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Northern Spain Itinerary

Hi, I am just at the start of planning a trip to Northern Spain for myself and 3 of my sisters, all retired. Looking at July 2023, for about 2-3 weeks. Flying into either Madrid or Barcelona. There are some places we want to visit, Garabandal, Gijon, ( a nephew there), San Sebastion, Lourdes, maybe a village or two in France, Girona. We will have to rely on trains and buses as none of us are confident driving on the right hand side of the road ( we are from NZ). We have mediocre fitness, love shopping, cathedrals, beaches, old towns. We will mostly be winging it, staying a few nights and booking accommodation as we go. We did this on our last two trips to Spain and it worked well. Minimum luggage.
I understand from reading on here that there is no direct train from Madrid to Gijon. It only goes to Leon, then bus, is this correct?
How do you get from San Sebastion to Lourdes?
Any other must see places?
Any hiccups you can see with getting to these places? Is going one direction better than the other?
Thank you.

Posted by
7084 posts

It would be convenient to fly into Asturias airport which is not too far from Gijón. It requires a connection in Madrid; this might make your flight from NZ more expensive, so perhaps you'll need to split your tickets: if you do so, allow for 4-5 hours between flights as a buffer for delays.
While in Gijón, visit Oviedo as well (easy by train or bus).

Northern Spain can be difficult without a car; in particular, I do not know if the Garabandal sanctuary can be reached without one. Perhaps a driver can be arranged from San Vicente de la Barquera, the nearest town with transport and a pleasant base in itself. And, talking about pilgrimage sites, do you know about Santo Toribio de Liébana? It is nearby and might interest you.

Once in Bilbao (which deserves a visit!), public transport becomes easier. San Sebastián to Lourdes is a bit cumbersome but doable by train. In between, you could spend a few days in Bayonne and visit some French Basque towns & villages from there: Cambo and St Jean Pied de Port are accessible by train, for example.

Lourdes to Girona is not too bad by train.
Then, if you fly out of Barcelona, you need to spend at least one night there.

So, all in all, 2 weeks definitely won't cut it, but 3 weeks should (more or less).

Posted by
548 posts

Have you checked the Garabandal website? They have directions on how to arrive from Madrid, Santander and Bilbao. You will have to take a taxi for the last part.

From San Sebastian you can take the Euskotren to Hendaye (the E2 line), just over the border. As mentioned you can get a train to Lourdes and other smaller towns from there. I prefer San Juan de Luz over Bayonne but can't go wrong with either. Here is a map of the regional train.