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Two months Spain itinerary guidance please

Two months Spain itinerary guidance please

Old Aug 11th, 2023, 06:26 PM
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Two months Spain itinerary guidance please

Hello all -
Long time reader, first time poster. Thank you in advance for reading this long post about a two month trip my husband and I are planning from mid- October to mid-December. I've read the very helpful posts by Maribel, kja, and others so I've loads of ideas and need some advice on priorities and pacing. We are experienced independent travelers but this is our first trip to Spain and our longest ever trip. We want to cover a lot of territory but also might like a base (or two) for a week or so from which to explore an area. We fly in and out of Madrid and will rent a car at times but open to any mode of transport. We don't speak Spanish but have been studying to get some basic knowledge.

Our interests in no particular order: walking and hiking, museums, nature, historic sites (esp. Moorish), food (maybe a Michelin or two), wine, getting off the beaten track spots, markets, architecture, and a parador or two. We hope to hike in the Picos before too cold - that's why heading there first. We aren't bothered by cold weather though (from the midwest).

Sketched out itinerary (just "big picture" here, not listing all the amazing sights suggested):
Week 1: Madrid (3 days - will finish trip here with more days), pick up car at Madrid airport, drive to Leon (2 days), drive to Potes/environs (2-3 days)
Week 2: Back track from Potes to Oviedo , along coast (2-3 days), to Bilbao (2-3 days)
Week 3: San Sebastian (2-3 days), Haro or Logorno (2), Burgos (1-2)
Week 4: Extremadura - (3-4 days) - drop car at Madrid airport ($500 more to drop car in Seville), train to Cordoba (2 days)
Week 5: Seville with Jerez, Cadiz - public transport - (6-7 days)
Week 6: Rent car again - Ronda, El Camino del Rey (?) white villages, (3-4 days) Granada (2-3 days)
Week 7: Fly Granada to Barcelona - stay there/environs- 6-7 days
Week 8: Train Barcelona to Madrid - final 6-7 days

Does this somewhat criss-crossing route make sense? Thought best to do north first and do south and cities Barcelona/Madrid when weather getting cooler. Does it make sense to stay in Seville a week to stop moving a bit? Would it make sense to have a base also while up north and drive to hikes while staying on coast, instead of Potes? Other thoughts on pace of travel? We realize even with two months we can't see everything - so no Valencia, Aragon, etc. on this trip.
Thank you for any guidance you can share. I truly appreciate your help with this exciting but somewhat overwhelming planning!

Mary
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Old Aug 11th, 2023, 09:16 PM
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You can hardly go wrong!

I would make sure you devote enough time to Picos de Europa. Staying inland definitely, maybe even splitting time near Posada de Valdeon, funicular de Bulnes, Hotel Aliva, to be right IN the mountains. In two months time you have the opportunity to stay in villages, towns, cities, and out in the countryside.

Also, I find it more helpful to think in terms of nights rather than days, how many nights you will sleep in a place says more about how much time you actually have to spend there.


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Old Aug 11th, 2023, 10:05 PM
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The itinerary of the first leg of the trip seems strange to me. I would drive Madrid - León - Oviedo - Cangas de Onis - Potes & environs (Fuente Dé) - San Vicente de la Barquera - Santillana del Mar - Laredo/Santoña - Castro Urdiales - Bilbao

Last edited by Revulgo; Aug 11th, 2023 at 10:39 PM.
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Old Aug 12th, 2023, 02:34 AM
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Don't miss out on the Picos d'Europa
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Old Aug 12th, 2023, 05:25 AM
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Never mind

Last edited by cdnyul; Aug 12th, 2023 at 05:29 AM.
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Old Aug 12th, 2023, 07:19 AM
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Thanks Revulgo - my thinking was to get into the mountains as soon as possible, after Leon, with weather getting colder. Perhaps this is unnecessary? Also I'd read how lovely Cudillero is but it would be our farthest west point on the coast, so perhaps just hit coast east like you mention?
Thanks shelemm for confirming to have some days IN the mountains rather than commuting from coast. I'll look into your suggestions. We'd looked at Hotel del Oso as a base.

Any other thoughts on other parts of itinerary? Thanks!
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Old Aug 12th, 2023, 09:17 AM
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MaryJT,
I would follow Revulgo's suggested route. I wouldn't backtrack.

The Liébana Valley (Potes) enjoys a microclimate (it's even a wine producing region now-Picos de Cabariezo) and may not be as cold as you suspect. I've stayed at the Parador de Fuente Dé in November and haven't had snow/ice. I think you´ll be ok if you reach Potes before the second week of November. The Parador stays open this winter until Dec. 21. It used to close the first week of November...

