Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela Road trip - Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela Road trip -

Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela Road trip planner

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The Roadtrip in a nutshell

Enjoy northern Spain. This part of Spain offers fantastic, yet affordable accommodation and amazing local cuisine. This road trip itinerary guide for northern Spain provides lots of hints and recommendations to discover the north of Spain by visiting elegant cities such as San Sebastian, Santander, and Oviedo, and small fishing villages, all with their traditional architecture. You will also discover amazing mountain landscapes, fantastic beaches, and welcoming local people…This road trip itinerary has been selected as one of Spain’s best holidays by The Times

Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela road trip map


7 to 12 nights to get the most out of it (minimum recommended is 4 nights / 5 days with nights in such case in Bilbao or San Sebastian (2 nights), 1 night in Oviedo and 1 night in Santiago de Compostela)

End of March, April, May, June and first 2 weeks of July. September and october are also good months.

List of recommended hotels for this roadtrip

Detailed road trip planner day by day

Bilbao or San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela

Top stops to enjoy in this roadtrip


2 days recommended

  • If you arrive driving from France it makes more sense to start the itinerary in Hondarribia or in San Sebastian. Otherwise,
    Bilbao has excellent connections by plane (Madrid and Barcelona have daily flights) ,ferry with the United Kingdom and is a good point of departure for our road trip into Northern Spain.
  • Bilbao has undergone a radical transformation in recent years and has gone from being an industrial port city to become one of the cities with the most vibrant culture and varied gastronomy in Spain.

Top attracions in Bilbao

The famous Guggenheim Museum is Bilbao´s main highlight. You will find the tourism office where you can ask about the local events/activities taking place on this day. We recommend making your way to the Casco Viejo (old quarters) by taking a lovely walk along the river.
In front of the Museum, you will find Puppy (Jeff Koons), or Mother (a huge spider sculpture); both are children´s favorites.

Teatro Arriaga. Oldest theatre in town, still operating. Interesting neo-baroque style.

Ensanche . An old town called Abando, it became part of Bilbao in 1870. The Ensanche is the Business center and dynamic area of Bilbao. Its main boulevard is Gran Via.

Market La Ribera . An exciting and massive local market. Art deco style

Museo de Bellas Artes ; essential collection from artists like Goya, El Greco, Francis Bacon, Gaugin, Chillida…

Funicular to Mount Artxanda. The funicular from 1912 is not only a fantastic architectural example but also allows you to enjoy incredible views of Bilbao.

You can find more information on this post wit the best things to do in Bilbao in 1 day

Best things to do near Bilbao and top excursions

Getxo. An upmarket destination, Getxo is famous for its architecture (with a clear British influence) and summer houses. Its famous bridge over the Nervion River connects with Portugalete, a working-class town that grew to provide services to the harbor.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Just a 40-minute drive from Bilbao, you will find San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. A fantastic church on top of a small island with breathtaking views. Bear in mind that you will need approx. 3 hours to walk to the church and return to the parking lot. Another option is to enjoy one of the boat excursions that depart from Bermeo


A great itinerary to discover Bilbao in the most unexpensive way. Book it now or you will miss your place! This is the most demanded tour in Bilbao


Almost a private tour to enjoy this amazing master piece that changed Bilbao forever. This is the best option to enjoy the museum.

San Mames Stadium tickets

A children´s favorite. Atletic is one of Spain´s most charismatic soccer teams and the tour is a really interesting one. A top tour if visiting with kids

GAME OF THRONES - San Juan de Gaztelugatxe excursion

World-wide famous after being shown at Game of Thrones. Great landscape and worth the visit

