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24 days tour of Spain. Help!

Hello! I'm planning an itinerary for me and my husband (I'm 27 and he's 32) for 24 full days in Spain next May.

I did plan a trip to France last year (also in May) and it had its ups and downs. It was great for the most part, but I sadly chose to stay too long in the south of France, which most people adore, and I found kind of boring compared to the rest of France.

Here's the problem: there are places most people love but you simply won't.

So I'll write here my favourites among the places I've been to and I want your opinion on which cities I would enjoy in Spain. So let's get started!

Italy:
I loved Rome and Firenze for the art and gorgeous churches. I loved Venice and Sirmione because apparently I adore cities with channels and lakes and all sorts of water, though I usually find beaches to be very boring. I loved the Cinque Terre for its landscapes. I loved the historical sites of Pompeii. I liked Milan.
I kind of liked Turin and Bologne but probably wound't return.
I absolutelly hated Napoli. The Amalfi coast was nice but not nearly as good as the rest.

France:
I loved Paris, but my heart trully belongs to 3 other regions of France: the Val du Loire, the Alps and the Mont Saint Michel.
The Val du Loire was probably the best time I ever had travelling. Everything was perfect. I love history, and beautiful landscapes. We rented a car and stayed in a budget castle (Chateau du Razay, I recommend it so much!!!!!!) and visited castles for 2 days (could've been 2 years). The whole thing feels like a dream in my memories.
Also, the Mont Saint Michel was amazing. I loved to notice the cultural differences of Northern France compared to the rest of the country.
In the Alps, I liked Chamonix but loved Annecy. Chamonix isn't as romantic as I thought it'd be, it seems to be more inclined to snow sports than to romance. The mountains are gorgeous though.
But Annecy has the alps, the lake and the channels of an unbeliavably clear, clean water, it haunts my dreams just as much as the Loire's castles.
Then there's Provence... boring and not quite as beautiful as the rest. My 2 favourite spots there are relatively unknown to the regular tourist: Fontaine de Vaucluse (again, very green and with clear water) and Les Baux de Provence for its art in the caves (it's amazing!) and the ruins of a castle.
Avignon was boring, St Rémy was boring etc. It seems to me they're great for people who love to eat and drink wine. That's just not me. I'm the healthy vegan type and I don't drink at all. I don't enjoy this slow touristing, I enjoy walking all day and getting to know a lot of places.
Then there's the biggest disappointment of all: Aix-en-Provence. Over-hyped, overrated and Jesus Christ, SO overpriced. There was literally nothing for us there, since even the famous fountains can't compare to those located in basically any other European city, especially the italian ones. I was craving to return to Paris by then.
Cote D'Azur - basically I loved Eze Village for the history and view. The rest was just ok. Cannes is no big deal. Antibes had some appeal thanks to the Picasso museum but then again, if I'd known I wouldn't have bothered going there.
Monaco was interesting because it showed the cultural differences of a very very rich place and I suppose it's good to get to know drastic differences in lifestyle when you travel. But not much else.

In general I would've traded this last bit of the trip (the south of France) for more time up in the North. But I didn't know it back then. It was a week in total, but every website recommended at least 4 days for Provence PLUS 4 days for Cote D'Azur, and all of them described these regions as heaven.

Thank God I didn't listen to them and stayed longer at the Val du Loire and the Alps. Pity I didn't ignore them altogether.

So - what would you say I would like in Spain? 24 days is a lot of time.

Posted by amandasessim OP
15 posts

So far, I am interested in staying in a Parador at some point (it has to be one of the cheaper ones) because staying in a Loire Valley Chateau was one of my favourite travelling experiences ever.

Also, I want to visit Granada's Alhambra, and Seville.

Madrid and Barcelona are also mandatory.

Bilbao's Museum seems interesting, and it'd be nice to compare the Basque Country to the other regions.

I don't know if I should include Gibraltar.

I don't know if I should go all the way to western Spain like Santiago de Compostela.

