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Mattyou Jun 20th, 2009 09:26 AM

Driving time and tips, northern Spain?
My girlfriend and I (we're in our 30's) have 8 nights in mid summer -- we fly into Santander and fly out of Santiago, and we'll have a car. We're thinking 2 nights in Santander at the beginning and 2 or 3 based in Santiago on the other end. We're having trouble planning the middle 3 or 4 nights -- partly because we're not sure about driving times and we'd prefer not to drive in the dark. We plan to drive through Picos. We like it all -- mountains, towns, sea, music, food, charming inns ... Any suggestions on where to spend the middle nights, and advice on driving times? Thanks!

cruiseluv Jun 20th, 2009 10:07 AM


Lucky You! I love Santander and Santiago and there are many in between spots that are great as well. Maybe this thread will be of interest to you....

ribeirasacra Jun 20th, 2009 03:46 PM

If you are in mid summer (is that early August?) then it will not get dark until about 9.30ish maybe as late as 10 at night.
If you like it all then it is going to be hard to suggest where to visit as we have it all here!!!! I think we need more to go on here if you want some suggestions!
In Spain most charming places to lay your head are called Casa Rurals. If you budget can stretch to it then pick a Parador or two.
For Casa Rurals look at
For planning trips I use

Maribel Jun 20th, 2009 04:49 PM

If you like charming inns, you have a panoply of great choices here in several price ranges at Casonas Asturianas. They're not all casas rurales (in Asturias known as "casas de aldea") but a mix of former rectories, posadas (inns), casonas (manor homes), villas and a few little palaces thrown in.

(Some of us are very fond of these properties)

Ditto to their sister organization in Cantabria.

Both the Club de Calidad Cantabria and Casonas Asturianas have inns in the Picos de Europa.

Info about the Cantabrian Picos de Europa-

About the Asturian Picos-

InMiami Jun 21st, 2009 08:21 AM

Mattyou, I am planning a trip for the same area of Spain for 13 nights. I fully understand your dilemma, too many wonderful places, and too little time! I am researching all the places I would like to visit and then comes the task of “weeding” down the number of choices. Luckily there are a lot of knowledgeable Fodorites that are willing to assist. Here is my primary wish list in order that I plan to visit:

San Sebastian, 3 nights.
Bilbao, visit in route to Santander.
Santander, 3 nights to expore the coast including Santillana del Mar.
Visit Comillas and San Vicente de las Barquera en route to the Picos.
Picos de Europa, especially the cable car ride at Fuente De with a 2 night stay in Cosgaya.
Leon, 2 nights.
Visit Astoria and Lugo en route to Santiago
Santiago de Compostela, 3 nights.

Even with 12 days I realize this itinerary may be too ambitious. With only 8 days your job of elimination will even more difficult. Good luck and I will be watching your thread with interest.

ribeirasacra Jun 21st, 2009 10:20 AM

I have a suggestion for your trip from León to SdC. Drop Lugo and spend more time in Astoria or even visit Ponferrada. Lugo can be taken in witha day trip from SdC as 3 days in the city is too much for such a small place.

Mattyou: Can you please come back with some better ideas of what your really wish to see?

Maribel Jun 21st, 2009 11:04 AM

Did you mean ASTORGA?

InMiami Jun 21st, 2009 05:14 PM

Maribel, yes you are right, I meant to write Astorga. I am interested in seeing the cathedral and the bishop’s palace begun by Gaudi.

Ribeirasacra, when we reach Santiago I plan to return the car so I will not have an opportunity to go back and visit Lugo. You would drop Lugo for a visit to Ponferrada? Also, would you take a day from Santiago and add it to another area?

Mattyou, where are you flying into? I know I can only get a connecting flight from Miami to Bilbao, Oviedo or Santiago.

Mattyou Jun 21st, 2009 11:23 PM

InMiami: We're flying into Santander -- the times work out on Iberia from our starting point in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Mattyou Jun 22nd, 2009 12:16 AM

Thanks for everyone's eagerness to help! I've taken a look at some of the links you suggested and a closer look at our itinerary. I'll try to narrow down out interests.

