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scdreamer May 9th, 2009 12:53 PM

Summer Spain itinerary plan - ideas?
Brief synopsis of this topic - I am planning to be in Salamanca for an educational program in July - then will meet my husband in Madrid for about 12 days of travel. I have received some great suggestions from posters here on this forum, and have put together a partial itinerary so far. We are in our mid to late 50s, have traveled throughout Europe and South & Central America. We are fairly fit, love good food, cultural sites, hiking, biking. Any suggestions for hotels or places that are "don't-miss" are more than welcome.

Again, thanks for all the help from everyone. I think I have narrowed things down to a reasonable itinerary which will allow us to enjoy our short trip. Since my husband has not been to Spain before, I am going to include Segovia for a couple nights, even though I have traveled throughout that area (Salamanca, La Alberca, Avila, Cuidad Rodrigo, etc.) I want to return to La Granja, as I thought the tapestries there were outstanding, and when I visited last summer, I didn't have time to see the gardens.

So - Here is the plan thus far:
*We will meet in Madrid on a Friday and spend a night there near Plaza Mayor, so we can see a few sights that evening. We are going to rent a car through EuropeCar, and will pick it up the following morning.
* We will drive to Segovia - seeing La Granja along the way. Two nights (Saturday and Sunday) in Segovia - any hotel suggestions would be welcome. I stayed at the Parador there last summer, and it was nice, but very pricy and not really in the city. Of course, the parking was easy, so that is a consideration in looking for a hotel.

* Drive to Leon and spend Monday night there. Again, hotel suggestions are welcome.

*Drive west to Santiago de Compostelo, stopping at Ourense along the way. We have reservations for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Casa Grande do Bachao outside of Santiago.
We plan to use it as a base, and explore the city, as well as to relax and perhaps do a little hiking or biking on the grounds of the casa.

That's as far as I've gotten with our plans. From Friday on, I would like to explore some of the coastal areas south toward Vigo and Baiona. We love seafood, so this could be our big chance to satisfy that desire. Any suggestions for villages that are particularly enchanting are welcome. If it seems too ambitious to go that far south, we are perfectly content exploring the inlets along the way as far as is comfortable. I'm not really into overdoing the driving with too much windshield time. Any ideas of where to stay in that area would also be very welcome.

We have to be back at Madrid airport the following Tuesday morning for our 11 a.m. flight back to the USA. We are planning to return the car to the airport rental site that morning, so no need to go all the way back into the city of Madrid.

Any ideas for a good route back to Madrid?


ribeirasacra May 10th, 2009 02:26 AM

Hi it is me again….
Suggestions…Leon; is there not a Paradore right next to the cathedral?
Maybe drop Ourense if you are passing through. The distance between Leon and SdC (and your hotel to the north) is something like just over 400km. (depending on route) which route are you taking?
I am not a beach person, but I do like to walk beside the ocean. For me the Costa Morte has a more varied coastline then the Rias Baixas. Cliffs and beaches plus small villages. Seafood will be good where ever you go.
There are few streets that are ok in Vigo, but my option is that it a large industrial city with nothing of real value when compared with the rest of Galicia’s beauty. This si sort of backed up by being Galicia’s largest city. Other no doubt will have a different interpretation on this.
Maybe drop your car off in SdC, Vigo or A Coruña and fly back to Madrid. But that depends on your departure time back home. If not maybe call into Portugal? Let me know and hopefully me or someone else can suggest things.

annhig May 10th, 2009 02:51 AM

hi dreamer,

Have you see the guides made by a faodorite called Maribel?

there is a wealth of information there.

otherwise I applaud the idea of going north in high summer in spain -it's lovely up there. we didn't get much further west than santander [and that was 25 years ago] so I can't help you with sandiago di compostella. but there is a parador in Leon, and it's very lovely - I still remember the quiet and cool of its cloisters [it's an old monastery] after all this time. it's right next to the cathedral [rose window?] and would be worth every penny.

have a great trip,

regards, ann

amsdon May 10th, 2009 07:35 AM

I agree about La Granja.Loved it.

Since you are planning two days in Segovia you might explore the general area.

