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Spain Itinerary

Hi there! My fiancee and I just booked a flight to Spain for 11.5 days from May 17-29. I have a rough idea of where we want to go but we would love some input from well-seasoned travelers.

Here's my (very rough) itinerary:

Wednesday 5/17 - Arrive in Barcelona at 11:30am
Thursday 5/18 - Barcelona
Friday 5/19 - Barcelona, overnight train to Granada (or flight?)
Saturday 5/20 - Granada
Sunday 5/21 - Granada
Monday 5/22 - rent car early AM and drive 2 hrs to Ronda - spend day in Ronda
Tuesday 5/23 - day trip to Arcos de la Frontera & Zahara de la Sierra (sleep in Ronda)
Wednesday 5/24 - drive to Tarifa very early, day trip to Tangier (take ferry)
Thursday, 5/25 - drive to Sevilla in AM
Friday, 5/26 - Sevilla
Saturday, 5/27 - morning train to Madrid
Sunday, 5/28 - Madrid
Monday, 5/29 - fly out of Madrid at 11:30am

I had initially planned on going from Barcelona to Madrid then to Granada, Ronda/Arcos, Tarifa/Tangier, then Sevilla, but I found that the earliest train out of Sevilla to Madrid on Monday wouldn't get us in to Madrid until 9am and I want to get to the airport a few hours before our 11:30am flight, so that may be pushing it. I thought about taking an evening train back to Madrid on 5/28 but the 28th is my fiancee's birthday so I'd prefer not to have to travel that day (but nothing is set in stone yet). I have only been to Europe once and spent 2 weeks in Italy - we loved our time in Tuscany and Cinque Terre and tend to like the smaller towns more than the big cities so I think we are going to love Andalucia... Just bought Rick Steves' Spain book so I am about to dig into that now but would love to hear any suggestions - any awesome places that I'm missing? Would love to see Nerja as well but just don't think we have the time this trip. Would anyone recommend limiting Barcelona to 1.5 days instead of 2.5 days so that we can see Cordoba or Toledo? Any suggestions re logistics, and the order in which we are visiting these cities? Also is it difficult to have a car in Arcos, Ronda, Tarifa, Sevilla? Any off-the-beaten track experiences you'd recommend in these cities? Thanks in advance!

Posted by
21317 posts

There isn't a real night train between Barcelona and Granada. What there is, is a connection with a a 6-hour layover in Madrid. Not fun. Check Skyscanner.com for flights.

You don't really have 2-1/2 days in Barcelona unless you two manage to sleep pretty well on overnight flights. I wouldn't count the arrival day, and on May 20 you're going to have to head for the airport at some point, so that's not a full day. Definitely don't chop a day off Barcelona; it has a lot of great sights.

I think the day you're using for the trip to Tangier is sorely needed elsewhere. Morocco is fascinating, but Tangier is not so wonderful. Wait on Morocco till you can visit the country more fully, and apply that day to Barcelona or Madrid. The amount of time needed for a minimal visit to Madrid depends greatly on your interest in the Big 3 art museums there. You're at about what I'd call the minimum for folks uninterested in those museums.

Alternatively, you could apply the Tangier day to Cordoba or Toledo, but my first priority is always to be sure I've done a decent job on my top-priority sights. (I think there's no comparison between Toledo/Cordoba and Tangier, by the way.)

With an 11:30 AM departure time (I assume that's a transatlantic flight), I'd definitely want to spend the last night in Madrid. My rule of thumb: Always be within an affordable taxi ride of your departure airport in case of a problem like a rail strike. I flew out of Barcelona last year. I was in the check-in line for almost an hour. If I had gotten to the airport only 2 hours ahead of time, I probably would have missed my flight.

Posted by
266 posts

My family (5 of us) is doing roughly the same itinerary (minus Ronda and the White Hill Towns). We are flying from Barcelona (no overnight trains anymore, and the daytime option takes 7+ hours with a connection in Antequera) to Granada, bus to Sevilla, train to Madrid.

I think you have enough time in Madrid (it's not my favorite). If anything, I would skip the Tangier part and add on to Barcelona or Sevilla.

You can drop your car at the rail station in Sevilla. I don't think there would be a need to have it while you are there.

Posted by
15058 posts

I decided to skip Tangier when my research told me "Tangier is to Morocco as Tijuana is to Mexico." Don't waste the many hours getting there and back. Spend more time in the wonderful Spanish locations you've chosen. Use a day to get to Ronda - you can stop in Antequera and/or drive through some of the hill towns near Ronda. Then spend the day in Ronda seeing its sights, the next day, stop in Zahara and Arcos on the way to Sevilla. Spend a day/night in Cordoba before Madrid.

