Wild Photography Holidays - Photographic Adventure Travel: North Spain’s Mountains, Abandoned Villages and Coast Workshop

Naranjo De Bulnes

North Spain’s Mountains, Abandoned Villages and Coast Workshop

Highlights include…

  • Dramatic mountain scenery
  • Island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
  • Abandoned villages of Los Beyos, Ponga
  • Soft morning mists with superb light
  • Los Lagos spectacular high mountain lakes
  • Traditional local hotels
  • Delicious local food
  • Medieval churches
  • Cable car into the mountains
  • High mountain hotel
  • Mountain funicular railway
  • Unique Ocean-scapes
  • Traditional fishing villages
  • Start and finish in Bilbao

“… the photographic opportunities presented on this workshop were outstanding. We were never rushed and were encouraged by Martin and Geraldine to develop a creative eye, trying different techniques and avoiding the cliché shots.”

Megan W. April 2022

“I returned home with a whole load of new skills including some ace tips on how to get the best results from my new iPhone 13 Pro Max.”

Veiga B. Sept 2022

General Summary – New Itinerary

This is an exciting new 10-day itinerary starting and finishing in Bilbao. In all there will be three nights on the coast and 6 nights in the mountains. The soaring and pinnacled mountains of Spain’s iconic mountains known as the Picos de Europa are often likened to Italy’s Dolomites. This photography workshop explores fabulous mountain scenery, quaint old villages, a culture from years gone by, some gorgeous forests and breathtaking coastal scenery. Photographers who come here for the first time are usually amazed that all of these lovely landscapes are not thronging with tourists. Here in north Spain you will encounter a truly magical photographic destination where wolves and bears still wander in the old forests, it is strongly reminiscent of Tolkien’s ‘Hobbit Land’! Bizarre lunar landscapes with knife edge ridges rise sharply from luscious high mountain meadows and soft morning mists shroud abandoned villages. Unbelievably it is only a short drive down from the mountains to discover superb sandy beaches with fine rock architecture. This whole wild rugged ‘Bay of Biscay’ coastline is known as the Costa Verde. The area enjoys a laid back approach to life with a strong Celtic culture.

We stay in delightfully located hotels often run by families we have known for a long time. A sense of adventure together with a desire to be creative photographically is all that is needed to thoroughly enjoy this workshop which offers many excellent opportunities to develop a fine collection of images from this diverse and highly photogenic area.

Daily Itinerary

For full details please download the trip description PDF

Day 1: Arrive and Transfer to Mundaka, Basque Country

Our first meeting as a group for introductions and a trip briefing will be at our hotel in Mundaka at 17:00. The local airport is Bilbao and is well served with flights from many European hubs. Please contact the office if you require further information. We will include transfers to the hotel meeting flights coming into Bilbao Airport between 10:00 and 16:00 on Day 1. If you choose to stay in Bilbao the night before Day 1 then contact our office for transfer details. If you are arriving outside of these times, taxis are available at the airport and cost around 40€.

Following our introductory meeting we will go out locally for sunset. Huge swells roll in from the Bay of Biscay and slam into the rocky coastline of the Basque Country. The estuary at Mundaka has created a perfect sandbar which forms a famous world class surfing wave that can be watched from the town’s harbour wall. Our hotel in one of the prettiest areas of of Mundaka, the old port area with colourful traditional Basque houses, small fishing boats, a lovely little sandy beach and a great tidal estuary. We will have dinner in a local restaurant.
Hotel, Mundaka (near Bilbao), 1 night (B,L,D)

Day 2: Drive to Fuente De

This morning after breakfast we will photograph one of the many scenic beaches close to our hotel. After a breakfast at the hotel we will set off for the pretty drive to Espinama and Fuente De. Leaving the urban areas of Bilbao and Santander we will pass through some lovely countryside and small market towns including Potes. En route we will enjoy a picnic lunch. In the late afternoon we will take an afternoon cable car ride up into the central massif of the Picos de Europa. The excursion offers dazzling views of the whole area; some dramatic locations on top of the world in the very heart of a remarkable lunar rock landscape. This is a wildly graphic landscape of towers and sheer rock faces carved during the ice age is a magnificent place to capture striking images in the evening sunlight. Our hotel is located amidst these peaks
Mountain Hotel, 1 night (B,L,D)