Posted by Stephen
SC, USA
787 posts

24 days does seem like a long time! Based on your comments, I would think you would love Madrid. Lots of history and museums. Barcelona is another city you might enjoy along with Cordoba and Sevilla. You might also consider throwing in a week in Portugal as well. Here is a rough list to help you get started:

Start in Barcelona (5 nights) - Las Ramblas, Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Gaudi homes/apartments tours. Day trip to Figures and/or Cadaques for Salvador Dali museum/house. Montserrat.

Train to Madrid (5 nights) - Royal Palace, Reina Sofia museum, Prado museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, retiro Park. Day trip to toledo or consider spending a night or two here. Other day trips from Madrid include El Escorial, Segovia and Avila.

Train to Grenada (2-3 nights) - Alhambra and flaminco

Train to Cordoba (2 nights) - Mezquita

Train to Sevilla (3 nights) - Cathedral, Alcazar, Plaza de Espana, horse carriage rides

Rent a car and do a loop through the hill towns back into Madrid for the remainder of the trip OR head to Lisbon and spend the remainder of the trip in Protugal visiting the Algarve, Lisbon and Sintra.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8106 posts

I spent 3 months in Spain in 2016 and didn't get to Andalucía. I'd stick to Spain, which is huge; Portugal deserves its own trip.

Do you plan to rent a car for part of the time?

I urge you to start the trip in Andalucía and work north. Seville, etc., can get miserably hot, and the stretch from the Basque Country to Galicia can be quite cool and wet.

Do not go to the southern coast; I don't think you'll like it. Stick with places like Seville, Cordoba, Ronda, the white towns, Granada, etc. If you have a car in that area (probably needed for the white towns if you don't take a bus tour), you might investigate Baeza and Ubeda, which are off the tourist path (I haven't seen them). I haven't been to that area recently, so I hope others have some good ideas for you.

I'd suggest doing a quick Google for photos of the smaller places where you might stay, just to be sure you find them appealing. I don't like to do too much of that, but I think this is important since you had such a negative reaction to southern France.

I recommend 2 nights in Toledo. Atmospheric, historic, and full of lovely buildings. Buy the little wristband that gives you access to 6 or 7 "minor" sights, along with short tours of most of them. They are lovely and interesting. Walk away from the path between Pl. Zocodover and the cathedral and you'll be alone. Segovia has some interesting architecture in addition to its fabulous aqueduct. I'd skip Avila; it's far from the only walled city in Spain. Check photos of Salamanca.

I'm not sure you're going to love Madrid, but the Royal Palace may appeal to you (I felt about it as you feel about southern France), and if you like art, that's a couple of days' sightseeing right there. The city itself is handsome and lively but not particularly old. If you find yourself yearning to leave and are still stuck with another day there, you might like the pretty university town of Alcala de Henares, which can be reached by commuter train.

There's much to enjoy across northern Spain, between Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela. In Catalunya I loved the modernista architecture in Barcelona. I spent several nights in the small city of Girona, which has a large, walled historic district (not all of it touristy) and two cathedrals. And a river!

I liked Bilbao a lot. Its historic district is large, and there's a river, outdoor art, etc. But I appreciate early 20th century architecture (Bilbao's isn't quirky like Barcelona's) and quite liked what I call the "downtown area". That part may not appeal to you.

You will not care for the tapas-hopping vibe in San Sebastian, though it is a pretty city (with a smaller, tourist-clogged historic district) and a magnificent beach. You might just take the bus infrom Bilbao (train is too slow for a day-trip). The border town of Hondarribia, east of San Sebastian, might be more appealing to you. I suspect the small coastal towns--former fishing villages--of Getaria, Zumaia and Zarautz (plus Bermeo over near Bilbao) will not entrance you, but you could Google for photos to be sure.

The Basque countryside is green and hilly; I found it very pretty. I also liked the inland capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz with it's medieval district on a hill.

I think the inland city of Burgos is very appealing. It has a river, a magnificent cathedral, and a couple of monasteries/convents. The historic district is packed with tourists/pilgrims, however. Leon feels larger/livelier, with an historic district full of restaurants/bars. I found it pretty but you might not like it.

The Picos de Europa area is truly lovely--very dramatic scenery. But at the time you're traveling, you'd need a car to see it; bus tours start much later in the year. The old stone town of Potes is one of the most atmospheric places I visited in Spain, but it is not undiscovered.

