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Questions on Spain Travel March/April 2022

Questions on Spain Travel March/April 2022

Old May 16th, 2021, 12:10 PM
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Questions on Spain Travel March/April 2022

This forum has been very helpful as I have planned trips (thank you!!) and I have benefitted from the advice given. This is my first time posting for advice. I hope I can give back to this community with this ~45-50 day Spain trip we are planning now that we are retired. We are both active retirees and comfortable world travelers, and can finally take time to slow down and absorb some of the culture. I have listed our plans below - crafted from some advice on this Spain forum -but still have a few questions and would welcome some additional help with the order (eg. is it efficient?), did we choose the right places for train or to have a car, and any other comments/advice we can get! Where we choose longer stays, we like to have an apartment (cost and more room to relax); shorter stays will be at hotels.

We are still adjusting exact dates (to use points for airfare), but assume begin March 1 - April15 - 2022. We like to travel in off season to avoid crowds. Thanks very much again for any help!

(Early March): Day 1-9: Arrive Barcelona - no car. Explore Barcelona and day trip. Stay at Air BnB type lodging in Eixample, El Born or Gothic Q.
Day 9: Rent a car from Barcelona and drive from Barcelona to San Sebastian. I read Zaragoza is a good stopping point for a meal. Any other thoughts?
Day 9 -17: Stay in San Sebastian (SS) to explore the Basque Country towns (French and Spain) and also visit Rioja Wine region (knowing it is off season). Stay in AirBnb type lodging. Any thoughts on where in SS to base if we will be exploring the Basque Country by car on some days?
Day 17-19: Drive to Bilbao - Stay in Gehry hotel (A splurge)
Day 19: Our plan is to head to Madrid now, but we would like to turn our car back before we reach Madrid as we won't need it there. It looks like the train from Bilbao is more than 5 hours. We thought instead we would drive the 3 hours to Valladolid Train station (seems like many major car rental agencies there) and drop the car there, and take the train to Madrid from Valladolid. Is there a better place to drop the car before Madrid? We were a bit concerned about driving in Madrid so that's why we wanted to drop the car before. Appreciate any advice!
Day 19-23: Explore Madrid (hotel).
Day 23 - 26: Take train from Madrid to Cordoba. Hotel.
(At this point it is late March/Early April) - Day 26 - 35: Train from Cordoba to Seville. AirBnb type lodging. Explore Seville and day trips - no car
Day 35 - 38: Train to Granada (hotel).
Day 38- 44: Chill in Malaga. Can anyone tell me where it's best to stay without a car in the off-season? We would like to be beachfront, if possible. We would rent car for a few days as needed to go to Ronda or other areas OR is it best to have a car in Malaga the whole time?
Depart Day 44 or 45 - (Most likely fly Vueling from Malaga to Barcelona and home)

Last edited by SloTravel1; May 16th, 2021 at 12:58 PM.
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Old May 16th, 2021, 01:52 PM
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I like your plan with a few exceptions. You do not mention Toledo or Segovia and I would not miss either one. I would certainly stay at least one overnight in Toledo.
I would take a day or two from Barcelona and add it to Madrid to visit Toledo.
Personally, I love Granada and the gardens should be at their best in April, so I would take a day from Seville and add it to Granada. After a couple of days in Seville, you might want a car. There are several other places in the area that are great to see. I will post later. Short on time now.
For me, it becomes confusing when a day is listed twice or in two places. It makes it seem as if you have much more time in a place than you actually have. I list travel days separately or at least not in both the departure city and the arrival city.
For example: Day 9 is really not in Barcelona or S.S. It is mostly a travel day.
Day 19 is for sure not in Bilbao or Madrid. You will arrive late in Madrid and leave on the 23rd, so you do not have days 19-23 (five days) in Madrid. You actually have three days in Madrid, 20, 21, 22.
Perhaps list by nights. Then you know you have one less day for exploring than you do nights.
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Old May 16th, 2021, 04:40 PM
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The only reference to a Frank Gehry hotel is one in Elciego about 70 miles from Bilbao. Is there another?

https://www.fivestaralliance.com/lux...ques-de-riscal
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Old May 16th, 2021, 08:22 PM
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Agree with Sassafrass. Also, Valladolid and Zaragoza deserve a night or two each, preferably two. Also, about a 1-1/2 hour drive from Zaragoza is the Monesterio de Piedra which has a tremendous park with marvelous waterfalls.
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Old May 18th, 2021, 07:18 PM
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Easter is April 17 and Semana Santa, the week proceeding Easter is one of
the most important in the country. There are lots of religious services and processions in the streets
Read up on it to see If you want to avoid or view. Malaga and resort areas are also very busy at that time.