I've done the drive from Potes to León, and it´s not particularly easy or fast.
I prefer to go down to the Liébana valley either from the coast via the winding Desfiladero de la Hermida, south from Unquera, or east from Cangas de Onís on the Asturian side of Picos. From Cangas to Potes is a spectacularly scenic drive. Sunday is outdoor market day in Cangas.

About the funicular that takes you up to inaccessible by car Bulnes--if it's a clear day, it can be stunning, if wet and cloudy up there, the attendant selling funi tickets will try to talk you out of going, which is a good thing. At Fuente Dé, you´ll also have a great cable car ride.
You may want to watch Bourdain and José Andrés' Asturias episode of Parts Unknown. It's very entertaining.

And yes, you should STAY in the Picos de Europa rather than commute from the coast. The Hotel del Oso is a charming spot, a wonderful place to dine and THE place to try the hearty cocido lebaniego. (I love their cute St Bernards.). As a base the Potes area holds more appeal to me than Cangas. I've stayed in both, at the Cangas Parador and at the Fuente Dé Parador, but Potes seems a more picturesque stone and slate mountain village to me overall.

Cudillero is lovely, but I don't think that it merits a detour west to that part of the Asturian coast.. San Vicente de la Barquera in Cantabria is also charming and less touristed.

It's quicker to reach the Rioja wine region from Bilbao than from San Sebastián (as our Bilbao native mikelg can explain), so you might want to go south from Bilbao to Haro or Laguardia (more charming than Logroño) then after your Rioja wine region stay, venture back, northeast, through Vitoria, to the coast to San Sebastián.
But...from San Sebastián to drive down to Burgos you would be repeating the route through Vitoria.

Time devoted to Extremadura, the land of the Conquistadores, seems quite short to me, as it offers a great deal--
Roman ruins and fine Roman Art Museum in Mérida, highly atmospheric Cáceres, Trujillo--the birthplace of Pizarro, the Monfragüe Park, the Vera Valley with its Monastery de Yuste of Carlos V, the shrine of Guadalupe, and it boasts some of Spain's loveliest Paradors.

It´s a shame that the car drop off in Sevilla is so expensive as to not be able to drop off there and avoid the backtrack to Madrid. I assume you've checked all drop off locations? city, Santa Justa rail, airport?

Week 5: 7 days in Seville seems perfect to me. In March I spent 9 nights there and didn't run out of wonderful things to do. Seville to Jerez to Cádiz is easy on the trains. I think by the time you reach Seville, you'll want a respite and a base from which to make day trips.

Week 6: Sounds fine. My favorite white towns, in addition to Ronda that has become more of a city, are Zahara de la Sierra & Grazalema. I would suggest a visit to the fascinating pre historic caves of La Pileta if it holds appeal.
We make Ronda our base for day trips, as we spend the day out exploring (avoiding the bus excursions from the coast), as Ronda offers a greater selection of lodging and dining/entertainment options at night.

Week 7: Sounds fine, soooo much to explore in Barcelona plus Girona & Tarragona are easy train trips.

Week 8: As you may have seen in a recent Madrid thread, mid December is a. magical time to be in Madrid!

Hope this helps!

Last edited by Maribel; Aug 12th, 2023 at 10:00 AM.
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Old Aug 12th, 2023, 10:13 AM
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Week 4: On second thought, 3 nights in Extremadura should be sufficient, since you want to spend 2 nights in Córdoba during this week. As you note, you can't see it all and will need to pick and choose!

Another second thought..
.If based at the Parador de Cangas de Onís (outside of town) on the Asturian side of Picos de Europa, you would have the shrine of Covadonga, the beautiful lakes of Covadonga (take a taxi or the Alsa bus), the funi to Bulnes, weather permitting, and if you like a fairly easy hike, the Cares Gorge walk (weather permitting), plus a visit to a cheese cave.

If based at the Hotel del Oso outside of Potes, on the Cantabrian side, you'd have the cable car at Fuente Dé, the Monastery of Santo Toribio, the Visigothic Church of Santa Maria de Liébana, walks around Mogrovejo.
It may be a toss up.

