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12 days in Spain in November

I've had to change a Europe Vacation from September to November so Spain seems to be a good place to go in terms of weather. I've been to Barcelona, and plan to do Basque Spain when we are able to go in September. So for this trip we will fly in and out of Madrid but we plan to spend limited time there since we anticipate returning to Spain a few times. I'm thinking of places like Toledo, Segovia, Seville, Granada, Cordoba and possibly, Ronda.
I would love some comments on how feasible these places would be utilizing public transportation and also, about how many days one should devote to those cities. I also would like any suggestions of medium or smaller cities with old town areas to visit. We loved Girona and Besalu near Barcelona, for example.
Thanks!

Posted by
14206 posts

I haven't been to Besalu, but if you loved Girona, chances are you will enjoy both Toledo and Cordoba, both of which have a low key atmosphere and a well-preserved medieval area. With only 12 days, I'd skip Madrid altogether. Also I'd save Segovia for a day trip from Madrid next time. You can go to either Toledo or Cordoba on arrival. Depending on your outbound flight, you may need to spend your last night in Madrid to be able to get to the airport. Toledo is on a spur line from Madrid, so you will have to change trains at Atocha. There are AVE and/or MD trains to Toledo, Cordoba, and Sevilla. The ALSA buses may be better to Ronda and/or Granada, but certainly a good option. You'll want at least 2N in Granada so you'll have the better part of a day for the Alhambra. If you don't mind short stays, then 2N in Cordoba, Toledo, and Granada and 1N or 2N Ronda, and the rest in Sevilla - though not in that order. If you would consider driving, you could spend 2-3 days in the white hill towns (pueblos blancos), and drop the car when you get to Granada. Sevilla doesn't have the big city feel of Barcelona but it is definitely more bustling than the other towns.

Posted by
3284 posts

Chani, your suggestions are wonderful! We have rented a car three times in France. We typically take the train out of Paris and then pick up a car, use it for a few days or a week and then return it in a smaller town and take the train back to Paris. So we do have some experience with a car in Europe. I'm not sure why, but I'm a little more nervous about renting in Spain. Comments/thoughts?? So when we arrive Madrid I think we would immediately take a train to Toledo. From there we'd travel down to Andalucia. Is there an order you'd recommend? Perhaps a car just for the white hill towns? I'll will check on flying out of Andalucia, but I would guess to where we live it would not work or be cost prohibitive. I am also thinking that perhaps. I will stay a few extra days after my husband goes back for work. What would be your comments on that in terms of safety? I think I'd spend time in Madrid or Segovia. I have stayed a few days alone a couple times in Paris.

Posted by
3284 posts

OK, I have a possible itinerary and would appreciate comments.
Day 1-arrive Madrid and take train to Toledo
Day 2-train to Sevilla, perhaps later in the day so that we can enjoy Toledo
Day3-Sevilla
Day4-sevilla
Day 5white villages
Day 6-white villages
Day 7-Train to Granada
Day 8-Granada
Day 9-Train to Cordoba
Day 10-Cordoba
Day 11 Train to Madrid
Day 12, husband flies home, I go to Segovia
Day 13 train to Salamanca
Day 14 train from Salamanca to Madrid
Day 15, I fly home

I have not looked at a train map to see if these routes are available. Where would I look to find train information? Often in France, I purchase train tickets in advance which saves considerable money. Is this the case in Spain as well? I would much prefer to have some flexibility in my itinerary. So how does this sound in terms of time allocated to each place? Do I have too much time anywhere? If I have extra time would a trip to Cadiz or Gibralter be interesting and doable? Does it make sense and is it relatively easy to pick up a car in Sevilla and return it to Granada? I am a woman in my mid 50s. I have traveled alone for a few days in Paris a couple times and Iceland for four days. Thoughts on safety in Madrid, Segovia and Salamanca for a woman on her own? Is Madrid a place where a person might be pretty lonely on their own, if that question makes sense?

Thank you!

Posted by
17858 posts

There should be no safety issues. Loneliness is a personal matter, and I'm an introvert, so I can't provide useful advice there.

I like to use the Deutsche Bahn website to check train schedules because of its clarity, but you can't buy Spanish tickets there. You'll need to buy from Renfe (which will probably work if you use PayPal) or a site like trainline.eu. Trainline doesn't charge extra fees (unlike RailEurope).

The first thing to look at is the viability of the Segovia-Salamanca leg. For a relatively short distance, it looks pretty ugly. You might do about as well by seeing Segovia on a day-trip from Madrid. Since you have to return to Madrid at the end of your trip anyway, this would eliminate one hotel change.

