Hi! We will be flying into Madrid in mid-October to visit our daughter who is studying there. We have 10 days there, and 4 of them she will be in class so we want to visit places without her (because she will have already visited Toledo, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba and Barcelona during a travel seminar) What would you recommend? How would you travel there- train, plane, rental car? We love to hike, walk, museums, wine, and don't mind exploring less popular gems. We also thought about flying to Azores or Lisbon with her on her 3 day weekend so we could all see a new area of the world for us! Any ideas would be appreciated! Thank you.
For Barcelona, Toledo, Cordoba or Seville, the train is really the only logical choice. A car would be much slower, and there would be parking issues. A plane will not be faster by the time you deal with the airports. They're still working in the high-speed rail line to Granada, so that one is arguable; some people prefer to take the bus rather than the integrated train/bus combo. I don't think flying would get you any advantage there. However, there have been suggestions that they may finally open the high-speed line all the way to Granada this year, which could work out for you.
All five of those cities are fabulous, so it comes down to what sounds most appealing to you. Toledo will probably be a bit cooler than the others. I'm not sure about Granada. I don't know exactly what you mean by "four days", or whether that includes your arrival day, when jetlag and sleep deprivation may be major issues. If you have four fully usable days (some of which will be needed for round-trip transportation from and to Madrid), I would choose from among these options (which I am not attempting to rank):
- Barcelona (but you will be below what I consider the minimum time for that city)
- Seville (for a fairly relaxed pace)
- Cordoba and Granada
- Cordoba and Seville (a bit tight--Seville is large)
- Toledo and Granada
- Toledo and Cordoba (probably the least hectic combo)
If you only have three non-jetlagged days in addition to needing the travel time from and to Madrid, I'd choose from among these options:
- Cordoba and Granada
- Toledo and Cordoba
- Granada (fairly relaxed pace)
- Toledo (relaxed pace and minimal time sitting on trains)
The thing about Toledo is that its only rail connection is to Madrid, so if you want to combine it with one ot the cities farther south, you have to return to Madrid first. It's not all that time-consuming; it's more a matter of psychological irritation, I think.
I haven't been to the Azores, but I wouldn't go there for only three days. In addition, I think you may find the flight time is annoyingly long--possibly requiring a connection in Lisbon. Lisbon seems like a better idea to me, but you won't really have time to do the city (and Sintra) justice by the time you allow for the two flights. You'll need to fly back to Madrid the night before you head home.
thank you so much for this detailed reply! We are going to fly into Madrid on a Thursday, so we have 3 days to visit cities with our daughter that she hasn't seen already (she will have been to Toledo, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, and Barcelona in Aug & Sept). That's when I was thinking to do 3 days in Portugal (Fri - Sun) When she goes back to class Mon- Thurs we will have 4 full travel days (recovered from jet lag) to visit anyplace we want! Thank you for your lists!
Have you thought about the north of Spain instead of Portugal. Flying to Lisbon for only one full day seems like a bit of a waste. IMO, by the time you get to the airport, etc. But it's up to you.
we were going to be in Portugal for 3 days...but tell me more about Northern Spain, I'd love to hear your ideas!
Thursday is likely to be a "non-day" - it can take an hour or more to get through the airport, then either the train or bus to Madrid (figure another hour), then time to get to your hotel. Taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel will save some time - how much depends on traffic - and a lot of stress. Many of us arrivein a jetlagged and sleep-deprived haze. Between that and presumably meeting up with your daughter, you won't have time to see much of Madrid.
Flying to Lisbon or Porto for 3 nights is not a bad idea. From either, your daughter could fly back to Madrid and you could fly to Sevilla. There is enough for 3 weeks in the area, by train, bus and/or car. You just have to choose. You could stay in Sevilla for 4N and day trip by train to Cordoba, Jerez and Cadiz. Or you could rent a car and drive through the white hill towns (1N) to Granada (2N), with a day in Sevilla or Cordoba, maybe both. It sounds like you want to return to Madrid on Friday.
I think it would be easier to fly to Portugal than to go to northern Spain from Madrid. If your weekend is October 12, consider that is a big national holiday in Spain and you may just want to stick around for the festivities. Or you may find that there are lots of locals taking advantage of the holiday weekend (which may be why your daughter has a 3-day weekend).
Why not go to the Azores with daughter? She kdt likely won't get there during her studies, but she most likely could make it to Lisbon.
Have you been to Spain yourself? Are you looking for the primary highly recommended sites, or interesting stuff not on many agendas?
I have a little road trip in my mind for areas around Madrid. It is in La Mancha province (think Don Quixote). There are windmills, castles, hill towns with buildings built into cliffs(Cuenca) which is also an art centre. Several palaces with gardens that should still be pretty mid October. Salamanca is a little further afield. Segovia has its fafabulous Roman aquaduct. Some of these are good day trips, others benefit from an overnight...thus the road trip.
But I have to ask....what are you doing the other 3 days to complete the 10?
Cuenca is a very quick trip from Madrid on the AVE, much faster than driving. If I were going to make it a driving trip, I'd try hard to include Teruel and Alvarracin, tough to reach by public transportation.
I'd check skyscanner.com for flight schedules to the Azores before going further with that idea. I am afraid you wouldn't have much time on the ground there, and if you're only going to see a bit of one island, to me that's not a good use of the time you have.