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Help with travel between ciities - Madrid, Malaga, Nerja, Granada, Barcelona

Hi, All.

I hope everyone is staying safe.

I'm in the process of planning a trip for this summer (I'm optimistic!). We fly into Madrid and will stay a night or two, then we make our way south.

We plan to hit Granada, Nerja, and Malaga before heading up to Barcelona for the second part of trip (relaxation for two weeks in Sitges).

We don't like to fly once we're in Spain, but could someone suggest a logistic itinerary to get from Madrid to Malaga, Nerja and Granada?

I've looked at Rome2Rio, but I'm wondering if anyone has any first-hand experience getting from place to place?

Thanks in advance.

Posted by
1237 posts

Madrid to Malaga by (fast "AVE") train run by the company RENFE.

Malaga to Nerja and Nerja to Granada by coach (bus). I think the company ALSA runs both these routes.

Granada to Barcelona can be done by train (same company, RENFE). There is one direct train each day and more options if you change. However, personally, I'd fly this section. With flying you can catch an early departure and have most of the day in Barcelona. With the train you'll spend most of the day travelling.

For railway background information have a look at

Overall, I'm not sure it makes much difference if you start with Malaga or with Granada. Just keep Nerja between the two.

You didn't ask, but there are more interesting places than Nerja to visit, especially since you'll be at the seaside at Sitges and Malaga as well.

Posted by
18700 posts

Don't trust the travel times, frequencies or fares shown on Rome2Rio. Keep drilling down till you find the name of the company offering bus service. There will usually be a link to the company's web page.

Use Renfe website ( for rail schedules and fares.

Posted by
200 posts


Thanks so much for this information. Very helpful.

I'm interested in other cities/towns, too - so if you're inclined to list some of your favorites, we'll look into them - if not this year, sometime in the future.

Thanks again,

Posted by
128 posts

I agree that flying from Granada to Barcelona is much quicker than taking the train unless you like to look at the sights and don't mind the 6 hours to get there. You must factor in the amount of time necessary for security check-in at any train station in Spain which can match that of airports. My husband and I flew Vueling Airline which was cheap and very efficient. No frills, but they got the job done. I'm wondering if you are aware of the heat in the summer in Malaga and Granada, especially. My husband and I are looking at late September for travel in Toledo, Malaga, Seville and Granada, then on to Paris. We are fully vaccinated but still need to know that other countries are doing their parts and will also let us in. Good luck to you.

Posted by
18700 posts

Spain's wonderful destinations are almost limitless. These are just some of the ones I've really enjoyed. There's lots more to see.

In the south: Seville, Cordoba, Ubeda, Baeza, Jaen, the white villages, Ronda, Malaga, Cadiz

In Extremadura: Caceres, Trujillo; Merida really only for Roman ruins and archaeological museum.

Around Madrid: Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca, Cuenca (only fast by AVE train), Alcala de Henares.

Zaragoza (between Madrid and Barcelona)


Teruel and Albarracin (could create driving loop including Cuenca)

Catalunya: Girona, Figueres (only for Dali Theatre-Museum), Cadaques, Besalu, Puigcerda, La Seu d'Urgell

Basque Country: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Hondarribia. Laguardia

Cantabria: Santillana del Mar, Picos de Europa National Park (part of it)

Castille and Leon: Burgos, Leon. Also Salamanca and Segovia, listed above because near Madrid.

Asturias: Oviedo. Part of Picos de Europa National Park is in this region.

Galicia: Santiago de Compostela, A Coruna, Pontevedra, Betanzos

Posted by
217 posts

Add me to those who would caution about the summer heat in much of the country, especially after June. If you're not especially wedded to your current itinerary, I would definitely look into the northern regions. I especially enjoyed Asturias and Galicia.

If you do stick with the southern itinerary, is there a reason to prioritize Malaga? I've spent several days in Malaga and think it is actually a much nicer city than it reputation holds, but it still isn't Seville or Cordoba.

I agree with everyone who suggests flying to Granada, but if you'd really rather not, there are busses (I think direct) from both Seville and Malaga. I looked into that a couple of years ago. I ended up making other plans, but I remember thinking it looked doable. My experience on intercity busses in Spain is confined to the north, but I found them to be fine but quite basic (think Greyhound/Peter Pan), not like the luxury coaches you find in some other places. However, budget was uppermost in my mind for that trip and there many be more comfortable coach lines that I don't know about.


Posted by
18700 posts

I believe people were suggesting flying between Granada and Barcelona, not between Granada and other Andalusian cities. There's now fast rail service (though it isn't terribly frequent) into Granada, taking as little as 2 hr. 22 min. from Seville and 1 hr. 37 min. from Malaga.

Buses would be slower on those routes than the times I've given. I've taken a lot of Spanish buses and found them comfortable. One thing I find easier with buses is luggage-handling. I just have to roll my suitcase to the side of the bus and lift it about a foot off the ground to stow it in the hold. Maneuvering a suitcase onto a train and to the nearest place where you can store it isn't always easy.

Posted by
1237 posts

Marc, in answer to your "supplementary question", I wouldn't want you to dismiss Nerja if it appeals. It does fit well between Malaga - Granada if travelling by public transport and there is nothing wrong with the town (assuming they'll finally solve the raw sewage problem now with the new treatment works!). However (with limited time and noting that you are already going to the seaside for a fortnight in Sitges), Nerja wouldn't be my top choice for a first visit to Andalucia. Currently you are missing several major attractions/towns in Andalucia, but the two that stand-out as absent are Cordoba and Seville.

Both those cities are worth stopping in for several days, but if you want to avoid too many changes of accommodation, it is very feasible to stop in one and visit the other as a day-trip. At least then you have a chance to see the highlights of both. I haven't checked the timetables, but I suspect for your journey it would fit better to chose Cordoba as the base between Madrid and Malaga because of its position on the railway network. However, on the other hand, Seville is I think the better town to spend longer in.

Posted by
200 posts

Thanks, Nick. Actually this isn't our first time to Andalucia. We liked Granada a great deal last time we were there, so we're planning to spend some more time there. It's our first time to Malaga and we're meeting up with a Spanish friend who really likes Nerja. We go to Spain every summer (except last summer -- sigh), but we avoid the southern part of the country because we can only travel in the summer and the times we were there it was uncomfortably hot. This year, we are able to go a few weeks earlier than we usually go, so we wanted to see a little more before we head up to our regular vacation location in Sitges. Eventually we'll get to travel in the shoulder season and we'll look at other destinations in the south of Spain. Thanks for the information. It is appreciated.

Posted by
818 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
Acraven has a nice list of other places. Cordoba is worth a visit.
Beware of Spanish paper maps if you are a frequent map reader, as 'North' is not always at the top of the map. Even some times online maps don't orient the map as we are accustomed to.