Spanish round-trip tickets are often priced about the same as a one-way ticket. Always check that possibility when it fits your itinerary. (So Madrid-Toledo-Madrid RT, then separately Madrid-Seville, or perhaps Madrid-Cordoba). For most trips you'll save money by buying non-refundable/non-changeable tickets early. That does not apply to the Madrid-Toledo trip, but waiting until the last minute is not advisable, because those trains do sometimes sell out.

I think you are planning to move a bit too fast. Eight hotel stays in 15 nights is going to be quite tiresome, and that's assuming you are planning to stay in Seville while visiting the white villages.

You have less than a full day in Toledo (arrival day wil probably be worthless). Since it's your first stop, you need at least two nights there. I'd cut one night from the white-town circuit if necessary. How many cute little towns do you need to see? Toledo has far more going for it. Also, there's no train service to the white villages, and getting aound by bus might not work well in a tight schedule. I think your choice there is probably car rental or a bus tour out of Seville (which isn't necessarily a bad idea).

The larger Ronda can be visited by public transportation; whether it's advisable to try to do that on such a short trip with so many other desired destinations is a different matter.

When you're ready to head down to Andalucia from Toledo you will first have to return to Madrid. It's not a big deal, but it makes the travel time a lot longer.

I think you'll wish for more time in Salamanca, which has a large historic district.

Posted by
14206 posts

First, a note about acraven's last thought - I suspect you'll find you would have liked more time nearly everywhere. If you are starting in Toledo, then as craven said, 2 nights. In fact, I'd say 2 nights minimum at your first stop, whichever it is. And I would also cut down on the number of stops. If you want to spend a couple days with a car seeing the white villages, then skip Toledo. Or vice versa. Less is truly more.

This is the comprehensive article on Spanish trains. It's long and you won't need all the info, but it should answer all your questions about trains, even those you didn't think to ask. Many US credit cards don't work, but Paypal does. You can get huge savings on trains by buying a couple months in advance.

From Toledo to anywhere, you have a 1/2 hour train to Atocha station, then you need at least 15 minutes to get through the station to your next train (the Toledo terminus is at the "wrong" end of the station). 25-30 minutes is much better, since some people have reported that they found the station confusing. If you are going from the airport, you'd take the cercanias (suburban train) to Atocha, which is much closer to the high-speed trains to Cordoba/Sevilla.

If you choose to rent a car . . . start in Sevilla or Cordoba, base in one town - I like Ronda - for 2-3N, then drive to Granada and return the car. If you don't want to rent a car, then skip Ronda and take the bus or train to Granada. I don't think it matters much what your sequence is, none is perfect, none is bad.

The roads through the hill towns are very good and very scenic, with pull-outs where you can admire the views and take photos. The only trouble I had was getting out of Sevilla and into Cordoba without GPS. And some of the hill towns have some very steep, very narrow streets with blind corners. You may want to park the car and walk around instead of trying to drive in them.

Posted by
3284 posts

I have a lot of questions, but lets start with just a few. Regarding the train to Toledo. I am arriving on a Saturday in November, I hate to buy that ticket in advance in case my plane is late. I know I could add a buffer, but even then I'm not sure what a safe buffer would be. How likely in November would it be that the train would be sold out?

I will toss out the idea of Salamanca and save that for another trip.

I am starting to believe that renting a car for two people will be cheaper and easier. I've rented twice in France with very minimal "drama". Sevilla is a large city. Might I want to take a train from Toledo to Sevilla (via Atocha) and pick up a car in Sevilla as we are leaving town? Or am I just better off picking up a car as I leave to Toledo?

I think a great scenario would be to take a train to Sevilla from the Madrid Airport. Pick up a car leaving Sevilla and return it in Toledo which we would now visit at the end of the trip and then take the train back to Madrid. My concern here is that this would be a relatively expensive train ticket that I should probably purchase in advance but then there is the concern about what is a safe buffer for the train ticket.

Thank you all so much!

