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4 days between Barcelona and Bilbao - suggestions welcome!

4 days between Barcelona and Bilbao - suggestions welcome!

Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 06:39 PM
  #1  
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4 days between Barcelona and Bilbao - suggestions welcome!

Update on my travel plans: we have 5 nights booked in Barcelona (April 1-6) and 4 nights in Bilbao (April 10-14).

I’m now trying to figure out the 4 days in between. Rather than just staying on the coast In Donostia or Hondarribia, I was toying with the idea of a driving loop that might include Laguardia or other small towns in La Rioja (2 nights?) and the. drive to the coast and stay in or near one of the smaller coastal towns. im stumped trying to figure out the best route.

We aren’t big drinkers (though a visit to one winery would be nice!) - this would be more about driving and seeing the countryside and small villages.

Timewise, the best flight from Barcelona flies to Bilbao, as it arrives in early afternoon. We could easily drive an hour or more after that flight.

The flight into the San Sebastián airport is less ideal and arrives late in the afternoon, so I wouldn’t want to be driving after we arrived. We could stay in Hondarribia or Donostia-SS (1-2 nights), then pick up a car, and perhaps drive the coast or to Laguardia/La Rioja.

Assuming we rented the car in Bilbao, we would drop it off upon arrival in that city.

Any suggestions on how to make this work? I’m a bit all over the place!

Thanks for all the ideas!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 09:14 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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You have such a wealth of options, progol! I'm sure it's hard to choose; the good news is that you don't have a bad option.

I enjoyed Laguardia and thought the scenery near it quite interesting, but I didn't travel between either Bilbao or Donostia and Laguardia, so I have no idea what that trip would be like. I'm pretty sure the terrain you would see in that journey would be different than the terrain near Laguardia itself. If you decide to visit any wineries, note that many require reservations. That's been discussed in several recent threads on this forum, so you should be able to get relevant information very easily.

If you are interested in Basque culture, you could easily swing over into France to see some of the French Basque region. I think someone already suggested that to you, so maybe it doesn't appeal to you?

I believe you said you've been to Barcelona before, but what about Girona? Figueres? the Costa Brava? Tarragona? Montserrat? Plenty so see in Catalunya.

Good luck deciding!

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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 03:56 AM
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Thanks, kja.

My plan is to fly from Barcelona to either San Sebastián or Bilbao, so while Girona and Catalunya might be great, it’s not really feasible to travel this region and then backtrack to Barcelona to fly out. I really am trying to figure out a good use of the 4 days to get a flavor of the regions accessible to Bilbao. And we would pick up a car and drive if it seemed like a good idea.

I have reservations in Hondarribia for 3 nights that are cancellable, but I don’t know if it’s a place to stay for 3 nights. One more thought- after 2 or 3 days, we can pick up a car at the airport and drive along the coast or inland. I’m just trying to understand what might be a good scenic drive and interesting place to stay.

Can anyone suggest a nice drive that would include both the coast and inland? Or is that too much to do?
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 05:19 AM
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Let me try to outline the options that I’m considering and I’d love feedback on this!

1) Fly into SS Airport, then 3 nights in Hondarribia, day trip to either SS or St Jean De Luz; then pick up car and do coastal drive, sleep in town TBD. Drop off car in Bilbao.

2) Fly into SS Airport. Then 2 nights Hondarribia, pick up car and drive inland to Laguardia for 2 nights. Drive to Bilbao and drop off car.

3) Fly into Bilbao airport, pick up car, drive to Laguardia (2 nights?). Drive to coast and stay in town along the coast, either smaller town, like Getara (2 nights?) Stop in Guernica on way to Bilbao. Drop off car.

I’d like to keep it simple. In some ways, staying in Hondarribia,for 2-3 nights and then getting a car for a coastal drive seems wonderful. In other ways driving inland seems equally interesting. Would it make a difference in choosing which to do knowing that we will be traveling in early April? Perhaps the 3 nights in Hondorribia make the most sense.

Last edited by progol; Feb 3rd, 2020 at 05:56 AM.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 06:38 AM
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As I've been doing more reading, I think we will stick to the coastal areas and not travel inland. If we stay in Hondarribia for 2-3 nights, where might we stay for one night before arriving in Bilbao?

We would drop off the car when we arrive in Bilbao; I don't think having a car in Bilbao makes sense, does it?
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 06:49 AM
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We haven't stayed there yet but we are looking at Zumaia for our trip in the spring. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, that area is where some of the series was shot. We are fans but that isn't why we chose it-and since we will be there off season I am hoping it won't be "over touristed" now that the series is finished.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/game-...b0aa14ea781ef8

And you are right about Bilbao-you won't want a car there for the main sites. Since you are sticking to the coastal areas, you might also consider checking out Santander before you backtrack to Bilbao, it is a nice town as well.

We have done the drive you described earlier in your post through the La Rioja area. It is nice but of course will add quite a bit more driving-the highlight for us of that area was Pamplona.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 07:03 AM
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Thanks, jpie,
I appreciate your recommendations. As we are not Game of Thrones fans, perhaps I should stay away? But I'll check out Zumaia to get a feeling for it. I can't imagine it will be overrun with fans in early April!

I'll look into Santander as well.

But since you are here, do you think the La Rioja area "worth it" over staying the coastal route, or for a first-timer to this area, would you stick to the coastal areas? I suspect the latter, but I'm curious.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 07:58 AM
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Honestly I with the amount of time you have I would stick with the coastal road. We liked the Rioja area but weren't really bowled over by it. Then again we have visited lots of wine areas in Europe and the US and are kind of like you in that we would probably only visit 1-2 wineries at most.

Aside from GOT fans, the Zumaia area is supposed to be really beautiful for vistas and landscape.

To be honest, if you stick to the coastal areas, I would also be tempted to venture over to the French Basque country a bit from Hondaribba-villages like Sare and Ainhoa are really cute and maybe even go as far as St Jean de luz up the coast a bit. My husband is French and we have family in that area so have visited there a couple of times. I think the inland areas are very scenic-as are the inland areas from San Sebastian on the Spanish side.

In any case, it sounds like it is shaping up to be a fun trip-I know you will enjoy it!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 08:40 AM
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From Hondarribia you can go east, and visit St Jean de Luz, Bayonne, Espelette, Ainhoa, Sare and return to Hondarribia. You can also go east and visit San Sebastian and follow the coastal road to Getaria, stopping maybe in Orio, and then Zumaia, Mutriku, Ea, Elantxobe...Or go inland and visit Ońati and wonderful Arantzazu and from there Loyola and the sanctuary and castle (birthplace of St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, really impressive, and beautiful landscapes), stopping in Tolosa. Rioja (not La Rioja, that´s another autonomous region; Rioja Alavesa is where Laguardia is and it´s the BAsque Country) offers beautiful Laguardia, Elciego, Labastida,..., and great small wineries (not the big names, not worth it) and it´s a two hour drive from SS, a bit over one hour from Bilbao. You have also Gernika and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on the way from SS to Bilbao.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 08:59 AM
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I would reverse the equation and stay in St-Jean-de-Luz or Ciboure and do the day trips from there to Hondarribia and thereabouts. But I'm a complete sucker for St-JdL.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 10:40 AM
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Yes I am with StCirq on that.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 12:27 PM
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Don’t know if Zaragoza is on your way...good spot for a day..
We liked Santander ...not as glamorous as SS but it has a
nice feel.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 02:35 PM
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Thank you, everyone! There’s so much to absorb - I will try to finalize this portion of our trip shortly, and appreciate your patience with my questions. I’m beginning to get overwhelmed with TMP (too much planning) and need to take a days break!

danon, I’m inclined to fly Barcelona to either SS or Bilbao, and not take the train across. Zaragoza looks lovely, but is a large city, and I’m concerned about burning out in cities too early on our trip. Following Spain, we will be in Portugal for 3 weeks, so I’m trying to set a gentle pace.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 02:40 PM
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we flew Vueling from Barcelona to Bilbao and took the bus from the airport to SS...very easy and inexpensive.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 03:10 PM
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danon, we will either fly to Bilbao or to San Sebastián, depending where we stay. The advantage of Bilbao is the timing - we can take an early afternoon flight. The flight to SS doesn’t arrive till 6pm or so. So I need to figure out where we’re going before I purchase the tickets.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 05:24 PM
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The flights don’t land in SS but in Hondarribia .
We took a flight back to Barcelona from H...it was a long taxi drive from SS .
I purchased and printed bus tickets from Bilbao airport to SS.
It was a nice ride .

..
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 05:26 PM
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kja
 
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Originally Posted by progol View Post
I’m beginning to get overwhelmed with TMP (too much planning) and need to take a days break!
Sounds like a good plan!
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Old Feb 10th, 2020, 09:25 AM
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Back again! I’ve just finished organizing my 20 nights in Portugal and feel relieved! Trip plans are finally coming together.

The only piece of my trip left to finalize are the 4 nights before we arrive in Bilbao, where we will be for 4 nights, and then fly to Lisbon after that. Again, this is in April, so I’d like to make a decision based on the possibility that we may see a fair amount of rain.

I‘m now thinking of breaking up the 4 nights before Bilbao into 2 stays along the coast. First, fly into SS- Donostia airport and stay in Hondarribia for 2 nights. We can day trip to either Donostia or SJD if we want.

Then pick up a car at the airport and drive to either Lekeitio or Getaria. From what I’ve read, Leikitio has more to do but I’m also intrigued by perhaps doing part of the Flysch walk from Getaria toward Zumaia. Any thoughts which place.

Then drop the car at Bilbao RR station. Auto Europe doesn’t have the option to drop off in the train station but Europcar does. Having read negative reviews of the latter company, is this rental safe?

Thanks for all your help!
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Old Feb 10th, 2020, 09:28 AM
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We have rented from Europ car a number of times in France with no issues-they are one of the major companies there at least.
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Old Feb 10th, 2020, 09:42 AM
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I´d drive from Hondarribia to Getaria, visit the town, enjoy a fantastic seafood lunch (take into account we have lunch around 2 to 3pm, and it´s the big meal of the day), and finish in Lekeitio (try to find a place with a parking place, it´s quite complicated). Lekeitio can be seen in a few hours, as Getaria. Getaria has the great Balenciaga Dress Museum and it´s also the hometown of the first person that circumnavegated the world. No, not Magellan...Elcano, who finished with 17 more sailors.
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