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Itinerary Thoughts

Hi all. I think I’ve finally come up with an itinerary for our trip to Spain in mid-May. My husband and I are traveling with my niece and her new hubby so the time for them is a little more limited. Only 10 days and one of those are for the flight over. We arrive in Madrid at 7:00 in the morning on a Saturday and they will be flying out of Madrid the following Sunday. Here is what I’m thinking:

2 nights Madrid
2 nights Granada (will probably take train from Madrid on Monday and possibly rent a car once we are in, or leaving Granada)
Drive to Seville by way of some of the white hill towns and stay 3 nights.
Last night before they leave stay in Toledo and then train to Madrid for afternoon flight back home.

My husband and I are staying longer a d will make our way to Barcelona.

Thoughts on itinerary? Anything we should add, adjust or whatever?

All input is much appreciated!

Posted by
5630 posts

I have been to all the places that you plan to visit. You only have 8 full days and one of those you will be recovering from your flight.

Your itinerary is aggressive. Granada is hike from Madrid. Not sure, but if you leave Madrid on Monday you will only have two days there, with one recovering from your flight. You should plan on more time there. Don't miss the Prado. Also, take a day trip to Segovia. You need the better part of a day to see Toledo.

Three days in Seville is good. Seville and Toledo are my favorite cities in Spain.
Consider saving Grenada for your next trip to Spain.

Not sure about your plans to visit Barcelona, but unless you plan to stay longer, not sure how you will manage that.
Barcelona deserves 4 days. Spain is a large country and plan your travel time.

Posted by
5263 posts

It seems busy but doable. I suggest you park the car in Toledo so you can drive it straight to MAD the next morning, rather than taking a train into Madrid, then subway or bus or taxi from Atocha to the airport. I believe Toledo has parking lots just outside the walled city, with escalators to get you up into the city.

Cordoba is on the train line between Madrid and Granada, well worth a stop if time allows. Ideally Cordoba would get a day of its own, but even a few hours between trains would allow you to see the Mezquita, a unique sight that was a highlight of my trip to Spain last year. A short taxi ride from the station.

Two nights in Madrid equals only one full day of sightseeing. If you're not interested in the world class art museums there, you could still see the palace, Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, etc.

Posted by
7991 posts

I agree, you definitely need to add Cordoba. Also do not drive in Seville. Drop off rental car as you arrive. Train to Cordoba, train to Madrid to Toledo. Train Toledo to Madrid. If you need to delete a town to add Cordoba, delete Toledo.
But since you have time after Andalucia, you should spare a day and overnight for Cordoba. How much time are giving Barcelona?

Posted by
19 posts

Thank you for the input. My husband and I are staying an extra 4 nights and plan to spend all of that in Barcelona. We are love history and architecture, but we are not big art fans. I.e., indoor museums with paintings and sculptures are not really our thing. Which is why we think 2 days in Madrid might be enough. We get in so early that morning that my thought is we will do some sightseeing on our own the day we arrive and will [probably arrange for a private city tour (tailored to our likings) on day 2. Shaving of Granada is a no go as we all really want to see the Alahambra. We can possibly shave off a day in Granada if the Alahambra is the only thing we plan to see.

I know the itinerary is aggressive...but that's pretty typical for us when we travel. We are still employed full time so we can't spend more than 2 weeks at a time on vacation so like to pack in as much of the Country and culture as we can into the time we have. Of course we come home exhausted but we also build in a weekend to recover before going back to the grind. One day we will get the leisure visits that we really crave.

Posted by
1934 posts

In a perfect world, you would have more time. But we rarely get perfect.

You can’t shave a day off Granada because you only have one full day there (2 nights = 1 full day for the Alhambra). I might instead shave a day off Madrid - but that’s only because it would be my preference. Everyone’s preferences differ.

One thing you could consider is just spending Saturday in Madrid (1 night) and head on south on Sunday. That night would allow you to find time for some kind of stop in Córdoba. If you don’t allot that Madrid night to a night in Córdoba, you could spend 2 nights in Toledo at the end of your trip, giving yourself a full day there.

