Pre-historic Rock Art In Northern Spain Tour

5 nights starting from
£1965

  • Altamira cave, Spain’s ‘Sistine Chapel of Palaeolithic art’

  • Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria in Santander

  • El Castillo Cave Complex – one of the most important in the world

  • Tito Bustillo Cave – the finest cave art in Spain

Further to the huge success of our Dordogne Rock Art tour, we constructed a new tour to look at the incomparable cave and rock art of Northern Spain, which boasts some of the finest cave painting in the world. This tour was one of the last to operate before the pandemic hit with rave reviews from clients fascinated by the knowledge and enthusiasm for his subject shown by our expert, Dr David Saunders. The tour travels along Spain’s stunning northern coastline in the regions of Cantabria and Asturias, visiting some world-renowned sites such as Altamira, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 and has been described as the ‘Sistine Chapel of Palaeolithic art.’  It was the first cave in the world where a Palaeolithic origin of cave paintings was discovered and remains an important insight into the lives and times of our distant ancestors.

Available Departures

From

07 - October - 2024 Limited Availability Travel Info On Request

Provisional Timings

London Gatwick

Departing: 07th October 2024 at 10:10

Returning: 12th October 2024 at 18:05

ITINERARY 

Day 1: Fly from London Gatwick to Bilbao and transfer by coach to Santander (approx. one hour) for check-in to the hotel for a three-night stay.
Evening welcome drink at the hotel, lecture “Climate change and the prehistoric artists” and dinner with wine at the hotel.

Day 2: Museum of Prehistory, Santander and Altamira replica caves
The scene is set this morning for this fascinating tour as we visit the Museum of Prehistory and Archaeology of Cantabria in Santander. This comprehensive museum has one of the world’s finest collections of Palaeolithic portable art. Time free for lunch (not included) in the lovely seaside town before heading west to Altamira. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985, Altamira has been described as Spain’s ‘Sistine Chapel of Palaeolithic art’, and was the first cave in the world where a Palaeolithic origin of cave paintings was discovered. It contains paintings dated as old as 35,600 years, including the famous poly-chrome bison which are from about 14,500 years ago. Here we will visit the replica cave and museum. Evening lecture from David “Can signs show us the way?” and dinner with wine at the hotel in Santander.

Day 3: El Castillo, Las Monedas and El Pendo Cave
The El Castillo mountain Palaeolithic cave complex is one of the most important sites in the world for both Palaeolithic art and archaeology. The 3,000 figures span approximately 30,000 years dating back as far as 40,800 years ago. These figures include hands, animals, symbols and anthropomorphic figures. The cave, which is decorated entirely from one end to the other includes painting, engraving and rare sculptures, covers about 275 square metres and contains some 225 animal figures including animals such as horses, bison, stags, goats and mammoths, and about 50 references to human figures. The nearby Las Monedas cave takes its name from the 20 coins that were sealed in a cave by a missionary in the 16th century. The art (17 animal figures including reindeer, goats, bison, a bear and horses) is located quite close to the entrance and offers an example of late cave art dating from 13,000 to 10,000 BC. During this period, climate change led to a change in habitat and therefore a decline in cave art. In the afternoon we will head back towards Santander to visit the El Pendo cave, discovered in 1878 by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola (who also discovered the Altamira cave paintings). Research into the cave highlights Neanderthal and Homo sapiens behaviour from a stratigraphic and archaeological sequence that started around 82,000 BC and lasted until 1,500 BC, offering an insight into the different social activities of the various periods. In 1997 a 25m long frieze painting, estimated to date back to 20,000 BC, was discovered, which contains 20 figures in red including 12 hind and a goat. Evening free in Santander.

Day 4: El Pindal and Cave of Tito Bustillo
We bid adios to Santander as we head west along the coast to the El Pindal Cave, which is located right on the sea with the entrance just a few metres above the water. The interior of the cave holds a wide array of painted symbols, several bison, horses, a deer and a mammoth figure. The art is primarily attributed to the Magdalenian, the last culture of the Upper Paleolithic, although some of the art could be from older periods. This afternoon we visit one of the highlights of the tour as we visit the cave of Tito Bustillo. Walking past impressive stalagmites and stalactites, the cave of Tito Bustillo includes the finest cave art, featuring the striking use of rare purple pigment. Though only one room is open to the public, it boasts a large number of representations of 30 deer, 13 horses, nine reindeers, five goats, four bison and a wide variety of artistic techniques and styles. It is one of the best examples of Palaeolithic cave art in Asturias and one of the most complete sites on the whole of Spain’s northern coast. Continue to Oviedo and check-in to the Gran Hotel Regente for overnight stay. Evening free. 

