After a disappointing site-seeing day in Pamplona (but not food or shopping!), we headed south to Lleida. Along the way, we stopped a the surprisingly fabulous cities of Olite and Zaragoza.
A Morning in Olite, Spain
The Royal Palace of Olite (or Palace of the Kings of Navarre of Olite) was one of those fairy-tale like sites that you didn’t know was going to be awesome until you got there. The Royal Palace of Olite is huge with tons of winding staircases, turrets, climbing vines (in green and red), and secret gardens. We are speedy tourists but even we spent well over an hour just wandering from room to room marveling at the architecture and the views from the top of the turrets. (Tip: If you want great pictures, early morning can be a problem as all the turrets and spires cast shadows over the landscapes.)
The entire town of Olite is cute and gives a glimpse into small town life in Spain. There are darling little shops on cobbled streets which are both full of friendly locals. If like me you need a coffee to keep you going, have no fear. Take a short stroll to the Ayuntamiento de Olite (town hall). Right before you get there, you can find a kitschy little cafe on the right called Cafetería Heladería Xabier. Go in and order a cafe con leche (and pastries!) and enjoy the below view on the terrace. (Tip: Use the restroom before you leave as it was the newest and best one I can recall on our entire two week road trip.)
An Afternoon in Zaragoza, Spain
After an awe-inspiring morning in Olite, we headed further south on our trip to Lleida. We noticed that we would be passing through Zaragoza (1.5 hours south of Olite) along the way to Lleida. However, there was nothing about Zaragoza in our eguidebooks (from the library of course). We planned on just skipping Zaragoza entirely but luckily Pinterest came to the rescue. Zaragoza had a wonderful old town with tons of sites to see including Roman ruins, winding streets, and little shops and cafes.
The ruins and Old Town of Zaragoza were great but the Basilica, people, the Basilica! The Basilica of Our Lady of Pillar was shocking in its interior ornateness, colorful tiled roof, and humongous size. I have no idea why this place is not in guidebooks!
Where to Stay the Night
We kept heading south to stay the night in Lleida as we planned on heading to Andorra the next day. We chose to stay at the AC Hotel Lleida as it was the closest Marriot for our day trip to Andorra and was amazingly cheap at 7,500 points a night (technically free). This was another one of the misses for AC Hotels in Spain. It was boxy, plain, hard to find, in a seemingly sketchy neighborhood, everything was closed in the hotel as it was a holiday, and the only guy working could not find us a corkscrew (the horror!). I wish we had just stayed at the AC Hotel Zaragoze Los Enlaces as it was not that far, only 10,000 points a night, and we could have enjoyed the below site. (You can use my Marriott referral link to get a jump start on free nights with up to 10,000 points.)
For the Day Before See Travel Tips for a Day in Pamplona, Spain
For the Next Day See Travel Tips for a Day in Andorra (plus Lleida, Spain).