Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Northern Spain via the Slow Train
Offered exclusively to Museum members! Membership information can be found in FEE
section below.

Cider, Bronze-Age Castros and Mining, Paleolithic Caves, Sea Cliffs, El Camino de Santiago, the Guggenheim, Iberian Geology, Fishing Villages, Local Wines, Asturian and Basque Gastronomy

Day 1:   September 12   Oviedo-Aviles to Boal
Arrive in Oviedo/Aviles airport. Oviedo is in the province of Asturias, and this is the main airport with three daily flights, as well as high-speed rail service (scheduled for opening summer 2024) from Madrid. There will be a chartered bus, which will pick up and transport the group to the mountain village of Boal, two hours to the west. We check into our hotel, maybe taking an end-of-day walk in the green pastures surrounding the small community. We gather for dinner and introductions at the close of the day. Night in Boal at Hotel El Zangano. (D)
Day 2:   September 13   Boal
Our first visit of the tour is to El Museo de la Emigración y Casonas de Indianos de Boal, to learn about those who made their fortunes in the American Indies. Our walking tour through town takes us to the lavadero (washhouse), past cavazos (stone granaries), and to the apiary museum. In the nearby hamlet of Castrillon we enjoy a lunch of homemade fabada, with bread, cheese, beer, cider and wine. Afterwards, we walk off our meal with a hike down to the reservoir. Evening places us back in Boal, where after a rest we might walk to the town center to meet the locals and experience the bar scene. Night in Boal at Hotel El Zangano. (B, L, D)
Day 3:   September 14   Boal, Celtic Castros, Grandas
Today we take an excursion farther up the valley. We make a roadside geology stop to learn about the creation of the Iberian landmass and a very special mineral! Our next stop is to visit Iron Age stone ruins, called castros. The town of Grandas hosts a large ethnographic museum, with iron forging demos, a working water wheel and many other tools and tasks of Asturian life 100 years ago. While El Camino de Santiago Primitivo passes through the town, we will not have opportunity to hike it today. Night in Boal at Hotel El Zangano. (B, L, D)

Day 4:   September 15    Boal, Bronze Age Mining and the Coast
Today we roll down to the sea. On the way, we stop to explore another castro at the hamlet of Coana. Here we learn about ancient copper and iron mining and Roman gold mining. Lunchtime lands us at the seaside town of Puerta de Vega, a Doc Martin town look-a-like. A stop at Playa del Silencio provides a chance to view, or even hike all the way down to, the amazing tilted rock beds. The day ends in Cudillero, another coastal town. Night in Cudillero at La Casona de Pio. (B, L)

Day 5:   September 16    Cudillero
Wake up in the most picturesque fishing village imaginable. Walk the path overlooking the town to a viewpoint of the sea cliffs. Swim in the harbor. Today, as in most of the following days, we will be free to wander and dine at whichever restaurant, bar, or café attracts us. The gastronomy is to be relished. Stop at a cider house, and then a local eatery to sample the seafood.  Night in Cudillero at La Casona de Pio. (B, D)

Day 6:   September 17    Cudillero to Ribadesella
Late morning we climb onboard our little Thomas the Tank Engine train. It leisurely makes its way to the capitol of Asturias, Oviedo. Here we stop for lunch at one of the cafés in front of the classic old train station. We then board the afternoon train, which takes us through green pasturelands, valleys, small towns, and lands us at again another seaside community. Night in Ribadesella at Hotel Villa Rosario Palacete. (B)

Day 7:   September 18    Ribadesella
The name translates to mouth of the Sella River. Not only does this town boast a beautiful beach and river, but there are sea cliffs, again! A short walk takes us to a headland to visit the Hermita de la Virgen de Guia. The main focus of this first day is a visit to the Tito Bustillo Cave, replete with artifacts and Paleolithic cave paintings, as well as a visit to the associated museum. The human occupation period of this cave is similar to that of nearby Altamira. Night in Ribadesella at Hotel Villa Rosario Palacete. (B)