Will add more later; I need lunch!

Posted by amandasessim OP
15 posts

thank you so much to both of you! acraven, it was you who also helped me with my France itinerary last year! nice to hear from you again :D

Posted by jaimeelsabio
Maryland
818 posts

I’ll only address the paradors. They are all over the country and prices vary depending on location and time of year. Most are in old convents, hospitals, etc., but not all. In May, some, like Santiago de Compostella, Hondarribia, and Granada are very pricey (€260+) Others are very reasonable and often cost less than comparable hotels (€80 or so) On my trip last May to northern Spain, we stayed almost exclusively at Paradors and the overall average price was about €130. There is a friends of the paradors program that is free. When you register for the program you’ll receive a certificate for a free breakfast (you and the person sharing the room) with your 1st registration. You will also get a coupon for a free beverage (again, you and travel partner) every time you check in at a different parador. It’s good for beer, wine, or soft drink and whatever tapa they give you. As a friend, you also receive points for each stay (believe it is 1 point for every €10). On our trip we earned enough points to earn a free night (points take a couple days to post to your account). Since we were nearby, we booked a suite in Tordesillas. The paradors English website is:
www..parador.es/en. Since it’s free, you have nothing to lose by joining the program. You can also check prices for the day you plan on being in whatever town.

We really enjoyed the paradors in Santiago de Compostela, Hondarribia, Leon, Zamora, Santillana Del Mar, and Cuenca. The one in Santo Domingo de la Calzada was nice but not much to do in that town. Santillana Del Mar has 2 paradors. If you haven’t been there before you may have difficulty finding them since they are both in the pedestrian only area. Also, parking at some of them is free while you have to pay at others.

Posted by Eef
450 posts

I think you will find that 24 days really won't be a lot of time in Spain. It's a big country. We went to Spain last July. We had just over 2 weeks. My original idea was that we would fly to Madrid, go to the Basque region, Burgos, Picos de Europa and Leon and over to Galicia. Once I started planning, I realized this was way too ambitious for the amount of time we had. We don't like to rush around. I decided to focus on Galicia (which we loved) for the cooler temperature (less of an issue in May) and fascinating history and culture. We flew to Madrid, spent essentially two half days touring Madrid, rented a car and drove to Segovia (2 nights). The next day was one of my favorites -- we just stumbled on some rural churches, walled village, way off the beaten track, got caught in a huge storm, a huge adventure, all unplanned. We spent 2 nights in Astorga and spent the day in Leon. I didn't think I would like Leon -- but it really grew on me. I would stay there if I did it again. there was a lot to see. Astorga was a little too quiet but it was restful. I loved our drive to Santiago -- much to see on the way. Santiago de Compostela was buzzing but very nice. We were there 2 nights. Next we went to the Parador de Santo Estevo (near Ourense). I thought it was in Ourense when I made my reservation. It wasn't anywhere close. I think this was my favorite destination. We drove first to the coast (loved it!) to see prehistoric sites, then to the parador. The parador is on the edge of a gorge, and we had to cross the gorge first. The road was insane...extremely narrow and curvy. We were exhausted by the time we arrived. Spent 3 restful nights here and did some lovely hikes in the area. Then we went up to Lugo (2 nights). Day trip to A Caruna (don't miss the tower of Hercules) and Betanzos. Next to Salamanca (2 nights). On way we visited the gold mines near Ponferrada (another winner) and stopped in Zamora (interesting town, but a lot of weddings and we couldn't really see the churches -- but the weddings were fascinating!). Then back to Madrid with a few stops on the way.

I think this happened in Betanzos, but I'm not sure. We arrived at lunch time. It was bright and hot and nothing was open. We found a place for a leisurely meal in the shade, which was nice. When things began to open, we went to the Tourist Info and learned when the interesting churches opened. Ha! They never opened. As we were waiting to go in the churches, a French couple who were also waiting, complained to me about Spain and how you never knew if things would open and how long things were closed in the middle of the day. Of course, if you are determined to see certain things, this is very frustrating. It was, to me, a very entertaining conversation because in small town France, you still have everything close down for lunch. Is Spain really that different from France? The French couple thought so and they really know more than I do (they're French, so they know one country!). The point of this story is, we went to Betanzos with an agenda to see certain things, which we didn't see, but it was a pleasant afternoon despite our lack of "success."

