With a husband who works as a teacher, I’m not familiar with holidaying in September, despite the fact my child is yet to start school. I’ve always thought of September breaks as being the sloppy-seconds of summer, imagining empty resorts and depressingly deserted beaches. But last week, on our break in Northern Spain, I found out that a trip taken out of season doesn’t have to be second best. In fact, there are many reasons that make it far more appealing.
We travelled by ferry to Santander and drove 45 minutes west to a little seaside town called Noja. This is an expanding resort popular with Spanish holidaymakers at the height of the season.
With dramatic mountains set against huge swathes of golden sand, Noja is certainly a scenic place – but there is also a sense of normality that removes it from your typical tourist resort. There are no pseudo Irish pubs, for example, nor cafes proclaiming “The Best Fry-Up in Spain”. It’s low-key, especially in September when many of the restaurants and bars have closed and the heat of the peak season has waned.
We were staying in an apartment rented through Brittany Ferries, a fifteen minute stroll from the centre of town. The Apartamentos Quinto Sueño Torre Cristina is spacious, light and airy. Covering three floors, it boasts three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living and dining room, kitchen and shared pool. There’s also a terrace with sun loungers and outside table and chairs. The decor is traditional, with marble floors and bright colours on the walls.
It’s part of an L-shaped complex consisting of ten apartments, which all share a pool. Plus, it has parking for two cars, which is a huge bonus in a resort like Noja – I imagine this comes in especially handy during high season.
The two flights of stairs and sharp marble corners don’t make this apartment ideal for a family with babies or toddlers, but for us – a group made up of mum, three year old and grandparents – it was perfect. There was room for Frog and I to have our own space, while my parents had a whole floor to themselves with their huge double bedroom (and en-suite bathroom complete with jacuzzi bath) on the top floor.
Cantabria as a region is ripe with lush green vegetation, golden beaches and towering mountains. I never associated Spain with so much green until I visited the Northern coast. It’s much cooler, with temperatures not peaking above 21 degrees while we were there. It’s hotter in the summer, but still more temperate than resorts further south.
If you’re a sun worshipper, then I wouldn’t advise going to Cantabria in September, as you won’t be guaranteed unbroken sunshine. That said, we had spells of beautiful blue skies and warmth – although these were mixed with showers and gusty winds on other days. As a verified heat lover, I was a bit grumpy on our first morning when I saw grey skies, but that bad mood instantly vanished once we got out into the area and I took in the breathtaking views. Rain or shine, these are impressive – and you don’t need hot hot heat to enjoy time playing at the beach anyway.
There’s something incredibly calming about wandering along a quiet beach, as the waves crash against the shore and the sun peaks through the clouds. I lost myself in the mountains and the water and the sense of space this place has – with no sun loungers to pick a path through, or games of volleyball to dodge. I imagine this isn’t the case mid-August, although the more relaxed pace of this part of Spain means it’s never over-run with British tourists. I quite like that.
Our nearest beach was a fifteen minute walk from our apartment – ten if you walked quickly. Even in low season there was a lifeguard there at one point, keeping a close eye on the few surfers in the water.
Ten minutes in the opposite direction we came to the town centre and another beach, with the few cafes and restaurants that were open all year round, whatever the season. That’s where we stumbled across a thriving local market one morning (in the town square) and the best supermarket I’ve ever been to. More on that in another post.
I’d love to go back to this part of Spain and explore it a bit further. Noja makes an ideal base to get to know the area, plus it really worked for us as a group made up of different ages all wanting varying things from the break. While it didn’t get hot enough to sunbathe, we still managed to spend a good chunk of time at the beach playing, running, building impressive sandcastles and just watching the sea. And, of course, we managed to fit in a delicious meal at a nearby restaurant and a couple of lovely evenings eating local food we cooked back at the apartment.
If you’re the kind of person who hates the crowds and loves stunning natural scenery, you’d love this place – especially in September. If you crave the heat and enjoy the hubbub, though, you’d be better going a month earlier and enjoying Noja during peak season. At that time you’ll find it lively with Spanish tourists, but still low-key enough to avoid the reams of British themed pubs and 18-30s types. The prices reflect that too, meaning your euros will stretch further than in other parts of Spain.
You can read my other post in the series so far: Spain in September – Getting There to find out how we made our way to Noja. And come back later in the week to find out what we did while we were there and how we enjoyed the local food.
Prices start from £1169 for a week’s stay at Apartamentos Quinto Sueño Torre Cristina – this price includes property rental and return ferry crossings on selected sailings to Spain, for a standard car, 2 people and a cabin each way.
Our accommodation and ferry crossings were provided for the purpose of this review. All opinions remain my own, as always.