In May my wife and I have hired a car to tour northern Spain beginning and ending in Madrid. Any suggestions??
We have driven Barcelona to Gijon and are on our way to Sanitago de Compestela tomorrow. The entire northern border of Spain. Beautiful.
Not so far out of Barcelona, into the foot hills of the big mountains is Talarn. There is an AIRBNB apartment and we loved the place. friendly. Drinkable water running from the fountains. And Close to nice day trips by car. Two good restaurants, Lola's and the plae that does rabbit with cloves of garlic, ask everyone knows the place.
I apologise to those who replied. I should have given the length of stay which is 6 days Madrid to northern Spain and back to Madrid.
I would appreciate suggestions to fit in with that time frame.
Here's my suggestion for a whirlwind northern Spain tour in six nights (if you don't want whirlwind, cut it in half and double the nights at each place you visit):
Train to Toledo, explore by foot, stay night one.
Pick up a rental car early, drive to Segovia, park near the aqueduct and work your way down to tour the castle (nice display of armor), a quick look in the Cathedral. Add the Templar era church just outside of town if that interests you. Try to eat lunch and leave by early afternoon.
Drive by Avila to see the wall, but only a short break at a viewpoint, on the way to Salamanca. Hopefully arrive in Salamanca in time to appreciate the Cathedral. Take an evening walk around the old center. Stay night two.
In the morning, get up early and visit La Mota Castle in Medina del Campo. Careful not to arrive here after 11 am or the castle may be closed for siesta until afternoon (siesta times vary by place). After the castle, drive to Burgos, look around (another amazing Cathedral). Stay night three.
Drive to San Sebastian. Try to arrive early enough to spend some time on the beach. Enjoy seafood for dinner. Stay night four.
Drive to Pamplona, plan no more than three hours to look around and grab a bite. Drive to Olite, see the castle (one of my favorites in Spain), eat dinner. Stay night five.
Drive to Zaragosa, look around the center, drop your car, train back to Madrid for night six.
An option is to add a night in Valladolid, between Salamanca and Burgos, to see more castles in the area. Coca Castle and Pinafiel are both a nice visit. Pinafiel has a wine museum included in the admission, which might be a nice addition to your sights. Down the road, Vitoria (on the way to San Sebastian) is the center of the Rioja wine region. Rioja is considered some of Spains finest red wine (personally I prefer the wines from Valdepenas area south toward Granada). Unfortunately, the Bodegas aren't normally open for public tours. If you want to visit one, you have to call at least a day, preferably two days, ahead and they will be there for you. They are happy to have you, they just don't keep "drop in" hours.
If you're driving, a GPS is likely to take you on AP roads. They're great roads and have the highest speed limits. They are also toll roads. Look at a map. If there's an A road you can use as an alternative, use it. They're just about as fast as the APs but don't charge a toll. N roads are also fine but they're a little slower because they're smaller roads and go through, rather than around, centers of towns.
If you wind up cutting out some of the possible destinations, Segovia is worth a couple of days, at least. We were there this past November on a single (very windy) day and want to return. We took the train to get to San Sebastian (a/k/a Donostia) so can't comment specifically on the driving part, but it was another highlight of our trip, although the November rain made the beach a no-go.
Edit: we actually took a train from Madrid to Bilbao, so can't comment on driving that portion, but then rented a car in Bilbao and drove to San Sebastian (Donostia), which was a really easy drive once we got out of Bilbao. Driving in Bilbao was very challenging for us.
My husband and I are planning to do the same but at the end of Oct .
We would like to stay maybe 3 days in Spain , rent a car and go to northern Spain, will like to visit Salamanca , Segovia , Bilbao ; maybe also visit some of the small town in the area of Lanquedoc .
We have 14 days in total, and it will be nice to find a hotel centrally located so we can take day trips, if the distance alouds it.
Will appreciate any suggestions.
At the risk of talking to a 2nd person on this thread, central Bilbao is a pain to drive in - use a taxi or the tram.
Hola from Espana,
Two things for you to consider, as we turned our car in yesterday after four weeks doing parts of the north border of Spain.
1. The road maps suck. Is that too strong a word for Rick? Well they do. I bought several, Michelline at $10 per county, the best of the lot, but at $10 per county (comunidad) a guy could go broke. And while they were 2013 editions they had road numbers incorrect. I understand the road building going on in Spain, and that keep ing maps up to date is difficult, but come on man...it wasn't the 262 it was the 142. And the RAA edition of Spain. A spiral bound map, and it was horrible. At least, the cities they DID show, were in the correct place. The highways are well marked. And round-a-bouts can be driven around until you find your exit. Street names change every few blocks as they do throughout Europe or any other old city center not using the grid pattern. And the street signs are often missing or never were there.
2. Like France or Germany, which many of us in the US 'think of as states' for size...oh, boy, these are big places. Take a good look at the roads between Madrid and where ever you are considering. The four lane roads allow 120 km/hr. But you slow for every tunnel, bridge, curve, city bi-pass, so maintaining 120 is kind of a dream. The car I rented didn't have a cruize control. And it is obvious why it didn't.
We went from 7 days in Barcelona (Barthelona) which is a smashing city. north along the Pyrenees until they ran out and we followed the coast of the Sea of Biscayne (sea of Basque). Finally turning in toward Santiago de Compostela through Lugo and its Roman wall. A beautiful area of Spain. Painted pre-historic caves, snow capped mountains, good food, friendly people, megalithic tombs, pre-Romanesque churches.
Stay in the right lane unless passing.
I'm not sure I understand everything Wonderful is saying about the roads. My technique is to let the GPS find the route without avoiding toll roads, then change the setting to avoid toll roads (easier on a Tomtom than a Garmin) and see what the difference in time will be. If the difference is small, we go with avoid the toll. If the difference is a lot, we pay the tolls.
We started driving Barcelona to Zaragosa, by way of Montserrat, using primarily toll roads. I was unpleasantly surprised how quickly the tolls added up. From then on (up to San Sebastian, down through Burgos/Valladolid/Salamanca, then to Avila/Segovia/Toledo, on to Valdepenas/Jaen/Granada, over to Antequera/Ronda/Gibraltar/Tarifa, up to Cadiz/Jerez/Sevilla/Cordoba) we never had a problem finding a toll-free alternate route. Mostly on A roads which were nearly identical to APs (except a slightly lower speed limit and no tolls).
Brad, we are planning to rent a car come September for a trip to cover Southern Spain...Seville, Cordoba, Granada to Madrid, Toledo, Segovia to Basque Country - Bilbao, San Sebastian and wondering where you stayed and if you had problem in parking or getting in/out of city center?
We drove between Bilbao and San Sebastian this past November, and the drive was easy, with outstanding signage along the highway. We didn't have the time to do the scenic drive along the coastline this trip. Driving within Bilbao was challenging, however, especially trying to find the tiny street that led back to the Europcar rental return desk - we looped around several times as it started to get dark. San Sebastian was less difficult, and there are underground parking garages everywhere except in the old town. The best plan is to park your car and leave it, and walk. It's expensive, however ($25 or more per day) and some of the parking garages are a fair distance from the old town, where the best tapas are to be found. November is likely less busy than other times of the year, so you may find things are more crowded and hectic during busier times.
We've visited the other towns you mentioned by train in the past, except for driving into Sevilla, which is another park-it-and-leave-it place. Use taxis to get around Sevilla, once you've stashed your car, and don't hit any of the thousands of motorbikes swarming the streets of Sevilla.