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2 Weeks in Spain in May

Hi everyone,

My girlfriend and I are extremely excited to be travelling to Spain for our first time this May. There's a lot we want to see but we also want to be able to wind down at time, read a book, and get the vibe for wherever we are staying. Given that, I would love to hear people's feedback on our current itinerary. For reference, we are both in our mid 20s, are very interested in architecture and nature, and love getting off the beaten path.

Day 1 - Arrive in London. This was necessary in order to keep our flights affordable.

Day 2 - Afternoon flight to Barcelona. Check out the Old Town.

Day 3 - Full day in Barcelona. Visit the Sagra Familia, Park Guill, and Eixample neighbourhood.

Day 4 - Day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat, perhaps hit the beach later if we have the energy.

Day 5 - Train to Madrid. Visit the Prado Museum and explore a bit of the city.

Day 6 - Currently undecided. Maybe day trip to Cuenca, Toledo or Salmananca, or full day in Madrid. Also, thinking of potentially cutting off this day and adding an extra on in Seville, after Day 11.

Day 7 - Rent a car and go to Extremadura. From what I've read Extremadura sounds amazing - rustic, off the beaten path, beatiful mountains nearby, and very historic. We would probably spend the night in Trujillo and visit some of the towns and villages nearby, including Caceres, Medina, and Guadelupe to name a few.

Day 8 - Full day in Extremadura. Visit some villages, maybe doing a hike. Night in Trujillo.

Day 9 - Drive to Seville. Visit the Alcazar.

Day 10 - Full day in Seville.

Day 11 - Day trip to Cordoba from Seville.

Day 12 - Train to Granada. Visit Alhambra.

Day 13 - Full day in Granada

Day 14 - Rent a car and go to Costa da Luz - either Tarifa or Rota. I suspect we may be utterly pooped out by this time and will just want to hang by the beach, read, and eat seafood. On the drive to one of these towns we would also drive through Ronda and see the white hill towns.

Day 15 - Full day at the beach, either Tarifa or Rota. May do day trip in Cadiz if up for it.

Day 16 - Flight through Gibraltar back to London and then home.

Thank you!
Andy in Nova Scotia

Posted by
11356 posts

Day 4- stay in Barcelona and see and experience more of the city
Day 6- stay in Madrid and see, experience more of the city. Even by doing what I just stated , you are really shortchanging both of these cities.

Posted by
4565 posts

It's packed, but you're young and I'm...not. I do worry you are discounting travel times for driving around Extremadura. I spent five nights based in Caceres last year--not even getting to Trujillo or Guadalupe--and I think you would benefit from more time. But I have a major bent for doing small areas well versus doing a lot of areas. I look at the distribution of nights, and if I see a lot of 2s and 3s, I omit something.
Near Caceres, we hiked at Monfrague, and it was phenomenal! There is a really interesting park very close to Caceres called Natural Monument Los Barruecos (possibly familiar to Game of Thrones fans, I just like rocks and plants). We also went to see the bridge at Alcantara and hiked there--absolute perfection!

Posted by
6744 posts

Because I used to live there and for the ease of getting to Cádiz, I’d choose Rota over Tarifa. From Rota you can take a ferry over to Cádiz. The tourist season starts in May so closer to the end of the month Rota will be full of tourists and hotels prices will have gone up too. Two nice hotels in Rota are Hotel Duque de Nájera and Playa de la Luz. The former is right in town while the latter is on the edge of town along the road to Chipiona. Being tourist season, everything will be open.

However, Tarifa seems to be more along the route you need to be on to get to Gibraltar, whereas Rota is a little out of the way. At the same time you’re going from Sevilla to Granada then backtracking to the Costa de la Luz. It seems you could rework the itinerary so you’re not backtracking.

The rest of the itinerary seems rushed, but looks like one I would have done n my 20s. Because you want to see so many places, be prepared to cut something out, if needed.

Posted by
6635 posts

I agree that Madrid deserves Day 6.

You're dropping the car on Day 9 at Seville, right? No point keeping it longer. If so, I suggest you make Cordoba an overnight on Day 11 instead of returning to Seville that night. The trains between Seville and Granada go through Cordoba, so you might as well stay there instead of riding back to Seville that day, then back again to Cordoba the next one. That will mean another hotel change, but save you a few hours across two days.

I too admire your energy. I don't know Extremadura but I think you have a good overall plan. You'll be glad to hit the beach at the end!

Is Gibraltar about getting a good fare back to London? Otherwise I'd say skip it.

Posted by
1194 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,

My son and his wife came back from a whirl wind trip similar to what you describe. We listened to their stories and the one theme that came through was, 'and we were tired'. Too many places in too few days. My favorite part of their trip was that they visited Barcelona. yes, they flew into BCN and then headed for the train station to Madrid. No stops.

