Please sign in to post.

Andalucia in the winter

After months of planning, waiting, watching, we have taken the plunge and purchased tickets for Spain, departing Dec 26 and returning Jan 8. We will travel to Toledo (3N), Granada (4N, including New Year's Eve), and Cadiz (4N), before returning to Madrid (1N) and the flight home (could not get open jaw tickets out of anywhere in southern Spain for less than $900 pp additional, ugh). We will not have a car.

We are 2 families traveling together, 6 kids ages 15 to 26, plus parents, 10 people total. My family has been to Spain before, always in the spring (myself several times); the other family has traveled to Europe but not to Spain. We are slow movers as a group and like eating, relaxing, culture immersion, history, music, photography, architecture, walking/nature. We are not museum lovers, unless for short, targeted visits. We have vacationed together as a group several times before and are very happy splitting off to do different activities. My 15-year-old son is mildly disabled and travels distances in a stroller, so if there is something folks want to do that is very active, we will split up the group and do the activity in a couple of rounds, with the other half finding something enjoyable that my son can handle.

I'm looking for some recommendations for things we can enjoy during the winter season -- and over the New Year holiday (yes, we will have our grapes ready!) -- plus sights and experiences that might be in addition to the first-tier tourist destinations. My family has spent time in Toledo and Granada previously, and they are two cities that we love. We hope to immerse even more into both places on this trip; do you have suggestions for things to do that are more off the beaten path?

Cadiz will be new for all of us; I have a list of day trip options (Sevilla, Jerez, Gibraltar), but I would love some recommendations for places to go and see within Cadiz itself.

Although we will not have a car for this trip, we are open to hiring a private transfer to get somewhere that might be underserved by public transportation. We've found it can be pretty reasonable cost-wise given how many people we have in our group. So, I would welcome recommendations for places we can day trip from our base cities via a car as well as just taking the train or a bus.

Thank you for any and all suggestions!

Posted by
6854 posts

I would do Malaga (if you have not already) for 4 nights over Cadiz. There seemed to be more there than in Cadiz and it is a short ride from Granada and closer to Gibraltar. Also I found the beach area (though the water is too cold that time of year) in Malaga is more attractive than the one in Cadiz.

We went to 3 Kings Day Parade in Malaga. It is always held on January 6.
https://www.guidetomalaga.com/events-in-malaga/christmas-in-malaga/three-kings-parade-in-malaga/

We went to Cadiz on New Years Day 2019. It was pretty quiet there 70 degrees and sunny and we had a bottle of Rioja watching the sunset over the Atlantic at the beach there. However, I can't see spending 4 nights there. I may be wrong but it looked like the businesses there rely on cruise ship tourists and close over the holidays when no ships are coming in.

Posted by
405 posts

Thanks, Jazz, for the recommendation and the insight. I had figured Cadiz would be pretty low-key that time of year, and we’re OK with that. I’m thinking we’ll be doing a few trips outside of Cadiz, and our time in town will be fairly relaxed. This is a group that would happily spend all afternoon with a picnic at the beach. Coming from Vermont, just the warm weather and sunshine in January will be a thrill!

I’ve been to Malaga before and didn’t love it, but I know others do. I appreciate the suggestion.

Posted by
19162 posts

I'd definitely base in Seville rather than Cadiz. Cadiz is fine as a sightseeing destination, but 4 nights would be a long time there, whereas Seville is much larger with more to see. In addition, Seville is day-trip distance from Cordoba.

Posted by
405 posts

Thanks, acraven. I’ve been to Sevilla multiple times, most recently with the entire family, and none of us really wants to go back to stay. It just didn’t grab us, although you are right, there are plenty of sights to see. So we’ll keep it on our day trip list for this vacation, and if the other family loves it, they can return on another trip. But thank you for the suggestion!

Depending on train schedules, we are planning to stop in Cordoba either on the way to Granada or on the way back to Madrid.

Posted by
160 posts

Hi Deb. I am a little surprised at the thumbs down on Cadiz. We spent a few days there a few years ago. We had planned it as a one night stop and ended up adding a night. We thought the city was lovely, laid back and walkable. We though the beaches were wonderful. We are from NH, where the beaches are really nice but not California or Florida nice. The idea that there were little places selling coffee right on the beach was amazing. And the places on the walkway (for lack of a better word) offered fast tasty food and adult libations to toast the sunset.

We didn't like Seville nearly as much as people here do. In fact, we cut our time short in Seville to move on to Cadiz. In Cadiz we enjoyed the Mercado Central, the Gadir Arceological site, the Cathedral is pretty nice and just walking along the ramparts is pleasant. A nice way to go to the nearby El Puerto de Santa Maria is by ferry. These catamarans run almost every 30 minutes. They bring you to El Puerto de Santa Maria in 40 minutes for less than €2 per person one-way. It looked like fun but we just never had the time. Enjoy. Kathy

Posted by
1275 posts

We've spent a couple of long weekends in Cadiz and think it is delightful. Surely, it doesn't have the "wow" sights of some cities in Andalucia, but it is a great place to potter about and do a bit of gentle sightseeing. As well as the places mentioned by Kate, I'd add the island fortress of San Sebastian and the Roman theatre ruins.

