Overview for Camino del Norte: Bilbao to Santander
The Camino del Norte (a.k.a. The Northern Way) offers a truly authentic pilgrim experience. Compared to the Camino Frances, the route is quieter, much more challenging but also a lot more rewarding. The Camino del Norte goes along the green northern coast of Spain from San Sebastián in the Basque Country, through Cantabria and the Asturias and reaches Ribadeo in Galicia. From Ribadeo, the Northern Camino heads inland, taking pilgrims across the forests and farmlands of rural Galicia on its way to Santiago de Compostela.
On this itinerary you will walk the second stage of the Camino del Norte from vibrant Bilbao, renowned for its art, architecture and cuisine, to the historic city of Santander in Cantabria. You will walk along the beautiful coastline of northern Spain, along world class beaches, stunning rias (fjords) and wetlands full of birdlife. Explore the old town in Bilbao, visit its magnificent Guggenheim Museum and taste delicious ‘pintxos’ before you head West towards Santander following the coast.
The region is renowned for its cuisine, its pintxos and some of the country’s best chefs so this Camino walk will be an unforgettable gastronomic experience.
Itinerary for Camino del Norte: Bilbao to SantanderGo to top of page
Day 1: Arrive in Bilbao
Bilbao (or Bilbo in Basque) has reinvented itself in the past 30 years, becoming host to some of the best art exhibitions in the country at the impressive Guggenheim Museum. Explore Bilbao’s old town with its quaint taverns and taste a few of the amazing pintxos! We alsohighly recommend that you book an extra night in Bilbao.
- Overnight Bilbao
Day 2: Walk to Portugalete
After your night (or two) in Bilbao, you will resume following the Camino del Norte trail as it leaves Bilbao. The trail crosses a suspension bridge and winds along the banks of the Cadagua River. You will cross the famous Devil’s Bridge before arriving at the Hermitage of Santa Águeda. After this, there is a steep climb to the small town of Barakaldo before arriving in Portugalete via a path along the banks of the Galindo River.
- Walking for the day: 10 km
- Overnight Portugalete
Day 3: Walk to Castro Urdiales
The Northern Way continues along the beautiful rocky coastline. At La Arena you will cross a wonderful beach of fine red sand. There are some steep but short climbs as you follow the coast on your way to Castro Urdiales. Castro Urdiales has a good mix of modern and medieval architecture and as you enter the town you will pass the bullring and the beach.
- Walking for the day: 29 km
- Overnight Castro Urdiales
Day 4: Walk to Laredo
Today the Camino del Norte will take you along the breathtaking coastal cliffs of the Cantabrian Sea, passing a medieval castle and lighthouse along the way. You will also pass the Chapel of Santa Isabel and also the Church of La Magdalena on the way to Liendo. Here you have two route options for the rest of the stage to Laredo. You can either take a route across the valley, passing the Church of Nuestra Senora de Liendo in Hazas or you can take the alternative route, climbing to the Chapel of San Julián on the way to Laredo. Laredo itself is famous for its magnificent beaches, vibrant atmosphere and the medieval quarter (Puebla Vieja).
- Walking for the day: 29 km
- Overnight Laredo
Day 5: Walk to Noja
After your night in Laredo, your walk today will be mainly flat but with scenery that is nonetheless fantastic. From Laredo, get the ferry to Santoña, before continuing along the coastal path to Noja (14 km). Alternatively from Laredo you have the option to follow the inland route which is a bit more challenging (23 km) but equally as beautiful. Pass through the towns of Colindres, Escalante and Barrio de Castillo where you can take in some great views of the mountains and the coast before reaching Noja.
Important: If you wish to walk along the coastal trail to Noja, it is important to take into account the ferry operating hours or any seasonal disruptions before you leave Laredo as this could influence your choice of route: https://www.excursionesmaritimas.com/horario.htm
- Walking for the day: 14 or 29 km
- Overnight Noja
Day 6: Walk to Santander
Today you will continue to San Miguel de Meruelo. In Bareyo you will find the magnificent Romanesque Church of Santa María. From Galizano to Somo, you can either take a straight road into town (saving 2 km) or follow the coastline which is a longer option but very scenic. To reach the final destination of Santander, you can take a traditional boat called ‘Pedreñera’ across the bay (saving you approximately 3.5 km) from the village of Somo (not included, 2 EUR pp, www.losreginas.com/). The capital of Cantabria, Santander is an elegant city with plenty of beaches, parks, nature, architecture and great food. Optional rest day in Santander.
