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Logistics Help Madrid & Southern Spain

First post, First trip to Europe! Help with Logistics for Madrid and Southern Spain itinerary please! If travel restrictions permit, will be visiting daughter living in Madrid. Arrive Madrid 8am 9/ll, depart Madrid noon 9/27. Daughter has class on Friday late afternoons in Madrid so itinerary will require circling back to Madrid mid-trip. I'm 55+, love history, trying out local foods, drink & customs, breathtaking views and walking. Seeking practical and convenient travel by train, plane, bus, rental or driver. Following is a tentative schedule. Look forward to your ideas and suggestions!
9/11 ARRIVE MADRID 8AM *
9/12 MADRID *
9/13 TO GRANADA *
9/14 GRANADA *
9/15 GRANADA TO NERJA *
9/16 NERJA *
9/17 NERJA TO TOLEDO *
9/18 TOLEDO *
9/19 TOLEDO TO CORDOBA *
9/20 CORDOBA TO SEVILLA *
9/21 SEVILLA *
9/22 SEVILLA *
9/23 SEVILLA TO RONDA *
9/24 RONDA *
9/25 RONDA TO MADRID *
9/26 MADRID *
9/27 DEPART MADRID NOON

Posted by
10244 posts

Actually, in April 2019 we did almost exactly your itinerary, except we chose not to sleep in Ronda.
In Spain and much of Europe, train is how the locals, and experienced travelers, get around in the parts of Spain you're going to--unless they want to go to a destination not served by regular train service.

In our April 2019 trip to Spain, we were not renting a car for anywhere else and wisely (for us) chose to go on a day tour from Sevilla to Ronda, with 2 intermediate stops along the way to Ronda. With you wanting to sleep looks like 2 nights in Ronda, you can try and see if there are one-way bus rides from Sevilla to Ronda.
Or you may want to rent a car, only for this segment of your itinerary. Parking in Ronda may be a challenge, it's the usual car rental parking issues in much of Europe, the town wasn't laid out with cars in mind and also didn't get carpet-bombed in WW2 (bombing was horrible but at least simplified laying out German cities to accommodation cars).

Posted by
10244 posts

And Carlos, a regular on this forum, can be very helpful on details of logistics that we here may not know about.
He'll probably see your post (he may still be sleeping at this time), but if he doesn't you can locate a post of his and use it to send him a Private Message (PM).

Posted by
3205 posts

Is your daughter traveling with you, except needing to get back to Madrid for her Friday class mid-trip, then both of you heading back out? If so, is that fitting into the Toledo part?

Our last trip, staying in Madrid and points north, we did a day trip to Toledo, but didn’t spend the night. It was an easy, short train round trip. Toledo is packed with history (former capitol of Spain), and walking there can be quite steep - uphill and downhill.

If there’s room to squeeze in a visit to Segovia, either as a day trip from Madrid, or with an overnight stay, it’s a highlight. The massive Roman aqueduct, historic castle, roast pork center (talk about a local food custom!), plaza squares, and a great ambiance make Segovia a great place to include in an itinerary. We took a train there from Madrid, and a bus back late the next day.

Posted by
5 posts

Awesome! Thank-you Kent and Can for the quick response and great suggestions. My daughter will be traveling with me. I could wait for her to return if the travel to/from our lodging would make sense. Glad to know I'm not too far off in my plans. Will definitely look into the ideas you have presented.

Posted by
1864 posts

Hello welcome to the forum! How I understand it is that:
-you have 16 nights on the ground,
-you wish to include Madrid and Andalucia
-you have to come back up to Madrid on 18.9 and 25.9 (Friday classes)

It won't be easy, but if that is the case, I would recommend:
Fly in to Madrid
Fly or take the AVE Train directly to
Sevilla (4 nights)
AVE Train to
Cordoba (2 nights)
AVE Train back up to
Toledo (2 nights) - Madrid class daytrip
AVE Train via Madrid Atocha to
Granada (3 nights)
ALSA Bus to
Nerja (2 nights)
ALSA Bus/AVE Train combo back up to
Madrid (3 nights) - daytrip to Segovia
Fly out of Madrid

Well that about does it haha 😂

PS: Thank you for the commendation, Kent, it's much appreciated 👍

Posted by
16769 posts

I spent 3 nights in Toledo and I wasn't sorry. It's quite hilly, and the historic area is large.

I'd want more than one night in Cordoba if I had this much time to work with. I have never been to Nerja, not being a beach person. I'd suggest that you seriously consider dropping Nerja and shifting that time to Cordoba. I think Nerja is going to somewhat complicate your transportation, though I assume you can get there from Granada, somehow. It probably will take more time than one would imagine just from looking at the map.

