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Itinerary and advice for Andalucia mid-March

We are a couple around age 50 headed for 8 nights to southern Spain. We have rented a car for our trip.
We are more interested in cultural experiences, eating, drinking, hiking, music, nice places to stay; less interested in touring churches or museums en masse though of course want to see the highlights. Trying to balance packing it in and also not packing every day for a new spot.

Day 1-2 Seville (2 nights Seville)
We fly into Seville in the afternoon--stay 2 nights: see Alcazar, Cathedral, Metropol Parasol, Santa Cruz.
day 1-2 (and a half of 3) Seville

Day 3 -4 some combo of pueblos blancos. (2 nights Ronda)
Next we thought we would drive toward Ronda by way of Arcos de la Frontera and stay Ronda 2 nights as a base for exploring the pueblos blancos, particularly Zahara, Grazalema, Setenil. Would like to hike a bit in the Sierra de Grazalema.

*Are we making a mistake not driving toward Cadiz/Jerez and stopping over?
Is Ronda extremely touristed in mid March?

Day 5-6 Granada (2 nights Granada)
Next we are planning to drive by El Churro gorge/ Caminito del Rey (day 5) and head to Granada for 2 nights, with Alhambra and Granada sight seeing day 6.

Day 7-8 (2 nights coast--Marbella?)
Day 7
Get up and drive south and hike a circuit in the Alpujarras? I am really interested in this though recognize it may be cramming too much.

*Either stay in Alpujarra or continue driving along coast to Marbella and arrive evening.

give up a Granada night to stay somewhere more rural between Granada and coast?

Day 8-9
Explore a little of coast. Maybe a bodega. Try for a boat trip. We chose Marbella because it is our honeymoon and sounded like most active coastal town for this time of year?

*Does anyone recommend a captain/ boat tour who would take us for a few hours, sightseeing or even fishing?
Are 2 nights on the coast too many for mid-March?
**Thoughts on Marbella as final fun spot?

What should I give up or add? Thank you in advance, I have really appreciated reading through all of the posts on this site.

Posted by
5819 posts

In March, few places will be busy. Pick up the car rental when you leave Sevilla since you won’t need it in the city. Going to Jerez de la Frontera and Cádiz would be out of your way especially with the little time you have. Arcos de la Frontera doesn’t take long to see, since the main attraction is the Mirador Plaza del Cabildo overlook. There is a small parking right at it. The road from the bottom of the hill up to the overlook is narrow but straight. Coming down the hill, the road is narrow and there are a couple 90 degree turns just past the overlook. If your car is too large you could scrape the car’s side or bumper. If you want to skip that adventure, park in the lot at the bottom of the hill and either walk up or take the tram.

The drive from Arcos to Ronda is easy. It’s all rural roads and you’ll be driving at about 70kph (42mph) at most. In the hills, there are plenty of twists and turns. The worst road in that area for twists and turns is between Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema. While only 16km (9 miles), it takes about 30 minutes to travel between towns. Sentenil de la Bodegas can be seen in about an hour.

If you intend to drive to the Alhambra in Granada, follow the highway road signs. If you use a GPS it may try to take you through town and you may never reach it. Two nights in Granada is about right, especially with your limited time.

For driving to Marbella, the Alpujarras is in the opposite direction. If you do go there and leave Granada from the north, then heading east, there is a nice castle in La Calahorra. If you head south from Granada there is an ok castle ruin in Lanjarón. The town itself was worth a short visit. Once you reach Motril there is a Roman acqueduct ruin in Almuñécar.

Personally, my wife and I avoid the entire Costa Del Sol since we don’t go to Spain to see ex-pats from the UK or hang out at beaches. Being your honeymoon however, it is probably a perfect place to end your trip. While it will be slower and less crowded than in the summer, things will be open and there will be plenty to do. I have no idea what, if any, boat rides will be open in March.

The pace is fast, but other than the Alhambra, nothing needs to be written in stone. My guess is you will end up adjusting the pace by eliminating this or that, but I’d rather eliminate things than end up someplace and saying, what should we do.

Posted by
3996 posts

It helps to know if you are a frequent traveler and like this kind of pace--I really try to not just tell people what I would prefer, but in this case it is really hard because I would hate this. But some people like to move fast and pack it in, and there is nothing wrong with that!
I have been to Andalucia twice in late May, and my sense is that March is too early for the coast. So, maybe consider putting all the coastal time into your other stops if you hope to do some hiking.
Where are you flying home from?

Posted by
323 posts

For me 8 nights is 2 to 3 places, depending if this is your first trip to Andalucia or not, I would stay 4 nights in Seville, 1 in Cordoba (hate one night stands) and 3 in Granada. The mountain towns you want to see are great and should be seen but not on such a short trip. No car would be needed for this itinary. If you really want the mountains and the coast then do that, I would stay in Airbnb's in the mountains/white hill towns for 5 nights and stay at the coast for 3 nights. J

Posted by
25606 posts

If this honeymoon is scheduled right after the wedding, I'd urge a considerably slower pace. What you have sketched out is going to be exhausting, I'm afraid.

Posted by
3996 posts

I like Joanne's idea of "either-or"--do the cities or do countryside, but you could also pick just one of the historic sites (Sevilla or Granada for example)to visit, and spend the rest in some small blissful place and do hiking. Moving every two days is just not going to give you time to enjoy the countryside, which I think is what you desire.
Just as an example: I have these places bookmarked in Gaucin for the next time I get to the area (I typically plan hiking focused trips):
I was looking at Malaga flights, so if you are flying out of Sevilla you might want to stick to the Ronda-Grazalema area.

Posted by
38 posts

I was in Andalusia for five weeks this past November and December. Seville and Granada were full of tourists + Cordoba was super crowded on week-ends. Lots of places in Europe seem to be busier than past years, even off-season.

