Santander, a small city on the north coast of Spain, has its own airport served by cheap flights from Ryanair. But should you actually stay in Santander? And if not, where should you go?
Unfortunately, Santander is not the most exciting of cities. Nor is the region around it, which came bottom of mainland Spain's areas in my list of Spain Regions from Worst to Best.
However, Santander is well connected to some other cities in northern Spain, which can make it a perfect arrival point for a vacation in this part of the country.
One of the most exciting things about traveling from Santander is the FEVE narrow-gauge railway that departs both east and west from the city. It is slow, but more picturesque than taking the main train line.
Bilbao and San Sebastian
Head east along the north coast of Spain to the gastronomical paradise that is the Basque Country. Bilbao is the nearest city of interest to Santander and likely to be your first port of call. But bear in mind that Bilbao has its own airport, so check flights there first.
How to Get to Bilbao
It takes three hours on the narrow gauge FEVE rail line to get from Santander to Bilbao. There are three departs per day.
The bus takes an hour and a half and costs six euros, probably about the same as the train.
There are also occasional buses straight from Santander airport to Bilbao, taking just over an hour.
For San Sebastian, go via Bilbao. There are regular buses from Bilbao.
Oviedo, to the west of Santander, is the other obvious destination for those flying in to the area. Oviedo - and the wider region of Asturias - is famous for its cider and its unique cuisine. Just outside the city are some famous pre-Romanesque churches.
See also: What to Do in Oviedo
How to Get to Oviedo
There are two FEVE narrow-gauge railway journeys per day, but they take five hours.
Buses take around two-and-three-quarter hours, or up to three-and-a-half hours from Santander airport.
Picos de Europa
The Picos de Europa are Spain's most beautiful mountains. Situated between Oviedo and Santander, they make a great stop on your way west.
How to Get to the Picos de Europa from Santander
Take the FEVE to Unquera, which is good for reaching Desfiladero de Hermida, one of the deepest gorges in the world. The journey takes around two hours and costs about 5 euros.
There are also buses twice a day (and one from Santander airport) to Arriondas, another good gateway to the national park, taking two hours and costing about 10 euros.
Logroño is the best city in Spain for tapas. It's also the capital of the Rioja wine region. Do you need more reasons to go?
See also: The Best Wine and Tapas Bars in Logroño
How to Get to Logroño
There are two buses per day from Santander to Logroño, taking around three hours and costing about 20 euros.
The Spanish capital is well connected to Santander by train, but if you want to visit Madrid I would recommend flying direct and missing out Santander completely.
See also: How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Madrid
How to Get to Madrid from Santander
There are direct trains every couple of hours from Santander to Madrid. The journey takes 4h30m. The train arrives at Chamartin station in the north of the city.
There are direct buses from Santander to Madrid. The journey takes about 6h. The bus arrives at the Avenida de America bus station in Madrid.
Read about Train and Bus Stations from Madrid.
It takes about 5h to drive the 450km from Santander to Madrid. Take the A67 and then the A231 to Burgos and then take the A1 to Madrid.
If you're visiting the Pamplona Running of the Bulls in July, Santander airport is a great arrival point.
How to Get to Pamplona
The bus from Santander to Pamplona takes 2h30 and costs about 15 euros.
There is no train.
The 250km journey can be covered in just over one hour, traveling mainly on the A8 and E5 roads.
Burgos is relatively close to Santander and is famous for its cathedral. It makes a good stop on the way to Madrid. However, it wouldn't be my top destination for a visit from Santander.
How to Get to Burgos
Buses from Santander to Burgos cost around 13 euros and take between two-and-a-half and three hours.
It takes about two hours to drive the 180km, via the A-67 and N-627 roads.
There are no trains.
I was disappointed how long it takes to get to Leon from Santander, considering they are in northern Spain and don't feel so far apart. Leon is a great place to eat free tapas the way it's supposed to be. Drive if you can.
How to Get to Leon
It takes about two-and-a-half hours to drive the 270km, taking the via A-67 and A-231 roads.
Buses from Santander to Leon take around five or six hours and cost 20 to 35 euros.
It's a long way to Santiago from Santander, so break up your journey in Oviedo.
See also: Guide to Santiago
How to Get to Santiago
Buses from Santander to Santiago take between seven and ten hours and cost about 50 euros. However, it only takes five hours to drive.
There are no trains.
Barcelona is a long way from Santander. Are you sure making the journey is the best use of your time?
How to Get to Barcelona
Fly if you can. Both Ryanair and Vueling have flights.
The bus from Barcelona to Santander takes about ten hours and costs about 50 euros.
There are no direct trains from Barcelona to Santander. You would have to change in Madrid.
An alternative would be to take the FEVE narrow-gauge railway from Santander to Bilbao and then the train to Bilbao. The bus would still be quicker.
It would take about six-and-a-half hours to drive the 700km from Barcelona to Santander, traveling mainly on the E90, E804 and A8. Note that some of these roads are toll roads. Find out about Car Hire in Spain.