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REVISED 12 day Southern Spain itinerary

Thank you to everyone who commented on my previous post, similarly titled, from a few days ago. Those comments, along with a bit more homework, have helped us drop Tangier and the Costa del Sol from the itinerary. Thanks for that. But now what?

I failed to attach some vital info i my first post. First, our time in Andalucia is Apr 14-25. More importantly, our week in the S. of Spain will be our penultimate week of a 13 week European trip. During the 13 weeks, we'll have a week in: Menaggio, Provence (Arles), Sitges, Naxos, Santorini, Amalfi Coast (Solerno), Algarve, Andalucia and Mallorca - with a few 2-3 day stays in Barcelona, Zurich, Istanbul, Athens, Nice and Lisbon thrown in along the way. Frankly, we'll have seen enough Roman ruins and religious centres long before we get to Andalucia! Again we'll be going to Seville from the Algarve and going on to Mallorca after Andalucia.

My wife and I want to experience Andalucian culture - more than run around seeing sights. Ideally, all we want to do is lay low, with the odd day trip or two to fight off cabin fever. However, in that area it seems tough to decide what NOT to see!

We prefer to rent an apartment for a week at a time. Packing and dragging luggage around aren't my favorite hobbies. Add to that - my wife loves to cook and try new cuisines (and 3 months of restaurant food would be taxing to any stomach!) My problem is I don't see a logical central hub in Andalucia from which to work. I agree my previous itinerary was busy, but failing to see an appropriate hub, we were settling to be on the move, and doing a "circle tour" of Andalucia. Following 2 or 3 nights in Seville, is there TWO hubs we could logically set up for 3-5 nights each? Arcos and Ronda? But even that is clumsy, and has lots of driving.

If we had to pare down the list, we'd like to experience: Arcos, Cadiz, Gibraltar, Ronda, Zahara, Grazalema and perhaps Malaga.

If I can complicate things a tiny bit more - we prefer to travel by train. Renting a car is doable, but when getting around by car - one of us is always missing out on the scenery.

Anyone up for a challenge? To point out a 9-day trip in the area and manner I'm describing? Whenever I sort out a plan - Gibraltar is the tough piece of the puzzle.

I'm open for all suggestions. For example, how about the following outside-the-box idea?

2-3 nights in Seville
Drive to Arcos (4-5 nights with a day trips to Cadiz, Zahara, Grazalema, Ronda)
Drive back to Seville and fly to Marrakesh! 2 nights in Marrakesh
Fly back to Malaga for a day or 2, or directly to Mallorca.


Posted by
19509 posts

I wouldn't take two flights in order to have one full day and some odd hours in Marrakech. It's a very interesting place, but that's a lot of travel time for not much time in place, plus there's a great deal more to see in Morocco; many of us like Fes at least as much as Marrakech. Save it for another trip when you can have a real visit to Morocco.

I'm still puzzled about your omission of Cordoba and Granada. The architecture in Andalucía is very different from what you will have seen at your other stops (assuming you cut Marrakech). You are omitting two of the three cities with the most important, glorious Moorish/Mudejar architecture in the area in order to overdose on a series of small villages.

I'd use Seville as a base for Cordoba (40 to 45 minutes by train) and even Cadiz (less than 2 hours away by train). That would be a minimum of 5 nights in Seville, because that only gets you 4 days, and Seville really needs more than 2 days as far as I'm concerned.

Now we need 3 or 4 nights somewhere that allows you to see some of the villages and ideally also Granada. Wanting to do that by public transportation makes it challenging. It may be necessary to exclude Granada, which I hate to do, given the amount of time you have available. But better that than staying somehere for 3 or 4 nights and spending 6-8 hours a day on buses.

I hope someone has a brilliant idea, because I surely do not.

I am afraid a week in Sitges is going to get a bit old. It's a pleasant place, but the major sights are in Barcelona. How many times do you want to travel back and forth on the train?

Posted by
637 posts

You mention out of the box ideas. These are not out of the box suggestions, but you have not included Granada and Cordoba in your itinerary, and you only plan on 2 or 3 nights in Seville. Personally, IMO, I can't imagine going to Andalucia and omitting Granada and Cordoba and only spending 2 or 3 nights in Seville. These 3 cities are the most important cities, historically and culturally, in Andalucia. You won't see Roman ruins in these places; you will see beautiful Moorish architecture in palaces and mosques. The Alhambra in Granada is amazing; the Mezquita in Cordoba (a Moorish mosque with a cathedral in the middle) is magnificent, and the Alcazar in Seville and its gardens are gorgeous. Andalucia was under Moorish rule for over 700 years, and this history is reflected in its beautiful architecture, palaces and mosques.

This is the itinerary I would recommend: Seville (4 nights), Cordoba (2 nights), and Granada (2 or 3 nights).

I can also recommend Malaga. We spent 2 nights there, and really enjoyed it. The coastal ambience is very nice (although you will already be spending a lot of time on coasts/water). There is plenty to see and do there, such as visit the Alcazaba, Castillo, seaside promenade, cathedral, and many small art museums. There is the Ataranzas Market, too. The Old Town is pedestrianized and very pretty, with plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from.

