Northern Spain Questions

Old Oct 31st, 2009, 09:21 PM
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Northern Spain Questions

Hello, have 3-4 weeks to spend in northern Spain. Would like to see Rioja, San Sebastian, Bilbao, SDC, and perhaps a bit of northern Portugal or western Pyreness.

Will rent a car. We like to stay in as few places as possible and explore the area (at least 3 nights).

Wondering about an open jaw ticket but not sure what loop makes the most sense.

Should we forget about Galicia and northern Portugal and just concentrate on Cantabria west? Planning for mid-September early October trip next year. Any thoughts appreciated.
cindyjo is online now  
Old Oct 31st, 2009, 11:39 PM
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With that much time, it would be a shame to miss Galicia.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Old Nov 1st, 2009, 04:59 AM
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To answer the question what route.

I will assume you are American (can you confirm please?); so choice of where you land maybe dictated a little. But to start of fly into BCN or Madrid and the fly or train up to Bilbao. From there see the Western Pyrenees head along the coast (Asturias and Cantabria) or head a bit inland and see the northern part of Castilla Y Leon. Get into Galicia and then head south to Portugal. Drive back to Madrid and drop the car off.
Why would you want to drop Galicia and Portugal? I personally find the countryside of La Rioja boring and flat. But everyone will have his or her opinion on this. But to get a real answer to this question you should tell us more about what you want to accomplish from this trip.
ribeirasacra is offline  
Old Nov 1st, 2009, 10:18 AM
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Thank you Ribeirasacra and Aduchamp1 (Ad. have been following your Spain reports as well as comments in NYC) - we don't really want to miss Galicia or northern Portugal but are gauging our time limits by previous travel. We last visited the south of France with 9 days in Nice, one week in Villes sur Auzon and one week in St. Remy. You can see we like to kick back and enjoy an area, walking, driving and cyling. We are interested in the local architecture, museums, markets and music. Not shoppers. Love to eat but avoid upscale, expensive places. We seem to do best by visiting cities first and spending the end of the trip in more relaxing smaller areas.

Have previously travelled in Spain two trips: One to Andalucia for 3 weeks and another for 10 days in Barcelona. Spent 3 nights in Madrid. My husband speaks passable Spanish and I can ask the basic emergency questions. We come from Seattle so rain doesn't stop us from being outside.

So you now know a little bit about us. I forgot to add that we would like to also spend a bit of time in the Picos.

So, How much time should we allow for the western Pyreness? Is it wiser to stay near SS and daytrip into the Pyreness?

If we followed your advice, Ribeirasacra, what is the drive like from Portugal to Madrid. This actually sounds like it might allow us to stop in Salamanca which we haven't seen before.

For some reason, I just can't get a handle on the timing of this trip and a doable circuit even with doing my usual OCD research. It may be that we are trying to see too much.

Any further help appreciated.
cindyjo is online now  
Old Nov 1st, 2009, 02:53 PM
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Cindy, I am sure Mike, who lives in The Basque country can help you plan something for the Pyrenees.
I am going to be bold and suggest that you stay and explore the Picos giving something like 4 days (5 nights) if you base yourself in a good location you can take time to do some exploration by car and maybe walking, plus add some coastal locations too.
It is easy either to drive down to say Leon and into Galicia or straight along the coast and into Galicia.
Obviously there is lots of info on this forum but I will suggest 2 websites for Galicia and the Picos.
The latter has an English flag but most of the information is in Spanish.
Just across the other side of the River Miño to the Spanish town of Tui is the Portuguese town of Valença. Both are worth a visit and the later has a market place where you can pick up some nice lines on a Wednesday.
I would avoid Vigo as it is the largest and most industrial city in Galicia, although there is very small tourist area given time scales I would by pass it this time.
Where to go in Galicia? Here are few of MY favs, Lugo with a very good museum, walled city and Cathedral. It is a UNESCO site to boot.
Obviously SdC, although I personally find it overtly touristy that does not distract from the architecture etc.
I love the countryside and where I live it is said to have the greatest concentration of Romanesque architecture in Europe. Then there is Ourense with its hot natural springs, plus a few old villages and towns dotted around the zone which makes it also a good place to explore. Both of these are only an hour or so away from SdC so you can easily make a day trip to the city and still have a great base in the middle of authentic Galicia. If you read thorough the New York Times they have written quite a bit about Galicia (travel Section), plus the TV prog On the Road again ahs made several trips to Galicia.
When I have more time I can make some suggestions of where tot visit in Portugal.

