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Itinerary Help Please - Struggling !

Having traveled and driven through France, Italy and other continents, I am surprised at how much I am struggling with our itinerary for Spain. Perhaps we are trying to do too much. We will be flying in and out of Madrid and have 19 days, which includes our arrival in the late afternoon but does not include our departure date which is an early a.m. flight.
Initially we planned to start out in Madrid as our initial entry point. When I realized the Seville April Fair is smack in the middle of our trip, we are more inclined to fly to Seville from Madrid after we land, starting there and working our way back. While being in Seville for the fair would be nice, we really want to experience it without thousands of additional tourists and higher accommodation costs. The other difficulty I am having is wanting to fit in 2 days in Ribero del Duoro and stay either in Penafiel or Aranda and visit several bodegas as we are into wine, especially the lovely Tempranillo. I'm not sure how to fit it all in - or what other options there may be. Too many places, so little time and we don't like moving around too much.
Here is what I have tentatively sketched out. I am feeling pressed for time in order to get our tickets for the Alhambra. I am not sure about staying over in Cordoba or doing it as an extended day trip from Seville as it's a lot of moving from place to place for just 2 nights, but would love feedback on this. In taking another look at this I think a day trip makes sense and add the day to Barcelona so we can day trip to Montserrat. Looks like the train schedule from Seville to Cordoba is extensive to get there late morning and leave later in the evening. Would love to hear your thoughts.

4/20 Arrive Madrid fly to Seville
4/21 Seville
4/22 Seville
4/23 Seville
4/24 Seville
4/25 Cordoba via train
4/26 Cordoba
4/26 Grenada via Train early train
4/27 Grenada
4/28 Train to Madrid arrive for 1/2 day
4/29 Madrid
4/30 Todeldo Day Trip Madrid
5 /1 Madrid
5/2 Ribero del Duoro??? Rent car and drive? Stay in Penafiel or Aranda?
5/3 Ribero del Duoro
5/4 How to travel from Ribero del Duoro to Barcelona ??? - take a day from Cordoba and add to Barcelona to do day trip to Montserrat?
5 /5 Barcelona
5/6 Barcelona
5/ 7 Barcelona
5/8 Barcelona / evening train to Madrid Airport for overnight and early flight 5/9

Posted by
90 posts

Unfortunately I can't help with the Ribero del Duoro question. I do think you have one more day than you need in Madrid, and i would recommend adding it to Granada. I think you'll want 2 full days there. If you decide to do Cordoba as a day trip from Seville, you can get a direct bus from Seville to Granada (very easy, only 3 hours) for 3 nights, remove a day from Madrid and add it to Barcelona. You can't go wrong with adding another day to Barcelona; whether to use in the city or as a day trip!

The high speed trains from Granada to Madrid are still infrequent (I think 3/day) so another option would be to keep the Seville days the same, go to Granada by bus, and stop in Cordoba on the way from Granada to Madrid. We did this recently and it worked well. There are frequent buses from Granada to Cordoba, and from there frequent trains onto Madrid. Given your itinerary I think it's probably easier to do as a day trip from Seville, but I put it out as another option.

Another item to consider is day of the week in Cordoba; the mezquita hours are much shorter on Sundays - I think your current itinerary has you in Cordoba on a Sunday. Not necessarily impossible, just something to keep in mind -shorter hours and fewer tours if you are interested in doing a tour while you are there.

good luck with the planning -

Posted by
227 posts

You can take a direct train from Grenada to Barcelona then drive to Aranda which looks more attractive than Penafiel. From Aranda, you can drive to Madrid and return your car.

Posted by
1862 posts

Does one have to visit Ribera del Duero? There are plenty of other spectacular wine regions that work better with your itinerary, without throwing a wrench into your plans. Consider Priorat DO, an easy day trip from Barcelona or Jerez-Xeres DO, just south of Sevilla?