Casual and fine dining options

  • Rio-Oja Restaurant (Located on Txacur Kalea. You can enjoy a sit-down meal while enjoying authentic local food. They specialize in “cazuelas”.)
  • Gure Toki (One of our favorite bars in Plaza Nueva.)
  • Taberna Basaras (Located on Calle Pelota. A classic in Bilbao.)
    Bar Santa María (Located on Calle Santa María.)
  • Best ice cream in town. If you enjoy ice cream and would like to end your tapas night with the one we strongly recommend a visit to Heladería Adelia Ivañez (Posta Kalea). You will be able to taste Spanish turron (the typical dessert at Christmas time). This is in our view Bilbao´s best ice cream maker.
  • Asador Ibañez A family-owned restaurant, Ibañez is a great option if you want to enjoy high-quality gastronomy based on the excellent quality of its meats, fish… SPECIAL OFFER
  • Sidreria La Gabarra: Sidrerias are very popular in the Basque country. Simple menus, very friendly atmosphere. Our favorite one is this one located on the other side of the river and 15 minutes walk from the Guggenheim. This is a very popular restaurant among locals. We recommend trying «Menu sidreria» SPECIAL OFFER If you prefer to stay in the «Casco viejo» and try a Sidreria, Arriaga is could be an option for you.
  • Despensa de Etxanobe. This is the bistro style concept, yet with prices close to 100€, of Michelin starred Etxanobe. Excellent quality and for many a better option than more expensive Michelin star alternative. BOOK A TABLE
  • Mina. Next to the Guggenheim museum and a very convenient option if you plan to visit the museum, Mina takes pride in its commitment with sustainability and the use of local seasonal products. Only tasting menus are served. BOOK A TABLE


1 day recommended (2 or 3 if ou are a foodie)

San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque language) began its tourism in the 19th century when Queen Isabella II. She chose the city as a holiday resort making it fashionable for other aristocrats in the same way as other important cities in France like Biarritz.

San Sebastian is one of the most elegant and beautiful cities of Spain. La Playa de la Concha(la Concha beach) is the heart of this city and the gastronomic capital of Spain. The Old Town (Parte Vieja) is well known for having the highest concentration of bars in the world. These bars offer a great variety of local pintxos (Basque tapas)

Top attracions in San Sebastian

  • La Concha La Concha is the central axis of San Sebastian and the reason why the city exists. Every tourist or resident walks it each day from one side of the city to the other. It has been considered by several publications as the most beautiful urban beach in Europe.
  • Casco Viejo. This is the heart of the city and heaven in you search pintxo and tapas bars.
  • Basilica of Santa María del Coro: its location in the old part of San Sebastian and with mount Urgull behind it make of this baroque-style church a top highlight in San Sebastian.
  • Mercado de la Brecha San Sebastian is an important gastronomy tourism destination and a visit to its oldest market is a must to get a good glimpse at top local quality products: local cheeses, sausages, and meats … time for pintxos after this!
  • Igueldo. This mountain offers the best views of San Sebastian. You can drive to Igueldo, but also enjoy the beautiful cog railway. There is a mid-size funfair at the top of the hill.
  • Peines del Viento. This is the most famous sculpture in the city and a Master piece from Eduardo Chillida.
  • Aquarium. Not the best aquarium in Spain, but local authorities have put in lots of effort and it is highly recommended if you visit with children on a rainy day.
  • Plaza de la Constitucion This square used to be a bullfighting ring and it is used still today for many local festivals.
    You can find more interesting things to do in this post with ideas and the best things to do in San Sebastian in 1 or 2 days
  • Top excursions
    • Getaria (25km east of San Sebastian) is a beautiful village in the spanish Basque Country. It is famous for the quality of its gastronomy, which uses the grill for both meat and fish. More information on Getaria on this post with the best things to do in Getaria in 1 day
    • Zumaia (7 kms east of Getaria) Zumaia offers one of the most interesting landscapes in the Basque country: ths Flisch . A 15 minutes walk with spectacular cliffs and shapes. IN Zumaia itself the Parroquia de San Pedro, a gothic, fortress type of church is very interesting.


An unexpensive way to get to know San Sebastian. 2,5 hours with a local expert and the most important sights. Book well in advance!


Almost a must do to enjoy local tapas or pintxos with local guides. We strongly recommend not to got the cheapest tours available


A great tour enjoy amazing views of San Sebastian from the sea. Perfect if you travel with children. Also, very inexpensive!

