16 nights in North Spain

Dec 16th, 2012, 12:47 PM
  #1  
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16 nights in North Spain

Hi,

Last year I spent an amazing 2 months in Spain and Italy (and Paris). I really enjoyed Spain (moreso than Italy which is hard to admit being Italian myself). However the only place in North Spain I went to was San Sebastian (for 4 nights). Since San Sebastian was the highlight of my entire trip I really want to experience more in the north of Spain,

So in 2013 I intend to spend another 2 months solo travelling and at this stage am considering 16 nights (14 full days) in north of Spain (incl San Sebastian again). Any thoughts on my itinerary below would be appreciated.

Info:
- at this stage, the North Spain leg will be 2nd half of August
- travelling from Melbourne Australia (which will be around 30 hours based current first stop on my itinerary) so arrival day and probably next day are probably rest days
- primary interests are beaches, walking, scenic landscapes and towns, food, people culture
- am not interested in art, museums or partying (though good selection of bars for some drinks preferred)
- I will be relying entirely on public transport
- On final day flying to Istanbul, so trip must end in a city with an airport that services Istanbul cheaply. I would prefer not to finish in Barcelona or Madrid since I have been to those cities extensively and do not want to stay a night there. Bilbao seems the only other choice unless I've missed something
- I would like to try and spend one day in Picos de Europa (with a tour if necessary) so any suggestions there would be greatly appreciated...for example, can it be done from Llanes in my current itinerary

Tentative itinerary so far:

- Santiago de Campostela (4 nights)
- Leon (2 nights)
- Llanes (4 nights) - incl a daytrip to Picos de Europa if possible and perhaps one to Santillana as well though that seems a little circular...perhaps should just go to Santillana and stay there overnight on the last full day?
- San Sebastian (4 nights) - incl daytrip to Hondarribia and another daytrip if any suggestions
- Bilbao (2 nights then fly out to Istanbul)

The two logisitical concerns I have with the above:
- Is Leon to Llanes feasible by train and/or bus without too much difficulty? I initially had Oviedo as an overnight stop, but felt that would be a waste
- Is the Picos de Europa feasible from Llanes as a daytrip? If not I would probably reduce my stay in Llanes to 3 nights but where to spend the extra one?

PS: I had fully intended to stay in Cadaques for 3 nights, but it just seemed to hard logistically because really want to visit Santiago DC as well
Cdchi1 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2012, 01:43 PM
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Next year you should be able to fly from SdC to Istanbul Link to news in Spanish:
http://santiagoaeropuerto.com/turism...to-de-santiago
Flights are due to start on 21 May 2013. However i cannot seem them on the Turkish Airlines website just yet.
If they do start to fly them maybe think about doing the route from BCN to SdC.
I would not stay in SdC for 4 days. 2 at the most will allow you to see everything the city has to offer.
Trains run from León to Gijón on RENFE services http://www.renfe.com
To get between Gijón and Llanes use the services run by FEVE http://www.feve.es
ribeirasacra is offline  
Dec 16th, 2012, 01:51 PM
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Sounds like a great plan. Leon to Llanes is four hours and some 20€ with the Alsa bus company. This fastest alternative leaves Leon at 9am and 1, 3 and 5 pm on weekdays:
http://www.alsa.es/portal/site/Alsa/...tte.cachetoken

This site might give you some more ideas on "Green Spain":
http://www.greenspain.org/
kimhe is offline  
Dec 16th, 2012, 01:56 PM
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I have visited many of the places you mention and did like them a lot. Had a car so transportation was easy. Can't really advise on public transport but others may, or you will I am sure research online.

The Picos are indeed spectacular, especially for someone who loves walking and scenic landscapes. You might try the tourist office of one of the jumping-off places in the Picos (Potes? Panes?) to see what they say about tours or access via train or bus. Even if you can get to a jumping-off town, you'll want to go into the mountains, so the tourist offices are a good starting point.

BTW, there is (fairly) near the Picos a town/village (blanking on the name, but should be easy to find) where the reconquista began (the reconquest of Spain by the Catholic monarchs from the Moors). I did not go but it is said to be worthwhile.