Posted by
5 posts

Perhaps Ribera del Duero is a daunting wrench...but it the Tempranillo that is the draw. Will definitely check out your recommendations. Thank you.

Posted by
1862 posts

I'll admit Ribera del Duero is my favourite wine region in Spain, so I can understand the desire to venture there. If it's the tempranillo that you are after, there are a number of other DOs around Spain that also grow that grape too, Penedès DO, just outside of Barcelona, is a good example, it's an ancient wine region, dating back to the 5th century BC when the Greeks colonised the area.

Posted by
1 posts

Montserrat is nice but extremely touristy.

If you like wine, there are also some good vineyards around Barcelona, if you search for vineyard tours around Barcelona you will find a whole lot of them, all very affordable. I didn't book that last summer, but I looked into it and found lots.

What's also nice and affordable is a day trip to Sitges, there are trains leaving every twenty minutes and it's an amazing village that's only half an hour by train.
Last year I took my family kayaking there, nothing too demanding on the oldies, it was this trip if I remember correctly and those kayak trips are cheaper than the costa brava ones they offer, we spent the rest of the day eating fish and drinking wine in a restaurant and didn't take their bus trip back but the train. All in all a very enjoyable day.

Posted by
1132 posts

a) on your arrival day, 20/Apr, I'd reconsider flying onto Sevilla and instead taking a train. The former has the advantage of already being at the airport - but at the other end you need to get from the airport; also there are likely many more options spread across the day if you go by rail, so it partly depends on arrival time. It's very easy - and fairly quick - to get from Madrid Airport to Madrid Atocha, from where the express trains to Sevilla depart.

b) I'd consider tweaking your itinerary, to fly from Granada to Barcelona and then putting Madrid, where you depart from, last. This avoids having to backtrack. If you spent three full days in Barcelona, I think you have seven left before departure day.

c) If willing to hire a car you could spend the first part of those seven driving to Madrid via, for example, Aranda de Duero. It might be possible & quicker to take a fast train from Barcelona to Zaragoza, then drive on from there. It's only three hours to Aranda and from Aranda to Madrid only two hours, assuming you don't stop.

d) must it be Tinto Fino? There is, of course, another famous wine-producing area very close to Sevilla!

Posted by
569 posts

I think you have a good itinerary, but I would like to offer some options and opinions. We have been to every place on your itinerary except for Ribero del Duoro and Montserrat, so can't help you there.

Firstly, if you have not made your airline reservations yet, I suggest booking open-jaw or multi-city tickets: into Madrid (or Seville) and home from Barcelona so that you don't have to waste time and money backtracking to Madrid from Barcelona. If you have made your airline reservations in and out of Madrid, please consider open-jaw in the future, unless it is exorbitantly more expensive.

I recommend spending 1 or 2 nights in Cordoba. It's a lovely city with its white-washed walls, narrow lanes, patios, and flower pots. The Mezquita (cathedral within a mosque) is magnificent, but there is more to Cordoba than just the Mezquita (the Alcazar and its beautiful gardens, Palacio de Viana with its pretty patios, Roman Bridge, and more sights that we didn't have time to see). Cordoba is beautiful at night, too, with the illuminated Mezquita. If the only way you can see Cordoba is on a day trip, then by all means do so. But I think if you do that, you will love the Mezquita, but you might leave feeling ho-hum about Cordoba.

If you like art, I don't think you have too many days in Madrid, which has some outstanding art museums. We also enjoyed the Palacio Real, Retiro Park, the views from Temple Debod, San Miguel Market, and just wandering around the neighborhoods.

I notice you plan on seeing Toledo as a day trip from Madrid. Toledo is extremely crowded during the day with tour buses and daytrippers. I know you don't like moving around a lot, but consider staying at least one night in Toledo. It is so much quieter at night when the tourists have returned to Madrid, and Toledo is very pretty when its illuminated. But, again, seeing Toledo as a daytrip is better than not seeing it at all.

