Once you fall under Spain’s magical spell, there will be no breaking free, nor any urge to do so–only the desire to return, again and again. However, many seasoned travelers never experience its enchantment, since Spain is considered somewhat `off the beaten path.’ Outside the major cities, you quickly find yourself away from hordes of tourists and happily immersed in the magic of places that haven’t changed for hundreds of years. You will be entranced by the beauty of the landscape, the rich selection of places to see, the diversity of the culture, and the warmth of welcome.Our goal is to share with you the loveliest, historic hotels in Spain and to provide itineraries that will lead you to them by the most scenic and interesting routes. Our list of hotels in Spain as well as inns, resorts and Paradors is a selection of what we feel are the loveliest of Spain’s lodging and accommodations. Our eight driving itineraries highlight different regions for your Spain trave. The itineraries may be taken in whole or in part, or strung together for a longer journey.

Select a region in Spain, or choose one from the map below:


Spain



General Info and Resources

Itineraries:

This section features itineraries covering most of Spain. They may be taken in whole or in part, or strung together for a longer journey. Each of the itineraries highlights a different region of the country, and they are of different lengths, enabling you to find one or more to suit your individual taste and schedule. At the beginning of each itinerary we suggest our recommended pacing to help you decide the amount of time to allocate to each region. You will enjoy yourself much more if you concentrate on a smaller number of destinations and stay for at least a couple of nights in each, rather than spending most of your precious vacation rushing from place to place. We have intentionally not specified how many nights to stay at each destination—your personality and time restraints will dictate what is best for you. We strongly suggest concentrating your time in fewer locations in order to relax, unpack, and savor the atmosphere and novelty of the spot. We recommend choosing a few hotels that most appeal to you and using them as hubs from which to explore the surrounding regions. If you’re new to Spain and planning a trip there, we hope that upon reading through the itineraries and hotel descriptions, you’ll get a feel for which places merit the most time and which can be done justice with an overnight stay. In other words, this guide should be a reference and not a prescription for your personalized trip.



Airfare:

Karen Brown’s Guides have long recommended Auto Europe for their excellent car rental services. Their air travel division, Destination Europe, an airline broker working with major American and European carriers, offers deeply discounted coach- and business-class fares to over 200 European gateway cities. It also gives Karen Brown travelers an additional 5% discount off its already highly competitive prices (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions). We recommend making reservations by phone at (800) 835 1555. When phoning, be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to secure your discount.

Another option is to visit Flight Reservations under the blue Travel Tools tab on all of our web pages. Here, you will find a myriad of prices from different air carriers.

Europe now has several low-cost air carriers, the largest being Ryanair, offering excellent prices for air travel within Europe. If you are traveling long distances across Europe it might be advantageous to look into flying rather taking the train.

 



Car Rental:

We always use Auto Europe—a car rental broker that works with the major car rental companies to find the lowest possible price. They also offer motor homes and chauffeur services. Auto Europe’s toll-free phone service, from every European country, connects you to their U.S.-based, 24-hour reservation center (ask for the Europe Phone Numbers Card to be mailed to you). Auto Europe offers our readers a 5% discount (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions) and, occasionally, free upgrades. Be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to receive your discount and any special offers. You can make your reservations online via our website, www.karenbrown.com (select Auto Europe from the home page), or by phone (800-223-5555).



Currency:

Generally, banks in Spain are open from 9 am to 1:30 pm, sometimes 2 pm, Monday through Friday. Some banks (most frequently in larger towns) maintain similar business hours on Saturday. Many, but not all, exchange foreign currency: look for a Cambio (exchange) sign outside the bank. Often your hotel or the local tourist office will exchange your dollars, though usually at a slightly less-favorable rate than at the bank. An increasingly popular and convenient way to obtain foreign currency is simply to use your bankcard at an ATM machine. You pay a fixed fee for this but, depending on the amount you withdraw, it is usually less than the percentage-based fee charged to exchange currency or travelers’ checks. Be sure to check with your bank or credit card company about fees and necessary pin numbers prior to departure.

Many establishments accept one or more credit cards. If possible, pay using your credit card as the exchange rate is usually quite favorable. Paying by credit card reduces the need to carry large sums of cash and thus reduces potential loss in the case of theft. Keep a record of your credit card numbers at home as well as with you separately from your cards in case of loss or theft. Also, it is a good idea to contact your card issuer and inform them of your travel plans.

 



Driving:

DRIVER’S LICENSE: You will need to have a valid driver’s license from your home country.

GASOLINE: Gasoline is relatively expensive (at least double the U.S. price) and should be considered in your budget if you plan to drive extensively. Gasoline is available in any small town and at frequent intervals along the freeways. Diesel (called gasoil or gasoleo in Spain) is considerably less costly. With a little common sense, you should have no trouble finding fuel. Many of the major gas stations accept credit cards—if so, most display a sign with the credit card emblems.

