20 Most Beautiful Villages to Visit in Northern Spain

While northern Spain is home to some excellent cities, if you prefer spending time off the beaten path, these are the villages along Spain’s northern coastal regions that you have to visit!

The Basque Country

  • Hondarribia 

You can find Hondarribia right on the border between France and Spain. You can even see France across the water and there’s even a boat that will take you between the two!

Why not take a walk around the historic centre with its typical Basque houses and stroll down Calle San Pedro, the town’s main thoroughfare?

The beach (Playa de Hondarribia) is also rather popular, especially during the summer months and while it doesn’t get as warm as on the Mediterranean coast, you can enjoy highs in the mid-20s between June and August.

Basque-style houses, the Basque Country

  • Pasai Donibane and Pasai San Pedro

Pasai San Pedro and Pasai Donibane are two urban centres located in Pasaia, a town built around the Bay of Pasaia in the Gipuzkoa province of the Basque Country. Like many of the other towns in the region, Pasaia was an important port for commercial sea-routes.

One of the most popular attractions is the Albaola, The Sea Factory of the Basques, a UNESCO-sponsored museum dedicated to the Basque maritime heritage.

  • Getaria

Getaria is located on Spain’s northern coast in the Basque Country’s Gipuzkoa province. It’s a beautiful little fishing village that was also home to Juan Sebastián Elcano, one of the first people to circumnavigate the earth.

The town has existed in some form since Roman times but was properly founded in the Middle Ages, making it one of the oldest in the region.

Nowadays, you can enjoy this quiet little fishing town’s main attractions such as the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum, the Iglesia de San Salvador, the fishing port, or take a walk up the Monte San Aton for some lovely views of the town.

  • Mutriku

Mutriku is a must-visit if you are renting a holiday home in the Basque Country. It's a beautiful Basque town sitting on the Bay of Biscay. There’s evidence that people have lived in the area for thousands of years but this version of the town was founded in 1209 by King Alfonso VIII of Castile.

The Church of San André, which was built in 1080, is one of the oldest in the region. The historic centre of the town features several townhouses, the Town Hall, the church of Nuestra Señora de Asunción, and a statue to Cosme Damián Churruca, a naval officer who died at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Bay of Biscay, the Basque Country

  • Zarautz

Zarautz is a small coastal town you must visit if you are staying in San Sebastián as it's just under 10 miles away. There are quite a few things to do here, but one of the most popular attractions is the beach, which is the longest in the whole Basque Country.

Art lovers can enjoy the Photomuseum or the Zarautz Art and History Museum. The latter is particularly interesting as it’s located in the Tower of Zarautz, the town’s oldest building.

Like a lot of Spanish towns and villages, Zarautz is home to some pretty churches, including the Church of Santa Maria la Real and the Church of Santa Clara.

Sporty types can enjoy surfing here, which has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Cantabria

  • Castro Urdiales

If you are renting a holiday home in Cantabria, Castro Urdiales is a lovely small town in the east of the province. It’s located on the Bay of Biscay and is popular with tourists because of its beautiful beaches and the harbour.

The old town (Puebla Vieja) is home to many historic monuments and sights. The most popular is the Church of Santa María de la Asunción, a 13th-century Gothic-style building that took nearly 2 centuries to finish!

Just a short walk from the church is the castle and lighthouse, a great destination for views of both the town and the coastline.

  • Santillana del Mar

Santillana del Mar is an interesting town. Despite having the word for sea (mar) in its name, it’s not a coastal town. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth visiting. After all, Jean-Paul Sartre called it the prettiest town in Spain; high praise indeed!

It’s worth visiting the National Museum and Research Center of Altamira, a museum dedicated to the Altimira cave, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The heart of the town itself is also wonderful and the Plaza Mayor de Ramon y Pelayo is where you can get most of your holiday snaps.

If you’re travelling with little ones, there’s also a zoo that will keep everyone entertained for a few hours.

  • Comillas

Comillas is a fascinating place and was once the capital of Spain, even though this was just for a day on the 5 of September 1881, it still makes it a member of a pretty exclusive club alongside Madrid and Toledo.

It was a popular destination for the Spanish royal family and Spanish nobility and the oldest part of the town is home to many mansions. Just look at the shields to find out which famous families called these wonderful buildings “home”.

It’s also popular with tourists thanks to the beautiful surroundings and popular attractions like a palace designed by Antoni Gaudí, the Palacio de Sobrellano (another palace), the beach, and the exquisite Comillas Pontifical University.

Beach landscape in Cantabria

  • Cicera

Cicera is a tiny village in Peñarrubia, Cantabria. If you want a fully authentic experience of rural Spain, this is the place to go.

The village’s most popular attraction is the church, but what you go to Cicera for is the hiking. With Cicera as a base, you can head off in almost any direction and find gorgeous hiking trails that lead to some exquisite viewpoints over the valleys.

  • San Vicente de la Barquera

It’s hard to call San Vicente de la Barquera a town since most of the area is the Oyambre Natural Park. Sure, there’s a town to visit, but the park is the main attraction.

The natural park covers 196 hectares and features some excellent hiking trails. You can walk along the seaside, through the mountains, or by the river. In addition to the self-guided walks, you can also visit the gallery or enjoy workshops for the whole family.

That said, there are also places to visit like the Castle of the King, the Church of Santa María de los Ángeles, and the Playa de Oyambre beach.