Recommened tapas bars and fine dining options in San Sebastian

You will find hundreds of options to enjoy pintxos in San Sebastian. Many of them are crowded, and despite it may not be very convenient it indicates you will find something tasty inside…

La Mejillonera – a Very typical bar that serves, as its name indicates, mussels. They are prepared in many different ways.
A Fuego Negro –more avant-garde than traditional pintxos
Néstor – Its specialty pintxo is the tortilla. You should arrive before lunch or dinner to try it or otherwise, it will be gone
La Cuchara de San Telmo – One of our favorites, great pintxos
Gambara – If you enjoy mushrooms this is your place. Great selection of wines too.
La Viña – Their cheesecake is their main highlight. It is very tasty but too many people have found out…

San Sebastian holds more Michelin starred restaurants than any other city in the world. Expensive tasting menus… but sometimes a life time experience.
Nineu. Located at the beautiful Kursal building, Nineu is not a Michelin starred restaurant and your wallet will not get empty here. You can, however, enjoy high-quality gastronomy in a chic atmosphere.
Restaurante Kokotxa – Fantastic tasting menus and top quality since it got its 1st star in 2007.
Mirador de Ulía –innovative cuisine with a nod to its Basque roots. Its terrace offers a great atmosphere, especially during summer.
Arzak – A legend and the name behind a real revolution in Basque gastronomy
Akelarre –3 stars like Arzak. Located just 10 minutes from the center and with amazing views


1 day recommended or 2 if you would like to explore the Franch Basque coast from here (Saint Jean de Luz, Biarritz, Bayonne...)

“Hondarribia” in the Basque language, known as “Fuenterrabía” in Castilian Spanish, is divided into 2 neighborhoods. The Casco Viejo and Barrio de la Marina are both of great interest and with totally different characters
A border village with France, its history is strongly tied to this fact and its fishing nature.
There is a beach in Hondarribia though most locals prefer to go «to the other side» as they call neighboring Hendaye in France which is hone to an impressive beach, a delight for local surfers.

Top attracions in Hondarribia

  • Casco Viejo. With its cobbled streets, town squares, and corners, the Casco Viejo neighborhood offers great architectural interest. This old part of town (hence its name) is reached through gates of the old medieval wall, the only wall of this type in the province of Guipuzcoa).
  • Calle Mayor. Located in the Casco Viejo. You will find the Town Hall (“Ayuntamiento”) and the Palacio Zuloaga.
    Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción y el Manzano. 15th and 16th Century Gothic-style church. Impressive and beautiful church organ.
  • Plaza de Armas. Located in front of the Parador hotel. Colorful and with views of France.
  • El Parador de turismo. Old castle of Charles the fifth. We suggest visiting the Parador for a cup of coffee to enjoy this fantastic building. On its façade, you can see the marks from a cannon left during a battle against the French in the 18th century.
  • Barrio de la Marina This neighborhood welcomes us with a great path of trees and colorful Basque houses.

Best excursions from Hondarribia

  • Saint Jean de LuzFrance. From Hondarribia, you should head towards Irun, then Hendaye (already France) and take the beautiful road of «La Corniche» (through Hendaye and its beach, the castle of Abaddie, the road «La Corniche» and its cliffs and the Fortress at Socoa). We have included a map with a short itinerary in Saint Jean de Luz
    We recommend a short stop at the food market. Most restaurants concentrate in Rue de la Republique and Rue Tourrase. Le Kaiku, Zoko-Moko, Broullairta and L´Ocean (Grand Thalasso Spa hotel) are the best options for fine dining. You may want also to consider the restaurants near the fortress in Socoa (3 minutes drive from Saint_jean de luz) which specialize in fish and offer good value for money
    You can return to Hondarribia by motorway (A63) on your way back to Hondarribia or head towards Biarritz.
  • Biarritz – France
    A very elegant and popular destination in France and now a top surfers haven. It offers some jewels like the Rocher de la Vierge, its lighthouse, or its architecture, where the Hotel du Palais and the orthodox church stand out. Its good conditions for surfers have brought a new flair and life to Biarritz. Also worth visiting is the aquarium.
  • Aihnoa and Espellete ´The interior of the french basque country offer beautiful villages. Aihnoa and Espellete are the closest ones to the highway and worth a detour if time permits.

Recommended tapas bars and fine dining options in Hondarribia

El Barrio de la Marina is the place for pintxos in Hondarribia. This area is the busiest part of the city and reminds us of the seaport of Fuenterrabia. You will find many bars with terraces and a great local atmosphere. They can get very crowded though.
We recommend Ardoka (with a wider selection of wines) , Gran Sol or Sardara.

