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Itinerary Flying in and Out of Madird (10 Full Days)

Looking for itinerary ideas for Spain. I am traveling with my teenage son to visit my other son that is studying abroad in Toledo. We don't have time for Barcelona. We want to travel with the son that is in school. He is only available at the beginning (4 Days) and end of the trip (3 days) so we are trying to figure out the best itinerary. We want to visit Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and possibly Cadiz. Valencia was another option (they both wanted a day or two at the beach) but I don't think there will be anytime. We are also debating if we should rent a car or take the train. We've purchased two Rick Steve's books but feel like we need to be smart about what we can do vs want we want to do in our limited time. Any ideas would be helpful.

Posted by
2231 posts

My ideas are based on one 2017 trip to Spain. You can easily take the train from Madrid or Toledo to Seville; and use Seville as a base for day trips to Cordoba and Cadiz - either by train or as part of a tour. Granada is just too far to be tenable as a day trip - although many have done it.

I think you could do Valencia instead of Seville, et al if you want, but not both.

Your destinations are so well-served by trains, I don't see the point of renting a car.

Finally, do yourself a favor and buy a different guide to Spain - the RS guides are great, but leave out a lot. I found The Lonely Planet guide to Spain to be extremely helpful.

Posted by
4533 posts

In Granada, schedule time for a various-water-temperature hammam at one of the commercial Arab Baths in town, another opportunity to use your swimsuits. A great experience, and you can get a massage, too, as an extra treat. Makes you appreciate the bath complex all that more that existed at the Alhambra palace.

So, for your son who’s studying in Spain, which destination(s) is he willing to forego in those middle 3 days, which you remaining two will be seeing? How does that fit in geographically?

Does having a rental car give you added flexibility, for going to places on your schedule? Trains may or may not be cheaper, or more convenient - letting you nap or relax, rather than focusing on the road the whole time.

Posted by
18351 posts

When is this trip? If it's around Easter, you're going to find hotel rates jacked up in Andalucia and should start trying to find lodging ASAP.

Toledo is a great city. You could argue how it stacks up against Seville, Cordoba and Granada, but no one's going to suggest that Cadiz comes close to Toledo. Your son, of course, has had a lot of time to see Toledo. I just want to point out that for you and your second son, Toledo is a highly worthy destination itself.

Any train from Toledo to Andalucía will require you first to get to Madrid. This is not an issue; the trains are very fast, and it will still be faster than driving.

Cordoba is worth at least 2 nights (3 wouldn't be too long, but I'm trying to allow time for Toledo), and it's on the way to both Seville and Granada, so it can be slotted in anywhere. You can certainly day-trip from Seville to Cordoba (fast trains are 40 to 45 minutes each way), but you have time to spend some nights there if you want to (probably at the expense of Cadiz and Valencia). Maybe it makes sense for the son-not-available time to be allocated to Toledo and Cordoba? Cordoba will be easy for your student-son to see on his own; he may already have done so.

Cadiz isn't so easy. Thee are no really fast trains on that rail line. Most trains take about 1 hr. 40 min. or a bit longer each way. Doable, but I'd want to know I was seeing things more interesting to me than what I could see more conveniently.

When determining how many nights you'll want to spend in Seville, add a one for each planned day-trip. I think Seville deserves 4 nights by itself, or a rock-bottom minimum of 3 nights. If you want to day-trip to Cadiz, add another night. Also day-tripping to Cordoba? Add a second night.

Granada needs at least 2 nights because the Alhambra can be nearly a full-day affair. Three nights would be a lot better, because there are definitely additional places of interest in Granada.

Back to the timing question: Tickets for the Alhambra sell out way in advance. A lot of April was sold out as of 2 days ago. There are ways around that, not all of them as expensive as signing up for a tour, but give us your travel dates so we know whether the Alhambra is going to be a major issue for you.

All the trains you're likely to need for this trip, aside for the leg to Cadiz, are fast trains. The fares on most fast trains vary, with cheaper tickets available initially but selling out first, leaving only the costlier tickets for later purchasers. The train between Madrid and Toledo is an exception to that--a fast train whose ticket prices never change. For travel to Cordoba, Seville and Granada, you may be able to save some money by buying your tickets soon. Again that, depends on you travel dates.