We had a lovely trip. I was never very happy with my planned itinerary (which I did in a hurry). We were still short on time, but for the most part it worked, even though the order was a little illogical. We didn't see The Spain that most people on these forums go to see, but it was just right for us. I advise you to read up on possible destinations, and do what sounds best to you.

Acraven and jaimeelsabio both gave me excellent advice, btw. Listen to them.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8106 posts

I liked all of Eef's destinations that I saw.

To be clear: I am not trying to suggest the contents of a 24-day itinerary, but just some places you might investigate if you think you'll be in the area. Without knowing exactly what you might want to do in Barcelona (9 days wasn't enough for me) and Madrid (one day plus art-museum time might be enough for me), I think you can do those cities plus a small number of nearby spots (Toledo and Girona probably being my top recommendations) and EITHER a few cities in Andalucía OR some additional places in northern Spain. If you were traveling in mid-summer I'd be pushing hard for northern Spain. As it is, I think you could go either way, but start in the south if you include Andalucía and start in Madrid if you're going to include the Basque Country, etc.

It would be a push, but you might investigate the Altamira Cave near Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. It sounds wonderful. Research it now if you think it might be of interest, because I think tickets are very limited. Santillana del Mar itself has been called the prettiest village in Spain. You know what that means in terms of tourists. But it's certainly worth a stop if you get that far west. The nearby big city of Santander has an impressive beach (a bit like San Sebastian), but it suffered a dreadful fire during the 1940s. It was nicely rebuilt but lacks the architectural interest of most of Spain's other regional capitals.

In Galicia (hard to fit in with both Madrid and Barcelona), Pontevedra and/or A Coruna--in addition to the obvious Santiago de Compostela--might appeal. The first two don't get many tourists except for Spaniards and Portuguese. Galicia has lots of little fishing villages that are now touristy; you might not care for them, though I was glad to spend a few hours wandering around Combarro and Cambados. But the larger Betanzos (also mentioned by Eef) probably has enough going on to interest you.

Astorga, mentioned up-thread, has a Gaudi site. I agree that it may not have enough "sights" to merit an overnight stop; I did a day-trip from Leon. If you're interested in modernista architecture, let us know. Several of us have favorites in Barcelona (especially) and elsewhere.

In Catalunya I've already suggested Girona. Figueres has the screwball Dali Theatre and Museum (bus or train from Barcelona but a shorter trip from Girona). The coastal town of Cadaques is gorgeous, full of white-cube houses dripping with bougainvillea; bus service from Figueres along a very pretty route. Besalu has a striking fortified bridge (can see the whole town in less than 2 hours, bus service from Girona but beware that the bus back from Besalu might depart early).

Still in Catalunya, I spent several days in the largish and very pretty Cerdanya Valley town of Puigcerda. That valley bakes in the summer. There are some small, cute, old villages stretched out along the highway. West of Puigcerda and south of Andorra (whose capital is a glorified outlet mall--don't go) is the ecclesiastically important town of La Seu d'Urgell, with a very colorful historic district. I was frustrated to have only a couple of hours to walk around.

For a change of pace, you can cross the border at Puigcerda to reach Bourg-Madame and pick up the Yellow Train through the Pyrenees to the touristy fortified town of Villefranche-de-Conflent.

Finally-for-now: The small Basque Country hill-town of Laguardia, which is between Vitoria-Gasteiz and Logrono, is very atmospheric. It's near the La Rioja wine country. There's actually bus service from the two cities mentioned, but it's sort of a full-day effort to make that work and you can probably see the whole town and have a meal in 3 or 4 hours. The wine bars would probably be fun if you like wine.

Note that it takes more time than you might expect to get from Barcelona to the Basque Country.

Posted by djp_syd
David in Brisbane, Australia
6827 posts

This would give you a thorough overview in 24 days.

