SPAIN | We recently did a road trip through Northern Spain, driving from Madrid to Bilbao, through Castille and Leon and Basque Country. We’ve split this guide into several posts which you can use to guide you when planning your own Spanish road trip.
The City Lane hit the camino (“road”) in Madrid, and stopped in Segovia, LaGuardia, the La Rioja wine region, San Sebastian and Bilbao. We’d highly recommend this itinerary for all of you food and wine lovers. The itinerary is a perfect combination from cosmopolitan to countryside, from semi-arid land to the seaside. It seemed very apt to start a culinary focused road trip in the home of tapas and finish in the home of pinxtos.
We were lucky enough to be travelling in during Semana Santa, Spain’s multi-day religious festival celebrating Easter. We enjoyed observing the traditional processions happening in the various locations throughout our road trip. The processions featured a combination of traditional costumes, music, and drumming. We studied Spanish, but did notice that English was very widely spoken in the capital and the larger cities.
Leaving Madrid, we picked up our car at the Atocha train station. If you are renting from here, note that the station is massive and we did spend a bit of time wandering through the station before locating the cluster of car rental desks.
We were very impressed by the highway system and signposting in Spain. There were quite a few tolls so keep your change/card ready. The road trip was really straightforward. From Madrid it was a short drive up to Segovia, before we headed north to the wine region of La Rioja. We noticed the landscape change from semi-arid lands to mountains. Again, there were more tolls but there was no one on the road which was such a nice change from London’s traffic. La Rioja, Spain’s largest demarcated wine region cuts through three Spanish provinces, Navarre, Alava, and the Basque Country. The drive from La Rioja to San Sebastian is absolutely gorgeous and won’t want the trip to end.
From beautiful beaches, stunning vistas, to its exciting gastronomic delights, San Sebastian has a lot to offer. Donastia, as San Sebastian is known in Basque, has a rich gastronomic tradition. Where Madrid and the south of Spain offer tapas, the Basque Country offers pintxos.
Before we headed to Bilbao from San Sebstian, we took a detour into France to lunch in the French seaside resort of Biarritz. Biarritz, on the Bay of Biscay, was the aristocrats’ holiday playground in the late 1800s. The town still excludes a bit of glamour but has the touch of a relaxed surf town. It was an easy drive from Biarritz to Bilbao, again with tolls, but smooth sailing with hardly any traffic. The car rental return at Bilbao airport was smooth and the airport was small but very efficient. Overall, we can’t say enough good things about our road trip through Spain. Here are our road trip posts, to help you plan your next trip to Spain.