Consisting mainly of the regions Galicia, Asturias, and Cantabria, Northwest Spain is very different from the rest of the nation. It is defined by rolling hills and green pastures of the countryside, a rugged coastline with its own unique spread of cuisine, and many notable sights like the cathedral Santiago de Compostela.
In Galicia, the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela
is, is the centerpiece of the city. Its baroque faÃ§ade sculpted in Galician granite dates back to the 12th century and is laid out on a basilica plan. The towers of the cathedral exist just as grand with an interior decked with elaborate archways and columns to match. Each piece of art sculpted into the design of the cathedral tells a story, biblical tributes, that have drawn pilgrims to the site for centuries. This is the top attraction of the region, and the surrounding city is just as beautiful with quaint streets and historic architecture.
In Asturias, the rugged coastline and rolling green countryside steal the show. Picos de Europa National Park in this region is also a must-see, home to a stark mountain landscape further inland with rare species like the Cantabrian brown bear, wolves, and lynxes. This is the region for adventurous explorers and nature lovers looking to experience some of Spain's untouched environments.
In Cantabria, the hotspot is the city of Santander. Located right on the bay, it is a place of many historic churches and a handful of interesting museums that range from archaeological discoveries of the region, to maritime history, and cultural features like bullfighting. There is also a large selection of beaches for those looking for a more relaxing getaway in the sun and sand.
Northwest Spain is divided into three main regionsâGalicia, Asturias, and Cantabria. Galicia is probably the most-visited, a historic part of Spain and final destination for the famous pilgrimage to the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is also the region's capital whose public squares and narrow streets represent well-preserved examples another time and place firmly rooted in faith. Old town especially, with its cobbled streets and terra cotta roofs glow with an old world charm. Asturias is a region more known for its rugged coastline, mountain landscapes, religious sites, and medieval architecture and is home to the cities of Aviles, Gijon, and Oviedo. Oviedo is the capital of this region, and like Santiago de Compostela, has monuments listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And then there is the Cantabria region on Spain's north coast, known for its mountains, cave paintings, and the city of Santander. Santander is the region's capital with plenty to see and do with museums, parks, historic churches, beaches, and festivals.
Depending on the region of Northwest Spain, activities vary to encompass just about everything. Historic sightseeing will show a range of cathedrals, churches, cobbled streets, markets, and historic districtsâwhile museum-going in just about any of the cities will offer a more informed presentation of the region's past. The more remote coastline, countryside, and mountains of Asturias offer opportunities for the outdoor explorer like hiking, backpacking, and wildlife watching. And then the more developed coastline of Cantabria near Santander is perfect for relaxing on the beach or jumping into some watersports on the ocean.
Food and Dining
The northwest of Spain is an area bordered by coastline, making seafood and fish a common staple for dishes throughout the region. The Spanish word for seafood is "Marisco," and some popular shellfish shellfish include "centollo" or spider crab, "necoras" or velvet crab, "percebes" or goose barnacles, and mussels. Pulpo a feira is another common seafood dish of octopus prepared with oil, salt, and hot paprika. Then there are empanadasâpies made with a traditional dough, filled with onion, pepper, and some meat, usually tuna, veal, or seafood. In Galicia, a stew called "Caldo Galego" wards of the damp chill of the region, while some popular items from Asturias include:
Fabada: a bean stew made of Asturian white beans, red sausage (chorizo), black pudding (morcilla), and diced bacon.
Cachopo: a breaded and fried kind of "sandwich" made with ham and cheese, similar to Cordon Bleu but much bigger.
There are also more than a hundred different kinds of cheeses in Asturia as well as desserts like frisuelos which are similar to French crepes, and arroz con leche, a kind of rice pudding.
By air to Galicia, there are three international airports: A Coruna
, Vigo, and Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is the main airport for the area and connects Galicia with a number of European cities, including London, Dublin, Frankfurt, Liverpool, and Rome.
By air to Asturias, Asturias airport is located near Aviles, and is easily accessible by bus from the three main cities of Gijon, Oviedo, and Aviles. Asturias airport has flights to and from London, Stansted, Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon, Milan and Rome, Basel, and Zurich, and various destinations in Germany. In Spain there are flights to Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga, Alicante, Palma de Mallorca, Sevilla, and the Canary Islands.
By air to Cantabria, the nearest airport is in Santander. Here there are domestic flights, primarily from Madrid, and international flights with Ryanair from London, Dublin, Brussels, Rome, Milan, Frankfurt, Paris, and Amsterdam.
Once you have reached Northwest Spain, each city, town, and village is fairly navigable on foot. Buses, taxis, and rental cars are available for traveling from place to place.
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