101 Holiday ideas

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The Sunday Times Travel writers Mark Hodson and David Wickers.

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Secret Spain

Mark and David's verdict:

There’s more to Spain than big cities and crowded costas. The north-west regions of Cantabria, Galicia and Asturias offer character and authenticity, friendly people and delicious food. You’ll find unspoilt sandy beaches, wild mountains, beautiful medieval towns and plenty of outdoor activities. It’s great value whether you fly or travel by overnight ferry.

Recommended tour operator: Casas Cantabricas

Catedrales beachThe picturesque NavarraThe Guggenheim spiderBeautiful Vada

Casas Cantabricas says

There’s so much to offer in North and West Spain, from unspoilt beaches, glorious countryside and lofty mountains to a rich heritage, vibrant cities, delightful old fishing ports and superb regional gastronomy.

Even as specialists who know the region inside out, we continue to uncover yet more of its hidden secrets.

Our knowledgeable team will help you find the right holiday. You can fly and flop or explore the region on one of our ‘Caminos’ tailor made self-drive itineraries. We’ve hand-picked a wide range of villas, including some with a private pool, and charming family-run small hotels.

The rugged coastline is fringed by fantastic beaches – long stretches of silver sand and hidden coves.

In Cantabria, the Picos de Europa’s amazing craggy peaks rise above rolling hills, tumbling back down to the sea in Asturias.

It’s a foodie paradise with a rich regional gastronomy – bustling markets, Michelin-starred restaurants and charming low-key eateries. Rick Stein’s 2011 TV series on Spain raved about the region’s cuisine, wines – and passion. We’ll give you our own Restaurant Guide, packed with tried and tested gems.

From Basques to Gallegos, you’ll find a patchwork of unique and interesting peoples and cultures. There’s Spain’s own Jurassic coast, Celtic villages, the forts of Galicia and Asturias and Roman gold mines at Medullin. Monasteries, churches and cathedrals accompany the criss-cross of ways that are the pilgrimage, Caminos de Santiago.

The architectural diversity ranges from medieval buildings to ground-breaking modern design. There are the great cathedrals of Leon, Burgos and Santiago, the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Niemeyer Centre Avilés for example.

For more active pursuits, walking, climbing, surfing, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, bird-watching, cycling and motor biking are on your doorstep.

In 2014, we launched our Caminos programme – a range of one- and two-week independent touring holidays either with your own car or a hire car. We’ve added some exciting new itineraries for 2015.

With five ferries a week and low-cost flights from Stansted and Heathrow to seven key regional points, it’s easy to reach too.

Find out more about our holidays in Northern Spain.

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