Day
1. ARRIVE Barcelona (6N)
2. Barcelona
3. Barcelona
4. Day to Figueres & Girona
5. Barcelona
6. Barcelona
7. Fly to Granada (3N)
8. Visit Alhambra
9. Pick up car ... Day to Las Alpujarras
10. Drive to Nerja (2N)
11. Nerja coastline
12. Drive to Ronda (2N)
13. Day to pueblos blancos
14. Drive via Arcos de la Frontera to Seville (5N) ... Return car
15. Day to Cordoba (Mezquita)
16. Seville
17. Day to Jerez or Cadiz
18. Seville
19. Train to Madrid (5N)
20. Madrid
21. Day to Toledo
22. Madrid
23. Day to Segovia
24. DEPART Madrid

Alternatively ...
Day
7. Fly from Barcelona to San Sebastián (2N)
8. San Sebastián
9. Bus to Bilbao (2N)
10. Bilbao
11. Fly via Madrid to Granada (2N)
12. Visit Alhambra
13. Train to Ronda (1N)
14. Train to Seville (5N)

Posted by Rosa
Amsterdam
21 posts

May is a lovely time in Spain and the weather should not be too hot in the south.

Keep in mind that spring is the Feria season in the south - for example Cordoba's feria is May 19-26. It is an amazing thing to experience if you are into festivals and crowds and cultural experiences. But the festivals are also about eating and drinking and dancing so you might not be a huge fan. If the feria is happening lodgings will be more expensive and places will be busy, so bear that in mind.

You probably have already heard that you should book your Alhambra tickets in advance. You should! Also check out some of the other Granada gardens. You can definitely get your exercise walking all over the city up and down the hills in Granada. Andalucia has fabulous architecture and history.

Since it sounds like you enjoy mountains and picturesque villages I would recommend checking out the north of Spain as others have mentioned. You'll probably need a rental car. There are outstanding hikes, cliffs with crashing waves and quiet villages.

If you liked Milan I think you would like Madrid. It's a bustling modern city that is fun to walk around. Retiro park is a good way to spend an afternoon.

Eating and drinking to me is one of the best parts of spain, but as a healthy vegan you might not enjoy that. However the produce of Spain is amazing so if you happen to stay in accommodations with a kitchen you should visit the local markets for fresh produce to cook with. You'll also find some vegan and vegetarian restaurants in every city. I know of at least one in Cordoba and one in Granada and there are many in Madrid and Barcelona.

As someone else mentioned you might be best with starting in the south exploring Andalucia, taking the train up to Madrid for a few days then heading north to explore Galicia and Basque country by car.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
8716 posts

"Here's the problem: there are places most people love but you simply won't. "

Ain't it the truth!

I was also not taken with much of the Riviera or with Aix. But I liked Monaco more than you did (I hope you saw the Jardin Exotique - it has a similar appeal to the garden at the top of Eze). I eventually liked Naples, although was stressful at first. I didn't like Bologna at all. Etc, etc.

So, I can only offer my own experiences.

Here's my trip report on Basque country. Short version - it wasn't my kind of place, although you may like some aspects of it more than I did. In particular, you may enjoy a short visit to Getaria for the Balancia musuem, and Bilbao and Vitoria for their urban energy and museums (some real great ones in each). https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/basque-country-trip-report-bayonne-san-sebastian-vitoria-gasteiz-and-bilbao-may-2017

Unlike some of the above posters, for me food in Spain is not a draw, but a deficit - something to be worked around. I did better in Madrid, because as the biggest city it had the most varied options (even the set lunch menus, which are great value, had a good variety - although I don't remember if they had vegetarian, much less vegan, options). And I'll eat almost anything. My two best dishes on my Basque country trip were the beef cheek and the baby eels (really). So as a vegan, expect food in Spain to be a real challenge. There is often hidden cheese or hidden mayonnaise in vegetable tapas or pinchos, for starters - and that's not even counting the fact that most of these will be meat or seafood based to begin with. Plan on eating a lot of your meals from markets.

I like Madrid more than many others seem to. In addition to its fantastic art museums, it's got a great urban energy, with varied neighborhoods to explore. La Latina (walk in Rick's book) is hipster and Bangldeshi; Chueca (not in the book) is gay, and Salamanca (not in the book) purrs with wealth. And Retiro Park is very nice. I agree with the poster above that if you liked Milan (and I do too, although so many US visitors don't seem to), you'll probably like Madrid.

