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24 days in mid-October and early November

Thanks in advance for any advice the community can provide. After having been in Portugal for 26 days, my plan is to visit Spain for 24 days. I am essentially making a loop from Lisbon north to Porto, into Spain northern coast and then south through the central areas of the country before returning to Portugal. I have previously been to Barcelona and some of Catalonia so now trying to see other areas.

I have chosen to skip Santiago de Compostela and some of the northern coast west of Bilbao in favor of seeing the coast east of there and more of the Basque region.

Some of the advice I seek includes:
1. Am I spending enough / too much time in any specific place? I have one day “open” and can make adjustments.
2. Are there any day of the week issues with my timing to be in certain places?

As to car rentals:
1. Will it be difficult to rent a car in Bilbao, use it until Madrid, and drop it off there?
2. Do I need a car in Seville? Was thinking could rent in Madrid and drop off in Seville, then take the bus back to Evora, Portugal.

As always, welcome general suggestions of things to be aware of, great places to see,eat or stay, and the like.
My draft itinerary includes:
15 Fri Porto / Bilbao via air
16 Sat Bilbao
17 Sun Bilbao
18 Mon Lekeitio
19 Tues San Sebastian
20 Wed San Sebastian
21 Thurs San Sebastian
22 Fri Segovia
23 Sat Salamanca
24 Sun Salamanca
25 Mon Madrid
26 Tues Madrid
27 Wed Madrid
28 Thurs Madrid
29 Fri Toledo
30 Sat Cordoba
31 Sun Granada

1 Mon Granada
2 Tues Nerja
3 Wed Gibraltar / Tarifa
4 Thurs Sevilla
5 Fri Sevilla
6 Sat Sevilla
7 Sun Sevilla
8 Mon

Again, my thanks in advance for any suggestions and advice. Ira

Posted by
3893 posts

With regard to the car, there might be a one way charge added to the rental for dropping off in a different city. You can find out what it would be by making a dummy reservation and looking at the price breakdown. No, you do not need a car in Sevilla or any of the places you intend to visit, except for possibly Gibraltar. If you plan on stopping at smaller towns and sights between the major sights then renting a car makes sense, if not, consider using trains or busses. Parking in the cities can cost as much as 25€ per night. We generally get a rental car, but most of the places we visit are in small towns where parking is easier and generally free.

How long to stay in each place will depend on what you want to see and do there. I feel you have a reasonable number of nights in Sevilla, Granada, Salamanca, and Bilbao. Some might argue for a third night in Granada. To me, Granada merits 1.5 full days. Depending on what you like to do, you could cut a night from Madrid and probably San Sebastián for use elsewhere. One more night in Córdoba might be better. If you didn’t want to change hotels as much, you could do Toledo and Segovia as day trips from Madrid. Each of Córdoba, Toledo, and Segovia each merit a full day (meaning 2 nights) and I don’t think your itinerary allots that. Other than the rock, Gibraltar and Tarifa could easily be dropped. There are no must see sights in Tarifa.

If you do rent a car and want suggestions on short stops between the major cities after you have your itinerary is firmed up, send me a PM and I’ll send you some suggestions.

Posted by
5539 posts
  1. I’d personally drop one Sevilla day and add it to Granada. Segovia absolutely needs to be done by staying over at least 1 night.

  2. Can’t confirm day of the week issues on your destinations.

  3. On our trip 8 years ago (maybe the rental companies’ policies have changed since then, maybe not), we rented from Europcar in Bilbao and dropped it off in Barcelona, no extra charges, very simple and easy way process. The trip way back in 2002, however, we picked up from Hertz in Lisbon and returned it in Malaga, and for the one-way rental between Portugal and Spain, there was a €600 charge. We’ve picked up cars in one city and easily returned it in another city in the same country without any hassle or additional charges in Scotland, Ireland, and Spain. Check with the rental company, but I’d think you’ll have no issues there.

  4. Seville is best without a car. On that 2002 trip, as soon as we got to Seville and its street plan, swarms of young people on motor scooters driving like kamikazes, and our hotel being on a pedestrian only street, we found a €24 per day parking lot and it sat there until we checked out.