We stayed at the Gehry hotel in Elciego (Hotel Marques de Riscal) for one night in 2019 and wish we had stayed 2 - area around it had more to see and the hotel is part of a winery. It is a Marriott hotel in case you have points. Don’t miss the Bilbao Guggenheim if you’re a Gehry fan - the art was a little too contemporary for a couple of our small group but everyone loved the architecture.

We stayed in Sevilla for 5 nights using it as our base. We took the train to Córdoba for a day trip and it was easy. Kept us from packing and unpacking one more time. We also went to Jerez as a day trip from Sevilla .


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Old May 18th, 2021, 10:01 PM
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Day 9 -17: Stay in San Sebastian (SS) to explore the Basque Country towns (French and Spain) and also visit Rioja Wine region (knowing it is off season). Stay in AirBnb type lodging. Any thoughts on where in SS to base if we will be exploring the Basque Country by car on some days?

Rioja wine region is easier to reach from Bilbao (Rioja Alavesa is the Basque part, of the three areas the Rioja wine region is divided into), it´s a shorter drive and I think it makes more sense. Donostia-San Sebastian hotels are normally expensive, the city is very small and walkable (can be seen in one day) and any hotel within the city will be centrally located.


Day 17-19: Drive to Bilbao - Stay in Gehry hotel (A splurge)

Well, there´s no Gehry hotel in Bilbao. You may be referring to Hotel Dómine facing the Guggenheim, decorated by Catalan-Spanish designer Mariscal, but not Gehry. It faces the Guggenheim, just across the street. Bilbao has many things to offer and to enjoy, maybe one more night would be needed. On the drive to Bilbao, you may want to stop in Getaria, Gernika, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Mundaka...


Day 19: Our plan is to head to Madrid now, but we would like to turn our car back before we reach Madrid as we won't need it there. It looks like the train from Bilbao is more than 5 hours.

I strongly recommend to take the bus instead. Frequent daily departures, fast, modern, extremely clean, safe, cheap, wifi, wc, food...It´s the most logical option (as a Bilbao local). You´ll find public transport in Spain to be extremely efficient, clean and punctual. And it´s everywhere.
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Old May 21st, 2021, 09:36 AM
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Thank you very much Sassafrass. We will for sure include Toledo - thought we could do a day trip from Madrid, but maybe a night there. Will take a look for sure.
You are right too about making sure the travel day is not included as a "touring day" bc in most cases it is not. Appreciate the other comments about Seville and Granada as we fine tune this trip!
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Old May 21st, 2021, 09:39 AM
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Was wondering about Valladolid, joannyc, so appreciate the insight. I was looking for a place to stay there and it looks like many place are closed in March.Thanks for the reply!
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Old May 21st, 2021, 09:46 AM
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Haha yes, the Gehry (Marriott) is in Elciego. Thanks to all who caught me on that. Miklelg - the advice on reaching Rioja from Bilbao is very helpful. We thought to base in San Sebastian to explore the French Basque Country on day trips. Would welcome any other thoughts? We would like to not "hotel" hop too much. Also hadn't even considered the bus - is that also a 5 hour trip to Madrid from Bilbao? Thanks very much!
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Old May 21st, 2021, 10:15 AM
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Mltmi - thanks a lot for the tip on Easter and preceeding week! Not sure we can adjust our timing by two weeks, so we may need to skip Malaga. I will do some more research for sure to see if we would face any challenges in Granada - which would overlap with Semana Santa.
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Old May 22nd, 2021, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by SloTravel1 View Post
Haha yes, the Gehry (Marriott) is in Elciego. Thanks to all who caught me on that. Miklelg - the advice on reaching Rioja from Bilbao is very helpful. We thought to base in San Sebastian to explore the French Basque Country on day trips. Would welcome any other thoughts? We would like to not "hotel" hop too much. Also hadn't even considered the bus - is that also a 5 hour trip to Madrid from Bilbao? Thanks very much!
Yes, I´d definitely do it the other way, reaching the Rioja wine region (divided into three areas, Alavesa, Alta and Oriental-Eastern, each one with its own personality and wines, and belonging to different "autonomies" or states, La Rioja is one, Navarra another and the Basque Country the other one) from Bilbao is much faster than from Donostia. Riscal is a great hotel, but I do not like the winery and its wines that much, I´d try to visit small, family owned ones. And try the "maceración carbónica" wine, no wood aging, the "real" Rioja wine for centuries. As said, beach weather is not always an option (it´s been raining practically every day this May) so when in Donostia plan visits around town (Getaria, Hondarribia, Pasajes San Juan, Arantzazu, Loyola are musts).
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Old May 22nd, 2021, 04:46 AM
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Mikelg - thanks again for the info. Very helpful! We would definitely like to explore the Spanish Basque area as well as Rioja wine region. I now have a few questions to help us decide amount of time in each of these 3 areas - Donostia, Bilbao and Elciego. We will have a car the whole time.
1) We definitely prefer small, family owned wineries. We will be there in March. Will we be able to visit a few (3-4) - are they open? Can you recommend a tour - maybe someone to take us around for a day?
2) Also, is 3 full days enough in Bilbao?
3) We will spend 2 nights at the Riscal. Ideas for day trips from Elciego?
4) I had thought we could explore some of the French Basque country basing in Donostia. Is that realistic? Trying to map it out.
Thank you!
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 11:30 AM
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Thanks very much to all who responded. I would appreciate any further advice on a few items. I also put the questions in all caps for ease (not shouting). Here's where we have landed so far in order - traveling from late Feb to early April (before Semana Santa).

