We are travelling from Santiago and were thinking of Leon, Burgos and Santillana del Mar. We would like to visit the Picos area as well. Any suggestions on how long to stay in the area and good places to stay would be appreciated.
Leon and Burgos are fine towns in which to spend a couple of days. You don't say how you are traveling or mention special interests but, as you probably know, both towns are strong in Medieval history and architecture. If you have a car and are interested in that sort of thing, there are also some interesting daytrips you can do from either base (and from Burgos you can drive to the Rioja if you like wine country). In my opinion, Santillana del Mar is a novelty; one day or just a daytrip from somewhere else is probably enough. Have you considered Oviedo? The drive from Leon to Oviedo is spectacular (or you can take the bus). For something different you might consider a coastal town like Santander.
What I'd do is cut straight up to Galicia and give whatever time you'd thought about spending in Santillana to the Picos and the area around Coruna/Ferrol. Burgos and Leon are both worth a couple of days, without excursions. The best way to see the Picos is to go in from either the north or south on the N625 and work from there. Watch out, the weather changes in a heartbeat, so don't get caught out on a trail somewhere, even in the summer, if you're not set up for it.
Yes, we will have a car. We do like to see museums, architecture etc. we will probably have 3 days in the area. How far is the Picos area from Leon by car? I had not considered Oviedo. Burgos is the farthest east I would like to go as we need to head back to Lisbon with stops I would like to do in Segovia and Salamanca.
Two towns in the coastal area, a bit less heavily touristed, but very much worth visiting are Ribadesella and Comillas. Ribadesella has the caves of Tito Bustillo (need a reservation) and adjacent museum, as well as an assortment of interesting mansions built by Indianos, men who made their fortunes in the West Indies. Comillas has an early Gaudi house, which can be visited, as well as other Modernista buildings.
Hi Greg! We went to Northern Spain and Portugal last summer. For the Picos area we stayed in a lovely apartment in Llames de Parres, it is in the middle between the mountains and beach, not far from Cangas de Onis. If you are into hiking, i recommend taking the Fuente Dé Gondola and doing a hike, and also the Cares gorge hike. Both were excellent! Depending on what you want to do, 3 days is ok, you won't want to leave thought! Travelling time are longuer then usual beacause of all the little winding roads. If you need more info just PM me.