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60 days in Spain and Portugal - February to April 2023 - itinerary help

We plan to spend 60 days in Spain/Portugal in 2023. So far all we have booked are our flights in and out of Madrid. Our trip is a multi purpose one - both a holiday and an initial scouting trip for potential retirement to Portugal or Spain.

About us:
* we are 59 and 72, one of us has mobility problems
* we like wine, history and food
* we prefer less crowded places
* we can take or leave beach resorts
* we like mountains and colder weather

Our planned itinerary is:

25/2 Arrive Madrid at 2pm (30 hour flight from Australia) – overnight Madrid

26/2–1/3 Salamanca (4 nights, 3 days)

2/3–5/3 Burgos (4 nights, 3 days)

6/3–7/3 Gijon (2 nights, 1 day)

8/3–11/3 Leon (4 nights, 3 days)

12/3–14/3 Santiago de Compostela (3 nights, 2 days)

15/3–21/3 Porto (7 nights, 6 days) – plan to do day trip to Guimaraes and Douro valley – should we add a day here and do an overnight in Douro? If so, where?

22/3–24/3 Coimbra (3 nights, 2 days)

25/3–31/3 Lisbon (7 nights, 6 days) – plan to do day trip to Sintra

1/4–3/4 Evora (3 nights, 2 days) – hope to fit in a half day trip to Monsaraz

4/4–6/4 Merida (3 nights, 2 days) – hope to do a day trip to Caceres

7/4–11/4 Seville (5 nights, 4 days) – plan to do a day trip to Ronda and possibly Malaga

12/4–14/4 Granada (3 nights, 2 days)

15/4–17/4 Cordoba (3 nights, 2 days)

18/4 Cuenca (1 night)

19/4–24/4 Madrid (6 nights, 5 days) – plan to do day trips to Toledo and Segovia

25/4 Fly home to Australia from Madrid in the afternoon (3.15pm flight)

We will be travelling by train and bus exclusively. We have decided against visiting the Algarve as we are from Australia and have spent many holidays on beautiful beaches and are wanting a different experience from our Portugal trip. We will be visiting Girona, Barcelona and Bilbao in October as part of a trip to France.

Any suggestions on whether this itinerary looks OK?

I had hoped to also post this in the Portugal forum but can't post in two different forums.

Thanks

Posted by
21 posts

Hi Aussie Nomad! Your trip sounds spectacular. I can't believe you haven't even added time for jet lag! That's a long flight!
I have only been to Spain when a friend and I took a cruise that traveled to small coastal towns. From one we took a bus trip and tour of The Alhambra. I have an interest in history and architecture, and really enjoyed my viist there. The architecture, tiles, history and gardens are all worth seeing.
Maybe if you are close by you can get there.

Posted by
5647 posts

As much as I love Asturias, I would squeeze Gijón on this trip. Not worth the long bus trips for such a short stay.
I would also shorten my stays in Burgos and León by 1 night each, as the towns can easily be visited in a single day - leaving a second day for relaxation or a nearby day trip. Personally I do not love Burgos and would even skip it altogether, but its cathedral is undeniably a major landmark of Gothic architecture, so I understand the appeal.

Conversely, Santiago deserves a 4th night because there are several day trip opportunities including A Coruña and Pontevedra.
And, between León and Burgos, perhaps consider a stop in Lugo: it is a lovely town and it breaks the rather long journey from León.

The Portuguese segment feels balanced to me. 7 nights in Porto is plenty, if you want to overnight in the Douro valley you can take a night from Porto.

For the second Spain segment, I would:

  • skip Málaga, too far for a day trip
  • consider spending a night or two in Toledo, either in addition to or instead of Cuenca. Mobility problems will pose a challenge in Toledo, so it is important that you are able to take your time there!

EDIT: if you're scouting for retirement, then perhaps Gijón is a good one to keep. Just be aware that it will add significant travel times to your itinerary. And indeed, as a retirement region, Asturias is relatively "isolated". You will of course find everything one could need there (even IKEA 😂), but if you want to be able to travel elsewhere in Spain or in Europe, it is probably one of the least convenient starting points.

Posted by
8500 posts

I do enjoy Burgos and think it needs at least 2 days. The Evolution museum there needs almost a full day. You may want to do a day trip to Atapuerca while in Burgos, or pehaps a day bus trip to Castrojeriz?

From Leon you could visit Astorga or Sahagun?

