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We have the first two weeks of March off, Spain & Portugal where should we go?

We have been to much of Europe but never to Spain or Portugal.
Can you recommend a greatest hits itinerary for us (15 nights).
We love food, cooking, market’s, nature and walking.
Fluent in Spanish so we can also understand much in Portuguese.
Thank you!

Posted by
14784 posts

Most good guide books will give you itineraries. I've found Rick Steves and Lonely Planet guides very useful.

While 2 weeks sounds like a lot, it really isn't much time for what you seem to want. Spain is a big country, so it takes time to get from place to place (you can't base in one and day trip). There are no good rail connections between the two countries. With a car you can make a loop, one-way rentals usually have huge drop-off charges. The best way to go from one to the other is by air.

Posted by
5330 posts

Spain is a large country and you can't see the country in 15 days, much less with Portugal.

For Spain, the key cities are Madrid (nearby Toledo and Segovia), Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba and Granada. There is more but hard to do all the above with your time limit. Need 3 days in Barcelona, 3 in Madrid, 3 in Seville, one in Cordoba and 2 in Granada. Travel time will eat up the rest.

For Portugal, Lisbon of course for minimum of 3 days, also, you can do Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon. Day trip to Evora from Lisbon.

Cascais is worth an afternoon as well as the Batahala Cathedral and the ancient small town of Obidos.

Do not miss Porto and exploring the amazing Douro River Valley in northern Portugal.

Posted by
3891 posts

That’s a tall order. I’ve spent longer than that on trips to just northern Spain and Andalucia. The towns most frequently visited by tourists have been mentioned. There are plenty of walking and hiking trails throughout the country; from old railway easements to national parks. Spain’s landscape is diverse so you have the central plain, mountains in the north, and a mixture of both in the south. With the limited time you have you’ll need a combination of cities with nearby nature for walking. Where you visit and how close to nature you get depends on how you’re getting from place to place; rental car or public transportation. For hiking you could walk part of the Camino de Santiago or Camino Del Cid, visit Picos de Europa or Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Parks. Less remote locations might include places like Canyon Río Lobos, Camino Natural Guadalaviar, Sendero de las Hoces Alarcón or Paseo Fluvial. Río Guadalaviar. Albarracín. If you wanted to avoid the larger cities then cities like Santiago de Compostela, Zamora, León, Burgos, Cáceres, or Almería might suit your needs.

Because of the time of year you’ll be there, consider stayed at lower elevations since you could still get some winter weather. I remember passing through Ávila one March when there was snow on the ground, and O Cebreiro was 32 degrees when we stopped there in late May 2017.

Posted by
320 posts

Fly to Madrid….4 nights
Day trip to Toledo
Train to Barcelona….2 nights
Fly to Lisbon….4 nights
Rent a car and drive to Porto…3 nights
Day trip to Douro valley
Nazare….I want to see the waves
Lisbon…..2 nights
Fly home from Lisbon

Thoughts or ideas on tweeting itinerary?

Posted by
8428 posts

Why are the Lisbon nights in 2 segments?

Would it not save a move if you did them in one glob?

Posted by
1767 posts

The greatest hits in Spain but not necessarily in this order are: Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla and Madrid. Portugal’s greatest hit is Lisbon.

Posted by
20843 posts

I wouldn't travel to Barcelona for just two nights, though I love the city. Shifting hotels is disruptive, and two nights (just one full day and some hours) is totally inadequate for Barcelona.

Posted by
14784 posts

And I wouldn't spend 4N in Madrid unless I planned to spend to full days in the art museums. Madrid is about the least interesting European capital (though I haven't been to Brussels or Vaduz). Unless oil painting is a major interest, skip Madrid. Spend 4-5N in Barcelona, then train to Cordoba (~4.5 hrs), then Sevilla to Porto by air (Ryanair)

Unless you're planning to spend at least a couple days stopping along the way, renting a car to go from Lisbon to Porto is a waste of time and money. The trains are cheap, fast and frequent. You can rent a car for a day trip - or take a guided tour or private guide/car - to see the Douro Valley. How confident are you that you'll see big waves on your day in Nazare? Most folks on this forum who've been there don't recommend it for sightseeing. Is it worth it to take a chance?

Posted by
320 posts

So from input I would make the following adjustments.
Fly to Barcelona 3 nights
Train to Madrid….3 nights
Rent a car and drive to Porto 3 nights
Stop someplace between for one night.
Drive to Lisbon….3 nights
Drive back to Madrid
Train to Barcelona 2 nights then fly home
Does this make sense?

