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Suggestions for 2.5 Week Roadtrip in Northern Spain

Suggestions for 2.5 Week Roadtrip in Northern Spain

Old Jun 7th, 2021, 11:13 AM
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Suggestions for 2.5 Week Roadtrip in Northern Spain

Hello everyone,

We are planning to move forward with our 2.5-week roadtrip through Northern Spain in mid-July. We have been to Barcelona and cities in Andalusia, but are less familiar with this part of Spain, so we would be grateful for your tips and suggestions. I look forward to delving further into each region / destination, but for now, we would value your thoughts on the overall itinerary for pacing, feasibility, variety, etc. I’m sure one could spend an entire week—or two!—in San Sebastian, but we would like to get a good flavor of the region(s). For us, the two places we would like to visit most are San Sebastian and Santiago de Compostela. Our international flights are into and out of Madrid. We are considering a one-way car rental, picking up in Madrid and dropping off in Galicia (at Vigo airport). We would like a mix of cities and villages and a diversity of experiences, though we tend to value places of natural/scenic beauty (both sea and mountains). And good eating, of course—fresh seafood in particular!

Day 1: Arrive into Madrid early morning. Rent a car and drive to Rioja (Where to stay? Parador Santa Domingo La Calzada?)
Day 2: Basque Coast: Hondaribbia?
Day 3: Basque Coast: Hondaribbia?
Day 4: San Sebastian
Day 5: San Sebastian
Day 6: Bilbao (Hotel Gran Bilbao)
Day 7: Santander (or Parador Santillana Gil Blas in Santillana del Mar?)
Day 8: Santander (or Santillana del Mar?)
Day 9: Picos de Europa (Parador Fuentes De?)
Day 10: Picos de Europa
Day 11: Oviedo
Day 12: Oviedo
Day 13: Santiago Compostella (Stay in Parador there?)
Day 14: Santiago Compostella
Day 15: Combarro
Day 16: Return Car in Vigo and fly to Madrid in AM
Day 17: Madrid
Day 18: Madrid
Day 19: International Flight Home

This is a first pass as an itinerary, and we are not wedded to it yet. All thoughts and critiques are welcome. One question I have is how different the Basque region is from Galicia in terms of coastal scenery, food, experiences, etc. I’m sure each region is rich enough to devote the entire 2.5 weeks to, but to the extent they are sufficiently different, we would like to experience both.

I would particularly value suggestions for hotels/lodging in each of these places, and suggestions for places to cut (for redundancy) and substitute or add (for variety and diversity).

Thank you for the consideration of the itinerary.
4quartets is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2021, 02:11 PM
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For a seafood restaurant stop at this place in the middle of nowhere and very popular

The title gives the town and the name of the restaurant. For the adventurous, barnacles are available, but pricey.

I also wrote this trip report: Trip Report: Spanish Basque Country, Asturias and Leon, Madrid==July 2018
If like me you get the advertising square blocking the first sentence, here it is:
For a seafood restaurant stop at this place in the middle of nowhere and very popular:

Last edited by Michael; Jun 7th, 2021 at 02:48 PM.
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Old Jun 7th, 2021, 08:34 PM
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I think I would fly from Barajas to Laguardia upon arrival in Madrid instead of driving 3-1/2 hours after an international flight. Not a good idea to drive after an overnight flight unless you can sleep very, very well on the flight.

I spent 2 nights in Santillana del Mar and loved it. Stayed at the Hotel Casa del Marques. Did a day trip to the nearby Altamira caves one day and a day trip to Comillas the next day. And, there is a convent on the edge of town that sells "convent cookies". Yum!

You have a lot of 2 nighters that really only gives you a bit more that a full day in those locations. You may want to combine your 2 nights in each Hondarribia and San Sebastian to 4 nights in San Sebastian to eliminate one hotel. You can day trip to Hondarribia and other towns in that area.

Outside Oviedo, there are a few interesting sites such as Santa Maria de Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo.

Actually, there are lots of interesting sites between all your locations!