Posted by
14206 posts

I wouldn't expect tickets from Madrid to Toledo on a Saturday to sell out, except possibly the first train or two in the morning. What time are you scheduled to land? Just go to the train station in the airport and buy your tickets from the agent - they'll give you tickets for the first available train that you can connect to, taking into account the time/schedule for the train from Barajas to Atocha. If you have a long wait at Atocha, there are a number of cafes in the station when you arrive, but before you head to the Toledo train, which is at the other end of the station. Allow about 15 minutes to get through the station and the usually brief security check before boarding the train. And there's no savings on those tickets - which are not expensive. That may be the best reason for starting in Toledo! There's a big difference on prices of tickets to your other cities

I had thought about renting a car either from or to Toledo a couple years ago, and it turned out not to be workable, but I don't remember why. The only time you'll want to have a car is going through the hill towns. For Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, a car is nothing more than an expensive nuisance and the trains are as fast or faster and more comfortable, better even if it's a slightly more expensive option.

Posted by
7124 posts

For me, perhaps too much hopping about, and I would try to avoid a one night stay first up.

Day 1-Arrive Madrid and take train to Salamanca (2)
Day 2-Salamanca
Day 3-Train to Sevilla (3)
Day 4-Sevilla
Day 5-Sevilla
Day 6-Train to Ronda (1)
Day 7-Train to Granada (2)
Day 8-Granada
Day 9-Train to Cordoba (2)
Day 10-Cordoba
Day 11-Train to Madrid (4)
Day 12-Madrid (husband flies home)
Day 13-Day to Toledo
Day 14-Day to Segovia
Day 15-Fly home

Posted by
7124 posts

OK then, dropping Salamanca, and adding a rental car. Would this work ??

Day 1-Arrive Madrid and take train to Cordoba (2)
Day 2-Cordoba
Day 3-Early train to Sevilla (2)
Day 4-Sevilla
Day 5-Pick up car and drive to Ronda (2)
Day 6-White villages
Day 7-Drive to Granada (2)
Day 8-Granada
Day 9-Drive to Ubeda (1)
Day 10-Drive to Toledo (2)
Day 11-Toledo
Day 12-Drive to Madrid (3) - return car at airport when husband flies home
Day 13-Madrid
Day 14-Day to Segovia by train
Day 15-Fly home

Posted by
3284 posts

ok, using all these great contributions, I have the following itinerary. Hopefully it works because I've found some delightful accommodations in the RS guide that didn't have a lot of availability so I booked them, though if necessary I can change. It appears that most places allow cancellation 24 or more hours in advance so that is awesome.

1--Arrive Madrid at 7:30 am. Train to Seville (sure would like to purchase this more expensive train ride in advance, if there is a way it could work. What are the train people like in Spain? If I miss the train due to late flight arrival do they assist? Or what is probably more likely, I'll buy ahead and end up with too much of a buffer. I wonder if they'd allow passengers to get on an earlier train?
2-Seville
3-Seville
4-Pick up car in Seville. Spend two days in white villages or perhaps if time allows, drive to coast or Gibralter or Cadiz, stay in Grazalema. Thoughts??
5-White villages, cont., night in Grazalema
6-Drive to Granada
7-Granada
8-Drive to Cordoba
9-Cordoba
10-Drive/train to Toledo
11-toledo, latish train to Madrid
12-husband goes home, I go to Segovia for the day
13-I go home

Chani- I know why you didn't return a car in Toledo!! It appears to be very inconvenient, the rental car station way out of town center. Surprisingly, I can rent a car for 7 days for $86. (In contrast, I will pay $140 to rent a car in New Orleans for 2 days!) I'm finding that parking in Granada/Cordoba runs 12-18euro a night. I know I will probably not use a car in those towns. I'm not sure how much gas is in Spain or if there are toll roads, but it appears cheaper to use a car. However, to me, convenience and time is everything, to a point. I will probably use AutoEurope, they've worked well for me before and the price is right. They are giving me a Hertz car. The Hertz rental in Seville seems convenient at a rail station that I think is close to my accommodation. So the way I see it, unless I figure out something for car return in Toledo, I could return in Granada or Cordoba. Anyone know if there is a convenient Hertz location in any of these cities?

In terms of train tickets. I would think if I want to take a train from Cordoba to Toledo, it might save a good bit of money to buy ahead. But, I would think the train ticket between Granada and Cordoba would be relatively inexpensive so I wouldn't need to buy ahead thereby retaining flexibility.

Posted by
3284 posts

traylaparks, the train info has been very helpful! Before I book, can you tell me if the LOCO2 website is the same pricing as the Spanish site which I think is RENFRE?

