Touring Coast of Northern Spain to Portugal

Nov 15, 2017
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Hi There, Were hoping to do drive down from Cherbourg via Biarritz to Northern Spain and then take the coastal route down to Portugal. First trip abroad in our Swift Bolero. Any tips or suggestions about where to stay in Northern Spain and nice places to visit would be welcome. How did you find the main coastal roads in Northern Spain? Many thanks.
 

DBK

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When are you going?
Critical point I think. The region can have great weather but facing the Atlantic it can also experience more "British" weather. :) We've explored a bit of the north coast but I particularly like Galicia and will hopefully return there later this year.
The motorways are worth a visit on their own. Stunning bits of engineering but you can also follow the old coast road and find the really interesting places. Search for posts by @vwalan who knows the region well.
 

vwalan

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Critical point I think. The region can have great weather but facing the Atlantic it can also experience more "British" weather. :) We've explored a bit of the north coast but I particularly like Galicia and will hopefully return there later this year.
The motorways are worth a visit on their own. Stunning bits of engineering but you can also follow the old coast road and find the really interesting places. Search for posts by @vwalan who knows the region well.
in winter yes that coast can really get it hard , but give it a couple months and it will be fine . i normally say get a mapamax map book off amazan but i think the new ones arent out yet.
just keep turning right till you get to the sea then turn left. keep the sea on your right. its good fun and well do able . we do it in trucks . i prefer west of bilbao onwards . galecia is a dream . possibly pay a visit to the british naval cemetry up on the very north corner of galecia https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@43.1841543,-9.1707734,1138m/data=!3m1!1e3
there is drivable tracks to very close . the views you get on the way are breathtaking .
all that galecian coast is fantastic .
forget the m,ways and main roads use the minor roads .
lots fonts etc .
if you can get a mapamax they are the best maps of spain and portugal show lots little places not on most maps .
just hug the sea and have a great journey.
when the newer roads were built the bridges are amazing . from under neath its like real artwork. .we watched them being built in the 80,s and 90,s . my lads know just about every one of them , we visited that area alot back then and they loved seeing the bridges being made .
 
Nov 3, 2013
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Hi.
As vwalan says,spot on. Done it ourselves,and on one stretch,herded goats along the lane nice an slow,so had an even better view of the sea and sea...?nery(y)
Go on,do it.
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vwalan

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have a play on google maps and street view .
shame they didnt actually follow the hard vehicle roads . they do drift off onto foot paths but if you playabout you will find the hard vehicle tracks and believe me they are great.
i go through with my mini artic and mates go through with all sorts of trucks campers buses etc . be kind to the area though if you wild camp.
hms serpent built in devonport was the ship.its crew were mainly cadets .
 
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Northern Spain is fantastic I spent a couple of months touring there earlier this year, some great places to visit and loads of free aires/stopovers. The further west you go the better. However, I would strongly recommend you leave it until mid March at the earliest due to it's vicinity to the atlantic ocean and exposure to it's weather systems. You would be far better heading to the Med side of Spain at this time of year as it will be a lot warmer and drier, particularly around the Mercia region, where many motorhomes from all nations will be overwintering. Come the beginning of March is a good time to venture across to Portugal or even up to the north coast of Spain.

Some route recommendations that may be useful for future considerations.

Firstly, routes and route maps for France and Spain. This first link is an award winning database about France. It’s big and with a host of information on best routes to many locations. I have selected the famous N10 route from Calais to Irun which is used by many motorhomes when travelling to Spain. It’s almost Toll free (more on that a little later) and almost all duel carriageway from start to finish with the exception of about 100 K. This route is great for motorhomes small, medium and large. Note: (HGV’s are not allowed on French roads, Sunday’s, so plan your journey over a weekend if possible).

https://about-france.com/tourism/no-tolls-routes.htm

Tolls: We avoid the toll road from Calais to Abbeville and save 12.50 Euros. The non-toll route is quite scenic and fairly straight forward, between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Abbeville.

