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Climb aboard the brand new luxury Transcantábrico Gran Lujo near Santiago de Compostela and set off on a rail journey along Spain’s splendid northern coast. Passing through medieval hamlets and historic towns, the train traces the fertile tract between the Cantabrian Mountains and the scalloped beaches on the Bay of Biscay. Explore Basque country, Asturias, and charming seaside ports.
Travel in spacious, refurbished 1920s British Pullman cars on the elegant Transcantábrico Gran Lujo, remodeled in 2010.
Admire diverse architectural styles, from the pre-Romanesque gems of Oviedo to Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum.
Stroll amid emerald lakes, limestone
peaks, and mountain meadows in Picos de
Europa National Park.
Stay in a historic parador in Santiago de Compostela, and savor the region's cuisine and fine wines.
Itinerary - 11 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Depart on an overnight flight. Arrive in Santiago
de Compostela, the capital of Galicia and the
ending point of the historic Way of St. James
pilgrimage route. Check into our beautiful
parador, considered one of the oldest hotels in
the world. Gather for a welcome reception and
dinner tonight. Parador Hostal Dos Reis Católicos (D)
Day 3 — Santiago de Compostela/Ferrol/Viveiro
This morning, explore Santiago’s historic city center,
a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the middle
of the city sits the majestic cathedral, allegedly
the burial place of St. James and the destination
of many thousands of pilgrims for the past thousand
years. You may choose to stay and witness
the weekly Pilgrims’ Mass at noon in the cathedral,
a tradition that dates to the 11th century.
After lunch, drive to Ferrol, where we board our
train and continue on to Viveiro. Enjoy dinner and settle in for the night. El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Ribadeo/Luarca
Our first stop this morning is the stately seaside
town of Ribadeo. Wander beneath soaring rock
formations at a magnificent beach aptly named Las
Catedrales. Visit the ethnographic site of Os Teixois
in Taramundi where we learn how, in ancient times,
people of this region used the power of water to
create tools and operate machinery. Enjoy lunch
at the historic Parador de Ribadeo, a traditional
Galician country home, and then board the train
for the whitewashed fishing village of Luarca. After
dinner, enjoy a live performance by a Spanish guitar
player and a singer aboard the train. El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Avilés/Cudillero/Oviedo
From the port city of Candás, travel to Avilés to visit
the Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Center,
designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Later, enjoy a walk in the old town of Avilés before
traveling to the picturesque fishing village of
Cudillero. Marvel at the “hanging houses” and
colorful balconies perched on steep cliffs around
the port, explore the chapel of Humilladero, and
venture into one of the many fishermen’s taverns if you choose. After lunch, continue to Oviedo, a city
known for its pre-Romanesque Asturian architecture.
Visit the church of San Julián de los Prados, a
stunning example of this style and a World Heritage
site. El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,D)
Day 6 — Picos de Europa National Park/Covadonga/Llanes
Continue east through the Asturias region, tracing
the coast as the Cantabrian Mountains rise along
the southern horizon. Stop in Arriondas for an excursion
into Picos de Europa National Park, where
stony, snow-dusted peaks jut into the sky. Pay a
visit to a mountainside cabin to sample traditional
Asturian cider while taking in spectacular views.
Venture into the village of Covadonga, site of the
first victory of the Spanish Reconquest; and visit
its basilica, an important pilgrimage site. Continue
by train to Llanes for the night. El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L)
Day 7 — Potes/Comillas
Spend the morning in Potes, a beautiful village
of medieval buildings and bridges nestled in the
hills below the Picos de Europa mountains. See
the Infantado Tower, a 15th-century bastion that
dominates the village skyline, and wander the
narrow cobbled lanes of the Old Quarter. Pay
a visit to Santo Toribio de Liébana monastery, where monks have long venerated what is alleged
to be the largest preserved fragment of the
Lignum Crucis—the Holy Cross discovered by
St. Catherine in Jerusalem. Stop to taste a few
vintages at a local winery before continuing to
Comillas. Here, visit the Capricho de Gaudí, one
of the first two buildings designed by the famous
Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Santillana del Mar/Santander
After breakfast, visit the Altamira Museum and
learn about the prehistoric cave paintings found
here. Continue to Santillana del Mar, one of
Europe’s best preserved medieval villages. Have
lunch at the Parador Gil Blas, a stunning ancestral
home dating back to the eighth century, and then
explore this enchanting village. Reboard the train
for Santander, the seaside capital of Cantabria.
Stretched out along narrow spits and scalloped
beaches, Santander was a royal retreat in the early
20th century. This evening, sample Spanish tapas
on a walk through town. El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,D)
Day 9 — Bilbao/Villasana de Mena
Pull into Bilbao, a shipbuilding center and the
largest city in the Basque region. Enjoy a city tour
that includes the Guggenheim Museum, which
houses works by Picasso and Warhol, but is better
known for its cutting-edge design by Frank Gehry.
on to Villasana de Mena tonight. El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo (B,D)
Day 10 — San Sebastián/Hondarribia
After breakfast, disembark the train and drive to
San Sebastián, the lively culinary capital of Basque
country, just 12 miles from the French border.
Stroll along the narrow lanes of the picturesque
old town this afternoon before checking into our
parador in nearby Hondarribia. Tonight, toast our
Spanish rail adventure at a farewell
dinner. Parador de Hondarribia (B,D)
Day 11 — Hondarribia/U.S.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight. (B)
Travel writer Fiona Dunlop has explored Spain extensively for 30 years, writing numerous articles about its culture and gastronomy. She is the author of the National Geographic Traveler guidebooks for Spain and Portugal as well as the critically acclaimed book New Tapas (recently republished as Real Tapas), which explores Spain’s evolving food culture. Fiona contributes to numerous national newspapers and international magazines, and she has written more than a dozen guidebooks and food culture books, including The North African Kitchen and Mexican Modern. Her world travels have taken her from Burma to Syria, Cuba to Libya, always with a keen eye for local culture and cuisine. In addition to living for long periods in France, Italy, and London—her hometown—she has long favored Andalusia in southern Spain, where she frequently retreats to her house in the olive groves.