Posted by
14206 posts

1-- No one knows how long it will take to get from the plane to the train station in Madrid. The plane could be have weather (November) or mechanical (heaven forfend) delays, you could sit on the tarmac waiting for a parking slot, long lines at passport control, delays in baggage retrieval. Or you could speed through in less than an hour. Then it's a few minutes' walk to the cercanias train to Atocha. They run on a schedule, but my experience is that they can run late. It's not a question of what the "train people are like." There are clear rules of purchase. If you buy a promo ticket, there's no refund or change allowed. If you buy a promo+ ticket, you are allowed to make a change with a 20% fee or cancel for 30% - but this is only before the train departs. You can make the change at any Renfe station, so you could change the ticket at the Renfe agency at the airport. If you wait to do it at Atocha, you could be in for a long wait for customer service. There is a security check before boarding high-speed trains (allow time for that, it could be 5 minutes, but there could also be a line) and you won't be allowed into the boarding area without a valid ticket. After security, there is another ticket check before accessing your train's platform. You won't be allowed on any train other than the one you've reserved.

4- The hill towns are inland, not near the coast. Gibraltar would take up a full day by the time you pick up the car, drive there, find parking and walk or bus across the causeway, then a long drive to Grazalema, without seeing much else. You could drive first to Cadiz for a few hours, then Arcos for a few hours, and get to Grazalema in time for dinner (which is around 9.30 - 10.00 in most of Spain). Or you could just daytrip to Cadiz from Sevilla by train.

I've only used Europcar offices in Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba and they were at the train stations. Granada was simple, just parked in front of the office. In Sevilla, I picked up and the lot was outside the station. I returned a car in Cordoba and it took me forever to find the drop-off place - turns out it was in the bus station parking lot across the street from the train station. I think all the rental returns are there. However, there's confusing signage on the street. Gas will be at least twice the price in the U.S. If you get a diesel, it will be a lot cheaper (better mileage, lower price) but polluting. Some European countries are working to eliminate diesels, not sure which ones.

Don't look for tickets from Cordoba to Toledo. Buy Cordoba-Madrid and Madrid-Toledo separately. Allow a minimum of 15 minutes (I'd allow 30) to change trains in Madrid. There's no discount on the Toledo tickets, but there could be a long line to buy them at Atocha.

Posted by
3284 posts

Thanks Chani,
Seems that there is no efficient way to go from Cordoba to Toledo which annoys me. (I should just get over it!) In Toledo there is an Enterprise office that is fairly convenient and of course their rental cost was exorbitant. Changing trains in Madrid wastes valuable time but that seems to be what I need to do. I will return our rental when we arrive to Granada or Cordoba. If I purchase Cordoba to Atocha to Toledo separately with a 15-30 minute buffer, what happens if the Cordoba leg is late and the two tickets are not connected?

Posted by
17858 posts

I don't know what sort of protection you have if Train #1 is delayed, but the fare from Madrid to Toledo is not high, and it doesn't cost extra to buy that ticket at the last minute. The annoyance will be the hectic nature of Atocha Station and the need to figure out which machine or sales booth to use if it turns out that a new ticket is required.

Posted by
14206 posts

If you buy the tickets to Toledo when you get to the Cordoba station, you should be okay. If the Cordoba train is expected to leave on time, chances are excellent that it will arrive on time. Don't fret about the "wasted time". The drive from Cordoba to Toledo would probably as long or longer. The trains go faster than cars and there's no traffic.

Posted by
3284 posts

Chani and Acraven, Thanks. Done. Train to Toledo from Cordoba.
Now i just need to decide if I will return the rental car in Granada or Cordoba. (I am picking up the car in Sevilla, visiting white villages, then will visit Granada followed by Cordoba)
I noticed this in the Rick Steves 2018 Spain Guide "Although tracks are laid, high-speed train service from Granada isn't running yet. Instead, you'll go by bus to Antequera (1.25 hrs) then continue on AVE. Regular-speed train service has also been interupted of late. Expect to take a bus to Antequera and transfer there, regardless of destination" If this is accurate, I'm guessing the best option would be to keep the car and return when we arrive Cordoba?

Posted by
14206 posts

If all you want to do is get from your hotel in Granada to your hotel in Cordoba, there's no point in keeping the car and paying the daily rental fee plus parking while you're in Granada. There are buses as well as the train. The bus station in Granada is somewhat farther from the center than the train station. In Cordoba they are right next to each other. If you take the train, you'll start at the train station and board a bus run by Renfe that will get you to Antequera with a comfortable but not excessive amount of time to board the train to Cordoba. Both are reasonable options.

Regular-speed train service has also been interupted of late. I have no idea what that refers to. I haven't seen any comments about that on the forum.