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April route advice...

Our tickets (3) have been booked: Atlanta-Madrid-Atlanta April 13-26. Now, I'm focusing on our route. As several postings have suggested, we're thinking of flying directly to Granada after landing in Madrid. After that, we plan to travel by train the rest of the way. The tentative itinerary is:

Granada 3 nights
Cordoba 2
Sevilla 3
Toledo 1
Madrid 3

After looking at everyone else's postings/itineraries, I wonder if there's any advantage/efficiency to going to Sevilla after Granada, and Cordoba after Sevilla? Any downside to our sticking to our original plan---Granada-Cordoba-Sevilla?

I'm traveling with my twenty-something niece and nephew. Any tips on lodging that comfortably accommodates 3 people. Was hoping not to have to get two hotel rooms, but don't want to be crammed. Will opt for whatever is comfortable for all.

My niece would like to include experience(s) that involve learning about a local product, e.g. olive oil, the making of cheese, wine, etc. Any particular recommendations?

Thank you.

I just checked on Flights from Madrid to Granada and there is nothing convenient. The ALSA Premium bus service picks up at the Madrid airport and seems to be a good price. The trip is 5 hours and would get us to Granada by early evening. Would get to see the countryside... Anyone have experience with ALSA and/or recommendations about taking the bus?

Posted by
11798 posts

Your itinerary makes much more sense as fly directly into Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Toledo and (fly home from) Madrid. Or the opposite. In this case I'd do the opposite so you can take advantage of April Fair in Sevilla (21-26 April in 2015). Booked tickets aren't an issue, just add a short hop on Vueling Airlines from Madrid to Granada (or if you follow my recommendation, into Barcelona and back from Granada).

Three nights in Granada is a good choice. Because of the Fair, three nights in Seville is also a good choice (I'd recommend two nights on a short itinerary outside of Semana Santa or the Fair). Cordoba really only needs one night and can be reduced to a day stop between Seville and Toledo on a short itinerary. Toledo, however, is worth spending a couple nights.

Madrid, IMO, is the least interesting place (and tied for most expensive with Barcelona) in Spain. Other than the outstanding Prado gallery, I could completely skip Madrid. I'd happily trade any days in Madrid for days in Barcelona and fly into (or home from) there.

The train from Barcelona, Seville/Cordoba, and Toledo all connect at Atocha station in Madrid (a short walk from the Prado). Regardless of which way you're going, you will backtrack from Toledo to Atocha to make your connection going toward Cordoba/Seville or Barcelona.

I'll get beat up for denigrating Madrid so a short explanation. I like history. My favorite part of any city is the medieval quarter. Madrid was made the capital of Spain very late. My problem isn't that Madrid is horrible, just that it doesn't have the history that is my favorite part of any European, and every other Spanish, city.

I did a trip report on our trip to Spain. It doesn't show on this site anymore but if you Google "Spain clean toilets affordable lodging" it comes right up. Sorry for the name, it's a lot of short entries that touch on many things that may be helpful for your trip.

Posted by
11798 posts

My experience traveling in an odd group (anything other than a couple) is that it's best to call hotels directly. Online booking doesn't do well with other than standard rooms. Tell them what your group is and what you need (Myself, my twenty-something niece and nephew need lodging for three nights). Let them offer what they think will work best. If it sounds suitable, ask how much it will cost. If that sounds reasonable, book it. I've traveled with spouse and three kids on a couple of trips and been given variations of two hotel rooms, apartments, and suites - since I asked the price before booking, all at very reasonable prices.

Posted by
7124 posts

Gee I don't think I would fancy 5+ hours on a bus straight after getting off a Trans Atlantic flight.
The scenery of central Spain (La Mancha) whilst alluring can be fairly monotonous.
Iberia offer 5 direct flights Madrid-Granada with an even spread throughout the day.
Sevilla-Cordoba-Madrid is the most efficient routing accounting for train speed and frequency.
Perhaps only 1 night in Cordoba and a 1 night stop in Ronda, between Granada and Sevilla.

Posted by
16817 posts

From Granada, I enjoyed this 3-hour olive oil farm tour and tasting: http://www.oliveoiltour.com/tours/. Perhaps half of Rick's hotel listings include triple rooms, but you do still have to confirm or specify that you need three separate beds.

