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Itinerary Advice

After a few rounds, I have come up with this itinerary, but still need some advice. Tickets have not been purchased yet, but I think the plan is to fly into Madrid and out of Seville (I am in San Francisco)

  1. Arrive Madrid 2:00 PM. Night in Madrid
  2. Madrid
  3. More Madrid or day trip to Segovia or Toledo – Night in Madrid
  4. Cordoba – night
  5. Cordoba – night
  6. Granda – night
  7. Granada – night
  8. Malaga or Nerja – night
  9. Malaga or Nerja – night
  10. Ronda – night
  11. Ronda = night
  12. Seville night
  13. Seville – night
  14. Seville – hight
  15. Seville – night
  16. Leave Seville 9;30 AM

A couple of questions I have.

  1. I am concerned we have too many hotel changes. Is Ronda worth spending the night? I can always do a day trip - which city base is best for the day trip?
  2. I have read so much that both Toledo and Cordoba are great places to spend the night. Is one more preferable than the other? One strange thought I had is to use Toledo as a base and then do a day trip to Madrid. We want to see Prado and Palaces, and that's about it. I don't want to have to stay in a huge city if I don't have to.
  3. Am I short changing anything?


Posted by
17636 posts

You can stay in Toledo and day-trip to Madrid. The train doesn't take long. As I recall, the first departure from Toledo to Madrid on weekends is not terribly early, though. Check your date(s) on

For a potential day-trip to Ronda, assuming travel by train on a week-day:

From Cordoba: Trains are relatively infrequent. The 9:02 takes 2 hr. 5 min. The 10:39 takes 1 hr. 41 min. but doesn't get you there until after 12 PM. It would be hard for me to choose between Toledo and Cordoba. Toledo is quite hilly, in case that matters. And it will probably be cooler. What time of year is your trip?

From Malaga: Trains are infrequent. The 9:40 train takes 2 hr. 2 min.

From Granada: Trains are infrequent and take longer. The 8:15 train takes 2 hr. 52 min.

From Seville: The train route is via Cordoba, so that would be a better starting point.

None of those options look great to me. Check train return times to be sure you'll have enough time in Ronda to make the trip worthwhile. Although I like Ronda, I don't think there'd be anything wrong with skipping it and using the time in Toledo and Segovia.

I don't think a bus to Ronda would be faster, but you can try Googling bus Cordoba to Ronda, etc.

Posted by
113 posts

Thank you.

We are planning to leave around May 20th - plus or minus a few days depending on costs, etc. i have to wait until my daughter's college is done, so I am a bit restricted on the starting point. i realize Seville will be hot as we will be there the first week of June, but I can't do much about that.

I do think we will stay in Toledo. After all my reading on here, I feel that we will prefer the smaller city.

I "might" look into a day trip to Ronda using a private car. That will be expensive, but will compare costs of train etc and see if I want to swing that or not. I've read it would be nice to sleep there, but it seems everything would be nice, so trying to narrow things down.

If I take out Ronda for sleeping, then I think I my add to Seville to give us time to see Cadiz or Jerez. Or am I short changing Granada? I might add one day somewhere vs. the 2 days by removing Ronda. Malaga/Nerja isn't as high on my list, but my family wants some relaxing days on the water and it might break up the trip a bit. I tend to run my family into the ground so hoping for a good balance.

Any other glaring omissions or issues?

Posted by
17636 posts

Three nights in Granada wouldn't be a mistake from my perspective. There's a lot to see there, and the Alhambra alone can take up the better part of a day. Four nights is good for Seville, but if you want a side-trip to Cadiz or Jerez, it would be best/nice to have another night. Using a rental car (private car-and-driver would obviously be a lot more) to link two of your southern destinations with a stop in Ronda (overnight or a good chunk of a day) and/or Arcos/Grazalema/Zahara would be a fine idea. I haven't don't that, but I wouldn't think it would be terribly expensive; I've forgotten how large your family is, but bus/train tickets are not free. Alternatively, you can day-trip to Arcos from Jerez by bus.

