9 Day Northern Spain Adventure

Explore the culturally northern region of Spain

from cities and beaches to mountain villages and national parks

Discover the amazing vibrant cities of Barcelona, Madrid and San Sebastian in a handcrafted 9-day tour designed to experience the very best of northern Spain. Art, architecture, dance, vibrant nightlife and a scrumptious food culture await you in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, and Barcelona in Catalonia. From shopping to Flamenco dancing, these two grand cities are teeming with so much to see and do. Classical and not-so-classical churches and market lines main roads, exceptional food and fun

In the north, we experience the quiet rural world of Oviedo in the region of Asturias, before exploring the unique Basque Country cultures in Bilbao & San Sebastian. Learn to surf, go wine tasting, kayak coastal islands, and enjoy evenings on the beach with a really good local wine and tapas.

This is an exceptionally well thought out 9 memorable days in the North of Spain!

On this U.Trip, we do more, see more and experience more. Explore, learn, share and grow into better human beings.

At a glance

From: $1,190

Madrid to Bilbao

We kick start this most awesome 9 Day Northern Spain Adventure in the heartland of Madrid, saturated with cultural diversity and busy nightlife before heading to the northern beach cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian for a truly unique Basque Country experience. You’ll meet your fellow U.Travellers and U.Guide and if there is time in your day, we suggest heading out to explore the sights of Madrid on foot.

We complement the hustle and bustle of Madrid in the quite relaxing regions of Asturias and the Basque Country. Be active and explore Picos de Europa National Park or relax on the golden beaches of Bilbao and San Sebastian. Learn to surf, go wine tasting and enjoy an immensely satisfying hike, the Ruta del Cares, which is considered Spain’s best 1-day hike, connecting Poncebos with Caín in León. We then make our way to Bilbao where we can soak in the Basque Country culture at the Guggenheim Museum and the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Plenty of free time lets you explore Casco Viejo (Old Town) and wander around the many Bridges of Bilbao or sample Pintxos in the Plaza Nueva!

  • Explore the cultural diversity and busy nightlife of Madrid
  • Be active and explore Picos de Europa National Park
  • Relax on the golden beaches of Bilbao and San Sebastian
  • Learn to surf, go wine tasting and enjoy the Ruta del Cares hike
  • Visit Guggenheim Museum and the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao
  • Wander around the many bridges of Bilbao and explore Casco Viejo
San Sebastian to Madrid

In the second part of this trip, we’ll immerse ourselves further in Basque Country culture before heading back for a touch of city culture in Barcelona. Our trip moves east along the coastline to the beautiful beaches and metropolitan city of San Sebastian. Probably one of the most interesting places in Spain, the Basque Country has seen independent historical and socio-political development which is reflected in the language and expressed in its unique cuisine, the arts and architecture. We spend some time exploring the hugely fun and very memorable coastline and cities – from active surf lessons to tapas tasting evenings.

From here we train to Barcelona for a ‘city break’. We’ll take to the streets with your U. Guide and explore the inner city and Mediterranean harbourside, the 5 connected avenues which make up La Rambla, the incredible Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (which took longer to complete than the Egyptian Pyramids), eat from fresh food markets and enjoy the onset of dusk with sangria by the beach!

We then head back to the autonomous region of Madrid, the second-largest city in the EU by both geographical spread and population to connect with your onward bound journeys.

  • Explore the fun and memorable coastline and cities
  • Visit the historical and architectural city of San Sebastian
  • Discover all the best Barcelona has to offer – La Rambla, La Sagrada Familia, etc.
  • Eat from fresh food markets and enjoy a glass of Sangria by the beach
  • End the trip back to Madrid

Welcome to Madrid, the vibrant historical seat of Spain. Besides being the main seat of government, it is also the most populated city in Spain with a current population of over 3 million people and is celebrated for its unique architecture, bustling marketplaces, and lively nightlife. Tonight, we meet our guide and your fellow travellers in an informal meeting at the hotel. If you arrive earlier in the day, then we suggest exploring the city and its many cafés and tapas bars. It is said that the word tapa, which means lid or cover, came from when barkeepers would cover a glass of wine with a piece of bread to keep insects out of the glass.

However, it started and evolved, what we do know is that traditional tapas are a great way to experience the local cuisine!

