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Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

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Finland
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Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

Hi,

We'll be travelling around Northern/Central Spain for two weeks this April (3-18). The first week will be Semana Santa and I'm wondering how much we should account for shops, restaurants, museums, sights, bodegas/vineyards, or anything being closed during those days? What activities would you recommend for those Semana Santa days? We wouldn't mind seeing some traditional Semana Santa celebrations but it’s not our main agenda.

We are planning a route from Barcelona (straight) to Bilbao & San Sebastian (Donostia) to La Rioja to Madrid to Cuenca and/or to Valencia to Barcelona OR vice versa, the other way around. Our main interest is in the Northern parts (Bilbao area)! We are planning our route so that we will see a couple interesting cities (in addition to Bilbao we'd like to see Madrid and Barcelona - not dead-set on anything else yet) and some quaint small towns/villages along the way. We'd like to see some main sights but generally tend to gravitate towards the "off the beaten track". We haven't book the transfers yet but planning to use trains, busses or rent a car, whichever makes most sense, also flights (e.g. BCN-Bilbao) if necessary.

Does it make any sense to go to Bilbao & San Sebastian to La Rioja to Madrid during Semana Santa or should we make the circle the other way around so that we would tour Barcelona - Valencia/Cuenca - Madrid during Semana Santa? Is there anything on these areas we should especially avoid during Semana Santa (i.e. what is completely shut down and which days)?

Is it necessary to book the accommodations (we'll use hostels and other budget options) and transfers (trains/busses) in advance? My travelling partner is sure that we'll manage without booking but would be no problem to do it -- once we have our itinerary in order!!

Is it possible to make a day trip to visit bodegas/vineyards from Madrid or Bilbao or should we stay somewhere in Rioja/Ribera del Duero? Any other suggested wine regions/bodegas closer to our stops? Any suggestions for Cava wineries? We are mainly travelling on a budget but can (and plan to) splurge a bit every now and then :)

Lots of questions - I've read a lot of the TA forum posts and will keep on reading... But will help a lot if you could shed some light in these queries! Thank you for helping in advance!

Bilbao, Spain
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for Bilbao, San Sebastian - Donostia, Basque Country, La Rioja
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1. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

Give me a couple of days to try to answer all your questions...in the meantime Robert will surely come to your help

Finland
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2. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

Thanks, any and all comments are welcome!!

Finland
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3. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

Any comments from anyone??

O Savinao, Galicia
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for Galicia
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4. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

I am sorry I cannot answer specific questions about the regions you wish to visit as my knowledge is basic.

But working in the hotel trade I would strongly recommend you prebook your accommodation. Semana Santa is a big public holiday in Spain; it seems that every one is on holiday at once! Going form experience of other years you will find restaurants bars, hotels and rods are very busy.

If you are desperate to find out more and you don’t get any answer may I suggest you do a search on the appropriate forums.

I.e. for cava tours look under Barcelona, for more information about bodegas read the Rioja section etc.

Personally I can't think why it should make any difference, which way round you do your tour. Why are you thinking about going from Madrid?

Bilbao
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5. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

Hi! Nice choice for easter holidays, heheh!

I can advise you about Bilbao and surroundings, but I´m afraid I can´t tell anything about Barcelona (still).

About places closed in Semana Santa, probably shops will be closed the 9th, 10th and 13th of April, since those are the holidays, but for the rest of the days, shops will most surely be opened. For museums and restaurants, I really don´t think they will even close those days, so I don´t think you will have any problem with this.

I recommend you visiting the coast near Bilbao, there are some really nice villages, Algorta has a really cosy old part of the city, called "Puerto Viejo". Sometimes they fry sardinas in the streets. Quite traditional. Following the coast line you can visit Plencia, Bakio (if you like surf, normally there are quite big waves here), Bermeo (old fishermen town), Mundaka (one of the most famous surf spots), Urdaibai (it´s really nice, UNESCO says it, hahha!If you enjoy nature you will sure like it), Laida, Laga, Elantxobe (you should see this! Really small town hanging on the cliffs) and of course, one of my favourites: Lekeitio (you will probably love it).

You can follow the coast to San Sebastian and you will find many really lovely places like Zumaia (with really astounding flysch cliffs), Zarautz, Orio,...

