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N. Spain Itinerary Suggestions

I've decided to quit moping and plan a killer trip to N. Spain. We will have 23-25 nights to work with. The general outline is to fly into Madrid and take about 5 nights to head Northwest toward Santiago. From Santiago head along the coast perhaps as far as Santander. Eventually heading back to Madrid.
Madrid to Santiago 5 nites, would Zamora be a good first stop for a few nights? Day trips rom Zamora? Any other suggestions on the way to Santiago?
2 nites in Santiago and then head out along the coast. Asturias and Cantabria look gorgeous. We want to find 2-3 coastal villages to base ourselves for coastal walks and countryside excursions.

The Picos de Europa are the highest priority, so several days for hiking. We would also like to visit Oviedo and Leon.
We love Romanesque- Gothic architecture- Baroque not so much. Roman ruins. Smaller villages. Cave art. In situ art. Walkable cities. I could go on and on. Gracias for your suggestions.
Brad

Posted by
17875 posts

Segovia for the aqueduct?

I assume you're driving. What time of year are you planning for?

Posted by
111 posts

Given that amount of time, there are several places you can´t miss: Lugo and its ancient roman walls, León is magnificent (more than Zamora, no doubt), the gold Roman mines of Las Médulas (that make a fantastic landscape), Burgos would be another great option. Santander has nothing much interesting, apart from the beaches (and weather in this northern area is quite unpredictable and very rainy), and you´d miss the wonderful Basque Country, From one western end to the French frontier is barely 500 miles, so not a too long drive and plenty of places to visit (I´d not miss the Basque Country, but I´m biased as I´m Basque :))

Posted by
255 posts

Brad, you might like the valley of Valderrible.

It is a small valley that the Ebro passes through. It is full of rupestrine and Romanesque churches, like San Martin.

On the southern side, there is the Cave of the Franceses and close by is cliff top balcony which looks over the whole valley.

Posted by
6099 posts

We did a driving trip from Lisbon to Barcelona, 6 weeks, which included the areas in your post. On the way to Santiago, we enjoyed Baiona and the Rias Baixas, Including O Grove. But they are most likely too far south for you.
Asturias and Cantabria are both special with many wonderful seaside towns. We loved Comillas and wished that we had stayed there instead of the over touristed Santillana Del Mar.
Make sure you stay at least one night in Léon. The Gothic cathedral is spectacular when the sun shines in through it’s stained glass windows. And why not drive beyond Santander to San Sebastián? Perhaps not enough time?

Posted by
2925 posts

Did a similar trip in 2017. Zamora is about a 2.5 hours drive from Madrid’s airport and where we spent our first night. It’s at the edge of my limit on how far I’ll drive after a long flight. On the way to Zamora we stopped in Arevalo for lunch and to look at the castle. Our rough route was, land in Madrid - Zamora - Leon - Villafranca del Bierzo - Santiago de Compostela - Ribadeo - Santillana Del Mar - Hondarrbia - Bayonne, France - Pamplona - Santo Domingo de la Calzada - Burgos - Todesillas - Madrid. Our trip was 19 days total. We enjoy castles so stopped at a number of them. On that trip we also stopped at a number of places one would see when walking the Camino that we saw in the movie The Way. On the north coast we stopped at Zumaia and Getaria after seeing them in the movie Ocho Apellidos Vascos. If you’d like it, I’ll send you a PM with the itinerary and places to stopped to see and visit. It has distances between places, roads, directions, etc. Some photos from that trip are at the below links.
http://jaimeelsabio.com/vac_pages/2017vac1.html
http://jaimeelsabio.com/vac_pages/2017vac1_camino.html

Posted by
2 posts

GO TO PICOS! We stayed in Sotres...small town/village, and walked from our cottage to Fuente De , a circular route around Sotres and Bulnes. Short drive to get to the Gorges and 'official' Bulnes starting points ( walk up to Bulnes or take lift). Provisions purchased at Arenas de Cabrales ( home of killer blue cheese), Potes is a much larger town around the other side...I guess it just depends on what you want to do. Our neighbors where goat sheperds.
Hope this helps

Posted by
77 posts

Thanks for the replys....just what I was looking for....It would be nice to do some of this by train/bus but a car seems inevitable especially for the Picos. We travel in April-May or late Sept-October. I think spring would not be optimal for the Picos due to lingering snow? Brad

Posted by
1996 posts

Hi Brad, in Spain we have a nice little rhyme - "en Abril aguas mil" literally means "a thousand waters in April", this is doubly so in the north of the country. I strongly would recommend late September/October for exploring Northern Spain. Last time I was in los Picos de Europa was in mid-Sept 2016 and it was perfect weather, though you would need a jacket when exploring the higher elevation parts, which were still dotted with some snow even after the summer.

