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Northern Spain Travelers: tell me about places you absolutely loved!

Northern Spain Travelers: tell me about places you absolutely loved!

Nov 8th, 2004, 09:30 AM
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Northern Spain Travelers: tell me about places you absolutely loved!

DH and I will be visiting Spain in May 2005. Even though we will be arriving and departing from Madrid the main destination is the North. We have visited Madrid and the South in the past. The focus of this trip will be walking a portion of the Camino de Santiago (Ponferrada to Compostela). Before we start the actual hiking we will have a week and a half to spend as we want. The current plan is to take a train or fly from Madrid to Bilbao and then drive to Santiago de Compostela along the coast to catch our walking tour. I was not contemplating going all the way to San Sebastian due to time restraints. Barcelona will be visited in another trip.

While researching for this trip I have found a TON of information about Madrid, Andalucia in general and Barcelona as well, but there seems to be a gap regarding the North. I refuse to believe that this is indicative of a lack of interesting places to go and sights to see! I am requesting Fodorite help to fill in the blanks Even the Fodors and Frommers guidebooks are not that explicit about itineraries in these areas, I am beginning to get nervous. Is it possible Galicia and Asturias are still off the beaten path and ?undiscovered? jewels are to be found around each corner?

Northern Spain Travelers: tell me about places in the North you absolutely loved! Or if maybe I should drop the coast and go to Pamplona or Logroño? Did you love San Sebastian? Should I just go into Portugal and do the west coast, back into Spain and to Santiago? Even though it is only a week and a half, we love to drive (but not on highways) so the distances are not a turn off.
marigross is offline  
Nov 8th, 2004, 09:55 AM
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DH and I are also going to Northern Spain in May 2005. We only have a week (as will be in Italy for 2 weeks prior visiting our daughter at the Univ. in Siena), I've been doing alot of research. We've been to Spain 2 previous trips and I love it so much that I've been studying Spanish.

Because the paradors have been so highly recommended and we haven't stayed at any in the past, I'm thinking of flying into Madrid and getting a 5 day pass and staying 2 nights Avila (with a day trip to Salamanca), 2 nights Leon, 1 night Segovia and then back to Madrid to catch plane back to US.

I too was tempted to go to Bilbao and San Sebastian, but decided to do that on another trip.

To get more information on other places (besides from here, which of course is a great source), you can google the name of the city and usually get information.

Also, if you haven't been to Toledo yet, I would suggest including that, as it's an easy daytrip from Madrid.

Happy planning.

artlover is offline  
Nov 8th, 2004, 09:59 AM
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Have you given any thought to taking a bus from Madrid to Bilbao?? I believe Continental-Auto has that route (from Madrid's Avda. de American Intercambiador). I think it's faster and more direct than the train (5.5 hours); and if you can get a 'Supra' (Business Class - 2-large seats on one side and a single one on the other) it's really comfortable.

Bilbao is great! Basque cuisine is unique and very good.

Halfway between Bilbao & Santander is Laredo, a summer resort. Just south of there is Limpias, where a Crucifix is said to bleed from time to time.

Then you've got Santander, a busy fishing port (the Ferry from Plymouth docks there a couple of times a week). If you stop in Santander, stay at el Sardinero (playa).

Then you've got Comillas, Santillana del mar and San Vicente de la Barquera before you cross the rio Deva into Asturias. Speaking of which, if you go south from Unquera thru the Gorge of the rio Deva (a 'white knuckler' drive) you arrive in a region called Liebana and its Capital, Potes. The Aguardiente (Orujo de Liebana) and the Cheeses are known all over Spain. The typical meal is Cocido de Liebana, a Garbanzo-bean stew with Morcilla and Chorizo, Lacon and other pork products. It will make you feel like you have eaten a brick. Hostal Picos de Europa is a nice place to stay if you want to linger and visit Fuente Dé or the Santo Toribio Monastery where the largest known fragment of the Cross on which Christ was Crucified is guarded.