Edited to add: What day and time are you flying out of Madrid? Earlier visitors to Toledo have often found that transportation to Madrid doesn't start early enough for them to get to the airport 3 hours before departure time, and they've ended up having to move to Madrid for the last night. That's annoying, but it's best to check that now so you know how many nights you have available.

Do you have 10 nights to spend in Spain (not counting the overnight flight), or is it 11?

Posted by
4 posts

We are leaving at the end of March returning in April. I appreciate the advice/help. Its just hard to coordinate a trip for 10 full days when its broken up with my son's class schedule in Toledo mid-week. I was hoping to get advice if we should just hand out in Madrid one night and catch a train in the am to Granada or Sevilla and travel for 4 days and then end the trip with Toledo and then Madrid.

Posted by
18351 posts

I'm still uncertain about how much time you have in Spain. "Ten full days" means different things to different people. It's helpful for us to know how many nights you will have on the ground.

I wouldn't trade the possibility to see Cordoba and/or Granada for time in Madrid. However:

  • You may be big art fans, and Madrid has great art museums.
  • It's sounding like your trip is going to overlap, at least partially, with Holy Week, which is an expensive time to be in Andalucía because so many people go there to see the processions. You may have difficulty finding affordable lodgings.
  • You may also have difficulty acquiring Alhambra tickets. General tickets are now sold out through April 21st. Dobla de Oro tickets (more expensive) may still be available for some days. Or there may be openings for holders of the Granada Card (more expensive). Or your hotel might be able to supply tickets. Or there might be space available on a commercial tour (more expensive).

So you certainly can choose one of Seville and Granada, spend 3 or 4 days there and the rest in Toledo and Madrid. Segovia's a worthwhile day-trip from Madrid. Trying to see it from Toledo would mean a good bit of travel time.

Posted by
4 posts

We have 10 night and 9 full days. Just trying to see as much as possible, as efficient as possible. Thank you for the tips and other other ideas someone may have, I am open to options.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for your help. We arrive on Friday, March 27th and plan to stay one night in Madrid and take an afternoon train to Sevilla. We plan on staying overnight Saturday, Sunday, and Monday . Can you do day trips to Arcos and Ronda? We'd like advise for a great Spanish beach for Tuesday. Then we plan to take a train to Granada and stay on Wednesday and Thursday and back to Madrid/Toldeo. Does this seem do-able? Would you recommend a car from Sevilla to Arcos and Ronda or just take the train? Thanks again for your help

Posted by
18351 posts

I don't think you can do a day-trip to Ronda and Arcos by public transportation, though I think you can visit just one of them that way. There are bus tours originating in Seville that hit Ronda and I believe two of the white villages, but I don't know which villages are included. Arcos is larger than some of the other candidates, and they might opt for two smaller one. A car would make combining the two possible, but check driving times on ViaMichelin.com to see how much actual sightseeing time you'd end up with after you spend time picking up the car and dealing with probable parking issues in both towns. Keep in mind that Ronda isn't small and Arcos is very hilly. Therefore, neither one is really suitable for a short stop on the road to somewhere else.

I think you are severely short-changing Seville, which has by far the most sights in Andalucía. You are planning to arrive late on Saturday and only spend 3 nights there (which gives you just 2 full days and a few hours late on Saturday), then you are proposing to spend one of those days on a day-trip that will be a long one even if you rent a car. So you're only giving yourself 1 day in a city that--in my view--needs a minimum of 3 days.

In addition, though Ronda and Arcos are interesting, they just don't hold a candle to Cordoba, which you are totally skipping. Due to its position on the Madrid-Seville and Madrid-Granada rail lines, it will cost you no extra travel time by train if you spend a day or so in Cordoba.

I can't help you with a beach sggestion. You'll want a place that's not too time-consuming to get to and (I presume) not full of German sausage joints and British pubs. There are some rather dreadful places on the Costa del Sol, and I'm afraid you're going to burn two days to have a mediocre beach experience while missing out on Cordoba and much of what Seville has to offer. Be careful about taking advice from old guidebooks or from folks who haven't been to the Costa del Sol recently.

Posted by
2115 posts

For a nice beach area close to Sevilla consider la Costa de la Luz, it is far less developed by high rises and golf-courses, unlike the Costa del Sol. The area north-west of Cadiz has particularly nice sandy beaches.