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Comments on Proposed Itinerary for Spain

We are currently planning a 3-4 week itinerary in Southern Spain. So far we have:
Barcelona - 4 nights
Madrid - 4 nights
Toledo - 3 nights
Sevilla - 3 nights
Cordoba - 2 nights
Cadiz - do we need to stay here?
Granada - 4 nights

We then would like to go to Valencia/Ronda - 3 - 4 nights
Back to Madrid for flights

Any suggestions are welcomed. Thanks

Posted by
2431 posts

You've got a good outline but the durations of some of your stays are a bit imbalanced to me. Here is how I would tweak it.
- Toledo = 2n max, I would add the extra night to Barcelona making it 5n
- Granada = 3n max, and 2n is enough since you'll be nearby already. I would spend the extra 2 nights
-- in Ronda or Arcos de la Frontera if you are willing to rent a car. You would then go Sevilla - Ronda/Arcos - Granada - Córdoba, driving only between Sevilla and Granada.
-- in Sevilla if not, bringing the total to 5 which allows for a day trip to Cádiz.
-- or without a car, you can still go to Ronda from Sevilla, then on to Granada, but I would only spend one night in Ronda in such a case. And add a night in Sevilla.
- Now that Ronda is in, you can spend the three extra nights you have in Valencia.

So my ideal route would be:
- Barcelona 5n
- Valencia 3n
- Sevilla 3-5n
- Ronda 0-2n (or Arcos)
- Granada 2-3n
- Córdoba 2n
- Toledo 2n
- Madrid 4n

I put Toledo and Madrid at the end because you need to be there for the flight. There is a morning train from Valencia to Sevilla that doesn't stop in Madrid.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for your suggestions.

We decided to only have 3 full days in Barcelona as we've visited before. We will have a look at your suggestions and tweak our itinerary.

Posted by
19182 posts

What time of year are you planning to take this trip?

Are you big art fans? If not, I think your Barcelona/Madrid time may be out of balance. Since Barcelona is your arrival point, 4 nights there gives you just 3 full, mostly-not-jetlagged days. Depending on how interested you are in the modernista sights there, you may have a hard time fitting everything in. Many of Barcelona's most popular sights require timed tickets, and you'll need to buy them in advance to avoid spending an hour or longer in line, and possibly encountering a sell-out. It's difficult to be an efficient tourist when you have to pin down so many entry times. You simply have to guess how much time you'll spend at Sight A and how long it will take you to get to Sight B. To be sure of not running out of time (entry fees for a lot of the Barcelona sights are over $20 per person), you'll be padding your schedule an will probably end up with scattered snippets of extra time that aren't very useful for sightseeing.

Madrid is a newer city than Barcelona, and one that a lot of us find not as interesting--aside from the magnificent art museums. People typically pad their time in Madrid to allow for side-trips, but you've taken care of one of those already, by planning time in Toledo as well (great plan). You still have Segovia, Cuenca, and some other options, but there's the wonderful Girona you could visit from Barcelona, which you won't have time for.

Seville is a lot larger than Granada. While there's nothing wrong with 4 nights in Granada, I have a feeling you'd find that 4th night more useful in Seville.

Cadiz is interesting enough, but--given that you obviously don't like to rush around--I think you may wish for more time in Barcelona.

Cordoba can be more easily visited between Toledo and Seville, or (if you don't go to Valencia after Andalucia) between Granada and your final night in Madrid.

I'm not sure what you mean by "Valencia/Ronda". They aren't in the same area at all, nor are they in the same direction from Granada. Ronda is sort of between Seville and Granada, and that's where I'd position it on the itinerary. Valencia is either a long bus trip (or drive) north of Granada or a time-consuming train trip by way of Madrid.

Although I haven't checked the train schedule, I think you'd do better to place Valencia between Barcelona and Madrid rather than between Granada and Madrid. The very atmospheric hill town of Cuenca is right on the AVE (express-train) line between Valencia and Madrid. Cuenca also has a couple of very nice modern-art museums. It's very much worth a day if you find you have time to spare.

Valencia is a pleasant coastal city, far less touristy than Barcelona--but (in my view) for a reason. You have time to include it in this itinerary, and it fits pretty well, geographically, but I'd suggest digging into a guide book or two and working up a list of the sights you hope to see in Barcelona and Seville before making a final decision about Valencia and Cadiz.

Although you aren't horribly pressed for time, you can cut one hotel change out of you trip by postponing all your Madrid nights till the end. You'll need to stay there the night before your flight home, anyway. It will be more efficient not to check in and out of Madrid hotels twice. You could go straight to Toledo (just changing trains in Madrid) and make Madrid your final stop.