Posted by
20843 posts

I wouldn't want two separate hotel stays in Barcelona; that's inefficient. Are you locked into round-trip airline tickets to Barcelona? It would be better to have a multi-city ticket allowing you to return from Madrid or Lisbon. If you're stuck with a Barcelona round-trip, I'd be tempted to move on to Madrid upon arrival. You'd then put all your Barcelona time at the end of the trip, positioning yourselves for an easy departure from BCN. You could either check the cost of a refundable (or at least changeable) train ticket purchased in advance, or you could wait to buy the ticket at the airport train station upon arrival in Barcelona. The train from Barcelona to Madrid takes as little as 2-1/2 hours once you get to the Barcelona Sants Station downtown. That arrival day is often not very productive for sightseeing, anyway.

None of your destinations benefit from having a car; in fact, you're likely to run up substantial parking costs in addition to the cost of fuel and tolls. Tolls are over 20 euros just between Porto and Lisbon. I hate to see you encumbered by a car for these destinations. Once you decide to drive from Spain to Portugal, you are sort of stuck, needing to drive back to avoid the likely-very-high international drop charge.

If you decide to drive, be very careful with your belongings when you make stops along the way. Theft from cars at tourist sights and restaurants is not rare. Be sure everything you won't be carrying around with you while stopped is already in the trunk before you pull into the parking lot.

I don't know where to suggest you stay on the drive from Madrid to Porto. It will probably take over 6 hours (without stops, looking for parking, etc.). Salamanca (Spain) is about 2-1/2 hours out of Madrid. Guarda (Portugal) is about 4 hours out of Madrid. The only place between them I've been is Ciudad Rodrigo. That might appeal. It's a rather small walled town pretty near the border in Spain.

I wouldn't split a 15-night trip between these two poorly-connected countries. And March is a better time to be in Andalucia than in northern Portugal from the weather standpoint. Once you're in Madrid you're only a 1 hr. 50 min. train ride from Cordoba or 2 hr. 40 min. from Seville.

Posted by
765 posts

We did a trip to Portugal, Spain, and the Cote D'Azure (based in Nice).

In Portugal, we stayed in Lisbon (one of my favourite cities ever) and took day trips to Sintra (loved Sintra!) and Cascais. We flew from Lisbon to Madrid (day trip to Toledo), and took the high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona (day trip to Montserrat--spectacular place!). We flew from Barcelona to Nice (day trips to Monaco, with a stop at Ville Franche sur Mere, and Cannes).

We realize we missed big chunks of Portugal and, especially, Spain, but we were happy with our trip. I loved all the places we visited except for Barcelona, although I'm glad to have seen it---once. Unlike a lot of posters here, I really, really liked Madrid and liked it a lot more than Barcelona. Toledo was amazing, too.

The food in Portugal was so good, especially the sea food, such as octopus and sardines. (Note: the sardines there are BIG--not teeny tiny fish packed into a tin.) Our favourite restaurant in Lisbon was in the castelo area. It's a circus school by day; restaurant by night. It's called Chapitô à Mesa.

My favourite meal in Madrid was paella from a booth in Retiro Park. We also visited the big Mercado de San Miguel there. Wow! Lots of amazing food to buy.

In Barcelona, our favourite meal was at a vegetarian restaurant, recommended by both our Air B&B hostess AND by Rick Steves. We're not vegetarian, but we liked it so much, we ate there twice, and the second time, we ended up sitting next to a couple who were on a Rick Steves tour (but went to the restaurant independently), and we chatted with them. Nice people. The restaurant is called Teresa Carles.

Enjoy!

Posted by
320 posts

I am getting more confused the more I read.LOL
Seems my best option is one week in Spain and one in Portugal
Fly to Madrid 4 nights
Train to Barcelona 3 nights
Fly to Porto 3 nights
Train to Lisbon 4 nights.
Fly home from Lisbon.
Like I said we pretty much like to do is walk or bike around. See markets, cooking classes, small shops and cafes. Not big on museums or castles etc.
We loved Cinque Terre, lake Como and Santorini small places to walk around and do nothing.
I felt lost in Milan but enjoyed Krakow, Rome and Paris.

Posted by
3628 posts

If you're not big on museums, 4 nights in Madrid will bore you. 3 nights will be more than enough, and even 2 nights would be OK (planning for an afternoon departure on day 3).
I would add a night to Barcelona, and perhaps one to Lisbon too if you shorten your Madrid stay to 2 nights.

Posted by
3891 posts

If you decide to stop for a night between Madrid and Porto, maybe stop in Salamanca or Zamora. Both are about a 2.5 hours drive from Madrid. From Salamanca you’d cross the border at Guarda. Once in Portugal you could stop and see the tiled wall, Painel de Azulejos in Viseu and burial chamber, Dolmen Cunha Baixa Anta da Cunha Baixa. I’m sure there are plenty of other places for quick stops to break up the drive.

