Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page > Trip planning--Portugal and Spain
Notices

Trip planning--Portugal and Spain

Reply

Jul 27th, 2015, 07:47 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 902
Trip planning--Portugal and Spain

We’re beginning to organize a 2016 Spring trip to Portugal and northern Spain and need plenty of advice.

In Portugal we’re interested in Porto and the Douro river region. In northern Spain we’d like to spend time in Leon, Burgos, Santiago de Compostela, Santillana del Mar for Altamira cave paintings, Bilbao for Art museum, and San Sebastian. We’d like to concentrate on medieval buildings, art, and wine. We also plan to schedule wine day trips to the wine regions of Ribera del Duero and Rioja from Leon and Burgos.

How do we go about stringing these cities together? Weather wise, should the cities in Spain be placed before or after the Portugal portion? We’ll most likely travel in April and the first part of May, and would like the trip to be about three weeks long. We’re flexible with time.

We plan on using public transportation, trains and buses. In Portugal we’re considering a week long river cruise with a day trip add-on to Salamanca by one of several known cruise companies, or a tour by coach with a local agency in Portugal - inDouro. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to do the Douro river region? Anyone use a local tour agency there?

We’ll either fly into or out of Porto. Would Madrid be the other flight city? We’ve been to Madrid, Barcelona, and some other, more southern parts of Spain before (as well as Lisbon, Portugal), so we’d like different arrival and departure cities if it’s logical.

Does anyone have suggestions on any or all parts of this trip?
kathleen is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 07:56 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 19,700
Given what you want to do and that you are planning on flying in and out of the same city, I would rent a car for the convenience of organizing and scheduling a round trip itinerary.

For northern Portugal and Galicia you might want to take a look at my trip report; click on my name to find it.
Michael is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 07:58 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 5,901
Even though Spanish buses and trains are efficient and reliable that is a lot of stops, even for three weeks when you include a one week river cruise.

Basically from Santiago to Donostia is about 500 miles. Just think of how much time you will lose getting from place to place.

We like every place you suggest but it is a lot.
IMDonehere is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 08:29 AM
  #4
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 902
Michael- We'd like to have an open jaw ticket to avoid having to do a round trip. We definitely will not be driving. I'll look at your TR for other ideas. Thanks!

ImDone- We may eliminate San Sebastian. We thought it might be nice to include a city in the Basque region, but there's really nothing specific we want to see there. Everyone has said its very nice, so we thought, okay.

We can be flexible with length of time, so it could stretch a little beyond three weeks.

How about (and not in any particular order)
Porto(2), Douro(7), Leon(3), Burgos(3), Santiago(3) a combination of Bilbao/Santillana del Mar(3). Then fly time outside of these 21 days?
kathleen is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 08:50 AM
  #5
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 4,298
You really need to sit down with a map and plan the itinerary. Some locations stick out as not being on a round trip, more out on a limb. Some locations (IMHO) are just too far away to make this trip comfortable and relaxing.
You also means cities is that what you are only interested in seeing? If so car would not be worth the hassle.
A drop off car hire fee from Spain to Portugal is going to be a killer so a round trip may not be so workable without crossing the border using public transport.
The caves at Santillana del Mar are replicas, are you aware of that?
ribeirasacra is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 08:52 AM
  #6
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 5,901
We have never taken the trains in Portugal, so we cannot comment. But please note that while the Spanish trains are fine, the on-line site can be impossible to use. Some others will offer hints. It is called RENFE.
This will show you how to plan your time.
IMDonehere is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 09:21 AM
  #7
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 19,700
A drop off car hire fee from Spain to Portugal is going to be a killer so a round trip may not be so workable without crossing the border using public transport.

??? a round trip starting and ending in the same location is exactly what would avoid the cross-border drop-off fee.
Michael is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 09:29 AM
  #8
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 902
We will not be driving and we do not want a round trip. Which locations are just too far, and why? This might help us in eliminating them.

Yes, we are aware that the caves are replicas.
And, on our last trip to Spain, we took trains as well as buses between cities, so we have had some experience with RENFE.