Our highest priorities on this trip are nature (mountains/rugged coast) and walking in charming towns/villages. Roman sites are also of interest (less so churches and cathedrals). We know we’ll enjoy the food everywhere, but we’re particularly into seafood and wine.

Our preferred style for a road trip would be to improvise, to find out about interesting places as we go along, but we are constrained by the distances and our flights (and perhaps hotel availability), so we have to plan this one a little more. We arrive in Santander on Wednesday 29 July and have to be in Santiago on Sunday evening (2 August) for a Bruce Springsteen concert (what could be more natural?). We fly out from there on Thursday 5 August.

So at the moment the trip looks like this (any comments are welcome):

Wed: Arrive Santander (mid day)

Thurs: Santander-Santillana-Panes-Potes-Cangas de Onis

Fri: Cangas–Oviedo-along the coast-Coruna

Sat: Coruna- ??? (perhaps a romantic spot on the Atlantic coast?)

Sun: ??? - Santiago (by mid-afternoon)

Mon/Tues/Wed: Daytrips (based in Santiago) in Rias Bajas (including Fisterra, maybe Muros and Noia), Pontevedra…

Thursday: depart from Santiago

Thanks everyone.

ribeirasacra Jun 22nd, 2009 04:55 AM

InMiami, The two are both very nice and it really depends, I live near Lugo and it is one of my favourite cities. Three days for SdC is too long, even if your one of those that sits and watches the world go by. Maybe take the bus to and from Santiago to Lugo. (note the website does not seem to work well with Firefox). An alternative using public transport is to go and visit the city of A Coruña. Either by train or bus.

If you want Roman remains then visit Lugo (it is packed with Roman remains) and the church nearby called Santa Eulalia with a Roman bath below. Las Medulas are roman mines they are located near to the border between Galicia and Leon. Even near me there is a Roman road called Los Codos de Belesar.
Sorry but my wife and I are not romantic in the least so I cannot suggest anything to suit that request.

InMiami Jun 22nd, 2009 11:49 AM

Ribeirasacra, it appears that you would not recommend spending 3 nights in Sanitago. How would you alter my itinerary? Are there too many days in other locations? Am I leaving out somewhere significant?

Mattyou, I have never been in this area of Spain so I am only commenting from what I have read. It seems that you are planning some impossible days. Of course Maribel and ribeirasacra can give you better first hand advice. My suggestion is to go to Google Maps or the Viamichelin site where you can get an estimation of travel times.

Maribel Jun 22nd, 2009 01:40 PM

We're spending 3 nights in Santiago in October. While you can certainly see it in less, you can also use it as a base to make a day trip by train or bus, as ribeirasacra says.

Your Thursday plan looks very ambitious to me.

Do you plan to go as far south as Fuente Dé to take the cable car ride to the Mirador?
If so, that is an extremely full day with not a lot of time for walking.
You won't want to linger, though, in Panes, as it's a singularly ugly town.

Your Friday, Cangas to Oviedo to A Coruña coast-
You might want to spend the night in Viveiro at the Pazo da Trave, a member of Pazos de Galicia.
See if it speaks to you..

If you don't have to be on the coast, a charming inn deep in the Natural Park of Fragas do Eume is the
Casa do Castelo de Andrade,
I find this atmospheric inn to be romantic, and the "Verano" room here was voted "one of the most romantic inn guest rooms" a while back in El Mundo. Gets very good reviews on

Or this charming inn nearby
Casa Grande Fontao
which is a member of Rusticae.

Mattyou Jun 22nd, 2009 09:18 PM

Maribel and InMiami:

I checked with Viamichelin and you're right, these are some ambitious days. I'm not sure there's a way fully around that problem given that unfortunately we need to get from Santander to Santiago in less than 4 days. (We're no strangers to lots of driving -- and the roads in Spain are a dream compared with parts of Eastern Europe.)

