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Spain/Portugal for six months - best plan?

Hello All -

IF Spain and Portugal are open for travelers AND with our vaccines all completed and documents all lined up ... we may be able to spend six months between the two either June - December or eight months January - August.

My initial thought is to pick six home bases - one for each month - where we could settle down and enjoy a town and also use trains/buses for day trips. We will have company along the way so we will rent homes rather than stay in hotels.

We will also have teens who like hiking, swimming, horseback riding, biking, etc., and who we would like to give every opportunity to pursue those activities!

On prior trips, we have concentrated our time on visiting Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, Barcelona, Cadiz/Jerez/Arcos, Sevilla.

(We are not at all affected by the heat and have spent many pleasant days in the south during summer!)

We would like to get to know other regions of Spain, and get to know Portugal too, this trip. We are open to any region, including going off the mainland to the Balearic or Canary Islands. Towns with good food, interesting little churches, a museum or two, and areas for long rambling walks are our favorites.

We speak Spanish fluently and know the basics of Portuguese.

Please share your recommendations.

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
1745 posts

Are you looking to return to places you have been before, or focus on all new places? I greatly enjoyed the Basque region, and that plus Galicia, Cantabria, and Asturias would be wonderful for outdoor activities.

Posted by
24651 posts

I too am confused about the 8 month plan if you have no way around Schengen

Posted by
179 posts

We would need to fly out for family matters a couple of times so it will take care of the 3-month limit.

Posted by
179 posts

valadelphia

Thank you for your reply - NEW places that would be good home bases for those activities and for transportation.

Posted by
179 posts

Thank you. I understand about the time limits and we will have that worked out.

Thank you for the Basque information.

Posted by
179 posts

I am grateful for all of the visa information. And I will look at all of it and make whatever necessary adjustments.

In the meantime, my post is about looking for recommendations in new-to-me areas in Portugal and Spain.

Please send information about that part of my post. Thank you.

Posted by
400 posts

Here are some ideas and suggestions, although I think that you will find wonderful places to explore, no matter what regions you choose. Extremadura would make a delightful base: Cáceres, Trujillo, Guadalupe, Plasencia, Hervas, the waterfalls and cherry blossoms of Valle del Jerte and lots of very old medieval mountain towns. All beautiful, all historic, all great for exploring. I was so impressed with Cáceres, Trujillo and Guadalupe. The Roman ruins in Mérida are also impressive. From Extremadura you could head north to Galicia and use Santiago de Compostela as a base. Maybe walk part of the Camino. If you end up in Toledo or Castilla la Mancha, you could hike part of La Ruta del Quijote, The Quijote Trail, or visit Consuegra and its picturesque windmills and castle standing guard over the plains below. If you return to Andalucía, there are two small beautiful towns named Baeza and Úbeda, very worthy of a visit. I think your teens would find lots of outdoor activities in Asturias. Look at Cangas de Onis, Covadonga and Picos de Europa but I think that area is better served by car. You mentioned that you are also considering Portugal. your teens might like the Knights Templar castle in Tomar.

Posted by
49 posts

Hello
Regarding Portugal it's best to travel south to north from January-August due to the cold, rainy, damp weather in the north in January.
You can use Faro (south), Lisbon (center), Porto (north), as bases for your travel.
Lisbon and Porto have good public infrastructure and lots to see and do.
Faro has less but it's the capital of the Algarve so it can be a good base, one drawback is that Faro's breaches are on barrier islands with somewhat limited access.
Happy travels

Posted by
17890 posts

As you know, Spain is a large country. You won't be able to cover all areas of it by staying in a few locations for one month at a time. Day-trips from a small-town base would often involve very long train and bus rides (or drives if you'll have a car). If you're set on the one-month stays, I think you'll do best to pick bases that have a great deal of sightseeing options of their own so you can occupy yourselves locally for many days of the month.

I think time chunks considerably smaller than one month would work better for places like the Basque Country, Galicia and Extremadura--and probably also for the Balearics. There are some wonderful destinations stretching across northern Spain that would be visited best on the way from the Basque Country to Galicia via shorter stays; I don't know how one would attack Olite, Burgos, Oviedo and Leon from either Bilbao/San Sebastian or one of the Galician towns.

The Portuguese island of Madeira is a place I can recommend for a 1-week stay. It's gorgeous and has wonderful walking opportunities along the levadas (irrigation canals). There are flights from Lisbon, Porto, London and a few other cities in the United Kingdom as well as other European cities.

Absent a long-stay visa, the most time you're going to get in the Schengen Zone is 152 days (90 days in, 90 full days out, 62 days in) for your longer plan (Jan-Aug) or 93 days (90 days in, 90 full days out, 3 days in) for a six-month trip between June and December. However, you can easily fly from somewhere in Spain or Portugal to a non-Schengen country for that middle 90 days: Morocco, the United Kingdom, Ireland, etc.

If you care about weather, it's something to which you'll need to give considerable thought. When you take a long trip like this, you cannot be everywhere at the best time of year.

Posted by
20912 posts

I know you are not interested in discussing the Schengen zone limits but if you have found a way to extend your time we would be interested in knowing how. Many of us would like to do that. You could have dual citizen and then we are all jealous.

Posted by
5823 posts

There was a time when it was easy to cheat on Schengen and people would 'step outside' and then back in e.g. a side trip to England or something and they wouldn't get caught. Things are much tighter in international travel and more computerized now, so cheating on the Schengen rules is likely to get you caught and the penalty is supposedly being banned for 5 years as well as fines.