At Abbeville, join the A28 and cross the river Sein at Rouen. We take the second exit immediately after crossing the bridge (about 50 m past the first exit at the end of the bridge), swing down and under the bridge you have just crossed and continue on this road and join the A13 motorway until the N154 which takes you down to Evreux. (Note: there are a number of different options for getting through Rouen and no doubt other members will have their own preferences. We find this very straight forward on both outward and return legs). Approaching Tours on the D910 join the A10 toll road at Jct. 19 and exit at Jct. 23. This will take you through the city via the toll road, (about 2.50 euros). At Jct. 23 take the exit lane for Montbazon which returns you to the D910. (Reverse for the return leg). That’s the last toll to pay until you hit the bottom of the A63 after Bordeaux.

To save toll fares on the A63 south of Bordeaux please read the route recommendations in the above link. Do not come off the A63 near the bottom as all roads will be heavily congested and it’s worth paying the last few tolls. (Fuel costs approx. €126.72. (Based on 1056 K @10K per Ltr. @€1.20 per ltr. 3.5T motorhome)). This route is also recommended during winter, due to its proximity to the Atlantic ocean, which means little to no problems with ice and or snow, unlike using the A75 to cross the Massif Central. Although the A75 is quickly cleared, it is advisable to have winter tyres fitted and there may be some small delays due to snow ploughs clearing this route.

If heading to the Mediterranean side of Spain, it’s worth taking the N121-A to Pamplona after crossing the Spanish boarder on the A63 at Irun. It’s clearly sign posted (Large white sign) about 300 m after passing through the last toll booth and crossing the river. You will find more details in this link for the N121-A and how to navigate Spain toll free.

https://about-spain.net/travel/no-tolls.htm

If you decide to pay Tolls in order to save time getting to Spain, your best route options are in this link.

https://about-france.com/tourism/routes-to-spain.htm

Should you choose to plan your own routes anywhere in Europe and also establish Toll costs, (or toll free costs) use this link. Under route options, select caravan then select toll roads. Toll costs for a class 2 motorhome will be calculated for the whole journey. You can also choose Non toll routes and other options. This is currently one of the best online free route planers.

https://www.viamichelin.co.uk/

As for stop overs on routes, you can’t go wrong using the App below which is free but I would recommend getting the paid version for about £6.00 which you can then use off line. You will find numerous places to stop along the above route and I have deliberately not made any recommendations so drivers can make their own choices. This app is also brilliant for finding other places too and highly rated by many users.

https://www.campercontact.com/en/content/app

There is another popular app/website that is used which you may also find useful if you’re doing a lot of wilding and looking for free overnight stops. It too is used by many motor homers in Europe. Get the paid version to use off line for around £9.00

https://www.park4night.com/

Finally, probably the best off line maps ‘App’ and used by many. It also includes a sat-nav function which is quite good and can also be used off line. Again many motor homers use this, especially in Morocco.

http://maps.me/en/home
 
OP
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Nov 15, 2017
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Hi, Many thanks for the replies so far. Much appreciated. Anyone encounter any problems with security issues on aires or wild camping in Spain?

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OP
M
Nov 15, 2017
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Oh by the way I should have mentioned we are off in mid March hopefully. Is that a good time?
 
May 31, 2015
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Hi, Many thanks for the replies so far. Much appreciated. Anyone encounter any problems with security issues on aires or wild camping in Spain?

No...

Oh by the way I should have mentioned we are off in mid March hopefully. Is that a good time?

Great time to go...(y)

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DBK

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Oh by the way I should have mentioned we are off in mid March hopefully. Is that a good time?
You won't be trampled underfoot by tourists! I think you are about a month early but give it a go and I strongly suggest you keep your options open. Just head south if you need warmth. :)

Scroll to near the bottom of this link to see how the hours of sunshine jump up in April.

http://www.holiday-weather.com/santander/averages/

Porto, in Northern Portugal is different again.

http://www.holiday-weather.com/santander/averages/

The latter suggests you should get more sun as you go west, but expect rain wherever you go in the north. :)

Edit: Just realised you are setting off in March and driving south through France. That would take me a week but others do it in a couple of hops. :)
 
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BwB

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Lovely area, great food, nice people. Good smattering of aires too, even if it's just for emptying the toilet, etc.
 

The Nomad

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Hi, Many thanks for the replies so far. Much appreciated. Anyone encounter any problems with security issues on aires or wild camping in Spain?

None whatsoever.
It is far far safer in Spain than in crime ridden Britain. Honestly, it is.