Posted by
199 posts

As a Basque local, my comment is on your days of stay in this area:

16 Sat Bilbao
17 Sun Bilbao
18 Mon Lekeitio
19 Tues San Sebastian
20 Wed San Sebastian
21 Thurs San Sebastian

It´s late October, early November, so it´ll be kind of cold (although weather is very unpredictable here). Beach weather will not be an option and water will be cold (SS and northern Spain are usually very rainy, but you never know). Unless you have any specific interests in Donostia-San Sebastian, maybe three nights is too much (again, depending on what you want to do there).

Posted by
3634 posts

I would only keep the car for the Basque section and for the section south of Cordoba.
Donostia to Segovia is easy by direct train, same for Segovia to Salamanca, Salamanca to Madrid, Madrid to Toledo. Toledo to Córdoba requires you to backtrack to Madrid, but is still quite fast.

It will save you from some very boring drives. It will also cost extra, and it will not save you much time, but to me it is a matter of comfort.

Otherwise, I am not sure if I like your plan after Granada. I find inland Andalucía more interesting than the coast, Cádiz excepted (and apparently Málaga but it is a hazy memory for me). I would skip Nerja (there are better caves in the USA and elsewhere) and Tarifa (windy, a bit scruffy) and focus instead on Ronda and the white villages (especially Arcos de la Frontera, Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra). I would also take a day from Donostia and spend it in that area.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you all for making insightful comments. Truly appreciate the help.

Here are my thoughts based on your comments and I very much welcome additional feedback:

jaimeelsabio - While I usually rent cars and drive around countries to experience unexpected pleasures such travel brings, some of my planned drives are long and may not be the best use of my time. Still considering that but appreciate the offer of a PM discussion of possible stops. Having done more reading about transit times, I fully agree that one overnight in Córdoba is required, as I won't arrive there in order to have a full day, irrespective of whether I drive or take the train. As well, having researched train schedules, I again agree that Toledo can be a day trip from Madrid.

Cyn - I now also believe that Segovia may require an overnight, especially if I want to eat both pork and lamb :) Train from San Sebastian would give me 1.5 days there and easy route to Salamanca. TY. Hoping you are right about one way fees not being a thing with some rental agencies.

Mikel - my goal of a lot of days in Basque region is not beaches and swimming but sights, food, and visit(s) to riojas wineries. I used to live in the northern part of the US and now in the mid-Atlantic region, so I am accustomed to cooler "fall" weather and have no problem with layers of clothing. But if you can share ideas for maximizing my time in this region, or guide services, please PM me.

Balso - thanks for the input on coast of Andalusia. My original thinking was base don guide books and internet reading. Getting similar feedback on not spending too much time in the Algarve upon reenetry to Portugal.

Thanks again, folks. Ira

Posted by
14790 posts

Hi Ira. I too encourage you to skip the southern coast, with the possible exception of Malaga, and seeing the pueblos blancos - white hill towns - instead. I have yet to visit the north (sadly) but here are my thoughts on the rest of your destinations.

Madrid has a lot to offer but not nearly as much as just about anywhere else in Spain. If you are a lover of European painting, you'll want 2 full days there for the Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofia museums, and one more for the other major sights.

Toledo is much better as an overnight and even better for 2 days.

Cordoba is the most underrated city in Spain (okay, my opinion, but I'm right! :-). People who tell you a day trip is enough are people who haven't spent more than a few hours in the city. It has one of the best preserved medieval centers in the country and is especially charming after dark. It has a quiet romantic atmosphere, while Sevilla is bustling with energy in the evenings.

Granada needs at least 2 full days, one for the Alhambra, one for the other major sights.

White hill towns - rent a car when you leave Granada and drive stop on the outskirts of Antequera to visit the prehistoric caves (closed on Mondays), then continue to Ronda. Spend at least 2 nights in the hills. You can base in Ronda or do two 1-nighters. Ronda has a couple of great sights - but the best is the view at sunset. Stop for a 1/2 day in Arcos de la Frontera and drop the car in Sevilla.

I've rented cars twice in Andalucia, both times I dropped the car in the another city and didn't pay a drop-off fee. I used Europcar both times, once booked through AutoEurope, once direct.