My boyfriend and I are planning a trip for late June-early July. We know it is going to be hot, but we have to follow the school schedule. We are planning to fly in and out of Madrid as this is most direct and cheapest. While there we plan on going to Madrid, Sevilla, Cadiz, and Granada (maybe a day trip from Sevilla to Cordoba). We are going for about 14-15 days and are trying to figure out the best itinerary - order of cities and how many days to spend in each. We would prefer to not spend too much time traveling place to place, spend a minimum of 2 nights in one location, and enjoy seeing main sights but also just wandering around the city and enjoying the sights of the streets and local culture. Any advice is appreciated and welcomed! Also, any tips on places to stay would be welcome as well! We are considering apartment rentals and/or hotels.
"We are planning to fly in and out of Madrid as this is most direct and cheapest"
For your itinerary, it makes more sense to fly open-jaw, into Madrid and out of Granada or vice versa. Even if it "costs more" than a simple round trip to Madrid (and it may not), you save time and money not having to backtrack. To find these flights, use the "multi-city" option on Kayak, Matrix ITA, or airline websites. Don't look at two one-ways, as that's much more expensive.
Thank you for the tip. I think when first researching flights the prices were too high going in and out from different places, but now seem a bit better, so that is very helpful to know. We are not certain on the order of the cities, those are just the cities we would like to stay in.
Two weeks for your list of places is a very nice amount. Sevilla is worth 3 nights, Granada at least 2 (some people like the city more than I so you could add another night). I highly recommend at least a daytrip to Cordoba. Can't comment on Cadiz. Madrid is the catch - if you like art or use it as a base, it could be 3-5 nights. But as a city itself, I don't find it that interesting (others disagree of course). But it does make for a great base to do daytrips (Toledo, Escorial, Segovia, Avila...). You might also have time for the White Hills.
Flying open jaw may or may not make sense depending on your North American destination. Or you may just wind up flying back to Madrid and connecting to an international flight from there. Malaga also has a major airport and is closer than going back to Madrid.
Isn't any flight from Granada to the US gonna go through Mardrid?
I'd rather take the train, especially the AVE.
Sevilla, Cordoba and Toledo are all great train destinations. So here's how I'd do it...
From Madrid airport, go straight to Sevilla. Spend three nights there, enjoying the transition to the new time zone.
Rent a car and tour Cadiz, Ronda, Granada, etc. for a short week.
Drop off the car in Cordoba, check out the new town on the way into the old. Stay perhaps only one night, but see the Mezquita in the evening and, for free, first thing in the morning.
Train to Toledo (via 'Atocha', I know it seems less-than-ideal) and spend two nights. (Try to make it at least one weekend night to assure all the floodlights will be shining!)
Back to Madrid for at least three nights. preferably fairly close to Plaza del Sol.
20-25 days, to add a lot to your car-touring time or to facilitate a day-trip to Segovia, would be so, so much better a use of the flight time. But I do understand time constraints, so have a great experience with the time you have.
Here's what I'd do. When you land in Madrid, buy tickets to Cordoba. They will include the trip from the airport to the train station. Stay 2-3 nights in Cordoba - it's one of the nicest towns in Andalucia in the evenings and there are some interesting sights besides the Mezquita. Then take the train to Seville for 3 nights and explore the city. From there another train to Jerez for 3 nights, the sherry and flamenco capital of Spain. You can day-trip to Cadiz (it's really not worth more) by train and to Arcos by bus. While in Jerez see a horse show at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. Tour a couple of bodegas (wineries) and learn about sherry-making and enjoy tasting. Then rent a car, drive through the pueblos blancos (white towns). Stay in Ronda for 1-2 nights. Then drive to Granada and return the car. Stay in Granada 3 nights (2 full days). Then take a bus or train (depending on which works better for your schedule) to Madrid.
Another option would be to drop Jerez/Ronda, go by train to Granada from Seville, then on to Madrid for a few days. There are several nice day trips from Madrid. You could spend a night or two in Toledo (you have to go to Madrid to get to Toledo by train).
This may be a night or two longer than you have. You can save lots of money by locking into your itinerary and buying train tickets 62 days in advance at discounts of up to 70%. Once you have your itinerary blocked out, let us know. Then you can get lodging and sightseeing recommendations.
Use the official train site renfe.com to get train schedules. Though they may change in the next few months, they will give you a good idea of how long the travel times are and how frequently the trains are.
I've done a similar trip. Here's what I'd do:
Day 1 arrive Madrid, stay in Madrid for 3 days (4 if you're interested in a day trip to Toledo), this includes your arrival day which will possibly be a jet lag mess. So nights 1 - 4
Day 4 train to Seville, stay there for 4 nights, at least 2 full days in Seville, and a day trip to Cordoba. Nights 5-8
Day 9 to Cadiz, 2 days (can day trip into hill towns or beach from there, add a day if this is the plan. Rent a car for a few days if desired). Nights 9-11
Day 12-15 Granada, three nights. Fly to Madrid then home. Nights 12-15
Basically, Madrid is worth 2 solid days, Seville is 3, Granada is 3 (I love Granada, and the Alhambra takes a full day, so to get a feel fo the actual city you need a bit more time). Cordoba is worth a day for the Mesquita, IMO, but I'd take more time in Granada, Seville, Ronda, or Cadiz over another day there. Cadiz is a solid 2 days. There are plenty of other places (Ronda, Jerez, smaller hill towns...) but don't spread yourself too thin. Pick your favorites and leave the rest for a future trip.
Re: flying out of Granada - as far as I know all flights go through Madrid. Some might go through Barcelona, but I haven't seen this. Granada is a tiny, easy airport. Several times I've done an early flight from there (7AM ish) to Madrid, then connected to a Madrid - US flight in the late morning. I'd recommend this schedule because if you book your airfare on one ticket (Iberia flies out of there and code shares with British Air and a bunch of US airlines out of Madrid), you don't need to worry about train delays or getting from Madrid Atocha train station to the airport. If I were finishing my trip in Granada, and flying out of Madrid, I would train to Madrid the night before, which means I'd miss an evening in Granada, and evenings in Granada are too good to miss :) With flying out of Granada, you can have a full night in Granada, get to the airport in the AM, fly to Madrid, then onwards. When pricing, factor in the cost of the train between Granada and Madrid.