October - for exploration without the perspiration
Most of Spain retains some of the most attractive aspects of summer into the month of October, although the nights draw in and are cooler. Throughout most of the country the days are often warm enough to enjoy outside and in a good year, the onset of what we consider ‘’autumn’’ - in the form of blustery winds, heavier rains and the appeal of wearing a warm, thick layer – doesn’t take effect until November. Deciduous trees are the main giveaway, the colourful reaction of their leaves to the arrival of longer, cooler nights makes a compelling reason to get out into nature and explore before winter arrives, particularly in the mountainous regions of the north. ‘’Beach days’’ are still enjoyable because the seas are just coming off their highest temperatures and you might need to work longer on your tan than in July or August, but you won’t be rushing so quickly to put on sun cream. And with the tide of tourists fast disappearing, you can enjoy your exploring more peacefully without such crowds and queues.
If you are a beach walker, a rambler or a culture vulture, the North of Spain has great appeal, offering you the world renowned high standards of gastronomy in delightful San Sebastian, Bilbao and several coastal villages which have established themselves on the culinary map such as Zarauz and the more rustic (and perhaps more relaxed) fishing village of Getaria. The old town of San Sebastian, overlooking the scythe-shaped beach is famous for its tapas run where you move from bar to bar enjoying local fish, meat and vegetable tapas and wonderful wines whilst enjoying the attractive streets and buildings of this very old town. Guernika to the west is a poignant stopping point for reflection on Spain's civil war and a brief hiatus before you resume appreciating the beauty of the green, coastal region of the Basque Country, Cantabria and Asturias, between the foothills of the Pyrenees and the lofty peaks of the Picos de Europa and Oviedo. Inland you have plenty to explore with high mountain ranges and valleys providing you with wonderful driving roads and tremendous views. Take in a coffee or lunch in a timeless old village by the side of a trout river or park up and set off strolling the paths because you cannot resist the appeal of a walking route to the side of the road; you will find much to entertain you.
A photographers paradise which appeals to nature and art lovers alike, Bilbao represents one of the best and most varied experiences with the famous Guggenheim museum with its iconic roof of contemporary design and highly rated restaurants, whilst Santander has an attractive waterfront and is a useful gateway to the Picos and the quieter coastline to the west with the long beaches of San Vicente de la Barquera and Santoña on either side a short drive away. To the south and within 2 hours’ drive of the coast you can be exploring some of Spain's finest vineyards in the La Rioja And Navarra regions, of which the more commercial Marques de Riscal rubs shoulders with more boutique vineyards such as Eguren Ugarte.
Significant historic cities well worth a visit include Pamplona, Logroño, and Vitoria for those of you with an eye for classic architecture, but for those of you who understand modern architecture better you will not feel ignored, you are well catered for, Spain has a strong taste for contemporary art. For those of you who enjoy shopping you also have wonderful opportunities for retail therapy in some familiar fashion names as well as many more Spanish clothing brands with colourful designs and stylish trim.
The 12th October is Spain’s national holiday and is well worth experiencing if you choose your location and accommodation carefully. Most cities, towns and villages will have celebrations and processions, celebrating both Columbus’ discoveries in the New World and Spain’s identity today but also marking the religious festival of El Pilar in Zaragoza which in true Spanish style requires 7 days of religious and social events including the flower parade and the parade of giant figurines through the city. If you prefer not to join the crowds, and in 2020 many of the events will be watered down anyway, then it is best to avoid these dates since shops close and much of the country pauses for a day or two.
For the more energetic, the Camino de Santiago cuts through this region from Roncesvalles towards Leon, so you may want to take your walking boots with you and join the flow of pilgrims on part of this religious and emotional walking experience. If you are interested in experiencing Spain's extensive natural underground caves, you might start with the very informative and well-designed visitor centre at the Altamira caves. Northern Spain has a good number of well-established cave experiences, with early-age cave paintings and incredible natural sites such as underground rivers with huge caverns, stalagmites and stalagtites to take in. Valporquera, outside Leon, is one of the best experiences but Tito Bustillo nearer the coast is more frequently visited.
Whether your appetite is whetted by museums, walking, shopping or simply enjoying hours of aperitives and tapas on a terrace overlooking a busy square, you will not want for plenty to do and the reward of a great dinner to celebrate afterwards.
We can help you to prepare your itinerary to explore the aspects of northern Spain that particularly appeal to you, with the help of some very beautiful and charming Paradors to make your stays all the more memorable. Paradors that stand out would include Sos del Rey Catolico, Argómaniz, Hondarribia and Santillana but it does a disservice to the others to exclude them, particularly the ones in Santo Domingo de la Calzada on the doorstep to the Riojan vineyards, and in Cangas de Onís, a converted monastery on the banks of a salmon river surrounded by the most beautiful scenery .
The North of Spain can really be enjoyed during the month of October with plenty to do without the peak summer crowds, and the value you can find in the cost of flights, ferries and car hire more than compensates for missing out on the 40-degree temperatures!
And if you are looking for higher temperatures and warm evenings, the further south you go, the warmer it is. Why not consider exploring the heart of Spain around Madrid, Toledo and Avila? Hopefully a call to us can help guide you, we are always happy to give you a quote for your accommodation arrangements or to discuss your plans. Call us on Tel: 0207 199 6360 or 0800 160 1013
5 Night Card
One of the best ways to explore Spain is using the Paradors' 5 Night Card. The card costs £546 for five nights in Paradors with breakfast and allows you to stay at multiple Paradors or enjoy a 5-night stay in a single location. We generally recommend booking all 5 nights in advance of travel to guarantee availability, however the card is designed to give you flexibility so you are only required to pre-book the very first night and the remainder of the nights can be booked on a 'go as you please basis'. At time of quoting, we will also check the full range of special offers for your dates, just to ensure that you get the best value from your booking.
The card is available to book at all Paradors (except Granada), however there are some excluded dates and some Paradors require an additional supplement which is payable locally in Euros. You can find more information about the 5 Night Card here.