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Driving from San Sebastian to La Rioja to Bilbao

Driving from San Sebastian to La Rioja to Bilbao

Mar 23rd, 2015, 10:58 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Oct 2014
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Driving from San Sebastian to La Rioja to Bilbao

We are staying at the Hotel de Londres in San Sebastian for 6 nights then planning to rent a car from Hertz to the Marques de Riscal hotel in La Rioja for 2 nights then driving to the Silken Gran hotel in Bilbao for 1 night before flying out to Paris from the Bilbao airport.

This will be our first time here and a little apprehensive about the drive only because we've never done it. My bf will be driving and I'm the navigator. All I have is the 573 Regional Spain North map by Michelin which includes Basque Country, Navarra and La Rioja areas.

My question is, are there any last minute things we should know about the drive/laws, interesting stops, any heads up with the rental, good apps for our phones, etc? I've been a little too relaxed about this and now it's happening sooner than I realized!

Also thinking, might be nice to rent the car on our 4th or 5th day in San Sebastian to explore the surrounding areas which are not easily explored by foot. Do you recommend any easily reached areas with our rental before heading to La Rioja? I appreciate any and all suggestions.

All this is happening in April. Thank you!
tessietoes is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2015, 12:01 PM
  #2  
 
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No driving advice. Just bring some stretchy clothing to accommodate all that great food you're going to have !!
Bedar is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2015, 12:15 PM
  #3  
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I'm so ready, Bedar!
tessietoes is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2015, 03:15 PM
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The best route will take you on the A-15 past Pamplona then down the A-12/A-13 towards Logroño. You take the cut off before crossing the river and head to Laguardia. The other option would be to head toward Bilbao and take the highway, the E-5, south just before you reach Eibar.

There are more interesting stops on the SS-Pamplona-Laguardia route, including some outstanding Navarran wineries along the way; Bodegas Otazu (www.otazu.com), Bodegas Arinzano (www.arinzano.com), Pago de Larrainzar (www.pagodelarrainzar.com), Bodegas Irache (www.irache.com) and Senorio de Sarria (www.bodegadesarria.com), just to name a few.

You can save some money by booking your rental car through Auto Europe instead of directly with Hertz.

If you have the car for a few extra days before heading to the Rioja, you can cross over into the Pays Basque. It's a great day trip. You can return to San Sebastián via the pass at Roncesvalles and up through the Baztan Valley, or on the smugglers route that takes you from Sare to Vera before heading up to Hondarribia.

For lunch in the Pays Basque countryside, you can try La Ferme Gourmande in Osses (www.restaurant-fermegourmande.com), L'auberge Basque in Saint-Pée (www.aubergebasque.com), or chef Arrambide's restaurant in the Hotel les Pyrénes in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (hotel-les-pyrenees.com).

Just remember, they dine earlier in the Pays Basque, usually starting around 12h45. if you don't think you can dine that early, Navarra is just a few minutes south, where you can have lunch at Hotel Restaurante Kuko in Zozaia (www.kukohotel.com), Meson Las Migas in Ujué (www.mesonlasmigas.es) or at one of the dozens of outstanding restaurants in Pamplona.
Robert2533 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2015, 06:41 PM
  #5  
kja
 
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I strongly recommend that you get a guidebook that covers the driving rules, laws, and norms.
kja is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2015, 08:17 PM
  #6  
 
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Keep to the right except to pass, don't speed (unless you can), understand that some signage will be in Euskara, the language of the Basque speakers, and don't drink and drive. Otherwise the rules are fairly normal, nothing unusual.

You will need a IDP should you be stopped by the Guardia Civil, Foral Police (Policía Foral de Navarra) or Ertzaintza (País Vasco) for some unknown reason.

If you do happen to get stopped, you'll find that, unlike in the USA, the police all have to have an education. Most speak English, but it is not a requirement at this time.
Robert2533 is offline  
Mar 25th, 2015, 12:04 PM
  #7  
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Robert, you are amazing!! You've helped me so much, thank you appreciate this a lot. Did you make reservations on any of the Navarran wineries you mentioned above or can we wing it? Will look into Auto Europe instead. My bf is a gold member at Hertz but I think the rates are the same regardless. Thanks for this info.

Hi kja, thanks. Do you recommend a specific one? How's your trip planning going? Your trip is coming up too!
tessietoes is offline  
Mar 25th, 2015, 01:41 PM
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You'll have to make reservations at any and all of the bodegas in Navarra if you want to visit, but you can usually make them online a few days out. They are normally busiest on Saturdays and over bank holidays. Most can do a visit in English, but not all.
Robert2533 is offline  
Mar 25th, 2015, 04:52 PM
  #9  
kja
 
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@ tessietoes -- in general, I'm fond of the Rough Guide books, but for the basic purpose of learning what you otherwise didn't know to ask -- one of the KEY functions of a guidebook, IMO -- you have lots of options: Fodor's, Frommer's, the Rough Guide, the Lonely Planet....

And you are right, my trip is fast approaching! Thanks for asking. I've made a lot of progress on many fronts, but still have a LOT to do. I hate that work so interferes with my vacation planning! Nonetheless, I know we are both going to have wonderful trips, thanks -- in large part -- to the many generous Fodorites who have been sharing their insights with us.
kja is offline  
Mar 26th, 2015, 05:06 PM
  #10  
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Thanks kja. I have the Rough Guide and Rick Steves books. I'm so excited already can't believe we're leaving in a few days. Work definitely interferes with my vacay planning, lol. Have fun organizing your trip, can't wait to hear about it!

Robert, that's great to know. Again thanks for all the tips you've given me thus far. I'll be referring back to my threads while there.
tessietoes is offline  
Mar 26th, 2015, 05:13 PM
  #11  
kja
 
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Bon voyage! Please let me know if you learn anything you think will be helpful to me.
kja is offline  
Mar 26th, 2015, 05:28 PM
  #12  
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will do!
tessietoes is offline  
Mar 27th, 2015, 08:08 AM
  #13  
 
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We should all compare notes after we all complete our trips as it seems we are all traveling the same roads but will in all likelyhood make different stops.
heart2travel is offline  
Jan 7th, 2016, 09:23 PM
  #14  
 
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Anyone have any favorite towns for overnights? I'm torn between really small like Laguardia or maybe Haro or Logorno. Want some historic charm but also like the idea of walking down the street for tapas in the evening and a few restaurant options.

Any wonderful stay recommendations? While the Riscal looks pretty, a little too severe for us and seems isolated.
TJinSOMA is offline  
Jan 7th, 2016, 09:28 PM
  #15  
kja
 
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@ TJinSOMA -- Have you seen my trip report? You'll find that I enjoyed my time in Laguardia, which I think would meet your needs.

@ tessietoes -- I hope you don't mind that I jumped in here!
kja is offline  
Jan 9th, 2016, 10:59 PM
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My guests really enjoy Laguardia. I think it suits your needs...medieval, small but not too much, plenty of restaurants for meals and pintxos, beautiful landscape around it and close to many wineries. And good hotels too.
mikelg is offline  
Jan 10th, 2016, 12:39 AM
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Mikel, see you on the 19th?
Robert2533 is offline  
May 31st, 2016, 08:01 PM
  #18  
 
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bookmarking...
ilsabing is offline  
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