Hundreds of people on the beach of La Concha in San Sebastian, in the north of Spain. | Javi Colmenero


Holiday habits are changing more than ever in this post-Covid era. People want more space and more personal freedom while also being more aware of the benefits of active healthy tourism, being kinder to or more in harmony with the environment and the impact of climate change. Lying on a beach or round a pool for a week or more during a scorching heat wave is neither much fun nor very good for one’s health at the best of times.

For the moment, the airport figures show that Mallorca has enjoyed another super season with Palma airport alone having handled over 30 million passengers, but is that figure sustainable? I don’t think so, not in the mid to long term and the question has to be asked - what serious alternative has Mallorca got to offer the majority of visitors who for decades have flocked to the island for sun and sea in the peak summer months? It’s too hot to sunbathe and certainly too hot to embark on any strenuous exercise.

And this is where the north of Spain is rather rapidly cashing in. Apart from some of the country’s best beaches all along the north coast, it also has mountains, vast open spaces, a depth and variety of culture and history Mallorca cannot match, along with excellent gastronomy and value for money.

For many years, I was a regular visitor to the likes of Cantabria, Asturias (they’ve got bears up there) and Bilbao, and it was like a breath of fresh air. Now all of the UK’s main tour operators and airlines are including northern Spain in their programmes.

Plus, as the weather is more varied, the north has proper seasons. The region is accustomed to, built for and prepared for whatever the weather - there’s great skiing.

Apart from having always been a magnet for domestic tourists, especially those wanting to get out of the city and enjoy some rural relaxation, northern Europeans are moving in. For example, Britons can get there by ferry, direct or via France, so there’s the attractive option of taking your own car or mobile home, or by air. Mass tourism will not engulf northern Spain, but it’s another market to keep an eye on as habits and interests change.