Posted by
17 posts

Many thanks to each of you who replied. Your suggestions are helping me firm up the itinerary.

My air tickets were obtained using miles, so we are booked for roundtrip Madrid (4/13-26). Barcelona will have to wait for another trip if we are to cover the other places without rushing---and we do want to spend time in Madrid.

Laura: Thanks for the wonderful tip on the olive oil side trip. I definitely hope to include it while we are in Granada.

Brad: I enjoyed reading your trip report and chuckled at the more humorous remarks. (I speak Spanish, so your comments on pronunciation were particularly funny.) I'm also keeping your recommendations in mind as I try to firm up the itinerary, particularly ensuring that we're in Sevilla for at least a few days of the Feria. That is playing havoc in terms of trying to do the route Granada-Sevilla-Cordoba-Toledo-Madrid, but I continue to work on it!

In order to catch a few days (4/20-23) of the Feria in Sevilla, cover the other territory and still get back to Madrid for take-off on the 26th, I've come up with the following itinerary and welcome comments:

April 14: Arrive Madrid (AM).
15: Madrid.
16: Toledo (overnight).
17: Return to Madrid for same day flight to Granada.
18 & 19: Granada.
20: Train to Sevilla. (Or might try to make an overnight in Ronda and head to Sevilla on the 21, but am trying not to rush.)
21, 22, 23: Sevilla.
24: Train to Cordoba (overnight).
25: Return to Madrid.
26: Flight home.

Am very much still open to ideas for possible revisions!

Thanks, again, to everyone for the helpful comments. I may bug you again with a few more questions as I dig deeper into planning! However, I'm hoping to settle on a route soon so we can book the train tickets, Alhambra entry tickets, and side tours.

Posted by
7124 posts

I like it !!
I think this will flow with ease and you will have a fantastic time.
Buen viaje. Enjoy !!

Posted by
14227 posts

Your revised itinerary: Flight to Granada. I looked on rome2rio.com and they estimate 4.5 hours flying or by train. If you fly, you have to get to/from the airports, check luggage, wait for it at the other end, security, etc. From Toledo you are already at the train station, just get on the train to Granada with your luggage. From the Granada train station, it's a short taxi ride to the historic center. The train will be so much more comfortable and hassle-free, and it's probably going to be cheaper.

Since you land at Madrid in the morning, you could continue on to Toledo that day - it's a 1/2 hour train ride, trains about once an hour. Then spend consecutive nights in Madrid at the end of your trip. I agree that skipping Ronda is better with this itinerary. You could stay 2 nights in Cordoba. Unlike Brad (I do agree with most of his impressions of Andalusia), I really liked Cordoba in the evenings. You can see most of the sights in one full day, so you could take a late afternoon train from Sevilla on the 23rd, then an early train to Madrid on the 25th. The Royal Horse Stables have evening shows, something else that is special in Spain.

From Sevilla, you could day trip to Jerez by train and take a tour of a bodega to learn about sherry-making.

Posted by
80 posts

I studied abroad in Sevilla and you'll be lucky to be there during Feria! It really is a wonderful time in the city. If you are there for 3 night and decide that you want to take a day trip, I highly recommend taking a bus to Ronda. It's about a 2-hour bus ride from Sevilla (buses go there from Sevilla several times a day) and it's a beautiful little town that I went to 3 times while I was there.

Posted by
17 posts

You folks are so helpful! Thank you.

Alyssa: Thanks for the tip re the easy daytime visit to Ronda from Sevilla. Will consider it based on how our time goes in Sevilla or, in other words, how much my niece and nephew are enjoying their time at the Feria!

Chani: I had the horse show on my list of potential activities--thank you. Thanks, too, for pointing out the ease of a possible day trip to Jerez. Am not sure if I understood you clearly with regard to the overall trip routing. I will check the schedule to see if a train goes directly from Toledo to Granada--- without having to go to Madrid first. Of course, even if one has to return to Madrid from Toledo to switch trains for Granada, it still might be easier than going the airport route. I will definitely look into it. I see two drawbacks about your suggestion to leave Madrid until the end of the trip. While it appeals to me, it would push back the dates we visit different cities resulting in our getting to Sevilla on the 18th, earlier than our plan of trying to time it closer to the Feria dates. An arrival on the 18th would result in our having to remain in Sevilla additional dates to enjoy the Feria and, after one night in Cordoba, end up with only a day and a half in Madrid---not enough. Maybe I misunderstood your suggestion...

djp_syd: Thank you for "blessing" my revised itinerary! I think it remains the most workable. However, I like Chani's suggestion of simply getting on the train to Granada in Toledo without returning to Madrid for a flight. I will explore that possibility.