I too love San Sebastian, and I can tell you that Santiago de Compostella is absolutely one of the finest cities I have ever seen in Europe. The cathedral and the plaza it faces are truly stunning. From Santiago, try to make a day trip down to the rias, the fjord-like bays that wind in from the Atlantic. The scenery is lovely and the food (seafood, of course) simply wonderful.

While in Galicia (the province of Santiago), you must try the little green peppers called pimientos de padron. They are simply delicious. Most are mild, but one in a dozen or so is somewhat hot (though still delicious). They call this the peppr lottery.

Santillana del Mar is indeed pretty, though fairly heavily touristed. Not sure if the replica of the cave (Alta Mira, nearby) is still open. If so you should go.

From San Sebastian, if you want/need a day trip, consider Pamplona, whose old town is quite nice. Should be good bus/train connections from San Sebastian and/or Bilbao. Another day trip from San Sebastian/Bilbao is Gernika, which is fairly modern but still worth it for the experience of being in the town where Franco allowed the Nazis to test out their new blitzkrieg tactics. This is the town so movingly portrayed in Picasso's painting Guernica.

And last, from San Sebastian it is only perhaps 45 minutes (probably good bus or train service) to the airport in Biarritz, France. You may find air connections into/out of this city to be better than any of the gateways you mention.

Because it is a fairly long distance from Santiago on the west to San Sebastian on the east, you should plan to fly into one end and out the other – don't backtrack. There is an airport in Santiago (have never used it), but if more convenient/cheaper consider using the airport at Porto (Portugal), just a couple of hours from Santiago (probably bus/train service).
Geonev is offline  
Dec 16th, 2012, 02:27 PM
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http://www.vvww.net/articles/bayonaislescies.html

Look into Ile De Cies, it is one of the most beautiful beaches in Spain and relatively unknown to tourists.
Golemtoo is offline  
Dec 16th, 2012, 04:17 PM
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ribeirasacra

I actually initially planned my itinerary to end up in SdC and fly to Istanbul, but then I saw the COST and completely reversed the decision I will have to reconsider it again, and see how much a flight for Melbourne to San Sebastian costs. So thank you so much for that information.

Regarding 4 nights in SdC yes the reason why was because the first full day and the arrival day would probably be a rest day...it's a very long flight from Melbourne to SdC and I am a very poor sleeper - especially on planes.

Also thank you for the train info Leon - Gijon - Llanes.
Cdchi1 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2012, 04:19 PM
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Thank you Kimhe, I didn't realise there was a bus route from Leon to Llanes. Will compare with train, i hear the trin is a very nice scenic route.

thank you Golemtoo, I will have a look at Ile De Cies
Cdchi1 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2012, 04:28 PM
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Thank you Geonev some great information. Yes although I said I did not have an interest in art, I did go and see the Guernica painting last year and admit I stood in front of it for quite a while - was also funny to see people trying to sneak a photo of it and getting reprimanded

Interesting options on the airports...never even thought about checking those in other countries for connecting to Istanbul (a flight from San Sebastian to Istanbul is quoted at well over 1,000 euro...crazy!).

I love hot food so the pimientos are deifnitely on the 'to eat' list, and if I'm lucky int he lottery I'll get one of the hot ones

I am very much considering Potes (or another similar town in the Picos) instead of Llanes...I really like hiking...and I have so many coastal visits later in my 2 month trip that I can probably give it a miss without too many regrets. Just need to see how feasible (and costly) it is without a car.
Cdchi1 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2012, 07:30 PM
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I have not traveled from town to town in the north without a car in many years. Remember it is almost 500 miles across Northern Spain so even with 16 days, anything but a car will take huge chucks out of your time.
Golemtoo is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 01:17 AM
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Whict train did you find for the Leon - Llanes part? No RENFE or FEVE train between those to cities.
kimhe is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 02:35 AM
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Kimhe

No direct train...have to goto Gijon (or maybe Oviendo, haven't checked fully yet) then get connecting train to Llanes.

Does not look like its possible to get to Potes from Leon by bus so thats off the list. I think I will end up settling for Llanes (and hope I can find a daytrip into Picos). Seems to be some beautiful little towns to visit from Llanes too...saw some photos of San Vincente de la Barquera today, really nice.

