We found our way to a little place called Pechon with a campsite right on the coast with great views thanks to a recommendation from a young Dutch couple we had met in La Rioja area.
We spent our time exploring further west and east along the coast which is quite dramatic with cliffs and small sandy beaches. While there was the usual ugly Spanish apartment development surrounding the towns the areas in between were more undeveloped.
Our first exploration was to the east to Comillas where there is a summer house designed by Gaudi. Comillas is an attractive town and made a good lunch stop for our first paella of the trip.
Santillana del Mar is quite a touristy small town where the tour buses pour in but for all that it is a beautiful medieval town. Luckily we went there late in the day when it was relatively quiet.
On our travels further west we stopped at Llanes and Ribadesella. We came across these little cuties at Llanes – the little girl was only too happy to pose for a photo! Her brother ?
It was the annual Vespa rally in Llanes when we arrived – 100’s of Vespas of all ages and sizes and modifications were lined up, revving waiting for the start signal. Their riders were equally diverse.
Ribadesella was as far west as we went. It is centred on a large estuary and has a popular surf beach.
We discovered quite by accident that we were staying close to the access road to the largest national park in Spain, but one that is not well known – Picos de Europa. So of course we had to go. The road up was amazing – probably the longest continuous deep gorge we have driven up. On the way we stopped at the town of Potes, in the middle of nowhere but obviously a popular destination judging by all the accommodation and restaurants.
Finally we arrived at Fuentes De, the base of a gondola going up 1500m allowing easy access to higher in the mountains, only to find an hour long queue to go up – it was Saturday after all even though it was late September. After driving so far we had no choice but to wait. The views at the top were magnificent but we elected not to hike all the way down as it was a 5 hour hike and apparently quite steep in parts and it was already 2 pm by the time we got to the top. We opted for a short hike from the station at the top – not nearly as satisfying. It had been impossible to find out information on the hikes on the internet beforehand and the staff at the National Park office we stopped at on the way did not speak a word of English or French and had no information on the hikes! On reflection we would probably have been better to drive to another entry point to the National Park.
Next stop – Bilbao