We are a married couple who are fairly active, sun, water and mountain explorers. We also love Europe's architecture! In our late fifties, we hope to visit Spain from mid September to mid October, 2021. This is our first trip to Spain and although there are many museums, ruins, castles, etc. we only want bits of that in the larger centres. We love to eat but are born vegetarians and striving to be vegan. We would fly from Vancouver, Canada to ??? Some research has directed us to the following cities: Madrid, Valencia, Seville, Cadiz, Marbella, Malaga, Gibraltar, Segovia, Barcelona, Costa del Sol and Andulusia areas seem the most intriguing right now. Any suggestions for an itinerary would be greatly appreciated! Start where? End where? How to get around. It sounds like car rental is really expensive right now but maybe better in October?
That's a lot of places for a month. For Andalusia, Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada are absolute musts. We enjoyed the pueblos blancos in the mountains between Sevilla and Granada. Perfect for Nature lovers. We stayed in Grazelema which is surrounded by national park and there were many hikes. I would look at seeing what you can do by train, and then consider a car for pieces difficult to do by train. We took a train to Sevilla, picked up a car at the end of our visit, drove through pueblos blancos and dropped off the car when we got to Granada. Most are saying that car rentals in Europe are quite expensive right now, just like in the U.S. However, someone recently commented on the forum, that Spain's rental aren't that high so you may want to check. I am renting in September in France. I was fortunate to nab before prices started to really escalate.
You might enjoy hiking in the Alpujarras outside Granada.
It could still be quite hot in Andalucia in mid-September, so you might want to leave that area till last.
I agree that you have a rather long list there and that it will be longer when you add Cordoba and Granada (which you really, really should if you go to Seville, Malaga and Cadiz).
Choose your Costa del Sol location(s) carefully. Many of the coastal spots are notable more for British pubs and German sausage joints than for the type of attractions you can find elsewhere in Spain.
Acraven is correct about the weather. We were in Sevilla at the beginning of November and it was plenty warm. Grazelema in the pueblos blancos and the area Acraven mentions for hiking near Granada, and Granada, to some extent, are at higher altitudes and will be cooler.
We're planning a similar trip during the same timeframe though this will be our third time traveling in Spain so we know what places we'd like to make a return visit to and have added some new destinations. For a first time to Spain traveler, I'd suggest starting with Rick's 2021 Guidebook. In the first few pages of the book, he lists "Worth-It Destination" and then makes suggestions for designing an itinerary - based on your interests, that will give you a starting place. I also get books from the library (Lonely Planet, Fodors, and Eyewitness) for further research. I use Google Maps and Rome2Rio to figure out the best transportation options.
For us, our plan is to keep it fairly simple considering the uncertainty of travel right now - we plan to spend 3-5 nights in several spots. For now, we're planning to rely heavily on public transportation. We're landing and departing from Madrid. Since our flight arrives early in the morning, we're planning to take the train south to Cordoba for our first stop - then will travel to Seville and Cadiz. We will (probably) fly north from Seville to visit San Sebastian, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Pamplona, (but that could change) - we'll end up in Madrid a few days before our flight home.
Enjoy the planning process! Start with a basic itinerary, keep it simple and make changes as you get more info!
We generally fly into Madrid and start from there. Once you know which city you’re flying into, then you need to decide if you’re going to use public transportation or rent a car. Yes, rental car prices are high right now; twice what they were in 2017. Many trails, mountains, etc., would be easier to get to with a rental car since trailheads are generally not in the city. With a car, you wouldn’t need to worry about missing a bus or train. If you’re staying with the larger cities, then trains and busses would be your best bet. It really just depends on what you want to do and see.
Our October 2013 trip started in Madrid, included Segovia as a tremendous overnight from Madrid, and ended in Barcelona, from where we flew home. In between, we toured the Basque country up north. We used a train to get up to the northern coast from Madrid, and drove a rental car from there.
We’d focused on southern Spain on a trip in 2002, with a car, including Seville and Malaga. That kept us busy over 3 weeks.
Many parts of Spain are renowned for their meat and fish, and we weren’t looking for vegetarian or vegan options, but I’m sure you’ll find menus that work for you.
Happy Cow websitenor app can help you find your vegan options. Also Spain has upped the anti with regards to vegetarian options and identifying allergens and I gradients in their menus.
You are in luck because Spain is the most biodiverse country in Europe, according to UNESCO! The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve system comprises of dynamic areas comprising of diverse terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems and are designated “learning places” for humanity's relationship with nature, climate, and the environment.