Day 1 - Arrival Madrid

Today we leave Madrid and catch an early scenic train ride North to Oviedo in the region of Asturias. On the journey, we’ll pass through Medina Del Campo with its perfectly preserved medieval castle, the central trading town of Tordesillas with its breathtaking bridge over the Duero River and skirt the Reservoir of Barrios de Luna, framed by birch trees and often full of locals enjoying water-based sports! We’ll pick you up in our private vehicle once you arrive in Oviedo (the starting point for the oldest historical pilgrimage route ‘The Primitive Way’ or ‘Camino Primitivo’, the very first Jacobean route of the Camino de Santiago) and head to Picos de Europa National Park.

We have time this afternoon to connect you directly with local activity operators, where you can take the opportunity to enjoy one of the most popular activities in the area – kayaking down River Sella before heading to over overnight accommodation in which we should arrive in plenty of time for a relaxing evening before starting off another adventure tomorrow morning!

Day 2 - Picos de Europa National Park

It’s an adventure and discovery day today as we head to Poncebos by local transport, to start the famous Ruta del Cares, considered Spain’s best 1-day hike, which connects Poncebos with Caín in León. This 24km (moderate difficulty) trail winds through the incredibly scenic Cares gorges and canyons in the Picos de Europa National Park with sweeping views down the valley to the rivers below.

We have also created an alternative day that focuses more on R&R than active hiking for those not quite up to a full day walk; take the 8 minutes, 2.2km funicular ride up through the rocks to Bulnes, known as the most remote village of the Asturia’s (and with a population of fewer than 50 inhabitants), to enjoy a day amongst the idyllic stone cottages. Sitting at 650 meters above sea level, this tiny hamlet is frozen in time and a perfect way to enjoy a few hours of silence with a flowing river, dense forestry and a lovely Cantina to enjoy a beverage or a few tapas. If you are inspired, the walk down should take less than an hour!

Day 3 - Ruta del Cares

We’re on the move today as we catch a public bus out to the coast to the seaside city of Bilbao, home to the iconic steel curves of the Guggenheim Museum. Currently undergoing a rather spectacular revival and renovation, this once industrial city is being transformed into a more vibrant & modern city of interesting suburbs, revived architecture and the emergence of great dining experiences. We’ll walk you around the city pointing out all the cool places to see, visit, or experience and then leave you to explore the city at your leisure.

Our top tip for this evening? Seek out a local cantina in the old town and enjoy the unique dining experience of fresh fish prepared Basque Country style – served as pintxos; The local take on tapas, although in this northern region, the portions are more typically served on bread or skewers

Day 4 - Bilbao

Bienvenido a Donostia, as San Sebastian is known locally. Today we continue up the beautiful coast via a short bus ride and settle quickly into our accommodation. This gives us the day to explore this unique Basque city with its three stunning urban beaches; La Concha, Ondarreta and La Zurriola. Together they wrap around the boardwalk of the beachfront to provide one of the coolest promenades in Spain.

But beyond the castles and white sands, the incredible Basque Country cuisine and restaurant scene is a unique culture that has habituated the area for thousands of years. The Basques are believed to predate the Indo-European peoples who settled the area approximately 5,000 years ago. While its Autonomous Community status was only granted in 1979, its language is considered the oldest continuous language in Europe – even older than Latin!

Day 5 - San Sebastian

We stay in San Sebastian today and have the opportunity to explore the city from the water. In fact, all 3 of San Sebastian’s iconic urban beaches have a gentle surf break, ideal on which to learn! And what a special experience it would be to learn here. Consider this, an hour and a half surf lesson on golden sand beaches with gentle westerly and north-westerly swells, followed by a lunch of extraordinary tapas and matched with locally produced Txakoli (pronounced Chackoli), a very dry, lightly sparkling, young Basque white wine originating from the green hillsides around the lovely nearby village of Getaria (Gipuzcoa). Sound ideal?
Yes, that’s because it is!

The rest of the day is at your leisure and we support connecting you as close to the local community as possible. Rent a bike (road, mountain or urban..) and explore the city or the mountains beyond or kayak the coast or out to the island Santa Clara in the harbour. There’s a great hop-on-hop-off city tour which takes just over an hour non-stop, enjoy the great shopping district or head out of town to sample the great wines of the Rioja region!

Day 6 - Explore San Sebastian

We leave the beautiful beauty of the Basque Country behind as we make our way southeast to Barcelona on a super scenic train ride. Grab that window seat as we’ll pass through Pamplona (home to the famous ‘running of the bulls’) and the simply stunning ancient pilgrimage city of Zaragoza – home to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar on the River Ebro.

