A Few Nice Roads in Spain (Understatement!)
Smooth roads, great vistas, relatively traffic-free and mainly great weather. What’s not to like?
This trip took us from our port of entry, Santander (from Plymouth), to Donostia-San Sebastian and then to Arties and Alcaniz before returning via Burgos and Fuente-De. Alcaniz will be familiar to anyone who’s visited the Motorland Aragon racing circuit. We were there for the MotoGP race (and what a race it was… if you’re that way inclined).
We like to alternate our driving days between motorway routes when we need to get somewhere fairly quickly and longer, more scenic routes when we have the luxury of time on our side. Of course, the novelty of empty smooth roads makes up for some of the monotony of motorway driving.
After disembarking the huge ferry, the first section was simply to get us from the port of Santander to our overnight stop in Donostia-San Sebastian. Having docked in the afternoon we took the fastest 2.5hr route along the main roads to allow us time to enjoy our first hotel, the Mercure San Sebastian, with good parking and great views of the bay below us.
Day 2 of our trip was to the mountain resort of Arties close to the border with France.
In normal times we would probably have taken the shorter route, driving north over the border to France and finding our way back into Spain via Andorra. However, these were not normal times (these were covid times) so we decided to minimise our paperwork and drive solely in Spain. This meant a six hour drive so we set off early in the cooler weather and chose to avoid the most direct route by picking up the GL-3410 and onwards to the NA-4150. These are two twisty roads that hug the valley walls and criss cross the river below. Both roads are popular with cyclists who all seemed polite and would rather have us ahead of them than behind them. That suited us!
We then jumped back onto the main roads for a spell to avoid the main city of Pamplona before joining the N-260, another scenic road along the river through mountain tunnels and then the CL-28 to our overnight stop of Parador de Arties. It was good to see a trio of Sunbeams (Alpines and a Tiger) there when we arrived and later to have a good chat with their owners… in the car park, naturally.
If you continue on along the CL-28 you will eventually arrive in Andorra. However, our next location was Alcaniz so we got to enjoy the road back along the N-260 all over again en-route to the Parador de Alcaniz, a spectacular former castle that overlooks the town.
This is where we made our only navigational error in assuming that our phone would guide us through the narrow approach roads to our destination. It Didn’t! Instead, we ended up on a very steep and narrow road that we found was closed after about 1/4 mile. That meant reversing all the way back down again, much to the amusement of some locals. I considered switching off the engine and freewheeling but decided the lack of brake servo would be disadvantageous! Our tip, based on that experience, is to look out for and follow the Parador signs. There is only one parador in the town and the signs will take you directly there, avoiding some of the narrower roads. It reminds me that there was a time when we managed pretty well when we only had maps and road signs to guide us!
The Parador has plenty of flat level parking in front of the building or around the side if you are wanting somewhere more private. All the spaces are covered by CCTV and we left the car there safely for the next 6 nights whilst we enjoyed the delights of Motorland Aragon about 20 minutes down the road.
Our homeward journey took us to the Hotel Landa in Burgos for one night. We picked this as a convenient break in our journey back to Santander via the Picos National Park. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find such a luxurious hotel beside a major road junction. Even better when having parked up in the main car park the receptionist advised us they had a free underground garage for hotel guests and provided us with a bucket to clean the miles of dust and dead insects we had collected on the journey so far.
There are around 12 spaces in the underground car park and whilst the entrance ramp is a little steep we think all but the lowest sports cars would make it down and up again. If yours is that lowest sports car, then the main car park has shading and we would have been happy to leave our car there.
We drove from Burgos turning north stopping in Guardo for coffee then on to the LE-215. It’s sweeping bends and switchbacks through the mountains gives you a taste of what’s to come on the N-621. Tip – watch out for lay-bys for photo opportunities… we missed them!
We then took the N621 at Boca de Huergano. It’s a stunning twisting road climbing up to highest point where there is a picnic area and parking to admire the view (we didn’t miss that one… as you can see on our little video).
This 30 miles stretch ended in Potes: an attractive medieval centre that straddles a bubbling river and, with it’s free car parks, a good place to stop for a coffee or lunch.
Turning left at the crossroads in Potes and following the road through the centre takes you onto the CA-185. It’s a slightly less challenging road but non-the-less picturesque. This will lead you to the end of the road in the Picos National Park where you will find the Parador de Fuente De and you can take the cable car to the top for great views of where you have driven… unless it’s foggy as it was for us!
The main road through Potes leads to the motorway for Santander that is signposted all the way. However, it remains scenic for a good stretch, just in case you’re not yet quite done with those lovely Spanish roads.
As you can surmise, our 1,500 miles round trip covered only a tiny portion of the country. Compared to the UK, it’s a vast and attractive driver’s landscape with more than twice the space and about 15 million less human inhabitants.
We look forward to returning and to adding more routes and recommendations. Watch this space!