Hi. I am planning a week in Spain early April. We will be coming from a week in Lisbon and will fly out from Barcelona. Do not want to spend any days there this trip. My daughter just spent 2 weeks in Sevilla so we don’t need to focus on there. We want to see the Alhambra of course and she wants to do some beach time in Malaga. What would you suggest? Thanks!
Will you be traveling in Andalucia during the Semana Santa Holiday (April 5th to 13th)?
We did not buy plane tickets yet but hope to fly home on April 7. That’s a good date for a low fare. Thanks
Easter is April 12. The week before Easter is Holy Week/Semana Santa. Semana Santa is a Very Big Deal in Andalucía, and April is a nice time to be in Andalucía from the standpoint of weather. That means demand is very high. It is practically March. Therefore, you are highly unlikely to find lodging bargains anywhere, and there may be an issue with the flight from Lisbon to Spain.
I'd start by checking flight options on Skyscanner.com. See what's available into Malaga, Granada, Seville or (less convenient) Madrid for the day you'll want to travel. That will affect your order of travel.
All General tickets to the Alhambra are sold out from now through April 19. The next-cheapest option is the Dobla de Oro tickets that cover some additional sights and cost not too much more. They are sold out for April 4 - 19, so I suspect you're out of luck there. If you can make it to Granada during the April 1 - 3 period and buy quickly, you'll be in good shape. The website is here: https://tickets.alhambra-patronato.es/en/tickets-dobla-de-oro-general/.
Another option is the Granada Card: more coverage (including some transportation) and more expensive. Sometimes the Granada Card ticket allocation for the Alhambra is slow to sell out, so it's sort of a back-door option. Here's the Granada Card website. There's better luck here; I checked 4 dates (April 4 - 7) and found tickets available for at least a few time slots each day; the time slot is for entry to the Nasrid Palaces; you can see other parts of the complex before or after. However, there's often just one ticket available, which wouldn't be ideal in your situation. But this is an option if you can get your flight and hotel bookings worked out quickly.
Yet another option is to see whether your Granada hotel can supply tickets; hotels often buy tickets for their clients--that's one reason the tickets sell out so early. Take advantage of that by checking.
Finally, there are commercial tours. I don't consider that a good way to see the Alhambra, because it will not allow you to move at your own pace. Since several areas are single-entry-only, you will not be able to return to them after your tour ends if you want more time there. Be sure that any tour you're considering includes the Nasrid Palaces. That's the tough one, and some tour companies will sell you an Alhambra tour that omits the Nasrid Palaces.
For hotels I'd suggest using a website like booking.com. If you find a possibility and can book it with free cancellation for awhile, grab it and then ask here if you have any doubts. If you ask here first, the room may be gone by the time you get an answer.
Suggested number of nights for key places:
Cordoba: 2 or (better) 3
Granada: 3 (especially if you have the Granada Card)
Malaga: whatever you have left; if that's a good bit of time, ask here about Ronda and the white villages.
Granada and Cordoba are wonderful. But, if your daughter spent a lot of time in Sevilla she probably visited a Córdoba already. What about doing beach time in Algarve, Portugal?
She was in a language program and did not get to see much outside of Sevilla. She says it’s harder to travel down to the beach in Portugal. I have not looked into that yet. Thanks
Ok great, if you leave around the 7th, that means for the most part, you will not have to deal with extra crowds and high prices of travel during Semana Sanata!
Now while you have and will get great suggestions for destinations in Andalucia, may I be so bold as to make a completely unique suggestion... why not try the undiscovered Spanish region of Extremadura instead? It's conveniently right on the border with Portugal to the west and Andalucia to the north.
Extremadura is a land of time warped Crusader Castles, Moorish Strongholds, Royal Monasteries, and impressive Roman Ruins. The home of Infamous Conquistadors and Holy Roman Emperors, more importantly it's also home to the best quality of Jamon Iberico in all Spain! So why not give the unknown adventure of Extremadura a try?
Been to Malaga and Costa del Sol. Not impressed at all with the beaches there. We have better beaches in Florida, the Gulf and the Caribbean.
It seems unlikely that early April would be beach weather in terms of actually going into the water, so the beaches at least shouldn't be crowded.
The recommendation for Extremadura is very worthy of consideration as you travel from Portugal into Spain. Look into the Cáceres, Trujillo, Guadalupe, Mérida. If you are keen on Andalucia, north of Granada are the two beautiful small neighboring towns of Baeza and Úbeda. Both are very picturesque, full of narrow old streets and alleyways great for wandering and exploring and very scenic views over the Guadalquivir Valley filled with millions of olive trees. I like Malaga and its sites and have been there three times but was not impressed with the beach. There is currently a thread on the Spain forum filled with good suggestions for beach towns nearer to Barcelona since that is your point of return. Take a look at it for beach alternatives.
Will you be traveling by bus, train, or rental car? At that time of year most of the beach towns will be essentially shut down and won’t begin opening up until May. I’m not a Malaga fan and generally don’t go to beaches by large cities. Extremadura isn’t on most tourists’ radar so if you want to avoid them, it’s a great place to visit.
We would travel by train and bus and fly most likely from Lisbon to the First Spanish destination. I have never driven in Europe before. It seems we should skip the beach on this trip from the responses received. My daughter said she wouldn’t mind going back to Sevilla for a few days. I have never been there. Thanks everyone for the information so far!
If you haven’t been to Seville, I think it’s a great idea to go there since you daughter doesn’t mind returning there for a few days. Seville is a gorgeous city with many important historical sites and beautiful parks, plazas, and fountains. If your daughter agrees, I would spend 4 nights in Seville. If she doesn’t want to spend 4 nights because she was there already for 2 weeks, then 2 or 3 nights is okay. Seville is considered the queen of Andalusia.
I would spend a minimum of 2 nights in Granada to visit the Alhambra. I recommend the night tour as well as the day time tour. The Alhambra is magnificent!
If you have time, I also suggest visiting Malaga for 2 nights. As other people have mentioned, early April is not beach season. However, Malaga gives you some nice coastal ambience, and I think it’s an under-rated city. We enjoyed it so much more than we thought we would. The pedestrianized city center is gorgeous; there is a lovely cathedral, many small museums, and a lovely port-side promenade. We loved walking uphill through the ruins of the Alcazaba, with its lush greenery, pretty flowers, small patios, fountains and spectacular views of the Mediterranean.
I just noticed you don’t mention Córdoba. As much as I like Malaga, I would choose Córdoba over Malaga if you don’t have the time to see both. Staying overnight in Córdoba is better than seeing it as a day trip, but seeing Córdoba as a day trip is better than not seeing it at all. Córdoba has the magnificent Mezquita, Alcazar, Palacio de Viana (a hidden gem), Roman Bridge, and the evocative Juderia with its narrow lanes, white-washed buildings, patios and flower pots.
Thanks so much for the thoughtful responses everyone!!