My husband and I will be in Spain October 2nd-20th. That's 18 nights minus the two travel days. I snagged a great deal on R/T airfare LAX-MAD many months ago, so that part is set in stone. Background: we're in our early 50's, fit, adventurous, and love things out of the ordinary. We aren't huge art museum people, but we love ancient history, archeological museums and ruins. After compromising with my husband (who really wants to visit coastal Mediterranean towns instead of the interior; hence missing Granada/Cordoba, etc), here's what I came up with. I've already reserved hotels and Airbnb's, but they're all refundable.
Night 1: hotel in Madrid after flight from LAX. I reserved a tapas tour with Devour Tours for later that evening, jet lag be dammed. I really want to start off the trip getting some cultural and culinary knowledge.
Day 2: AVE to Malaga (train reserved). Airbnb overlooking Constitution Square
Stay in Malaga for 3 nights
Day 5: Rent a car (haven't reserved one yet) and drive to Cadiz along the coast, with scenic stops along the way
3 nights in Airbnb in Cadiz
Day 8: Train or rental car to Sevilla (haven't purchased either of those yet)
4 nights in Sevilla
Day 12: AVE to Barcelona (purchased)
4 nights in Barcelona (Sagrada Familia tour purchased so far)
Day 16: AVE to Madrid (purchased)
2 nights in Madrid
Plane home to LAX next day
Where I'm waffling is really our time in Malaga, Cadiz and Sevilla. Since I've already purchased our train tickets, we're tied to those days, which is fine. But, since the Malaga/Cadiz/Sevilla portion will be with a car rental, we have more leeway. Is three nights in Malaga too many? I've read both sides of that argument. What about a day trip to Nerja and/or Frijiliana while keeping the 3 nights in Malaga? Or, we could spend one night somewhere else on the way to Cadiz. I looked at a night in Ronda, but then we miss the coastal route on the way to Cadiz, which we really want to see. We live in Southern California, and the overall terrain in the interior of Andalucia looks so similar that I'd hate to waste our time looking at familiarity. Would Estepona be a nice stop for the night? Should I add another night in Sevilla instead?
Lastly, since we only have two nights in Madrid at the end of our trip, is it worth it to take that one full day and use it on a day trip to Toledo or Segovia, or just wander and enjoy Madrid? I know I'm over thinking things, but that's why I came here for your advice. Help a frazzled planner, por favor! :)