Someone else will have to give you an in-depth report on Asturias and Lugo. I just know Llanes (another seaside resort) and Covadonga (up in the mountains).
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Nov 8th, 2004, 10:02 AM
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The north of Spain is a wonderful destination! For starters, download Maribel's guide to Northern Spain (I think it's www.maribelsguide.com). It was our bible for our month long trip. Another great resource is the Collected Traveler guide to Northern Spain edited by Barrie Kerper.

We stayed in San Sebastian for a week because we love to eat. Incredible restaurants and tapas bars are everywhere: Arzak, Akelare, and Mugaritz for starters... We rented a car leaving San Sebastian and drove to Santillana del Mar to see the Altamira cave museum. It was OK but not really worth the effort. From there we went to the Parador Villanueva in Cangas de Onis. We drove to Covadonga and then up into the mountains. Beautiful! Our next stops wer Ribadesella (Villa Rosario) and Cudillero (Casona de Pio). Lovely spots if you have the time. Hotel la Rectoral in Taramundi was a wonderful hotel in the green countryside. Next were three nights at the parador in Santiago Compostela. Love that butafiumero! We continued on to Viana do Castelo, Bucaco (in Portugal) and then returned to Baiona where we stayed in the Parador Conde de Gondomar.

Be sure to search Northern Spain on this site.
Marija is offline  
Nov 8th, 2004, 12:10 PM
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Look at a map of northern Spain. It's referred to as "Green Spain" We have yet to find anywhere there not worth visiting time and again. In addition to Maribel's excellent guides, you can contact your nearest Tourist Office of Spain. They will be more then happy to send you information on the area.
Robert2533 is offline  
Nov 9th, 2004, 02:02 AM
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Thanks for the replies!

Nedsireland, thank you so much - I had not even considered the bus as an option. I will google Continental-Auto.
marigross is offline  
Nov 9th, 2004, 11:12 AM
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Does anyone know what kind of transportion would be the best from Madrid Airport to the train or bus station? Do you still have to come into Madrid itself to go to Bilbao?
marigross is offline  
Nov 9th, 2004, 11:35 AM
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We found the food in Bilbao to be the best in Spain. Be prepared for rain or cool weather almost anytime of year.
dncee11 is offline  
Nov 9th, 2004, 12:50 PM
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google "asturias" and "cantabria"..
also good website for rural houses (casas rurales)is toprural.com.

the area up north is gorgeous.. dramatic coastline in some places.. and very inexpensive lodgings in small towns.. 36 euros/double many places.
great fun and food.

don't miss cudillero..and the coast west of there. there was a very helpful tourist office in cudillero, besides an impressive rustic hotel , and many b+b' s outside the town in the hills and plains.

we bought the handmade famous "black" ceramic sold there. only place in spain that makes it.
lincasanova is offline  
Nov 9th, 2004, 03:14 PM
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Sondika International Airport, located a few minutes outside of Bilbao, is served by several major European carriers and American carriers with European connections, so you can fly into Bilbao from several different locations in Europe including Heathrow, Munich, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, etc, etc..

Also, as I mentioned earlier, you can contact the Tourist Office of Spain for information on the Basque Country, Cantabria and the Picos de Europa, Asturias, Old Castile and León and Galicia as well as the Route of Saint James. They will be glad to send it all to you free of charge. And don't forget to download a copy of Maribel's Guide.

Food is an essential part of life in the Basque Country and the rest of northern Spain and as such you can always expect to eat well where ever your travels take you. Some of the restaurants I can personally recommend in the area are:

Cafe Iruña, Calle de Colon Larreategui, No.13, Bilbao-Bilbo
Mendi Goikoa, Hotel Restaurante, Barrio San Juan, No. 33, Axpe - Valle de Atxondo
Etxebarri, Erretegia Asador, Plaza San Juan, No. 1, Axpe - Marzana - Valle de Atxondo
Baserri Maitea Restaurante, Forua
La Hermandad de Pescadores, Bar - Restaurante, Calle Zuloaga, 12, Hondarribia
Bertako Restaurante, Alde Zagarro, Bilbao-Bilbo
Iruaritz, San Prudencio 29, Lezama
Alameda Restaurante - Jatetxea, Minasoroeta, 1, 20280 Hondarribia
Mugaritz Otzazulueta baserria, Aldura aldea 20 zk., Errenteria 20100, Gipuzkoa
Casa Nicolasa Restaurante, Aldamar, 4, 20003 San Sebastián-Donostia
Zuberoa, Bekosoro, 1 Iturriotz 20180, Oiartzun
Embarcadero, Hotel Restaurante, Avda. Zugazarte 51, Los Arenas 48930, Getxo (Vizcaya)
Ermintxo, Hotel Restaurante, Elejalde auzoa 48311, Natxitua - Ea (Vizcaya)
Asador Bedua, 20750 Zumaia (Gipuzkoa)