Slow down. You plan to take the Train from BCN to Madrid and then visit the Prado. Well it is true that the Prado is within walking distance of the train station. But what is your plan for luggage? Where are you staying and eating? They won't let you drag your bags around the museum.

Have you even looked to see how long the trip to Montserrat takes? And then the line for the cable car to the top, snap a picture of the view and then get in line for the cable car...and then the beach. Whew. And you will be tired.

I don't know where you got this wish list, cut it in half or a third. The slower you go, the fewer things on your list, the more memorable your trip. The more chances for experiences.

Spain is great. One more tip. they have this thing called siesta. They have it for a reason.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
993 posts

I took a day trip to Toledo. The army museum in Toledo was worth seeing but it requires 3 hours to see comprehensively. Others are right that you are trying to pack in a lot, maybe too much. Maybe this itinerary can work if you are fine skipping a lot of the museums. In Madrid I saw the prado and then Thyssun-Bornemiszma art museums I one day; I liked the second one 25% better, but that could be because it had more old landscape paintings and Catholic themed works may not be spiritually meaningful,to me because I wasn't raised catholic. ...

I spent 2 nights in Córdoba. It may deserve at least one night. In my trip I had 13 nights on the ground, one night on the plan on the way there, but I only stayed in 4 places.

Posted by
27367 posts

You will need to buy timed entry tickets in advance for any of these Bacelona sights you want to see, because you could spend an hour (or hours) in the ticket line if you do not:

La Sagrada Familia
Parc Guell
Casa Mila/La Pedrera
Casa Batllo
Picasso Museum
Palau de la Musica Catalana (English tours can sell out)

It's not an easy thing to figure out how much of a gap to leave between your entry times for sequential stops. How long will it take to see the building or museum? How long to get to the next stop? Will you need lunch or a drink along the way?

I would never suggest that people interested in architecture spend only one day in Barcelona. I would certainly skip Montserrat on this trip. Furthermore, I'd trim the itinerary to allow more time in the important cities of Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. Two or three nights in Cordoba would also be nice, but it's much smaller than the others.

Is "Medina" intended to be "Merida"? Merida has some Roman ruins interesting enough for those not going to Italy, etc. The archaeological museum is worth a visit; I recall mosaics among other items. However, the city of Merida isn't particularly attractive at all. Caceres has a large historic center and is UNESCO-listed; that's the Extremadura stop that will probably take the most time.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you everyone for your feedback - lots of great recommendations and sound advice. On review, we have decided to make a few tweaks to our itinerary based on the advice provided. Specifically, we will be skipping Montserat and instead just do Barcelona for day 4, stay in Madrid for day 7, just do one night in Trujillo and make the second planned night instead in Seville, and then try to do Rota for our beach days. We will also look into doing Cordoba as an overnight stay versus a day trip from Seville.

It's tough planning in Spain as there's so much to see and do in every corner of the country, I can see how some people could easily spend weeks if not months or years just exploring a region like Catalonia or Andalucia. As a traveler, we can only see what time will allow us to and my partner and I understand that often this means just getting a cursory glance of these areas that deserve more attention. While it would be great to spend more time in places like Extremadura, Madrid and Barcelona, I still think we'll be able to see enough that we will feel like it's worth it. Furthermore, we'd both rather strive to do a little too much on our trip and then crash on our beach days than feel like we could have done a little more - and I assume this sort of mentality will not last forever.

All the best and happy travelin'
-Andy

Posted by
4565 posts

From Granada, you don't need to go all the way to Rota for a nice beach, though I guess Tarifa is also a three hour drive. Maybe there is some way you could rearrange the order. It would not hurt to get your rest day earlier (while your laundry dries perhaps?).
If you are flying out of Gibraltar, then I'd stick with Tarifa. The beaches west of there looked really pretty--I am thinking of Conil de la Frontera specifically, with its orange sand. There are some Roman ruins at Bolonia that may be worth a stop. But I'd concentrate on trying to rework the order so that day does not start with a three hour drive. Tuna fishery in this area, too.
You see why some of us stick to tiny areas--you can barely move without finding another extraordinary stop! But this will be a great overview and hopefully many more visits to Spain to come in your future.

Posted by
995 posts

We would probably spend the night in Trujillo and visit some of the towns and villages nearby, including Caceres, Medina, and Guadelupe to name a few.

We have just spent 5 days in Extremadura 2 nights in Merida and 3 in Caceres. We loved Merida - amazing Roman ruins and a lovely laid back vibe. We were on the go for two days visiting 10 spectacular Roman sites. We had excellent tapas at Sybarit right near the Trajan arch. We could have stayed in Merida for a week. We would have loved to do a day trip to Badajoz but didn't have time.

Caceres is the only place in Spain that beggars and homelessness has been in our face. We stayed at the Parador in the medieval old town which was nice but is very compact.

We did a day trip to Trujillo from Caceres and while the fortress was nice the town itself is small and not very attractive. I would not stay in Trujillo if I were you.