You also have a lot of time (many weeks) scheduled for beaches, islands, and coasts. But not much for important cities like Barcelona, Lisbon, and Nice. I haven't been to Zurich or Istanbul so can't comment. Barcelona is a large city with many important sites, and many of these sites (especially the Gaudi sites) now require advance purchase tickets. I would spend 5 days at least in Barcelona, and 4 to 5 days in Lisbon to see it properly.

You can travel around Spain easily by train. A car would be better for Provence.

I haven't been to Morocco but I'm not sure going to Marrakesh for 2 nights is worth the traveling time getting there, but you know your travel style better than me.

Posted by
670 posts

The roads in the hills country are winding and fun to drive, but not while seeking scenery. Arcos is really nice, but not "central" = "easily accessible" as a main stop - as is Ronda (which has similar road access issues, but we liked better), Zahara for us was really quiet... If you want a week of rest and recuperation with some day trips I would suggest basing in the old quarter of Sevilla for your week and do the larger spots by train (Cadiz, Jerez)... and a tour of the White Hill Towns with an individual tour guide by car. Expensive perhaps... but a days drive from Sevilla to Arcos to Ronda and return is a long day of someone else driving, but is definitely worth the sightseeing. Have lunch at one of the new tapas places in Ronda (that completely changed my view of what tapas could be). After several months on the road, treat yourself to the catered drive.

Posted by
1245 posts

This might be too "outside the box", but after spending several days in Seville and taking day-trips by public transport from there, you could move to Granada province and hire a car to enjoy the scenery and villages.

Everyone thinks of the western semi-officially designated "Pueblos Blancos" in Cadiz/Malaga provinces (such as Grazalema), when they think of "white villages"; but there is something similar across Andalucia, and indeed Murcia, often places that are less touristy and haven't expanded so much in recent decades as Brits, like me, moved in.

In Granada you could pick somewhere like Montefrio (beautiful town, large enough to have restaurants & shop options, but not very touristy), or Alhama de Granada as a base or instead a village in the low Las Alpujarras such as Bubion. Plenty of touring options around the province from any of these. And the scenery is amongst Andalucia's best. If you just want to relax in your base, there will be walks locally or the (occasional) local buses around the area.

Also, you could drive one day to the Alhambra, which is probably Spain's top sight and, I think, unmissable even if you're feeling a bit jaded after the previous 10 weeks. Granada city has a lot more to offer than "just" the Alhambra, but you're looking for somewhere more rural so this is the one thing I'd do. You can reach the Alhambra easily from outside the city, without actually having to drive through the city centre (which I'd avoid doing).

You can also fly from Granada airport to Majorca.

So - six nights in Sevilla, also visiting Cordoba, Cadiz and, perhaps, Carmona by rail/bus. Then hire a car and drive to Gibraltar, spend the day then head towards Granada, stopping en route as it will be late. Then 4 nights in a village/town in Granada province, touring the rural parts and mountain scenery, with a quick nip into near the city itself for the Alhambra. Or drop Gib and go directly by coach or train from Sevilla to Granada pick up a hire car and head to your rural base.

Posted by
14458 posts

I don't see a logical central hub in Andalucia from which to work. There isn't one. If you want to visit the hill towns, you need a car. I've done it twice - solo, once in February and once in March. I found the main roads easy to drive (there wasn't a lot of traffic). While they are twisty, they are well graded. I was able to enjoy some of the scenery as a driver, but mostly I would use the frequent pull-outs to stop, enjoy the views and take a few photos. Some of the villages enticed me in, some didn't. And if you do decide on several days in the "hills", Arcos is not a good base because of the topography. It's up a steep hill, driving in and out is awkward, even if you get a place with a parking place. Most people who visit by car part at the bottom of the town, also where the bus stops, and either take the steep walk up or the mini shuttle bus.

However, the top places in Andalucia are not the hill towns. They are Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada. I think it would be a shame to spend 9 days in the area and not see the Alhambra - there's a reason it's the #1 sight in Spain and that tickets sell out every day. You really need 2 nights there and it is out of the way so it's not suitable as a base. I guess it's posible to day trip from Malaga, but that's a long day.

You can day trip from Sevilla to Cordoba, Cadiz and Jerez (excellent horse shows and sherry bodega tours).

As I look at your plan, which sounds like you are planning to be in the Algarve, 2 Greek islands and Provence in February-March which sounds like one of the worst times to visit any of them. I'm told the Algarve pretty much closes up for the winter. I was on Naxos and Santorini last month. Naxos closes up at the end of October, nearly all the boat tours were done for the year by mid-Oct and I was told the tour guides have no work until April either. My driver on Santorini told me he was leaving the island for his second home for the winter before the end of Oct and wouldn't be back til April. So if those are your destinations, you should be very well rested before you get to Andalucia since you won't have much of anything to do in any of those places. Provence has the weather problem of the mistral. Would you consider the French Riviera instead? I was there at the end of March and it was wonderful, warm and sunny, not a lot of tourists.