We stayed at the Infanta Isabel & the location was so convenient for Segovia proper. WE also stayed at the Hospederia de Santo Domingo in Pedraza which is lovely & relaxing but very quiet. http://www.hospederiadesantodomingo....ctividades.htm

My plan when I return to Segovia I would probably go towards Sacramenia ad seek out a meal @ the butcher's kitchen mentioned in Maribel's guides at Meson Gonzales..No official website yet that I know of. They also have a 3 or 4 very basic rooms for guests.

Being in that area I would combine that with a meal in Sepulveda ..again all info on Maribel's guides.

scdreamer May 10th, 2009 08:03 AM

ribeirasacra - I was hoping you would follow this post ... your advice is proving invaluable to me. I didn't realize the distance between Leon and Santiago de Compostela is that much. Yikes. Now I am thinking instead of two nights in Segovia, we will spend only one, and then two nights in Leon. The parador there looks great, and there is a good special running so we can stay for a reasonable rate. Also - free parking - which is definitely a consideration for us.

Not sure of the route we will take ... I had thought to go through Ourense (the thermal spring fountains look intriguing), but now I doubt the time involved in navigating our way through the city for such a short visit would be worthwhile ... especially given the distance we will be travelling in that one day to get to Santiago and our hotel. I wonder if taking the road that goes by Lugo would be better. Either way, we will likely have to bypass any cities along the way.

Interesting your take on Costa Morte vs Rias Baixas ... I had thought the latter would have more of the smaller and less touristic villages than the former. Not true? We were considering Muros, Cambados, Pontevedra, Hio, etc. What are some of your favorites along the Costa Morte? We are not totally fixed on any kind of beach experience - we live near the beach in California (Santa Cruz), so it's not such a novelty for us, but the idea of fresh seafood and small villages is what we hope to find.

I will also look at returning the car in Galicia (depending on where we will be on the day before our flight home) and flying back to Madrid. Our flight back to the US leaves at 11:30 a.m. so it is definitely do-able if we can get an early morning flight to MAD. I like that idea much more than a long drive back to Madrid.

annhig - I have used some of Maribel's guide in the past. I will look again for info on Galicia. Thank you for the suggestion.

davidx May 10th, 2009 08:45 AM

When you are in Leon, be absolutely certain to see the Pantheon of the Kings of Leon - next to San Isodoro, It's reall a must-see.

ribeirasacra May 10th, 2009 08:47 AM

Yep I do try and follow postings, this forum is not the easiest for that but we all seems to manage. I work at odd hours and sometimes have long days so my posting frequency can be a bit erratic at times.

Ourense is worth a visit for the hot springs (and more). But to be honest to appreciate the baths you have to stay in or a round the city to take an advantage of a good soak and relax. If you drive from Leon to SdC you can drive to Monforte de Lemos Chantada onto Lalin then SdC. The only town you touch is Lalin and even there you have a newest by pass. However seeing that your accommodation is to the north of SdC then may be head pass Lugo and drop down (sort of south) after the city. However Lugo is not a place to be missed. It is my favourite city in Galicia; it is even now bypassed by the majority of tourists.
Pontevedra is the Provincial city so it is no village. However it is charming and quaint. I have read online that there are problems with the paper factory releasing smells. That comes from the local newspapers and tourist forums. However In my visits I have never smelt a thing.. maybe I also need a wash!
If you do go to Rias Baixas then Baiona and Tui could be worth reading up on too. You should also try and visit a Bodega if you like white wine.. now we have given you too much to do!
Re Costa Morte: Likes are quite personal thing, but I would suggest you look into places like Laxe, Muixa and of cause Finisterre. With the latter I did not think much of the village. A casual drive and finding your way down that unmarked road can bring you to may surprises.
For more reading here is a site with fairly good information;

Maribel does not have any guides on Galicia...shame on her :-(

Maribel May 10th, 2009 09:21 AM

About Segovia lodging, in town (and with garage) there's everyone's budget favorite, the Infanta Isabel, right on the Plaza Mayor, or my new favorite around the corner, the Palacio de San Facundo, more designer chic and with garage. (both in my Segovia guide)

The majestic, historic, immense León Parador is unfortunately not next to the cathedral but near the river and a long walk from the cathedral area, Panteón de los Reyes and Barrio Húmedo. I've enjoyed staying there, it truly is like stepping back a few centuries, but others have also enjoyed the B & B style Posada Regia, around the corner from the cathedral.
The prices are more reasonable at the Paradors this year, and you would have free parking. For me it's been a really memorable experience (fine dining too), even though we didn't stay in the Parte Noble but instead in a spacious and lovely room with terrace in the (ugly-from-the-outside) annex.