A number of years ago we were leaving Amsterdam on day 89 when we got pulled over because we had no entry stamp. Rome agents were lazy and waived people through without stamping passports and we were tired and in a rush and so thought of it as a benefit not a legal trap. I had to be able to produce airline tickets, hotel receipts to prove we had no exceeded Schengen limits etc before they retroactively stamped our passports and let us go. The man pulled over with us missed the plane. I don't know if he had overstayed or just didn't have the paperwork. (I had anticipated the problem because I read about someone's similar experience on TA -with a failure of Rome agents to stamp passports -- too late to get stamped coming in. So I added an hour to our 3 hour airport time and also marshaled the paperwork I could so I could demonstrate when we entered.)

Posted by
17890 posts

In 2018 I had some non-Schengen time sandwiched in the middle of a long trip. An Immigration official I encountered at the airport in Prague on Day 112 found the inbound stamp and looked at me quizzically. I pointed out that I had been out of the zone, in Ukraine, for part of the trip. I had kept some receipts from that period in case I needed them.

Posted by
1586 posts

I know you are not interested in discussing the Schengen zone limits
but if you have found a way to extend your time we would be interested
in knowing how. Many of us would like to do that.

You could do it by ending your trip in Denmark. Denmark allows citizens of certain countries (including USA and Canada) to spend up to 90 days in the country even if they have stayed 90 days in Schengen previously.

Posted by
753 posts

"You could do it by ending your trip in Denmark. Denmark allows citizens of certain countries (including USA and Canada) to spend up to 90 days in the country even if they have stayed 90 days in Schengen previously."

That is excellent information and I'll plan to take advantage of it in the future.

Posted by
17890 posts

The exception permitting US citizens (and some others) to spend additional time in Denmark after the Schengen allowance has been fully used is documented on this webpage:

https://www.nyidanmark.dk/en-GB/You-want-to-apply/Short-stay-visa/Visa-free-visits/?anchor=7AE6F57AB5784B20BEE028BB58B3CC2363F86BF9BAE84296B40028C26E06EF02

Click on "How long can you stay in the Schengen region?"

The information may get moved around, so if you look for it later you may have to explore the nyidanmark.dk website.

Posted by
17890 posts

That's a very handy document, presented in English so one is not tempted to rely on a Google translation.

I note that it specifically states that non-EU folks need a visa if "carrying out a paid activity" but doesn't address volunteer activities in any way (unless I missed it). The subject of volunteering comes up fairly often on the forum, and we typically have some Europeans saying that's a "No" while others seem to think it is--or might be--OK. It would be nice to be able to point to a clear statement about the legality of volunteering without a work visa.

Posted by
273 posts

I think Poland has a similar rule about staying beyond 90 days in the Schengen area. Not sure if there is a caveat which stipulates entry to Poland from a non-Schengen country (such as Cyprus)...need to check.

Posted by
4610 posts

Places for Bases whether or not you do it on one or two trips:

Portugal
Lisbon and Porto

Spain
Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, San Sebastian, Granada/Malaga

Posted by
2530 posts

@acraven... good point you raised.

I shall explain that, despite having a lot of "influence" of pan-European directives/regulations passed by the European Parliament, each EU-member state still keeps their own Code of Laws. This means that certain laws differ from country to country. On top of that, there's a major difference between the 'spirit of the law' (how it is interpreted) depending on whether you're talking about a Southern-European country such Spain or Italy, or say, a Northern-European one such as England or Sweden for example.

Surely other more knowledgeable members in the forum in this matter (aka lawyers, lol!) can explain it better than me, but, in short: in countries in which their Code of Laws derives mostly from Roman and Napoleonic codes, such as Spain, Italy or France, the 'spirit of the law' normally is: "everything that is not explicitly allowed is forbidden". On the other hand, those countries in which their laws derive from common law and statutory legislation, such as England, the spirit reads the opposite, that is: "everything not explicitly forbidden is allowed".

Again, this is a gross generalisation of course, but in short, it comes to say that, in the case at hand, unless volunteer activities are explicitly mentioned as "being allowed" with that type of VISA, they are not -under the Spanish perspective, that is.

(did I get it right, right?, this is always a rather complex issue to explain moreover when English is not my mother-tongue, LOL!)

PS. Besides, Spain has a VISA specifically for volunteer work -in general- https://extranjeros.inclusion.gob.es/es/InformacionInteres/InformacionProcedimientos/Ciudadanosnocomunitarios/hoja007/index.html and if the volunteering is related to teaching http://www.exteriores.gob.es/Embajadas/BRASILIA/es/Embajada/ServiciosConsulares/ConsularesBrasilia/VISADOS/Paginas/Visado-para-Estudios.aspx, therefore, it's safe, I think, to assume that with a tourist VISA one can't do volunteer work.

Posted by
3423 posts

Hi, Enric! Thanks for posting this generalization:

"... in countries in which their Code of Laws derives mostly from Roman and Napoleonic codes, such as Spain, Italy or France, the 'spirit of the law' normally is: "everything that is not explicitly allowed is forbidden". On the other hand, those countries in which their laws derive from common law and statutory legislation, such as England, the spirit reads the opposite, that is: "everything not explicitly forbidden is allowed".

What a great example of how visitors from either background can so easily make mistakes in other locations OR be annoyed, offended, disgruntled, you name it, when things in the country they're visiting don't go the way they expect or are used to back home.

Posted by
17890 posts

Although I don't personally have plans to volunteer in Europe, that is a very helpful perspective, indeed.

Posted by
2530 posts

Hi Lo... indeed. I should say that this seemingly innocent 'piece of information' has helped me a lot over the years when travelling and/or living abroad. But again, as you pointed, it's a very 'general generalisation' because things rarely are so black and white... so I always take generalisations with a grain of salt.