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Help with Andalucia Routing/Transportation

Long-time lurker, first time poster! I'm planning a trip to Southern Spain in June as part of a larger trip. Our current plan is to fly into Seville (from Marrakech) and out of Granada (to Mallorca). We will have about 3 weeks in the region...looking like 23 nights to be exact. We have two kids with us (12 and 10) so like to move a little slower, preferring a base were we can wander aimlessly with some day trips mixed in, as opposed to packing up every couple of days. As such, I'd prefer to use public transportation as opposed to renting a car that is just sitting there, but don't have a problem renting a car for a day or two. Here are my initial thoughts:

Seville (7 nights) - Potential day trips to Jerez, Cadiz, others?

Ronda (3 nights) - Maybe a day trip from Ronda to Arcos or Olvera?

Cordoba (4 nights)

Granada (9 nights) - Day trip to Nerja/Frigiliana

Does this routing make the most sense? Ronda before Cordoba or after, if coming from Seville? Does it make sense to rent a car and drive to Ronda and then up to Cordoba and then use public transportation from then on? Any general thoughts on the itinerary or use of transportation? I considered adding Ubeda/Baeza between Cordoba and Granada.

Thanks!

Posted by
2080 posts

As much as I love Cordoba, I would consider visiting as a day trip from Sevilla and adding the days to Ronda, and think about using a rental car while in Ronda. The area is surrounded by parks, and while it is a snap to get to/from Sevilla and Cordoba and Granada by bus/train, doing some chill nature exploration in the middle might be nice, and that means a car for the most part. (You could pick it up to depart Sevilla and drop in Granada.) Near Ronda, I always thought Antequera sounded cool, but I did not manage to get there on either trip. There are caves near Montejaque and Banaojan (and if you don't have a car, there is a great bus/train accessible hike here along the railway.)
I am really into longer stays to be sure, and I can see a week in Sevilla easy. Granada is a place I missed and while I know there is more to it than the Alhambra, I am curious about your plans there.
I used the Rough Guide and https://www.andalucia.com/.

Posted by
4061 posts

It will be HOT. You have a lot of time. Lucky you, its a fascinating area. I feel like it makes more sense to do Cordoba before Ronda. Maybe do Sevilla, take the train to Cordoba and then train back to Sevilla? We rented a car prior to leaving Sevilla to tour the white villages and then returned the car when we arrived to Granada. We returned the car at the train station which is more at the edge of town so it was not distressing for us. Ronda is not at all central, also many love it, but it was not my favorite of the white villages. Arcos is close to Sevilla. We visited Arcos first and then drove thru the mountains and visited Zahara. We overnighted in Grazelema and took a day trip to Ronda, another day trip to Setenile (and spent more time in Zahara).

Since you have lots of time, maybe take one from Granada and add it to the White Villages. I think 9 nights in Granada is way to much, but others will advise you of any great day trips from there. For Granada itself, 2 1/2 days was plenty for us. We did love the Alhambra, Albacin and Sacromonte, but even still we wouldn't have needed more time.

I do respectfully disagree with the above comment re. Cordoba. We LOVED Cordoba, and there is so much to see there beyond the Mezquita. Incidentally, we stayed at Hotel Mezquita, which is a more modest property, but clean, with friendly, helpful staff and about 10 feet from the Mezquita! Our room was enormous and my recollection is that there was 3 beds. It might be a great place for your family to stay.

Posted by
19395 posts

I enjoyed Ubeda (my base), Baeza and Jaen (I thought the least interesting of the three), but staying somewhere other than Jaen in that part of Andalucia does present transportation challenges. I bussed to Ubeda from Madrid, side-tripped to Baeza and Jaen by bus and went on to Cordoba by bus. The buses were perfectly comfortable but not very fast. That area would probably be a bit cooler than points south, and those cities have a different look to them, in addition to having far fewer tourists, which is always pleasant.

In addition to the places you list, I spent 3 nights (of 29 in total for Andalucia) in Cadiz, taking a day-trip to Vejer de la Frontera by bus. I skipped Jerez, but it's easily visited from Cadiz (or vice versa). Just looking at the map, I think Jerez or Cadiz would probably be better jumping-off points for Arcos de la Frontera than either Ronda (as you are considering) or Seville (which I chose for a reason I no longer remember--it might have been related to bus frequency, since Ronda's a bit closer to Arcos than is Seville). Although I love nice, long stays in my base cities, I don't like having to take two or more side-trips to the same area; I'd rather peel off a few nights to spend in that target area. I acknowledge, however, that the trains will get you from Seville to Jerez or Cadiz reasonably fast.

