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Itinerary Advice - Castilla y Leon, La Rioja, Basque

Itinerary Advice - Castilla y Leon, La Rioja, Basque

Sep 15th, 2018, 07:52 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 58
Itinerary Advice - Castilla y Leon, La Rioja, Basque

Hi all, starting to narrow down options for a 2-week trip to Spain next Aug/Sept with my husband, the first 10-11 days in the north, followed by a few days "home" for me in Granada, where I studied abroad in college. Hoping for a trip of casual meandering/exploring, enjoying beautiful views, and eating/drinking our way through each town we visit. This has been one of the hardest trips to plan as there are easily a dozen cities I want to visit but realistically only enough time to see 3-4!

I'm very familiar with ALSA and Renfe and plan to utilize them for traveling between cities. Let me know if you think we should consider a car rental at any point.

(Also, Fodor's search function seems to be down right now, so there's my excuse for asking questions that may or may not have already been answered in other threads. hah! But rest assured I've been trying to read up on travel reports - and appreciate the ones I've already been sent - and have found them all very helpful!)

Here goes:
Madrid: 1-2 nights
Salamanca: 2-3 nights
Valladolid: 1 night OR a stop on the way to...
Burgos/Logroņo/Laguardia/???: 3 nights
San Sebastian/Bilbao: 2 nights

My justifications/questions:

Have visited before and it's never been my favorite city for no real reason I can pinpoint. I know two nights will be more sensible for dealing with jet lag.

I have heard many of you and others rave about this city and have moved it closer to the top of my must-sees. I want to make sure I do it justice. Suggestions for the best food, tapas, markets, neighborhoods to stay in/explore, and whatever else you think makes this city so unique and wonderful are welcome!

I have been going back and forth on Valladolid. Ultimately, I feel like I can't pass by and not at least stop for a midday snack by plaza mayor. I know someone who grew up here and am hoping to get recommendations from him, but would love to hear your thoughts on what the highlights of Valladolid are (I know, a day is never enough, but work with me here, please . If you think our time would be better spent in Salamanca or Burgos/La Rioja/Ribera del Duero, I'm open to that as well.

This is where I need the most help (and potentially a car?). The cathedral in Burgos is on my list, but I would love to stay in a smaller, picturesque town that has a few really solid restaurants and pinxto bars within walking distance. I think I would be content for a day trip into Burgos to see the Cathedral and explore. I would also love to find a day tour/excursion that drives us around to a few wineries in this area (so we can enjoy as much wine as we want without worrying about getting home safe!). Should we consider staying in the Ribera del Duero area instead? All the suggestions and advice, please!

I've heard mixed reviews on whether San Sebastian is a must-visit city or overrated tourist town, but ultimately I love the beach and want to eat really good food, so I think San Sebastian is calling my name. I plan to spend two nights here (again, suggestions welcome!), and on the third day, take a bus to Bilbao, spend the day exploring the Guggenheim and Ribera market, and take a 7:15pm direct flight to Granada to end the trip!

Last edited by amandarawrrr; Sep 15th, 2018 at 08:01 PM. Reason: math is hard
amandarawrrr is offline  
Sep 15th, 2018, 09:38 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 20,226
I’m sure it will be a wonderful trip!

To find your own earlier threads, just click on your screen name. Here’s your prior thread:
Itinerary Advice - Castilla y Leon, La Rioja, Basque

If you don’t already have them, please get / consult the Rough Guide and Michelin Green Guide – they provide excellent coverage of the places you are considering.

Some thoughts:

If you have no interest in Madrid, why stay there at all? As long as you aren’t trying to drive, there’s no reason not to push on. (Said as someone who loved Madrid.)

Re: Salamanca – check the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing.

Re: Burgos / Laguardia / Logrono – I think Laguardia would meet your interests, particularly as there are several wineries within walking distance of the city. It certainly has a range of restaurants and pintxo / tapa bars.

A day trip is not much to see Bilbao, but of course, maybe that timing will suit your needs.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Sep 15th, 2018, 10:11 PM
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 1,076
Northern Spain Aug/Sept 2019

You're giving short shift to Bilbao, Burgos and Logroņo. Burgos has changed somewhat the last few years and is worth a couple of nights. Laguardia is fine, but the city itself is limited in when it comes to lunch. You'll have to check which restaurants will be open in August. it's when many places close for holiday. Logorņo has also changed the last few years. There are a number of newer or renovated tapas/pintxos bars in the city, geared toward higher end cuisine. Salamanca will be filled with tourist in August and early September. We like Valladolid a bit more. Bilbao, to me, is always worth a few days.


As far as Madrid goes, it hard to find a more energetic city. It's also filled with outstanding museums and top of the line restaurants, including some of the best small plates destinations you'll find outside of the Basque country. And actually, has more top tier restaurants, just not the concentration of Michelin stars.

Robert2016 is offline  
Sep 16th, 2018, 04:08 AM
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I agree with Kja that if you've been to Madrid and are not that interested then just go straight (by bus) to Salamanca for 3 nights. I've not been to Valladolid but if you think a long stop for lunch would be sufficient for you that sounds like a good plan and would simplify things by not having another hotel. I loved Burgos and found plenty to do for three days there. While I enjoyed Laguardia it is really small, even with visiting some wineries I don't think you need more than a full day. If you skip the one nighter in Madrid and Valladolid you could put a one nighter here. I would give San Sebastian 3 nights, especially if you might be arriving later in the day (for more time in Laguardia) and leaving early on your departure day for Bilbao. I enjoyed Bilbao more than I expected to but from what you say you want to see you could do that easily in a day.

Photos of those places are here - https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/f855477163
Also if you click on the blog on that site I have some info on most of those places (Salamanca I visited on a previous trip).
isabel is offline  
Sep 16th, 2018, 03:48 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,711
San Sebastian is a vital city and most emphatically not just a tourist town. Sure there are lots of tourists, particularly in the Parte Vieja. But the city is large enough to absorb them without having its atmosphere compromised in the least. And that neighborhood is but a small slice of the city. Mind you, I've not been there in August. How long you stay has a lot to do with your level of interest in food. I stayed about 6 days two years ago and could have remained a couple of weeks. And there are so many day trips you can take from there.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Sep 16th, 2018, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by ekscrunchy View Post
San Sebastian is ... most emphatically not just a tourist town. Sure there are lots of tourists, ... But the city is large enough to absorb them without having its atmosphere compromised in the least. .
That was not my experience during a visit in May of 2016.
kja is offline  
Sep 17th, 2018, 04:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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We were in Donostia for 10 days in mid-September and did not find it compromised by tourism in the least. We didn't just hang out in the Parte Vieja, though, but rather walked all over and up into the hills. Still, I'm pretty sensitive to over-touristed places and wasn't at all bothered anywhere we went in San Sebastián.
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