Can get to Potes from Santander by bus, so possible if as per flight information earlier I can switch my trip around, but then would be too much hassle to go from Potes to Santiago.
Cdchi1 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 12:08 PM
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Is there a chance you will return to Spain for another couple weeks anytime soon (you seem to have a trend here)?

The reason I ask is that you are covering alot of ground (especially using public transportation) in 2 weeks and missing alot of special places in between (Oviedo, Burgos, La Rioja, Luarca, Santander, Gijon, Lugo, Pontevedra, A Coruna, etc....). You could easily break this trip up into 2 separate trips. Public transportation in these areas can be limiting. It can be done but it will take you longer to get to the more remote areas. I'm definately not an expert on this area but did visit a couple of times using bus/train.

I understand wanting to spend 4 nights in Santiago de Compostela after the long trip. I spent 3 nights there after a transtlantic flight and it was good as the first day was jetlagged. 2 nights in Leon is good but you have at least a five hour journey to get there from Santiago de Compostela. Then 2 days later you have at least a 4 hour bus ride (with a transfer in Oviedo) to get to Llanes. 4 days in Llanes is a bit much without a car. I wasn't able to find any organized trips to the Picos from Llanes (this was about 7 years ago). But you may consider spending a couple of nights in Cangas de Onis. From Cangas there are buses that run in the summer and you can visit some of the smaller villages. Also, there's a Sunday morning cheese market in Cangas that is wonderful - all of the cheese producers from the mountain villages come into town and you'll taste cheeses that have never made their way outside Spain! Your plan has you going from Llanes to San Sebastian which is another 4-5 hour bus ride. And if you end up needing to get to Barcelona or Madrid for the flight to Istanbul then it will be more ground you'll have to cover. If you broke this up in two trips then you could see more of each area and not have so much travel time between places.
CathyM is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 12:49 PM
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I'd listen to CathyM, she knows what she's talking about when it comes to getting around by public transportation. I've covered the areas you've considering a few times over the last 10 years, but only by car, which to me, is the only way to get around in the north, if you want to cover some ground and see the countryside.
Robert2533 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 02:42 PM
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Hi Robert

Yes definitely considering many of the things Cathy said...except the cheese As i informed her on another forum, I cannot stand raw cheese...sorry if this horrifies anyone

On pizza though its fine!

I don't know why but I have a fear of driving overseas ...maybe its something that I just need to DO to get over it, but its the 'just doing' part that is hard
Cdchi1 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 03:03 PM
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As a solo traveler I wouldn't recommend renting a car. It's difficult to try to read foreign road signs and negotiate directions without a "navigator" in the passenger seat - at least in my opinion. Also, can be expensive to rent without someone sharing in the expense. This, and the fact that I can't drive a stick shift is why I normally have to depend on public transportation.
CathyM is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 04:32 PM
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CathyM is correct...A navigator is essential and manual drive is the most common. Automatic is off the wall for $$$$...
amer_can is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 05:10 PM
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Bring a friend!
Robert2533 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 10:36 PM
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cathyM, it shames me to say it, but I can't a drive manual either. I also have a terrible sense of direction. As someone once told me, "Mate, you'd get lost in your own driveway."

Amer...yes I have heard automatic rental prices are ridiculous in Europe.

Rob, I would but my I'm a very different traveller type than my friends who are mostly (STILL!) party animals. I'll want to hike the Picos, they'll want to hike to the closest bar
Cdchi1 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2012, 11:28 PM
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Just to confirm, did not receive a response from Turkish Airlines yet, but finally got their website working and it does have reservations available for SdC flights to Istanbul. The cost for cheapest economy is 260euro in August and flight takes around 4.5 hrs with no stops. Just be aware though that seems to be only 3 flights a week and not on same days each week...so if i take this option, I'll need to be careful with my planning and will probably need to add a couple nights in Barcelona...flight to SanSeb from Melbourne is too expensive unless i book two separate flights which is a hassle.
Cdchi1 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2012, 07:05 AM
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Have you considered flying into Bilbao? You may be able to get a connecting flight via Paris. I know they have skuyeam alliance flights.
CathyM is offline  

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