From Seville I took a day-trip to Carmona by bus. As noted above, I also took my Arcos day-trip from Seville (bus) rather than from Ronda.

Bus service from Ronda isn't frequent, so you must be very careful about the schedules. Days of the week matter, and you can't afford to overlook a local holiday that will (probably) be treated like a Sunday for scheduling purposes. I have not been to Olvera. I considered seeing Zahara de la Sierra but discovered the bus schedule simply did not allow a day-trip from Ronda to Zahara; one must spend the night. I did manage a day-trip by bus from Ronda to Grazalema.

As you have figured out, the legs into and out of Ronda, with stops/side-trips to some white villages, are where you might benefit from a short-term car rental. I've never rented a car in Europe so I can't comment on how much time that would save you, but I think for a family of four this is approaching no-brainer status unless you don't have a driver who's OK with narrow, curvy roads, etc.

I have so far managed to avoid the Costa del Sol except for Malaga (quite a nice, though large, city), but I took two side-trips from Granada, both by bus: Priego de Cordoba and the Alpujarras. You may have fairly unrelenting heat during a June visit to Andalucia, in which case a day in the Alpujarras might be a welcome respite. It's off the heavy-duty tourist path, and there are some opportunities for town-to-town walks. I mention this because you have enough time, I think, to indulge in some quieter, more subtle pleasures.

I note that you have more days planned in Granada than in Seville. Seville is a lot larger and has more sights, so I'd be tempted to shift a few nights unless you anticipate making multiple day-trips from Granada down to the coast. However, if you're unlucky with the weather, Granada (at altitude) will probably be somewhat more pleasant than Seville, temperature-wise, even aside from the proximity to the Alpujarras and the Sierra Nevada.

Posted by
4061 posts

Grazelema is at higher altitude so tends to be cooler. We stayed at a lovely and inexpensive BnB with a pool that your family may enjoy. (La Mejorana)

Posted by
2333 posts

I would say that 9 nights in Granada is excessive, outside la Alhambra and fairly compact casco viejo, there is not sooo much to do as one would think. 4 nights would be more than enough for me. You could also consider shortening Cordoba to 3 nights.

With 6 nights freed up you definitely should spend a couple of nights in Cadiz, the oldest continually inhabited city in western Europe. You could also spend several nights in Málaga too, which has much to see but is also an up and coming destination in Spain, after several years of neglect, figures prominently on many "best underrated cities in Spain" lists nowadays.

Posted by
4885 posts

Lots of good advice above, except the suggestion to limit Cordoba to a day trip. That might be necessary if your total time was much shorter, but you have the luxury of lots of time. I spent two nights in Cordoba and would have loved at least one more.

Ronda would be a good base for the hill towns and has rail service, though I don't know how frequent or to/from where. That would be the place to rent a car for exploring the region. Arcos would be a good day trip all by itself. I'd suggest adding a night or two more to Ronda, not for itself but as a base, and taking that time from Granada.

Lucky kids to have a trip like this at their ages!

Posted by
3 posts

Wow! Thanks all for the detailed responses. A lot to consider. You know, I'm from coastal California, so I didn't really consider places like Cadiz or Malaga, but I have read some great things on both. Not to mention there's another 3,000 or so years of history there, haha. Malaga may be a good idea, since I can fly into and out of there as well.

Some of the responses suggest adding a couple nights to Ronda and using it as a base to explore surrounding white villages. I do like this idea. Would Ronda make a solid base, or is there another town that is more central for exploring the villages?

One post suggested going from Seville to Cordoba and then back to Seville before driving to Ronda and onto Granada. Does this make sense. Originally I had thought of renting a car in Seville, driving to Ronda and then driving to Cordoba to drop off the car, using public transport to then go to Granada. I'm fine backtracking via fast train to Seville if it makes the most sense.

OK, based on some comments, here's my latest and greatest:

Seville (7 days) - Maybe a day trip or two.

Cordoba (3 days) - Fast train back to Seville to pick up rental car.

Ronda (5 days) - Base to visit white villages. Drive to Granada and drop off car.

Granada (5 days)

Malaga (3 days) - Day trip to Nerja/Frigiliana.

Better? Thanks again!

Posted by
14449 posts

Andalucia is the hottest part of Europe. You may want to check out the weather as you consider your options. I like to use this site where you can get daily historical data for most cities for any month for the past 10 years. It's going to be a lot hotter than SoCal and there is a lot less AC.

