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Southern Spain trip

We are planning a trip to Southern Spain for June (4 people). Yes it will be hot but this is our only time we are able to travel. We have 10 days total for the fun. Travel days will be added on (Flying from Newark, New Jersey or Philadelphia). We do not have any flights yet. We are finding it difficult to fly direct to Malaga, Seville or Granada so it may be Madrid. We don't need to have direct. Although Barcelona would be awesome, that will be another trip. We don't necessarily need to go to see Madrid as we were concentrating the trip to the South. These are the places we would like to visit. There is no particular order. Any suggestions would be helpful.

Fly into Madrid (if we can't find a flight to Malaga).

Toledo (possibly if it works, don't need to see Madrid on this trip)

Granada 2 nights

Ronda 2 nights ( rent a car and day trip to Setenil de las Bodegas, Grazalema, Olvera or just one or others)

Seville 3 nights ( day trip to Cadiz, Jerez, Cordoba - or add Cordoba from Madrid at the beginning or end, I have read that Cordoba deserves at least 1 night)

I have not filled the 10 days as I would like some suggestions from Spain travelers.
We could add a beach day from somewhere if it makes sense.
We are willing to rent a car for any portion of the trip. We enjoy walking the streets and exploring the cities/towns, eating, tours of the main sites, not into art so much.
Any suggestions are appreciated.

Posted by
1239 posts

Since your ultimate destination is Andalucia, you don't need to go via Madrid. Since Malaga involves an aeroplane change anyway - you say - you could fly the Atlantic portion to another airport and change there. Once you're in England or Europe, you might also have options to fly onward to Seville or Granada airports as well.

Personally, I'd begin by planning three nights (or two complete days) in Granada and four nights (or three complete days) in Sevilla. That's to see the cities without day-trips. Then for your additional night(s), I'd pick either Cordoba or Ronda, but best the former.

Posted by
582 posts

Do you have 10 nights on the ground? I will propose an itinerary assuming you have 10 nights on the ground.

Seville - 4 nights
Cordoba - 1 or 2 nights
Granada - 2 or 3 nights
Malaga (or Ronda) - 2 nights

With your current itinerary, you are not spending any time in Seville. Seville is a gorgeous city architecturally and has many important historical and cultural sights. Based on our trip to Andalusia in 2017, I really think you need 3 full days (so 4 nights) to properly see Seville.

Definitely spend a night or two in Cordoba. We loved it! it was one of our favorite cities. The Mezquita is magnificent but there are also many other lovely sights to see in Cordoba, in addition to wandering through the Juderia.

You need at least 2 nights in Granada just to see the Alhambra properly. We visited during the day and also took the night tour. The Alhambra is one of the most impressive places I have ever seen, and I don't think you will do it justice by rushing through it. If you want to see other sights in Granada, then a 3rd night would be nice, but not a necessity if you don't have the time.

We didn't see the White Towns; instead, we chose to spend 2 nights in Malaga, which we loved, and I feel is an under-rated city. You mention some possible beach time and you might fly in or out of Malaga, so that would be a good choice instead of the White Towns. But this is entirely up to you and depends on your likes and interests. Because it will be hot in June, some coastal ambience and beach time might be nice. When we did our trip in September, every place was still quite hot but Malaga was the coolest.

If you don't visit the white towns, you don't need a car for this trip. You can travel by train or bus. If you visit the white towns, I think a car would be easier.

Posted by
1524 posts

tkelly1839 - I have read United Airlines is launching direct flights to Seville from Newark starting May 2020. Look into and the airfare so that way you won't have to fly into Madrid and you can begin your 10 day tour in Seville.

https://thepointsguy.com/news/united-reportedly-wants-to-launch-first-nonstop-flight-from-us-to-seville-spain/

If you can fly straight to Seville from EWR then your itinerary can look like this:

Seville - 4 Nights (Day trips to Jerez de la fronterra or cadiz)

Cordoba - 2 Nights

Granada - 2 Nights

Ronda - 2 Nights (Day trips to Setenil de las Bodegas, Grazalema, or Nerja)

Seville - 1 Night then (Fly home to Jersey)

Posted by
130 posts

We just got a smokin' deal on KLM/Delta in and out of Madrid. Did you see any deals for that airline? We prefer flying open jaw but it was too good to miss. A few fast trains will make up the difference easily.

Posted by
1111 posts

We always travel to Andalusia via Madrid typically on a AA/Iberia direct flight which connects with a Vueling flight to either Granada/Malaga/Seville. We ticket the connecting flight to allow two hours of time between the flights and have not encountered issues with luggage failing to make our connecting flight. The direct flight arrives Madrid early morning and the connecting flight arrives around noon at our final destination. We are checked into our accommodations 2ish allowing for a significant portion of a "travel day" to spend exploring.
We take advantage of "open jaw" booking allowing arrival at one destination and departure from another. Adds little expense and insures best use of time to avoid backtracking.

Please immediately check on dates tickets are available for Alhambra and do NOT delay in purchase.
Driving is ez but please keep in mind the size vehicle needed for 4 and all luggage. Be wise in keeping luggage out of sight. Do purchase an IDP from AAA as required by Spanish law (you run a risk of a large cash fine without one).
Rent a car on your way out of town from either Seville or Granada as having a vehicle within either of these places is a major pain in the .........

For accommodations we prioritize courtyard rooms to best achieve quiet and lower temps.

With summer heat we slow down our travel transitions. BTW, lesson learned via wife; cosmetics quickly melt in luggage in a car trunk.

Most important tips......... the night is your friend......tapas at dusk.......dinner at "late"...........hydrate yourself starting the night before...........siestas avoid the steamy brush of tourists...........lite on the breakfast.........google earth street view provides a roadmap to helping find landmarks while first time driving in areas...............