If you are looking for a fine dining option instead of tapas, Alameda is a Michelin starred restaurant with different tasting menu options. Much better value for money than in San Sebastian though their prices are going up in recent years. You may want to consider booking a table on the terrace. A great option if the weather is good.


This road trip in Northern Spain Coast continues towards the west. You will leave the Spaish Basque country and enter Cantabria. Its capital, Santader, is our recommended next stop- 1 day recommended or 2 if you want to enjoy the highlights nearby (Altamira caves, Santoña, etc.)

Things to enjoy on your way to Santander driving from Bilbao or San Sebastian

  • Castro Urdiales. The city center offers the best example of a Gothic church in Cantabria. The castle (and lighthouse) and the medieval bridge. For a meal in Castro Urdiales, we recommend Asador El Puerto (great views from the terrace) and La Arboleda.
  • Reserva Natural de las Marismas in Santoña. You can enjoy good views of the bay and birdlife in between the fishing and the sports harbors.
  • Santoña. Famous mainly for the quality of its anchovies, we recommend a visit to the harbour, Santa María del Puerto church and the castle.
  • Cabarceno Natural Reserve is interesting for nature and animal lovers but a minimum of 4 hours is recommended to enjoy it.
  • Lierganes. Not far from it is the nice village of Lierganes with its fantastic bridge and architecture.

Santander is the capital of the region of Cantabria. Santander and its bay constitute one of the more elegant cities of Spain, although its gastronomy is not as well-known as Basque cuisine. The city is well-known for being the homeland of one of Spain´s most important banks «Banco Santander». This institution has invested locally to make Santander a reference in arts and culture.

Top attractions in Santander

  • City center. Explore the city center for tapas (Hernan Cortes street and surroundings). Bodegas Mazon is a good choice.
  • Palace of Magdalena. Walk around the famous Palace of Magdalena and enjoy fantastic views over the bay.
  • Paseo Pereda.Take a picture next to the Monument of Los Raqueros on Paseo Pereda.
  • Water taxi. You can cross the bay on a water taxi to Somo.


If there is only one activity or tour to enjoy being in Santander during this road trip, it is this one. The Altamira caves are simply amazing

Santoña Boat Ride & Anchovy Factory Trip

Santoña is Spain´s top destination for anchovies lovers. This tour is a great way to enjoy Santoña from Santander

Recommened tapas bars and fine dining options in Santander

We recommend dinner at Los Peñucas restaurant (in the fishermen’s quarter of Santander and famous for rice and fish).
Cañadio is one of the most respected restaurants by locals. The bar has a great selection of tapas and the restaurant offers a very elegant environment and a high-quality traditional food
El Serbal is a top reference in Santander, especially since it got a Michelin star


1/2 for Cangas itself. 2 or 3 days if you want to enjoy Covadonga and the lakes or some of the stops on the way

Things to enjoy on your way to Cangas de Onis from Santander on this road trip

  • Santillana del Mar – Santillana is one of the most beautiful villages in Spain and world famous for its Altamira Caves (13,000-year-old cave drawings).
  • Comillas – visit the Capricho de Gaudí, the historic center, the Sobrellano Palace and the Oyambre beach.
  • Cueva El Soplao – one of the great wonders of geology. You can go up on a mining train. Visit lasts 1 hour.
  • San Vicente de la Barquera – beautiful fishing village. Go up to the castle and enjoy the views.
  • Gulpilluri beach – one of the most beautiful beaches accessible by car on this coast. Exit A8 at Naves.
  • Ribadesella (near the coast)
  • Visit the Bufones de Pría, holes in the rock by which arise “false geysers”. They are best seen with high tide and on windy days.

Cangas de Onis was the capital of the Asturian reign. Its king Don Pelayo headed the army that won the famous battle at Covadonga in 722 which is the landmark for the beginning of the reconquering process against the Muslim invasion

Cangas de Onís is today an important touristic destination and the starting point for mountain visits to the famous Picos de Europa and Covadonga Lakes. You can hike up to the Covadonga Monastery. If the weather is good, we recommend continuing the ascent to the Covadonga Lakes

Top attractions in Cangas de Onis

Worth seeing: the Roman bridge, Capilla de Santa Cruz and Iglesia de la Asunción.