Day 8:   September 19    Ribadesella
After days of crossing the Camino de Santiago, we will finally have time walk it. The route passes in front of our hotel. Spend the entire day on the Camino, or explore the other side of the river, where the older part of town lies. Or, do your laundry at the nearby laundromat, then walk along the sea promenade. The beachfront is lined with Modernist Mansions built in the early 20th century by members of the rich bourgeoisie, the “Indianos”. Night in Ribadesella at Hotel Villa Rosario Palacete. (B)

Day 9:   September 20   Ribadesella to Bilbao
Mid-morning we board the train. Today we pass the glacial-carved, 8700-foot-high, Picos de Europa, which may merit an onboard lesson on geology of the Iberian Peninsula! After three hours of travel, we step off the train at Santander for a half-hour layover to change trains. Santander is a major port city. Following another three hours of mountain, sea and bucolic views out the window, we coast into Bilbao, where we say goodbye to our little train. Our hotel is across the bridge in the old town. For dinner we head to the main plaza for a cerveza and to begin sampling the regional specialties. Night in Bilbao at Hotel Petite Palace Arana. (B, T)

Day 10:   September 21    Bilbao
Welcome to the capitol of Euskadi, the Basque land. From here one could leave, taking a ferry to England. Instead, we entreat you to explore this handsome, rainy city. We begin the day being schooled by a local guide on Basque history. Bilbao was a powerhouse of the industrial revolution with a strong shipbuilding industry, as well as iron and steel works. Its economy has transitioned, and one of those shifts is toward tourism, which we will partake in with a visit the Guggenheim Museum of modern art. Afterwards, we enjoy a few pintxos (Basque tapas) and drinks. Night in Bilbao at Hotel Petite Palace Arana. (B, T)

Day 11:   September 22   Bilbao
Because last year we found so many wonderful attractions here, we decided to add an extra day! We will split into smaller groups and, based upon interest, visit the shipyards and maritime museum, the archeology museum, the botanical gardens, and/or take the Funicular de Artxanda to a hilltop park, and maybe walk down the trail. Night in Bilbao at Hotel Petite Palace Arana. (B)

Day 12:   September 23   Bilbao, Deba, Guernica/Durango
In order to see the Basque hinterland, we will take a day excursion via the Euskotren. There will be two options:  one to the coastal village of Debe, in order to hike La Ruta de Flysch, a trail through a geo-park where the vertical sedimentary beds tell the tale of the Cantabrian and Pyrenees Mountains’ uplift; the other option will be to explore the little town of Durango, and perhaps Guernica. At the end of the day, we return to our same hotel in Bilbao. Night in Bilbao at Hotel Petite Palace Arana. (B)

Day 13:   September 24   Bilbao to Zaragoza
As we do not leave until 3:20 in the afternoon, there will be time to ramble a bit on your own, either through old town or through the post-industrial part the city. The afternoon train is a modern one (which cannot go as fast as it would like due to the topography), traveling south out of Euskadi, then following the Ebro River Valley for much of the route. Night in Zaragoza at Hotel Catalonia El Pilar. (B)

Day 14:   September 25   Zaragoza
We are in the capitol of Aragon. Zaragoza has a beautiful historic center that is not overrun with tourists. This is one reason that we are spending our last days here, and not in Barcelona. There are two majestic cathedrals:  the 16th Century Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar and the Cathedral of El Salvador, the city's main temple and a jewel of Aragonese Mudejar art. Walking along the banks of the Ebro River, we reach another Mudejar gem, the Arab palace of Aljafería. This 11th-century building is one of the northernmost Islamic constructions in Europe. Settlement on this riverbank goes back even further, as is evidenced in the Roman remains of the ancient Caesar Augusta theatre, forum and baths. We will visit most of these sites, either on the 25th or the morning of the 26th, depending upon participants’ departure plans. Night in Zaragoza at Hotel Catalonia el Pilar. (B, L)

Day 15:   September 26   Zaragoza
This is the final day of our tour. You may ask, why here? After a decade of running trips in eastern, central, southern and now northern Spain, we realize that Zaragoza is a perfect launch pad for all. There are bullet trains that will shoot you to Madrid or to Barcelona in 1.5 hours. From these you can fly directly home, or spend a few days seeing the sites of these incredible cities. From Madrid there are trains to Toledo, Granada, Seville, etc. We will create a link in January for suggested pre- and post- trip short itineraries and places of lodging. (B)

Sonya Norman will provide perspective on being the daughter of a Spanish "Valenciana" - sharing the gastronomy, history and sites of her mother's homeland. She is a native of Tucson, has a B.S. in Geosciences, plants trees and collects rainwater in her neighborhood, and controls buffelgrass in the Tucson Mountains. Sonya is the Public Programs Coordinator for the museum.

