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Malaga spain to porto to lisbon

We are a couple from Lake Tahoe, Nevada starting in Barcelona Nov 9 then traveling to Alicante where we will stay at a timeshare exchange (we have it for a week but dont need to stay there that long if theres not much to do in mid November). Then flying out of Lisbon on 11/22. We have never been to either countries. We will stay in Barcelona for 3 nights then on to Alicante. We are explorers, dont mind driving if it takes us to see cool things but like all forms of travel; least preference is bus. Lots of questions: way to get to Alicante from Barcelona: ie worth driving for stops or just get there? much time do you recommend in Denia, Alicante area? Should we trip up to valencia? Go to the islands?
3.Like to head from Alicante or Malaga to Porto then down to Lisbon. Dont car to see Madrid this trip. Best way to do that? How much time in either place?
4. Any and all recommendations are greatly appreciated!

We are mid 50's in great shape. Like to adventure and experience the best of what an area offers. Like culture and local experiences.

Posted by
17140 posts

Between Barcelona and Alicante the two big tourist cities are Tarragona (Roman ruins) and Valencia. I haven't been to either one. If you're willing to divert from the direct route, I can highly recommend Teruel, an inland city chock full of Mudejar (Moorish-style) towers and some nice early 20th century architecture. It has a very different look from the other cities you're likely to visit on this trip, unless you route yourself from Malaga (not Alicante) to Porto. I approached Teruel on a bus from a different direction, so I can't comment on the road, but it appears that this detour would add at least two hours to your drive, not counting time to park the car and do some sighteeing. I'd figure 2 hours as the minimum look-around time, and a half-day or more would be great. Heck, spending the night would be a fine idea. Cuenca, with its hanging houses along a ravine (and a couple of good small modern art museums) is a fine destination, but it's farther inland than Teruel and would be a longer detour.

I wouldn't spend the time to go to the Balearics on such a short first trip to this area.

I suspect that driving from Spain into Portugal will prove to be expensive because of the drop charge for the rental car, but I offer the following comments just in case:

For the Alicante-Porto drive, Google Maps shows two possible routes. The northern option skirts Madrid and seems subject to more rush-hour traffic peaks, but it passes very near or through Avila and Salamanca. Even better, to my mind, is Segovia, which isn't much of a detour from the direct route. As far as Avila goes, I agree with the guidebooks that suggest just a brief stop there; you can walk along the wall, but there are other cities I found much more interesting.

The southern option avoids Madrid but goes very near the truly fabulous Toledo. Highest recommendation if you haven't seen that city already. You can easily spend more than a full day there. Other possible stops include Talavera de la Reina, a historically important pottery center with a 17th century palace, and the small town of Oropesa with an old castle converted into a parador. Plasencia is a larger city with a historic center of considerable size. Off the route to the south are two other fabulous destinations that I preferred to Plasencia: Trujillo and (my favorite) Caceres. Caceres is a UNESCO site with a stunning, nearly perfectly preserved walled historic district.

The two routes come together near the Portuguese border at Ciudad Rodrigo. CR gets some tour buses--I think mostly from Portugal, but it otherwise feels like the "back of beyond". It's an old walled town and great fun to explore.

Once you cross into Spain [oops--I meant Portugal, of course], the route takes you past two cities I enjoyed: Guarda and Viseu.

Truly, I think you'd do best by flying between Spain and Portugal. The drive is a bit of a slog, and though there are many interesting places along the way (see above), you have plenty to see along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts.

Posted by
31071 posts


You might find it helpful to have a look at the Rome2Rio website to get an idea on each of the transportation links you need.

For the trip from Alicante to Porto, I'd probably take the train (high speed if possible) from Alicante to Madrid, and then use a budget flight to Porto. That might require one night in Madrid, depending on flight times. You could also fly from Alicante to Porto, but that will probably involve a layover somewhere. You won't really be "seeing" Madrid with this method, but only using it as a transit point. If you rearrange the order of your trip, you could also fly directly from Barcelona to Porto (I believe Vueling has direct flights). There are all kinds of options.