Arriving into Barcelona in the early afternoon, our talented U guide will take you on an orientation walk through the Gothic Quarter with its narrow medieval streets, down the iconic wide tree-lined avenue of La Rambla, past Gaudi’s La Sagrada Família and through the enormous central park La Plaça Catalunya and then on to the trendy neighbourhood of El Born Neighborhood where we can finish the day with local tapas and a sangria amongst the winding cobblestone streets full with cafes and cocktail bars!

Day 7 - Barcelona

Yesterday we touched on the wonders of this culturally vibrant city. Today you’ll have the opportunity to get back out and explore it further at your own leisure and focus on your personal points of interest. Within the city, there is a full day of sights to see and things to experience – from architectural tours, shopping and football stadiums to strolling through markets such as the Mercat de La Boqueria, adjacent to La Rambla. Catch a traditional Flamenco show to feel the passion and vibrancy of this dance, performed by local artisan dancers or head out to the mountains and enjoy wine tasting and tapas in Montserrat or enjoy a sunset cruise on the harbour, and of course, if you love architecture, do not miss out on Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell or Casa Batlló

We suggest getting out and getting active – Your U.Guide will help you with any questions you may have and help you book any tours that you may want to take.

Day 8 - Exploring Barcelona

It’s our last day today and we’ll head back to Madrid via train, first heading northeast to Zaragoza, and then due east out to the coast. It’s a relaxing train ride moving through many smaller villages, giving you a glimpse of rural Spain as we go.

As today is our last day, we have no activities planned. If you are considering staying longer in Madrid, speak to a member of our U.Crew who can book you more nights at our accommodation. Otherwise, you’re U.Guide is still on hand to help you with your onward bound journey!

Day 9 - Madrid – Departure Day

We can help you!

This itinerary is a guide only. Given the spontaneous nature of our trips, our lack of control over the weather,
and many other factors that can effect a group, where we go and what we do each day may vary.

Always included: 

  • Covered by the Travel Guarantee Fund in Denmark
  • 100% climate-neutral travel
  • Professional travel experts and local guides
  • We do all the planning for you
  • Personalized meetings before departure
  • 24/7 emergency telephone
  • Your own personal travel profile with program, add-ons, flight tickets etc.
  • Packing list and advice
  • Certification of participation
  • Advice and assistance with booking flights
  • Possibility of purchasing cancellation and travel insurance
  • All entrances and fees for experiences
  • All tour accommodation


Included on this trip: 

  • Welcome meeting with your U.Guide
  • Kayaking on River Sella
  • Ruta del Cares hike (led by your U.Guide)
  • Orientation walk of Bilbao (led by your U.Guide)
  • Orientation walk of San Sebastian (led by your U.Guide)
  • Pintxo ‘Quick Masterclass’, including one pintxo and one drink
  • Surf lesson (approx. 1.5 hours)
  • Orientation walk of Barcelona (led by your U.Guide)
  • A great U.Guide and a great trip

Combine or upgrade your trip with some of these trips

Fortresses and beach bars, flamenco and sherry tasting, hilltop cities and ancient architecture – Southern Spain in 8 action-packed days


Your expected footprint on this trip: 0.61 tons of CO2

(not including flights). Find out more about our commitment to net-zero travel and how you can lower your footprint.

Transport: 408kgs Approx. 1991km at 21kgs per 100km Accommodation: 109kgs Approx. 8 nights at 14kgs per night Optional activities: 30kgs Approx. average (2 activities) Food & drinks: 6kgs Approx. 700g per day

Your local investment on this trip: EUR€1,500

The average expected amount our U.Traveller’s spend that goes directly into the local economy.

Find out more about our love for supporting local businesses

Why Choose a U. Trip

  • The only tour company carbon calculating and offsetting every part of your U.Trip, as part of your cost! From the flights, to all carbon costs associated with your accommodation, activities, meals and transport.  This means you are choosing to travel responsibly with a company dedicated to putting People + Planet first!  U. have simplified the decision making so you can focus on just choosing the best trip for your adventures!
  • More inclusions, head to head, than other trips meaning you get more value for your spend, you see more and you experience more!
  • Invest in yourself and your future with a U.Trip that seamlessly combines the fun, excitement and adventure of gap year and backpacker travel with Impact Experiences that add value to your ‘self’ and your CV.
  • U. creates the opportunity for you to challenge your own understanding of the world with first hand experiences of local communities and the challenges facing them.
  • A team with over 100 years collective travel experience

Would you like one of our U.Team to give you a call?

Let us know when and we will make it happen.

We can help you!

Would you like one of our U.Team to give you a call?

Let us know when and we will make it happen.

We can help you!

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