I think Gibraltar might be too far for a day-trip, but Jerez is practical.

Never been in January - it might be pleasant weather, but it could be bracing off the Atlantic. All the more reason to find a restaurant for a long lunch.

Posted by
405 posts

Kathy and Nick, thank you both for the excellent suggestions!

Posted by
3304 posts

About Cádiz. I used to live across the bay from it in Rota. Since much in that area is tourist dependent, many of the smaller towns are pretty much closed down after late September. By that I mean a number of shops and a most of the restaurants will be closed. As Cádiz is larger, and an actual city, it won’t be affected as much as where I lived, but expect there will be fewer restaurants to choose from. Also, when the wind is blowing it can get chilly at night. I doubt you’ll spend much time even walking on the beaches. Other than the cathedral that is in a continual state of preservation due to the manner in which it was constructed, the castle, and a park, I don’t think it has much to offer. To me, one full day there is sufficient, but others think differently. Try and find out what activities will be occurring on January 6, Three Kings Day, in whichever town you’ll be in.

Posted by
3 posts

I am following this thread as I am also planning a trip around the same time. I have decided on Tarifa and Sevilla. I hope the ferry to Morocco is open by December as we plan to do a day trip to Tangier. We are headed out December 26 (arriving on the 27th). 12/27 to 1/2 in Tarifa (I will be renting a car - and plan on exploring the southern coast). Then back to Sevilla until 1/5.

Looking forward to reading more suggestions!

Posted by
19162 posts

My suggestion would be to drop Tangier and use the extra time in Spain. I also think you've got an awful lot of time in Tarifa. I like cute little towns at least as much as the next person, but you must be very selective in southern Spain to avoid a steady diet of British pubs and German sausage joints. (Unlike Americans, Germans and the British have a hard time finding sunny weather at home.) Even if you have done excellent research, I find the fifth (sixth, seventh, etc.) little village doesn't have nearly the same impact as the first.

Posted by
2080 posts

I did not get to it when I was in Cadiz, but I would like to return one day and explore Donana National Park. In winter, the birding should be spectacular. I just did a random search and found this resource for 4x4 tours, something that sounds like it would be accessible to all. (You have to use tours, no private cars allowed.)

Posted by
405 posts

Jaime, we will be in Cadiz on Jan 6, but could easily travel to Sevilla or Jerez for the day. I’ll check out the festivity schedule once we get closer to the date. Thanks for the recommendation.

valadelphia, the park excursion sounds wonderful. I’ll investigate. Thank you!

Posted by
3154 posts

@antnali
I have heard Tangier likened to Tijuana; i.e., an unpleasant border town, rife with unsavory establishments and people. I like to make every day of my trip count. I wouldn’t waste one on such a place.

Posted by
33 posts

I don't have any advice to add but just reading this thread and getting some ideas. Sounds like a wonderful trip! We are planning to visit Madrid/Seville/Granada end of December but worried that Spain will shut down in the winter. Someone on my thread mentioned the possibility of that happening. Do you any concerns about that? What are your thoughts? I was thinking I'll go ahead and book and hope for the best!
From Chicago
Grace

Posted by
405 posts

Grace, all of our reservations (including airfare) are cancelable or changeable.

I don't think anyone can predict for certain what will happen over the next few months, but I am hopeful that Spain's continued vaccine rollout will stabilize their current rising numbers. The good news is that hospitalizations remain low:

https://apnews.com/article/europe-business-lifestyle-health-travel-79cac2e505903e6056685bb922a8eaab

And there does seem to be a trend in Europe of setting policy based not just on rising case numbers, but rather on an overall assessment of the health system. I think this bodes well for future tourism, as long as the vaccines continue to go into arms and do their job at preventing severe illness:

https://apnews.com/article/europe-science-health-germany-coronavirus-pandemic-03f3f10ab449955c4d363e2c301f56b3

https://apnews.com/article/europe-business-health-government-and-politics-coronavirus-pandemic-3776cfdb1c180720b9ea000a2c65618b

So, I am fully aware that our trip may need to be rescheduled, but right now, I think we have a decent chance of traveling in December.

One note: I have noticed that lodgings are filling up. I periodically search to see if something more wonderful than our existing reservations has become available, but I am finding the opposite. There are far fewer choices than when I booked our apartments back in May. So, if I were you, I would go ahead and make reservations now, but make sure that they are flexible in case you need to postpone or cancel.

Posted by
3154 posts

At that time of year, I don’t think you need to worry about not finding lodgings. Just don’t make any non-refundable reservations.

Posted by
1832 posts

Hi Deb, I don’t have any input on your question since I have never been to Spain, but just wanted to say I loved your previous TR on Spain and look forward to the next one. I hope you get to make your trip!