Day 3: Espinama in Liébana

Our sunrise photography will be close to the hotel where the first rays of sun light up the surrounding jagged peaks and valleys. Quite often we will see the Rebeccos which are very sure footed small deer, rather like Alpine Ibex. We stroll back to the hotel for a well deserved breakfast before setting off in 4×4 vehicles down to the pretty old village of Espinama. En route we will stop at an abandoned village location where there are lots of old stone buildings with attractive red tiled roofs located amidst fine mountain scenery. Espinama where our hotel is located, nestles in the forest and mountains of the Picos de Europa mountains and is great for a wander with camera in hand! In the late afternoon light we will probably set off on a short and easy mountain amble to take in a sunset location. Our evening meal will be at the hotel.
Hotel, Espinama, 1 night (B,L,D)

Day 4: Potes and Drive to Cain

This morning en route we will explore Potes a traditional market town with interesting cobbled streets and traditional architecture. This is the perfect place to sit outside one of the excellent street Cafes to watch the world go by whilst enjoying a coffee or something stronger. Potes is a good place to buy local products and souvenirs. Late morning we begin the spectacular drive to Cain south of the Picos. Our journey will be punctuated by stops to photograph many special places. We enjoy a picnic lunch on the Saint Glorio Pass at 1600 metres. Here there are fine views of the mountains of the Picos de Europa. En route to Cain we pass through the Consejo of Castilla de Leon, where we capture images of a gentle and traditional way of life where the locals work in the fields, men scythe the meadows and wear clogs! Our hotel is well located at the end of the road in the tiny village of Cain at the start the phenomenal Garganta del Cares. This Gorge is a remarkable water filled ravine cutting dramatically through the Central and Eastern massifs of the mountains.
Hotel, Cain, 2 nights (B,L,D)

Day 5: The Cares Gorge

Our sunrise location this morning allows us to shoot the remarkable limestone walls of rock being lit by the morning sun. Surrounded by rich forest the village of Cordiannes makes a gorgeous foreground in either Spring or Autumn. We return to our hotel for breakfast. Ana will make sure that we have plenty to eat during our stay. After making up our picnic lunch we set off on foot to explore locations in the Cares Gorge which is arguably one of Spains most memorable walks. At first the river meanders gently before plunging abruptly into a deep ravine. Trees grow haphazardly from the dizzying cliffs and the ever-changing light will make for some exciting and interesting photography. At each and every turn there is something to catch our eyes and take our breath away. Look out for the wild goats leaping nimbly on the precipitous cliffs and griffon vultures soaring in the thermals high above. Alpine Choughs often gather in large numbers in the Cares Gorge. If we are extremely lucky we may get a glimpse of the tiny Wallcreeper an extremely elusive bird that lives on steep mountain cliffs and resembles a butterfly when it flashes its brilliant, crimson-patterned wings. We return to our hotel late afternoon in time for a pre dinner get together outside on the terrace.
Hotel, Cain, 2 nights (B,L,D)

Day 6: Abandoned Villages of the Beyos

Our route today passes through some isolated and memorable locations. We will travel by road visiting some of the most traditional and picturesque villages that Asturias and Leon have to offer; this is surely one of the most lovely drives in Spain. We visit Los Beyos in Ponga, the wildest and most unexplored corner of the area. Deep ravines, ancient forests and towering limestone walls have limited the development of villages to the river’s edge or in the high meadows where they cluster together. Some, like Viboli with only 10 inhabitants, are almost totally abandoned. We will photograph some fine examples of traditional Beyos architecture. Our last location is the abandoned village of Casielles seemingly on the roof of the Picos with fine 360 deg vistas. This is a busy but rewarding day photographically. This evening we go out for dinner in Cangas de Onis one of the main market towns of Asturias.
Hotel, Soto de Onis, 2 nights (B,L,D)

