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Advice on Southern Spain Itinerary

Hello Fellow Travelers! I am a 35-year-old female planning a solo trip to Spain this May and would love to get your thoughts on my proposed itinerary.
This will be my first trip to Spain. I will be there for 14 days "on the ground". I have traveled solo to Europe several times and have found that I enjoy small towns more than big cities. For this reason and geographical distance, I have eliminated Barcelona and decided to focus on southern Spain.

I like "experiences", a little art, castles and things like country-side small group tours, that kind of thing. However, I am comfortable navigating public transportation on my own. I tend to move quickly, have good endurance and mobility, but don't want to shortchange something important. Due to a medical condition, I can't drive so I need to rely on public transportation. I got a great deal on a flight, so I will be flying in and out of Madrid. I would really appreciate your thoughts and recommendations on my itinerary. Also, any suggestions for wonderful "experiences" classes, visits to vineyards, that kind of thing would be much appreciated! Here we go:

Wednesday, May 6 – Arrive Madrid 11:45 am, City tour of Madrid
Thursday, May 7 – Madrid
Friday, May 8 – Day trip to Toledo, Madrid
Saturday, May 9 – Fly to Granada, 1 hour, Granada
Sunday, May 10 – Granada (patio festival and Alhambra)
Monday, May 11 – Train to Ronda, 3.5 hours, Ronda, (afternoon vineyard activity and walking tour of Ronda)
Tuesday, May 12 – Hilltowns small-group tour, Ronda
Wednesday, May 13 – Train to Sevilla 3 hours, Sevilla
Thursday, May 14 – Sevilla
Friday, May 15 – Day trip to Cordoba, Sevilla
Saturday, May 16 – Sevilla
Sunday, May 17 – Day trip to Tangier, Sevilla
Monday, May 18 - ???
Tuesday, May 19 Train to Madrid 2.5 hours, Madrid
Wednesday, May 20 – Depart Madrid 11:15am
Madrid – 2.5
Toledo – Day trip
Granada – 1.5
Ronda – .5
Hilltowns – Day trip
Sevilla – 2.5
Cordoba – Day trip
Tangier – Day trip
Should I add an extra day to an existing location?
Should I add a day trip to Carmona from Sevilla?
Should I add a day trip to Salamanca or Segovia or somewhere else from Madrid?
Thank you so much for your advice!

Posted by
2527 posts

One very important thing you need to do now - drop Tangier, daytriping there from Sevilla is simply impractical, that should give you more wiggle room to add more time to other cities you will be visiting. You could also drop flying from Madrid to Granada, no need to, now there is highspeed rail between the two. In general I see a few inefficiencies with this draft, I think you could do better and streamline it, to minimize travel time and maximize actual sightseeing time.

With 14 nights I'd rearrange in the following manner:

Fly in to Madrid
Madrid (3 nights) - day trip to Toledo
AVE highspeed train to
Cordoba (2 nights) - see patios/flowers
AVE highspeed train to
Granada (3 nights) - Jaen olive oil tour
ALSA Bus to
Ronda (1 night)
ALSA Bus to
Sevilla (4 nights) - day trip to Cadiz or Sherry tour of Jerez
AVE train to
Madrid (1 night)
Fly out of Madrid

Hope this helps :)

Posted by
20868 posts

I like Carlos's ideas and agree that the most important is to drop Tangier. It's not a good introduction to Morocco and is too far from Seville in any case. There are flights to some very worthwhile Moroccan destinations (like Fes and Marrakech) from cities in Europe, so you can incorporate Morocco into a later trip without too much difficulty.

From what city are you thinking of taking a hill-town daytrip? I looked for one (on the Internet) before my April 2019 trip to Andalucía, and all I found was one-day trips from Seville that included Ronda. I wanted more time than that in Ronda and was planning to spend at least 2 nights there, so I didn't want to pay for a tour that would devote so little time to the smaller towns. There could be a hill-town tour that I didn't uncover, of course.

Always add as many days to a trip as you can. As you continue your pre-trip research, you will inevitably uncover additional things you'd like to do and places you'd like to go. Places where you could use extra time (based on your original itinerary, not Carlos's day counts):

  • Toledo: 2 nights there instead of a day-trip
  • Cordoba: 2 nights there instead of a day-trip (or 3 nights for the May 4 - 17 Courtyard Festival)
  • Granada: 3 nights there instead of 2; there's more to see than the Alhambra, and it can take a good chunk of a day. I'm not aware of a Patio Festival in Granada.
  • Segovia: day-trip from Madrid
  • Salamanca: day-trip from Madrid (but note this is 3+ hours RT on the train; worth an overnight stay)
  • Cuenca: day-trip from Madrid or 1 night (expensive rail ticket if not purchased early enough for Promo fare)

I liked Carmona but would tend to rank it behind the above options. However, if you are unable to figure out a way--within the time you have available--to get to the white villages farther south, Carmona is an easier option.

There are other interesting places in Andalucía (Ubeda, Baeza, Cadiz, Malaga, etc.) if you are in a position to add more time.

It can get quite hot in Andalucía in May. Granada is a bit higher so should be cooler than Seville and Cordoba. I'd tend to put Seville as early in the trip and Granada as close to the end of the trip as I could, consistent with not missing the Patio Festival in Cordoba.

Alhambra tickets for May will probably go on sale at the beginning of February. Some days may sell out rather quickly. (It's my impression that weekend days tend to go first, but if there's a holiday, that could change things.) It's difficult to get an early-morning entry time (I think the tour companies snap them up), but the time refers to when you can enter the Nasrid Palaces. You can go earlier in the day and see other parts of the complex, then head to the Palaces in time to hit your entry window.

Posted by
796 posts

I agree with Carlos and acraven that you should spend 2 nights in Cordoba. It's a lovely city with many wonderful and important sites. The Mezquita is amazing; we loved the Alcazar gardens; Palacio di Viana is a hidden gem; and we loved strolling across the Roman Bridge at night. The Juderia is wonderful with its narrow lanes, white-washed buildings, patios and flowers. A two-night visit is more rewarding and satisfying than a daytrip.

I feel the same way about Toledo, too. So I agree with acraven that you should spend 2 nights there; if you don't have time for 2 nights, then at least 1 night. Toledo is very popular and very crowded during the day with tour buses; it is so peaceful and beautiful at night.

IMO, I would spend 4 nights in Seville without taking any day trips. Of course, you could decide when you are there if you have time for a day trip. Seville is a beautiful city with many historical and cultural sites, so IMO, you need 3 full days to see Seville.

I haven't been to the hill towns, so can't really comment. However, when I was planning our trip, I realized Ronda and the other hill towns are considered secondary sites to everywhere else on your itinerary. But here is a possible itinerary:

Madrid - 3 nights
Toledo - 1 or 2 nights
Cordoba - 2 nights
Granada - 2 or 3 nights
Sevilla - 4 nights
Madrid - 1 night

BTW, we used the ALSA bus twice on our trip, and I highly recommend them if the train schedule doesn't work out for you. The buses are clean, modern, comfortable, and air-conditioned.

Regarding the Alhambra, we were able to get an 8:30AM entry time to the Nasrid Palaces. This was September 2017. So, if they are available, get tickets for the morning. I think it's better to see the Nasrid Palace first, then see the rest of the Alhambra. The disadvantage to getting later tickets for the Nasrid Palace is that you will be constantly checking the time while you are visiting the other Alhambra sites to make sure you don't miss your Nasrid Palace entry time. At least, that is what I would be doing, and I would feel a bit stressed and not relaxed.