Malaga is a very pleasant city. I enjoyed the Picasso Museum (skip the birthplace) and the small, privately-operated glass museum (special interest of mine). There are a lot of other museums as well. You have time for a break in Malaga if you want to get down to the coast, or you could visit Cadiz instead. Malaga feels livelier and more open; it may be more appealing to young folks; Cadiz is more historic and feels more closed-in.

Google for current information about water safety in Nerja; there have been issues in the past, but I don't do beaches and don't know anything about the current situation.

I took a day-trip to Vejer de la Frontera by bus while I was in Cadiz. It's a much less touristy white village than Arcos. It was a lot quieter (in April 2019). The activity in Arcos would be more appealing to many folks, I think, but I guess Arcos might be more of a zoo by the time June rolls around. Ronda was fairly busy even in April, with tour groups rolling their bags around and walking tours (which I didn't take).

Posted by
571 posts

I agree with a lot of acraven's advice. Based on my first-hand experience, I think you need 4 nights in Seville just to see the Seville highlights and have some time to wander through neighborhoods and enjoy this beautiful city. If you want to take a day trip, it's better to add another night in Seville.

We spent 2 nights in Granada, but it would have been nice to have a 3rd night. It does take almost a day to visit the magnificent Alhambra. (Don't rush through it!) And I highly recommend an evening tour as well. We did visit the Granada Cathedral and had only a short amount of time to see the Albaicin. It would have been nice to have a day just for leisurely exploring the city.

When I was planning our trip, which included Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, and Seville, I was deciding between Malaga and the White Towns. I decided it would be nice to have some coastal ambience so we chose Malaga. We really, really liked Malaga. I think it's an under-rated city. The old city center is beautiful and clean, and there is a lot to see. We enjoyed the Picasso Museum, too, and loved walking uphill through the Alcazaba, with its ruins, lush greenery, flowers, small fountains, patios, and stunning views of the port and Mediterranean. There's even a ferris wheel if you want to re-live your childhood! And delicious fresh fish and seafood! Malaga was also refreshingly cooler than the other places we visited. This was late September. We didn't visit Nerja, so I can't compare.

You will enjoy Toledo much more by staying overnight there. I was very happy we spent a night in Toledo because it is very, very crowded with tour buses during the day. If we had only spent the day there, I think I would have felt "what is the hoopla about?'

You have a great trip planned!

Posted by
1188 posts

a) Nerja or Malaga? Unless you specifically want to only spend time at the seaside, chose Malaga. It has a beach, but also many very good sights of its own, whereas Nerja is fairly dull. Transport connections from Malaga to your next destination will also be much better.

b) Ronda. We enjoyed our few nights in Ronda, but mostly it was for R&R. You can see the actual main attractions in a day. So if you want to reduce the number of hotel changes make it a day-trip from Malaga. Damas is the coach company and will get you there before 10, giving a full day's sightseeing before returning for supper. Alternatively, you could spend the day in Ronda en route between Malaga and Sevilla, since both journeys are about the same length on the express coaches. You can store luggage for a day in Ronda.

c) Personally I'd add a night to Granada. Assuming you spend a big chunk of one day at the Alhambra, then you'd be short-changing the rest of the city with only two nights.

d) You cannot compare Cordoba and Toledo. They are both worth seeing, but are not similar. I prefer Cordoba, but if you wanted variety then I suppose Toledo is more different to Sevilla/Granada than Cordoba is. If you can fit both Toledo and Cordoba in then that would be best. I'd drop Ronda before I missed Cordoba.

Posted by
440 posts

You can day trip to Ronda from Seville or Malaga and use Malaga to visit Nerja too. i would maybe flip it over too. go from Madrid to Malaga then Grenada, Cordoba then Seville.

Posted by
113 posts

My family wants to stay in Madrid upon arrival, so am back to square one.

I am still wondering what to do about the Toledo/Cordoba overnights. I realize they are both very different cities. It sounds as if Toledo will give a bit of variety, where Cordoba is similar to Granada? I have read about these cities, but love the sounding board here since you all have been there and I have not.

I can add a day trip to Cordoba from Seville. I can see the white towns from both Malaga and Seville - two different towns on two occasions.

