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The Way of Saint James. Northern Route

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  • Peine del Viento. Donostia-San Sebastián © Turespaña

    Peine del Viento. Donostia-San Sebastián © Turespaña

  • Guggenheim Museum and sculpture 'Mamá, araña' Bilbao © Turespaña

    Guggenheim Museum and sculpture 'Mamá, araña' Bilbao © Turespaña

  • Cloister of the Santillana del Mar Collegiate Church © Turespaña

    Cloister of the Santillana del Mar Collegiate Church © Turespaña

  • San Damián Fort, Ribadeo © Turgalicia

    San Damián Fort, Ribadeo © Turgalicia

  • Portico of Glory in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral © Turespaña

    Portico of Glory in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral © Turespaña


The coastal path

This route on the Way of Saint James was first used by the pilgrims during the Middle Ages in order to avoid travelling through territories on the peninsula occupied by the Muslims. Crossing across the northern part of Spain, whose landscape is beyond any doubt one of the most endearing attractions. A large part of the route runs along the coastline of the Cantabrian Sea, between mountains and small fishing villages.

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The Way of Saint James, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also a way of discovering the diverse culture in Spain. This pilgrimage route has developed into quite the cultural phenomenon, procuring the exchange of ideas, birth of cities and the construction of important monuments. The route we present is the Northern Route, which starts in Irún and crosses the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia.

The journey is divided into stages, which traditionally can be covered on foot, by bike or on horseback. Nevertheless, whichever means of transport you choose, the route offers the chance to discover beautiful landscapes, interesting monuments and buildings, and the so-called houses built by "Indianos" (Spanish emigrants who found fortune in America).

Northern Route through the Basque Country
The route begins in the town of Irún, and it is worth stopping, amongst other places, in Hondarribia old town. Then, we'll encounter one of the most beautiful towns in northern Spain: Donostia-San Sebastián. Its old town, cathedral and beaches are some of the many attractions in the city, which hosts the famous San Sebastián International Film Festival every year.

The route continues along coastal towns such as Zarautz and Getaria, until it reaches Bilbao. The old town contrasts with modern buildings such as the Guggenheim Museum, and create a unique urban combination. Don't leave the city without going inside the Basilica of Begoña. Nearby, connecting the towns of Getxo and Portugalete, you can see the Vizcaya Suspension Bridge, with the UNESCO World Heritage Designation.

Northern Route through Cantabria
In this part of the route we'll discover fishing villages such as Castro-Urdiales, where we'll find the Church of La Asunción and the Castle-Lighthouse in the historic quarter. The city of Santander is another important stop on the way: as well as its beautiful beaches, we'll find the cathedral and the impressive Palace of La Magdalena, where the famous Menéndez Pelayo International University summer courses take place. Amongst other interesting places, we recommend the medieval village of Santillana del Mar, with its Collegiate Church and, very close by, Altamira Cave and its museum. Don't miss Gaudí's El Capricho de Comillas, or the Church of Santa María in the fishing village of San Vicente de la Barquera.

Northern Route through Asturias
Many surprises await us in Asturias: the historic quarter in Llanes and the city of Gijón with its beaches, the Palace of Revillagigedo and the emblematic Elogio del Horizonte, by the sculptor Eduardo Chillida. From here it is best to make a detour to discover the old town in Oviedo, from where another of the possible routes on the Way of Santiago sets off, called the Primitive Route. If we carry on the Northern Route, we'll also go through Avilés, which has a beautiful old town and a modern cultural centre, designed by the architect Óscar Niemeyer; and the picturesque town of Cudillero.

Northern Route through Galicia
In Galicia there are several interesting stops on our way towards the end of the route, Santiago de Compostela. Amongst others, we'll find the town of Ribadeo, the Benedictine monastery of San Salvador de Lourenzá, the Cathedral of Mondoñedo and the Monastery of Santa María de Sobrado. A good foretaste of the rich variety of monuments and buildings we'll find in Santiago de Compostela old town, with its cathedral as the main protagonist.


What to see on the route See more

Other routes of interest

What to do

Cycle touring

Cycle touring
Equestrian routes

Equestrian routes
Routes by boat

Routes by boat



More information

Calendar See more

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Mar 21, 2023 to May 31, 2023

Concert / recital

Auditorio Palacio de Congresos Príncipe Felipe de Oviedo - Oviedo
Baroque Spring Series 10 in Oviedo

BBK Live, público en un concierto, 2019 © Óscar L. Tejeda. BBK Live

Jul 6, 2023 to Jul 8, 2023


Parque Kobetamendi - Bilbao
Bilbao BBK Live

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Jul 7, 2023 to Jul 16, 2023


"Semana Negra" thriller-writers festival in Gijón

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Jul 25, 2023

Festivity of International Tourist Interest

Santiago de Compostela
Fiesta in honour of Saint James the Apostle

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