Thanks, everyone!

Posted by
7124 posts

The train definitely to Granada from Madrid when you come in from Toledo.
I would only fly if it was a connection after your initial arrival in Spain.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks djp_syd. Am getting blurry-eyed looking at all the transportation schedules. Time for a break! Hope to settle route/trains/planes tomorrow.

Posted by
14227 posts

Don't panic, pupkastar. There are always options. From Granada take the train to Cordoba, spend your time there, then Sevilla, then Madrid. There are frequent trains from Cordoba to Sevilla all day, most take about 45 minutes. The train from Granada to Cordoba is .5-.75 hour less than the one to Sevilla, so it's not a major backtrack when you go on to Madrid. There's a train from Granada at 9.10 that gets to Cordoba at 11.31 (if the schedules don't change).

Posted by
17 posts

Chani: Thanks for the encouragement---and the train details! Have not yet had a chance to follow up today, but will be focused on the route plans again soon. By the way, you recommend 2 nights in Cordoba while Brad recommends 2 nights in Toledo. I can only do 2 nights in one of those places and 1 night in the other. As I read about both, it's hard to determine which one really merits two nights...

Will keep all posted once the grand plan is set!

Thanks again.

Posted by
17 posts

Have any of you used www.loco2.com to purchase train tickets? It is described as offering exactly the same deals as renfe.com, but with less hassle/difficulty. Anyone recommend it? Thanks.

Posted by
50 posts

I love that you are assuming that you will return to Spain to see Barcelona. Great attitude! With that said though, I would focus on south Spain for this time, which to me means add Ronda and save Toledo for that second trip.

Posted by
17 posts

Kathy: Thanks for your recommendation. I guess it's easy for me to say "save Barcelona for another trip" when I've been there before. It's my niece and nephew who are making this visit to Spain for the first time. While I have never been to Toledo before, I have been to Ronda and do like the idea of including it in this family trip. My problem of the moment is trying to book the various train routes. For some reason, Madrid to Granada does not seem to be available on the days I would like to travel. Same result with Madrid to Cordoba. Seems strange. I even tried other dates and keep getting a "no trains found for this day" response. I will keep plugging away! Thanks, again.

Posted by
17 posts

Hello dip-syd! I looked at the English version of renfe.com, but ran into the problem of there not being Madrid to Granada options for April 14. I had read a blog that recommended loco2.com as a reliable site that was connected to renfe, did not charge an additional fee, and accepted credit cards more easily than renfe. For that reason, I wanted to give it a try. The site is user-friendly, but I ran into the same problem of no options for trains from Madrid to Granada on April 14/15 at this time. I've contacted loco2.com for "help" and hope to hear from them tomorrow. Thanks for trying to be of help.

Posted by
7124 posts

Some time bookings only open 60 or 90 days before travel.
Try for a dummy date in the next few weeks (same day of week).

Posted by
17 posts

djp_syd: I heard back from loco2.com's help line. They indicate that renfe has been opening trains for reservations quite late. For example, bookings for travel as close as February 2 just opened a day or two ago. They are going to alert me as soon as the April 14 Madrid-Granada trains open for booking. I will still test the renfe reservation system per your suggestion. However, considering the circumstances, what do you think about my going ahead, taking a chance, and booking my hotels (especially the one for Sevilla during the Feria) without having my train bookings in hand? I'm only trying to book two train routes (Madrid to Granada and Sevilla to Madrid). I plan to go by bus from Granada to Cordoba and Cordoba to Sevilla. In case you are wondering why this particular route after all of our previous exchanges, this route allows us to be in Sevilla on the exact dates we'd like to attend the Feria, as well as allowing us to spend 3 nights in Madrid at the end of our trip.

Posted by
14227 posts

I think Renfe's gone wacko. They used to open reduced rate bookings 62 days in advance. When I started checking about 88 days in advance they were already on sale. By the time I gave up on using my credit card to buy and used PayPal - 85 days out - I'd already lost out on the cheapest ticket. But when I look at trains a week or two ahead, I see that a few of them are not yet open for booking at all.