- Walking for the day: 27 km
- Overnight Santander
Day 7: Departure
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading back to the airport. We highly recommend booking additional nights in Santander to explore this charming city.
Hotels for Camino del Norte: Bilbao to SantanderGo to top of page
Accommodations on this tour include a mix of welcoming country inns and comfortable 3-star hotels, located close to the route of the Camino. You will always have a private room and en-suite (attached) bathroom. In the larger cities, you will stay in larger 3-star hotels; the other nights will be in a mixture of rural hotels and inns, all with private rooms and en-suite bathrooms. They have been carefully selected for their location, atmosphere and/or unique services. Extra nights can be booked at any of the accommodations along the way.
Breakfast is included (usually a simple buffet breakfast/coffee and toast/bread/croissant) on all days. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. Where no dinner is included, most places serve hearty pilgrim menus – you can get a 3-course dinner including wine and water for about GBP 10-15 pp.
Travel for Camino del Norte: Bilbao to SantanderGo to top of page
The best place to fly into is Bilbao airport.
Please note that flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.
Transfers to/from Airports
From Bilbao Airport, you can easily take the bus to downtown (10 min).
All hotel to hotel luggage transfers on walking days are included (maximum one piece of 20 kg per person). When arriving at hotels, usually your luggage would have been taken to your room awaiting your arrival. However don’t be surprised if at some places your luggage is waiting for you at the reception desk – just politely ask someone from the staff if you need assistance to bring it to your room.
A comprehensive and reputable travel insurance policy is essential to your enjoyment and peace of mind while on an active holiday. It is highly recommended when booking with us that all group members have valid travel insurance which includes cover for all activities included in your trip. We have teamed up with to offer you adequate cover at a great value from a reputable insurer, and it takes only a few minutes to buy online.
Up-to-date travel advice on Spain is available here
Trip Info for Camino del Norte: Bilbao to SantanderGo to top of page
Difficulty Grade: Moderate to Strenuous
This walk is graded moderate to strenuous and includes walks of up to 30 km (7-8 hours) a day and some of the walks are fairly strenuous with steeper ascents/descents. The Camino Del Norte follows a mixture of farm/dirt tracks, minor roads and footpaths (read more about difficulty grades).
The route is marked with yellow painted arrows but please take care at intersections. There are sections on the route where you will divert to follow the red and white stripes of the GR routes. There will always be other walkers around in-case you are looking for help. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to Go
This trip is available all year round, but the best months to visit are April – October. The weather in Northern Spain is very varied. In general you can expect pleasant temperatures for walking of between 19 degrees and up to about 26 degrees in the summer months. As you will be walking near the coast for much of this walk, you can expect some rainy days, particularly in spring and autumn. The flexibility of self-guided walking holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date during the season.
What to Bring
We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing no more than 20 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack.
- Good hiking boots or trail running shoes
- Hiking socks
- Several T-shirts (preferably breathable/fast drying)
- Packable waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
- Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
- Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside the accommodation
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
- Hat/Baseball cap
- Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)
Included for Camino del Norte: Bilbao to SantanderGo to top of page
- 6 nights in private en-suite rooms (country inns and 3-star hotels)
- 6 breakfasts
- Detailed journey documentation and practical information
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (up to 20 kg per person)
- Transfers from the trail to the hotels and back to the trailhead as detailed in the itinerary
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Single room supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; as costs are not shared, there is a solo traveller supplement to the standard price. As a solo traveller, you will be accommodated in a single room on all nights.
To see the price of the holiday for your desired dates, including the cost of different options and supplements, please click the CHECK AVAILABILITY button above.
Other Trip-Related Costs
- Entrance fees for attractions and museums
- Flights and airport transfers
- Travel insurance
- All lunches and dinners
- Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme
Extensions and Optional Extras
- Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request
- Airport transfers