I'm really interested in how to arrange the Spanish cities and whether they should fall before or after the Portugal part of the trip. For example, should we go first to Santiago from Porto, then proceed across northern Spain, then probably, eventually, ending in Madrid for flying home?
kathleen is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 10:50 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 5,901
Fly into Lisbon go to Oporto. Finish the trip at Bilbao and then fly to Madrid, London, or Paris, depending on price and availability. Also look at Vueling and Easy Jet besides the big airlines.
IMDonehere is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 11:09 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
How do you expect to get from Portugal (Porto or the Douro River area) to León? There is no train. You can do a private transfer from Bragança, in the Alto Trás-os-Montes, to Léon if you are up to it. It's a little over 2 hours driving.
Robert2533 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 11:12 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 19,700
My mistake, I did not read the "or" of "in or out of Porto"
Michael is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 11:41 AM
  #12
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 2,774
Before fine tuning your itinerary, pick up a good guide book that details the public transport options between these places. That will help you exclude the outliers and understand how much time to give each place. It is unlikely that even the most knowledgeable poster here is going to have them memorized.
I don't know where you are flying from, but I have always found Oporto flights to be expensive or require multiple legs, so I would start checking flight itineraries as well. I like kayak for checking open jaw flights. One year, I almost got to Galicia because flights to Vigo were very good.
Just at first blush, I think you are going to want to stick to the western side of northern Spain, not venture all the way to Basque country.
yorkshire is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 12:35 PM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 902
Okay. Have been studying a couple of tour books, and based on what you all have said, and what I’ve found, here’s a very rough, first draft. Also googled the train and bus times between each place to see what was available so I have a sense of how long it might take getting from place to place.

Though I’m still not sure whether it’s going to be Portugal then Spain, or Spain then Portugal, here’s a plan which can be reversed. Probable days in each place are in parentheses. Porto and Douro (9), bus Porto to Santiago (3), train Santiago to Leon (3), train Leon to Burgos (3) then either train to Madrid (2) and end the trip, or train or bus to Bilbao (2) and end the trip. Searching on line I came across a local guide sight which does day trips to the caves, and picks up in Bilbao, so maybe that too might work. Thanks.
kathleen is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 12:55 PM
  #14
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
The best local guides, based in Bilbao, would be: www.toursbybasques.com
Robert2533 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 01:08 PM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 902
Thank you. The website looks great and indicates that they've been awarded many accolades, and that's always good to see.
It doesn't have a cave trip, but I can ask.
kathleen is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 01:53 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 133
Mentioned above that flights to Oporto can be expensive.

When I researched for our upcoming vacation I found very reasonable flights to Oporto from Madrid on Ryanair. I know many don't have a high opinion of Ryanair but it is an option if flights from home to Madrid are less expensive and less legs than flying into Oporto. (I didn't check from Lisbon when I was looking at transportation options as flights into Madrid were on sale for us)

Also, if Bilbao is your last stop, would you get reasonable flights home from there? If not, Vueling has reasonable flights to Barcelona where you might find better flight options to get home from?
debinthepeg is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 04:09 PM
  #17
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 902
I think I have a lot of research to do with regards to flights, and maybe sticking to the larger cities for flights might be more economical. I'm just in the very preliminary stages of this next trip, and no doubt I'll be changing my mind on many things as I gather more information. But through these questions and answers, I've gotten a good start. Thank you all.
kathleen is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 06:07 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 19,700
We flew into Porto on Ryanair, which turned out to be the cheapest and most convenient way to get to Portugal from the U.S.: arrived in Heathrow in the a.m. and left Stansted the same day in the late afternoon or early evening to arrive in Porto around 8:30 p.m.
Michael is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2015, 06:18 PM
  #19
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 17,134
I recently visited many of the places in northern Spain that you are considering. You might find some useful information in my trip report or the very informative planning threads that helped me make my decisions. Just click on my name to find them.

You should have a great trip!
kja is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 28th, 2015, 02:17 AM
  #20
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 5,934
Big international airport in Bilbao: http://www.aena.es/csee/Satellite/Aeropuerto-Bilbao/en/

Bilbao is a great city, not only for art, and you should take a closer look at the rest of the Basque country. Beautiful landscapes, a fabulous coastline, the food heartland of Spain if not all of Europe, great wineries, a local culture that people take great pride. In short: adventures for a lifetime could await you here.
http://tourism.euskadi.eus/en/
http://www.euskoguide.com/
kimhe is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:27 AM.