You cannot miss the ascent to the Covadonga Sanctuary (15 minutes from Cangas) and the Lakes of Covadonga (35 minutes from Cangas. This only makes sense if the day is not foggy).

Bear in mind that you will need close to 2 hours to enjoy the route to the lakes including a bit of time to walk, enjoy the views, etc.

Sella River Canoeing

If there is a famous kayak ride in Spain, it is this one down river Sella from Cangas de Onis. If you enjoy including sports in your holidays do not hesitate to book this!

Recommened tapas bars and fine dining options in Cangas de Onis

We recommend sidrerias (cider house) El Polesu or El Molín de la Pedrera. Cangas de Onis is a great place to enjoy the traditional and rich gastronomy from Asturias


1/2 day. There are many interesting things to enjoy from Cangas de Onis so you may want to consider a longer stay

Things to enjoy on your way to Oviedo from Cangas de Onis on this road trip

  • Mirador del Fitu – gorgeous view of the Picos de Europa
  • Lastres – beautiful fishing village
  • Villaviciosa – a town famous for its cider houses or “sidrerías”. Visit the Rodiles beach.
  • Tazones – beautiful fishing village
  • Gijón – Explore the San Lorenzo beach, the Plaza Mayor, and go up the hill of Santa Catalina; there, you will find a famous sculpture that the locals affectionately call “King Kong’s toilet”.

Oviedo is the capital of the region of Asturias. it is considered one of the cities in Spain with a higher quality of life. You will enjoy its elegant and lively streets and squares.

We suggest this itinerary in the city: Cathedral of San Salvador, the calle Rúa towards the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, continue on calle Fierro towards the Mercado Fontán and the Plaza Daoiz y Velarde. Continue on Calle Fontán to the Campo de San Francisco park and towards the Campoamor Theater.
On the outskirts of the city is the ancient Romanesque church of Santa María del Naranco.

Local gastronomy: Don’t leave without tasting the “carballones” and other local pastries at Camilo de Blas
This is one of our favorite restaurants in Oviedo, highly advisable

Things to enjoy near Oviedo

Santa Maria del Naranco A Unesco herigate site along with other Christian temples which, at the 8th century, kept alive the flame of Christianity
Please refer to the best things to do on your way from Cangas de Onis or on your way from Oviedo to Lugo to decide which things could be enjoyed as a day excursion if you stay longer in Oviedo

romanic church near Oviedo, Asturias


1/2 day. There are many interesting things to enjoy from Oviedo so you may want to consider a longer stay when planning the road trip schedule

Things to enjoy on your way to Lugo from Oviedo on this road trip

  • Cudillero – Fishing village is considered one of the most beautiful villages of Spain. Many restaurants in the plaza with good atmosphere
  • Luarca – Fishing village. Interesting but similar to Navia (see next) in case you are tight on time.
  • Navia – We recommend avoiding the highway in order to enjoy the views on N640. Navia is a beautiful fishing village. Go up to the Ermita de la Virgen Blanca. We recommend here restaurant La Barcarola.
    Near Ribadeo – one of Spain’s most famous and impressive beaches
  • The Playa de las Catedrales (to the west, reserve your visit online beforehand), and the Peñarronda Beach (to the east)
  • Mondoñedo – see the Episcopal Palace and the art and craft workshops of the Barrio de Los Molinos

Lugo was an important Roman base and remains today one of the places in Spain with more Roman heritage. Its walls, a Unesco heritage site, are a great example of well-preserved history.
Lugo is very much unknown to most tourists and we believe it is a charming stop in this road trip. Much more than just its walls, Lugo has lots of character and interest in itself.

Top attractions in Lugo

  • The Walls – They date back to Roman times when Lugo was Lucus Augusti.
  • Plaza Mayor – A beautiful main square at the heart of Lugo
  • Cathedral – Originally Romanesque and then continued in different styles, it holds an impressive art collection in its interior
  • Octopus. If you ask any Spaniard about what should be eaten in Lugo, you will probably receive a unanimous answer: Lugo. Pulpo a feira is the local specialty and you should not leave Lugo without tasting it. Try it at its best at Pajón and at O Xugo

    We recommend Fonte De Rei for high quality, very affordable food. If you decide to enjoy this restaurant you will end your dinner questioning why you have paid so much on many occasions for much less than what you were served here.