I like the idea of adding an extra day in Granada and Seville. Especially since Seville is at the end of our trip so maybe can take it a bit slower.

I am literally torn between nights in Toledo vs Cordoba - just not sure I can do both. Does the below schedule seem ok? Any other suggestions? I will look into switching up the ordering as another poster suggested - just need to look more at a map and train times. We switch back and forth on trips between car rental and just using trains. I think this time we will try to avoid the car rental if at all possible. Or maybe just rent for a day from Malaga to the Ronda? Luggage and a car rental has always been an issue with us....

  1. Arrive Madrid 2:00 PM. Night in Madrid
  2. Prado/Palace/s Night in Madrid
  3. Madrid – day trip to Segovia – night in Madrid
  4. Train to Toledo – night in Toledo
  5. Toledo and night
  6. Granada – night
  7. Granada - night
  8. Granada – night
  9. Malaga – night
  10. Malaga – night
  11. Sevillle = night
  12. Seville night
  13. Seville – night
  14. Seville – hight
  15. Seville – night
Posted by
571 posts

While I was researching our trip, it became evident that Ronda is not in the same league as Cordoba. There is so much history and culture in Cordoba. The Mezquita is amazing, but there are other important and lovely sites to see in Cordoba, and it is such a pretty city with its white-washed walls, patios, flower pots, and narrow lanes. So, I agree with Nick that I'd drop Ronda before I missed Cordoba.

I personally didn't think Cordoba was similar to Granada. Architecturally, they look very different from each other, and they have a different vibe/ambience, IMO. I think Granada is a little bit "gritty", but in a good and interesting way.

And I agree with Nick that you cannot compare Cordoba and Toledo. They are both wonderful cities and worth seeing, but very different from each other. I prefer Cordoba. I really think you would be doing Cordoba a disservice by seeing it as a daytrip from Seville. Cordoba is so pretty at night with the illuminated Mezquita, Roman Bridge, and less crowded after the daytrippers have gone home.

I notice that in your revised itinerary, you are spending 2 nights in Toledo. Could you change that to one night in Toledo and one night in Cordoba? You could take an early morning train from Madrid to Toledo so that you have almost a whole day there, stay over one night, and then the next morning take an early train to Cordoba. Or you could spend 2 nights in Toledo, if you prefer, one night in Cordoba, and then 4 nights in Seville instead of 5 nights, as long as you don't take any daytrips while in Seville. You might still find this relaxing. We had 4 nights in Seville at the end of a month-long trip, and on our last afternoon, instead of sightseeing, we took it easy by having a long and leisurely lunch at a lovely outdoor bar by the river. It has umbrellas, colorful cushions, and palm trees. As long as we purchased a few drinks there, they let us go to the Mercado Barranca to purchase food to bring back to the bar where we relaxed, ate, and had a few drinks for several hours. It was heaven!

Posted by
113 posts

Decided to do just one night in Toledo and then either one or two nights in Cordoba (maybe taking one day from Seville but have some options). i think we are really close! I wish we could do it all.....

Posted by
4396 posts

Yes, Marie, you're on the right track. Toledo and Cordoba are both worth an overnight. I liked Seville, but I don't think you need as many nights there as your latest plan shows.

It looks like you're dropping Ronda, or at least overnight there, and I think that makes sense under the circumstances. The best things in Ronda are the bullring and the bridge over the gorge. You can see those and some of the old city in a few hours. And if you miss them your trip will still be a great one.

Posted by
4509 posts

We did Malaga and frankly would have skipped it.

I would spend more time in Madrid and do day trips to Toledo and Segovia.

Posted by
1188 posts

"We did Malaga and frankly would have skipped it."

With apologies for hijacking the OPs thread, I'd be interested in why that is. It might help the OP or, at least, other potential tourists.

I'd agree that with limited time, Malaga doesn't have the top sights of Sevilla or Granada. Nor is it's centre as attractive as Cordoba's or, perhaps, as atmospheric as Cadiz' (though I think it has more sights than Cadiz). Someone with only a few days might well sensibly "skip" Malaga.