Seville. 7 days is okay if you take day trips. I'd recommend finding a place to stay with a pool if possible. Cadiz is about 1.5 hours by train once you get to the Seville train station. The Cadiz station is a short easy walk to the historic center and not much farther to the beach. Jerez has horse shows 2-3 times a week. An hour on the train from Seville, then a short taxi ride to the Royal Equestrian School. Then another taxi to the historic center to see a couple sights and take the sherry tour at Tio Pepe's . . . it's the most fun bodega tour so it won't be too boring for the kids.

Cordoba. This is my favorite Spanish town. 3 days is not too many. I'd even consider taking one away from Seville and adding it here. There are some interesting small museums. The Juderia - the historic center - is one of the best-preserved in Spain. There are also horse shows a couple evenings a week. It doesn't matter which order you to Seville and Cordoba. It's about the same to pick up the car from either to start the next leg of your trip.

Ronda. It's a great place to base. There are quite a few minor sights and some quirky little museums. The bullring and museum are a top sight, there's a Wine Museum (really a folk museum but with wine tasting) and the Bandolero museum. Since you have the car, consider stopping at these two places on the way to Granada. [1] Fuente de Piedra Lagoon where lots of flamingos raise their young but check near the time of your visit if they are still around and [2] the prehistoric dolmens just outside Antequera.

Granada. 5 days sounds like a lot to me. The Alhambra needs a full day and there are a couple other sights in the city for another day. That leaves 2 more to fill up . . . Maybe take a day away and add it to Malaga which has nice beaches.

Posted by
4061 posts

I would have to disagree on basing in Ronda, especially if you have a car, and I'd highly recommend a car for the pueblos blancos. I overnight in the center or at least on the edge of an old town. We thought it was a headache to just park the car in Ronda for just a day, at the edge of Old town (and we might have been even further a way than that). Ronda is also on the very east side of the pueblos blancos. I can't speak to basing in Ronda if it's your intention to use public transportation. Then, I would guess that you would have more transportation options from Ronda. Ronda is much bigger than Zahara (stunning!) and Grazelema so you would have more restaurant options in Ronda. If need be, you could eat your main meal of the day before returning to a more central white village location.

Take a look at Google maps to see where Ronda is in relation to all your other cities.

There are great train connections between Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada. I would take advantage of them and just use a car Sevilla to Granada.

I'm also sad to see the day taken away from Cordoba. In comparison to your other allocations to cities, you are not giving Cordoba its due. At the pace you are taking, you have more than adequate time in your other cities to see the sights at a leisurely pace, but not for Cordoba. I'd take a day or two from Granada or Malaga.

Posted by
2080 posts

Seville (7 days) - Maybe a day trip or two. Cordoba (3 days) - Fast
train back to Seville to pick up rental car. Ronda (5 days) - Base to
visit white villages. Drive to Granada and drop off car. Granada (5
days) Malaga (3 days) - Day trip to Nerja/Frigiliana.

Clearly there are many here who love Cordoba as much as I do! I only suggested excluding it because I thought you were more concerned with limiting bases, and I thought maybe you had prioritized Granada at that length for some reason.
I think just keep focusing on the day trips/drive times to flesh out the number of days in each place and the ideal order. I like Malaga's old town, but if interested in adding some coast time, look at the area between Cadiz and Bolonia.

Posted by
1252 posts

Regarding your latest itinerary, it is almost irresistible to tinker with someone else's holiday plans, but I will resist and say I think your allocations between the five cities are fine. You may return wishing you'd moved a night here or there, but I am certain you won't decide you made a terrible mistake.

My only comments

a)`not sure of the need to return to Sevilla to hire your car. I am sure you can get one in Cordoba - it is a pretty big city and must have car rental places

b) given your plan to take it easy overall, I'd consider finding a villa with pool in the white village area rather than stopping in Ronda itself. With your car, you can do some drives (including to Ronda itself) and also relax with your family having a "holiday within a holiday". I realise this now counts as tinkering!

c) driving from Ronda to Granada is an excellent idea. It is only a quick trip on the inland route, but I would make a day of it. There are worthwhile rural and urban stops along the route such as Antequera dolmens, national parks and the waterfalls, Loja, etc.

Posted by
4061 posts

So I'm rethinking on this a bit. I would research Arcos de Frontera. (Make sure you get the one close to Sevilla, not the one close to Cordoba) If you would like to see Arcos, and I think it's worth at least a half day, you might consider taking the train back from Cordoba to Sevilla and rent the car from there. If you think you can skip Arcos, then it does make some sense to rent in Cordoba, visit the more central/eastern villages and return the car in Granada.

