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Northern Spain by rail

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Northern Spain by rail

offered by supplier M07207 (read about supplier)

Key Information:
Tour Duration: 12 day(s)
Group Size: 14 - 18 people
Destination(s): Spain  
Specialty Categories: Railway Trips   Sightseeing  
Season: May - June
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: No
Minimum Per Person Price: 2060 Canadian Dollar (CAD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 2690 Canadian Dollar (CAD)

Tour Highlights

•Rail Journeys – Crossing the Basque region and Cantabria by steam, diesel and narrow gauge railways
•Bilbao - Visit the extraordinary Guggenheim Museum and the Basque Railway Museum in Azpeitia
•Picos de Europa - Walking amongst the beautiful landscapes of Spain’s oldest national park
•León and Santiago de Compostela - Two of Spain’s most historic holy cities.

1 Join tour Bilbao

Arrive in Bilbao and check-in at the hotel. Situated on the banks of the Nervión River, on the northern edge of the Iberian Peninsula, Bilbao is home to the iconic magnificence of the Guggenheim, one of the world’s most famous museums and one of its most spectacular architectural creations. Lying amongst the verdant landscapes of Vizcaya Province, the city is the largest and most culturally dynamic in the Basque region, providing us with the perfect start to this incredible journey.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: None

2 Bus to Azpeitia: visit Basque Railway museum

Early this morning we take a bus to the Basque Railway Museum, located in the old station at Azpeitia. The museum is considered one of the finest railway museums in Europe, its 25,000 square metres of tracks and pavilions housing a fascinating collection of rail memorabilia; with some 70 different vehicles on display, as well as an exhibition of railway clocks and one of the few remaining mechanical workshops to survive from the early years of the 20th century. Returning to Bilbao this afternoon, you will have free time to visit the Guggenheim museum.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

3 Train to Santander; PM free

Heading west this morning we leave the Basque country behind us and take a train towards the mountainous landscapes of Cantabria and its elegant capital, Santander. A bustling port that looks out onto the waters of a deep bay, Santander is an engaging mix of the old and the new, its modern centre rebuilt after a devastating fire back in the early 1940s. Once a popular resort that attracted many of Spain’s ruling elite during the early years of the 20th century, the city hugs the coastline around the Peninsula de la Magdalena and once we have checked in to our hotel, we will take a short walk to explore something of the bay. This afternoon has then been left free for personal exploration, affording a chance to visit the city’s lovely Gothic-style cathedral, or perhaps wander through one of its museums. Santander can boast an array of fascinating exhibitions, from works by Goya and other 19th and 20th century artists, to Neolithic artefacts and rare whale skeletons, whilst the nearby Palacio de la Magdalena, once the summer palace of Alfonso XIII, reflects the town’s 20th century links with Spanish royalty.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

4 Train to Unquera; take funicular to Bulnes and walk in the Picos de Europa

This morning we continue west, following the coast of the fertile Costa Verde towards the old fortified port of Llanes. On arrival to the small village of Unquera we will make a direct transfer by bus up into the Picos de Europa, the beautiful mountain landscapes that lie to the south, whose towering peaks were the first comforting sight beheld by returning sailors to the European mainland. Arriving in the small village of Poncebos we then take the funicular railway (rack railway) up towards the remote community of Bulnes, where we can bask in the expansive grandeur of these mountains and take in the dominating heights of the Naranjo de Bulnes, at 2,519m one of the highest peaks in the national park. Spain’s first national park, the Picos are made up of three distinct massifs that extend across Cantabria, Asturias and Castilla y Leon, offering a grand expanse of mountains and canyons that are home to a wealth of flora and fauna, including wolves, the last remaining brown bears in Western Europe and the ever-present chamois. We’ll take an easy walk through this spectacular setting before returning down to Poncebos on the Funicular. Alternatively there is the chance to walk down into the valley through the dramatic Canal de Tejo Gorge (1,5h, 400m descent). Later in the afternoon we drive back on bus to Llanes to our hotel for an overnight stay.

Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

5 Train to Oviedo; PM free

The next stage of our journey takes us across the fertile plains of Asturias and onto the university town of Oviedo, the cultural and economic centre of the region. This was one of the few regions of Spain that didn’t fall under the influence of the Moors and its medieval heart is still littered with examples of Pre-Romanesque architecture that dates back to the 8th-10th centuries. A free afternoon affords an opportunity to explore something of the city’s past grandeur, especially around the grand Plaza Alfonso, which includes some finely preserved palaces and the Gothic facades of its cathedral. The church’s exquisite interior contains the tombs of the Asturian nobility, as well as a superb 9th century chapel, the Camara Santa, which contains a dazzling wealth of Astrian art and golden relics. The city also contains an excellent art gallery and archaeological museum, whilst its outskirts are dotted with some superb Pre-Romanesque churches, including the magnificent Santa Maria des Naranco and the 9th century church of San Julian de los Prados, which is believed to be the largest of its kind left in Spain.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

