck into the local pintxos, the traditional bitesize tapas that characterises the bar culture of northern Spain.

DAY 7

ADMIRE ANCIENT ARCHITECTURE

The next important stopover on the legendary Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route is Burgos, the provincial capital that delights visitors with its wealth of Medieval and Renaissance architecture. Spend today weaving your way through the cobbled streets of the old town, admiring monuments such as the cathedral, the arch of Santa Maria, the San Lesmes church and the casa del Cordón (palace of the constables of Castile). Burgos also claims fame as the birthplace of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, a legendary Castilian knight and ruler in medieval Spain, now immortalised in the cinema of Anthony Mann. You can explore the city at your own pace or opt to have a private local guide to lead the way through the city.

DAY 8

BILBAO BOUND

Wave goodbye to Burgos and turn your sights to the cosmopolitan coast. Your final stop on the northern Spain adventure is Bilbao, a city that needs little introduction. After a pleasant three-hour train ride, head to your next hotel: an artsy riverside hotel in the trendy La Vieja district. After settling in and freshening up, head out and breathe in the bohemian charm of this quintessential neighbourhood. Dating back to the 14th century (even older than the Casca Viejo old town), the district exudes a real rags-to-riches charm. La Vieja was down on its luck until as late as the 1980s but has since transformed itself into a bustling open-air bazaar of casual pintxo bars, hip cafes and creative shopping options.

DAY 9

ART GALORE AT THE GUGGENHEIM

It’s your final day in northwestern Spain, so wake up bright and early to seize the day. On today’s agenda: a private walking tour with a local Bilbao resident who knows the city inside and out. This is a great way to not only discover the sights of the city, but also to experience its cultural individuality through the lens of a local. The walk is laid-back and based around you, so you can be completely spontaneous. The total urban redevelopment of Bilbao at the end of the 20th century breathed new life into a forgotten metropolis in need of some serious TLC. The result? An exciting explosion of contemporary architecture layered on top of a genetically blessed historic centre filled with traditional pintxo bars and lively markets.

This afternoon is dedicated to the Guggenheim Museum. Frank Gehry’s bold and unorthodox museum is the postcard symbol of the city and a magnificent example of avant-garde 20th-century architecture. Armed with entrance tickets, spend as many hours as you please discovering the wealth of modern and contemporary art nestled within the titanium facade. The permanent collection brings together creations by David Salle, Chillida, Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois and Robert Rauschenberg. The rest of today and this evening is then yours to play with. You can continue exploring the city at your own pace or head out in the company of a local guide to discover Bilbao’s best pintxo bars in private.

DAY 10

SO LONG, SPAIN

Sadly, the time has come to bid northwestern Spain a warm farewell. After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, head back to the airport with a private driver, whizz though security and settle in for a two-hour flight back to the UK.

A la carte

GALICIAN WINE TASTING

In Galicia, the grape harvest period is a real celebration. The wines that emerge are mainly dry, refreshing and aromatic whites. Head to a local market in the company of a clued-up Galician guide before tasting a varied selection of regional wines and cheeses.

THE THERMAL CITY OF OURENSE

A city built by the Romans, Orense seduces with its thermal springs, notably As Burgas and A Chavasqueira. Discover the city in the footsteps of a local guide to totally immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage that surrounds you. From the cathedral, decorated with the sumptuous Pórtico del Paraíso, to the Ponte Vella which spans the waters of the Miño, this storied walk takes you through the ages.

GUIDED WALK THROUGH LEON

In the historic heart of Leon, the imposing towers of the cathedral and the San Isidoro church rise up above the skyline as a greeting to pilgrims. Meanwhile, the lively maze beneath thrums with character and charm. Head out with a friendly local guide to experience the delights of everyday life: the chitter-chatter at bars and taverns, the delectable smells drifting out of tapas bars and the quaint little shops and market stalls that treasure relics of the past.

THE MUST-SEES OF BURGOS

Although the cathedral is undoubtedly the jewel of Burgos, the Arlanzón River cannot be overshadowed. Stretching from the Santa María Bridge to the Institute Footbridge is a collection of promenades that offer beautiful views across the historic centre. Begin your guided walk here, before continuing into the old town. Discover ancient monuments, colourful squares and bustling terraced cafes. The must-sees here include the Gothic cathedral, the arch of Santa María, the statue of the Cid Campeador, the Casa del Cordón, the Plaza Mayor and the Museum of the Evolution of Man.

THE BEST PINTXO BARS IN BILBAO

Pintxos (the Basque interpretation of Spanish tapas), are presented as slices of bread bearing an array of bitesize ingredients. Fish, shellfish, meats and grilled vegetables are the staples, but the culinary scene is ever-evolving, so don’t be surprised to find something quirky while you’re out and about. Your clued-up guide will take you to three unmissable restaurants to taste some of Bilbao’s finest fare, washed down with a crisp glass of wine or refreshing local beer.

A Rough Idea of Price

Dependent on season, accommodation and activities
The cost for this trip starts from £2,000 to £2,600 per person.

The final cost of the trip depends on the way we tailor it especially for you. The final cost varies according to several factors, which include the level of service, length of trip and advance booking time. The exact price will be provided on your personalised quote.

The average starting price for this trip is £2,300 per person.
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