Fly into Barcelona:
- 7 full days to explore Barcelona and day tripping (still figuring out where to day trip). Any must see advice? AirBnB type accommodations in El Born or Gothic Area.
Train to San Sebastian (we decided not to drive)
- 5 full days in San Sebastian to explore French/Spain Basque and SS. AirBnB type accommodations. IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR AREA OF SS TO STAY - we will not have a car.
Rent car on last day in SS and drive to Bilbao.
- 2.5 days to explore Bilbao. (1/2 day Guggenheim; Day trip to Getaria; explore Bilbao).
Drive from Bilbao to Elciego, but drop rental car at Logrono Rail Station. I THINK THIS IS AN EASY CAR RIDE?? Stay at Marques de Riscal for 4 days/3 nts (splurge!). Book a wine tour for one day at some small producers.
Train from Elciego (Logrono?) to Madrid. WE WOULD LIKE TO TAKE ONE (NOT SWITCH) TRAIN TO MADRID. LOOKS LIKE THIS IS POSSIBLE FROM LOGRONO RAILWAY STATION. CAN ANYONE CONFIRM OR IF THERE IS A BETTER WAY (mikelg - i know you recommended the bus - we just prefer train if possible).
- 3 full days to explore Madrid/ AND day trip to Toledo
Train from Madrid to Cordoba.
- 2.5 days to explore Cordoba. ANY ADVICE ON HOTELS THERE? We are looking at the Balcon de Cordoba or Hospes Palacio de Baelo?
Train from Cordoba to Seville
- 6 full days in Seville (RENT AN APT - ANY ADVICE ON AREAS TO STAY WITH EASY ACCESS TO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, RESTAURANTS, MARKETS? WE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN NIGHT LIFE. Explore and take day trips - esp. Jerez (sherry), Andalucian Horses. ANY OTHER MUST SEE DAY TRIPS?
Train from Seville to Granada. LOOKS LIKE IT'S A 2:30 HOUR JOURNEY. CAN ANYONE CONFIRM?
2 full days in Granada. ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A HOTEL? NO MORE THAN $200 USD./NT W/ BREAKFAST.
Train from Granada to Malaga - DEBATING WHETHER WE NEED A CAR HERE FOR THE WHOLE TIME. WE WOULD LIKE TO VISIT RONDA SO WE NEED A CAR AT LEAST ONE DAY. WE EXPECT TO BE IN MALAGA FOR 5 DAYS.
Train from Malaga to Madrid - overnight at airport for flight back. SEEMS EASY TO CATCH A TRAIN BACK TO MADRID from MALAGA. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT DETAIL THOUGH AS WE NEED TO CATCH OUR FLIGHT. ANY ADVICE APPRECIATED!

