The very mention of Spain is enough to conjure up images of busy tourist resorts, high-rise hotels, crowded beaches and hedonistic nightlife. Which is certainly an accurate description of the scene to the south – the single most popular holiday region in Europe for British travellers.
However, for those willing to take a step or two beyond the obvious, there is another side to Spain that comparatively few experience firsthand. Stunning landscapes, rich history and local culture that changes almost entirely from one village to the next, an area of the country known as ‘Green Spain’ is fast becoming a top pick among discerning travellers.
The area referred to as green Spain covers a quite substantial area, encompassing Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Pais Vasco (Basque Country). There is a double boundary which joins each of these regions together – the stunning mountain range to the south of the extraordinary coastline to the north. Which in turn means that the terrain and landscape of this beautiful Spanish region features everything from hidden valleys to snow-capped peaks to major cities to historic ports and world-class beaches.
Home to some of the most important historic sites and landmarks in Spain, the region has been inhabited for thousands of years and there are still echoes of the past absolutely everywhere you turn. Original prehistoric paintings can be seen lining many Basque Country caves. There are also endless fragments of roman history across the region, along with an endless array of extremely important and famous religious sites and monuments.
The region is best explored by car making the ferry crossing to Spain which Brittany Ferries run perhaps the best way to access and visit Green Spain.
Anyone with an interest in nature will find Green Spain to be one of the most extraordinary regions imaginable. With such diverse and varied landscapes, the region represents something of an unspoiled, undisturbed playground for an extraordinary variety of native species.
The towering peaks of Asturias boast extensive resident populations of wild boar, deer and bears. Visit at the right time and there is every chance you will even hear the unmistakable sound of a wolf’s twilight howl. The national parks of Green Spain are so enormous that their resident wildlife populations live their lives entirely unhindered and untouched by the outside world and are fiercely protected under local and national law.
Picos de Europa
A firm contender for the most visually spectacular national park in the whole of Europe, Picos de Europa takes the definition of unspoiled and takes it to new heights. Situated on the borders of Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León, Picos de Europa covers no less than 300 square miles of the regional landscape and brings together extraordinary natural diversity.
The highest peaks tower far in excess of 8,000 feet above the ground below. Traditional, isolated villages punctuate the landscape even on some of the higher slopes, where the way of life has remained unchanged for many centuries. Set your sights a little lower and you will be able to see where the change in climate begins to allow for the growth of beautiful mountain flowers, which become all the more lush and dense as the altitude decreases. The national park is also home to a great many dramatic gorges, below which often lie fantastical forests, mysterious lakes and hidden streams that are almost never visited by humans.
Another enormous point of appeal for visitors to Picos de Europa is its resident population of endangered species. The national park represents a safe refuge for the European brown bear, the golden eagle and the delightfully shaggy wild asturcon horse. Hunting is illegal without exception across Picos de Europa, which has led to most of the local wildlife having little to no fear of human visitors whatsoever. Suffice to say, it is a fantastic opportunity to grab your camera and take some once in a lifetime up-close nature shots.
Once again, it is absolutely essential to have access to a car to get the very most out of the Picos de Europa national park and this area of Spain in general. Simply driving around the region represents a breathtaking experience in its own right, but with so much to explore it would be very difficult to take it all in without your own transport. An affordable ferry crossing from England representing an ideal entry method.
A Region of Endless Charms
One of the best things about visiting this particular area of Spain is the way in which you really do get the sense that you have stumbled across some closely guarded secret. Tourist numbers are not nearly as heavy as would be expected in the resorts to the south, with very little in the region having been overdeveloped just for the sake of tourists.
If you have access to your own transportation, it is also not necessary to be particularly active or energetic in order to enjoy the very best the region has to offer. Car hire is always an option, but there’s nothing quite like the comfort and convenience of your own car when exploring somewhere new.
Green Spain brings together absolutely everything anyone could wish for in a Spanish holiday, only in a considerably more tranquil and idyllic setting. If midsummer beach living ticks all the right boxes with you, the beaches of Green Spain are among the most beautiful in Europe. If it’s cosmopolitan city living you’re after, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice. And if you like the idea of living a real life fairytale in the heart of Spain’s medieval past, this really is the only place to do it.
For adults and kids alike, the charms of Green Spain are both undeniable and incomparable.
Travel with Brittany Ferries
Brittany Ferries offer a choice of ferry routes from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander and Bilbao. Travel to Spain with a one or two-night cruise on a luxury ferry and enjoy comfortable cabins and plenty of entertainment, including a cinema, swimming pool and quality restaurants. To find out more about the taking the ferry to Spain, the choice of routes and timetables, visit www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/ferry-routes/ferries-spain