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3 week Spain itinerary

Hello! I am traveling to Spain for 3 weeks for the first time next September. I have been researching Rick Steve’s and Lonely Planet books and have come up with a rough itinerary. Whew! It has been stressful, confusing and fun at the same time. I don’t want to switch hotels too much. I love the coast. I am interested in experiencing the culture of Spain. I would like to also spend 3 nights at the end at a beach town and would love recommendations for a quiet beach town where I could find a nice beachfront place to stay. Any changes/suggestions ideas??? Would it be worth going to Menorca or Mallorca? Thank you.

*Barcelona 5 nights (to include Figueres/Cadaques for Dali, Sitges)
*Madrid 3 nights (Royal Palace, day trips to Segovia and/or Toledo, museum)
*To Cordoba (Mezquita) on way to Granada for 2 nights.
*to Ronda 1-2 nights (these next few bullet points are where I get really confused about how to best arrange)
*Rent car or bus White Hill Towns (Grazalema, Arcos to Jerez to Cadiz).
*Seville 4 nights
*Beach town 3 nights

Posted by
6513 posts

It’s been 20 years, but we kind-of went the opposite direction from your current plans. When we arrived in Seville, we dropped off our suitcases, then hired a taxi to follow to reach a parking lot, where we stayed parked for 4 days, before continuing on our trip. Traffic was horrible in 2002, and I have to imagine it’s not gotten any better since then.

So visit Seville (without a car), then rent your car on your way out of town - at the Seville airport. See the White Villages, Ronda, then reach Granada, where you get rid of the rental car.

Beach town … Nerja? It was OK 20 years ago … hopefully it is, still.

As far as Tangier, we had been considering it as our “big” visit to Morocco during the Spain trip. I asked Rick Steves himself, during his late 2001 visit in Denver, about the idea. This was just after 9/11 happened, and he hesitated about visiting a Muslim country at the moment, and we dropped the idea. Glad we did - we finally had a full, 3-week trip to Morocco in 2019, which included Marrakech, Fes, and a desert camel trek - but avoided the logistical hassles of including Tangier for a day or two. By reports, Tangier is a relatively sleazy port city, and our time was better spent sticking with Spain.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks Cyn. I appreciate your Tangier info. Maybe I will skip it this time!

Posted by
1745 posts

Just a note to say that 3 nights in Madrid is... not much. Especially with any day trips planned. It's a city rich with museums and sights, its own history as the capital for 500 years, and, as the second largest city in the EU, it's undoubtedly the seat of contemporary Spanish culture.

Also, staying in Stiges for a few nights would be a perfect beach town spot. (But you probably want to stay clear of there over 'Bear Week', about it the first week + of September. It will be packed with partying gays, disproportionately Americans.)

Posted by
24044 posts

Five nights in Barcelona at the beginning of your trip probably means just four full days without jetlag. Figueres + Cadaques is a long day trip. Sitges is in the opposite direction and will chew up a good bit of another day. That means you won't have much more than two full days in Barcelona, which is an extremely short visit. Barcelona has more sights that require pre-purchased, timed tickets (if you don't want to stand in very, very long ticket lines) than just about any other city in the world. It's hard to be a totally efficient traveler there, because who's to say how much time you need to leave between scheduled arrival at Site A and Site B. These are the tricky sights in Barcelona:

La Sagrada Familia
Casa Mila/La Pedrera
Casa Batllo
Parc Guell
Picasso Museum
Palau de la Musica Catalana (you want an English-language tour there)

And there are many other worthwhile sights; those are just the ones you shouldn't walk up to without having already purchased a ticket.

Forget Tangier. Two of the best destinations in Morocco, Fes and Marrakech, have flights from many cities in Europe. It will be easier to fly to Morocco than to spend the better part of three days getting there via ferry. The ferries do not leave from a Spanish coastal city you would otherwise be visiting.

A car would be handy between Granada and Jerez; there's regular train service between Jerez and Cadiz and good bus service between Arcos de la Frontera and Jerez, but transportation links through that area are otherwise infrequent. While using buses between Granada and Jerez is possible, it would require considerably more time, and I don't recommend it given the limited time you have to spend in Andalucia.

There have been some negative comments about Nerja here; it is apparently a lot more developed now than it was when Rick first wrote about it. There have also been issues with sewage piped into the ocean. There may be better options for you. I haven't been to any of the small coastal towns. You need to select carefully, because a lot of them sound as if they have more British pubs and German sausage joints than any semblance of Spanish character.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you acraven for your notes on Barcelona! There are so many places I want to see in Barcelona as well as walk the neighborhoods and I don’t want to feel rushed. I think I will add a few more days there. I am skipping Tangier and Nerja.

Posted by
6670 posts

Yes, good decision not to waste your time on Tangier.

Suggest more time in Madrid. The Prado Museum is amazing.

We visited Costa del Sol some years ago for a few days and were very disappointed. The beaches were no where near as good as what you have in Florida or California.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you for the tip on the Prado. I was considering Reina Sofia or Prado.

I am wondering if it is worth going to Menorca or Mallorca for beach/downtime the last 4 days of my trip? Or just find a mainland beach town.