Day 5: Parque de la Prehistoria de Teverga and to Bilbao
This morning we finish our pre-historic journey at the Parque de la Historia at Teverga, which offers an interesting overview of all the caves and activity of Paleolithic man in Northern Spain and beyond. Time for lunch (not included) in the enchanting seaside town of Ribadesella, with a lively old seaport full of tapas bars, nestled between a clifftop church. We continue to Bilbao to check in for overnight stay. Renowned for its amazing Guggenheim Museum (entrance not included), a masterpiece of modern architecture in stark contrast to the caves visited on this tour, Bilbao has enjoyed a renaissance since the museum opened in 1997 with a wealth of superb, modern architecture sitting comfortably alongside its atmospheric old town. A free evening here will allow you to sample some of the famous “pinxtos”, distinctive local tapas served in the atmospheric bars that throng the old town.

Day 6: Free time in Bilbao (flight time permitting) and transfer to Bilbao Airport for the return flight to London Gatwick.

NB: Exact order of excursions may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion.

This tour has been classed as Demanding due to the limits involved with visiting the caves for example the small spaces and also the floor can be slippery underfoot so is therefore not suitable for those with walking difficulties. 

Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 18 passengers.

INCLUDED

  • Return flights from London to Bilbao
  • Three nights’ bed and breakfast at the four-star Silken Hotel, Santander, based on shared occupancy of a twin/double room
  • One night’s bed and breakfast at the four-star Gran Hotel Regente, Ovideo, based on shared occupancy of a twin/double
  • One night’s bed and breakfast at four-star Hesperia Bilbao, based on shared occupancy of a twin/double
  • Welcome reception
  • Two dinners with wine at the Santander hotel
  • Two lectures at the Santander hotel
  • Transfers, tours and entrance fees
  • Dr David Saunders and tour manager throughout

NOT INCLUDED

  • Double for sole use supplement
  • Holiday insurance 
  • Meals other than those stated 
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls etc
  • Porterage and gratuities

HOTELS

Silken Hotel, Rio Santander
This stylish, modern four-star hotel is located on the seafront next to the beach of El Sardinero. Facilities include bar, ‘Marea Alta’ restaurant and very comfortable bedrooms with all modern amenities including en-suite bathroom, TV, telephone, wifi, air-conditioning, safe, minibar and hairdryer. 

Hotel Website

Gran Hotel Regente, Oviedo
The modern, four-star Gran Hotel Regente is located in the heart of Oviedo, close to a host of restaurants, cafes and bars. Facilities at this modest but comfortable hotel include a bar and well-appointed bedrooms with all modern amenities including en-suite bathroom, TV, telephone, wifi, safe and hairdryer.

Hotel Website

Hesperia Bilbao 
Located along the Bilbao estuary the four-star Hesperia Bilbao is opposite the Guggenheim Museum and a good central location for exploring the city. The hotel has a cafeteria, gym and spacious bright bedrooms with en-suite bathroom, TV, telephone, wifi, air-conditioning, minibar, hairdryer and tea/coffee making facilities. 

Hotel Website

MORE INFO - Please click here to see full details of this tour 

Your Lecturer - Dr David Saunders
David has an interest in all areas prehistoric. He undertakes archaeological excavations at Stonehenge and Marden Henge and has lectured throughout the UK. He has just published a book on animal movement across the Stonehenge landscape, “The Cursus Enigma.” He has led several tours for Travel Editions in recent years which have been extremely well received.


Administration: smooth, no issues. Brochure Description: adequate detail. Flight: good, on time both ways. Accommodation: Hotels were of a good standard with respect to rooms and breakfast. Bilbao hotel was super (location and quality). Tour Manager: Sandra was lovely and saw that everything ran smoothly. Very helpful in organising restaurants for those unsure of going out to eat independently. Sightseeing Tours: The quality of the cave visits exceeded my expectations – an excellent itinerary with very good local guides in the caves. David Saunders was an excellent asset on the trip - very knowledgeable and engaging. Overall Impression: 4.5/5.0 Comments: superb trip, just right with group of 12 or 13 and everyone got on really well. The focus on the cave art was exceptional and I appreciated the freedom to explore towns and restaurants on my own in the evenings after the first 2 nights.