Posted by
4171 posts

Not knowing what you intend on seeing or visiting makes commenting difficult. I feel you have the correct number of nights in Granada correct (1 day the Alhambra and the remainder of the travel day for the rest of the city.), but have shortchanged Madrid. It will be close to midday on your arrival day before you get to your hotel in the city. After a night flight, and if you’ve never been to Madrid, I don’t think you’ll get much done other than get acquainted with the city. That only gives you one day to visit the sights. The drive from Granada to Sevilla with any short stops en route will take the better part of a day. If you stopped in Ronda for example, you just added a couple hours to your trip. Add walking around Grazalema, Arcos de la Frontera, or Zahara de la Sierra, and you’ve added even more time to the trip. Sevilla is hectic to drive in, especially if you’ve never been there. If possible choose a hotel with a parking garage, preferably a garage built after 1985. In many Spanish cities the older underground parking garages were not built for today’s cars and are difficult or impossible to park in unless you’re driving a compact. If the hotel doesn’t have it’s own parking, look for nearby public lots and bookmark them on you GPS or phone before going over. Expect to pay 15-20€ a night to park. Cordoba is a nice city others have mentioned. The last 2 times we were in Toledo we stayed at Hotel Maria Cristina. It has its own large underground parking. From it, one can reach the center of the historic center, walking, in 15 minutes. The Parador in Toledo is nice, has free parking and a fantastic view of the city, but you’d need to drive into town. In the historic center, there is a pay parking garage up the hill, past the Zocodover plaza, just past the Alcazar de Toledo. There are also a few parking lots along Avda de la Cava between the Puerta de Cambron and Puerta de Alfonso VI. A couple are free, some are paid. From them, you cross the street and walk up the hill into the historic center.

Posted by
21310 posts

I agree with the earlier comments: This is an aggressive plan that gives you only one non-jetlagged day in Madrid. Frankly, since you're not into art, I think you might skip Madrid on this trip and head straight to Toledo. You just don't have time to see much if you spread yourselves so thin, and from my perspective Barcelona, Granada, Cordoba, Toledo and Seville are all more interesting to non-art-lovers than Madrid; they are older, for one thing.

I would prefer not to drive from Seville to Toledo. That will take at least an hour longer than the train (and traffic conditions, getting lost, looking for parking, etc., could widen the gap). However, you should be aware that if you do take the train between Seville and Toledo, you'll have to go to Madrid, change trains and double back to Toledo.

Another issue is that other travelers have found it impractical to stay in Toledo the night before a weekend flight from Madrid. I believe the trains don't start running very early. Although the train trip is fast, you must then get yourself from Atocha Station to the airport, and you'll need to be at the airport 3 hours before your flight. Can you be sure of doing that if the first train of the day from Toledo to Madrid doesn't arrive until 11 AM? It would be safer to adjust your itinerary so that it flows like this: Toledo - Seville - Granada - Madrid. Cordoba is right on the train line and could fit in between Toledo and Seville, between Seville and Granada, or between Granada and Madrid.

Although I like Ronda and the two white villages I've seen (Arcos and Grazalema), I'd certainly rank them way below Toledo and Cordoba (not to mention Granada and Seville). With as little time as you have, I'd be inclined to travel straight from Seville to Granada (or vice versa). Trains, though relatively infrequent, make that trip in 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

No one knows what's going to happen with tourist traffic next year, but in normal times the Alhambra tickets sell out way in advance--sometimes months in advance. Stay on top of that situation. This is the official ticket website:

Posted by
532 posts

It does seem pretty packed, but you mentioned you like that.

Consider flying to Granada instead, maybe even the same day you get to Madrid, and spend time in Madrid at the end of your trip.

You are also renting a car for one way only? That could get expensive. Maybe stay with trains and then take a day tour of hill towns as you move between Granada and Seville.

Posted by
21310 posts

Ashley and I obviously have different definitions of "everything in Granada", because I could certainly not have seen all I wanted to see there in one day. The Alhambra alone was probably about 6 hours.

I'd have to check the bus schedule very carefully to see whether a one-day trip from Seville covering both Ronda and Arcos de la Frontera is practical via public transportation. (I'm not an early riser, and that definitely affects my judgement about such things.) Ronda is sizable; it's not the sort of place I'd want to go for a really quick visit. Then there's the not-frequent bus service between Ronda and Arcos. Arcos also has a population of over 30,000. The sights are not as many or as scattered as those in Ronda, but the historic area is distinctly uphill from the bus drop-off. In my experience, tackling that sort of two-town visit sometimes means a lunch of cookies or packaged peanuts as you try to avoid a multi-hour layover at your first destination after you've finished your sightseeing.

