Camino del Norte from Bilbao to Santander: a route along the Cantabrian Sea.
Camino del Norte from Bilbao to Santander is the second section into which we divide the entire Camino del Norte, which leads from San Sebastián to Santiago de Compostela. Therefore, when you get here, it is possible that you previously did the route from San Sebastián to Bilbao.
The Camino del Norte route from Bilbao to Santander
The route starts in the heart of Bilbao and the first section is urban. After about twenty kilometers we reach Portugalete, our last stop in the Basque Country. The route continues in Cantabria, where we will spend our first night in Castro Urdiales. We will almost always run near the Cantabrian Sea from the coast to Laredo on a 29-kilometer stage. In the last two stages, from Laredo to Güemes and from Güemes to Santander, we can make part of the trip by boat.
Bilbao, the engine of the Bay of Biscay
With two of the best art galleries in Spain, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Museum of Fine Arts, Bilbao has developed from an outstanding industrial city into a cultural capital. The opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was a milestone in the city, not only for the important artistic contribution, but also for the architectural remodeling of the entire area. Bilbao has also managed to combine this urge for modernity with its traditional character, integrating these more modern areas into a historical center that is worth getting lost in while stopping at many bars full of pintxos.
The Gothic-style cathedral is the only one in Spain, besides that of Compostela, dedicated to the Apostle Santiago. The old hermitage on which it stands has its origins in the Jacobean tradition.
At the end of the first stage of our journey, we find the impressive Bizkaia Bridge, the oldest ferry bridge in the world, which is still in operation today. Built by Alberto de Palacio in the s. XIX it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Santander, the end of this route
In the midst of a beautiful natural setting between the sea and the mountains, the elegant city of Santander is emerging, a seafaring town with a commercial tradition but closely linked to the Camino de Santiago. The city has a wonderful beach, El Sardinero and at the end of the bay the Magdalena peninsula with its emblematic palace.
Gastronomy at the Camino del Norte from Bilbao to Santander
The north of Spain is all about gastronomy and, whatever the reasons that led us to choose any of the sections of the Camino de Santiago, we must not forget to enjoy the products offered by the area we are traveling through. In this section of the Camino del Norte from Bilbao to Santander we hike through Basque and Cantabrian areas. Although the first part of the Camino that goes through the Basque Country is short, we can try some pintxos with a good txacolí or a tasty cheese like idiazábal.
Cantabria, for its part, a privileged land of sea and mountains, like the whole of the north of the peninsula, is mainly characterized by its important canning industry, and within this there are three of its main points on our route: Laredo, Santoña and Castro Urdiales, which make up 80% of the national production of semi-preserved anchovies. But not everything will be salty in our pilgrim diet, and in Cantabrian countries we can try such exquisite desserts as Sobada Pasiega and Sobao Pasiego.
Landscape on the Camino del Norte from Bilbao to Santander
The Camino del Norte from Bilbao to Santander runs between the sea with some really wonderful beaches and bucolic green valleys. The route is almost entirely paved, although there are alternatives to avoid it. You will add a few kilometers to the route, but also beauty and tranquility. In any case, all options are perfectly signposted.
A plus for the beauty of the Camino del Norte in this section from Bilbao to Santander are the boat trips from Laredo to Santoña and from Somo Beach to Santander, which will inspire us with a wonderful view of the coast from the sea.
Difficulty level of the Camino del Norte from Bilbao to Santander
Although the tradition of the Camino del Norte dates back to the Middle Ages, it was never one of the busiest routes due to its rather rough terrain. However, this section between Bilbao and Santader is one of the sections with the least complications. The route through Cantabria is practically flat and we can only find somewhat more difficult sections in the last stages, such as the Brusco Hill, which runs on a narrow path and offers somewhat slippery terrain in the rainy season. In some sections, pilgrims prefer to walk along the road sections, it is more convenient and easier, but not as beautiful. In any case, all route variants are perfectly signposted.
Once you have reached Santander, the destination is provisional and you can continue the Camino on the following route from Santander to Gijón.