For the trip from Porto to Lisbon, use the train. It's very easy and very relaxing (I did that trip in the opposite direction a few weeks ago). You can buy advance tickets online.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you so much for your help! It takes time and I appreciate that greatly. I think I have decided that Porto may be for another trip and am considering this route:
Barcelona to Denia or Malaga. Then onto south coast of Lisbon and Lisbon itself where we will depart. Heres a few questions if you have any thoughts on it:
1. Denia or Malaga?? And how much time in that area given that I have 9 nights total from Barcelona to Lisbon.
2. South coast of Lisbon: where to go and stay and how long.

3. Is 2 nights in Lisbon sufficient?

Thanks so much?

Posted by
72 posts


I envy you on your first trip to Portugal. We got back about 4 weeks ago and I loved it. In fact I am thinking of returning next May.

Lisbon could be seen in 2 days - best side trip if you have time is Belem. The St. Jeronimo monastery is well worth the trip (hint - I side stepped the huge line and went into the church which is free. From what I have heard this is the best part of the monastery - so just a thought).

You HAVE to get the famous Belem pastries - you will wait in line (maybe not in November) but it is worth it. Get 3 or 4 - they come warm and you will eat two instantly.

The Belem Tower is also interesting - with a lot of history. I spent about 3 hours in the Maritime Museum which is on the far north end of the St. Jeronimo complex - if you have any interest in the history of Portugal - this is an excellent museum.

We did not make it to Porto but we loved the Setubal area due south of Lisbon - easy day trip to some amazing beaches and hiking. I didn't enjoy Sintra as much but that was because of the crowds - in November it may be much nicer. And there is lots of hilly hiking around there if you are into that.

Have fun - the people are amazing with a great sense of humor.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you so much. I cant wait to go. Have decided on this itinerary:
3 nights Barcelona
train to Denia Alicante for 3 nights
drive to Malaga for 3 nights
Fly to Lisbon for 4 nights in that area.

Any recommendations on must see things, side trips from each area, restaurants not to miss and accomodations in or around Lisbon. We can rent a car for day trips or use other transportation modes if suggested. Thanks again!

Posted by
17140 posts

Barcelona has an unusual number and variety of sights because of the modernista archictecture. Get a good guidebook and identify the things you'd like to see (three days won't be enough to cover them all). Come back here with your list and we'll tell you which ones should be booked in advance to avoid long lines. La Sagrada Familia is definitely in that category, and you need to decide whether you also want to go up one of the towers (separate timed ticket).

Posted by
2 posts

I've just returned from Barcelona and found Rick Steve's pocket guide to Barcelona very helpful.

I highly recommend Devour Barcelona for a food tour. They have several to choose from and you will learn much about the culture in addition to tasting some great food. If FC Barcelona is playing, GO! I am not a huge futbol fan, but the experience of being in the stadium with the electric atmosphere is unforgettable! La Sagrada Familia is not to be missed either. Casa Batlló and La Pedrera are in close proximity to one another and you can book a time slot. If you are a fan of Picasso or Miró, there are wonderful museums for each.
Two places to eat that our tour guide recommended near where we stayed: for a full meal, Agust Gastrobar (make reservations) and for tapas, Bodega Els Sortidor de Parlament. If you like pastries and chocolate, go to Escribá. It is a long established business with tasty treats perfect for an afternoon pick me up. We particularly loved the xuxo de crema.
The winding alleyways of Barrí Gotic and El Born are truly wonderful to get lost in. We met old friends who are locals and they walked us through parts of the old city that most people miss. For example, I don't remember reading or hearing about Church of Sant Felip Neri, which still bears the pock marks from bombing during Franco's regime. Wander a bit off course, and you will be delighted!