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Skip the White Hill Towns or skip Sevilla?

Hello All!

I am working on an Oct 2022 itinerary to Southern Spain (our first trip to the country). We have 3 weeks (19 full days) and are trying to decide what to leave in and what to leave out. For background, we love:

  • Exploring neighborhoods/cities, small towns/villages

  • Walks with interesting architecture and/or great views

  • Anything that feels more authentic and less touristy other than can't miss sites like the Alhambra in Granada, etc. We DO want to see some of the main attractions but do not want to fill up our days trying to check off a list of every amazing site/museum/tour in every city. We are happy sipping coffee in lovely spots and people watching, and strolling back streets, etc.

We are also trying to keep it relaxing by not moving around too much. We are open to a car as necessary (as maybe to see the white hill villages).

So my question: To keep things simple I feel we can add Seville to the mix of Toledo (2 nights), Cordoba (3 nights), Granda(4-5 nights), Madrid (3-5 nights).


We can skip Seville and see some of the white hill villages over a couple of days (e.g., get a car in Seville and head to Ronda for 2 nights with a Grazalema day trip) then drive to Frigiliana for a few days to soak in the quiet before heading to Granada (then back to Madrid for a 3-4 days before we fly out).

The white hill towns sound lovely and and Seville... everyone loves. However, I am not sure we will love Seville. It sounds a bit overrun by tourists and since we will have time in Cordoba, Granada, Toledo (plus Madrid), I am not sure we need to see more Moorish sites etc., (although I realize the Alcázar Real is amazing!). To be fair, some of the white hill towns ALSO sound quite touristy as well,

Bottom line: Would you skip Seville or the white hill villages? I

know this comes down to personal preference but I just can't seem to decide so I am opening it up to your thoughts!

All comments appreciated!! Thank you in advance!

Posted by
1518 posts

Without directly aswering the question I'll just add that the logistics of touring white villages—renting (and driving/navigating/parking) a car—adds a potentially significant stressor. I love driving and road trips, but sometimes it's still a factor I weigh.

Also- 4-5 is probably a lot of time for Granada. I was just there for three nights, 2 full and 2 half days, and it felt like plenty of time. And I'm more of a wanderer, not a 'run through a to-do list' traveler.

Posted by
13808 posts

Toledo: 2 nights (Go there first thing after landing, unless you land too late in the evening).
AVE train
Cordoba: 2 nights but 3 nights is better.
AVE train
Seville: 3 nights (it's my favorite Spanish city and could spend 4, but depends on your time availability. 3 nights are otherwise enough)
CAR rental starting from Seville
Ronda: 2 nights. I also like Arcos de la Frontera, which you could possibly visit en route or maybe spend a night in Arcos and one in Ronda. Not much to do in Grazalema but it's pretty for a quick visit. It's along the route Arcos-Grazalema-Ronda.
CAR rental (keep driving)
Nerja: 1 night, or at least stop for the day before heading to Granada.
CAR rental (keep driving). Return car in Granada.
Granada: 3 nights would do in my opinion. Two full days are more than plenty. I like the Albaicin district.
AVE Train
Madrid: 3-4 nights.

The car should be limited to the SEVILLE to GRANADA portion of the trip. It's too cumbersome to visit the Pueblos Blancos (white washed villages), and Nerja, without a car.

PS: I once did more or less the above, although in the reverse loop, but also visited Gibraltar, which I found very interesting. I don't know if you have a chance to squeeze Gibraltar in the equation, but if you have a couple of nights to add, that would be my choice. I did not care much for Jerez de la Frontera, but maybe it was because I just stopped for too little time en route to Seville from Gibraltar.

Posted by
9177 posts

Do not skip Sevilla!! We have been there several times and do not find it touristy. Seville and Madrid are two of my favored. Actually did not care for Toledo too much.

Posted by
62 posts

I’m with the do not miss Seville crowd! One of our all time favorite cities! I did a very similar trip to Roberto’s itinerary in 2015, and it was one of our all time favorite trips.

Flying into Madrid, we went directly to Toledo. Almost all of our travel was by train except for a rental for 3 nights, picking up in Granada, dropping it off in Malaga. We found that visiting the Pueblos Blancos a bit stressful, as mentioned earlier, as finding parking can be difficult. And I would’ve loved to add another day to Seville - it’s just one of the most wonderful cities we’ve ever visited. 3 nights in Granada was just right - we didn’t need any more.

Toledo is worth 2 nights, IMO - there is so much important art and history, and we loved it. The cathedral there is a standout. It’s not as “pretty” a city as the ones in Andalucia, but it’s got so much to see.

Toledo (2)
Seville (4)
Cordoba (3)
Granada (3)
Ronda (2)
Malaga (3)
Madrid (4)

Posted by
6184 posts

I liked Arcos and Ronda, but Zahara was so far we turned the car around. Do you understand that Arcos, and especially, Ronda, are not undiscovered slices of rural Spain that never come up in cocktail party conversation? Just saying ...

I think that Seville delivers more, but it's like comparing Boston and Philadelphia. They are not similar. October may make the canola and sunflower fields less rewarding on the long drive from Seville to Granada. You don't want a car IN Granada.

Spain does not really suffer from inauthenticity. But I haven't been recently.

Posted by
909 posts

Keep Seville. You can pare Granada to 2 nights and add the time to Seville.

Posted by
3182 posts

Just to break up your very city heavy itinerary, I think it's totally fine to skip Sevilla this time around to visit some of these small villages and Hill towns.

