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January solo trip -Lisbon, Sevilla, Madrid, and...

I absolutely impulse bought the 28k miles delta ticket into Lisbon and out of Madrid. It's a trip I've been wanting to take for a while, and I have a little time - so I now have 11 days to play with. I promised my husband I'd save Barcelona for the trip we'll take together - so I'm leaving it out this time. I'm early 40s, well traveled, but not a gung-ho see everything tourist. I'm a food/drink/experience focused traveler... looking for the local experience whenever possible. I'm starting a grad school program (part-time) when I get home, so I've been jokingly refer to this as my "compressed gap year", squeezing it in to my work schedule.

Current plan: arrive Friday and spend the weekend in Lisbon, Monday in Sintra, and an early Tuesday am flight to Sevilla.

I leave Sevilla mid-day Friday for Madrid ($30 plane ticket), staying until Tuesday morning, when I have to fly home. Thinking about a day trip to Toledo from Madrid. That's all I really have planned at this point.

I'd like to see Granada and have thought about Cordoba and Ronda - but also want to take it easy and really enjoy Sevilla. Thinking about maybe taking a paella class or something like that.

I have a car reservation in Sevilla, knowing I'd probably need to drive to get to Granada/Ronda. But now I look at the itinerary and can't decide if it's just too much to pack in to such a short time frame. What would you absolutely do with such a short time in Sevilla? It will be January... so that might impact things too. Small towns get slower... but I imagine Granada will still be busy enough.

Should I cancel the car, take the train to Granada and overnight, and then return to Sevilla for the rest of the time there, skipping Cordoba and Ronda? Keep the car and make a loop? Do one city a day? Or cancel it all and hang out in Sevilla only before I go to Madrid?

Thanks!
Summer

Posted by
624 posts

In the future, it would be easier if you can lay out your itinerary by telling us how many nights you have in each place. At least, it's easier for me. :-) What month is your trip?

You have 11 nights total, right? (I plan my trips by nights, not days.) And only 3 nights in Seville? Are you staying overnight in Sintra? And you have 3 nights in Lisbon? You will be jetlagged upon arrival in Lisbon, so you don't have a lot of time there. As a reference point, we stayed 5 nights in Lisbon, and that included a day trip to Sintra, and we didn't see everything we wanted to see in Lisbon. So much depends on your interests and what you want to see and do.

I think you need at least 4 nights in Seville. It's a gorgeous city architecturally, and has many amazing, important sites, such as the Cathedral, Alcazar, Casa di Pilatos, Plaza de Espagna, Triana neighborhood, and smaller art museums, if you love art. It seems you want a slower pace of travel. So as much as I love Cordoba, and usually recommend staying overnight in Cordoba, I don't see how you can visit Cordoba on this trip. The same with Granada, unless you omit something else.

I think you have a good amount of time in Madrid (4 nights). You could have time to do a day trip to Toledo. It depends on how much you like art museums. Madrid has outstanding art museums.

So, with 11 nights total, this could be a possible itinerary:

Lisbon - 3 or 4 nights
Sintra - day trip or 1 night
Seville - 4 nights
Madrid - 3 nights

Or if you want to spend more time in Madrid, stay in Seville 3 nights as currently planned and 4 nights in Madrid. No day trips from Seville and cancel the car reservation.

OR 3 nights in Seville and one night in Granada to see the Alhambra, which is AMAZING. You could take the train or bus from Seville to Granada. And train, bus, or fly from Granada to Madrid.

I hope this helps. Your itinerary really depends on your interests and what you want to see in each place.

Posted by
624 posts

I just noticed "January" in your title. If you decide to go to Granada, you have to purchase your Alhambra tickets ASAP.

Posted by
745 posts

By reading your description - I see 11 "nights on the Iberian Peninsula" - sorta like de Falla. Each of your destinations are excellent choices - and, as you described yourself - "well traveled, but not a gung-ho see everything tourist" - I would abide by that credo.
Here's my suggestion for you:
Lisbon - 5 nights with day trips to Sintra and Evora
fly to
Seville for 3 nights
fly (or train) to
Madrid for 3 nights.

Save all those other wonderful locations for another time. Believe me - you will be back.