PS What is OCD research?
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Old Nov 14th, 2009, 09:47 AM
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Well, I have a broad outline of our trip to northern Spain thanks to the input from folks here and research through previous posts but need some help with details.

To repeat myself: Roughly September 13 to October 11 flying from the U.S. most likely into Madrid. On previous trips to Spain we were not able to see Avila or Salamanca and would like to fit them in.

Car rental: Avila, Salamanca, into Portugal, up to Galicia renting cottage, apartment for one week, to Asturias/ Cantabria renting for one week, to San Sebastian for one week with day trips into the Pyrenees, drive through Rijoa (possibly staying overnight in the area, back to Madrid and stay at hotel near airport for fly back.

We prefer a small town for our stay with proximity to markets. We will most likely be cooking many of our meals, eating lunch on the road. My husband likes to cycle in the immediate area to our rental exploring that way.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????? ???????????

Is a week base in each area enough time to explore?

Are there specific suggestions for base towns in each area and/or specific rental suggestions. (I have looked at Toprural and am a bit overwhelmed).

Is an overnight in Avila, Salamanca enough to get a taste?

How long is the drive from Madrid to northern Portugal and is one route better than another. Any must-sees on the way.

Are there areas in our proposed trip that are better for cycling?

If we stay in an area in the Picos is it feasible to day trip to the coastal area?

What are the chances of snow in the Pyrenees if we travel west to east and end up in that area the first week of October?

Thanks for your thoughts.
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Old Nov 14th, 2009, 10:56 AM
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I think one day in Avila is plenty, but you should allow for at the very least two days in Salamanca, better yet more. I have stayed there on two trips to Spain - altogether for almost two weeks, and would enjoy being there again. It's a beautiful city and there are so many amazing things to see there. The Plaza Mayor is lovely, and there is a superb art deco museum that is well worth a few hours.

We spent about eleven days traveling through Galicia last August at the end of a few weeks in Spain - rented a car in Madrid.

Stayed a night in Segovia (it was my second time there, first time for my husband) and visited La Granja while there. In retrospect we wish we had stayed another night in Segovia.

We headed north and stayed two nights at the Parador in Leon - I liked the cathedral and the pantheon, but not too much else about Leon, and one night would have been enough for me.

We spent a total of four nights in Santiago de Compostela - three at a 17th century country farmhouse about eight miles outside the city and one in the city proper. Loved Santiago.

We drove all over the interior western parts of Galicia, got lost on tiny country roads and small villages, and met wonderful and charming people along the way. We drove as far north as A Coruna, and then south along the west coast (Rias Baixas), stayed three nights in Cambados, later wishing we had spent more time in Combarro instead.

We dropped our rental car at the Vigo airport and flew back to Madrid before departing for home (USA).

It sounds as if you will have a great trip, no matter where you end up. Enjoy!
scdreamer is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2009, 11:04 AM
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ribeirasacra - p.s. OCD stands for "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" --- and it can definitely be a state that we travelers find ourselves in when planning a trip. I freely admit to it!
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Old Nov 14th, 2009, 11:21 AM
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Have youlooked at for rural lodging?
Egbert is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2009, 11:30 AM
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Hi Cindy,

What a great opportunity you have to spend all that time in Spain!

I don't have much to add other than to agree that Salamanca is well worth at least a couple of nights. Also, it is a shame you can't incorporate León into your itinerary. The Cathedral and its stained windows is so beautiful and the Parador is worth a visit ebven if you are not staying there.

