A tailor-made self-drive taking in the historic sites and sprawling vineyards of Rioja and Navarra
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- Taste your way through some of Spain’s finest oenological offerings, matching them with dinners that showcase the regions’ traditional dining
- Contrast Bilbao’s modernist masterpieces with northern Spain’s medieval past, best found in its towns’ castles, cathedrals and welcoming plazas
- Stay in contemporary, city-centre luxury and a collection of paradors that range from castle palaces to 12th century hospitals
- 1 Night Bilbao
- 1 Night Calahorra
- 1 Night Olite
- 1 Night Santo Domingo de la Calzada
City | Food & wine | History & culture | October holidays | Self-drive
In Spain's Navarra and Rioja, world-class wineries and historic delights vie for your attention. Starting with Bilbao – a true tour de force of modernist beauty exemplified by the Guggenheim Museum – you’ll take it all in with stays in the regions’ charming towns. Here, medieval castles, centuries-old monasteries and charming tapas bars open out onto endlessly rolling undulations of vineyards and wineries. Along the way, you’ll be driving scenic country roads as you stay in a collection of beautiful properties that range from luxury city-centre hotels to palace-castle paradors. You’ll even pair your wines with the chance to sample the region’s delightful gastronomy, on a series of included dinners. Lastly, this is also available as a no-fly itinerary, departing on an overnight ferry from Portsmouth.
Day by day itinerary
Whether departing the day before with the overnight ferry or enjoying complimentary airport lounge access with your flight, you'll pick up your hire car on arrival in Bilbao to make your way to your city-centre hotel for a one-night stay. As the only luxury accommodation opposite the city's gleaming jewel – the Guggenheim Museum – you'll have all of the city's highlights on your doorstep, with the rest of the day free to explore. Wander through its alley-woven old town to find its 14th century cathedral and centuries-old tavernas, or take a walk along the river and climb up the Mallona Stairs for views over the entire city. There's also plenty of time to enjoy the superb tapas bars around the central Plaza Nueva.
Stay: Hotel Carlton, Bilbao (Deluxe)
After breakfast, perhaps take advantage of your hotel's unique position with a morning visit to the Guggenheim Museum; get there early to beat the crowds. Its sweeping, golden curves cascade skywards, a fitting front to one of the world's finest collections of contemporary art. From great, twisted sculptures to engrossing installations that take up entire rooms, it's a truly engaging experience. Then, depart Bilbao to head into Rioja – Spain's best-known wine region. You'll stay in the palm-fringed Parador de Calahorra, an elegant red brick building that's perfectly placed for exploring the town's stunning cathedral and Episcopal palace. However, it's the oenology that demands the most attention, with some of Lower Rioja's finest wineries within easy reach, including Torres Librada and Viña Herminia.
Stay: Parador de Calahorra (Superior)
The pretty town of Olite, just an hour's scenic drive away from Calahorra, offers the chance to discover some of the region's most important historical sites. Highlights include the Palace of the Kings of Navarre, an imposingly medieval castle, and a pair of delightfully Romanesque churches – the Santa Maria Real Church and San Pedro Apostol Church. It's all centred around the cobbled Square of Carlos III. Your education in viticulture will also continue, with the Navarre Museum of Wine and Vineyards. Providing a fascinating insight into the Rioja's wine-making history, it's even found in the same plaza as your accommodation – a medieval castle-palace complete with stained glass windows and Gothic arcades.
Stay: Parador de Olite (Standard)
Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Enjoy breakfast at the parador before heading north to the town of Pamplona, home to the world-famous Running of the Bulls. It's an ideal lunch stop, with plenty of inviting tapas bars dotted among its old town spread of 12th century churches and charming plazas. Continuing north, pause at the Marques de Riscal – a bodega whose daringly curved architecture rivals that of the Guggenheim – before arriving at Santo Domingo. It's the perfect base for exploring Upper Rioja. Spend the day taking in the region's many vineyards and wine producers as well as appreciating the urbane highlights of Santa Domingo itself, including the town's impressive cathedral and winding medieval streets. The nearby town of San Millán de la Cogolla is also well worth a visit, home to two historic monasteries – San Millán de Yuso and San Millán se Suso. Come the evening, you'll overnight at the superb Parador de Santo Domingo, a 12th century former hospital located right next to the cathedral.
Stay: Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada (Superior)
After breakfast, return your hire car and board either your flight or overnight ferry back to the UK.
Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.
5-day tailor-made self-drive from £585 pp incl. flights
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