Vitoria in northern Spain is less visited by British travellers than some of the Southern cities. Its true the weather here is not as good as the South but with average temperatures in the mid twenties during summer it is still a fantastic place to consider visiting whilst you are in Spain. So if the sun doesnt shine every day I would suggest hiring a car and seeing some of the fabulous historic centers which make the Alava region so special.
Vitoria is the capital of the Alava province and of the autonomous region of the Basque Country. In fact Vitoria has two names it is officially Vitoria-Gasteiz. The Name Nuevo Victoria was given to the city by King Sancho VI of Navarre, who founded the modern city of Vitoria in 1181.
Before this Vitoria as it stands today didnt really exist, the closest inhabited area was the hamlet of Gasteiz which stood on the hill around which Vitoria grew. Vitoria was little more than a walled defensive outpost which belonged to the kingdom of Navarre.
Vitoria grew to the city we know today mainly because of its strategic position between the table lands of Castile and Northern Europe. The huge number of passing travellers meant it became an important trade center. In the 13th century three weekly markets took place and two very important annual fairs were held.
One of Vitorias most interesting historical elements was that the city held its own individual principals that became laws. All inhabitants of Vitoria were declared equal, there was no distinction between nobility and the general public.
Vitoria has a small airport but you will find it difficult to get cheap flights into the city. Most travellers fly to Bilbao airport. Bilbao is only 66 kilometres away from Vitoria and is a relatively easy drive on good roads. If you arrive at Bilbao airport I would definitely suggest hiring a car. This kind of service is a lot cheaper than in the UK. In fact you can often save money during your stay by hiring a car because you will avoid transfer costs and transport costs during your stay.
A short distance away is the town of Mendoza where you can visit the medieval tower and the dungeons below. The medieval tower discovered in Donana is now known to have been a dungeon used for prisoners and perhaps lovers in the Palace. The latter possibility has been strengthened with the discovery of two bodies. A legend says that courtesans kept their lovers there until death.
If you have had enough of narrow cobbled winding streets and this city steeped in history an escape to Garaio will come as a welcome escape. Your hire car will be perfect for a day trip Garaio it is only 15 kilometres away, here youll find all of the activities which you cant enjoy in the city. Cycling, mountain biking, hill walking, sailing and canoeing are all possible in the park. For any serious twitchers out there make sure you visit the Mendixur Bird Observatory.
These outdoor parks have facilities for swimming, out door bars, picnics and space to enjoy the beautiful countryside in this area of Spain.
Ensure you pre book your hire car as far in advance as possible before your trip. Remember to take into account the luggage you will be taking with you when you book the car. If youre taking sports equipment make sure it will fit in with your luggage. A smaller car will undoubtedly be cheaper if you are not planning to use you car very much this will be best; but theres nothing quite like travelling around Spain in the luxury of a convertible hire car.
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