From Santiago, have twice done a day-long bus tour to Finesterra and Muxia that was well worth the money and time.

Posted by
1445 posts

To help achieve your objective of learning potential places of retirement I encourage you to do the following:

1) invest time in reading local newspapers English versions
2) There are a quite a number of on line social media sites with ex-pat groups offering their experiences from an "on the ground" perspective
3) In places that "peak" your interests take the time to identify/meet with local real estate agents to gather additional information on living expenses

The above three items take time away from typical travel interests, but should benefit your prime objective.

Good Luck!

Posted by
1253 posts

I think you have an awesome trip planned! I have a few suggestions.

I would spend at least one night in Toledo. During the day Toledo is extremely crowded with daytrippers and large tour buses. It is so enjoyable and pleasant in the evening when the daytrippers have left and the city is illuminated. In the evening Zocodover Plaza is bustling with Spanish families enjoying dinner, ice cream and young children riding their bikes.

We love Malaga but Malaga is too far from Seville for a day trip. It would make more sense to visit Malaga as a daytrip from Granada. Or you could take a night from Cordoba and a night from Granada and spend 2 nights in Malaga. We really enjoyed Malaga. There is a lot to see and do there. If you think this makes your trip too rushed, then I would skip Malaga on this trip as much as we liked it. We did spend 2 nights each in Cordoba and Granada, and we wished we had an extra night in each place. But we also wished we had an extra night in Malaga, too! There is never enough time.

Are you aware that you will be in Seville during Easter? There are lots of wonderful festivities and celebrations but hotel prices will be higher and Seville will be more crowded. Seville is beautiful! One of my favorite cities!

Posted by
36 posts

My husband walks w/a cane..This was my write up a few weeks ago, as we returned late Oct. I would highly recommend making your base in Bilbao. Mikel redid our tours based on my husbands abilities. Everything you said was us. History, wine, food and small towns. Went to San Sebastian and wouldnt go back..Mikel took us to Getaria, Guernika, Berton and so much more
Our 5 days in the Basque Area was not enough thanks to our guide. Mikel..Contact info :Toursbybasques.com or text/call via whatsapp 34 618 55 03 95. He is Secretary of the Basque Country Tour Guides Association
I communicated w/Mikel for 2 yrs before we actually made the trip this Oct due to Covid.
Mikel was the most amazing, well informed, professional guide we have ever had. We stayed in Bilbao and took daily trips via his car. (This is a plus as most times you pay extra for a driver but Mikel was both) Of course we toured Bilbao on foot w/Mikel, then took the funicular to have a look of the city from the top..Amazing. His recommendation of Restaurante Txakoli @ the top was super.
The next days were driving to amazing cities. Yes, everyone talks about San Sebatain which we went to. But, for us the small towns were priceless. Mikel picked Getaria, a small fishing town. We ate at May Flower which overlooks the town. A must
Another day was Guernika, made famous by Picasso. Onto Bertron, Castillo de Burton..12th century castle and ending in Plentzia for lunch. Stopped in Getxo too. All towns that Mikel suggested, that for us, were more beautiful, historical and easier to get around then San Sebastian.
Another day was spent in Haro, the wine area for Rioja. The wineries Mikel picked were small family owned Bodegas. In one they took us down into the caves that their ancestors had used for centuries for wine storage. Laguardia was our last stop. This town made us feel like we were in a movie. Old with small streets, beautiful shops and lots of history.
We couldn't have done this with the ease we did w/out Mikel. If you like histrory, great food, restaurants then Mikel is your person. Yes, people say you can do it on your own BUT you learn so much more w/a guide. We are going back next Oct to see new areas because Mikel made our trip so easy.

Posted by
9643 posts

I love your itinerary; we have been to almost all of these places. My only suggestion would be stay elsewhere as a base in the Basque country. Another poster has given you excellent advice. We stayed in Hondarribia for a week as a base because we wanted to cover both the Spanish and the French Basque towns. We loved the small French Basque villages in the foothills of the Pyrenees like Saté, Ainhoa, Ascain.
Mikel sounds like a gem!
I recommend that you read “ The Basque History of the World” by Michael Kurlansky before your trip to this part of the world. Very readable and helpful.

Posted by
250 posts

What research on trip stops! Great job!!
We're slated/planning for two months in Portugal and Spain. Having just finished a fantastic month in Scotland this summer during which we spent a few days and nights in each location I had hoped to be longer in fewer places (and suppose that's possible if we choose to skip stops you've identify) on the Iberian Peninsula. Any suggestions from contributors to unpack less frequently??

