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Northern Spain - with the luxury of time!

Northern Spain - with the luxury of time!

Old Jan 16th, 2020, 07:03 AM
  #1  
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Northern Spain - with the luxury of time!

Hi All

We (2 adults 2 kids - 14 and 11) are at the beginning stages of planning a visit to Northern Spain in July.
Our preferred method of vacationing is to rent a car and pick a couple of rental vacation homes (from Home Away type sites) and just make a home base for a little while. We like to have fun things to do within reach, but peace and tranquility where we stay. We love the mix of enjoying some terrific local restaurants but also the experience of shopping locally and cooking at home. We 'do' touristy sites but also just like to soak up a place rather than rush from spot to spot. Considering they are 14 and 11 our kids are remarkably go with the flow 'chill' and don't need entertained - they enjoy hiking, sightseeing, horseback riding, and just hanging out....

It seems to us that Northern Spain would offer us exactly that type of vacation!

We will have the rare luxury of at least 2 weeks, possibly closer to 3 in the region. I reckon we will fly into Bilbao, rent a car there and then we will look to locations right from Galicia through to the Basque Country. Obviously with this amount of time we will have a chance to see all the 'must sees'.

I would like to ask the forum if you have strong feelings of locations along the coast line (or inland a bit) where you think could be ideal 'home bases' for us. Would you split your time equally between two bases? or three? Any strong feelings of locations really worth considering to stay in...a little off the beaten path...or indeed any villages and towns that you would strongly recommend us avoiding?

I know this is a bit of a 'read my mind' question but just curious to hear from those in the know!

Many thanks!
Ratfan1 is offline  
Old Jan 16th, 2020, 08:16 AM
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The first thing that came to my mind would be to select a base that stretches you more to the west and then chose another base that allows you to go into the French Basque area. I think either using Bilbao itself for the first base if you prefer a bit larger city could be nice. Or if you want something smaller then I thin Santander would be a fun place to base (about 175,000 people compared to 345,000 people.) and of course if you want a really small village then HomeAway, etc should have some options like that). Then I might be tempted to make another base in France like St Jean de Luz or even Biarritz just to get a different experience. There are lots of lovely little Basque villages in that area like Sare that you could explore. If you want to remain on the Spanish side then somewhere near or in San Sebastian would be nice too.

One fun thing I have wanted to visit in that area is the Enchanted Painted Forest in Oma-maybe I will finally make it this spring....

https://www.spain.info/en/reportajes...aturaleza.html

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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 11:21 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2004
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Well...you may have to wait for that visit, as it´s currently closed for visits. Lots of the pine forests in the Basque Country were affected by a fungus (turns the trees brown, in stripes, and then they die) and Oma forest has been closed for almost a year now for treatment, renovation, care and improvement of the public access. it´s free, you just need to walk uphill for around 45 min before getting there, cars are not allowed, it´s a protected area. Check opening dates on https://bizkaikoa.bizkaia.eus/oma/bo...?t=1&idioma=IN
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 02:38 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
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I too, am in the planning stage of a similar 3-week tour of Northern Spain in May.

Regarding logistics - Should your requirements for a car approach 3-weeks, I recommend considering a short-term lease, a program supported by the French Government. The vendor I will be using for the 5th trip (IdeaMerge) requires a 21-day lease period, but even though I will only need the car for 18 days, I’ll gladly pay for the unused days to get the overall benefits of the lease program. Among the points that make the lease program attractive to me are:

· You choose the brand-new car from a full line of styles/models/sizes/luggage capacity, and the exact vehicle is available exactly when you schedule the pickup.

· Full, no-deductible insurance is included in the price quoted, and I have personal experience that this is as good as it is advertised.

· The car comes equipped with integrated GPS, with the most recent info on the system, including a valuable reference of the current speed limit as you drive. (to help avoid the chance of getting slammed by a surprise speeding ticket weeks later)

· You choose the pick-up / drop points to meet your itinerary, and the pricing for locations outside of France is clearly stated upfront to help in your decision.

· Northern Spain is well covered with delivery points in Porto, Vigo, Madrid, Pau, or Barcelona. Easy to make it a linear trip and not have to return to starting point.
IMO - This may not be the most economical source of a car for your trip, but I value the piece of mind of not having to deal with the numerous uncertainties that come with renting a car in Europe.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 02:59 PM
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If you do have closer to 3 weeks, I might choose 3 home bases since the Cantabrian coastline is 800 kilometers long, almost 500 miles, consisting of 6 Spanish provinces: 2 in Galicia, the quite wide Principal de Asturias, Cantabria and 2 provinces in the Spanish Basque Country.
Some rentals during high season may require a minimum 5-night stay (but certainly not all) and a rental in France may require a 7-night stay, Saturday to Saturday (but luckily we have one, an apartment, in Biarritz that doesn't). And I agree with jpie that one of your bases should allow you to make excursions into Labourd (Iparralde), the French Basque area. It's not too early to secure a rental in July as that's a very busy, popular time for the Costa Verde.

Last edited by Maribel; Jan 16th, 2020 at 03:13 PM.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 03:02 PM
  #6  
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Thank you all so much for your comments and suggestions all very helpful!
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 05:52 PM
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Oh I am so sorry to hear about the forest being closed-but glad someone mentioned it! I will keep an eye on the website.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 06:17 PM
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I did a 5 week trip from Bayonne in French basque country to Santiago de Compostela. Some by car, some by bus. Even with 5 weeks I didn't see everything. I had many more bases than you are thinking of. Much of the time my path crossed with the camino. It was a wonderful trip.

Here's the trip report - Criss-crossing the Camino: 5 weeks in Northern Spain (and a bit of France)
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 07:00 PM
  #9  
kja
 
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I must admit that I'm not sure 2 to 3 weeks really gives you the luxury you think it will in terms of time -- but I am sure that you can see some wonderful things in that time, even if you must be selective. If you don't already have it, I would strongly urge you to consult the Michelin Green Guides for these areas.

If you haven't already seen it, you might find some useful information in my trip report:
Four Awesome Weeks in the North of Spain and Catalunya
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 07:08 PM
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I agree with both Isabel and kja that almost 3 weeks isn't exactly the luxury or abundance of time that you need if you indeed hope to explore in depth the entire Cantabrian coast from A Coruña in Galicia to the Spain-France border in Gipuzkoa and hope also to explore the French Basque Country. When we vacation in the Principado de Asturias alone, for 10-12 days, we choose 3 bases, on the western coast, the eastern coast and in the Picos de Europa. You'll want to be very selective, as kja notes.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 07:21 PM
  #11  
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lol ok I take it all back, I guess 3 weeks is all relative. In my research so far I keep reading about people asking what to do in 4 days in Northern Spain so I was trying to convey that we had a little more time to enjoy ourselves and wanted to find a nice base rather than a 'it'll do' hotel somewhere along the road. I do appreciate that I won't see 'everything' but we will have time to see everything we want to.... Anyway starting to narrow it down - taking Galicia off the list and basing ourselves somewhere in the Santander region and then The Basque Country.
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 08:11 PM
  #12  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
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I know a bit of that feeling -- I never thought I could see northern Spain in 4 days, but I had no idea just how much there is to see there until I began researching my trip. It has a wealth of wonderful options!
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Old Jan 16th, 2020, 08:13 PM
  #13  
 
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Cantabria to the Basque Country will give you that abundance of time.
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