For schedules, just use the day next week that corresponds to the day of the week that you are planning to travel. The schedules usually don't change.

Posted by
17 posts

Chani: I went back to looking at flights on the day we arrive in Madrid on to Granada, just to see what it would cost and if the timing was good. The one-way tickets per person are exorbitant ($244), but the round-trip is very good ($80)! Do you think there would be any problem if we bought the round-trip tickets and only used one way? I've never done that before...

Posted by
17 posts

Chani: I forgot to mention that the timing was great, too----only an hour flight time!

Posted by
7124 posts

Definitely book your hotels, perhaps at a slightly higher rate that will allow changes or cancellation.
Good luck with the trains - sounds very frustrating.

Posted by
17 posts

djp_syd: Thanks for the hotel booking advice. Any thoughts re buying a round-trip air ticket and only using one way in order to get a better price?

Posted by
40 posts

I am following this topic, my husband and I will be following a very simillar itinereary. I have a question regarding flights in Spain, we are considering landing in Barcellona staying 3 nights then flying to Sevella tourning the south and departing Madrid. My question is should we purchase our airplane tickets from Barcellona to Sevella in Spain or purchase now while we are in the US. Thank you all for your help.

Posted by
7124 posts

Sorry forgot the ticket enquiry.
Just be careful that an unused sector does not invalidate subsequent travel.
I have heard of this happening and would recommend checking with a travel agent or the airline.
However I guess this would only be an issue if your ticketing is done all as one by a single agent/airline.

And Eileen, if you are using a low cost carrier, like say Vueling, then book as far ahead as possible. Fares usually only go up.

Posted by
14227 posts

Chani: I forgot to mention that the timing was great, too----only an hour flight time!

Yes, the flight is short, but think about the total time door-to-door. From Toledo, you travel to the Madrid train station. So that's your starting point. By train to Granada, you are already in the station. By plane, you have to take the train to the airport, arrive in time to check in, check your luggage, go through security and get to the gate, probably 30 minutes or more before boarding. After you land, you have to wait for your luggage, then get from the airport to the city. The Granada train station is very close to the old town center, the airport, naturally, is not.

Usually a 4-5 hour train ride doesn't use up more time than a 1 hour flight because of all the additional time you need before and after the flight. It also costs more because of the additional transportation to/from the airports. Then there's just the hassle. The trains are comfortable and you can relax, walk around, stretch out, have a picnic meal.

Posted by
17 posts

Chani: I'm so sorry! I neglected to mention that my flight inquiry was based on our skipping Toledo and flying directly to Granada from the Madrid airport upon arrival from the USA. (In the end, going to Toledo for one night just didn't seem to work well; we wouldn't get there until mid-afternoon after a transatlantic flight and, then, we'd have to get up really early the next morning to get the train back to Madrid for the morning train to Granada---not worth it for this trip. And, without visiting Toledo, we'll be able to have at least 2 nights in each place without having to change hotels.) So, that 1-hour flight directly from the Madrid airport sounds really good to me. It's just the cost that is putting me off---and my hesitation to buy a much cheaper round-trip ticket only to use one-way. I guess it might not matter if I call to cancel the "return" flight once I'm in Granada...

djp_syd: The Madrid-Granada flight would be the only internal flight for us. Our mileage tickets from the States are on another airline. I'm going to do as you suggested and check with the airline....maybe they'll have a less expensive solution for us. More to come!

Posted by
17 posts

djp_syd and Chani: Progress! I called the airline and the agent said it was okay to buy the round-trip ticket and only use one-way! She acknowledged how much cheaper it was than buying a one-way ticket. I've booked our Madrid-Granada air tickets departing a couple of hours after our arrival in Madrid. Done! Now I can focus on Granada lodging, Alhambra entry tickets and the olive oil tour. Later: bus tickets to Cordoba and related bookings. Am so excited! I feel as though everything is falling into place. Thank you for all your advice. I appreciated the way you got back to me so quickly when I was stuck. I just might be back in touch on other issues but, for the moment, I have plenty of things to line up.