For your travels in the Picos de Europa, I would recommend staying at the Fuente Dé Parador (http://www.parador.es/en/paradores/parador-de-fuente-de), which is a historic hotel that sits below a string imposing vertical mountains. From there you can take numerous nature hikes and even a cable car that takes you all the way to the top of the mountains. I would also recommend at least two nights in the Picos de Europa.

If you are looking for a fantastic place to eat close by, I would heartily recommend Mesón del Oso (https://www.hoteldeloso.com/), which is a rustic tavern/hotel in a picturesque forested valley. They serve the traditional Cantabrian/Asturian mountain cuisine. The hotel there is very good too, but is almost always fully booked.

Posted by
255 posts

@Carlos, don't forget the rhyme "hasta el 40 de mayo, no te quites el sayo", or "until the 40th of May don't take off you jacket".

Of course the 40th of May is June 10th, and in Logroño the 9th, 10th and 11th are always fiesta. And there is always at least one good blustery, cold day.

So that is a second vote for September.

Posted by
430 posts

We worked our way east from Santiago de Compostela to nights in Cedeira, Cudillero, Collia, & Santillano del Mar, great route & variety.
Picked the little towns with help from Youtube videos - great resource. Look at a map, pick possibles, & see what's online & if someplace speaks to you. Sant. del Mar has the oh my Altamira cave within walking distance, & the village itself is a gem; stay overnight, 'cause the daytour busloads do arrive (but then leave, gracias a Dios). (Horrors, tourists!)

Posted by
77 posts

September it is. Old Spanish saying... "escucha a carlos mantener la cabeza seca".
" Listen to Carlos keep a dry head"
Gracias Brad

Posted by
264 posts

I agree on Fuente De, but would also suggest the Hotel Rebeco, across the road from the Parador. It's a comfortable family run hotel and little less pricey thatn the parador. On the other side of the Picos, I'd suggest the Poncebos area, or possibly Cabrales if you can't fing accommodations in Poncebos. From there you can do the Ruta del Cares, and also visit Bulnes (accessible only by foot, or funicular). If you ha ve a car, there are loads of picturesque beaches and villages along the Asturia and Galicia coast. If you are looking for a base, perhaps Ribadasella. As far as caves, there are several in Cantabria, and sebveral more in Asturia. In Cantabria, El Castilla and Las Monedas are good (you can walk from one to the other). In Asturias, Cuevas El Pindal looks good, as does Tito Bustillo, but I have not (yet) been to either. I was planning to visit this them this summer, but plans changed,

Posted by
11 posts

Hi, in Zamora I would strongly recommend Puebla de Sanabria. it is a beautiful village and could be a good base for you to enjoy an excursion in Sierra de la Culebra to see wolves. There are excursions with expert guides in place. The one place in Spain where such excursions take place.
On your way to Santiago you may also want to consider a stop in Ribera sacra area. Fantastic landscapes. Before you get to Ourense (from where you can reach Ribera Sacra) I would suggest you stop at Allariz. You will most probably love it!

Posted by
111 posts

Just been in the area (I live in Bilbao, Basque Country). Valderredible, as suggested, is a great area to explore the amazing romanesque art and arquitecture of the area. Orbaneja del Castillo is a must, as the cave church of Santa María de Valverde and San Martín de Elines, among many others. You may continue to Aguilar de Campoo, with the monastery of Santa María la Real, the monastery of Mave, the Cave of the Franceses (also suggested), cave churches, the visigoth 10th century cemetery excavated in the rock of Corvio, San Salvador de Cantamuda, and following south the archetypical example of romanesque, Frómista.

Fantastic caves with prehistorical paintings in Cantabria, all over the places. Among my favorites, El Castillo and Las Monedas. Also, Covalanas, Cullalvera, Hornos de la Peña, Chufín, Soplao (excentric stalactites)...then touristy Santillana del Mar and the museum of Altamira (the real cave is really complicated to get to see, it´s on Fridays and by a lottery system).

Last year I went to this area with other 4 friends on a bike tour of 5 days, focusing on art and architecture, as well as good food. And it´s a recurrent trip that I love to do every year.

Posted by
2989 posts

Re cave art: check out which ones have a reservation system. We discovered, to our dismay, the cave of Tito Bustillo (Ribadesella) is one such; and it was sold out the day we were there.

Posted by
111 posts

To simplify: you have to make a reservation before visiting any cave open to the public in Spain, and make sure the time for the visit is in the language you speak.

Posted by
4606 posts

When leaving Segovia for Santiago, consider a day at Salamanaca. In fact, consider dipping into Northern Portugal and the amazing Douro Valley and Porto, then heading up to Santiago.

Posted by
111 posts

Fantastic trip report on the Camino. My uncle has completed 18 different "caminos" (all starting in a different place) in the past 25 years, and he would have started his 19th this October had it not been a pandemic around. Good to have your point of view on northern Spain, much less visited than the most renowned areas of the country.