Spain has seriously got it all – great food, picturesque mountains, beautiful historic monuments, amazing wine, and something I just recently discovered – insanely gorgeous beaches! (And I’m not talking about Barcelona.) The beaches of Northern Spain were some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and best of all – virtually empty! Okay, maybe it’s because I went during winter, but there’s seriously nothing better than enjoying views like this with nobody else around
The boyfriend and I took a road trip over our winter holiday and started in Asturias, a north western region of Spain. Apparently, the Bay of Biscay (AKA Cantabrian Sea), has some of the fiercest weather in the Atlantic Ocean (thank you Wikipedia), resulting in these gnarly rock formations. We had a somewhat unconventional Christmas, spending the day driving from beach to beach. All of them could be visited in one day (although it would be about a 6.5 hour drive) but we broke it up into a few days to take our time.
This beach was the only one that was a bit difficult to find, but worth the trek there! While conditions weren’t ideal, it was still pretty epic. From the pictures I saw, it might be better at low tide and should also look particularly beautiful at sunrise.
How to Get to Playa Gueirua:
Drive to the pin indicated on this Google Map and you’ll end up at a blue house next to a yellow house. Drive down the path between these houses and it’ll bring you down a little road. You can find parking on the side of the road if there’s room and then continue on foot. You’ll walk towards the ocean and veer down to the left, eventually coming across a cliffside staircase down to the beach.
Playa de Luanco
This beach wasn’t the most spectacular, but it’s right where our Airbnb was and on the way to the other beaches.
How to Get to Playa de Luanco:
Getting here is pretty straightforward, and Google Maps is always your friend
Playa de Gulpiyuri
This little beach is actually a flooded sinkhole, so it’s a tad bit inland. We visited at low tide, allowing us to see the cave where the waves came through. It probably looks a little nicer at high tide, but still pretty awesome regardless! You can also walk towards the coast along the cliffside for some lovely views!
How to Get to Playa de Gulpiyuri:
Playa de la Arnia
This was definitely my favorite stop, for obvious reasons! You can park near the restaurant, El Cazurro (and I’d also recommend getting a pitcher of sangria and a plate of pulpo a la gallega- seriously the absolute best octopus I’ve ever had in my life) and walk along the cliffside for some of the best views you’ll ever see.
How to Get to Playa de la Arnia:
To get to these particular rock formations, go west from El Cazurro and just walk along the cliffside for about a kilometer.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
This was our last beach stop of the day. Gaztelugatxe means “castle rock” in Basque, and there’s a little hermitage at the top where you can ring a bell and make a wish.
EDIT September 22, 2016
We returned and made a point to go to the top of the hermitage and it was definitely worth the view.
How to Get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe:
When we went, we had to park near the pin on this map (there were a couple small free lots). There’s a road going down further but it was blocked off from this street. It’s about a 25 minute walk to the “island” and there are a few different trails from there going uphill for another view.
Playa de la Concha
The next day was spent exploring beautiful San Sebastián. Playa de la Concha is one of Spain’s most popular beaches, with San Sebastián’s cityscape as the backdrop. While it might not be the prettiest on the list, the bonus is that you can stop at one of the cafes lining the sand and order a beer and some delicious pintxos (Basque Country’s version of tapas).
The best way to access all of these beaches is with a car (it would probably be near impossible without one). For Americans, you can get an international drivers license from AAA in the States, which will allow you to rent a car in Spain (and many other countries!) We’ve gotten some great deals on Auto Slash (this particular road trip was €25/day for a diesel hatchback). Note that most cars in Spain (and I think Europe in general) are manuals. There are automatics available, but usually for a lot more.
Visiting the beaches of northern Spain makes for a great weekend getaway, or in our case – the beginning of our 2-week road trip! There are no entrance fees, making for a budget-friendly trip. The map below shows the entire route: from the first beach, Playa Gueirua, to San Sebastián’s Playa de la Concha (Google Maps shows the Basque spelling) on the most eastern side of Spain.