But this was all about the coast.

Nevertheless, the inner part of the Basque Country is also amazing. Green hills and stone mountains. You should visit Durango, Elorrio, Oñati,...

About the main cities, I like all of them. Each one has his own special thing. Bilbao, Donostia or Vitoria (of course, if you are in Donostia you should go eating "pintxos", you won´t regret it, though sometimes they are a bit expensive).

It´s quite easy to get to La Rioja from the Basque Country, there are some nice places where you can find good bodegas. You could go to Labastida or maybe Elciego (where you can find "Marques de Riscal" bodegas, designed by Frank Gehry, the same architect who designed Guggenheim museum). Actually, you might find that some bodegas look really modern since lately there is quite an architecture movement going on. And of course, if you go eating to a bodega, ask for "patatas a la riojana" and "chuletillas de cordero"!

I would suggest you to rent a car to move around in the Basque Country and La Rioja, but if you want to go to Madrid I think it might be wise to do it by bus or by train (this can be easily done from Bilbao with Alsa (bus) or Renfe (train)).

About the sleeping thing, you could try to find "Casas rurales" kind of bed and breakfasts, but they are usually outside the big cities.

I hope I helped you someway, if you have any question just ask!

Good luck!

Finland
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6. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

Thanks, this was really helpful! So much looking forward to the trip :)

Bilbao,Spain
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7. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

Hi,

I have been living in the Basque country for over 6 months now and to be honest I wouldnt recommend it as a holiday/relaxation destination. I am 20 minutes (by Metro) from Bilbao city and well to be frank, other than the Guggenheim Museum, theres really not much else to see. I am planning to travel to Biarritz for the Easter myself to see what thats like so maybe when I return I can give you a more detailed msg re the coastline/prices and so on. I currently live in a beautiful town on the coast, 10 minutes from Algorta (where I believe someone recommended you to go), but its really over priced and theres absolutely nothing to see other than the small beaches (that goes for all the surrounding areas). I dont mean to put a complete downer on your travel plan but on the other hand, I would highly recommend Barcalona. Plenty to do and see there. You can find accommodation there for relatively cheap; Respectable Hostel for €50 a night as competition is high. Also, I didnt find hotels too expensive either,once again as there is so much competition. You can do the bus tour for €21 euro (which covers 2 bus routes covering all the important tourist attractions). Its also an excellent city for shopping and as for the social life, it caters for all ages in a very relaxed friendly environment..which is more than I can say about the Basque people (dont mean to offend anyone).Its just their culture,they're not very open or welcoming.This was confirmed by a basque person themselves so its not just my opinion,its more of a culture difference really. Im not from Spain by the way!

If you do go to Barcalona, you should try staying on La Rambla, its a pedestrian st. ( I think!) thats very central;for tour buses,beach etc.5 mins walk. Also a bus runs from Plaza de Catalunya every 10 mins to the airport, thing it cost €4 one way.I would definately recommend doing the Sagrada Familia,its absolutely amazing.

Re hotels,a good website is www.centralr.com,they offer great deals. Flyin within Spain, either Spanair.com or sometimes Rumbo.com. Re buses Alsa.com is the cheapest and quite easy to navigate. I hope I was of some help. Good luck!

Northern New York
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8. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

Having visited Bilbao in July 2008, we stayed at a bed&breakfast approx. 10 minutes from Bilbao. It is called "Ametzola" and is a very nice place in the country. The host also prepared delicious meals for us. Basque food!. Excellent. The directions were a little confusing for us though. Just keep driving following the narrow road and you WILL get there. Barrio Ametzola 1, 48499 Zeberio, Vizcaya, Spain.

Phone: 34 944046076. We b ooked online through the site: www.sawdays.com. Very good book-Alastair Sawday's Special Places To Stay. We booked 3 places through this book and all were excellent.

Enjoy your vacation!

spain
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9. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

We'll be travelling around Northern/Central Spain for two weeks this April (3-18). The first week will be Semana Santa and I'm wondering how much we should account for shops, restaurants, museums, sights, bodegas/vineyards, or anything being closed during those days? What activities would you recommend for those Semana Santa days? We wouldn't mind seeing some traditional Semana Santa celebrations but it’s not our main agenda.