Barcelona is also great, with lots of days of great sights. Anything involving Gaudi or Picasso requires reservations, but that still leaves a lot of other places you can fit around your reserved times. My favorite things that aren't as famous were the MNAC and the Fundacio Mares. Be aware that the MNAC is huge - my first clue was that the entry ticket is good for 2 days! I also like taking the teleféric (cable car) up Montjuic.

Near Barcelona, the only thing I've seen is Girona. The first time I went, in 1995, I was one of the few tourists. The second time, in 2015, it was crowded with tour groups, but still very interesting.

In Seville and Cordoba, don't miss the house tours of the Museo Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija and the Palacio de Viano, respectively. These are the former homes of wealthy people, and so are like mini-castles, but quite livable. As a plus, they're sparsely visited. Overall, Andalucia didn't do as much for me as it does for most others (even the Alhambra in Granada and the Mezquita in Cordoba, while quite something, weren't quite the 10/10 experiences many others find them to be).

I'm also not as taken with Toledo as many others are, but I did like Segovia (at least in 1995 when I was last there).

Posted by amandasessim OP
15 posts

Thank you so much! You've been so helpful. I really appreciate it.

Taking into consideration all you've said, I've googled pictures of all the cities mentioned and I've sorted them out in 3 categories: the ones I know I have to visit, the ones I don't want to visit, and the ones I'd visit if it's on the way to some other interesting destination.

So here we go (in order of interest, not geography):

Absolute must-see:
Barcelona
Madrid
Sevilha
Granada
Segovia
Toledo
Salamanca
Zaragoza
Cordoba
Astorga

I'll really try to go there:
Santiago de Compostela
Girona
Figueres
Bilbao
Besalu
Ponferrada
Betanzos
Ronda
Santillana del Mar

I'd go there if it's a pitstop along the way:
Burgos
Leon
Potes
Ourense
Lugo
Zamora

They're nice but I doubt I'll have the time:
Picos de Europa
Altamira Cave
La Seu d'Urgell

Not really interested:

Caruna
Any of the pueblos blancos
San Sebastian
Getaria
Zumaia
Zarautz
Bermeo
Arcos de la Frontera

Now I finally feel I have a starting point. I've got to throw it all in the map and check what can actually be done. I also feel transportation's going to be an issue - everything's just so distant and the trains are so pricey. Also, without a car I don't know if it's going to be possible to stay at a parador.

Perhaps start by going straight to Granada, stay 2 nights, on the way to Seville stop at Ronda, get to Seville, stay 3 nights, take the train to Toledo, make a pitstop at Cordoba for a day on the way to Toledo, get there by the evening, next day walk around Toledo and go to Madrid, stay 4 days, rent a car, go to Salamanca and the other must-sees, staying in paradors whenever possible, untill Barcelona. Arriving in Barcelona we'd return the car, stay 4 days and return to Madrid by train to take the plane back home.

Something like that.

Thank you all, once more.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8106 posts

Bought at the last minute, the fast trains can be pricey; sometimes a regional train is an option (although somewhat slower) if you're traveling a fairly short distance. And for some trips, only regional service is available. So it will depend on where you end up going. Having a bit of timing flexibility also can pay off, since you won't necessarily find the same price on all the day's trains.

Posted by amandasessim OP
15 posts

Updating with a few more cities.

Valencia seems very nice but I'm afraid is so far away from all the rest I liked, I'll have to skip it.

I guess I'd stop in Caceres on my way somewhere else, but I don't think I'd choose to go there.

Avila looks awesome and it's close to Salamanca and Segovia, I've included it in the essencials list.

Posted by jaimeelsabio
Maryland
818 posts

From your “must see” list, there are Paradors in Salamanca, Segovia, Toledo, and Córdoba, so you could stay at 4 of them. The ones in Granada and Santiago are probably out of your price range. There are also paradors in the would like to visit or if it’s a pit stop list, e.g., Avila, Ronda, Leon, Santillana Del Mar, Zamora. Not certain why Astorga is a must see, but each to his own. It was fun for a couple hours.

