From Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive: Day 6

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

When we were planning our trip we wanted to find a way to see the landscape of Spain as much as possible. Though we knew we needed to take some planes and trains we thought if there was a point where we could rent a car, we should do it. After some research and a quick chat with our friend from Seville, Hayley, we decided it would be a great choice to pick one up in Barcelona and drive it to San Sebastian. This way, we would get to drive it along the Northern Coast of Spain until we drop it off in Bilbao before heading to Portugal (because of the pricey tolls, it costs a lot of money to drive a car in Portugal, as we learned from Hayley).

So that morning we got up, left our gorgeous apartment in Barcelona and headed north through Zaragoza and Pamplona. I love road trips because you get to see a side of a place you would never see otherwise. Sure enough this road trip did not disappoint.

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

The landscape outside of Barcelona felt much like parts of Southern California, where everything was very arid and full of agave plants and cacti. We saw tons of rabbits scattering through the low grasses. It was really quite beautiful.

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

Just after we made our way through Zaragoza the landscape began to change from arid plains to more lush farmlands. Not too long after that we began to climb through the Southern Pyrenees Mountains. I knew that the drive would be full of hills, but did not expect there to be snow-capped mountains and for the landscape to look so similar to what I would expect in Ireland or the Northern UK.

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

The tiny towns and the hills covered in sheep were gorgeous. The rain began to come down lightly and we all instantly felt this relaxation that, honestly, only the mountains can bring.

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

I highly suggest nabbing a car in Barcelona or maybe even Madrid to drive north. You will hit tolls, but it will still be cheaper than the train, even after the gas. The drive is beautiful and so easy. We put the directions on our iPad and only got a little lost when we arrived in San Sebastian, but thankfully people were kind enough to help us find our way.

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

All I know is that after over a week in enjoying the fast paced life of the cities, it felt amazing to see the rolling green hills and snow covered mountains, and to experience the slowness of the farm life in the mountains of Spain. We quickly also saw the influence of the French culture in the architecture as we entered the Basque region. The language changed to Basque and we were anxious to experience the new region.

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

It made us very excited to land in San Sebastian and to discover a whole new city. We knew anything set amongst these mountains must be something amazing. Sure enough we were right.

Barcelona to San Sebastian Drive in Spain  |  The Fresh Exchange

The next few days I will share about our experiences in San Sebastian, driving the northern coast of the Basque region, and how we fell in love with Bilbao in a way we never expected. So much more to come!

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12 Responses

  1. loved this entry, we are going to visit some friends in barcelona and san sebastian. So this was super valuable. Great photos! i’m loving the read.

  2. Hi. I am going to be doing that drive in August. Can you tell me the best towns to stop overnight at on the way. We are hoping to stop off in two different towns on the way to san sebastian.

    1. Hey Shelly, We never really stopped on this drive. It is only like 3 hours I think from Barcelona to San Sebastian. You can drive up to France from here though. You enter into Basque country so it is an option. I don’t know if that is helpful, but honestly there isn’t much between San Sebastian and Barcelona as far as places to stop. There is more between San Sebastian to Bilboa.

      1. Really? What roads did you take? Because right now, Google maps shows a trip from Barcelona through Zaragoza and Pamplona to San Sebastian is easily 5 hours. Did you take some roads north of here that cut through some scenic areas? I’m thinking of going in April of this year.

  3. Hi, my friends and I are planning on a trip to Spain. We’re from Australia and though it wont be my first time in Barcelona, it will be a first for us to drive in Spain. We want to start off in Barcelona and visit places such as San Sebastian, Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza, Seville, Toledo and end up in Madrid before going back to Barcelona to catch our fllight to Australia. What do you think is the easiest/cheapest way to do this? Thank you soooo much!!! πŸ™‚

    1. The cheapest way most likely is a car or doing a car hire service. We simply ran car rental prices on Eurocar and other sites. Depending on how many people you have and how much you are bringing you usually can get away with a Fiat 500 which gets fairly good gas mileage. These towns can be pretty expensive in comparison to other parts of Spain, but you can do it smart by eating Pintxos mostly. πŸ™‚ Have fun it is a GORGEOUS drive!

  4. I have been loving following your Spainish journey – I can’t wait to hear about your trip to San Sebastion, it’s one of my favourite places in Spain, the food is incredible!

  5. I’m about to spend 2 weeks in Europe (Paris-Spain) and was curious to know if you feel rushed at all jumping around so much? I was planning for something similar to your trip, with 2-3 days being the longest stay (Barcelona), and then jumping around about every 2 days.

    1. Honestly I have done both ways where we have done it like we are right now and where we have also stayed in one place for 2 weeks at a time. I think it is hard to rest and relax in a city when you jump around a lot. I think it all depends on what you are looking to get out of the trip overall. If you want time to let down than moving a lot is not ideal. Each time you move around you will basically have to dedicate that day to travel, which is a little sad. Personally I enjoy staying in a place for at least 4-5 days at least in order to feel I have enjoyed it.

  6. The northern coast in Asturias is the part of Spain i hold dear to my heart, I can’t wait to see more of your adventures πŸ™‚ Did you go as far as Llanes or Ribadesella?

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