Last edited by Maribel; Aug 12th, 2023 at 10:48 AM.
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Old Aug 12th, 2023, 05:16 PM
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Thank you Maribel! This is so helpful! I appreciate your thoughtful responses.
Maybe we could spend one night in Cangas and do the Lakes and other sights, leaving the next day for 2-3 nights in Potes area. That makes for a lot of moving but it will be at the start of the trip.
So, revised first 2 weeks:
Week 1: Madrid (3 nights), pick up car at Madrid airport, drive to Leon (2 nights), Oviedo (1-2 nights),
Week 2: Cangas (1 night), Potes (2-3 nights), San Vicente de la B. /coast (2 nights) , Bilbao (2-3 nights)

Hadn't realized Rioja would be easier from Bilbao so will look at that.
Thank you again - and I'm sure you'll be hearing from me again.
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Old Aug 12th, 2023, 05:26 PM
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More thoughts, since you mentioned wines...
Txakolí wineries (slightly sparkling, apple tart Basque white wines) to visit on the way to San Sebastián: most are around Getaria, where you will want to stop for a walk around, visit the Balenciaga Costume Museum, have a memorable seafood meal in town (Michelin-starred Elkano is booked solid until Nov 1, but not too late to reserve at its "cousin", Kai Kaipe or the more casual Txoko next door)
https://www.getariakotxakolina.eus/?lang=en
https://www.txominetxaniz.com/en/
https://gaintza.com/en/

A winery in the Liébana Valley, near Potes, Cantabria:
Home ? Bodega Picos de Cabariezo

2 smaller Rioja Alta wineries we especially enjoy in the Barrio de la Estación of Haro (lower town, 7 visitable wineries all grouped together with handy parking). These 2 have very nice wine shops/bars to avoid a long 2-hour tour:
Gómez Cruzado
La Rioja Alta

In Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa, you have a very interesting, ancient underground winery within the medieval walled town:
https://www.bodegascasaprimicia.com/en/visit-us/

The cava capital of the Penedés, Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, is reachable on a day trip from Barcelona by train. Take the Rodalies (commuter train) from Plaça De Catalunya, line R4 in 45 min.
Freixenet is right at the rail station or better still, take a taxi to the beautiful Art Nouveau Codorniú estate.
https://www.freixenet.es/en/wine-tou...t-the-wineries
https://www.codorniu.com/en/visits/our-visits

Sherry tasting in Jerez de la Frontera:
Many, many choices, but for a first time visitor, I'd choose Bodegas Tío Pepe because it's a very pretty property and offers food pairings (necessary when sipping sherry!)
https://www.tiopepe.com/int-en/book
Or just enjoy a glass at one of the city's many Tabancos (old time sherry dispensaries) like Tabanco el Pasaje, even with flamenco usually at 2, 8 and 10.

Michelin starred restaurants:
Many, many options on your route, but some 2 & 3 starred now are extraordinarily expensive, especially in San Sebastián, Madrid and Barcelona (€250/p and up, way up!), need to be booked months in advance and offer long tasting menus only. We now mostly choose Michelin Bib Gourmands for value or those with 1 Repsol sun.

One Michelin-starred places that we'd be willing to splurge on for a special occasion:
Barcelona---Mont Bar, Dos Palillos
Madrid--Lua (Galician)
Bilbao--Zarate (seafood)
Haro--Nublo (cooking with fire)
León--Cocinandos
Burgos--Cobo Evolución
Cádiz--Código de Barra
Sevilla--Cañabota (but better value, same fine fish/crustaceans around the corner at its La Barra de Cañabota)

Oviedo--Casa Fermín lost its Michelin star, but it's still great, a good value and run by a lovely family.

More markets:
Between Bilbao & SS, Monday is outdoor market day in Gernika.
León holds its outdoor market on the Plaza Mayor on Wed/Sat. Really good.
San Sebastián's indoor Mercado de la Brecha is worth a stroll (downstairs, but not on Monday when fishmongers aren't there)
Bilbao's indoor Mercado de la Ribera is also very worthy; ditto to Oviedo's (again, not on Monday)
Oviedo's indoor market (ditto)
My favorite Madrid markets: Mercado de la Paz in the Salamanca district (upscale) and Mercado Antón Martín in Lavapiés with great dining downstairs at LaLópez.
Barcelona markets: La Boquería is always tourist clogged so go early. Mercat Sant Antoni is worth a stroll as well.

On the Cantabrian coastal route I would stop to see San Vicente de la Barquera, have lunch as Las Redes and visit the castle, but I would skip Castro Urdiales, which has become very overdeveloped. Medieval Santillana Del Mar can be visited in two hours, as it's so small, but you'll enjoy the corbels of the Colegiata. It has 2 Paradors, the nicest for a lunch, the historic, 17th c. Parador Gil Blas.

Last edited by Maribel; Aug 12th, 2023 at 06:17 PM.
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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 07:16 AM
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Maribel - thank you again! So much useful information here. Your food and wine suggestions will help so much in narrowing down too many choices. I'm going to review and start focusing also on accommodations.
Quick question if I may: after leaving Potes, and on way to Bilbao, where would you recommend for an overnight stay? We'd like a night or two on the coast before Bilbao, if that makes sense.
Thank you again -
Mary
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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by MaryJT
where would you recommend for an overnight stay? We'd like a night or two on the coast before Bilbao
I'd consider San Vicente de la Barquera
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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 01:49 PM
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Why would you split your time in Madrid, with 3 days in the begin and 6 to 7 days at the end? Why not put all your time in Madrid at the end?

