Well, 2.5 week tour of Jordan and Israel is off... My wife and I are looking for advice on where to take our three older teens (17,19,20). We have tickets to Turkey and our oldest will join us from Jordan where he has been studying. We are all sturdy travelers and like adventure. We think that we will stick with Turkey as our point of entry from the US since we already have those tickets. But, what then for the remaining two weeks? The two options that we have come up with are 1) capitals of western Europe and 2) southern Spain. I see that Rick's tours at this time of the year go only to the European capitals - ie it must be wet or cold elsewhere then. We can figure out how to do Amsterdam/Paris/London on our own. But what about Spain? Questions: 0) How best to get from Turkey to Spain? 1) Should we focus on southern Spain or is Madrid pleasant in December - January? 2) We prefer trains, but with 5 of us should we rent a car for the two weeks? 3) Will it be wet and grey in southern Spain, Madrid? Should we do a Madrid/Barcelona/Valencia triangle and then time in the southern towns? Any other ideas for our trip? The kids think that the colder options (Germany, Prague, etc...) would be better in the Summer. Thanks!
John, While it won't be exceptionally warm, you could have a look at the Algarve region of Portugal, southern Spain or Sicily. Regarding how to get from Turkey to Spain, using budget airlines is the method I'd look at first. Have a look at THIS website to see which flights are available. Good luck with your planning!
The only sensible way to get from Turkey to Spain is flying. Since you're adventurous travelers, why not focus on some "Eastern" European capitals that are relatively close together? Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bratislava are all great options. Or you could just enjoy Turkey, there's plenty there to keep you busy for 2.5 weeks.
My logic is that anyplace you go to escape the worst of the cold in Europe in the dead of the winter is going to be one of those places that you just wished you had waited to see when the weather was better. So why not go where people spend half their lives in the cold and have adjusted accordingly. In other words, you can't beat it so embrace it. You say you are sturdy and you want adventure and then you ask about Spain? From Istanbul fly to Sofia. Yes, it will be cold, but not particularly wet and if you are lucky the "wet" will be snow too cold to melt; which is fun snow. You have two and a half weeks? Excellent. After touring Bulgaria for 5 days head on the Romania. You either fly from Burgas, Varna on the Black Sea or from Sofia to Bucharest; or I know a Romanian tour guide that might be able to pick you up at the border of Romania. Then another 5 or 6 days in Romania; finally the tour guide takes you on to Budapest for the last third of your trip. This is only good if you are adventurous and sturdy. The guides and the rooms each day cost about the same a good room for a night in Istanbul. Moscow is another place I have enjoyed in the dead of winter; oddly enough. Also the High Tatras of Slovakia; which works well with Vienna and Budapest and Krakow, especially if you ski. I will PM some links to some places you might be interested in (or not).
Istanbul to southern Spain or Madrid is about a four day drive. Barcelona is a far piece from the south of Spain. One option is to fly to Madrid for a few days, rent a car and take off for Cordoba, Granada, Valencia, etc. If you go to southern Spain, you should see all these cities. You could cross over to Morocco for a few days too, leaving the car in Spain. Another option is going to eastern Turkey (Anatolia), Greece, Rhodes, Cyprus for this vacation? We spent two weeks in Anatolia last year and found it fascinating. You'll have to check the weather sites to get a reading on the average temperatures, but I don't predict too much sun and heat until you hit the south of Spain.
If you want to see Spain - stay away from the Costa del Sol - nothing much spanish left there. You need to inland a bit to the smaller hill towns or more north. Southern Spain will be temperate but not beach warm in Dec or Jan. High 50's during the day and low 40's at night. Similar climate can be found in southern Italy. Madrid can be about 10 degrees colder. These are average temps - it could be warmer or colder.
Thank you all for these helpful ideas. Our oldest is in the Navy and can't visit Eastern Europe or Turkey without getting approval which will take too long. So, we are flying into Turkey as planned and then meeting him in Barcelona. We plan to hire a guide for Turkey so that we can make the most of that experience in our jetlagged state. Then, the plan is to fly to Barcelona and spend a day there (Rick suggests only one day??), then take the high speed train to Madrid for Christmas. While there we will tour the nearby towns. Then a train down to the southern towns. Two questions: Any suggestions for Christmas in Madrid? Where to eat dinner or other things do to on those two days - dine in hotels or are there other places open? We will be in the south somewhere for New Year's Eve and day and will have the same issue. Also, car or no car? There are 5 of us and we prefer public transportation. But, we were thinking that it might make sense to rent a car only for the southern towns.
Are you talking about one day for Barcelona, does that include the day you arrive? We were there for four or five days, I personally think you could see it in two. Not sure what you have in mind, what do you want to see? We stayed at hotel half block off Las Ramblas and seem to remember we had to take metro to the La Sagrada Familia. Other than that, we were able to walk to most of things we wanted to see.
Barcelona is a beautiful and interesting city; I would definitely spend more than one day/night there. When we visited, without 11yo son, we spent four nights there (including our arrival night). Trains work between Barcelona and Madrid; I've never been to Valencia so can't offer any advice re trains there. We loved Sevilla (interesting places to visit and very good food), easy train ride between there are Madrid. Granada, if you want to visit there, isn't on the main train line so is a little more difficult to get to; we rented a car for that portion of our trip, and worked very well for us. We loved Cordoba as loved; there's a lot of history there, due to its status as the former capitol of Moorish Spain. Easy to get between Cordoba and Sevilla by train, as well.
Are you sure you can't reinstate your original plan? Everything here is back to normal, and the chances of the current government getting involved in any armed conflict from now until the national elections on January 22 are about minus 3%. I've been researching Andalusia for my upcoming trip in February. It is said to have the warmest, driest, sunniest weather in Europe. Barcelona is quite far though. The train system is good, from Madrid there are high-speed, frequent trains to Cordoba, Sevilla, etc. However, Granada (and the Alhambra) is served only by local trains. I would avoid a rental car because you would need a van for 5 adults with luggage, which is hard to park in a country with (mostly) tiny cars. Chances are you will be staying in the old town centers with little parking and many no-drive zones.