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Request for advice on itinerary - too ambitious or just right?

My husband and I are planning to visit Lisbon and the South of Spain. Our proposed itinerary is as follows:

4 nights in Lisbon, 3 nights in Seville, 2 nights in Cordoba, 3 nights in Granada, 2 nights in Malaga, and 3 nights in Madrid.

Our proposed transportation arrangements would be as follows:
We will be flying to Lisbon from the States, then from Lisbon either take the train or fly to Seville, and rent a car. We would then drop the car in Malaga and fly to Madrid, from which we will fly back to the States a few days later.

Questions: Are we being too ambitious? Will this schedule give us enough time to enjoy the experience? If we were to skip one of these destinations, which one should we skip? If we were to add one night, where should we add it? (I would be more inclined to skip a destination than to extend our trip, but I am willing to be persuaded either way with a good argument.) Or is this itinerary just right? We don't want to be on the go all the time, but would like to have time to "waste" doing nothing, reading, or lingering at a bar or cafe. (If it makes any difference, we have been to Madrid before, but this will be our first time in Lisbon and Andalucia.) Thanks!

Posted by
19379 posts

When is your trip?

There are frequent trains from Malaga to Madrid, taking 2-1/2 to 3 hours, so I would not fly that leg.

A train will not get you all the way from Lisbon to Seville, only to Faro on the Algarve, where you could switch to a bus. Links between these two countries tend to be awkward. Check Skyscanner.com for flights. I don't know that you'll find any non-stops, but maybe you'll find one. If Seville flight options don't look good, check Malaga. Perhaps you can flip your itinerary and do Malaga-Granada-Cordoba-Seville (or -Seville-Cordoba).

If you don't plan to stop in smaller towns in Andalucía (Ronda, Arcos, etc.), I'm not sure a car makes sense logisitically. Others can provide feedback on that part of your plan.

I see that you've been to Madrid previously. Have you seen Toledo, Segovia, and Cuenca? If not, they are all worthwhile. Cuenca is easy and fast via AVE train but that's an expensive proposition if you don't buy the train tickets early on.

Posted by
54 posts

My thoughts..

I'll start by saying I'd skip Malagua. I don't care for costa del sol or Gibralter.. Not much spanish culture down there.. mainly you will find retired pensioners from the UK or northern Europe.. Nothing wrong with that but not the andalucia spain I enjoy.

  • For me 3 nights in Lisbon are enough. I think it is a beautiful city, but I am hard pressed to occupy myself there.. But maybe if you arrive there initially and want to go slow the first day then that makes sense..

  • 3 nights in Seville are about right.

  • Personally I'd just stop in Cordoba only for about 4 or 5 hours. If you are taking the high speed train between Madrid and Seville, you can just stop there (you can store bags at the bus station across the street. Worked out very easy for me).. It is a nice city but a few hours is enough. But depending on your travel route it might make sense to stay over a night there.

  • Granada - I did 2 nights and that was enough for me.. I spent the day at the alhambra which was amazing. (get your tickets on -line).. Three nights are ok, but the third night would have been a bit much. Once you see the alhambra and walk some of the streets I was done.

    • I didn't go to malagua so no comments other than those I made above
  • Three nights in Madrid are about right.. I might have even added a day here. Recommend staying near the plaza sol which is ground zero from a tourist perspective and of course you must spend time in the Prado.. Amazing.

If I were to recommend anything it would be the following:
- Consider stopping off for a few hours in Rhonda (sp).. Nice town, a bit touristy. but worth a stop if convenient although I wouldn't go too far out of my way.

- Personally I'm not in to the costa del sol.. So I avoid Malagua and those areas.. not much spanish culture there for me. But that is my personal feeling.
- Arcos de frontera..- Lovely little hill town I thoroughly enjoyed. Sort of between Seville and Granda.. Not super crowded and authentic. I'd trade Malagua for this hill town anytime. Not a ton to do, but found it refreshing. .Whatever you do DONT try to drive up to the cathederal, lol.. Park below and walk up the streets, I watched lots of people getting stuck..