I notice you have 5 nights in Seville. We loved Seville; it's a beautiful city with its architecture, plazas, fountains, etc. and has lots of important sites. We had 4 nights in Seville, and while it would have been nice to have an extra night there, perhaps you could take a night from Seville and add it to Toledo or Cordoba or Barcelona. I actually prefer Seville over Barcelona, but Barcelona is a larger city with more sightseeing, and many of the sites require advance booking.

So, those are some of my thoughts, which are also based on personal preference.

If you do need to take the ALSA bus for some trips, don't worry about the bus. We used it twice; it is clean, comfortable, modern and air-conditioned.

Posted by
1862 posts

Nick makes a good point, if you are willing to rent a car in Madrid and drive up to Zaragoza, conveniently halfway between Madrid and Barcelona, you can then explore the nearby wine region of Calatayud DO, which is very well known inside of Spain for its red wines, growing Garnacha tinta and some Tempranillo grapes. After a few days in Zaragoza, you can drop off the car and take the AVE high speed train direct to Barcelona.

Posted by
2662 posts

If you know which bodegas you want to visit, stay in the town closest to them, otherwise, there may be more lodging choices in Aranda Del Duero. Don’t drink and drive as the limit in Spain is much lower than in the U.S. The castle at Penafiel is nice to visit and doesn’t take long to see as it is long and narrow. Also nearby to Aranda Del Duero is the walled town of Burgo de Osma with its castle. If you enjoy castles, there are a number in the area, as well as monasteries, but with only a couple days, after visiting the bodegas, you won’t have time to do much else.

Posted by
5 posts

Very much appreciate everyone's input, especially the information on accessing the Penedes and other wine regions near Barcelona, which we will do as a day trip or tour.

After reading many trip reports and setting our priorities on how much we want to move around we have settled on an itinerary. This will be our first European trip that we won't be driving, and I hope we don't miss the spontaneity that provides.

6 nights Sevilla (this includes our first night when we arrive late). We will visit Cordoba as a day trip. There was much discussion about whether to pack / unpack for one or two nights (giving us a day and a half) and after reviewing the train schedule, we can get a train back to Seville as late as 11:30 p.m. so we are comfortable that we can spend the evening there (we are good with late nights) giving us 4 days for Seville. If we want, we can do another day trip, but based on what I've read, I think we are going to love exploring Seville. Train to Grenada.
3 nights Grenada . We looked at 2 nights and realized that no matter how we slice it, we would have just 1.5 days and probably feel rushed. Fly from G to Barcelona early to get in a half day in B
5 nights Barcelona - gives us just 4.5 days, one less if do a day trip winery tour or other place
5 nights Madrid ( last night is airport hotel) - just 4.5 days one will be a day trip to Toledo with last train back to Madrid.
Would love thoughts on this revised itinerary as well as any suggestions on hotels etc. One thing I will try to find is a restaurant that serves the Segovia cochinillo ( I believe there is one in Madrid that certifies it's the Segovia cochinillo) and also the lechazo, that I was hoping to have when in Aranda or Penefiel, where we won't be making it to. If you know of any restaurants either in Toledo or Madrid that specialize in these, please let me know.
I'll trip report after. Now the hunt for accomodations !
Thanks again

Posted by
1862 posts

Hi, glad your itinerary is moving along quite nicely. Some of my initial thoughts on your revised itinerary.

  • For your visit to the Penedès wine region, make sure to visit the VINSEUM in Vilafranca, the main town of the region. It documents the history of wine production in the area, from antiquity to the modern times.

  • With so many nights in Sevilla and Madrid, I'd personally look into doing Cordoba and/or Toledo as 1-2 night stays. The true charm of these towns comes out in the evening when the daytrippers have left and you have the twisting medieval quarter to yourselves to explore.

  • For the Cochinillo Segoviano, why not make the easy day trip to Segovia to enjoy this delicacy, right at the source? The trip only takes 30 minutes on the AVE/Alvia high speed trains. They leave every hour from Chamartín station in Madrid, simplicity itself!