Here's a complete list of Spain's UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sciences/biosphere-reserves/europe-north-america/
Some of my recommendations:
Near Barcelona/Pyrenees - Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park
Near Sevilla - Doñana National Park
Near Granada - Sierra Nevada National Park
Near Madrid - Monfragüe National Park and Serrania de Cuenca National Park
Near Valencia - l'Albufera National Park
In terms of eating vegan/vegetarian in Spain--My daughter is vegetarian. We had no problem finding good options for her in Barcelona, and from what I saw in Andalusia, Madrid, Segovia, and Toledo, there were plenty options there as well. Where we did have problems finding vegetarian while still allowing the rest of us to enjoy local/atmospheric restaurants was in Munich and Switzerland, and to some extent Austria.
I'm sure you'll be able to find suitable food, though I suspect sticking to a vegan diet will be rather challenging. In any case, be aware that Spain especially loves ham. It shows up as seasoning in vegetable dishes, among other places. The menu del dia lunch options are good deals, but they are often presented on hand-written chalkboards without the level of detail you might find on a printed menu. You'll probably need to take the initiative to ask.
In addition, I bought some cookies at a convent that had the ingredients posted on the counter. I noticed that some of the cookies contained lard.
Wow! Thank you for your advise! I didn't realize how warm it could be in September. Our timeline is somewhat flexible so we may leave in the first week of October now. I like the idea of flying into one city and out of another such as was suggested ( Madrid, then Barcelona). Which parts of Costa Del Sole would you suggest? We are not into the bar or party scenes. The hikes look amazing! That's just what we were looking for. I am not too worried about finding vegetarian options now. Thanks for that and for pointing out that ham is so popular. We often do some of our own cooking when staying at Airbnb.
I have already spent time on Duo Lingo learning some basic Spanish. It's almost July so I am going to start booking hotels that can be cancelled if Covid variants play a part this fall. Please, continue to guide me when you can. Much appreciated!
Nature lovers in Spain
You are in luck!
During my two Spain trips, I was pleasantly surprised by some uncrowded (and unspoiled) natural beauty.
Las Alpujarras from Capileira.
Congost de Montrebei (3 hours by car from Barcelona)
Basque Coast UNESCO Global Geopark from Zumaia.
By uncrowded, I meant I was almost alone on the trails. By unspoiled, I meant almost untouched by men, without telephone poles, clearcutting forests, etc. I will be looking for more when I return to Spain.
Just a thought, my daughter does not want to taste meat in anything she eats. No specks of bacon no taste of meat fats. When she travels or visits family or friends, she can tolerate, though would prefer not to know, some meat broth or some small amount of meat fat in the dish. We appreciate that, and it makes it easier to travel with her. I can certainly understand if other vegans/vegetarians might not be willing to adapt this approach.
Also, if you are nature lovers, don't discount the Canary Islands (Las Canarias), Spain's most southerly archipelago, have much to offer outside of beach resorts, for example the island of Gran Canaria is nicknamed the "Miniature Continent" because of the diversity of landscapes, from sand dunes to green ravines. It's a paradise if you are into hiking and nature. Gran Canaria also has quite a few picturesque towns like Arucas or Firgas that are worth checking out.
From a cultural standpoint, the next door island of Tenerife should also do the trick, its home to the second largest carnival in the world, after the one in Rio de Janeiro, so it's always in a festive mood. The charming town of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes for a nice day trip too. And one can also check out Teide National Park, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to Mount Teide, the third highest volcano in the world. Not to mention all the unique and fascinating history and culture of the local Guanche indigenous people.
PS: The Costa del Sol is about as far away from nature as you can get in Spain, best look elsewhere unless you are looking to improve your golf game lol!
As others mentioned up thread, I don't think you will have an issue finding vegetarian menus. I even found Vegetarian Paella and other options in Spain. Enjoy your planning.
Thanks for the new tips, particularly about the Canary Islands and about Costa Del Sol. I wasn't aware of that. Perhaps I'd better order the Spain, Rick Steves book and then go from there. We are feeling like leaving Canada around October 4 might be better for us. So checking out the hot spots in October will definitely be on our list. Perhaps not so much Costa Del Sol. It makes sense to fly into Madrid and then go from there. We thinking to leave a bit of time in early November to go to London before flying home as it shortens our flying time (So dislike those masks!) and we can do a Beatles walking tour there.
Still not sure which way to go from Madrid???Hotter locations or larger centres?
Also wondering about where to stay for a week or so enjoying a beach in October? Cadiz? Marbella?
From El País today: Sierra de las Nieves in Málaga province contains unique species of plants and wildlife, and nearby municipalities are counting on this new visitor attraction to revitalize the region.
Also this may be of interest: https://english.elpais.com/el_viajero/2020-03-11/five-travel-ideas-to-discover-nature-in-spain.html?rel=mas