Your initial nights look fine and I will leave others to fill in the gaps.

Safe travels!

Posted by
18746 posts

I agree with kmkwoo and Nick: 4 nights just for Seville (with no day-trips) and 3 nights for Granada. Especially in the heat, you will not cover ground as fast as I was able to in April. Keep in mind that on day-trips you won't have an air-conditioned hotel room to cool off in during the hottest part of the day. Therefore, I think it is best to spend at least 2 nights in Cordoba. The last night needs to be near your departure airport, which I am guessing is going to be Madrid. You'll need to decide whether you want to see Ronda or the white villages enough to take a night away from one of the three most magnificent cities in the country. Or you could try driving between Seville and Granada and seeing one or two of those places along the way. The issues there are that you will have to be sure your luggage is secured in the trunk before you arrive at any parking place (and that's still not a 100% guarantee of no theft) and Ronda is large enough that you probably won't be able to stop at a second place if you choose to go there in transit. The other towns are much smaller, but there's the issue of driving time between them. Use ViaMichelin.com to get estimates for that, keeping in mind that VM doesn't account for any stops, getting lost, traffic delays, looking for parking, or walking from your parking place to the historic part of town.

I am guessing your reference to flight difficulties to places in the south was due to much higher airfares to destinations other than Madrid and Barcelona. I ran into that myself, with Madrid being at least $500 cheaper than any Andalusian city, and my return in both cases was from London. At that price I opted for the flight into Madrid.

It doesn't take all that long to get to Cordoba on an AVE. The tricky part is the timing. Buying a non-refundable/non-changeable ticket for your arrival day is a nervous-making exercise, but I would do it in this case, because you stand to save a lot of money as long as you don't miss the train and have to buy replacement tickets (which would be at full price). In addition, I often observe sold-out trains on the Madrid-Cordoba-Seville route, and if you wait to buy your tickets upon arrival (the usual recommendation), you could end up having to wait around for several hours until you find a train with available seats. Finally, one thing you must not do is wait to buy the tickets at Madrid's Atocha Station. You will probably be standing in line for hours at the ticket counter if you cannot make the vending machines work with your credit card (a problem for some visitors). There shouldn't be a problem buying a ticket to Cordoba at the airport train station.

Unfortunately, I'm not comfortable telling you how many hours you should allow between your scheduled flight arrival time and the departure time of your train. Since my trip was a much longer one, I punted by spending the first night in Madrid. I don't think you have time to do that, although buying a bargain ticket to Seville or Granada for an early train the next morning wouldn't be a bad second choice. Doing that will cost you at least half a day of sightseeing time.

Posted by
14267 posts

acraven's experience is invaluable, her points are well taken, as usual. Because of the uncertainty of timing on arrival, maybe choose to spend your first 2 nights in Toledo. That gives you one full day, then take an early train to your next destination. Keep in mind that on Sat-Sun the first train is at 9.25, weekdays, they start at 6.30. Even if you spend 1N, you can take an early evening train out and have about a 3 hour total trip to Cordoba or maybe 4 to Sevilla. Just in time to drop your bags and go out for dinner.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all for your tips and suggestions. Still working on flights and itinerary.

Posted by
6 posts

We have finalized our itinerary. We did not get flights yet and all hotels are booked but with free cancellations.

Fly into Malaga and drive immediately to Ronda (We have our eye on a flight arriving 12:00 noon. Stay 2 nights. We will rent a car or hire a driver to take us to hill towns (Grazelema, Setenil de las Bodegas 1 day or part of a day).

Sevilla 3 nights (1 day will be Jerez, and Cadiz, maybe Arcos)

Cordoba 1 night

Granada 3 nights with the possibility of a 4th night and leave at some point that last day for Malaga airport (looking for a later flight)
OR stay one night in Malaga or a town closer to the airport.
Thoughts?

Posted by
1524 posts

tkelly1839 - The itinerary is good. With your permission, I would like to tweak it a bit to improve it.

following your itinerary:

Fly into Malaga and drive immediately to Ronda 2 nights - Good decision , use the rental car you will pick up in Malaga to tour pueblos blancos towns of Grazelema and Setenil de las Bodegas for a day as you desired.

You can stay in Seville for 4 nights (Day trip to either Cadiz or Jerez)

Cordoba merits 2 nights

Granada 3 nights (Half day trip to Nerja)

Spend last night in Malaga for your flight next day

What do you think?

Posted by
582 posts

I agree with RJean that you need at least 4 nights in Seville, especially if you plan on doing a day trip while in Seville. We stayed 4 nights in Seville, and did not do any daytrips. We had 3.5 days in Seville, and they were filled with sightseeing and leisurely wandering through this beautiful city. If you only stay 3 nights and take a daytrip, you basically have 1.5 days at the most in Seville, which I don't think is enough. You might leave there feeling frustrated.

Posted by
14267 posts

To fly from the US, land at noon after a red-eye flight, get a car and drive through hills on a two-lane high speed road is okay if you hire a driver. Driving yourself, sleep-deprived/jetlagged is the equivalent of DUI. Let someone else drive you to Ronda, taxi driver, private car, bus driver!

Rent the car in Ronda. See its sights, maybe half day to visit nearby places like Setenil. Next day drive via Grazelema to Arcos, overnight in Jerez (drop the car there). See the horse show if it's the right day of the week, sherry bodega tour, whatever, then take the train to Cadiz for the rest of the day. Then train to Sevilla, train to Cordoba, train or bus to Granada. Spend your last night in Malaga. BTW Malaga has some very good sights.

Posted by
1524 posts

Chani made an excellent point. The plan is well organized Chani.