Northern Spain; Santander to Gijon

Santander and turn right

We had no idea what to expect from Northern Spain and people would ask us what our plan was and we’d say we’re just going to get off the ferry at Santander and turn right. If they thought we were bonkers when we embarked on our big worldwide walkabout they really thought we’d lost the plot now.  It was a little scary but also a testament to how far we’ve come. For the first time, the plan really was there is no plan. My aunt very kindly gave us a copy of the lonely planet guide to Northern Spain and we headed down to Portsmouth to board the boat.

Santander
Calle Marino Fernandez-Fonteca near Santander University

N 43° 28’19.91, W -3° 48’ 10.58”

Free

 

As it happened we ended up spending our first night outside the aires parking as it was full. We just joined the long line of motor homes parked on the street just outside. The advantage of having an excited 8 year old is that she wakes up early so come the morning we waited for someone to leave and took their spot. This was our base for 3 nights. In high season there is a 48 hour limit on staying but this isn’t enforced in the winter and as we discovered it is only really full when a ferry arrives. If this is your first experience of free camping, then it sets the bar high as there are excellent services and it’s a great spot. For those travelling with kids there are several playgrounds in the parklands below. The main one which is directly opposite also has a cafe and toilets making a good choice for all the family.  There are also easy cycles routes and wide pavements into Santander, the beach, and supermarkets nearby. 

Cabarceno
21 Barrio de Cabarceno Corraliza

N 43° 21’ 30.6”, W -3° 49’ 7.89”

Free

Situated about 30 minutes from Santander is the village of Cabarceno and the Elephant Park. The car park next to the Elephant Park is a free aires site. Let’s face it, it’s not every day that you can wake up, take a 150m walk and watch the elephants feeding at a waterhole. Well here you can!

If the services at Santander were one of the best facilities we stopped at, here were some of the worst. Really the only usable service was the grey waste so make sure you empty the toilet and refill your water tank before arriving. There were toilets in the car park but they were closed and if the inside was anything like the outside I was not volunteering to use them!

Cobreces
Parking Las Hazas, Barrio Los Corrales, 39320 Cobreces

N 43° 23’ 20.04”, W -4° 12’39.56”

12€ for 24 hours including electricity

We used this as a stop over point between Santander and the Picos and to have a shower (our first since arriving in Spain some five days earlier). This small and relatively new site is a gem. The owners are lovely and the price reflects the available services (electricity, showers wifi and services). There is only one shower/toilet but it’s great if you have younger children as there is plenty of room to supervise without getting soaked yourself.

This isn’t a long term stop and a lot of people stayed one or two nights. There are some lovely cliff-top walks or bike rides and the village isn’t far either but once you’ve done them then there’s not much else around.

Posada de Valdeon
60 Calle del General Mola

N 43° 9’ 10.08”, W -4° 55’ 2.13”

10 € for 24 hours including electricity

How have Spain been hiding the Picos de Europe from us? We both have a pretty good grasp of geography but when someone said to us you have to visit the Picos, we were like the Picos de what? We took the advice in the Lonely Planet guide on where to visit and chose Posada de Valdeon.

I can confirm it’s beautiful but in November it’s cold (we had snow) and we were the only ones stupid enough to camp in a motor home in November. On the plus side we had unfettered views of the surrounding countryside and all of the wifi!

This is one of the places I want to go back to in the spring or early summer so that we could take full advantage of the walking routes around. It’s a great base for walking the nearby Cares Road.

Leon
1 Calle Bordon

N 42° 36’ 15.46”, W -5° 35’ 4.06”

Free (if you park in autocaravanas spaces)

A lot of people we met overlooked Leon on their route preferring to stick to the coast or head straight to Gijon from the Picos and in my opinion it’s a shame. We loved it and it had one of the most the best aires sites in terms of facilities and location. There are 10 dedicated motor home spots and the main historical centre of town is easily accessible by bike or foot and there is a small playground next door. Within easy walking distance there is a Mercadona (supermarket), a laundrette and upstairs in the shopping centre there is an excellent bazaar store. I got stocked up on school supplies and we bought things like melamine plates, a wok and a wok lid (all things we didn’t realise we needed before we set off).

Gijon
3 Camino Mimosas

N 43° 32’ 51.0”, W -5° 38’ 11.0”

Free

When we arrived in Gijon and we could see why so many people loved it. It was the first places that stole our hearts. We loved everything from the beautiful beaches, cycle paths and wide promenades, parks, public art displays, the aquarium and the old town. It also has the best Mr Minute (key cutting store) in the world! (I broke the key to our main door in Leon and he not only managed to cut a key from the broken pieces but also found a piece when Doug dropped it on the shopping mall floor).

We stayed in a car park out of town and used the bikes to head back to visit the aquarium and explore what this great little town had to offer. It was a good 20 minute cycle with Issy into the Old Town but with loads of cycle paths and very polite drivers it was easy to navigate and when she needed to cycle on the road it wasn’t a problem. There’s even a bread van that comes round every morning; it’s so incredibly civilised. The only thing that stops this from being perfect is the lack of services. There was a toilet but it worked intermittently in the 3 days we were there. That said, there is a service dump on the other side of town and at the football stadium both of which are less than 15 minutes drive.

Within 5 minutes walk there is a playground and it was close to the beach for rock-pooling and playing. There were people swimming but it was a far too cold for me! Whether you tell the kids or not is up to you but McDonalds is about 5 minutes drive (10 minutes walk away). We went as it was raining and Issy managed to come off second best to a fixed metal pole in the soft play area but that was down to user error rather than a manufacturing default.

There was also a really good motor home shop just outside Gijon, Caravans Costa Verde. Whilst they don’t speak much English, they were very helpful, had reasonable prices and even manufactured a part for our broken heater. We bought a bits we needed to do running repairs after Rosie lost a fight with a jagged cliff edge on the way through the Picos.

Read our next article which talks about the journey from Gijon to the Portuguese border

23 Replies to “Northern Spain; Santander to Gijon”

    1. Brilliant. I’m glad you found it useful. We had an awesome time travelling the Northern Coast of Spain and hope you do too! Happy travels

  1. Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I am going to send this article to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!|

  2. Thanks for every other magnificent article. Where else may just anyone get that type of info in such a perfect method of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.|

  3. Your style is really unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this web site.|

  4. I’m not sure exactly why but this website is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.|

  5. Appreciating the time and energy you put into your website and in depth information you provide. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Fantastic read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.|

  6. Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came to take a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Great blog and superb style and design.|

  7. Your blog is always mentioned when I talk with people about this topic. I wants to be a teacher in this field someday. You bring up a number of great facts here. It’s almost like you wrote a book on it or something. I have added your website to my Redditbook marks. I’m just in absolute shock by what I’m witnessing on your website.

  8. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later on. Many thanks|

  9. Appreciating the time and energy you put into your blog and in depth information you provide. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Wonderful read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.|

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *