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David's First Draft Itinerary for Northern Spain and Portugal 2018

David's First Draft Itinerary for Northern Spain and Portugal 2018

Old Jun 28th, 2017, 03:57 PM
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David's First Draft Itinerary for Northern Spain and Portugal 2018

Hello fellow Fodorites. I wanted to post my first draft itinerary for my trip next April to Northern Spain and Portugal. All that is locked in at this point are the dates-leaving from Minneapolis on Monday, April 9 and returning on Tuesday, May 1. So 21 nights. For those who I have not chatted with before, I spent 3 weeks in Spain during early spring 2015, visiting Madrid, Segovia, Toledo, Sevilla (for Semana Santa, the highlight of highlights), Córdoba, Granada and Barcelona. I have never visited Portugal. In this upcoming trip, the only place I plan to revisit is Toledo as I only had one night there in my first trip ( so barely 24 hours) and while I saw a lot, I feel like I shortchanged this amazing city.

Here is the first draft itinerary I've landed on:

Toledo. (2 nights-arrive in Madrid early the morning of day 1 and catch first train to Toledo I can)
Salamanca (3 nights, including spending most of day 3 visiting Avila on the way Fromm Toledo)
La Rioja. (3 nights, basing in either Logrono or Laguardia)
Burgos (1 night)
Leon (2 nights)
Santiago de Compostela (3 nights, including one day for touring the Albariño wine region)
Porto (3 nights)
Fatima (visit on the way from Porto to Lisbon)
Lisbon (4 nights)

So I have a couple of questions at this early stage:

1. It seems like visiting Northern Spain requires a lot of moving around as. One of the towns require much more than 3 nights, yet there are so many that seem worthwhile to visit. Should I be basing myself somewhere for 5-6 nights and do practical day trips?)

2. It pains me to leave out San Sebastián but if I were to include it, it would mean dropping either Salamanca, Burgos/Leon or Porto. Am I making a big mistake by not including it?

I'm sure I'll have more questions and i review your feedback but let me stop here and get initial feedback.

Thanks all.
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Old Jun 28th, 2017, 05:10 PM
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I haven’t been to Portugal or Galicia yet, and so will only comment on the parts that involve places I have visited. And for them -- Toledo, Salamanca, Avila, La Rioja, Burgos, and Leon -- I think you’ve come up with a GREAT plan! (As noted on another thread, you might consider staying in Haro rather than Laguardia or Logrono.)

Q1: I’m not much of a base-and-spoke person – I HATE backtracking! But I think that’s a personal preference, with no right or wrong answers. I would suggest, however, that some of the places in northern Spain that you are considering are far enough away from one another that you should make sure to consider the timing before finalizing your plan.

Q2: San Sebastian. I must admit that I was not enamored of Saint Sebastian – I enjoyed it, but it is my least favorite of the places I’ve been fortunate enough to see in Spain. (And before anyone jumps on me again, note that I am not saying that I didn’t enjoy it – I did. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as other places.) I’m glad a spent a few nights there, but northern Spain holds SOOooooo very much of interest that I think you might want to consider waiting to visit it until you can include some of these other spectacular places in your itinerary. JMO.

FWIW, I adored Salamanca and thoroughly enjoyed Burgos and Leon. Personally, I would not have given any of them up for San Sebastian; JMO. And to go all the way to Portugal and skip Porto, while instead skipping most of northern Spain? Not a choice I would make. But again, that’s just me.

Should be a great trip, no matter what you choose!
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Old Jun 28th, 2017, 05:13 PM
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I would save the week in Portugal for another trip and add the time to Spain. Lots to see in Spain!

Here is a link to my trip to northwestern Spain, maybe you will find something helpful. I am going to northeastern Spain for 32 days this September so can't help there.

I did central Spain on another trip and loved Toledo, Salamanca, Avila, and the other locations that visited! That was another terrific trip.

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...n-pictures.cfm
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Old Jun 28th, 2017, 06:56 PM
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@ joannyc: Just a note about timing: After several trips of 30 days, I was surprised by how much more tired I was on the last day of my trip than I expected. Of course, I'm growing older! But I don't think its just age -- its also about how one paces one's time before and after reaching that last stop, etc. No matter how tempting I find it to add that "just one more day" to my itinerary, I don't think I'll ever again go beyond 30 days -- until I forget or find a good reason to try! ;-) LOTS of room for fitting plans within 30 days or not... just something to consider....
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Old Jun 28th, 2017, 06:58 PM
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For clarity -- I recently came back from my first 31-day trip. Sorry that detail wasn't clear!
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Old Jun 28th, 2017, 10:11 PM
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method of travel?
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Old Jun 30th, 2017, 12:35 PM
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Thank you :for the initial feedback all.

@kja: I'll look into Haro as a base as well, but I remember reading somewhere that it's not a very attractive city. I know LdH is located in Haro, so perhaps I'd be trading atmosphere for convenience? I seem to recall that you really enjoyed LaGuardia. The photos I've seen look beautiful. The rental car required though seems to be the only negative, although I'd love your feedback re. the extent of restaurants within the town.

Your feedback makes me feel a little better about likely leaving out San Sebastian. And I found I had a hard time going to Portugal to see only Lisbon (plus a short visit to Fatima). That is why I extended this trip by 3 nights to include Porto. At 21 nights, it will be my longest trip yet, by two nights.

@joannyc: I'm afraid my flight home from Lisbon is already booked, so Portugal will be in this agenda. In all honesty, I'm not sure that there's enough in Portugal to hold my interest for a 2 week trip on its own (perhaps this trip will prove me wrong?), so it felt like this trip or never.

I will definitely review your trip reports along with kja's.

@riberirasacra: I'll be traveling within Spain and Portugal by train. I would only plan to rent a car if I stay in LaGuardia for touring La Rioja.
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Old Jun 30th, 2017, 07:08 PM
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Lopez de Heredia is by no means the only winery in Haro, and I believe there may also be places to test olive oils.

That said, yes, I truly enjoyed Laguardia / Biasteri. I was very plesed with my stay at the Erletxe B&B, which at least one other Fodorite recommended.
http://www.erletxe.com
I ate two dinners in Laguardia.
1. La Muralia, which I thought an absolute delight – and an affordable one!
http://www.cuevalamuralla.es
2. Restaurante Los Parajes, which gets some great reviews, but with which I was not pleased. Note that I ate in the downstairs (cave) part; not the upscale (and pricey) upstairs section
http://www.hospederiadelosparajes.com/restaurantes.html

When I researched my trip, I was impressed with the range of restaurants in Laguardia that receive high praise. As I recall, I was particularly interested in Amelibia, but it was closed when I was there. And in addition to restaurants, there are a number of tapas / pintxos places. I would be surprised if you found it difficult to find enough good food to meet your needs in a stay of multiple days, as IMO, it certainly has enough dining options at various price points for a stay of several days.

I’m a bit surprised by your thoughts on Portugal. I roughed out an itinerary some years ago, and thought that I would want at least 2 or 2.5 weeks for that country. But I haven’t revisited those plans, and they were just a rough first draft....

Almost all of my trips have been more than 21 days; I often plan for 4 weeks at a time. IMO, it takes a bit more attention to one’s pace, but there can be some wonderful advantages to trips that are on the longer side. I hope that’s your experience, too!
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Old Jun 30th, 2017, 09:53 PM
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April in San Sebastián would be as good as it gets, the most beautiful town in Spain, the culinary capital of Europe and a local and very distinct culture that people take great pride. Wonderful parks and plazas, San Sebastián is a walking city, among the three town hills Igueldo, Urgull and Ulía. A dramatic Napoleonic and Civil War history still very much alive. And all this a couple of months before the hordes of summer vistors flock to town.

And April means spring is coming, and you can have a cold swim in one of the three finest city beaches on the continent. https://www.sansebastianturismo.com/...o-to-the-beach

Lots of secrets awaiting those not only scratching the surface: http://www.cntraveler.com/story/insi...tiesfor-eating

Fine intro to the 2016 European Capital of Culture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRWCdjw1C8Q

"To visit San Sebastián ... is to fall in love": http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/tr...stin-spain.htm
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Old Jun 30th, 2017, 10:02 PM
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Some of those train trips will take up all or most of you day do not to forget to count the time allowance for you checking in and out, taxi to and from hotel station.I assume you will purchase some food on the train.
Rias Baixas can only be explored by car,if you want to visit bodegas. Maybe contact the tourist office in SdC to see if one of their guides are doing tours to the area.
http://www.santiagoturismo.com/actividades-santiago
or see if a guide can meet you at a station.
http://turismoriasbaixas.com/en/web/...l-del-albari-1
crossing the border and using the train means you only have choice of 2 trains per day.
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Old Jul 4th, 2017, 06:38 AM
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Don't include San Sebastian if you would feel disappointed or that it's a waste of time to be there in cold rainy weather, which is very likely in April. The same is true of Porto, of course, and probably Santiago de Compestela, but these are not beach towns. I am not sure why San Sebastian was voted a European Capital of Culture, but there is not much greatly rewarding in San Sebastian if it rains other than eating.

You will probably do better to take the bus to and from Fatima, in particular if you don't intend to spend the night. However, I am not sure what you do with your luggage while sightseeing.
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Old Jul 6th, 2017, 08:53 AM
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@kja: I can see that in addition to LdH, both La Rioja Alta and Muga are located in Haro. I'm leaning now towards staying, car free, in Haro and perhaps bussing over to Logrono one evening for what I've heard is a very good tapas scene.

@kimhe and Amarante: It will be a very tough call to make but I am now 90% sure I will skip San Sebastian on this trip. Feels like I could easily add it in the next time I do a trip to France.

@Amarante: Thanks for the bus tip on Fatima. I will look into that, along with luggage storage.

@Everyone: I know it is probably crazy, but would it be doable to leave Porto on the first train that morning to Coimbra, spend 3-4 hours touring the university area, then catch a bus to Fatima to spend a few hours there before taking a final bus to Lisbon? I'm sure I would arrive in Lisbon very late in the evening, but that would then allow me 3 full days for Lisbon (which feels like the bare minimum needed) while seeing both Coimbra and Fatima.
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Old Jul 6th, 2017, 11:35 AM
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also @kja: I'm looking at Erlexte and it looks very charming. There is a tiny photo of LaGuardia in a recent Lonely Planet Spain book and something about that photo has been calling me to stay in LaGuardia for months now. Have to decide on the convenience of Haro vs. the charm of LaGuardia.
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Old Jul 6th, 2017, 01:34 PM
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In theory it's possible to see Coimbra's university and Fatima in one day, although obviously you'd need to look at the nitty-gritty of the train/bus schedules. The university takes less than an hour to see, and presumably you have only a limited number of things you want to do Fatima. However, there are two more issues that make it hard to know if you can pull it off:

1) Only about 20 people at a time are allowed into the university library in Coimbra. It's a timed, ticketed entry. I actually don't know if you can reserve in advance online -- but if not, you'd be at the mercy of how many people get to the library before you. The main reason to go to the university is seeing the library, so you don't want to leave without entering.

2) You most certainly will not be allowed to enter the library with luggage, so you need someplace to store it. I'm unaware where you do that in Coimbra if the train station or bus station doesn't have storage. Maybe the ticket desk at the university itself will store it. (You also need to think about this for Fatima).

One somewhat expensive way to get around these problems would be to take a commercial bus tour that combines Fatima & Coimbra. They typically leave Porto early in the morning, go first to Fatima, then go to Coimbra. If you take your luggage with you and leave the tour in Coimbra, you could take the train from there to Lisbon, probably around 5pm. Such tours cost around 100e, but you might think it was worth it. (You'd save 3/4 of your transportation costs plus entrance fees.) You can usually book a tour like that online but before you do you need to double check that (a) the tour includes the library & anything you are going to Fatima to see, and (b) the tour organizers are OK with you bringing your luggage and that there is a secure place for it to be stored while you sightsee.
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Old Jul 6th, 2017, 01:46 PM
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It seems a shame to visit Coimbra just for the library. I remember it as an interesting town in its own right, and the Roman ruins just outside at Conimbriga are excellent. Three days for Lisbon is pushing it, I have visited several times for what must be at least three weeks total now.

Add me to those who think San Sebastian in the rain is a waste of time. I am not overly enamored of it even if it is not raining....
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Old Jul 6th, 2017, 03:39 PM
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Erlexte was, indeed, very charming, as was the rest of Laguardia -- but as you have already noted, you would (I think) need a car for Laguardia. And for me, that means that winery visits become sip & spit experiences, which aren’t quite so pleasant as visits without a car. Trade-offs…
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Old Jul 7th, 2017, 11:20 PM
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How to sip & spit, compliments of Fodorite sssteve, who responded to one of my planning threads:
http://winefolly.com/tutorial/how-to-spit-wine/
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Old Jul 7th, 2017, 11:32 PM
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FWIW, after tasting, I bought a bottle or two of my favorites, which I then savored, glass by glass, after I had parked my car for the night. IMO, it made for some nice end-of-day moments, but I’m willing to drink day-old, or even 2-day-old wine, if kept sufficiently free of air.
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Old Jul 8th, 2017, 04:01 PM
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Really feeling the pull to stay in Laguardia. It looks like it's only 10 miles from Logrono and 16 miles from Haro. So renting a car would seem pretty easy and I would just need to be sure to not do more than 2 bodega visits in Haro and monitor my content. I really would like to visit Lopez de Heredia, Muga and La Rioja Alta + a bodega or two in Laguardia, which of course I can do on foot.
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Old Jul 13th, 2017, 04:10 AM
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@kja: Thanks for the feedback. I've decided to stay in LaGuardia and will likely rent a car, as it looks like easy driving from Logrono to LaGuardia and then into Haro for daily tastings there. I ended up booking at Hospederia de los Parajes, as Erlexte didn't seem very interested in having me stay there. Perhaps solo, male travelers are not as welcome? Anyways, very excited about LaGuardia and La Rioja region!
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