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klaatu

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Can personally recommend Camping Zarautz if you need a site just west of San Sebastián. Great views from its cliff top location. Nice walk down into Zarautz. Hard work coming back up again! Excellent facilities, and the restaurant on site does a very good 11 Euro menu, three courses including drinks, and pretty good food at that. Very friendly staff with pretty good English.
 
Jan 10, 2013
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Can personally recommend Camping Zarautz if you need a site just west of San Sebastián. Great views from its cliff top location. Nice walk down into Zarautz. Hard work coming back up again! Excellent facilities, and the restaurant on site does a very good 11 Euro menu, three courses including drinks, and pretty good food at that. Very friendly staff with pretty good English.
I second that. Lovely site and incredible views if you get the right pitch.
021216 Gran Camping Zauratz (3).JPG
 
Jan 23, 2016
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I will revisit this but the North Coast of Spain is beautiful but the weather can be variable.

Places I liked;

Mundaka, around the headland from Bermeo. Bermeo is a fishing village. Mundaka one of the best surfing locations in Europe but it is small with narrow roads.

Sopela or Sopelana, close to Bilboa, two beaches lots of surfing. There is a big carpark on the clifftops and I have 'wilded' there many times.

Inland Puerto de Orduna, south of Bilboa. A 2000 ft high escarpment with a windy but passable road to the top. Rough track off to the right just after you reach the top, plenty of 'wilding' spots.

Carry on after you top the pass and a few kms on the left there is a gated turn into a Nature Park. Follow the road in the park until it splits, take the right hand fork and drive to the end at Vulture Gully, my name. I've wilded there often.

More to come.

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Jan 23, 2016
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I wrote this sometime ago for another Funster, it covers more than the area you ask but I'm a bit busy so I'm posting the whole thing.

Well here is what I can offer;

Spain

Sorry for the time it has taken to get this together. I’ve been working from my very old Michelin maps so some/many/all the road numbers may have changed. I also seem to have lost a back up drive full of photos, but a search on Google will bring up plenty if views and information.

I would mostly drive down to Spain on the E70, to cross the border near Irun as that gave me the most options to go south, west or east.

East:

Taking the N121 to Pamplona where you can run with the bulls if you are crazy enough. Pamplona is a nice city but leaving it behind take the N240 towards Huesca you’ll find a small village called Yesa. Just past Yesa, on the right, is a large lake and there was a campsite right on the lake. I often stayed there and the campsite restaurant/bar was really good. Alternatively I would ‘wild’ on the village football pitch by the side of the road. There is a little village called Lumbier to the North West of Yesa that leads to the village of Navascues, from there, there is a very minor road/track to the top of the mountains. I would wild up there as well, great views to the Pyrenees and over the lake.

embalse_de_yesa.jpg


From this area you can continue south east ward towards Barcelona. Near Tarragona there is a small town called Valls, lots of places to wild around there or campsites near the coast. Valls claim to fame is the fiesta of the Castels, which is an event not to miss. http://www.collavella.cat/ As many times as I’ve watched theses Castels I still can’t believe my eyes as they tower ever upwards.

576_1379261353pilar8_Valls.jpg


Yes that is a little kid at the top!

West:

All of the coastline west from Irun to Gijon is nice. I’ve never lingered too much around San Sebastian as I was always attracted to Mundaka and Sopela, I covered these in the Spain thread. They still remain two of my favourite coastal places.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mundaka

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sopela

Continuing along the coast there are lots of little bays, beaches and coastal villages, too many to list and variations to any taste, I never had issues wilding along this coast, but times do change.

Beyond Santander is Ribadesella, I wilded on the streets here, near the sea front.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribadesella

Best event here is the annual International Descent of the Sella when 100’s/1000’s of canoeists race down the river. It’s also a good entry point into the Picos De Europa. The Picos is great for mountain biking, strong rides up to the top or at one place, Fuente De, there is a cable car to the top and you can just enjoy the descent.

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowT...rom_the_Fuente_d_e_cable_Raton-Cantabria.html

South of Bilbao:

On the A625 to Amurrio and then climb to the Puerto De Orduna, again covered in the Spain thread. After climbing to the top there is a track to the right, I’ve wilded there a lot but the best place is to continue along the A625 until you find the gates into the Parc Naturel on the left some Kms from the top of the pass, there never used to be a signpost. You can find them on Google Streetmap. Go through the gates and explore. When the track splits I preferred the right fork but all areas are beautiful. The viewpoints are Spanish build!