We were travelling by train and bus so you might make better time having a car.

Posted by
7 posts

We were thinking of splitting up the drive from Granada by stopping in Ronda for lunch and hike. Following that, the 2 hour drive to the beach I'd think wouldn't be too bad. This would also be good since we're interested in visiting Ronda and some of the Pueblos Blancos in that area and it seems like we'd be able at least to drive by them.

At the same time, we are considering perhaps changing the order of cities so that we'd do Cordoba, then Granada, and then Seville. Doing this would provide the benefit of ending in Seville which would be closer to the beach. At the same time, Granada seems like a good city to end our main busy part of the trip. Also, changing this order would probably mean we don't visit Ronda as we would take the train from Granada to Seville (if it wasn't clear in my original post the plan is to rent a car for Madrid-> Seville and another car from Granada->Gibraltar).

Posted by
17 posts

How was the trip? We are going to Spain for two weeks in Oct, and after reading on this forum, I wonder if we may be trying to see too much. What is your feedback after travel? Hope you had fun!

Posted by
2267 posts

Even with day 6 in Madrid, you're really only giving a day and a half to the capital city, one of the largest cities in Europe. I always say that if you can't spend at least three full days in the city it's probably better to just skip it, and visit another time.

Posted by
7 posts

We had a great time and wouldn't change much if given a chance to do it again. The trip differed from my plans in the post though. Here is our summary-

London
- Obviously an amazing city. Could have spent a more more time here but given how expensive it was I think we made the right decision spending only 2 nights. Still, we got to see some great sights and get a feel for the city. I'm excited to come back after I win the lottery.
Barcelona
- We loved the Barcelonetta neighbourhood. It was a bit touristy but the vibe was great and we had some excellent seafood right on the boardwalk. Strolling through the tiny streets was fascinating and felt unique compared to anywhere else I've ever been.
- We thought Parc Guell was a bit over-rated. The interesting part of it is quite small and unfortunately overcrowded with tourists and Spanish student groups.
- The Sagrada la Familia was cool but I'm not a big church guy so it didn't impact me as much as it will for other people.
- The Gracia neighbourhood was wonderful. I don't think there are any must-see sights here but it was just fun to wonder and gawk at the seemingly amazing quality of life residents there enjoy.

Madrid
- We instantly fell in love with Madrid and had a better feel for it than Madrid, and ultimately liked it more than Seville. In short, the centre is incredibly beautiful and lively, but is less touristy than Barcelona and more interesting than Seville. There's also a bit of grit here which I am always drawn to.
- The Prado was amazing. We arrived late so could only spend an hour there which was a shame but still an amazing experience as the art was incredibly interesting.

Caceres
- Caceres was fantastic. There happened to be a music festival in town which meant the town was quite bumping and alive very late into the night which was an awesome experience.
- We took a private walking tour with a local architect which was quite interesting and funny. Of all the guided tours we took this was our favourite.
- The old town was absolutely amazing. The views onto the plains are stunning and it really feels like you're in some village lost to time but simultaneously it's a lively town with the new town (which is still hundreds of years old) as crowded as Madrid with old folks, students, and families.

Seville
- We spent the more time in Seville than any other city and while we liked it, in hindsight we spent more time here than necessary and, if doing it again, would have preferred more time in Caceres and Madrid than here as they felt more interesting. In short, Seville is definitely beautiful, but we found there wasn't as much to do compared to those other cities. As a result we spent a lot of time chilling at restaurants and plazas which was nice, but maybe ya know not the best use of our time.

Cordoba
- Unfortunately we came here on a Monday which was a huge mistake as besides the Mezquite, absolutely nothing else was open. This was a huge disappointment as we had a full day of museums planned but instead we read and killed the time walking around aimlessly for the most part. That said, the Mezquite was quite cool and definitely worth seeing.

Olvera
- Lovely town but very quiet. There weren't too many things to do in town but that was ok for us since we were there more for the bike trail, via verde de la sierra, which we both enjoyed a ton. We also had our best meal of the trip at a restaurant here - Juanito Gomez. The town is also stunning and it's pretty cool to be in a small town which isn't really very touristy at all.

Tarifa
- We really liked Tarifa. The museum by the castle was surprisingly interesting and I'd say a must-see if you're in town. Besides that, we just enjoyed walking to the southernmost part of Europe, looking at Morocco, and drinking by the beach.

Posted by
7 posts

Favourites:

Big City - Madrid

Small City - Caceres

Town - Tarifa

Food - Juanito Gomez, Olvera. That said we didn't have a bad meal at all while in Spain.

Nightlife - Caceres (partially because there was a music festival why we were here). Otherwise probably Madrid.

Museum - El Prado. Tarifa castle museum is a close #2 just for how interesting it is.

Tour - Caceres walking tour.

Other experience - Cueva de la Pileta.

Posted by
2462 posts

Thanks for coming back to update. It was nice to read how it turned out.