When I went to Spain, I flew into and out of Madrid too, but on the day my plane arrived, I took the train to Seville without first spending any nights in Madrid. But I didn't worry about jetlag and I didn't rent a car.

When you re-write your itinerary, you might want to list the number of nights instead of days.



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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 02:11 PM
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I would overnight somewhere between San Vicente de la Barquera and Santillana, maybe Comillas (a really interesting monument-filled town) or Toñanes.
Why?
Because this area will be far less tourist clogged than Santillana Del Mar. and it has a pretty coastal setting.

There's no really distinctive lodging in San Vicente that really stands out to me (but I'm picky).
I've seen most all of the members of the Club de Calidad de Cantabria Infinita (manor houses/inns), a lodging group "of charm", and stayed in one in Comillas (María de Campíos), but the one I like most sits just west of Santillana in Toñanes, the reconverted 18th c PALACIO DE TOÑANES.
https://palacion.es.

You could stop for lunch at Las Redes and visit to castle in San Vicente de la Barquera then move on to the unspoilt seaside section of the coast just west of Santillana for a restful stay, then hit Santillana the next morning before the tour buses arrive.

My most respected Fodorites (you know who you are!) have mixed opinions of Santillana. Some loved their 2-night stay (at Parador Gil Blas and Casa del Marqués), some didn't like it because of the heavy day tripper crowds, some just visited on a day trip with a look around, a visit to the Colegiata and its medieval cloister and visit to the Museo de Altamira (more worthy as an interesting museum but not an authentic replica of Altamira, unlike Lascaux II, ime).

I've stayed in Santillana at both Paradors and now will just give it a quick visit, since I've had several overnight experiences. I think Santillana has become overtime a victim of its own beauty, but that's just me, becasue I've seen it change over the years. I was very fortunate to be one of the last groups admitted to the Cuevas de Altamira before it closed to the public when I was a teenager.
There are several members of the Club de Calidad de Cantabria Infinita in Santillana, including the Casa del Marqués.
Look at the selections of the Club de Calidad in Cantabria and see what you think.
Sleeping

Hope this helps.


Last edited by Maribel; Aug 13th, 2023 at 02:28 PM.
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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 02:27 PM
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MaryJT,
Have you priced out perhaps a car drop off at Córdoba rail instead of Sevilla?
If possible that would at least keep you heading in the proper direction, south, without the backtrack to Madrid. Then the AVANT high speed rail down to Sevilla.
Just a thought.
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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 03:39 PM
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Restaurante Las Redes in San Vicente de la Barquera
https://restaurantelasredes.com

Beautiful beach between San Vicente de la Barquera and Comillas for a stroll
Playa de Oyambre
https://www.turismocomillas.com/en/oyambre/p-14
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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 07:46 PM
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Thank you all! Really appreciate your help.
Maribel - Unfortunately looks like I can't do a one way car drop off at Cordoba, from Madrid. Good idea though - which I hadn't considered. Those Club properties look wonderful - I will take a careful look. And thank you for your insights about Santillana and the area. Exactly what one seeks on these forums.
Revulgo - Hope to find something in the area of San Vicente de la B.
MichaelPianko - You guessed it - we are concerned about jet lag and renting a car, so thought a few days to acclimatize would be prudent. And first time to Spain also.

I'll keep plugging away - and will be in touch. Thanks again!
Mary

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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 07:52 PM
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MaryJT,
I forgot to mention that Monday is market day in Potes. So Sunday market in Cangas, Monday market in Potes.
If your stay at Hotel del Oso falls on Nov. 10-12, Potes will be celebrating its Fiesta del Orujo (orujo=a locally produced grapa-like liqueur).
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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by MaryJT
Thanks Revulgo - my thinking was to get into the mountains as soon as possible, after Leon, with weather getting colder. Perhaps this is unnecessary? Also I'd read how lovely Cudillero is but it would be our farthest west point on the coast, so perhaps just hit coast east like you mention?
Thanks shelemm for confirming to have some days IN the mountains rather than commuting from coast. I'll look into your suggestions. We'd looked at Hotel del Oso as a base.

Any other thoughts on other parts of itinerary? Thanks!
5 nights at least for Extremadura.

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Old Aug 13th, 2023, 08:59 PM
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I would choose Salamanca over Burgos as a base from which you could visit Segovia and Avila as day trips. The city itself has more to offer than Burgos in my opinion.




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