But if one has sufficient time - as the OP does - Malaga is well worth a few nights, I think. The trio of sights up the hill are magnificent, especially the castle which must be one of Andalucia's best. And apart from Cadiz, I think Malaga is the only regional major city with such an impressive Roman theatre in the centre. Malaga also has a lot of museums and art galleries, perhaps more so than any other of the provincial capitals except Seville. And they're more varied than those in Sevilla. Everything from cars and aeroplanes to frocks and Picasso. Plus, of course, Malaga is at the seaside and the centre has been massively "gentrified" or "prettified" in recent years and is a foodie hub.

OK, Malaga doesn't have Granada's Alhambra, Seville's Alcazar or Cordoba's cathedral. And we're all different in what attracts us. But, I'm surprised anyone would dismiss it as "skippable".

Posted by
571 posts

I agree with Nick about Malaga. We spent 2 nights there and would have enjoyed a 3rd night. While I would not replace Seville, Cordoba, or Granada for Malaga, if you have the time, Malaga is well worth a visit. We loved walking up the Alcazaba, with its lush greenery, exotic flowers, small patios, fountains, and its spectacular views of the Mediterranean. The city center is beautiful! We loved the promenade along the waterfront, the Picasso Museum, and the Cathedral. There are many more small art museums that we didn't have time for. Fresh delicious seafood, and even a ferris wheel if you want to re-live your childhood! And wonderful coastal ambience!

Posted by
113 posts

Thank you all.

Yes, Malaga seems to be the last issue we have in the family right now. My husband and I will be traveling with 1 or 2 18 year olds to put things in perspective. I know my husband will hate all the high rises on the coast. He won't even go to Waikiki - too busy for him. But I think our D would like a change of pace. And seems like everyone on here has a strong opinion one way or the other. I am so torn.

Are two nights in both Toledo and Cordoba too much? If we take out Malaga I can add another night to Cordoba.

Posted by
1962 posts

Hi Marie, I've been to Cordoba and Toledo multiple times and I'd say 2 nights in each will give you a pretty good feel for both places. It's certainly more exposure than most tourists give to these fine cities, who often see them as only day trips.

Posted by
113 posts

I need to cut one day out of our trip because of my husband's work schedule. This is what i have now - tickets getting purchased this weekend for sure.

  1. May 22 - fly from San Francisco to Madrid
  2. May 23 - arrive Madrid mid-afternoon. Night in Madrid
  3. May 24 - Day and night in Madrid. Prado and Palaces
  4. May 25 - Day to Segovia, El Escorial
  5. May 26 Train to Toledo - (probably can do one more short day item in Madrid if needed) Night in Toleodo
  6. May 27 - day and night in Toledo
  7. May 28 - Train to Cordoba - night
  8. May 29 - Day and night in Cordoba
  9. May 30 - train to Granada
  10. May 31 - Day and night in Granada
  11. June 1 - Day and night in Granda (thinking of doing a tour to Sierra Nevada)
  12. June 2 - train to Seville- night in Seville
  13. June 3 - Day and night in Seville
  14. June 4 - private tour to White Hill Towns, Ronda, night in Seville
  15. June 5 - Cadiz or Jerez or both? , Night in Seville
  16. June 6 - Side . trip to Caromona or Italica, night in Seville
  17. June 7 - leave

Obviously, I want to do it all . With the help from this board, I made what I thought was the perfect trip, but now realize I need to cut out one day. i know there will be different thoughts on this, but would like to know what day YOU would cut out and why.

Thanks so much!!

Posted by
17636 posts

This is painful. As it stand now you only have about a day and a half for Seville--plus the evenings of course, except that Carmona wouldn't take a whole day and I'm guessing Italica wouldn't either. So I guess Seville is about at the minimum I would go for. If you cut a day there, you're going to need to cut a day-trip--and not just Carmona-or-Italica, because that's part of your Seville time.

So I guess I'd axe either Cadiz/Jerez or Ronda/white villages. If you're more into atmosphere, I'd suggest dropping Cadiz/Jerez; if you're more into go-inside sights, drop Ronda/white villages. I note that your initial itinerary didn't include Cadiz/Jerez, which may give us a clue.