Day 7: Los Lagos and Traditional Villages

Before breakfast an impressive drive takes us high into the mountains to our sunrise location; the serene Los Lagos. These high lakes are set against a back-drop of limestone peaks providing excellent sunrise colours and reflections. We return through Covadonga, the spiritual heartland of Asturias. Breakfast is served by Emilio the owner of our small family hotel, a full “English” with everything else besides! Mid morning we will drive to Arenas de Cabrales named after the famous mouth numbing blue cheese that this area is famous for. We will take the through-mountain funicular railway to the tiny village of Bulnes where a lively river flows under old bridges, through trees and past old stone houses. We will have lunch here. If you are feeling adventurous there is a scenic walk back down the mountainside on a path which is the only other way to access the village. Late afternoon we will take a walk to an impressive view point located here that will give us some views of the high summits of Picos de Europa including the most dramatic of all, El Naranjo. After our sunset shoot we head back to our hotel and dinner in the local village.
Hotel, Soto de Onis, 2 nights (B,L,D)

Day 8: La Franca Beach, Cantabria

After breakfast we will have the opportunity to explore the market town of Cangas De Onis close to our hotel before heading north over the mountains towards the coast for a night by the beach of La Franca. This is only a couple of hours journey with photographic stops en route including Cuevas del Mar and the Río de las Cabras o Bedón where we find the isolated monastery of San Antolín de Bedón located close to yet another a fine beach. Our hotel tonight overlooks the beach of La Franca where we will enjoy sunset photography before an evening meal at our hotel.
Hotel, La Franca, 1 night (B,L,D)

Day 9: to Bilbao

Following sunrise photography and a leisurely breakfast we will head west to Bilbao. This is a journey of around 1.5 hrs. There are several locations fairly close to our hotel in Mundaka that we may visit for the afternoon and sunset including the island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe which looks like it’s straight from a movie set and indeed it featured in Game of Thrones. Whether you are a fan of the series or not, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe will dazzle you with its unique situation. The island is connected to the mainland by a man-made stone bridge. The bridge transitions into a narrow path that contains 241 steps and zigzags its way back and forth to the top. These steps have even been recognised as one of the world’s grandest staircases.
Hotel, Mundaka, 1 night (B,L,D)

Day 10: Departure

This morning our trip finishes after breakfast. Your return flights will probably be at different times today. You will be free to leave at any time after breakfast although there will be an 11:00 AM checkout from the hotel. If you have homeward flights morning/early afternoon we will transfer you to the airport. If not then you will need to get a taxi. It is worth considering an extra night in Bilbao to explore this famous and unique Basque city. The dining and tapas bars are world famous as is the Guggenheim museum. We would be able to drop you at a hotel leaving you with the day and evening to explore.
(B)

Accommodation

We stay in small scenically located mountain and coastal hotels with single/double rooms and private bathrooms. Most of the hotels are small and family run, chosen for their locations and our long connections with the owners.

Joining arrangements and Transfers

The local airport is Bilbao, which is well served with flights from many international hubs. Please contact the office if you require further information. We will provide transfers to the hotel meeting flights coming into Bilbao Airport between 10:00 and 16:00 on Day 1.
If you are arriving/departing outside our official transfer times, taxis will be available at both the airport and the hotel. They cost around 40€ each way.

What’s Included

  • 9 nights accommodation
  • 9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners
  • Photographic tutors
  • Airport transfers

What’s not Included

  • International flights
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Extra snacks, soft drinks and hot beverages
  • Travel Insurance

“In addition to some fabulous and totally unexpected mountain and coast locations we enjoyed photo processing sessions, reviews, slideshows and hands-on guidance where needed. A memorable photography workshop in a really beautiful part of Spain! “

David G. Sept 2020

“Our photography trip in North Spain with WPH was outstanding, the landscapes and the light exceeded all our expectations. Once again, thanks Geraldine, you looked after us and demonstrated a great knowledge of the area and its culture. Thanks Martin for your endless patience and good humour whilst helping us to get the best shots and how to develop them.”

Chris and Wendy 2019

Complete Itinerary and Full Details

This page is only a brief summary. A complete itinerary and full details can be found in our trip description PDF. It is important that you read the full day-to-day description and further information for this holiday before making your booking.