If you do not want to go to Arcos, Ronda does make some logistic sense as a base. I still think Grazelema or Zahara is a more attractive base, but it depends on what you want to do. And I really think, with kids, it makes sense to stay at a place with a pool to refresh and enjoy at the end of a hot day of sight seeing. You really need to check out https://www.lamejorana.net/ , the setting is lovely, the owners are fantastic and offer many sight seeing ideas, and its quite a bargain.

It might help you make a decision if you research the car rental piece. We had a lot of choices for rental in Sevilla and the pricing is good, for us, we did not have a one/waydrop charge. Whether you choose Cordoba or Sevilla as your start point, you will need to return to the same company in Granada.

Posted by
2333 posts

I think you itinerary is 99% there! However I would probably rearrange a few things thusly to minimise backtracking:

Fly in to Sevilla
Sevilla (7 nights) - day trips to Cadiz and/or Jerez + half-day trip to Italica Roman ruins
AVE train to
Cordoba (3 nights) - half-day trip to Madinat al-Zahra (palace of the Caliphs of Al-Andalus)
AVE train to
Granada (5 nights)
Rent car, drive to
Ronda (4 nights) - explore los Pueblos Blancos
drive to, drop off car
Malaga (4 nights) - day trips to Mijas and/or Nerja
Fly on to Mallorca

I took one night from Ronda and added it to Malaga because there is a lot to do and see there. I also added some of my personal day trip suggestions, especially the Moorish palace of Madinat al-Zahra, which is older and historically more important than la Alhambra, located just outside Cordoba. hope this all helps!

Posted by
452 posts

If you have time, I would certainly include three days for Baeza and Úbeda. I would probaly take them off the 8 days in Granada itself. They are absolutely charming towns with so much to explore and the surrounding scenery full of millions of olive trees is also quite beautiful. Full of great architecture and winding narrow alleyways. If you can fit them in, you won't regret it!! We spent three nights in Baeza and took the local bus over to Úbeda as a daytrip. The two towns are quite close but neither has a train station. Both are beautiful and fascinating. Look to see which appeals to you more and has lodging that you like. You can also visit one of the local olive oil producers for an interesting tour. You could possibly fit in Baeza and Úbeda between Córdoba and Granada. You can take a local train from Córdoba to Linares- Baeza station, which is still a bit of a distance (about 24 km/ 15 m) from Baeza. I believe there is limited local bus service from that small train station but you would have to research that. We took a taxi to Baeza. We arranged taxi pickup ahead of time thru our hotel. This train station is outlying and there is not much around it. There is no direct train service from Linares Baeza station to or from Granada, but there is to Córdoba or Madrid. You would have to look into going by bus to or from Granada, but busses in Spain are reliable transportation.

Here is another idea for exploration in Córdoba that your kids might like: look up Medina Azahara right outside of Córdoba.

Posted by
2333 posts

FYI... Medina Azahara (that Pat mentions) = Madinat al-Zahra (that I mentioned above) lol

Posted by
9 posts

It was many years ago when I did this but spent four weeks in Granada. It was one of the best experiences of my life. If I had stayed near downtown I don’t think I would have liked it, but I stayed in the Albaycin which felt like a throwback to an earlier time with the Moorish architecture all around. I found Granada to be a great home base to visit the surrounding area.

If you’re looking for a place to slow down and let the surroundings seep in, I’d highly recommend it. There is a school there called Carmen de las Cuevas where you may meet other travelers (although maybe younger ones). They have flamenco courses and some very easy language courses and a library where people can just hang out and socialize.

Posted by
1111 posts

With your time frame, you might consider mixing in a nature experience for your kids (and for yourselves): We loved the Doñana National Park. There are several things you can do in the park:

There is a visitor center on the west side with trails and bird observatories. Depending on the time of year, you can see an amazing variety of birds from there. Also, they have ranger-led 4X4 vehicle rides through the park which are fun and interesting.

There is another visitor center on the Sanlucar de Barrameda side. You can take ranger-led boat rides up the Guadalquivir river from there.

Posted by
3 posts

Wow, so many great responses. Thanks everybody. I have some digging into do, haha. I love the idea of renting a villa with a pool somewhere to explore the white villages while we have a rental car, and then taking advantage of the rail between Seville, Cordoba and Granada.