We will be in Spain for 3 weeks this August with our teenager. We have previously spent a week in Barcelona but that is the only part of Spain we've visited to date. As part of our itinerary, we would like to choose a spot to stay put for a week. We would like a small town or village area that is maybe less touristed. We will have a car and could drive if there are sights nearby but our main purpose would be to just enjoy being in Spain. We are thinking maybe the Picos de Europa or somewhere between San Sebastian and Barcelona but are open to any area. Thank you for any suggestions!
The northern Spanish coast is less developed than the west coast and the scenery of the Picos is stunning. It’s on my radar for somewhere to visit, as friends visit Noja every year and have recommended it - others have also recommended Llanes further west.
Southern and inland Spain can be very hot in August.
The Picos de Europa area is beautiful. The old stone town of Potes is extremely atmospheric but definitely not without tourists. The Basque countryside is a bit less dramatic but also lovely, and Galicia also has nice scenery.
I'd suggest vetting any possible base on ViaMichelin. I suspect a week in a small town might be a bit long without interesting day-trips, and you will want some options within reasonably short driving distances. I'd be especially careful about the Picos area, because there are some winding roads there that could be slow going. However, I believe there some active-sport opportunities there that might appeal to your teenager.
We spent a 4 weeks in Northern Spain last summer and loved it. This was a default choice for a few reasons, one of which was the timing of our trip and the weather in the south of Spain at that time. As I say, the North surpassed our expectations.
Even with this in mind, Im trying to think of where I would choose for a full week, esp. with the qualifier of it not being touristy. Where else will you be traveling during those three weeks (might help so that the one week that doesnt overlap in character too much). One idea is Congas de Onis. It is touristy, but has access to a variety of places you could see on day trips that would make for a various and lovely week: Oviedo, Covadonga lakes, Potes (a long drive there and back on mountain roads but certainly doable for a full day), Ribadesella (a coastal/bach town 45 minutes from Congas. They have a kayak race the second week of August - or around then - that could be fun to watch). So by staying in Congas you get acces to a beautiful, albeit small city, a beach town, a mountain town ...
Alternately I would suggest one of the coastal towns on the eastern side of the peninsula between San Sebastian and Bilbao (barring staying in San Sebastian itself, which is what I would recommend except for the 'not touristy' qualifier). There are several very interesting sites on the peninsula - Oma Forest would be first on my list - and then you'd have close access to SS and Bilbao and inland sites (the cave paintings).
I wouldn't stay between BCN and SS because it is so hot during that time, although we stopped in several places and enjoyed those a lot too.
We also loved Santiago de Compostela and would have spent a week there, exploring the Galicia region in much more detail! Alas, next time
Being a place for outdoors activities, Picos de Europa is not the place to be in August if you want to be away from tourists. It’s beautiful, but will be full of tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Cangas de Onis is a nice town. As acraven stated, there are some winding roads in the area and getting up to the Sanctuary of Covadonga, but the roads are in good condition and they are no more dangerous than mountain roads in the U.S. Not only would Santiago de Compostela de full of tourists, it will be full of pilgrims who have finished the Camino pilgrimage. If you want a place to base yourself with fewer tourists, consider a location more inland, like Logrono, Soria, or the small town to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. By themselves, each doesn’t take more than a day de see (less for Santo Domingo), but there are plenty of nearby places to see as day trips, such as Vitoria-Gasteiz, Laguardia, Briones, San Vincent’s de la Sonsierra, Ermita de Santa Maria de Piscina, Puente la Rena, and Iglesia de Santa Maria de Eunate. Closer to Soria are Burgo de Osma, and a number of castles, monasteries, and small churches. Further west, Lugo, Ponferrada, or Betanzos are smaller towns with fewer tourists. There are also an entire network of walks along former train lines, like Foz de Lumbier, if you’re interested in some light walking. They are referred to as Vias Verdes, viasverdes.com/greenways. It really depends on what you want to do or see during the week.
Thank you all for your suggestions - very helpful.
Just a small correction to the great description of Jessica: Oma Forest is closed, due to an illness that is killing many pine trees (the brown fungus, I believe it´s called), so they will abandon that site and "move" the Forest somewhere else, repainting it.
You liked Barcelona so you probably will want to spend your time in another big city. I would spend my time in Madrid. It looks like Madrid has plenty of museums and sights, more than enough to occupy you for a week. Except that you want a small town. You may want to pick a town in the Community of Madrid; it is one of the 17 autonomous states in Spain, it includes the city of Madrid and smaller towns like Toledo, Segovia, Ávila, and others. Look at the Rough Guide to Spain, in the chapter “around Madrid”. One of the towns described in that chapter is probably where you want to stay. You will be close enough to the museums in Madrid. But consider how much time you would spend on trains or buses getting to the sights in Madrid.