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Itinerary Ideas for Soaking Up Northern Spain at a Leisurely Pace?

Itinerary Ideas for Soaking Up Northern Spain at a Leisurely Pace?

Apr 19th, 2011, 07:59 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2011
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Itinerary Ideas for Soaking Up Northern Spain at a Leisurely Pace?

We're going to be spending 8-9 days in northern Spain in the first half of June and would like some help with an itinerary that would allow us to soak up the region at a leisurely pace.

We would like time for the beach, restaurants and bars, while also visiting museums, churches as well as nature and historical sites. What we want to avoid is having to pack and to be on the move the whole time. We are planning to get a rental car for at least a part of the vacation.

Since our domestic flight arrives to Bilbao on a mid-afternoon, we planned on spending at least 1, maybe 2 nights there. The only other base I have thought about so far is San Sebastian. I was thinking of spending at least 3, maybe 4 or even more nights if it's an unbeatable place from which to go on day-trips as well.

Where else should we consider staying overnight? We'd like to visit fishing villages, perhaps spend a day in the mountains and are also considering to go more the west towards Santander and even Santiago de Compostela, but we don't want to go too far afield if it means spending the vacation in the car. Thanks for your insights!
utazo is offline  
Apr 19th, 2011, 09:25 AM
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BowenLinda is offline  
Apr 19th, 2011, 10:35 AM
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I am planning a similar trip. Because I have an early departure from Bilbao, I am immediately heading to San Sebastian (4 nights) and then returning to Bilbao last (1 night). There are some wonderful towns along the coast--Getaria, Zumaia, Leikitio--which I think I will visit as day trips from San Sebastian. Elanxtobe, north of Bilbao, sounds great too.
I hope you get some good mountain suggestions, because that is where I am struggling to fill out my itinerary.
yorkshire is offline  
Apr 19th, 2011, 03:21 PM
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You seem to have a perfect plan! A couple of days in vibrant Bilbao and then on to plain fantastic San Sebastián. And all in the first half of June when the hordes of Spanish holidaymakers are a month or two away. This would be my ideal trip, and I've visited the region almost every year since the late 80's.

Bilbao-San Sebastián is less than one hour by car, a little more by bus. As yorkshire indicated, several excellent small villages along the coast between the two cities.

The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao is a must: http://www.guggenheim.org/bilbao

For history, I suggest Gernika. The bombing in 1937 and the theme of Picasso's perhaps most famous work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_(painting)

San Sebastián is to die for. The culinary capital of Spain, some of the best city beaches in Europe and a proud culture. The article "A different kind of Spain" gives you an idea of the city and the region: http://marshlands.blogstream.com/

If you're into seafood, you should spend a day/night in Getaria: http://www.thepauperedchef.com/node/255

Perhaps go inland to the old university town Oñati or Tolosa with hiking possibilites, the famous Alubias/beans and the best steakes in all of the country.
kimhe is offline  
Apr 20th, 2011, 04:07 AM
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Thanks for the advice, this is great.

How about the region west of Bilbao? Santander/Santillana or as far out as Santiago de Compostela? With 2 nights to spare, is this doable, recommended? Any top picks for spending the last 2 nights?

I just checked that San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela is over 7 hours. That may be a bit too far out of the way, perhaps it's better visited on a separate trip, perhaps combining with Portugal as that's just north of it.

So maybe the Santander area for the last 2 nights? Also on rental cars: should I have one in San Sebastian and use it for day-trips from there? I heard parking is expensive...

Many thanks!
utazo is offline  
Apr 20th, 2011, 05:37 AM
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If you can I would highly recommend going to Santiago de Compostela. The drive alonge is amazing along the coast. Can you stay one night? There are villages with Inns that are fabulous,
We stayed in Gijon in the Parador there. It is a quiet beach town but enough to keep you busy for 1/2 day or so.

You dont need a car in San Sebastian, unless like you said you are doing some side trips from there.

We stayed at the Maria Cristina in San Sebastian and Loved it. DO yo uhave your hotel chosen?
The Basque country is so green and lush with incredible seascapes!
annesherrod is offline  
Apr 20th, 2011, 06:27 AM
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No, haven't found a hotel yet. We are actually in the habit of renting apartments for short-term, but if you know of a charming, mid-range, well-located sort of hotel/pension/bed-and-breafast in San Sebastian then we could opt for that too...
utazo is offline  
Apr 20th, 2011, 06:28 AM
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you may want to take a look at my blog as a local, www.blogseitb.us/basquetourism, it´s full of ideas to soak up in the BAsque Country
mikelg is offline  
Apr 20th, 2011, 08:34 AM
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I prefer to rent apartments as well, but I could not find any that were in my price range. This is one place I looked:

I think there is just so much to see and do in the Basque region that driving all the way to Camino would mean a lot of time in a car. I don't think Santander is that far though, and I researched several nice coastal towns in Cantabria/Asturias.
yorkshire is offline  
Apr 20th, 2011, 09:37 AM
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I think Compostela is way too far to go with your time frame. I visited that town, and then drove along the coast as far as Santander, dipping into Picos de Europa. I had one week and the trip was far too rushed, so forget about trekking that far from San Sebastian.
ekscrunchy is online now  
Apr 20th, 2011, 10:35 AM
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Also, I prefer to not rent a car, but since you are planning on doing so, you should not pass up the opportunity to explore the many small towns or natural parks in the vicinity of SS and Bilbao.
yorkshire is offline  
Apr 24th, 2011, 08:31 AM
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nygvic is offline  
Apr 25th, 2011, 04:13 AM
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I live in Spain and would say stay more time in San Sebastian than Bilbao. Bilbao has come a long way and certainly has great food, a nice old part of the city, and the Guggenheim. But, San Sebastian is just great- beach, walks, amazing views, wonderful food, just a beautiful elegant city. If you are interested in art, I recommend taking the bus to the Museo Chillida-Leku. Chillida is a very important sculptor in Spain and is from Basque Country. It's a beautiful outdoor museum and easy to get to by the regular city buses.
The pinchos bars are also amazing. You don't need to sit down and eat dinner in a restaurant- much more fun and tasty with pinchos (Basque style tapas.)
Santander is beautiful as well if you wanted to see another part of the north, I say go for it!
auntiemimi is offline  
Apr 25th, 2011, 06:19 AM
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You don't have time to make it to Santiago and enjoy the north coast at a leisurely pace. San Sebastian is worth at least 5 nights before you even start thinking about daytrips. Then there is Getaria, Zumaia, Lekeitio. I would spend one night in Bilbao if you really want to check it out, a great city. Santander has a great beach, some people like Santillana and some don't, I haven't been there. I might spend a night in Lekeitio for a small town overnight. Read Mikels blog.
Egbert is offline  
Apr 25th, 2011, 08:48 AM
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Auntie, Chillida Leku is no longer open to the public...lack of funds, so they closed it a couple of months ago.
mikelg is offline  
Apr 27th, 2011, 11:00 AM
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Wow what a shame about the Chillida museum!! I am glad I was able to go.
auntiemimi is offline  

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