1856564.jpg


Further along the A625 you can turn off to the right for Berberana and Villalba de Losa. I only ventured along this ‘hidden’ valley once but I remember it as being a very quiet and beautiful place.

ayuntamiento-junta-de-villalba-de-losa-72844491.jpg


South:

From the Picos/Orduna area you can head south west to Burgos a city stepped in history. I usually continue south on the N1 towards Madrid. Passing or visiting Aranda de Duero and Boceguillas you will see the Sierra de Guadarrama blocking the horizon. At La Pinilla there is a road to the left/east to Riaza that was mentioned in the Morning threads or to the right/west to Segovia.

I will return to the Eastern option later.

Heading west towards Segovia you’ll pass through Pradena a lovely little market village. The butcher shop was a delight to buy in, especially on ‘fish day’ when he had a fresh fish delivery. There is a Municipal Piscina (Swimming Pool) I’ve lazed a few days there. Onwards there is the village of Arcones. Turn left as you pass through the middle of the village, between the big bar restaurant and the Hostal. I’ve wilded by the bar restaurant or continued up the road/track until you almost reach the wood, here you can find somewhere quiet to park up and wild. The mountain bike ride to the mountain top is hard but the views are worth it. From the valley floor you can she what I call ‘Shit Rock’ a huge white rock where all the Griffon Vultures go for a dump. To sit at the top watching them soar by is amazing.

Arcones_Segovia_Sierra.png


At night there is no light pollution and the stars are amazing, in August the Perseid Meteor Shower is amazing to watch;

https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/perseid.html

From Arcones you can head northwards to Pedraza, a walled hilltop town.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedraza,_Segovia

There is one entry to the town through a narrow gate in the walls, once inside it is a circular wall lined narrow street around the town.

http://pedraza.info/

I have driven through in a VW camper, If I went back now I would park outside the walls and walk around to check drivability first because once in you’re in!

I’ve seen Spanish delivery vehicles around town so I guess that it’s manageable. At the top end of town there is a monastery or something of the like that has a history tour and outside a large open parking space where I have spent a few nights. The Plaza Major is traffic free, surrounded by bars and restaurants and on fiesta nights a great place to party.

You can ‘drive’ round it on Streetmap.

Further west is Segovia, tourist heaven and robbers paradise. Ancient Roman city.

At La Pinella, if you turn right, east, the first place is Riaza just a small village but the gateway to the ski resort, not the greatest snow unless it is a very hard winter but in the summer they sometimes run the cable car so that you can easily access the mountain tops.

Alternatively if you like mountain tops, go back to the N1 and head up the pass towards Madrid. At the top of the pass is the Puerto De Somosierra. You can get off the N1 and explore around the village you will find a minor road/track that takes you out onto the mountain tops. Again most of my time doing this was in a VW and I’m not sure how suitable it would be for an 8 meter MH.

As you leave the Puerto De Somosierra behind you on the N1 towards Madrid there is an unspoilt area to the east of the N1, no specific places to mention I’ve just roamed around usually coming out at Guadalajara. I have lost a day or two just aimlessly wandering in this area, eating in local village bars, dining on a Pot Luck, ‘Plato Del Dia.’

Heading Further West From Arcones, along the N110.

Look for a turning to the left (south) to Puerto De Navarro. A windy mountain road and somewhere near or just past the top there is a wooded park, in there is a font that spurts out the sweetest, coolest water I’ve ever tasted..

Carry on down into the valley and you’ll find another ‘lost’ area with lakes, campsites and mosquitoes. It’s not really ‘lost’ and is a Sunday playtime for rich madrileños, so watch out for lots of Mercedes, BMW’s and expensive restaurants.
 
Oct 8, 2016
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A very pleasant route, one of our favourite aires is at Tapia de Casariego, the route is far prettier and quieter than the med. coast in our opinion, you have chosen well. The A road along there is ok, the motorway is also interesting and free.
Don't miss the spot at Playa de Rodiles and the aire at Boiros south of La Coruna amongst many more.
 
OP
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Nov 15, 2017
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Do you guys with experience using French and Spanish toll roads recommend with purchase a Vignette?. Does it make life easier using the toll booths and where is the best place to purchase them.

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