You don't say if you are stopping anywhere in Portugal? If not maybe you could go to Galicia via Leon instead.
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Old Nov 15th, 2009, 04:45 AM
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As you can appreciate Avila and Salamanca are quite close to one another so maybe stop in the area for two nights, that gives you 1 day to explore both cities, (I bet someone will say that is not enough, and that maybe true).
I cannot answer how along the drive is to Northern Portugal as it depends on where you head for.
Places in Northern Portugal to consider are; Parque Natural de Montesinho, Chaves, Valença, I have taken a route along the Miño form the latter towards Spain along the N101 road. I just kept turning off the road to find some wonderful small villages and towns. You cross into Spain at an uninteresting boarder town called Ponte Barxas. From there you can head in several directions depending on where you want to go. Can you given me some ideas on where you are thinking about in Galicia, please?

Going on from there I am getting a bit confused. You have three weeks and wish to stay in each location for a week. However you are seemly trying to head all along the northern coast. The 2 do not fit together, something has to give, what is it going to be, length of stay or locations?

I have to counter Egbert’s posting for the listing website as it only covers a small part of Spain.
One that covers all of Spain and Portugal too is It is a listing site and it is quite costly so you will not find all casa rurals listed. But it does have reviews and you can see a list of what the owner provides i.e. bicycles. The website for all tourist accommodation in Galicia is covered by However this is no listing site, so no reviews. But if you find accommodation in Galicia which is not listed in this website it is illegal and should not be operating. The prices of accommodations in Turgalicia’s website will be updated during January.
Seeing that you are here from mid September you should be in Galicia when the grape/wine harvest is on going. Something that may be of interest for you?

Scdreamer Thanks for the explanation.
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Old Nov 15th, 2009, 10:39 AM
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Thank you scdreamer for your thoughts on Salamanca. Our hope is that we will be able to arrive in Madrid, rent a car at the airport,taking off from there to deal with jetlag in Salamanca. Perhaps we should spend 2-3 nights in Salamanca with a day trip to Avila or Segovia.

Ribeirasacra, sorry for my confusion, think it is coming from my inability to get an idea of place. In previous trips we usually have a leisurely breakfast with our maps, planning where to go and using about a 2 hour perimeter for exploration. With that as our guide we usually feel we have a pretty good tourist's sense of the place.

In Galicia we would like to base in an area where we could drive to the coast (Rias Baixas) and to the interior
(SdC,Ourense). I realize we will only be tasting the region but am looking for a suggestion for such a base.

We would then head to Rias Altas on the drive to Asturias
and Cantabria basing where we are able to drive to the Picos as well as areas on the coast.

Lastly, renting a place in SS with a possible foray into the Pyrenees and Bilbao. I envision less travel by car there as we normally like to kick back our final week. Ending by driving back to Madrid through La Rioja.

Thank you for the heads up on and legal rentals.

Your thoughts on Portugal are appreciated. i don't have a good map of Portugal yet, so can't follow your route .
From Salamanca we will have a few days to make our way to Galicia through Portugal. We are tempted by cruiseluv's appreciation of Leon.

So, perhaps we are trying to fit in too much and should concentrate on Galicia and Asturias/Cantabria and only spend 3 nights in SS before heading to Madrid.(Still incorporating Salamanca, northern Portugal in route to Galicia).

Thanks for trying to clarify.
cindyjo is online now  
Old Nov 15th, 2009, 10:52 AM
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lowcountrycarol is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2009, 02:08 AM
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try or for lots of good info on Galicia and Asturias
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2009, 10:06 AM
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I thought I had posted a long reply to you Cindy, but as this website was slow at the time maybe it was not posted. I will try and remember what I had written and post again.
I had done a calculation on he amount of time and days. I would suggest that you look into this, as something in the region of 8 or 9 locations in 3 weeks does not allow you a week in each location.
If you use something like Google maps you can see each location talked about on this thread. You can also get some idea of how long the drives are between each location. But the fault with Google, or any other online route planner, is that they do not allow time for breaks, sightseeing road works, or even cattle on the road. So you should add time to each estimate the map makes.
I think it is time for some hard decision making, spending time in each location, i.e. three weeks and say 4 locations or 2 or 3 nights in each and covering most of the ground you have on your list. It is not going to be easy!
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