Review by Wonnacott who travelled 15-April-2024


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This was my first Travel Editions tour and it was a great success. The itinerary was very well designed. The days were long and busy - just how I like it, so the most is made of the time away. Tour Manager Sandra McGill was outstanding - always organised and cheerful, and on hand to help with any queries and food options and ordering. Many thanks Travel Editions

Review by Moore who travelled 17-April-2023


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A very interesting and enjoyable tour. Sandra was a superb, kind and interesting tour leader. I was delighted to meet her again. David was also a very good and interesting tour lecturer. Thank you to them both.

Review by Anonymous who travelled 17-April-2023


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Clothes storage at Santander hotel very limited, rooms small. Dinners - tapas dinner in Santander OK, other meals not that good. Perhaps arrange dinner in Oviedo or Bilbao for one night? Bilbao is the home of pintxos so good to arrange that perhaps.

Review by Anonymous who travelled 17-April-2023


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Review by Anonymous who travelled 17-April-2023


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It was an excellent holiday and we ere very pleased with all the arrangements.

Review by Boon who travelled 17-April-2023


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I can't recommend this trip more highly. Sandra, our tour manager, was knowledgeable, helpful, and very kind. David Saunders really knew his stuff and looked after everyone well, making sure each of us got a perfect view of the art. Seeing cave art from 40,000 years ago was literally mind-blowing. I am so impressed I'm booking another trip with you this week - San Sebastian at Christmas, which Sandra told me about. I do hope she'll be our tour manager again!

Review by Aubin who travelled 17-April-2023


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Very well organised, interesting and lived up to expectations.

Review by Anonymous who travelled 10-October-2022


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Review by Anonymous who travelled 10-October-2022


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Review by Anonymous who travelled 10-October-2022


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A interesting and informative trip. Sandra is an excellent, helpful and very knowledgeable tour manager. I would certainly travel with your company again.

Review by Anonymous who travelled 10-October-2022


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A well-run tour, with an expert accompanying us who was always available to answer questions. I had never been to Spain before, and this trip will serve as a spur to me to return in the future.

Review by Harcourt who travelled 10-October-2022


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I have just returned from this excellent and very educational tour of cave art in Northern Spain. I have to admit I was pretty nervous about going on holiday on my own for the first time plus I don’t speak Spanish and worse still I am a vegetarian. All these worries were in my mind before I set off to catch the flight at Gatwick. However there was no need for panic. Sandra was an excellent tour manager with fluent Spanish, an encylodedic knowledge of Spanish history and very warm personality that made sure no-one was left out. We mostly all ate together in the evenings in little restaurants that she knew and she helped everyone with the menus. In fact there were other people travelling solo and so it made a nice friendly mix. The actual tour was amazing. David knows his stuff and injected enthusiasm into his talks and gallery visits. If you are interested in pre-history art and the social conditions of our ancestors, this tour is highly rcommended. You are also in the most beautiful part of Spain between mountains and the ocean. I have now just booked to see the French caves next year!

Review by Cooper who travelled 10-October-2022


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Another very good tour for rock art fans. The itinerary was well thought out and interesting and both Sandra and David were excellent and made everything run very smoothly. An added bonus was having the free time in Bilbao enabling a visit to the Guggenheim Museum. Personally I enjoyed the trip to the Prehistoric Park which some didn't, but the journey alone through the beautiful mountain scenery made it worthwhile for me. I do think the brochure should indicate more clearly that the footing in many of the caves is quite treacherous and slippery, including steps with no handrails - there was no mention of this until the joining instructions arrived. But overall an excellent tour and one to be recommended. I am happy for you to use this if it is Anonymous.

Review by Anonymous who travelled 04-April-2022


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Caves fantastic, including Altamira. David Saunders excellent. Brett very helpful. Parque de la Prehistoria was unexpectedly excellent. Accommodation in Bilbao excellent - Santander acceptable but not great. Flights - it would be better to fly people in on Sunday evening, then start immediately with caves/museums on Monday after drive to Santander - Monday was a waste of time and people were exhausted after the very early start. But appreciate the difficulty!

Review by Koval who travelled 04-April-2022


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Our tour manager and accompanying expert made an excellent team. The holiday went so well, it encourages us to keep an eye on your brochure with a view to booking with you again.

Review by Fearn who travelled 04-April-2022


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Very good tour. Sandra McGill and David Saunders were both great tour leaders: very informative and helpful. Have rated flights as poor because I don't think you should plan 06.45 flight departure times from Gatwick: in fact, we booked our own flights at different times separately. Brett Mare in your office was also very helpful in helping us modify our travel plans by arranging extra nights at final hotel before flying back.