But maybe spending a night in Potes will give us some breathing space. What do you think of this:

Wed: Arrive Santander (mid day)

Thurs: Santander-Santillana (or skip it?)-Potes (time for a walk, and the funicular in the late afternoon or morning)

Fri: From Potes through Cangas to someplace like Viveiro (skip Oviedo) -- a long drive but that's OK (Pazo da Trave looks great)

Sat: Viveiro (through Coruna, a quick look around) to somewhere on the Atlantic coast? Also possibly a long drive but then no rush in the morning.

Sun: Atlantic coast - Santiago (by mid-afternoon)

And then Mon-Wed we take it easy from Santiago with nice day trips.

Or we could switch the Atlantic coast night with one more somewhere between Santander and Santiago, and then explore the Atlantic coast on day trips.

Further thoughts? Much appreciated.

Revulgo Jun 22nd, 2009 10:30 PM

I highly recommend this area: Eo river, Oscos, Taramundi & Castropol.

Mattyou Jun 23rd, 2009 07:30 AM

OK friends, I've been reading all day and I'm leaning heavily to the plan I wrote up 8 hours ago -- after Santander, nights in Potes, Viveiro (or nearby), Muxia (or nearby) and then on to Santiago ( Any votes against any of this? :-)

And of course I am having trouble with a nice place to stay in/near Potes. One option is this: Any recommendations?

Thank you!

Maribel Jun 23rd, 2009 09:57 AM

Much better, Mattyou. Sounds like a good plan.
I love Os Oscos as much as Revulgo, but I don't think you have time to do it justice.

The Altair in Santiago is a great choice!

I do know the Posada Laura, and while it is a nice property, the owner just isn't a very friendly or welcoming sort (sorry to say, but it's true). We've seen all the properties in the Club de Calidad and Ruralka group in the Liébana valley, and the Posada Laura was the most unwelcoming.

You would be much happier (trust me!) at the Hotel del Oso in Cosgaya, not that far away. Also a member of Club de Calidad, both for the hotel and the restaurant. It's absolutely charming, the family gives guests a friendly and warm welcome, they have 2 adorable St. Bernards, the flower-filled grounds just lovely and it would be far, far more memorable.
We chose to celebrate our anniversary there last year, and we could have chosen any place in the area.
The Hotel del Oso has lots of fans on this board.

InMiami Jun 23rd, 2009 03:48 PM

I looked up the Altair hotel in Santiago and it looks perfect. Also, it is rated #1 by Tripadvisor and is quite reasonable, 127E (not including VAT) for a superior double and 7.50E each for breakfast. Mattyou, that was a good choice.

Maribel, I saw your recommendation for the Hotel del Oso on another thread and seems to be very comfortable. Also, can you make a recommendation for a hotel in Santandar/Santillana? I know the parador looks luxurious but I prefer a more modern interior such as offered by the Altair Hotel or Astoria 7.

Maribel Jun 23rd, 2009 07:51 PM

Hi InMiami.
You just won't find modern/sleek in Santillana except for the new-ish 4 star Casona de Revolgo, outside the medieval core. Inside Santillana it's all antique....
But the Casona de Revolgo's interiors are done in very *vibrant* colors (as in bright reds), which may not appeal to all.

But that's the closes thing you'll find. And the Casona de Revolgo has its own parking area (in front of the hotel or on the side) so that you don't have to leave the car in the public lot. Cars aren't allowed into the medieval town except for loading/unloading.

I haven't found a hotel in Santander (El Sardinero) that is hip/trendy/sleek/contemporary because it's an "old money", Belle Epoque aristocratic area.
In downtown Santander the Vincci Puerto Chico is more contemporary, as are all the Vinccis that I know.

The Hotel del Oso interiors are "cute Alpine", not at all sleek or contemporary.
The decor of the Casona de Cosgaya across the street is more boutique-ish, since it's fairly new. It's also a member of Johansenns and Lugares Divinos along with Club de Calidad Cantabria. They just added a little indoor spa.

Mattyou Jun 24th, 2009 03:10 AM

Maribel (or someone else): I'm almost all set. Your comments on Potes were so helpful that I want to check with on this place too, in Muxia, before I contact them:

Any reservations (as it were) or nearby alternative recommendation?

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