I haven't posted a guide to Galicia-Asturias-Cantabria yet on my web page because I don't have it finished. It's a work in progress and going very slowly. But I will mention here some things we've enjoyed in our explorations from the west side, most of which are doable from a base near Santiago-

Baiona, where Columbus's ship La Pinta, returned from its voyage to the Américas in March, 1493 (there's a replica of it in the port). We've stayed at the wonderful, baronial, resort-like Parador above the town perched in the ramparts, and it's a fine place to enjoy a splurge lobster (bogavante) meal. Baiona is an atmospheric, interesting town. And in July and August, one can take a boat from Baiona to the beautiful Cíes Islands with their pristine beaches. Boats leave from Vigo too, but Baiona makes a nicer departure point. I'm not a beach person, but it makes for a lovely outing.

down to A Guarda, where we've visited the Celtic castro (settlement) of Santa Tegra-a must see, for me. From A Guarda there's a little ferry that one can take over to Camarinha in the Portuguese Minho (Miño in Spanish). A Guarda is also a great seafood town (Restaurante Bitadona at the port).

We've done wine tasting in Cambados, the "capital" of the sub-zone, Val de Salnés, of the D.O. Rías Baixas. The town is filled with palatial manor homes, one being the winery, Palacio de Fefiñanes. It also has the immaculate and wonderful little mom & pop restaurant, Casa Pinto, in the fishermen's quarter, discovered by Mario Batalli in his tv culinary road series "Spain on the Road Again". Best zamburriñas (baby scallops) I've ever had anywhere. Dad makes his own wine.

to the spa island of La Toja, where the Magno black soap comes from-we've stayed at the
Old World Gran Hotel de la Toja, but we've also just taken a day trip for lunch. Very crowded in summer, though, and it's skippable

Ribadavia, also a wine town (D.O. O Ribeiro), which is quite picturesque with interesting Jewish quarter and the Hebrew bakery of Doña Herminia, and castle.

We've ventured down to my favorite town in the Portuguese Minho valley, Viana do Castelo for their weekly market, handicraft shopping, strolling around the beautiful squares and have taken the funicular up for a visit to the pretty Basilica of Santa Luzía, below the Pousada, with lovely views. But we did this drive from Baiona.
From your base, you may want to go no further than Vila Nova de Cerveira (where there's a pousada) closer to the border.

the border-fortress town of Tui, which looks across the Miño at Valencia do Minho, I've found to be a pleasant place

I also like the Betanzos-Pontedeume area to the north, below La Coruña-very pretty-and nice walks in the Fragas do Eume forest.

As to the Coata da Morte, we've taken the drive from Noja to Muros to Muxia and beyond as far as Camariñas, the "lace-making" town. I agree with ribeirasacra that the scenery here is more dramatic and it's less touristed. Haven't ventured yet to Laxe or Malpica.

Once you get into the historic Old Quarter, the Casco Antiguo, of Pontevedra, it's a very pleasant place to walk around and visit the numerous churches and cathedral and have lunch or a drink on the square.

I wouldn't miss seeing the largest collection of hórreos (stone granaries on stilts) in Combarro. (The longest one in Galicia is found in Carnota on the Costa da Morte).

You might enjoy visiting the gardens of the 18th century lavish villa, Pazo da Oca (open daily from 9 am until dusk)

And there's the Monasterio de Poio, outside of Pontevedra

Taramundi, across the border in the less trodden Asturian Os Oscos, would be a further stretch from your base outside of Santiago-maybe too much of a stretch for a day trip. It's a gorgeous, 50-shades-of-green area, but I think it's best done as an overnight or on the way to the Asturian coast. Splendid scenery, off the beaten path.

I really preferred Lugo to Ourense when I visited. The walls of Lugo are really well preserved, quite stunning.