Review by Giangrande who travelled 04-April-2022


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A very enjoyable tour with an excellent tour manager and knowledgeable lecturer. It was a busy schedule but I liked the variety of the visit to the park in the beautiful hill country and the chance to see the old Town in Oviedo and Bilbao - thank you Sandra for organising this . A couple of comments - I think the brochure should say a bit more about the difficult terrain under foot especially in the first cave . I really needed my stick and because of previous experience had brought it but others might not The second hotel in Oviedo wasn’t up to the standard of the others . In particular the shower over the bath was unsatisfactory and not really safe for an older traveller . But it was central and maybe there’s not an alternative? Thank you David and Sandra for all your friendly guidance.

Review by Vigars who travelled 04-April-2022


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The programme was overall excellent (with one comment provided below). There was no wasted time on this tour and the free periods in Oviedo and Bilbao were welcome and just the right length. A huge amount of information was provided by the Tour Director and the local guides. Any questions were always readily answered and in depth. An added bonus were the stories about Spanish history given by the Tour Manager on the bus and her walking tours of the cities. The hotels were excellent, especially the hotel in Bilbao. The coach and the coach driver were first-class. My one comment on the programme is that, in future, I would substitute the visit to the Parque de la Prehistoria de Teverga with an additional cave visit. The visit to the Parque at the end didn't really add anything to what we had seen and experienced previously, and, if anything, was a minor anticlimax, although the scenery on the journey to the Parque was spectacular. The reason why I have rated good (rather than excellent) for the administration above is that there was quite a lot of confusion about the procedure in order to use the online Vueling website.

Review by Kenig who travelled 21-March-2022


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This was a fascinating tour. It was great to have an expert on prehistoric culture and art, in the form of David on hand, and Sandra as Tour manager, was friendly, very efficient, and immensely knowledgeable. The tour was quite complex with 3 different hotels and several caves and museums to visit in three different towns. Due to the great organisation and on the ground management it all went very smoothly. The preliminary visit to the museum in Santander was excellent and with David’s expert guidance, provided an excellent introduction to the week. The range of caves visited was very helpful to give insight into the life of prehistoric peoples and their amazing achievements. We were advised to wear stout walking shoes for walking on the uneven and sometimes slippery surfaces. This advice was essential.. By chance the structure of the tour had to be modified. This was very beneficial as it provided the opportunity to spend longer in Bilbao and to explore the Guggenheim and other features of this attractive city. The hotels were located in good locations, making it easy to explore the cities. The hotel on Oviedo, was older, but comfortable and clean.

Review by Anonymous who travelled 21-March-2022


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The tour manager was absolutely superb, she could not have done more for us. The best I’ve ever been with. Overall, it was an excellent trip, perhaps particularly as there was time to do other things in Bilbao and Santander, e.g. visit the Guggenheim and the Fine Art Gallery

Review by Herman who travelled 21-March-2022


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Very impressed - as usual - with your product. We are pleased you were able to survive the last two years, and your freezing of the price was very much appreciated. Your two representatives worked seamlessly together, with the unexpected and very impressive addition of the historical background of the peninsula from Sandra. We searched hard, but we can't find anything negative to say!

Review by Davies who travelled 21-March-2022


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The tour gave us exactly what we had wanted (despite the threat of coronavirus hanging over the final days). Both the tour guide and the specialist guide were excellent, and the small group all with a specialist interest created a more friendly atmosphere than some larger group tours. The only small negative was the hotel in Oviedo where few of the staff spoke any English and the food in the hotel café was no more than just about edible. The hotels in Santander and Bilbao were both excellent, and the welcoming tapas lunch in Santander was one of the highlights of the tour (aside from the caves of course) and a great way to get to know people.

Review by Chapman who travelled 09-March-2020


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Sandra and David were brilliant leaders. I praise them highly. The tour was a very enjoyable and educational experience. . Sandra, David and your office dealt very well with the emerging virus closure situation. .My only complaint was the inconveniently early booking in time for the outward flight But overall a very enjoyable holiday indeed.

Review by anonymous who travelled 09-March-2020


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Sandra with her local knowledge was a great asset, but she did sometimes forget the need for spelling out logistics. For example when we arrived at Bilbao airport there was no-one to meet us (Sandra was on the plane). To be told where the groups assembly point was would have been a help. The group self identified to each other and it wasn't a great issue but someone less used to this kind of travel might have got rather anxious. This is a fairly minor complaint & we all appreciated Sandra very much

Review by anonymous who travelled 09-March-2020


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