Posted by
4928 posts

Your trip, your choice. If it’s your first trip it would be a shame to miss Sevilla, but Carlos made a good point about breaking up the larger cities with smaller towns. If you stayed in Ronda a couple nights you could see a number of the white villages since most don’t take long to see (assuming you’ll have a car.). The white villages would be hard to see without a car. There are plenty of hiking areas both east and west of Ronda. Probably the most popular white towns are Arcos de la Frontera, Grazalema, and Zahara de la Sierra, but there are others. Sentenil de la Bodegas north of Ronda is good for about an hour. I suggest researching some of the villages to determine if there are sights in them you want to see.

I agree that 4-5 nights in Granada is too many.

Posted by
580 posts

I'll be the contrarian....

I don't love Sevilla. Been 3 times, keep trying, still don't love it. For me, it is too crowded, not as laid back as my favorite Spanish towns, feels a little claustrophobic and a little too in-my-face.

So I would skip it, but I've been enough to know I don't like it. Maybe you will be like many other folks and love it. You can't really know until you try, I guess.

I've not been to the white hill villages, so I can't compare them to Sevilla. But just to give you an idea of why I like other places in Spain and not Sevilla, here are my thoughts:

I love Toledo and like to head there directly after landing in Madrid; it is small, navigable (yes, lots of little twisty, winding streets, but you can't get lost -- there's a wall), and has a nice vibe -- especially after the day trippers leave, and also away from the Zocodover/cathedral area (which is great, just very crowded mid-day). It's a great place to get over jet lag for a couple of days.

I love Granada; have spent weeks there over the years. It is vibrant and alive -- it has a very energetic, young population with the university, plus it has a layering of history and culture that is very apparent as you wander through the different areas. Yes, Sevilla has this too, but I feel it more in Granada -- walking in the Albaicin, through the Alhambra grounds, the influences of the Catholic monarchs everywhere, the Sacromonte, the Realejo; each section has its own flavor and background that really teaches me how this place has evolved over time. You can easily fill 4/5 nights if you like to wander and take it slow, and there are plenty of "lower tier" sights that are fantastic (the Basilica of San Juan de Dios, for example). It's also a great place to take a foodie tour, if you're into that.

And a new favorite we visited for the first time on our most recent trip: Cadiz. It is lovely. Slow, great for walking, a few "sights" to see, but mostly just a great place to wander, eat, sit with a beverage and people-watch. Very few tourists, excellent seafood, beautiful walking along the promenade and around the old quarter. We'll be back for sure.

So, if I were in your place, I'd actually skip Sevilla AND the white villages (if you don't want the hassle of renting a car) and go to Cadiz instead. It is easily accessible via train and sounds right in line with how you like to travel.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
5177 posts

Lots of good comments already!
I'll just add that I would not bother with Frigiliana. I might have missed something there, but I found that the inland white towns around Ronda were a lot better overall.

Posted by
1062 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
I was going to say that you should skip the white hill villages. Most have been overbuilt during the housing boom that we in the USA think only happened in the US. Spain!!! Had a housing boom. Those little villages are now surrounded by massive housing projects. Everyone in Spain wanted a condo in a hill town. But then you mentioned Ronda. Help, help me Ronda sure is pretty. I would go back. The southern 'half' of the city is what really intrigued me. Nice food. And a cave out side of town that is really worth the visit. It has so many cave paintings!! It is Cueva de la Pileta.

You are heavily weighted toward big cities. Walking concrete day after day gets tiring.

Granada has Basilica San Juan de Dios. Don't miss it. Also, there is the Monastery of St. Jeronimo. I would cut the days in Granada by 2 and use those for Ronda. I am glad I went to the Alhambra. It is impressive, but I have no need to go back. A good movie you can see twice. As I said, I would go back to Ronda. Not Granada.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
3182 posts

Those little villages are now surrounded by massive housing projects.

You may be thinking about the Costa del Sol towns like Mijas and Nerja? The "White Hill Towns" being referred are mainly in the Sierra de Grazalema mountains, most actually still retain their small town charm and are not "overdeveloped", like Grazalema and Setenil de las Bodegas.

In reality there are "White Hill Towns" all over Andalucía, Las Alpujarras region next to Granada has just as many as Sierra de Grazalema, but is less well known.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you kind internet strangers for your fabulous insights, opinions, and suggestions!!!

Not sure exactly what we will do yet but pretty sure we will not skip Seville, will likely consider Cadiz, and we won't be staying 3-4 nights in Frigiliana!

Again, many thanks!

Posted by
1176 posts

Just want to add that I would not skip Seville in favor of the white hill towns. We spent 4 nights in Seville and wished we had an extra night. In addition to the beautiful and important historical sites, Seville is so pretty with its beautiful architecture, plazas, fountains, squares, parks, etc.

I know everyone is different but we didn't even include the hill towns in our itinerary. Instead, we opted for 2 nights in Malaga for some coastal ambience. I am not trying to convince you to visit Malaga, but just want to add a different perspective. And we were not disappointed in Malaga.

BTW, the Alcazar Real in Seville IS amazing!!! It ranks right up there with the Alhambra. It was one of the highlights of our trip for me.

So, if you can include both Seville and Ronda, go for it. But don't omit Seville!

Posted by
12 posts

Kmkwoo - thank you so much for weighing in! We have indeed decided not to skip Seville entirely for the white hill towns! I appreciate your comments and those of everyone else that took the time to help guide us/offer opinions. Thanks so much!