If you can get a very early flight from SdeC to MAD, I would certainly do that rather than make the long drive back. That's what we're going in late Oct.-early Nov., a 17 day loop, starting and ending in SdeC.

Maribel May 10th, 2009 09:29 AM

Should have added,
since Ribeira Sacra and I have yet to team up to write a joint guide to Galicia ;), if you do need a printed guide, I've used both Cadogan's Northern Spain (latest edition, '06) and Footprint Northern Spain ('07) which have fairly large chapters on Galicia.

If you read Spanish, you could pick up the blue Everest guide on Galicia at a bookshop.

ribeirasacra May 10th, 2009 03:18 PM

I like Footprints books too.
Maribel you seem to have been to a lot of good spots in Galicia...I think that maybe Dreamer is going to go into overload now!

Maribel May 10th, 2009 04:02 PM

Yep, sdreamer is going to have to pick and choose judiciously! Lots to see, and we didn't even talk about the eastern side!

scdreamer May 10th, 2009 06:59 PM

Yes, I am already feeling a little sad that we have such a limited amount of time ... although at the initial time of planning it didn't seem so. I will have to put it in perspective: it only proves that we are meant to return to Spain next year.

scdreamer May 11th, 2009 08:01 AM

Have made another decision ... only one night in Segovia - still sorting hotel choices there.

But I have gone ahead and booked two nights at the Leon Parador. The special price (a double for 100 Euros a night) was too good to pass up, and even though it's not right in the center of things, we can either take the car or walk.

Then we will be Santiago - have already booked the three nights, and plan to explore over that time. Maybe drive northwest and check out the coastline there if we have had enough of the city. Our hotel is in the country - we can do a little biking and hiking on the grounds, which is something we enjoy.

Still figuring out the final four days, but I am pretty sure it will include flying back to Madrid rather than driving. Great suggestion!

I am having a great time playing with this itinerary, and I really appreciate all the helpful suggestions from Fodorites.

Maribel May 11th, 2009 09:16 AM

At the Parador Hostal de San Marcos in León, upon arrival you buzz at the entrance gate, and the desk staff will lower the blocks so that you can drive right up to the magnificent platesque entrance. A bell hop will unload for you and park your car in the lot in the back of the complex.

I know you probably have this on your itinerary, but a visit to the Romanesque-
Gothic jewel, Real Colegiata de San Isidro, in addition to the gorgeous Gothic cathedral, is a must. Its Panteón de los Reyes that davidx mentions, is also a must-see, often called the "Sistine Chapel of Romanesque Art".
See photos here-

Also there's the Casa de Botines, which you can admire from the outside-one of only 3 works by Antonio Gaudí found outside of Catalunya.

I haven't visited the new Museum of Contemporary Art of Castilla and León, (MUSAC). It won the Mies Van der Rohe Contemporary Architecture Prize in 07.

You can read all about León's monuments and attractions at

You can see the hours of the cathedral's museum here (but in Spanish)

If you'll be in León on Sat. or Sun. (until Sept.), there are now guided night visits lasting 45 min. to the cathedral that start at 11:30 pm. Cost: 6 euros. It's part of the major restoration project of the stained glass windows.
Ask the parador desk staff to reserve a space for you, if you're interested. Phone: 638 479 419
Reports are that this night visit is simply spectacular.

ribeirasacra May 11th, 2009 09:46 AM

Maribel stop it …you over loading SC ;-)
The inland area of the hotel north of SdC is a bit of a mystery to me. The photos from the website make it seems attractive though. The parts I have seen have been flat and boring. I hate the Drive on the Autovia north out of SdC.
Here are some suggestions for the area. The city is nice but as it is small you will not need more than 24 hours there. So you will have several days free to explore the Costa Morte. Here are few suggestions via links to make it easy for me.
I would suggests that you take off in the car and follow your nose down some unmarked lanes to the sea’s edge. However don’t underestimate the time everything will take you as the roads can be narrow and twisty.

Sorry I have just overloaded you too!