ROADS: Roads in Spain run the gamut from superb freeways to barely two-lane country roads (and, as you might expect, our countryside itineraries find you more often on the latter). Travel on the freeways is swift, but as a rule of thumb, calculate that you will average only about 50–60 kilometers per hour on the country roads. However, the leisurely pace allows you time to enjoy your surroundings as you drive. The personality of the country does not lend itself to an accelerated pace, nor do the itineraries. There is order to the Spanish road numbers. “A” (A6, for example) indicates freeways. “N” plus a Roman numeral (NIV) indicates major national highways that radiate like spokes from Madrid. “N” with an Arabic numeral (N403) indicates minor national highways that connect the major ones. “C” (C321) indicates regional roads, and two letters (which are the first two letters in the name of the province e.g. TO1234 for Toledo) indicate provincial roads. Their size and the speed possible are usually correspondingly lower as you go down the list from freeways to provincial roads. Roads are constantly being upgraded, so you will encounter many pleasant surprises—a road that looks of questionable quality on a map might turn out to be wider than expected and freshly re-tarred. Some of the longer freeways are toll roads and every so often require that you pass through a tollbooth. When you enter the highway, usually you will be given a ticket with the point of entry marked and will pay according to the number of kilometers driven when you leave the highway. If you don’t know Spanish, look for the amount due on the lighted sign at the booth. While these freeways are excellent and generally uncrowded, the tolls take their “toll” on your wallet if you drive all day on them. Wherever there are freeways, there are also parallel non-toll highways, but you can expect them to double the driving time between two points. Most of the toll stations will take a credit card. This is a great convenience—just one quick swish of your card through their computer and you are on your way.

SEAT BELTS: The use of seat belts is mandatory in Spain, and the law is strongly enforced both in cities and in the countryside, so get into the habit of buckling up when you get into the car.

TRAFFIC: This is never a problem on the freeways; however, on smaller roads it can be ferocious. If you’re trying to cover a lot of ground in a given day, we suggest that you try to drive during siesta time—between 1 and 4 pm—when many trucks and buses stop for lunch. In the large cities, unfamiliarity combined with traffic, parking problems, and the fact that almost no two streets are parallel, make driving a trial for all but the bravest of souls. Our preference is to leave the car in the hotel parking lot (or one recommended by the hotel) and take cabs or walk around the cities. Underground public parking areas are common and are designated by a rectangular blue sign with a large white “P.” In Madrid and Barcelona try the excellent subway systems (called the Metro and marked with signs bearing a large “M”). If you’re stopping to visit a town along an itinerary route, we suggest you park on or near a main square (for easy recall), then venture on by foot into those streets that were never designed with cars in mind. It is not uncommon for parking areas on central streets and plazas to be vigilados (overseen) by an attendant, usually wearing something resembling a uniform. He may direct you to a free spot and will approach you after you park—a small tip is appropriate.



Electricity:

You will need a transformer plus an adapter if you plan to take an American-made electrical appliance. Even if the appliance is dual-voltage, as many of them are these days, you’ll still need an adapter plug. The voltage is usually 220, but in a few places 110 is used. Occasionally a 110 outlet is provided in the hotel bathroom, but these should be used only for small appliances such as electric razors, since they usually can’t handle things like hairdryers. Be sure to check with the manager if the outlet is not clearly marked.



Tourism:

The Spanish tourist offices are a rich source of information about Spain. You can visit their website at www.okspain.org or www.spain.info, or write in advance of your holiday for information. Their contacts are as follows:

USA: Tourist Office of Spain, 845 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 915-East, Chicago, IL 60611, tel: (312) 642-1992, fax: (312) 642-9817, email: chicago@Tourspain.es.

Tourist Office of Spain, San Vicente Plaza Building, 8383 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 960, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, tel: (323) 658-7188, fax: (323) 658-1061, email: losangeles@Tourspain.es.

Tourist Office of Spain, 1221 Brickell Avenue, Miami, FL 33131, tel: (305) 358-1992, fax: (305) 358-8223, email: miami@Tourspain.es.

Tourist Office of Spain, 666 Fifth Avenue, 35th Floor, New York, NY 10103, tel: (212) 265-8822, fax: (212) 265-8864, email: nuevayork@Tourspain.es. CANADA:

Tourist Office of Spain, 2 Bloor Street West, Suite 3402, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3E2, tel: (416) 961-3131, fax: (416) 961-1992, email: toronto@Tourspain.es.

ENGLAND: Spanish National Tourist Office, 22–23 Manchester Square, London W1M 5AP, tel: (020) 7486-8077, fax: (020) 7486-8034, email: info.londres@Tourspain.es.

SPAIN: Tourist Office of Spain, Plaza Mayor 3, 28012 Madrid, tel: 91-588-1636, fax: 91-366-5477, email: infotur.spain@Tourspain.es. The Tourist Offices of Spain can provide you with general information or, at your request, specific information about towns, regions, and festivals. Local tourist offices (oficina de turismo) are found in most small towns throughout the country—they are well marked and usually located in the heart of the town or city. They offer an incomparable on-site resource, furnishing town maps and details on local and regional highlights that you might otherwise miss. Those in the regional capitals are especially well equipped to provide you with colorful and informative brochures on the surrounding area. Make the local oficina de turismo your first stop at each destination.



Weather:

There are three distinct climates in Spain, dividing the country in thirds from north to south. The northern area is subject to the moderating Atlantic currents and has a relatively good climate for most of the year—too cold to swim in winter, but seldom bitterly cold either; summer is warm, but never extremely hot. The central plateau is cut off from those moderating currents and has what the Spanish call nueve meses de invierno y tres de infierno (nine months of winter and three of hell). The southern third of the country has a more Mediterranean climate: relatively warm, though with damp winters, and often brutal heat in midsummer, which is slightly alleviated along the coastal areas by sea breezes. If you venture to some of Spain’s exotic islands, you will find still other climates. In fact, on some of the Canary Islands (just off the coast of Africa), it is so dry that sometimes it doesn’t rain for the entire year.