Posted by
1199 posts

We've only been to Madrid, Ronda and Barcelona and enjoyed them all!

Posted by
500 posts

Just keep in mind that with all the entry restrictions from different countries it would be easier to stay in one country. That being said I would recommend Spain. Just "guessing" that the temperature in the south of Spain will be more agreeable.

If you go in a loop (Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla, Madrid) you can maximize your stay. You can do day trips from Granada and Madrid. Whatever is your departure city, put all those days at the end of your trip.

Posted by
765 posts

I am getting more confused the more I read.LOL
Seems my best option is one week in Spain and one in Portugal
Fly to Madrid 4 nights
Train to Barcelona 3 nights
Fly to Porto 3 nights
Train to Lisbon 4 nights.
Fly home from Lisbon.

This makes more sense. It is much faster to fly between Spain and Portugal, as the driving times are deceptively long, due to the terrain in between. It also makes sense not to backtrack to Barcelona.

We spent roughly the same number of nights/days as this in each place, minus Porto, and I thought that worked really well. 4 nights in Lisbon would give you days trips to both Sintra and Cascais (beautiful beach town). We found that the Lisboa card was really worth it (unlike some city cards), because it not only gave us transport to/from the airport, within Lisbon (on metro, trolleys, etc.), on the trains to and from both Sintra and Cascais, and admission to major sights in Lisbon, but the card was good for a specified number of hours (rather than days), meaning that a partial day didn't use up a whole day. So, we were able to time it so that we could use it to get back to the airport on our last morning.

Your Madrid days will give you enough time for a day trip to Toledo---so worth it. The palacio in Madrid is definitely something to see, as well as Plaza Mayor. The Prado museum is incredible, and seeing Guernica at the Reina Sofia is a great experience. Retiro Park is huge and fun to explore. There is also a great Botanical Gardens in this area (outside of the Prado, if I recall correctly). However, because of the popularity of Barcelona, I agree that you might steal a day from here and add it to Barcelona, as the sights at the latter are more spread out and busier, and, therefore, take more time to see.

Although Barcelona was not my favourite (mostly because it was very, very crowded and people tended not to be as courteous as in the other places we visited and had a very different tolerance for personal space), there is a LOT to see there, and you may want to add a day there if you want to go to Montserrat (which I strongly recommend, particularly as you like hiking). There is the Sagrada Familia, other Gaudi sights, including Parc Guell (note: the Gaudi sites should be booked in advance, as they are very, very, very popular). There is the Gothic quarter, the harbourfront, Las Ramblas (yuck--very, very crowded--but there is a big Mercado along there), a mall in an old bullfighting arena, a hill that we didn't get to (forget the name, but there are sights there), a fortress, etc.

Posted by
22 posts

My sister and I did a Barcelona/Portugal trip in 2019. After 4 nights in Barcelona, it was a quick flight to Porto, then rented a car for 7 days to explore south to Lisbon before flying home. It was a wonderful trip! Barcelona was amazing and a city I’d love to revisit, but as the capital of Catalonia, it feels less Spanish than other cities in Spain, and you don’t hear much Spanish. If you want to use Spanish, Madrid is a better option. And though you’ll be able to read Portuguese fairly easily knowing Spanish, pronunciation is so different, don’t expect to understand the spoken language. Have a great trip whatever you decide!

Posted by
14784 posts

Spend at least 4N in Barcelona, especially if you anticipate jetlag. Spend less time in Madrid. Of the 4 cities, Barcelona has the most to offer, Madrid the least. Also, you are more likely to have warmest weather in Barcelona.

Posted by
5330 posts

When visiting Madrid, don't miss visiting the amazing Prado Art Museum. Also, do day trips to Toledo and Segovia.

If you are never coming back to Iberia, a week in each country is OK, but if you plan to come back in the future, do all your tour in Spain and save Portugal for another.

Further, any trip to Spain should include Seville.

Posted by
320 posts

Just realized Spain requires booster shots for entry so I’m sad to say we will not be going.

Posted by
6854 posts

We flew into Madrid and spent a long weekend. Then took a bus down to Grenada and saw the Alhambra. Then we flew over to Barcelona before taking a fast train the 650 miles up to Paris.

We loved inland Spain. We'd been down on the Med coastline, and didn't enjoy it at all down there in a sea of high rise condos.

Next trip we'll be taking in the north coast and the northwest of Spain. And Portugal is on our bucket list too.