Tour Northern Spain

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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To tour northern Spain most often means the Basque country, or the Pyrenees, or Galicia, all of which run along the Atlantic coastline. The land along the northern coast is rugged, mountainous, and rich, and renowned for its wines and seafood. The region of Castile and Leon, dramatically flat by comparison, is also part of northern Spain and has just as much to offer.

Tour Northern Spain: West to East

Let's begin to tour northern Spain in Galicia, on Spain's Celtic northwest, above Portugal. To the Romans it was Finis Terrae--the end of the world. Mountainous and wet, Galicia's coastline is a jagged succession of inlets and estuaries, and regional cuisine leans heavily on seafood and boasts a fine white wine. There are four provinces--Orense (no coastline), Pontevada, La Coruna, and Lugo. Galicia's capital is Santiago de Compostela, one of Spain's loveliest cities and rich in Romanesque architecture.

Asturias, just east on Galicia, was for centuries the Christian stronghold against the occupying Moors. It is rich in Romanesque and pre-Romanesque architecture, and hugs the Atlantic coastline to the border with the region of Cantabria. Cantabria is tiny, green, with a seafaring history, pleasant countryside, and striking mountain scenery inland. Next is the famous Basque country, with its celebrated yet unpretentious cuisine. It is, interestingly, one of Spain's most industrialized zones, dominated by shipping, shipbuilding, and steel.

Beyond the Basque region are the Pyrenees, Spain's border with France. The three regions along their stretch are Navarre, Aragon, and Catalonia--but all of these are more eastern Spain than northern. To continue to tour northern Spain means moving inland from the coast and south to Castile and Leon. This is a grandiose countryside, full of Romanesque churches, several exceptional Gothic cathedrals, and both a splendid Roman aqueduct and Moorish fortress.

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