Think of it this way: You're well on the way to having another trip set up for southern Spain: Cadiz, Jerez, Malaga, Ubeda, Baeza, Jaen.

Posted by
113 posts

Thank you. My initial itinerary didn't spell out Jerez, but always thought we might tackle it from Seville. And I literally just put in Cadiz to see some water since I cut out Malaga. Are you saying Seville city proper is worth longer? I always thought people added time to Seville because of the side trips. The private tour to Ronda would be quite expensive, so maybe i cut that out? I don't mind one private tour during a trip all, and Ronda/White Hills seems like the perfect area for this as that area is hard to reach by public transportation. We do not want to rent a car at all this time around.

This is so hard!

Posted by
1188 posts

Although you have five nights in Seville, you don't actually have much time in the city. It needs a minimum of three full days. Whilst the other places are all fine (except Italica, which I thought was disappointing), none compare to Sevilla. Assuming the white hill tour is pre-booked, I'd leave everything else until you arrive and can decide whether to take day-trips or see more of the city.

In any case trying to do Cadiz and Jerez in one day is a bad idea. You'll spend too long travelling and not have enough time in either. So you'll need to pick one.

Carmona is beautiful, but if you've already spent a day touring other hill towns, I wouldn't include it at the expense of losing time in Sevilla.

PS El Escorial is pretty dull. Worth it if you've a lot of time but not a highlight. If you want to see a ridiculously large & boring royal palace, there's already one in Madrid, so you can save the journey.

Posted by
1962 posts

I'd cut out a day (May 25) in Madrid, the one with the day trip to Segovia and El Escorial. I think it will be easier to revisit Madrid/environs and combine with another part of Spain, compared to Andalucia. Plus you will already have a taste of medieval Castilla in Toledo, no need to add Segovia/El Escorial as well if time is short. I would not compromise time in Andalucia.

Posted by
113 posts

ok - I think we will cut out the one day in Madrid (Segovia). That makes the most sense to give us a long time in Seville with all the options available. Thank you for the reminder that it would be easier to see Madrid another time vs. Southern Spain as well. And we may opt out of the White Hill Towns tour to give Seville another day - I'll look into that. But for now i just want to book those tickets and hotels this weekend.

Thanks for all of your help.

Posted by
571 posts

I agree with Nick that Seville deserves a minimum of 3 full days to see its important sites, wander through this beautiful city, and enjoy the ambience. Because I can't see my other posts while typing this, I suggest, and I may have made this suggestion already, that you purchase some good guidebooks, such as Michelin Green Guide, Rough Guides, etc.

This is what we did in Seville: visited the Alcazar (one of my favorite places on our trip), Cathedral, Casa di Pilatos (a hidden gem), Plaza de Espagna, Maria Luisa Park, Triana, several indoor markets (one is in Triana), saw a flamenco show, took a carriage ride, and wandered around the city. Seville is beautiful with its gorgeous architecture, plazas, fountains, parks, etc. Don't rush through the important historical sites. We spent a lot of time at the Alcazar, Casa di Pilatos, and Cathedral, taking photos, and just soaking in the places. And there are plenty of places we didn't have time to visit!

Posted by
17636 posts

About the tour to Ronda/white villages: There is at least one company offering public tours from Seville. I think you'll find it easily via Google. I considered such a tour, because seeing more than one small village a day is nearly impossible by public transportation. I opted not to do the tour because I wanted more time in Ronda than the multi-destination tour would allow. But for you it might be an option. I know a private tour is nicer, but if there's a very large price differential, the quality difference might not be great enough to justify the expenditure. I think Rick has walking tours in his book for both Ronda and Arcos, so you'd have some supplemental information available to you.

For future-trip reference:

  • The easiest public-transportation jumping-off point for Arcos is Jerez. It's doable from Seville but slower.
  • If you can hack 4 hours round-trip on buses, you can visit the white town of Vejer de la Frontera from Cadiz.
  • You can day-trip from Ronda to Grazalema.
  • Because of the bus schedule, you cannot day-trip to Zahara de la Sierra from Ronda; you have to spend the night in Zahara.