A quick one cortado Coffee served by the glass, a baked treat, and a peek at the souvenirs by the checkout — that’s perhaps all some vacationers see of the small Spanish town when they drive from Madrid to the seaside. However, if you take the time to move beyond the street restaurants and gas stations, you will find that the deceleration pays off. The seaside hotel room will still be there even if you decide to see some of the sights along the way.
Check out a map of the Spanish motorway system and its autovias (motorways) resemble a star, the tips of which extend from Madrid to the corners of the Iberian Peninsula. This makes it easy to plan a Spain vacation that includes time to enjoy Madrid’s museums, restaurants and nightlife, followed by a few days at the beach. Of the country’s eight autovias, its modern toll-free motorways A-1 to A-6 extend from the capital. The A-7 runs along the Mediterranean Sea and the A-8 along the northern or Cantabrian coast, stretching from Galicia in the northwest to the French border.
Spain’s extensive network of motorways, freeways and minor roads makes it easy for travelers to explore the area and let chance dictate their daily routine. Follow these back roads and you may come across a craftsman’s studio with rows of beautifully glazed ceramic pots, a centuries-old Romanesque chapel or a field of sunflowers greeting you. You’ll see a different side of Spain on your escape to the coast if you just slow down. The list below, organized by highway, includes a favorite city (followed by its province) for each city.
A-1 Autovia Del Norte: Sepúlveda (Segovia)
The A-1 motorway connects Madrid with Irún in Guipúzcoa (a province in Spain’s Basque Country, near the French border). The first 230 km route to Burgos offers a unique mosaic of experiences: from castles to Romanesque monuments, passing through villages such as Sepúlveda in the province of Segovia, accessible via exit 109 in Castillejo de Mesleón.
Sepúlveda is part of the Association of the Most Beautiful Villages in Spain and you don’t have to wander the streets of the hilltop town to find the suits of superlatives. The village also has deep historical and cultural roots – in the Cave of the Seven Altars, visitors can see sacred Visigoth art; Parts of Fernán González Castle date back to the Moorish occupation in the 10th century; and the Romanesque Church of the Virgen de la Peña was built in the 12th century. The city is also famous for its roast lamb, which will strengthen you as you continue your journey to the sea.