Jesús García will provide perspective from the Kino Heritage Fruit Trees Project - detailing the legacy of Jesuits missionaries on modern Mexican agriculture, and the connections between Old World and Sonoran traditional knowledge. Jesús grew up in the farming and ranching town of Magdalena, Sonora.

All transportation by charter bus, train and taxi transfers as explained herein. The first four days of the itinerary we travel by chartered bus and taxis to our destinations. The following stretches are by the narrow gauge slow train, the FEVE, then the last leg, from Bilbao to Zaragoza, we leap to 21st Century transit: the Euro-fast train. Also included in the price are lodging for 14 nights, Basque history lecture, walking tours, tips, cave and museum entrance fees. All breakfasts and 10 other meals, either lunches/dinners/tapas as denoted by  L, D or T are covered. We will purchase carbon-offset credits for our each of our travelers.

Airfare is NOT included. We will however, advise on which flight/train to take into Oviedo, so that the group is gathered at the appointed time for our bus transfer. Porterage is not included, nor are meals not explicitly noted in the itinerary.

We prefer to work with smaller groups, and therefore have limited registration to only 20 travelers.

There is a good amount of walking involved every day, as well as climbing up and down stairs. You should be able to roll your suitcase several blocks, sometimes over uneven surfaces, and lift it on and off train platforms. For those that are good hikers there will be two opportunities for full day hikes.

This special travel opportunity is offered exclusively to Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum members. If you currently are not a member, but would like to join us, you may do so by following this link. Trip price is $5160 and the single supplement is an additional $1000. We will assist in matching up singles with roommates, however if a roommate cannot be found, then the single supplement must be paid. We are accepting full payment at this time.

We strongly recommend that participants be vaccinated against Covid-19. You will be asked to refrain from attending if you are exhibiting symptoms consistent with Covid and have not yet tested, or if you are testing  positive for Covid. If you develop symptoms during a trip, you will be asked to let the staff lead know, and to isolate as much as possible and wear a mask. After 5 days and no fever, you may resume group activities. We will also adhere to the most up-to-date Covid-19 protocols of any tribal lands, foreign countries or institutions we are visiting, and these may change over time.

Should you need to cancel your trip, you must notify us in writing, by letter, e-mail. Cancellations made before April 1st will be subject to a $200/person administrative fee. After this date, all monies paid are 100% non-refundable. We may cancel departures if forced to do so by political unrest, acts of God, and circumstances known as force majeure. If such events occur within 60 days of scheduled departure and we cancel, we will postpone your trip to another departure of the same tour within 13 months of the original tour start date; or, if circumstances do not permit, an alternative will be offered. If we cancel your tour due to insufficient enrollment, all monies paid to the Museum will be refunded and will constitute full settlement. We will not be responsible for any outside expenses incurred such as for airfare.

We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance, as insurable risks may be covered under such policies.  If you have any pre-existing conditions for which you would like coverage, most companies require that you purchase the insurance within 14 days of your first payment.  While we do not suggest one company over another, we provide here the names of a few which you may contact:  Travelex, Travel Guard, Trip Mate, and Allianz.

We reserve the right to change components, substitute hotels or alter the itinerary (either before departure or en route), and to make any other changes deemed necessary to carry out and maintain the quality and safety of the tour in good faith to the participants.

Inquiries about logistics and itinerary should be directed to tour leaders Sonya Norman 520-883-3030 /  or Jesus Garcia 520-883-3089 / Those regarding registration/payment should be directed to the Reservations Coordinator at 520-883-3025 or at

This tour is run by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum with most overseas arrangements being made through Ambia Tours.