Maribel May 11th, 2009 10:41 AM

I remember now that since you've decided to add a night in León, you'll be there on Sun. so the night visit to see the illumination of the cathedral and stained glass on the inside would work for you, if you'd like to do this. You could precede it will some tapas sampling or sit-down dinner in the adjacent Barrio Húmedo.

For your Friday-Monday stay after the Casa Grande do Bachao, you might want to head south to the Rías Baixas so as to explore some of the above and take a dip into the lush Portuguese Minho.

We just love the exquisite Baiona Parador for its sumptuous surroundings and to use it as a base for explorations down south, but its tariffs are really high in July.

The Tui and Cambados Paradors don't have 100 euro discounts, but they do offer an Expore the Rías Baixas rate of 160, including buffet breakfast (always huge) and your choice of lunch or dinner. Or the Golden Age (55 and older) with buffet breakfast and room for 133 for some July dates. But that may be beyond your budget.

The Rusticae property, Quinta de Amaro, represented by Inns of Spain, looks really attractive and has doubles for 105 before July 24. It's in the Valle del Salnés. Gets great reviews on

Inns of Spain also represents other attractive country inns in the Rías Baixas that are less expensive.

And has a property near the Miño and the Parque Natural de A Peneda, which might make a nice country base-Casa & Spa Hijos Dalgo-if you're looking for something rural.

It has two nice reviews on Top Rural.

scdreamer May 11th, 2009 05:02 PM

ribeirasacra - I am thinking the Hotel Grande do Bachao will be a place we can use as a base for exploring the Costa da Morte. I downloaded and printed the turismocostadamorte website info you linked to - soundsgreat, especially the gastronomy section. I am really looking forward to the seafood.

maribel - Thank you so much for the information regarding the night tour of the cathedral in Leon. You are correct - we will be there on a Sunday. I love the idea of being in the cathedral late at night. Do you think we should try to arrange the tickets ahead of time? My Spanish (particularly Castillian) is not very telephone-friendly, so I wonder whether we should wait until we arrive.

The plan to head south after Santiago sounds good, but I am thinking we won't have enough time to travel as far south as you have suggested ... which is truly disappointing. I wish we had more time ... but as I said before, we will return. We will actually be travelling in the first weeks of August, so the July specials will not apply.

I have found a flight back to Madrid from Santiago early Tuesday morning; we should be able to connect with our transatlantic flight. It is going to be a long (hellish) journey home ... all the way to the west coast of the USA in one l-o-n-g day, but that way we can squeeze every last drop of Spain out of this trip. I am also going to see if there are any flights that might work from Vigo, but not sure if there are any early enough.

Thank you again for your ongoing generosity in taking the time to offer so many great suggestions. I had no idea what we are going to be so lucky to see and do.

Maribel May 11th, 2009 05:36 PM

Yes, there's another way to arrange tickets (or reservations for tickets) ahead of time, by emailing [email protected]

The Parador specials at Cambados or Tui may also be offered in Aug.-I only checked for July.

I understand both the desire to squeeze every last drop of Spain out of a trip but also the hellish ride home from Santiago to Madrid to East Coast to West Coast. I do it round trip 4 times a year, but I'd much rather spend my last night in Galicia than in a Madrid airport hotel.
We're flying from Santiago to the West Coast, one l-o-n=g day, for our return to the US in Nov.

You might check the early am departures from Vigo. Also check the on time records for both Vigo and Santiago flights at

I realize that I've "overloaded" you with possible excursions, but you can keep them for your next trip, and ribeirasacra's and my suggestions, at least, have added to the archives for Galicia!

ribeirasacra May 12th, 2009 04:05 AM

I just hope lots of others use this information too.I know that one cannot see everything on a vacation trip. We have lived in the part of the world for a good number of years and yet the other day we "discovered" a church which has got 15th Century paintings on its walls. There is always something new to find.

November is great time to get to Galicia and feast on the chestnuts!

cruiseluv May 12th, 2009 06:29 AM

scdreamer, wow , you have gotten a lot of food for thought here. Sounds like you are off to a great start.

It is so exciting to read about the night tour of the León cathedral! Now I know I have to go back!

I am really enjoying reading of all the possible sightseeing in the Galicia area. Maybe one of these days I will gather up my courage and rent and car. That way I will not be limited by what I can do with public transport.

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