I think this order might be best:

Toledo (changing trains in Madrid)
?Cordoba? [or after Granada]
?Cordoba? [or after Toledo]

This trip will be far faster by train than by car. Some visitors like to rent a car to cover the area between Seville and Granada--Ronda and perhaps one or two of the white villages (such as Arcos de la Frontera). Otherwise, it appears to me that a car would be an impediment. And you don't need a car if you just want to hit Ronda.

Posted by
19182 posts

Aah, I see you've been to Barcelona before. In that case, I commend to your attention: Girona. To me it's more interesting than Valencia and Cadiz--though serious fans of contemporary architecture might reasonably opt for Valencia.

I disagree with balso about Toledo. I think there's plenty there to occupy you for two full days, which means 3 nights There are lots of sights you might want to go inside, plus there's the fact that the historic area is quite large. It's also hilly enough to slow you down a bit.

Cordoba and Granada are, ideally, 3-night destinations for me.

Posted by
4 posts

We will be travelling April/May and can afford to have up to a month there before heading off to other parts of Europe.
We included an additional day in Barcelona purely to recover from jet lag. We will also be travelling by train and realise that our options to visit certain towns may be limited.

We prefer to see the architecture, museums and some art galleries when travelling. We try and stay away from the tourist attractions although there are some we know we must not miss. I wasn't sure exactly where Rondo was and purely included it on our itinerary after recommendations from friends. Murcia is another area we would like to visit, if possible.

At this stage we are in the throes of finalising our itinerary and appreciate all of the suggestions put forward.

Thank you and have a wonderful day.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all for your replies; they are very much appreciated. I think I can live without seeing Avila; Salamanca was the main area of interest. We will take the bus from the airport (hopefully we'll find it), and stay overnight in Salamanca. That way, we can take our time walking around the city. I imagine there are buses returning to Madrid in the early evening so that's what we will do. I can't afford any screw-ups because my two friends are leaving everything up to me (it's a little bit of pressure). I haven't been to Spain in years and when we did travel to Spain my daughter took care of our tours (hubby and I paid) and if there was any problem, I spoke to them in Spanish. Now I'm on my own and I think this is my last hurrah, even though I would love to go back to Argentina to see the penguins.

Posted by
14405 posts

In April/May there are two things to take into account in Andalucia, spring festivals and Semana Santa from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. Easter is by far the biggest religious holiday in Spain and the entire week is especially embraced and celebrated in Andalucia. This is super high season, crowds and high prices, but wonderful experiences. Two weeks after Easter Feria begins in Sevilla, another week of super high season and special events. Around the beginning of May there's also a horse festival in Jerez that is hugely popular. It's an easy commute by train between Cadiz (where rooms will be cheaper and there won't be crowds) enjoy Jerez. I did the opposite for the first Sunday of Carnival in Cadiz (a very big celebration). There were extra trains that ran until the wee hours to accommodate locals who were going for the day, so there may be something similar for the Jerez festival. The patios festival is usually at the beginning of May in Cordoba, it's much lower key than the others. I think there's another May festival there.

Valencia is not particularly well connected to anywhere in Andalucia (look at the train schedules). There are fast trains to Madrid. So logistically, if you include it, Barcelona > Valencia > Toledo via Madrid > Cordoba via Madrid > Granada > (Ronda - optional) > Sevilla > Madrid. Without Valencia, if you want another stop, consider Zaragoza (personally haven't been, but I've heard good things :-), on the way to Toledo.

I spent 4 nights in Granada, about 3.5 days and it was one day more than I needed. I'm a fairly slow-paced traveler, spent a full day at the Alhambra plus a night visit to the Nasrid Palaces. I've been to Cordoba 3 times for 2-3 night stays and each time I find new little gems. The only places I've returned to are the Mezquita and a couple of restaurants. Sevilla has enough to fill 3 full days. You can day trip by train (1.5 hour ride) to Cadiz. I spent a day there and it was enough for me. Some people love it spend several days. I like Ronda, have been there twice, but with a car both times and used it as a base to explore the hill towns. There are enough sights to fill one day, possibly two.

Posted by
11266 posts

I just want to second the recommendation for Girona. It's not in Rick's book, but it's very interesting - Arab baths, Jewish quarter, museum of early cinema, history museum, etc.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for all of the replies and suggestions. We have found them very helpful and appreciate you all taking the time to respond. We will now finalise our itinerary. Many thanks...have a great day.