On the other hand, I had no trouble day-tripping from Seville to Arcos, and I easily took a bus from Seville to Ronda for a multi-night stay. As of 2019 there were also one-day bus tours from Seville to Ronda and one or more of the white villages. I opted against those because I wanted more time in Ronda than the tours would allow. I would have been very happy to take a bus tour (from either Seville or Ronda) that just went to some of the small villages, but such a thing did not seem to exist.

Posted by
99 posts

You have planned a wonderful trip!

I'm sure you will wish you had more time in Toledo, but that's often the case with travel :)

If you are an architecture lover, the Mezquita in Cordoba is one of the most magical and architecturally significant buildings in Spain. It's not along your planned route (would probably come at the expense of the white towns), so to see something similarly in the Mudéjar style (but on a much smaller scale) I recommend the Sinagoga de Santa María La Blanc in Toledo.

If you love Spanish Modernisme architecture, try to walk past the Palacio De Longoria in Madrid. It is a stunning Art Nouveau building from 1902.

Another person suggested Segovia... it's a nice town and the Roman aqueduct is impressive but given your tight schedule, I would stick with the destinations you already already have in mind.

Enjoy your trip!!!

Editing to add: I agree with the above advice to skip Madrid and head straight to Toledo. Madrid is a wonderful city but given your tight itinerary and lack of interest in art museums it might be the best decision.

Posted by
3330 posts

You can check the question of 1 - way car rentals on the AutoEurope website. We have done it many times at no extra cost. It’s only when you want to drop in a different country from pick up that you incur the enormous extra fee.
Consider the suggestion that you proceed to Granada immediately from MAD after arrival. That day is a write-off anyway due to jet lag. There are low cost flights, and you likely wouldn’t be able to check into your hotel in Madrid early in the morning. Just leave ample time for luggage retrieval and passport control. (Then add an hour. Lol) You can get some food, and just relax.

I think there is a high speed train between Madrid and Barcelona. You do not want to drive in either city. Even just returning a car in Barcelona was maddening. If you do drive, consider returning your car at the airport and riding some form of public transport to your accommodations.
I do hope that you are planning on open-jaw flights, with departure from Barcelona at the end of your trip.

Posted by
15052 posts

Here's my suggestion:

Arrive Madrid 7 am and take the train via Atocha to Cordoba (2N).

Train to Sevilla (2-3N)
Train or bus to Granada (2N)
Train to Toledo via Atocha (1-2N)
Train to airport/Barcelona via Atocha.

Cordoba is much more interesting than the white hill towns and the Mezquita is a must-see. It's quieter and smaller than Sevilla so it's also a good place to sightsee while getting over jetlag. Since it's a short train ride to Sevilla, you could have the better part of 2 days there with only 2N, depending on bus/train schedule to Granada. You really need 2N in Toledo, since you'll use about 1/2 day getting there and need to leave in the morning. Right now there's only one morning train from Toledo to Madrid, at 10.25. The next one isn't until mid afternoon. The a.m. train should get your companions to the airport around noon. That should be fine if the flight is 3 p.m. or later.

Renting a car for a day may eat up more time than it's worth, aside from the white hill towns being a lesser destination. City locations have limited hours. To get a full day's use, you'd want to rent the evening before (and figure out parking), then return it the morning (and figure out parking) after (when you could be sightseeing). The offices are small, so you could end up waiting in line at either end.

Posted by
2764 posts

I like Chani's plan very much--it takes into account your travel style. I also gave Madrid short shrift, a couple times, with the knowledge that direct flights to Madrid are a dime a dozen, and you'll have plenty of opportunity to enjoy it another time if you wish. I like spending a few jet-lagged hours on a train upon arrival, I arrive having napped and ready to go. I'm especially fond of Cordoba also!

Posted by
21310 posts

This is a November 2020 thread. No posts by the OP since Nov. 14. The original plan was for a mid-May trip.

Posted by
19 posts

Actually, we are not going to be able to go in May so we have now postponed until late September. We would really like to postpone until next year but American Airlines will only extend the ticket until 12/31/21. Because we had to postpone, we might be able to add a few days so all these posts have been very helpful.