Posted by
19388 posts

Honestly, I'd be prepared to throw away that plane ticket from Seville to Madrid. The train will get you there in about 2-1/2 hours (faster because city center to city center) with a lot less hassle, and as you'll see below, I wouldn't want to head back to Madrid quite that early.

I think you're trying to do too much. The time you have in Seville (two full days and maybe a few hours on the day you arrive) is really minimal for that city by itself. I certainly don't think you have time to make a day-trip away from the city. And Ronda--well, it's nice (I've been there three times), but it absolutely isn't the sort of place for which you should cut Seville short. You might have an argument for Cordoba, but it's a tough call for me, because the time spent riding back and forth on the train is time you could have spent wandering around Seville. But Cordoba is really lovely.

To me Granada's too far from Seville to be a reasonable day-trip, though some people do travel that way. Based on the current weekday schedule, the earliest arrival by train would be at 10:39 AM, and that means getting yourself to the station in Seville in time for an 8 AM departure.

It would take longer to drive to Granada; ViaMichelin estimates nearly 3 hours, and that's not including the time it takes to pick up the car (and later return it to the rental agency) and look for parking in Granada. The best return train leaves Granada at 7:18 PM and gets to Seville at 9:38 PM. You'd have just about enough time to see the Alhambra complex and have a good meal. But there's a lot more to see in Granada than just the Alhambra.

Tickets for the Alhambra sell out well in advance--sometimes months in advance. I don't know whether you'll find any General tickets still available for your time in Spain; I don't know you travel dates. General tickets are completely sold out from December 20 through January 5. You can also check on Dobla de Oro tickets, which don't sell out as fast, but they are sold out for December 28 through January 4. The Dobla de Oro tickets cover some additional sights (which you wouldn't have time to see), but they aren't a great deal more expensive. Both types of tickets could sell out for additional dates at any time. If you can't get a ticket from the official website (to which I've linked), the usual next step is to try to get a ticket from ones hotel, but of course that is not an option if you make a day-trip to Granada.

I note that you are more interested in atmosphere than in a bunch of sights. If you don't care about art museums, I think 4 nights in Madrid with one day spent in Toledo is one day more than you really need in the capital. I'd much rather use that day in Granada or Cordoba. Madrid is perfectly OK, but to me it's not as architecturally interesting as a lot of other places in Spain. I'd plan to take a train from Seville to Madrid one day later. You could consider seeing Cordoba in transit by checking your luggage at the bus station very near the Cordoba train station. At least one night in Cordoba would be nicer, though.

Posted by
1252 posts

I don't think Granada will be noticeably warmer than Madrid in January - both can be bone-chillingly cold, especially on dry nights. I'd also only consider seeing the Alhambra as a day-trip from Sevilla as a last resort if you cannot fit it in otherwise.

Since you're already intending to return and Madrid fits well with Barcelona, this is what I'd do:

Lisboa - arr Fri, dep Tue (with Sintra as day-trip when the weather looks likely to be least rainy, so decide when there);
Sevilla - arr Tue, dep Fri by rail to Cordoba, spend the day there then go onwards by coach or rail to Granada after dinner;
Granada - arr Fri (late), dep Mon for Madrid by train;
Madrid - arr Mon, do one highlight, dep Tue for home.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you! Lots to consider here. I was thinking of more time in Madrid because I do have the art museums on my radar - and that's something I'd much rather do solo than when I go back with my husband. I think I will probably carve a day off of Madrid though, to make time for Granada. My trip is mid-January, so I checked and can still get tickets to Alhambra, but ... definitely cutting it close. I am deciding this weekend.

I had thought of Sintra on Monday as the guidebook mentioned that most shops and museums in Lisbon are closed on Mondays, but that Sintra was open - but the rain warning is a good one - so I will stay flexible and see what works best when I get there. I know the first day won't be a great one for getting a lot in, but jet lag usually isn't a huge problem for me. My general strategy is to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime and shift right into the time of the country, with a little melatonin and extra caffeine as needed.

I'm not so much worried about the cold. I live in Baltimore - so I imagine it will be warmer in Spain, no matter what, than at home. And I have spent time walking around Quebec, Copenhagen, and Berlin in December ... brrr.... so - I'll just bring layers and prepare for whatever it might be.