As for Hotels:

In Madrid: I've stayed at Meliá Madrid Princesa a few times when I was in town, it's a great all around hotel, with a very good location and incredible views of the city. Plus the best breakfast in the city, particularly their scrambled eggs!

In Cordoba: Hotel Eurostars Maimonides, literally 5 feet away from the entrance to the Mezquita, the best location in Cordoba.

In Toledo: Sercotel Alfonso VI, very tradition Castillian experience with stunning views of Toledo and quite/comfortable rooms.

In Barcelona: when my friends are in town, I recommend they stay at HCC St. Moritz, in the Eixample district, in a good location yet is quiet and comfortable.

Posted by
5 posts

I missed seeing that AVE high speed train and lunch in Segovia is a must ! I am thinking the best way to do the overnight in Toledo would be leaving from Barcelona to change trains in Madrid and go directly there. The only concern is taking away a half day from Madrid, but I think we can spare it . ? For Córdoba.....maybe revisit my initial itinerary.

We are just south of you by Laguna Beach

Posted by
423 posts

Your trip looks similar to my upcoming trip, except: you have 19 nights, I will have 13 nights; We are both going to the 3 cities in Andalucia in southern Spain - you may be seeing them in a different order and/or for different numbers of nights in each city compared to what I am doing. Then you are going to Madrid with Toledo as a day trip; I am thinking of spending a night in Toledo before my last 3 or 4 nights. My last 3 or 4 nights will be in Madrid. Then I fly back to Michigan; but you continue on to Barcelona. I don’t know how or when in your itinerary to fit in the wine region.

Everybody who suggests this is right: if you haven’t already bought your plane tickets or in case you can change them, fly back from Barcelona instead of having to take a train back to Madrid and spend another night there, at the end of your trip.

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Mike,
Here is our many times revised final itinerary
Land in Madrid and fly dir3ctly to Seville -

5 nights Seville with one day side trip to Jerez and Cadiz with driver / train to Córdoba
1 night Córdoba ( reservation @ Restaurant Noor dinner ) train to Granada
2 nights Granada / fly to Barcelona
5 nights Barcelona / train to Madrid (less time than trapzing to airport, checking in etc)
6 nights Madrid with day trips : 1 day Toledo , 1 day with driver to Ribera del Duoro to visit 3 wineries and 1 day Segovia. We will have 3 days in Madrid to spend adequate time in Prada, Reina, and city.

We decided to train it from Barcelona to Madrid because the trip is just under 3 hours and it would be a longer journey getting to the airport, checking thru security, checking our bag etc etc.

Posted by
7124 posts

4/20 Arrive Madrid (4N)
4/21 Madrid
4/22 Day to Toledo
4/23 Madrid
4/24 Train to Valladolid & pick up rental car. Drive to Penafiel or Aranda (2N)
4/25 Ribero del Duoro
4/26 Drive to Zaragoza & return car. Train to Barcelona (4N)
4/27 Barcelona
4/28 Barcelona
4/29 Barcelona
4/30 Fly to Granada (2N)
5/1 Visit Alhambra
5/2 Train to Seville (4N)
5/3 Seville
5/4 Seville
5/5 Seville
5/6 Train to Córdoba (2N)
5/7 Visit Mezquita
5/8 Train to Madrid (1N)
5/9 Depart Madrid

Myself, I would probably pinch a night from Seville or Córdoba, allowing for a Zaragoza overnight.

Posted by
7124 posts

I just made my 4th visit to Madrid, spending 3 nights there in late January. My friends in Barcelona agreed (and not reluctantly) with my assessment that, after Paris, Madrid is Europe’s most sophisticated city ... more so than Rome, Milan, London or Barcelona. Compared to my first visit in 1989, most of the buildings in the central historic area are newly renovated and lit spectacularly at night. The metro is a dream to use and fabulous restaurants abound. Do your research and you will be delighted.