6 Free in Oviedo

With more free time today you may choose to continue exploring Oviedo and its environs, or perhaps make the most of the time by taking some journeys by rail further afield. You might like to visit Colanzo or Laviana in the Rio Nalon basin, or else take the train to Gijon and visit the Asturias Railway Museum, built on the site of the old Renfe (Spanish railways) station that dates back to the 1870s. The museum was conceived to preserve the railways unique history in the region and its permanent exhibition provides a fascinating insight into the relationship between the railways and the cultural and economic development of Asturias over the past century and a half.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

7 Train to Ferrol, Galicia; bus to Santiago

Boarding the early morning train to Ferrol we head next for Spain’s remote northwestern corner and the fertile landscapes of Galicia, a region whose inhabitants are fiercely proud of their Celtic origins and whose traditions and language offer an interesting contrast to much of the rest of mainland Spain. Arriving in Ferrol this afternoon (interestingly enough, the birthplace of General Franco) we then continue our journey by bus to the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela, a city that during the Middle Ages was (after Jerusalem and Rome) the most important place of pilgrimage anywhere in the Christian world. On arrival we will transfer to our hotel, after which the rest of the afternoon is free to perhaps enjoy something of the elegant ambience of this historic city.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

8 Exploring Santiago

Today has been left free to explore more of this most enigmatic of cities at your own pace, its historic centre being small enough to explore on foot. The 12th century Baroque cathedral, towering over the surrounding city streets amidst the majesty of the Praza do Obradoiro, is one of Christendom’s holiest of shrines. Lying at the end of the famous pilgrim route of the Camino de Santiago, its crypt is believed to hold the tomb of St. James himself and the building’s rich fusion of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles is truly a work of the most exceptional architectural craftsmanship. Alternatively you may prefer to wander the city’s narrow streets and visit some more of the myriad of architectural treasures that are dotted around the city. In the Convento de Santo Domingo de Bonaval you will find a folk museum dedicated to the Galacian region, whilst the Monasterio de San Martiño Pinario and the Palacio de Gelmirez are just two of the other jewels in this dazzling crown. And, at the end of the day, what better than to relax with a reviving drink on the Praza das Praterias and watch the world pass by.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

9 Train to Ponferrada

Taking a taxi to the railway station we will board the morning train to Ponferrada in the Castilla Y Leon region, a landscape of expansive plains and rolling hills dotted with historic castles. Ponferrada’s name stems from pons ferrata, a medieval bridge (reinforced with iron) that was constructed to aid the passage of pilgrims travelling along the Camino de Santiago towards the sacred city. Its imposing fortress, constructed by the Knights Templar between the 12th and 14th centuries, was built to protect the pilgrims, and in its time was considered one of the largest citadels in northwest Spain. Arriving this afternoon affords us an opportunity to take a walk along part of the pilgrim route after lunch, enjoying something of the idyllic landscape and quite villages as we walk in the footsteps of the countless devotees whose feet have trodden these trails for centuries.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

10 Train to Leon; PM optional visits to Cathedral and historic centre

This morning there is an opportunity for a stroll through Ponferrada and a chance to see the Templar Castle (closed on Mondays) before we board the late morning train to Leon, a city that once lay at the heart of the region’s reconquest from the Moors during the 11th century. Once the centre of Christian Spain, during the time that two thirds of the peninsula was under Muslim rule, the two central buildings of the city are its great Gothic cathedral and the equally superb Romanesque Basilica de San Isidoro, both of which are without doubt two of the finest examples of their kind to be found anywhere in Spain. This afternoon there will be an opportunity to explore these remarkable edifices, along with the historic heart of the city. The cathedral is unique for the quality and magnificence of its stainedglass windows, which span seven centuries of history and cover subjects as diverse as religion, mythology and even medieval life, whilst San Isidoro is the final resting place of dozens of Christian kings and noble families, buried over centuries, beneath the stunning 12th century frescoes. Radiating out from the Plaza Mayor, the narrow streets are also filled with cafes, churches and old houses that provide a diverting choice of options for an afternoon of fascinating sightseeing.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

11 AM free; PM narrow gauge train to Bilbao

After a free morning we will take the narrow gauge railway (the Ferrocarriles Espanoles de Via Estrecha) that runs from Leon and into the Basque region back towards Bilbao. The FEVE network encompasses the most extensive metre gauge system in mainland Europe and this section of the journey takes us some 7 hours, crossing through Vizcaya and Burgos and a small stretch of Cantabria as we make our way back across the Basque country to journey’s end back in the port of Bilbao. The line was inaugurated in 1894 and brought coal from the Castilian mines around La Robla to the thrieving Basque industrial centres. The spectacular scenery is very mountainous with the highest point being at 700m altitude before the train gradually descends towards the coast.
Overnight: Standard Hotel, Included Meals: Breakfast

12 Tour ends Bilbao

Tour ends after breakfast. If there is time you have another chance to explore some more of this vibrant city, perhaps visiting the famous Guggenheim Museum.

Included Meals: Breakfast

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

prices are based on double occupancy land only and vary on departure dates, no air is included

About This Supplier
Location: Canada
Joined InfoHub: Feb 1999
Client Request Served: 1386

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