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First visit to Spain - 9 days, 8 nights - North or South?

Denver, Colorado...
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First visit to Spain - 9 days, 8 nights - North or South?

I'm sure this has been discussed before but I'm hoping for a few specific recommendations if they're out there. We're considering a trip to Madrid in August of this year and can't decide whether to spend our time near Rioja and San Sabastian or head south to Andalucia. My wife and I are in to wine and food and would like to spend some time outdoors including maybe some hiking. We like to stay out late but we're not headed to Spain for the clubbing scene. I've read that tapas are great in both Granada and Logrono so it sounds like we'll be satisfied on that front wherever we decide to go. I realize 8 nights isn't a lot but we want to see as much as we can and be as efficient as possible.


It's looking like we'll be flying in and out of Madrid so wherever we go we'll need to circle back to Madrid for our departure. If we only have 8 nights, is public transportation better in one area of the country than another?

Brussels, Belgium
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1. Re: First visit to Spain - 9 days, 8 nights - North or South?

I would go North, temperatures in the South in August are very high and will not allow you to enjoy hiking. Public transport is good in both places, although South has highspeed trains which is an advantadge.

is the itinerary including time in madrid? If not, I would propose:

- MAdrid to Pamplona

- Pamplona

- San Sebastian 2-3 days

- Logroño and La Rioja 2-3 days

- Burgos 1 day

- Back to Madrid

hiking can be done close to pamplona or close to san sebastian.

Barcelona, Spain
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2. Re: First visit to Spain - 9 days, 8 nights - North or South?

Not just because of the high temperatures in the south in August, for wine tourism there is more in the northern half of the country. I'd suggest trying to include Ribera del Duero wine region as well as La Rioja.

You'd be much better hiring a car, it'd give you a lot more flexibility

re where to hike: Pamplona can be very hot in August too, I have a photo taken at 9pm with the temperature on a public thermometer at 40º C (mid-August 2012). The Basque Country was quite a bit cooler than that.

Edited: 04 March 2014, 20:01
Denver, Colorado...
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3. Re: First visit to Spain - 9 days, 8 nights - North or South?

Thanks for the help. It looks like we could fly in and out of Bilbao instead of Madrid if we wanted to maximize time in Basque Country. It sounds like we should consider the temperature differences in the two regions more than we have so far if we want to enjoy the outdoors. Is there any reason not to go to the northern region given this is our first time?

Are there any recommendations for museums, architecture, etc. in the north?

Hermosa Beach...
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4. Re: First visit to Spain - 9 days, 8 nights - North or South?

If heat is not an issue I'd still consider Andalucia for a first trip to Spain as it is what most visitors envision when they think of Spain. You could do something like 5 nights Sevilla (w/daytrip to Cordoba), 2 Grananda and a final night in Madrid...unless you're able to get a flights from the US to Malaga which would be better (Delta flys direct from JFK). Then you could spend 2 nights Malaga, 2 Granada and 4 in Sevilla (w/a daytrip to Cordoba).

But if you love food and wine the Basque Country and La Rioja would also be good with more moderate weather (at least on the coast). One thing to consider is that if you are depending solely on public transportation it is difficult to tour La Rioja. I've done it - it's doable. But you really have to time your visits on the bus schedules and they are not always frequent. But then again you only have 8 nights. If you fly in and out of Bilbao it would be best. There is bus service from Bilbao to Haro and Logrono (the 2 best places to base yourself in La Rioja if you don't have a car) and also San Sebastian (service from the airport even). I'd recommend at least 4 nights in San Sebastian so this really only leaves you with 4 remaining nights. You could split evenly between Bilbao and La Rioja. Haro is a good town for touring several bodegas as they are located within the town. Haro doesn't get alot of positive reviews for the town but I like it. Still I prefer Logrono for the food scene and city itself. There aren't any "biggie" bodegas within walking distance of Logrono so you'd have to take a bus or taxi (just arrange in advance). If you'd consider renting a car you could just rent for 2 days during your Rioja visit and base yourself in Laguardia, about 15 minutes from Logrono. It's a pretty village and makes a nice base.

You really can't go wrong with Andalucia or the Basque Country & La Rioja. They're very different from each other and are coincidentally my favorite areas in Spain.

Malaga, Spain
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5. Re: First visit to Spain - 9 days, 8 nights - North or South?


Haro is a town with a population of about 12,000, about 44 km from Logroño. Its main industry is the production of wines, and there are many bodegas in the town, which attract tourists. It calls itself the capital of La Rioja. The Ebro River and the Tiron River are adjacent to the town. There are records that show its existence in Roman times. Diego Lopez de Haro and his family have ruled the town since 1093. The town installed electric street lights in 1891, being the first town in Spain to have these. Jerez de la Frontera, also a center of wine production, was also the other first town to have the electric street lights. The land contains plenty of limestone, and the good climate has allowed the production of quality wine. The landscape shows rolling hills dotted with vineyards. Haro has been noted to have produced wine since the 14th century. On June 29 there is the celebration of the feast day of San Pedro and the Battle of Wine takes place on a hill near Haro called Riscos de Bilibio. Thousands of tourists come to the town for this event, which has been declared as of National Touristic Interest by the government.

In Andalusia, Jerez de la Frontera is a wine center and there are plenty of places to try wines. Read the top questions in the Jerez de la Frontera forum. Andalusia will be hot, but it still gets many tourists during summer. What is important is to get a hotel with air conditioning so that you can rest well at night.

The monuments in Seville, Cordoba and Granada are unforgettable.

For train travel:


Edited: 05 March 2014, 04:15
Dana Point...
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6. Re: First visit to Spain - 9 days, 8 nights - North or South?

I'm going to spain this sept for 15 days!

I'm flying into Madrid and then taking a train to

Valencia . I would like to drive from valencia with

Stops to Cartagena, America , manage, Gibraltar

Cadiz and last stop seville and then fly back to madrid

Suggestions on hotels, food and safety driving !

7. Re: First visit to Spain - 9 days, 8 nights - North or South?

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