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Advice on 4-week Itenerary in Spain

I am planning a solo trip to Spain during my college winter break. I have studied Spanish for 8 years and am conversational but hope to become fluent. I have traveled a lot with my family in the US but never on my own before. Any help on splitting up my time or travel tips would be greatly appreciated!!
I am interested in night life, participating in all of the holiday traditions, exploring the streets, architecture, food, and immersing myself in the culture and language. I am not a huge art person and only want to go to the can't-miss museums. Basically, I'd like to do all of the sightseeing highlights, then add enough time to hangout and find those special experiences that aren't on the tourist's route.
I already booked my flight into and out of BCN for 12/18-1/14. I am not sure whether extra time should be spread out among each city or concentrated in one (either Barcelona or Sevilla). I am also not sure if 3 nights in Madrid is too much for me.
Barcelona - 7 nights --- flight arrive 11:am 12/18, flight depart 4:30pm 12/25
Granada - 4 nights --- arrive 6pm 12/25, depart morning 12/29
Sevilla - 9 nights --- arrive 12/29, depart morning 1/7 --- included day trips to Ronda and/or White Hill Towns
Cordoba - 2 nights --- arrive 1/7, depart morning 1/9
Madrid - 3 nights --- arrive 1/9, depart 1/12
Barcelona - 1 night* --- arrive 1/13, flight depart 11am 1/14

Posted by
2150 posts

Sounds like you’re in for a great trip!

A few thoughts:
-There isn’t much time in Madrid, and it’s a big, contemporary city with lots going on.
-There won’t be much going on anywhere on the holiday days, including 1/6. Just keep that in mind as you plan.
-I’ve always found the people in Spain to be warm and welcoming, but it could be tough to make social connections with local peers on this trip. You just aren’t in any one place for very long, and even if you were, don’t you have insider access (for lack of a better term.). Very likely you could meet lots of other travelers from all over, which can be great—but not a reinforcer for your language skills.

Have you traveled solo before? For such a length of time?

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you for the quick reply!
Good to know about Madrid, which city should I shorten if I were to add more time?
I definitely realize I won't be fluent in one month, but hopefully, I can improve my skills a lot by speaking in Spanish to others as much as I can.
And no, I haven't traveled solo before, but what better way than to jump right in!

Posted by
7175 posts

I’d ditch the flight from Barcelona to Granada, and look at a stand alone stay in Ronda.

18 Dec. Arrive 11am Barcelona - 3 nights
21 Dec. Train via Madrid to Ronda - 3 nights
24 Dec. Train via Cordoba to Sevilla - 6 nights
30 Dec. Train to Cordoba - 3 nights
2 Jan. Train to Granada - 3 nights

5 Jan. Train via Cordoba to Madrid - 4 nights

9 Jan. Train to Barcelona - 5 nights
14 Jan. Flight departs 11am

Posted by
2150 posts

To give more time to Madrid I'd slim down my stays in Sevilla. Maybe just three nights in Granada.

Another possibility is for you to loosen your plans and play things by ear—to a certain extent. When I was your age I'd travel with "landing plans", then figure things out from there—I still do that sometimes. I would want to have accomidation sorted for the three holiday nights. And long-distance trains might get expensive at short notice, or even sell out, but the extensive bus networks would offer plenty of options.

Posted by
5 posts

Your itinerary seems fairly similar to mine in terms of number of nights in each citiy/town, though I'm wondering why put Ronda, Seville, Granada, then Cordoba. It seems like that would cause a lot of switch backing across the country. At least on the map I am looking it, I would think it makes sense to go to Granada, Ronda, Seville, and then Cordoba before continuing to Madrid.

What site have you found the easiest time booking train tickets with? And which trains are the most cost-effective without being too long of a ride?

Posted by
25578 posts

Due to the way the high-speed rail lines are laid out, a traveler is likely to pass through Cordoba between Madrid and Seville, between Madrid and Granada and between Seville and Granada. Therefore, it doesn't necessarily matter where you slot Cordoba.

There are not a lot of fast trains serving Granada, so it's smart to figure out the travel legs in and out of that city early on. That might affect how you handle Cordoba.

Posted by
10 posts

We are flying into Barcelona and out of Madrid to save a trip back to Barcelona.
Maybe you could change your ticket?

Posted by
5 posts

Casey & Phil,
I am fortunate that my father has a lot of miles saved up from work and was willing to put them towards my trip. The cheapest deal we were able to get through his company was in an out of BCN.

Posted by
5 posts

Good to know about the trains. Do you find that it is worth paying for high speed trains to save time? Or does a certain train line have more flexible tickets?

Posted by
6399 posts

. Do you find that it is worth paying for high speed trains to save time? Or does a certain train line have more flexible tickets?

In Spain, you usually do not have much of a choice. Conventional railways are MUCH slower and often have very few daily trains, so you have to use the high-speed trains. As an example, Madrid to Barcelona takes 8-9 hours by conventional rail vs. 2.5 by high-speed rail!
The two exceptions are Sevilla to Córdoba, where you have several regional trains taking 1.5 hours instead of 45 minutes (but then, you usually have some same-day or next-day availability on the "Avant" high-speed trains), and Granada to Sevilla, where the bus is a very viable option (main bus company is Alsa).

Posted by
7175 posts

The order you might settle on depends on a few things
• Where you want to spend Xmas & New Year
• If you prefer direct trains or don’t mind a connection
• If you prefer high speed services or don't mind slower local trains

This is certainly a more logical order, and takes advantage of the direct service from Barcelona to Granada.

18 Dec. Arrive 11am Barcelona - 3 nights
21 Dec. Train direct to Granada - 3 nights
24 Dec. Train (via Antequera) to Ronda - 3 nights
27 Dec. Train (via Antequera) to Sevilla - 6 nights
2 Jan. Train direct to Cordoba - 3 nights

5 Jan. Train direct to Madrid - 4 nights

9 Jan. Train direct to Barcelona - 5 nights
14 Jan. Flight departs 11am