THERE IS NO MUCH TRADITIONAL SEMANA SANTA CELEBRATIONS IN EUSKADI. THEY WILL OFFER SERVICES AT CHURCH BUT NO MUCH RELATED TO THE THINGS OFFERED IN THE SOUTH OF SPAIN.

We are planning a route from Barcelona (straight) to Bilbao & San Sebastian (Donostia) to La Rioja to Madrid to Cuenca and/or to Valencia to Barcelona OR vice versa, the other way around. Our main interest is in the Northern parts (Bilbao area)! We are planning our route so that we will see a couple interesting cities (in addition to Bilbao we'd like to see Madrid and Barcelona - not dead-set on anything else yet) and some quaint small towns/villages along the way. We'd like to see some main sights but generally tend to gravitate towards the "off the beaten track". We haven't book the transfers yet but planning to use trains, busses or rent a car, whichever makes most sense, also flights (e.g. BCN-Bilbao) if necessary.

MADRID WILL BE EMPTY NICE TIME TO VISIT. DONOSTIA HAS ENOGH TO SEE IN 3 DAYS, YOU CAN WALK TO DIFFERENT SIGHTS AND EAT WELL, VERY WELL. BILBAO IS NICE , IT USED TO BE A VERY UGLY INDUSTRIAL CITY, NO IT IS A BIG FINANCE CENTER. NICE TO SPEND A DAY OR SO.

Does it make any sense to go to Bilbao & San Sebastian to La Rioja to Madrid during Semana Santa or should we make the circle the other way around so that we would tour Barcelona - Valencia/Cuenca - Madrid during Semana Santa? Is there anything on these areas we should especially avoid during Semana Santa (i.e. what is completely shut down and which days)?

CUENCA DURING SEMANA SANTA WILL BE BUSY. As FOR LA RIOJA I WOULD RECOMMEND CALLING THE BODEGAS TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE OPEN, BEFORE YOU ARRIVE. You can ALSO EAT VERY WELL AROUND BODEGAS TOO.

Is it necessary to book the accommodations (we'll use hostels and other budget options) and transfers (trains/busses) in advance? My travelling partner is sure that we'll manage without booking but would be no problem to do it -- once we have our itinerary in order!!

IN DONOSTIA YOU CAN CONTACT PENSION LOLO. YOU SHOULD BOOK ROOM IN DONOSTIA, BILBAO AND CUENCA. THAT IS A MUST. BUSES FROM TO SAN SEBASTIAN AND BILBAO ARE CALLED TRANSPORTES PESA. FROM MADRID TO DONOSTIA AND VICEVERSA IS AUTOCONTINENTAL, IT ARRIVES INTO AVENIDA DE AMERICA IN MADRID AND PLAZA PIO XII IN DONOSTIA. TO RIOJA, THAT MIGHT BE A BIT MORE CHALLENGING.

Is it possible to make a day trip to visit bodegas/vineyards from Madrid or Bilbao or should we stay somewhere in Rioja/Ribera del Duero? Any other suggested wine A regions/bodegas closer to our stops? Any suggestions for Cava wineries? We are mainly travelling on a budget but can (and plan to) splurge a bit every now and then :)

BODGEAS/VINEYARDS, BEST TO GO FROM BILBAO OR DONOSTIA . YOU CAN ALSO STOP ON THE WAY FROM MADRID TO DONOSTIA OR BILBAO, HOWEVER BUSES WILL NOT STOP, UNLESS YOU TAKE BUSES DIRECTLY TO RIOJA.

CAVA IS FROM CATALUNA, BARCELONA AREA.

Lots of questions - I've read a lot of the TA forum posts and will keep on reading... But will help a lot if you could shed some light in these queries! Thank you for helping in advance

http://www.bodegasaltanza.com/

THAT BODEGA, I BUY WINE FROM THEM, HAS AN ENGLISH SPEAKING MARKETING PERSON. THEY ALSO HAVE A DINING ROOM, IF NOT OPEN DURING EASTER YOU CAN GO TO TOWN, IT IS A GOOD PLACE TO EAT WELL! THEY CHORIZO HERE IS SUPERB!

10. Re: Semana Santa and touring in Northern Spain

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