Posted by
17 posts

Back again....I've booked our hotel for Granada and an apartment for Sevilla, but I'm struggling with choosing a hotel for two nights in Cordoba. I found a lovely one, but it turned out to be too expensive (almost $450/night!!!), and reading reviews of hotels on Trip Advisor hasn't resulted in my identifying anything that seems both nice & affordable. Anyone have a favorite hotel in Cordoba, preferably in, or close to, the Old Quarter? Thanks.

Posted by
46 posts

Hello- I am doing a similar trip the month after you. I use the website "Venere.com" when I book hotels in Europe, with a cross-reference with TripAdvisor. In Cordoba we will be staying at Hotel Hacienda Posada de Vallina, which shows as being next to the Mesquita. This is the main sight we wish to visit on a short layover. I was able to purchase train tickets through the Loco2 website for two of the four train trips we need. I highly recommend this company. As mentioned above, Renfe has not opened trips yet between Cordoba- Granada nor (for us) Granada-Seville. The Loco2 website will alert you when your routes and dates open. Loco2 accepted U.S.A. credit cards, but it is an U.K. company so call your card's security dept. to alert them of your purchase. Have a great trip.

Posted by
17 posts

Hello, TimRumby! Thank you very much for your suggestions. I had not checked out venere.com during this process---will take a look. My big challenge seems to be in getting a room large enough for three individual beds. However, I've had luck with other cities on this trip---I just need to find the right place in Cordoba! I'm very much aware of loco2. They are very helpful indeed and are keeping me posted regarding train schedules. I will book through them as soon as I wrap up these other details. Thanks, again.

Posted by
7124 posts

I too have stayed at Hotel Hacienda Posada de Vallina and found it very reasonable and quite comfortable.
Location wise directly opposite the Mezquita it can't be beaten.

Posted by
55 posts

I have heard that RENFE is re-constructing new tracks and that train travel in and out of Granada will be suspended for 6 months beginning in March. I was planning to take a train to and from Grananda in June. Apparently, you can take a bus to the next stop and then catch the train from there.

Posted by
9 posts

TimRumby, when you used the Loco2 website to book train tickets, were you able to book your seats as well? I thought I read somewhere that the advantage to using Renfe was that you could book your car and seats. I was planning on booking my train tickets next week for a mid-April trip. I am nervous about using Renfe after reading all the challenges people have. It is the last major piece of planning that I have left and I am looking forward to getting it accomplished.

Posted by
17 posts

djp_syd: Thanks for your endorsement of La Posada de Vallina. I ended up getting a room with 3 twin beds at Las Casas de la Juderia. Let's hope it's just as nice as the experience of you and TimRumby at the Posada.

irby.susane: Thank you for sharing the news about trains in and out of Granada. I'm sure others would like to be aware of that situation. Luckily, I already booked bus tickets for the Granada-Cordoba part of our trip.

spillsbury42: Yes, you get your seat assignments when you book through Loco2. I just booked two train trips through them (Cordoba-Sevilla and Sevilla-Madrid). We know our seat numbers and exactly which car we'll be riding in. If you have any doubts, they are very good about responding to personal messages.

Happy travels everyone. I'm now working on our lodging for three days in Madrid. Would welcome any suggestions if you have a favorite place. I think we'll probably want to stay somewhere between the Prado area and the Plaza Mayor...

Posted by
46 posts

WARNING- I TAKE IT ALL BACK. AFTER PURCHASING TICKETS FROM LOCO2 MY CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT WAS HACKED FROM BRITAIN. I HAD PUT IN A DOLLAR LIMIT THROUGH MY CARD'S SECURITY SO DAMAGE WAS LIMITED, AND CHARGES CREDITED- NOT FUN TO CHANGE CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTS. THIS IS A FYI NOTICE ONLY. T.R.

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Tim,

This is Jamie Andrews, one of the founders of loco2.com.

We are sorry to hear that your credit card details have been compromised, but there is no evidence that this was due to a security breach on Loco2. We take payment security incredibly seriously and maintain the highest standards of protecting cardholder data, including compliance with all relevant PCI-DSS standards. If there was any evidence that our security had been compromised we would immediately email all of our customers to alert them to the threat, but this is not the case.

If you require any further reassurance or details of security standards and how we use cardholder data, please contact hello@loco2.com and we will be happy to help.

Best,

Jamie

--

Jamie Andrews, Co-founder, http://loco2.com
@jamieandrews