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Wish to drive 'off the beaten track' in Spain and Portugal

Wish to drive 'off the beaten track' in Spain and Portugal

Aug 31st, 2012, 01:40 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 1
Wish to drive 'off the beaten track' in Spain and Portugal

My husband and I will be in Spain and Portugal for a total of one month (mid September to mid October of this year). Our plan is to star with three days in Barcelona, then pick up a car to begin a driving vacation, concentrating on scenic routes and small towns in both Spain and Portugal. En route, we hope to stop in Lisbon. At the end of the trip, we plan to drop off the.car in Madrid, and then spend four days there. In between these cities, we hope to enjoy countryside drives and small towns.

Any advice and specific suggestions as to itineraries and destinations would be appreciated!

msalexg is offline  
Aug 31st, 2012, 02:23 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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I take it you haven't made any reservations as yet. I suggest you open up a map of Spain and Portugal and decide what you want to see and do. Even with one month, you'll need to plan you days carefully if you want to go from Barcelona to Lisbon then back to Madrid and still have time to enjoy all those places that may still be 'off the beaten track'.
Robert2533 is offline  
Aug 31st, 2012, 02:33 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 417
From Barcelona, you could travel thru Zaragosa and north, to visit Bilbao, Santander, Oviedo. Then South to Leon, Salamanca, Caceres and on to Portugal. You could skip Portugal, to visit beautiful Salamanca, Segovia and Avila just north west of Madrid. Youc ould then drive to southern Spain and get rid of the car: Sevilla,Cordoba and Granada can be done with public transportation, then take the TGV to Madrid.
Try to stay in the Paradores, where they are in the historic centers, it's a wonderful experience. They have a web site, and a good discount for seniors or for a package of stays.
Aleta is offline  
Aug 31st, 2012, 02:36 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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You may want to take a look at my trip report, particularly at the section between Bragança and Lisbon; click on my name to find it.

Here are my Portugal photos. The two middle sets are probably the most relevant. Most of the photos are geo-tagged, which might help in getting a sense of the geography.

Michael is online now  
Aug 31st, 2012, 02:41 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 210
You have to decide what route you want: through the North, which is longer, through the Center of Spain, which is shorter, or through the South. Any way you decide to go, you will find small towns and scenic roads. I second Robert2533's suggestion of reading up on Spain and Portugal and planning very carefully. Buen viaje!
Luhimari is offline  
Aug 31st, 2012, 06:15 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,574
Have you looked into the region of Extremadura in southern Spain? It borders Portugal and Andalucia. I have never been there but I have a niece who taught there for 2 years & she loved it. She described Extremadura as Old World Spain, & based on her photos, I agree with her. I don't see too many questions about this region of Spain on the board & according to my niece, it is definitely off the beaten path.
Kwoo is offline  
Aug 31st, 2012, 08:21 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Extremadura is not completely off the beaten path, but several places would fit the description, including Badajoz.

Merida and Caceres are well worth a visit. Merida has a wealth of Roman history, including the largest Roman Circus outside of Italy, and is home to the National Museum of Roman Art (www.archidose.org/Jul99/072699.html). It's also where the The 18th International Congress of Classical Archaeology will be held in May 2013 (aiac2013merida-mnar.icac.net).

Extremadura is also the land of the world famous black Iberian pigs, better known as jamón ibérico de bellota, some of which can sell for as much as €170/kilo.
Robert2533 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2012, 02:44 AM
Join Date: May 2007
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Excellent suggestions above. Just remember that a car is burden in the larger Spanish cities and in Lisbon and that there is usually a high drop off fee to rent in one country and drop off in another.
I suggest you get a Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, or a Michelin Green, because they cover smaller towns while they are non-existent in Fodor's, Frommer's, and Rickey Steves.

Besides the paradores, there are also what is called casas rurales. The only caveat with paradores, is that there some modern facilities which have no charm like the castles, monastaries, and other old structures that are included in their system.


And also note that the Spanish are most gracious about those who do not speak their language, especially if you learn a few basic words and phrases.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Sep 1st, 2012, 12:52 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 904
Michael~ Your photos are great! Love the way you concentrate on details and form. We visited Portugal several years ago and you have captured the essence of many places.

msalexg~ As Aduchamp1 mentioned, I would suggest staying in casas rurales if you want to meet the people and stay in small towns or rural areas. On our trip we stayed at two quintas (I believe that's the word) which were farms that had been in the same family for many generations and we really enjoyed our stay at them. We had a kitchen should we choose to cook, but in both places had a wonderful breakfast provided.

I haven't looked at a map, so perhaps this comment isn't helpful to the route you're planning, but we preferred the smaller towns and scenery in northern Portugal more than the southern part. Also note that we were no further south than Lisbon and we made that decision through comments posted here and in things we read. Also like Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.
Clousie is offline  
Sep 1st, 2012, 01:00 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Here is the site for the solares (the Portuguese equivalent of the casas rurales) This will bring up a particular place that we stayed which had been in the family for 400 years. You can then search for other locations.

Clousie is offline  

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