Posted by
15365 posts

The first thing I see is that you plan to be in Sevilla for Easter weekend, from Thursday. Are you aware that is the culmination of Semana Santa? Thursday night, well the wee hours of Friday morning actually, is La Madrugá, a huge solemn procession. I was there several years ago for that weekend. You will encounter the largest crowds of the year as well as the highest prices.

Overall it seems you are going to the coldest places first and the warmest places last.
For instance, I looked at Burgos at the beginning of March for the past 3 years - temps mostly in single digits and rain. You can check daily weather here for most cities for the past 10 years. Along the same lines, Andalucia is the warmest, driest part of Europe, so temps in late February and March are usually in the high teens and even low 20s. In mid-April they can hit 30. My impression is that Portugal is generally cooler than southern Spain.

Next, how severe is the mobility problem? Some of the places you are spending time in are very hilly. Porto, Lisbon, Sintra, Coimbra all have lots of up and down, some of it rather steep. I don't remember any part of Porto being level.

Sintra is much better as an overnight or even two. I was underwhelmed by Evora. Monsaraz is lovely but not easy walking either. Some climbing to see the castle (and the views) and cobbled streets, on an incline.

Sevilla (and Cordoba) is level ground, easy walking, great sights and excellent food. Ronda and Malaga are both too far for day trips though both are good as overnights. Granada, again the best sight (Alhambra) means lots of up/downhill walking. The Albaicin is especially steep. The center around the cathedral however is level.

Madrid is hilly. Toledo is much better as an overnight, it has steep hills.

Posted by
859 posts

The first thing I see is that you plan to be in Sevilla for Easter weekend, from Thursday. Are you aware that is the culmination of Semana Santa?

We are aware. We are considering reversing our circle and heading south first. However, this would likely put us in Santiago de Compostela for Easter which looks just as difficult.

Overall it seems you are going to the coldest places first and the warmest places last.

We are fine with cold weather. Where we live in Australia it gets down to mins 6 degrees Celsius (21 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight in winter and often is only around 12 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day. We are cold tolerant.

Next, how severe is the mobility problem? Some of the places you are spending time in are very hilly. Porto, Lisbon, Sintra, Coimbra all have lots of up and down, some of it rather steep. I don't remember any part of Porto being level.

The mobility issue is inflammatory arthritis which can vary in severity from day to day. We recently went to Norway and managed 420 steps to a lookout in Alesund and hilly Bergen with reasonable pain levels. I have braces for knees and ankles and a walking stick for bad days.

My chronic illness also means that we need to factor in rest days as sometimes I am too fatigued in the afternoon to do much of anything. We generally try to have two days each week with not much planned other than a scenic train or bus trip to our next destination.

Sevilla (and Cordoba) is level ground, easy walking, great sights and excellent food.

Noted. We are looking forward to both.

Ronda and Malaga are both too far for day trips though both are good as overnights.

We are thinking of adding them as overnights and maybe dropping Burgos and Gijon from our northern loop. After spending quite a bit of time on YouTube this afternoon I think we will add Cadiz and drop Granada. There are too many hills and my travelling companion thinks he would hate the Alhambra due to the crowds.

This is a work in progress.

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Posted by
6680 posts

Salamanca was wonderful, but 4 nights seems like overkill.
For the Douro Valley, I recommend taking a cruise up the river or taking the train that runs up the north side of the river. Good places to stay for a night are Regua and Pinhao.
Don't miss the ancient walled city of Obidos.

Posted by
24061 posts

I liked Burgos a lot, but you could well have highs in the 40s there, and the town is notoriously windy.

Posted by
1253 posts

The Alhambra might not be oppressively crowded in April. And especially if you reverse your order, you would be in Granada in February or March, which would be less crowded. I don't remember the Alhambra being overly hilly. You can take a taxi to drop you off right at the entrance. Or you could stay in a hotel near the Alhambra.

Regarding Granada being hilly, yes, it is hilly in the albaicin neighborhood, which you could easily avoid. The bottom of the Albaicin and along the river is flat.

The Alhambra, IMO, is magnificent and one of the most beautiful and amazing places I have visited. But obviously you should do what is the most comfortable for you and your travel partner.

I have osteoarthritis, and we visited Andalucia in September 2017 which was before my hip replacement surgery in 2019. I was in pain a lot, too, and many times we took taxis instead of walking.