As you probably know, you need to reserve your Alhambra tickets in advance (sometimes weeks in advance) so if that's a must-see, you'll have to schedule around that. Be aware that Granada is much colder than other parts of Andalusia.

My absolute favorite place was Cadiz. It's got a relaxed, fun-loving vibe, and laid-back beaches. Other than when a cruise ship docked, it didn't feel very touristy. On weekends, huge groups of Spaniards hang out at restaurants for hours and sometimes spontaneously break into song. There are also great Flamenco performance spots. It is though rather old, crusty, and atmospheric -- romantic to some but too gritty for others. If you've got a car, you can travel to the gorgeous "white town" of Vejer de la Frontera, beautiful (and empty) nearby beaches, and lots of hiking spots. A couple staying in my hotel did the Caminito del Rey as a daytrip. I didn't visit Jerez, but people who did were underwhelmed, although there's great Flamenco there too. If you head to that part of Andalusia, brush up on your Spanish. English is not widely spoken.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for all of your responses --soaking it in, please keep them coming.

@acraven Fear not--we have been married for 3 years and it's each of our second marriage. We got married the weekend that COVID shut down the U.S. So we are not wedding exhausted.

Posted by
3996 posts

In that case, you could maybe squeeze in Sevilla-Granada-Alpujarras. Or, Sevilla and then the Ronda area for hiking (Grazalema) and then Malaga. Doñana is also a possibility for some nature time on the coast. I'd try to get it down to no more than three stops if at all possible. There is just so much packed into this area.

Posted by
5295 posts

We are a 50ish couple who just spent 8 nights in Andalucia - into Sevilla and out of Malaga. We did 4 nights in Cordoba, 3 nights in Granada and 1 night in Malaga. We traveled by train and bus. Nothing was crowded.

Posted by
55 posts

Emily, would you be willing to share information on where you stayed in each of those locations? we're starting to plan for a 2.5 week trip in the fall and are starting to look for accommodations. it's daunting!

Posted by
229 posts

Milgreen2, I’m in Seville right now staying at El Rey Moro Hotel. I would highly recommend it. In Cordoba, I stayed at Las Casas de la Judeira which again I would highly recommend. In Granada, it was Casa de Capitel Nazeri. location was great but beds a little unforgiving and room a bit small.

Posted by
55 posts

thanks so much! I've been looking at Las Casas de la Juderia but many of the rooms look so old-fashioned I'm not sure my husband would be thrilled......of course the photos on the website could be subpar, as I know a lot of travel sites really love this hotel.


Posted by
860 posts

We are a 50ish couple who just spent 8 nights in Andalucia - into Sevilla and out of Malaga. We did 4 nights in Cordoba, 3 nights in Granada and 1 night in Malaga. We traveled by train and bus. Nothing was crowded.

We must have very different ideas about crowds. We spent 13 nights in Andalucia from late February and found both the Mezquita and patios in Cordoba and Real Alcazar in Sevilla uncomfortably crowded. The drizzling rain we had in Sevilla also made walking around Santa Cruz treacherous as it was very slippy underfoot even in proper hiking shoes.

We stayed 3 nights in Cordoba, 4 in Malaga and 6 nights in Sevilla. Bronchitis meant our planned trip to the Alhambra didn't happen.

Posted by
55 posts

thanks, Emily! we usually intersperse apartment stays (through AirBnB, VRBO or direct) with interesting hotels and/or B&Bs. we also look for Superhost status on AirBnB or highly rated on other sites, and are scrupulous about reading through and parsing reviews.

Posted by
6 posts

Hi all, thank you for all of your help and comments.
We are back! Trip successful, fantastic. We had a car.

Stayed at Pallacio Villepanes (CoolRooms) in Seville--fantastic service, location, rooms.
Definitely get dinner reservations in Seville in advance.

Parador in Ronda--we got one of the rooms with terrace and the view is crazy. Silent at night except for dogs barking. Lodgier feel but lovely bathrooms and so much space. Fantastic breakfast. We stayed there 2 nights. If I did again I may have traded staying in the town of Ronda for staying in a Cortijo in the country for 2 nights. Climbed the castle in Zahara, went to a few bodegas. Need reservations in advance for bodegas.

Casa 1800 in Granada. This one was my least favorite. I know I'm an American tourist on Rick Steves, but this hotel was filled with 100% American Tourists who followed Rick Steves. That was unlike our experience everywhere else. The rooms were tiny and pictured to be more luxe than they were. We stayed 1 night in a superior room which opened to the interior courtyard and had no air circulation. We moved the next day to a different superior room on the top floor which was a tinge larger, more beautiful, bigger bathroom. So not apples to apples. Had we been in that room from the beginning I'm sure my experience would have been different, but the rates were pretty high for what we were getting. The instructions provided about parking were terrible. The new manager was very helpful and responsive.

We did hike in the Alpujarras for a day, perhaps the most stunning day of our trip. I wish I had stayed in the Sierras for a night.

Finished in Marbella which was hopping. So much fun. Beautiful. Stayed at Puente Romano for a treat and that it was. Went into old town for lunch and into the city for dinner by bike on the promenade. Puente Romano has it's own restaurant village as well where we ate one night.

Hope this helps someone else with planning! Feel free to PM me. Thank you again!

Posted by
1317 posts

How was the weather? We are considering a similar trip next March.

Posted by
1895 posts

I would have told you to stay in Hostal Rodri in Granada. It's often booked solid but it is a small family run hotel in the city center. Nothing fancy but cheap and had the cleanest bathroom I've ever seen. Plus the family that runs it are some of the kindest folks. When I went there I met mostly Europeans and Australians. Hardly any Americans.