Thanks again for the help!!


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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 05:18 PM
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We found the bus from Granada to Malaga more convenient so I'd check that out as well. And Ronda is accessible by both train and bus if you don't want to hire a car. You could consider Seville - Ronda - Granada or Seville - Ronda - Malaga - Granada (not necessarily better, just an alternative).
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 05:42 PM
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Thanks much dreamon. I will look into the bus if it is more convenient from Granada to Malaga than the train. Do you remember how long a bus ride it was? Thanks for the tips on getting to Ronda, too. It will be a day trip for us - so will need to consider that.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 07:31 PM
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I think it might have been a couple of hours from the main bus station but check rome2rio as a starting point.

Also, many people like to be in Ronda at sunset, which potentially means driving 'home' in the dark. Depends on what you'd like to see and do there. I wouldn't discount perhaps doing it by train from Cordoba, just another possibility. But, I have to say, I'd choose to stay over night (or longer).
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Old Jun 24th, 2021, 05:48 AM
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From Elciego, we took the direct train to Madrid from Miranda de Ebro Station. Our friends took the train to Barcelona from the Logrono Station. This was in 2019 and I assume we couldn't get one to Madrid from Logrono then. It was an easy train ride.
Be sure to visit the town of Laguardia which is near Marques de Riscal.
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Old Jun 24th, 2021, 05:51 AM
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mltmi thank you! Laguardia is on our list too! I will check into the train station you mentioned, too. Very helpful. Thanks again!
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Old Jun 25th, 2021, 03:05 AM
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Train to San Sebastian (we decided not to drive)
- 5 full days in San Sebastian to explore French/Spain Basque and SS. AirBnB type accommodations. IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR AREA OF SS TO STAY - we will not have a car.
Rent car on last day in SS and drive to Bilbao.
- 2.5 days to explore Bilbao. (1/2 day Guggenheim; Day trip to Getaria; explore Bilbao).
Drive from Bilbao to Elciego, but drop rental car at Logrono Rail Station. I THINK THIS IS AN EASY CAR RIDE?? Stay at Marques de Riscal for 4 days/3 nts (splurge!). Book a wine tour for one day at some small producers.
I´d do the day trip to Getaria from SS, no doubt, it´s just a half hour easy ride on the bus or by car. SS is very small (186,000h) and you can walk anywhere, but parking is a nightmare, so make sure your hotel or apartment offers a parking place.

In Bilbao (my town) do not miss the old quarter, you´ll love it, the funicular train to Artxanda, Azkuna Zentroa, the Gran Vía and Diputación Palace. Easy day trips to GErnika, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Mundaka, Bermeo, Lekeitio. I´d take the metro to last stop, Plentzia, you are going to like this cozy but ignored town (I always stop there when cycling).

The drive from Bilbao to Elciego is on the highway, extremely easy. I´m going to that area in a couple of weeks, I like small wineries like Ostatu, Baigorri, Casa Primicia in beautiful Laguardia, Tritium in Cenicero, Gómez Cruzado in Haro...and plenty in Villabuena de Álava, the town with the highest concentration of wineries in the world. Three wine areas in Rioja: Rioja Alavesa (Laguardia, Labastida and Elciego as the main towns, this is the Basque Rioja; Rioja Alta (Haro and Briones as the main areas, that´s in La Rioja, Spain, not to be confounded with Rioja wine region; and Rioja Oriental, to the southeast.
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Old Jun 25th, 2021, 04:38 AM
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Thank you mikelg. I appreciate the detailed guidance for Bilbao, which is definitely part of our travel plan, and letting me know that Getaria is best done from SS - I see that now. We will only pick up a car on last day in SS to go to Bilbao, so hopefully that won't be too painful, and appreciate your confirmation that it is an easy drive to Elciego. Wineries are a work in progress - it will be March when we visit. Do I need to call to make appointments at most of these wineries you mention, eg. in Laguardia? Thanks again for taking the time to reply.
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