Free Walking tour of Lugo

A great and inexpensive way to enjoy the city of Lugo and its main highlights.

Cathedrals beach and Ribadeo

This beach is considered a monument in Spain. Not an easy to visit on your own though. A tour is recommeded


1 day and at least 2 to 4 days if you want to enjoy el Camino, Rias Baixas or even Northern Portugal

Things to enjoy on your way to Santiago de Compostela from Lugo on this road trip

This route from Lugo to Santiago is one of the final stages in the Camino de Santiago. We recommend you profit from this by either walking or enjoying some of the interesting villages on the way.

This route runs through towns that make up the 3 final stages of the Camino de Santiago (stages 32, 33 and 34). Among them, the highlight is probably Palas de Rey, at the end of stage 32. We recommend 2 brief detours: from Palas de Rey to Pambre to enjoy its beautiful castle, and also from Palas de Rey to Puertomarín, end of stage 31 of the Camino de Santiago and known for its beautiful Romanesque church. We recommend enjoying a drink at El Mirador de Portomarin. Good views and a good quality menu.

Santiago is famous not only as being the destination for the Camino but also by its culture and universal history. The Obradorio Square and Cathedral are must-sees, as well as a stroll in the food market because of the vibrant colors of their local seafood-filled stalls.

Top attractions in Santiago de Compostela

  • Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.. Undoubtedly one of the most important cathedrals of Christianity and the most important point of pilgrimage in Europe. A shell and an arrow indicate the Camino de Santiago that ends at the Cathedral. The mass for pilgrims is celebrated every day at 12:00. The “Botafumeiro” is the most unique element of the cathedral. A giant censer that can carry 40 kilograms of incense as it swings across the cathedral (its original purpose was to eliminate the odors that the pilgrims brought in).
  • Cathedral rooftops. . We recommend the visit to the Cathedral rooftops. It is necessary to book at least one day in advance.
  • The Squares.. The “Plaza del Obradoiro” is the most famous being in front of the Cathedral. Do not miss visiting the others that surround the Cathedral: Plaza de la Quintana, Plaza de la Inmaculada (Azabachería) and Inmaculada Plaza de Platerías.
  • Mercado de Abastos. . The Galician people boast of having the best seafood in Europe. Where better to buy it than here? A beautiful market that is best to go to early to enjoy all its liveliness. One of the bars of the market, Marisco Manía, lets you eat and enjoy the seafood purchased at the market there (paying for the preparation of the food and drinks).
  • Parque de la Alameda. A lovely park just next to the center of the city (take the Rua do Franco from the Cathedral – we do not recommend eating at one of the restaurants on this street). The Alameda Park has fantastic views of the city and the Cathedral.

Things to enjoy near Santiago de Compostela

  • Rias Baixas and albariño wine country If you are interested in discovering the wines of Galicia, you may be interested in a day trip to Rías Baixas wine region of Galicia, just one hour drive from Santiago de Compostela.
  • Cambados is the capital of albariño wine and there are wineries nearby that you can visit with a previous reservation. We can recommend Bodegas Martín Códax, Agro de Bazán and Paco y Lola.
  • A Coruña Santiago is famous not only as being the destination for the Camino, but also for its culture and universal history. The Obradorio Square and Cathedral are must-sees, as well as a stroll in the food market because of the vibrant colors of their local seafood-filled stalls.
  • Combarro. a Typical and very famous village with the best example of horreo architecture in Spain
  • Islas Cies. This natural park offers the best beaches in Spain. Tours depart from Vigo.


Discover some of the top sites and highlights in Santiago with this high-quality free tour of the city


The cathedral is the end of El Camino, Santiago´s top attraction and one of the top things to visit also in Spain

Rias Baixas tour from Santiago

We love this itinerary with Pontevedra, Combarro and cambados. Cambados is home to the famous Alabariño wine

Rias Baixas boat tour

Enjoy a very affordable tour of Rias Baixas with wine and mussels tasting on board. Cambados, Combarro and Pontevedra.
Top Value

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