And this is just the tip of the culinary iceberg.
Robert2533 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2004, 02:37 AM
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marigross writes: "... what kind of transportion would be the best from Madrid Airport to the train or bus station? Do you still have to come into Madrid itself to go to Bilbao?" Madrid-Bilbao route is quite busy: there are almost always bargain fares with airlines such as SpanAir. You may not even have to leave Barajas airport.
If you opt for MotorCoach, the Madrid-Bilbao route is served by Continental-Auto. Its main terminal in Madrid is Avenida de America (NOT the Main bus station). It's just at the Madrid end of Autopista Barajas. You can take MetroMadrid to Mar de Cristal, change for linea 4 to Avda. de America; or if you have lots of luggage you may prefer a taxi.

NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Nov 10th, 2004, 03:09 AM
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Hi Mari,

I would really try to fly from Madrid to Bilbao. If you look at it with a bit of time, you might be able to get a very decent price with Iberia (and now you can buy decent open-jaw tickets, flying into Bilbao and leaving from Santiago).

If you decide to get the bus, I would get a taxi to the bus station. Remember that the buses for Bilbao leave from Avenida de America (there are more bus stations in Madrid). The VIP service leaves Madrid at 17:30 in the afternoon, every day, and you should book it in advance at any of the following websites (you will be able to select your seat) :

cova is offline  
Nov 11th, 2004, 02:40 AM
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I think I will just rent a car and stop in Haro/Logroño before reaching Bilbao. This might take some time from the coast itinerary but it seems to be worth it. Otherwise I will just fly there and start driving. We have made air reservations with FF miles to Madrid but have been able to get any to Bilbao. We might jsut have to pay for them!

Artlover, I liked Avila but it was soooo cold we could not wander around that much (April, unseasonal low, it was snowing lightly). Segovia was amazing as well. Is there a Parador pass? Does it get you a better rate?

Nedsireland, I had almost overlooked the Picos de Europa! Now my schedule gets more complicated
marigross is offline  
Nov 11th, 2004, 04:43 AM
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marigross: yes, there is what you call a 'Parador Pass,' for 5-nights at Paradores Nacionales; and it does save one some Euros.
There's a (new) Parador in Limpias, two in Santillana del mar, one in Fuente Dé. After that, the only ones with which I am familiar are Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos in Santiago de Compostela, Castillo de Gondomar in Baiona (Pontevedra, at the mouth of ria de Vigo)) and another in Tuy.
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Jan 16th, 2005, 03:59 AM
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Just returned from a night in Bilbao (for work). Have been several times but stayed, for the first time, at a fab 'boutique' hotel called the Miro Hotel, about three minutes walk from the Guggenheim. Highly recommended.
Mushed is offline  
Jul 17th, 2005, 08:22 AM
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Any opinions pro or con about staying in Lastres? we're going in august.
Had a very tough time finding a hotel but got a room at the Miramar, though it wasn't cheap. Mysteriously little information on this place on the web so would be grateful if anyone had stayed there or heard about it.
astur is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 08:09 AM
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Be sure and search this forum with "Northern Spain" as your search words and Spain as the country and there are tons of posts, including the ones I made after our Northern Spain trip in October of 2002 with friends. It has all the information you would want about our favorite sights, hotels (paradors) and restaurants. You will love this area!

Maria is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 11:06 AM
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Maria, I did read your trip report and loved it! I have been to Spain already, this is the link to my tr if you are interested.

Fodors.com > Travel Talk > Europe > Mari's Northern Spain and the Camino de Santiago Trip Report
marigross is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 11:08 AM
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ooops, link didnt work. Here it is:
marigross is offline  
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