Posted by djp_syd
David in Brisbane, Australia
6827 posts

Astorga on your “must see” list is quite difficult to accommodate. Omitting Astorga will allow for several places on your ‘B’ list. I love your list of cities btw, and would go with something like this.

Day
1. ARRIVE Barcelona (5N)
2. Barcelona
3. Barcelona
4. Day trip to Figueres & Girona
5. Barcelona
6. Train to Zaragoza (2N)
7. Zaragoza
8. Train via Antequera to Granada (2N)
9. Granada & the Alhambra
10. Train to Ronda (1N)
11. Train to Cordoba (2N)
12. Cordoba & the Mezquita
13. Train to Seville (3N)
14. Seville
15. Seville
16. Train via Madrid to Toledo (2N)
17. Toledo
18. Train via Madrid to Salamanca (2N)
19. Salamanca
20. Train to Segovia (1N)
21. Train to Madrid (3N)
22. Madrid
23. Madrid
24. DEPART Madrid

Posted by djp_syd
David in Brisbane, Australia
6827 posts

Notes to the above
1) On Day 8 you should take advantage of the daily direct train service from Barcelona to Malaga, which stops in Zaragoza and Antequera.
2) On Day 18 you will need to transfer between Madrid mainline stations, Atocha to Chamartin.
3) Treat yourself to the gorgeously positioned Parador for the one night in Ronda. .

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8106 posts

Caceres is very interesting but way off the path most travelers take.

Avila, please believe me, is skippable. It is a walled town. You spend 1-2 hours walking to the wall and on the wall, then you are done. No comparison to the top sights in Spain, in my view. Girona, just as one example, is far more interesting. There is a reason why virtually every guidebook suggests just a brief stop in Avila. You have time to see much more interesting places.

I assume Astorga is on the list for the modernista architecture. I don't think there's much else there. And it's not really workable unless you're going to Burgos/Oviedo/Leon/etc. If, indeed, it's the architecture that's drawing you, I think it would be better to add time in Barcelona, where there is an incredible density of modernista sites.

In 2016 there was a very good exhibit on the top floor of Casa Mila/La Pedrera, covering other Gaudi sights, some of them outside Barcelona. There were videos. I assumed it was a permanent display, but Enric (where are you, Enric?) thought perhaps not. I'm virtually certain Astorga was included, so keep an eye out when you get to the top floor of La Pedrera; maybe you'll be lucky.

As you begin to pin down your itinerary, if you decide you'll have time for some additional modernista sights in Barcelona, post again and we can make suggestions. There are actually some for which you don't have to buy a ticket in advance that locks you into visiting at a specific time.

Posted by Eef
450 posts

The parador in Salamanca is modern. I agree that Avila is not all that interesting. We spent a couple hours, including a mediocre meal (we may have just not chosen a good restaurant, but that was our experience).

Posted by amandasessim OP
15 posts

Hello again,

After much thought I decided to listen to reason and skip the crazy detours.

Also, for the first time, I'll probably not rent a car, probably not stay a single night at most cities, and do some day trips.

Here's the probable final itinerary:

Arrival at Madrid: april 30th, 8a.m.

April 30 Madrid
may 1 Madrid
may 2 Madrid
may 3 Madrid
may 4 Madrid
may 5: Madrid
(day trips to Segovia and Toledo)

may 6: stopover in Cordoba, sleep in Sevilla
may 7 Sevilla
may 8 Sevilla
may 9 Sevilla
may 10 leave Sevilla, go to Granada (perhaps with a quick stop at Ronda)

may 11 Granada
may 12 Granada - leave Granada by night, go to Valencia

may 13 Valencia
may 14 Valencia
may 15 Valencia - leave Valencia, go to Barcelona

May 16 Barcelona
May 17 Barcelona
May 18 Barcelona
May 19 Barcelona
May 20 Barcelona
May 21 Barcelona
May 22 Barcelona
(with daytrip to Girona and perhaps Montserrat)

may 23 Zaragoza

train to Madrid - home

I don't know if it's the best, but it's certainly more realistic!