Ronda does have some rail service, as well as bus service. I like Ronda, but it's not remotely in the same class as Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville and Granada in terms of sights. Really the gorge is its main claim to fame, though if you're there, you'll find some other things to look at. Are you planning two nights there because you want to see one or two of the white villages? That gets just a bit sticky if you don't have a car. There are tours from Seville that go to Ronda and a few of the smaller places. I was unable to find a tour from Ronda itself that would permit me to see two or more of the villages in a single day. Instead, I did a day-trip from Ronda to Grazalema by public bus. I day-tripped to Arcos de la Frontera from Seville, again by bus.

Toledo can only be approached from Madrid if you're using public transportation, which is the fastest thing to do for most destinations. Even though Toledo is on a spur railroad line, the link to Madrid is fast. However, you need to allow time at Madrid's Puerta de Atocha RR station on the way in and out of Toledo. That station can be a bit confusing; it's not the sort of place where you want to have a 10-minute connection.

Don't forget that tickets to the Alhambra--under normal circumstances--sell out weeks or even months in advance. I have no idea what the situation will be like this fall, but the expected lower demand may be matched by much lower ticket allocations. Conditions were really crowded last May, even for the nighttime viewing; I can't imagine they'll be selling the same number of tickets when they reopen.

Another ticket you should buy before you head over to the sight is the Alcazar in Seville. It doesn't usually totally sell out, but the ticket-buying line can be an hour long or more, and it stretches across an uncovered plaza where you'll be exposed to the elements. The cathedral in Seville also presents ticketing challenges, but Rick explains how to deal with that in his book.

I agree that Segovia is an interesting side-trip from Madrid (or worth an overnight if you have time).

You'll save considerable time for most legs of your trip by using trains. If you're in a position to buy non-changeable/non-refundable tickets way ahead of time, you can get some real bargains. Unfortunately, buying non-refundable tickets for this fall is very risky. The Madrid-Toledo tickets are always sold at the same price, so there's no need to buy them super early. Rick warns, however, that sometimes the trains (or even the slower buses) back to Madrid late in the day sell out, so that's something to keep in mind.

Posted by
5 posts

Wow! Great information, Thank-you Carlos and acraven. I very much appreciate the information and suggestions! Will check it out :)

Posted by
1864 posts

Agree 100% with all acraven and others have mentioned above. Out of your original itinerary, it is important to note that Nerja, Toledo, and Ronda are the most difficult to factor in logistically due to them not being well connect within the greater high speed rail system, for example Toledo is only really connected to Madrid, so you will have to make a transfer in Madrid in order to continue traveling to any other city (i.e. no direct connections to other cities).

Posted by
104 posts

Having spent time in both Nerja and Ronda on our trip to Spain back in 2017, I would pick Ronda for sure. Unless you really must have a little beach time, pick Ronda. Ronda was a very lovely city and I wish we could have spent more nights there, and also had more time to explore the neighboring "white towns." Your itinerary looks Amazing! You will have a great time no matter what. Enjoy!

Posted by
5 posts

I truly appreciate everyone's insight, definitely helps to get input from those that know! Thank-you!

Posted by
990 posts

Suggest you fly into Seville with connection in Madrid. Doing so takes advantage of using same form of transport and not having to spend time going to the train station. The expense is minimal compared to the train and offers ease of the plane connection. If you travel with a carry on bag the connection is even easier. Recommendation: strive to travel with only a carry on case and a personal bag. The thought may seem daunting, but is achievable and greatly eases travel stress and convenience. Anything you believe you "gotta have" can be found in Spain. Also, your daughter may already have items you can rely upon sharing. While large the Madrid airport is relatively easy to navigate. Invest some online research on how to transfer within the airport. Did I correctly count six destinations in 16 days? To me that is a lot of time spent in transfers from point to point and increases the odds of encountering travel "glitches" (as well as expense). You mentioned "...love history, trying out local foods, drink & customs, breathtaking views and walking" which we have found is best explored by adding time to destinations in order to peel back the layers of opportunities. Of your destinations we would toss Nerja as the beach experience (pebbly) was not to what we seek. Recommend adding time to the other destinations as slowing down and taking deep breathes helps create wonderful memories. Enjoy this journey and we hope you will be taking many more. Tip: make the first walk one that goes completely around your place of lodging. Long ago we found the perfect family run breakfast nook on the block behind our hotel on the last evening of our stay.

Posted by
5 posts

Excellent Advice, sounds like great ideas and I will definitely take all into account. Thank-you!

Posted by
448 posts

We spend 3 nights in Ronda between Marrakesh, Morocco and Madrid - enjoyed it and recommend. We picked it in part due to logistics. There are a number of white towns so I would pick the one that is the most efficient from a transportation standpoint (don't be to rent a car to visit rural areas - avoid the hassle in cities) when considering your overall itinerary - and it may be Ronda.

Posted by
4207 posts

I think both your original itinerary and Carlos' improved one shortchange Madrid. There's a lot to see and do there. Segovia is great but I wouldn't add that to an already busy schedule. Maybe your daughter, living in Madrid, has had time to see the sights there and wants to spend her time with you in other parts of Spain, but otherwise consider adding time in Madrid. See "Explore Europe" on this website for our host's suggestions of what to see there.