ESCAPE THE CROWDS IN THE NORTH OF SPAIN
5 lesser known places to visit this summer: Northern Spain
Looking for an off-the-beaten-track holiday this summer? Spain's diverse geography and culture hides undiscovered attractions for every type of traveller. Here are five hidden spots without the crowds in Northern Spain to inspire your next holiday!
1. Galicia’s Atlantic Forest
The Fragas do Eume Natural Park is among the best-preserved ancient Atlantic forests in Europe. Fewer than 500 people live within its 9,000 hectares of untouched forest, making Galicia’s shaded greenery the perfect escape for those looking to experience nature without the crowds.
The lush park is home to 200 species of fern, 20 species of lichens, and 103 bird species, all of which are best viewed from any of the eight signposted hiking trails winding across the landscape. Alternative experiences can also be enjoyed by kayaking along the River Frei Bermuz to its confluence with the Eume, or from visiting the monastery of Caaveiro, the ancient place of worship hiding over 1000 years of history within the dense shrubbery.
2. La Rioja's Dinosaur Trail
La Rioja is famous for excellent wine, with over 500 wineries offering internationally renowned wine tasting. Lesser known is the 1,400 dinosaur ichnites (fossil footprints) spread across the region. In the south of La Rioja lie some of the best-preserved ichnite sites in Europe, dating back millions of years to the Cretaceous period.
The “Dinosaur Route”, a clearly signposted trailing following the upper Cidacos Valley from the village of Enciso, takes hikers to three of the most important paleontological sites in Western Europe. The short trail is just 7km yet covers hundreds of fantastically preserved footprints and passes several visitor centres with information and life-size reproductions of the extinct raptors, making the Cidacos Valley perfect for adults and children alike.
3. Aragon’s Nature Monastery
A true hidden gem, the Monastery of Piedra lies within the unassuming province of Nuévalos, Aragon, and is a beautiful 12th century monastery founded by Cistercian monks. Unlike most religious cultural heritage sites in Europe, its unique allure is not man-made. Instead, it’s charm comes from the waterfalls, caves, and plunge pools which surround it, creating an almost mystical space where art and nature co-exist.
The Piedra River circles the monastery within the natural park, with the sound of water springs heard echoing across the grounds. The most famous waterfall is known as the Horse Tail, which hides a large natural cave with stalactites formations behind its cascading water.
4. Navarra’s Adventure Gorge
Lumbier Gorge, declared part of a Natural Reserve in 1987, is in the foothills of eastern Navarre’s Pyrenees. The stunning, ragged landscape, carved out by the Irati and Salazar rivers over millennia, is just 40km form Pamplona. Despite appearances, the gorge is easily accessible by foot or bike and various activities are possible below and above the 150-metre canyon.
Several hiking routes are possible across the gorge, including the short Irati Rail Trail which ends with Puente del Diablo (Devil’s Bridge), a ruined bridge destroyed in the Spanish War of Independence. Along the way, hikers will see a range of birds, including golden eagles, griffon vultures and alpine swifts. Visitors can also raft or swim in the clear Pyrenees waters of the gorge below to cool off after the trek!
5. Asturias' Silent Beach
Asturias is famous for beautiful rolling hills, the Picos de Europa mountain range, and of course world renowned cheese. Lesser known is the 145km of Atlantic coastline known as the Costa Verde (Green Coast) with hundreds of pristine golden beaches and hidden coves. One such beach, appropriately named Playa del Silencio (Silent Beach) is a 500 metre long stretch of beach without a building in sight.
The clear waters are without a crowd in site, and form part of the Western Coastline Protected Landscape. The coast is perfect for snorkellers and scuba divers to marvel at unspoilt marine wildlife. Despite it's tranquillity, the beach is easily accessible at just a 15km drive from the popular Cudillero village. The coastal fishing village of Cudillero is consistently rated among the most beautiful villages in Spain, making it the perfect accompaniment to an escape to the Playa del Silencio.