Asturias

  • Llanes

Llanes stretches across the Costa Verde in Asturias. Traditionally, this was a fishing port and you can see the town’s piscatorial history in the town’s monuments and traditions, especially the statue of the Fisherman’s Wife that’s looking out to sea waiting for her husband to return.

The fishing port is full of lovely little boats and a short walk from a couple of the town’s beaches and other attractions.

Parts of 13th-century town walls are still standing as well as the Tower of Llanes, which is worth a visit. There’s also the pretty Basilica of Santa Maria del Conceyu or the Iglesia de la Virgen de la Guía, another church that’s a little further outside of the town.

Llanes, Asturias

  • Cudillero

This town is regularly cited as one of the prettiest towns in all of Spain and it’s easy to see just from photos, though it’s better in the flesh!

While you could probably just spend all day in the town looking at it, there are also some good reasons to head out of the town and along the coast. The Cabo Vidio and the lighthouse should be high on your list of things to visit.

If you take part in the Camino de Santiago’s Northern Way, you’ll be lucky enough to pass through Cudillero, but I would feel sorry for anyone who is just passing through and doesn’t get to stay.

Cudillero, Asturias

  • Luarca

Luarca is another town to feature on the Camino de Santiago’s Northern Way. This is a small fishing town on the Asturian coast and it’s famous for the beautiful architecture, the food, and having a few interesting tourist attractions.

The most popular attractions include the Fishery Harbour, the Palace of the Marquis of Ferrera, and the lighthouse. There used to be a natural history museum dedicated to a giant squid, but sadly this closed down a while back and is yet to reopen.

If you do travel to Luarca, you might want to consider visiting the gardens that overlook the harbour. The gardens are just a short walk from the centre of the town and offer some incredible views of the town.

  • Covadonga

If you choose a holiday in Asturias, you have to visit Covadonga and the lakes. Covadonga is right by the Picos de Europa mountain range and the perfect destination for avid hikers or walkers.

While there is a very small settlement with a couple of hotels in Covadonga itself, most travellers will stay in the nearby town of Cangas de Onis and make their way to Covadonga and the Lakes of Covadonga.

There are fantastic views of the surrounding nature, religious sanctuaries, and some beautiful churches to visit while you’re there.

The area itself was home to an important early Spanish victory during the Reconquista, one of the first in over seven centuries of fighting between Spanish Catholics and the Moors. 

  • Ribadesella

Ribadesella is a small town on the Cantabrian Sea and is one of the most charming villages in Asturias. This town is also home to Queen Letizia of Spain, the wife of King Felipe VI.

You can either relax in the lovely town centre, visit the church, or head down to the waterfront.

The nearby Tito Bustillo Cave is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to cave paintings from nearly 30,000 years ago!

If you see yourself as a bit of a foodie, you may also want to visit Ribadesella during the fish festival or cheese festival, two popular events on the riosellano calendar.

Ribadesella, Asturias

Galicia

  • Sobrado

Sobrado, also known as Sobrado dos Monxes in the local Galician language, is a small town in the A Coruña province of Galicia. It’s famous for the Trappist monastery and is a fantastic destination for nature lovers.

The town is home to an artificial lagoon that was built by the monks of the aforementioned monastery to help with local agriculture. There’s also a beautiful oak forest by the town and in the neighbouring village of Portacal, you can see the region’s second oldest oak tree.

  • Combarro

Combarro is a beautiful little fishing village in Poio, Galicia. The town has become particularly popular in recent years and it’s hardly surprising given just how pretty the place is.

In addition to just enjoying the beauty of the town, you might want to see some of the hórreos, typical wooden or stone Galician granaries that are built atop pillars to keep rodents from eating the grains.

You may also want to visit the Igrexa de San Roque, the town’s main church, or just stroll around Combarro’s fishing port.

  • Monforte de Lemos

Monforte is probably a bit bigger than your typical village, but it would be a crying shame to not include it in this list. After all, it’s still incredibly pretty and home to less than 20,000 people.

If you love trains or are travelling with young kids, the Museo del Ferrocarril de Galicia is an excellent railway museum with a fine selection of locomotives to see.

For a bit of history, you can walk around the medieval part of town, see the castle, or visit one of several churches that were built between the 14th and 17th centuries.

The Camino de Santiago

  • O Cebreiro

O Cebreiro is a village on the Camino de Santiago and during July and August, when many walkers choose to complete the pilgrimage, the hostels, hotels, and restaurants of this otherwise quiet village are very busy.

At 1,300 metres above sea level, getting here on foot is quite a climb and in the colder months of the year, you can expect snow and ice.

There are some wonderful round stone houses with straw roofs to see and you can visit the free ethnological museum to learn more about life in the village.

  • Ribadavia

Ribadavia is a beautiful village on the banks of the Miño river in Galicia’s Ourense province. You can learn more about life in the town at the Ethnologic Museum or visit the remains of the 14th-century castle.

If you love wine, you’ll want to visit the Museo del Vino de Galicia. Entry is free and you can see how wine is made, especially the local Ribeiro, which has an official appellation, the oldest in all of Galicia.

The Takeaway

While most tourists head to Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Andalusia, Valencia, and Madrid, there’s so much to see and do across northern Spain.

The Basque Country, Asturias, Cantabria, and Galicia are all pretty unique, and while they might all share quite similar weather, the history, culture, geography, and cuisine can vary quite a bit from one region to another.

Which will you be visiting first?

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