- Absolutely Stay a night in Toledo (just south of Madrid) - It gets crowded during the day, but is really cool city on top of a big plateau.. At night when all the tourists leave it is amazing to get lost walking though the streets. One of my trip highlights.
- Day trip to Segovia (just north of Madrid)- I probably wouldn't stay here, but is very interesting city.. Kind of like Toledo, there is an aqueduct.. You might stay in Madrid and get a day tour.. I'd recommend doing Toledo as a higher priority.

So my ideal itinerary would be...

3 nights Lisbon (although adding the 4th day for decompress isn't a terrible idea)
3 nights seville

1 night Arcos frontera
2 nights Granada
3 or 4 nights Madrid (maybe one day as a day trip to segovia)
1 night toledo (could go against your madrid budget)

Note I would figure out a stop in cordoba for 5 or 6 hours and not an overnight. But if it works out then fine.. Nice city, just not much to do.. You can see the cathedral, the bridge and walk the old city and that's it.

Good luck

Posted by
6 posts

These replies are FANTASTIC!

Acraven, thank you for your thoughts on flying vs. taking the train. I checked skyscanner.com as you suggested and found a couple of non-stop flights from Lisbon to Seville. I also like your idea of visiting Segovia, Toledo or Cuenca.

Steve, thank you for your thoughtful advice. I am dropping Malaga from the itinerary and will follow your and Acraven’s suggestion to visit Toledo. Your suggestion about Arcos de Frontera is a good one and will look into it. I like little towns where one can slow down and take in the countryside. By the way, I think I might adopt your ideal itinerary.

A big thank you to you both.

Posted by
7124 posts

I would rejig your arrangements a bit and replace Malaga with Ronda, visiting some white hill towns with the car.

Arrive Lisbon - 4 nights (possible day trips to Sintra and Cascais)
Fly (via Madrid) to Granada - 2 or 3 nights
Pick up rental car
Drive to Ronda - 2 nights (with a day visiting Zahara/Grazalema)
Drive via Arcos de la Frontera to Seville - 3 nights
Return rental car
Train to Cordoba - 1 or 2 nights
Train to Madrid - 4 nights (possible day trips to Toledo and Segovia)
Depart Madrid

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you so much. These are all good ideas. I will definitely skip Malaga and extend my time in Madrid. - Ana

Posted by
513 posts

Ana -
I would not be so hasty to drastically change your planned itinerary - afterall, something caused you to include Malaga in your original plans. I spent three days in Malaga last October and I loved it. There was a lot to do and a great vibrancy about the city. Go to your public library and read, or buy, a good guide book on Spain that gives Malaga its due - the one and a half pages in Rick's book do not begin to cover all there is to do and see in this wonderful city. Then, after reading this book, decide whether you want to go Malaga or not, based on your own preferences, not the biases of someone else who admits he has never been there. Among the many sites there are several great museums including a branch of Paris' Pompidou Centre, an excellent Picasso Museum Picasso was born in Malaga, so you might also want to see the Casa Natal de Picasso), the Museo Carmen Thyssen, an excellent local Museo de las Bellas Artes, and the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo. Other sites include the Cathedral where I saw a canonization ceremony of a local man last fall, the Alcazaba and Teatro Romana, and an awesome seaside promenade. There is much, much more, but you probably get the idea. I also did a daytrip (a short bus ride of 45 minutes or so) to the Costa del Sol and Marbella.

Posted by
6 posts

Jack, thank you for your thoughtful response. My main concern was in trying to do too much. I feel there's a limit to what I should try to accomplish on this trip. Thanks again.

Posted by
1030 posts

I'm generally a 3 or 2 night traveler so I like your itinerary. For what it's worth, we stayed 3 nights in Ronda for some down time (loved it) and then took the train up to Madrid.