Here are links to my photos from my trips to NW and NE Spain:



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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 03:41 PM
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Michael, thank you for your suggestions and for your detailed trip report! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I enjoyed your photos Madrid as well, which gives us a lot to look forward to. I have made a note on the seafood restaurant.

joannyc, your advice was helpful. As you suggested, we decided to cut Hondarribia and add those nights to San Sebastian. And we will be spending a night at Santillana del Mar. I couldn’t find flights from Madrid to Laguardia, but to cut the drive on day one, we may just make it up to Burgo (or stay in Madrid).

I enjoyed your photos as well. Thank you for sending the link.

Here is our revised itinerary:

Day 1: Flight into Madrid. Rent car and either stay in Madrid or drive to Burgo.

Day 2: San Sebastian

Day 3: San Sebastian

Day 4: San Sebastian

Day 5: Bilbao

Day 6: Bilboa

Day 7: Santillana del Mar (Parador Santillana Gil Blas)

Day 8: Pico del Europa (Parador Fuentes de)

Day 9: Pico del Europa (Parador Fuentes de)

Day 10: Oviedo

Day 11: Oviedo

Day 12: Ribadeo (Parador Ribadeo or elsewhere? Parador looks beautiful, but pricey)

Day 13: Santiago de Compostella (Parador booked)

Day 14: Santiago de Compostella (Parador booked)

Day 15: Santiago de Compostella (Parador booked)

Day 16: Fly to Madrid

Day 17: Madrid

Day 18: Madrid

Day 19: Flight home

Two questions:

1. Does the itinerary look balanced in terms of having a good mixture of urban/rural and a diversity of experiences?

2. We have a night to add somewhere. Where would you add it? I’m considering the following:

a. San Sebastian

b. Pico del Europa (Parador Cangas de Onis)

c. Instead of dropping the car off at Santiago and flying to Madrid, we could decide to drive back to Madrid and add that night to somewhere in route, say, Salamanca or a coastal town in Galicia. Costwise, it doesn’t make much difference to have the car a few more days, but I imagine parking the car during our stay in Madrid will be a pain.

d. Or somewhere else?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 03:54 PM
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I did a trip that covers the places you list. My trip was much longer but it also included other places but you might get some useful information from the trip report - Criss-crossing the Camino: 5 weeks in Northern Spain (and a bit of France)

I agree that you should spend more days in San Sebastian and just do a day trip to Hondaribbia
While I know people are often against one night stays, I would do one night in Santander and one in Santillana del Mar
I also agree driving after an international flight is a bad idea. I suggest taking a bus from the airport to Burgos and spend one night there and rent the car as you leave there.
For me one night was enough in Oviedo

Good luck
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Old Jun 8th, 2021, 05:27 PM
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I agree to take the Alsa bus from Barajas (Terminal 4) to Burgos. It takes 2-1/2 hours and you should be able to get the 10:45am or 11:15am bus. Stay the night in Burgos and pick up your rental car the next day. It will actually save you money with not being an airport pickup. That's what I did since I don't feel comfortable driving after an international flight (I actually picked it up a couple of days later as I was staying in Burgos for 2 nights.)

If you drive back to Madrid, go to your hotel and drop your bags (or check in if you can). Then drop the rental car at the Atocha train station. No need to keep the car in Madrid.

I love Salamanca! Or Leon may interest you. I very much enjoyed both towns! If you select either, you could certainly make stops in O Cebreiro and Astorga on your way.

Here's a sample of some flights in mid-July from Madrid to Laguardia:

Last edited by joannyc; Jun 8th, 2021 at 05:51 PM.
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Old Jun 9th, 2021, 01:54 AM
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If you did not already book the parador in Fuente de, consider staying in Potes instead. The parador is in a striking location but on the side of the highway and not much going on there. Potes is a fun little village, very picturesque with neat bars and cafes around. Glad you added an extra day in Bilbao - maybe book a walking tour with pintxos with Mikel who often posts here. He is super cool and it is for sure fun to get to know Bilbao with him. He does other tours in the surrounding areas. https://toursbybasques.com/
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