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Follow the pinxtos-trail through the streets of San Sebastián, clear your head on the mountain trails of the Picos de Europa, then fop on the beach in northern Spain

Sample the delectable pintxos of San Sebastián, before exploring the exceptional architectural wonders of Bilbao; then tackle the craggy massifs of the Picos de Europa, continuing on to the deserted sand beaches of coastal Asturias, and ending your pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago

NORTHERN SPAIN

@clarwood

PHOTOGRAPHS JUSTIN FOULKES

@justinfoulkes

Igueldo hill on the Bay of La Concha forms the western end of San Sebastián’s crescent city beach

Plan your trip

1 Indulge in the communal sharing of pintxos, little works of gastronomic art, in coastal San Sebastián (p54).

2 Modern architectural masterpieces rub shoulders with the traditional monuments of old Bilbao (p56).

3 The Picos de Europa, a hikers’ paradise, is home to jagged peaks, glacial lakes, bears and wolves (p58).

4 Deserted beaches, limestone caves and exploding ‘bufones’ make up coastal Asturias (p60).

5 Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims on the peaceful country pathways of the Camino de Santiago (p62).

MAP ILLUSTRATION: ALEX VERHILLE. PHOTOGRAPHS: MICHAEL BURRELL/ALAMY, JUSTIN FOULKES, POSTRESORIGINALES.COM, PAUL COWAN/ISTOCK IMAGES, PETER HORREE/ALAMY

HOW TO GET THERE

It’s possible to fly to San Sebastián via Barcelona with Vueling (from £75 from Barcelona; vueling.com), but perhaps a better option is to fly direct into Bilbao, just over 60 miles from San Sebastián, or to Biarritz, 30 miles away over the French border. BA, easyJet and Vueling fly direct to Bilbao from London airports (from £81; easyjet.co.uk); Ryanair flies direct from London Stansted to Biarritz (from £76; ryanair.com). If you are following our route exactly, buy a single fare and make your return journey from Santiago de Compostela ( from £33; ryanair.com). Alternatively, get the ferry to Bilbao from Portsmouth (from £694 return for two with a small car; brittanyferries.com).

HOW TO GET AROUND

A rental car is the best option (from £21 per day; europcar.co.uk). Watch out for narrow mountain roads in the Asturias region, and be aware that in the Picos de Europa, rougher tracks can be difficult to navigate with a regular car, so hiring a 4x4 is useful.

WHEN TO GO

Northern Spain is a beautiful place to visit during the warmer months, from March to November, but be aware if travelling in the peak of summer in July and August, as the weather can be stiflingly hot and hotel prices are at their peak. Ideally aim for the shoulder seasons of early June or late September to miss the rush while still enjoying the warm weather.

HOW LONG TO SPEND

The area outlined in our feature is not vast, but great mountains and curving coastlines mean it can take a long time to travel between destinations. Make sure to allow at least a couple of days in San Sebastián and a full day to explore Bilbao, while time in areas such as the Picos de Europa and on the Camino de Santiago will be determined by which activities you’d like to undertake there. To complete the itinerary outlined here, allow at least eight days and, if you have time, stretch it to 12 for a more relaxed immersion.

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