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8106 posts

I think you'll love that pace; I know I would.

I have a suggestion for an additional side-trip you could make on the spur of the moment from Madrid, should you want another. The historic university town of Alcala de Henares is a very pretty place. I didn't go looking for specific sights to visit, I just wandered the streets. This Trip Advisor article indicates that there's a lot to see, so I must clearly go back. I just enjoyed the fact that the city was a nice change, stylistically, from Madrid. To get to Alcala de Henares one takes a sort of commuter train from the Cercanias side of Atocha Station. No pre-purchasing required. The commuter trains aren't listed on the main part of the Renfe website or the DB site, but Google found the schedule for me. It's a fast (39-minute) and frequent trip, even on Sundays. For look-up purposes, you'd be starting from "Atocha". I see that there's a second stop at the University in AdeH, and it might be more convenient than the one I used.

Posted by djp_syd
David in Brisbane, Australia
6827 posts

If you are keen for time in Cordoba & Ronda, then it makes sense to stay over.

Madrid (5) - w Segovia, Toledo
Cordoba (1)
Sevilla (4)
Ronda (1)
Granada (2)
Valencia (2)
Barcelona (7) - w Girona, Montserrat
Zaragoza (2)
Madrid (1)

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
10526 posts

That's a lot of time in Madrid, the least remarkable city I've been to in Spain. If you love European painting, it's great; a full day at the Prado, another day for the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen, and then your day trips. Since you get to Madrid in the morning and are going back to Madrid to fly home, I'd start in Sevilla (well, Cordoba but I'll get to that later) and leave Madrid for the end.

Sevilla has a big city feel, very bustling even late into the evening. Cordoba and Granada have much better preserved medieval centers and tend to get quiet (romantic) in the evenings. They both have lots of restaurants and Cordoba has things to see and do in the evenings (I don't know if Toledo does). I think you are short-changing both by only seeing the highlights on a day trip.

How are you going from Granada to Valencia at night?

Posted by GoodmanTX
Texas
41 posts

Unlike Chani, I really enjoy Madrid. But Chani is right about the order: head south to Sevilla for the 1st jet-lagged night via fast train from Madrid, then work your way northward back to Madrid. Both areas will be hot, but hottest farther south.

Posted by amandasessim OP
15 posts

I love painting and museums and I'm guessing I'll like Madrid very much. Even so, I'm inclined to stay only 3 days there in order to stay in Segovia for one night to visit the San Ildefonso palace, then stay 2 nights in Toledo in order to visit Toledo itself and the Aranjuez palace.

I did mention that I adored the Loire Valley, right? I think it makes sense to visit a couple of palaces.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8106 posts

In that case, the Palacio Real in Madrid should be just the ticket!

Posted by Kate
San Jose
3 posts

I just wanted to chime in to say that we spent a week in Madrid on September and didn't see everything we wanted to. In fact we're returning to Spain this year with another couple and will spend our first few nights in Madrid. But we love museums and art and take way more time than most in a museum, often eating lunch there so we can continue the visit for another couple of hours after lunch recharges us. The Royal Palace was great too - we're planning to visit it again because I was fascinated by all the armour. We particularly liked the Sorolla Museum in Madrid - although it's very small so took us about an hour. We discovered another wonderful impressionist artist!

Posted by Jai
Canada
62 posts

Just thought to mention you have a lot of time in Barcelona. You could cut out 2 of the 7 nights. I hope you love Gaudi with all that time there, because if you don't, it will be too long. I feel the same way about much of France as what you described, and I'm also vegetarian. If you go back to France, I have to mention: Head for Alsace! Strasbourg, Colmar -- the whole region is exquisite, beautiful, interesting, the cathedral is truly unique among cathedrals, the spirit is universal, and also, you can get great French food for vegetarians in Strasbourg. A spectacular place!

Posted by ellen.farre
34 posts

Hi. We just got back from three weeks in southern Spain. I would suggest spending more time in Cordoba. We absolutely loved it- it was one of our favorite stops. The city is beautiful and charming with gorgeous patio gardens everywhere. Not to mention the Mezquita! We spent two nights there. I also think one night in Ronda is enough.