Wed - Barcelona (4N)
Sun - fly to Granada (2N)
Tue - car to Ronda (2N)
Thu - car to Sevilla (2N)
Sat - train to Cordoba (1N)
Sun - train to Madrid (1N)

Posted by
30 posts

Thank you all for your input! I've decided to skip Tangier this trip and save Morocco for when we have time to visit Fez and Marrakech. Neither of us are very keen on large cities and my fiancee is not a huge fan of visiting art museums (although I will probably drag him to the Prado for an hour or two), so we are also going to cut down on our time in Madrid to one night. However, we just learned that one of his childhood best friends will be visiting a friend's home in southern Portugal (in Vilamoura, near Faro) during the same time that we will be visiting Spain, so we are going to add that into the trip (as Faro is only 2 hours drive from Sevilla). Our revised itinerary is as follows:

Wednesday 5/17 - Arrive in Barcelona at 11:30am
Thursday 5/18 - Barcelona
Friday 5/19 - Barcelona - 8:30pm flight to Granada (or earlier, if want more time in Granada)
Saturday 5/20 - Granada
Sunday 5/21 - Granada
Monday 5/22 - pick up car in Granada, drive to Ronda (hike the gorge, sleep in Ronda)
Tuesday 5/23 - drive to Arcos (stop in Zahara de la Sierra & maybe Grazalema on way) (sleep in Ronda or Arcos)
Wednesday 5/24 - drive to Vilamoura/Faro in early AM (approx. 3 h 40 m from Ronda/ 3 h from Arcos)
Thursday, 5/25 - Vilamoura/Faro
Friday, 5/26 - drive to Sevilla early AM (drop off car)
Saturday, 5/27 - Sevilla
Sunday, 5/28 - morning train to Madrid
Monday, 5/29 - fly out of Madrid at 11:30am

The only thing we are considering changing is cutting out the day in Arcos and adding a day to Grenada or Sevilla (or maybe adding back the second night in Madrid and visiting Toledo for the day, but that would go against my idea of slowing the trip down a bit/adds more train rides). My hesitation with that is generally we prefer to stay no less than two nights in a given area. Any suggestions for our day in Madrid? Thanks, all!

Posted by
21317 posts

You're moving more rapidly through major destinations than I like to do, spending a lot of time in transit, but I can't say that it's impossible.

You don't have even one full day in Madrid. If you're going to spend a little time in the Prado and find lunch and dinner at some point, there's not a lot of additional time available. I'd suggest spending it wandering around the Plaza Mayor area. Rick has a walking tour in his "Spain" guide book, or the timing might work for you to take a group walking tour. You can stop at the San Miguel market for tapas.

The Prado is pretty close to Atocha Station, so it sort of makes sense to hit the museum before you head toward Plaza Mayor--maybe even before you go to your hotel, depending on where you're staying; you can check your bags at Atocha. If you decide to do that, you might want to research lunch options in that area ahead of time. There are some low-end places (as well as some better ones) in the area around Atocha; I wouldn't recommend selecting a lunch spot randomly.

Posted by
513 posts

Spain is a beautiful country and I am certain you will enjoy your trip there this Spring. If I were you, however, I would reconsider spending so much of what I assume is a first trip to Spain, in either the White Hill Towns or Morocco. I have been to several of these towns (Ronda and Jerez included) and enjoyed them. In fact, I spent three weeks exclusively in that area just last October. But that was on my 10th + trip to Spain - I recommend you really see some other areas with must see sites first. Barcelona, Granada and Seville (with a possible day trip to Cordoba to see the Mezquita) comprises a pretty completel 11 day trip. Please think about it ...

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks again to all for your input. Based on your suggestions, I think we will cut out the day in Arcos (leaving just about 3/4 day in Ronda because we love to hike and look forward to hiking around the gorge; plus, it is on our way to Portugal and Sevilla anyways) and will add a half day in Sevilla, another half day in Granada and extend so that we have 2.5 days in Barcelona, and cut our time in Madrid so that we will get there late afternoon the day before our flight and just have dinner/tapas and see Plaza Mayor, as neither of us are very into the larger cities and he isn't into art.

Wednesday 5/17 - Arrive in Barcelona at 11:30am
Thursday 5/18 - Barcelona
Friday 5/19 - Barcelona
Saturday 5/20 - fly into Granada early AM (1.5 hr flight - leave 7:20am, arrive 8:50am)
Sunday 5/21 - Granada
Monday 5/22 - Granada
Tuesday 5/23 - pick up car in Granada early AM, 2 hour drive to Ronda (hike, sleep in Ronda)
Wednesday 5/24 - drive 3.5 hours to Vilamoura/Faro in AM (stopping on the way in Zahara de la Sierra to see turquoise lake, and potentially stop at a hill town olive oil tasting/vineyard/sherry bodega?, arrive in Portugal late afternoon/early evening)
Thursday, 5/25 - Faro/Vilamoura
Friday, 5/26 - drive to Sevilla in early AM (drop off car)
Saturday, 5/27 - Sevilla
Sunday, 5/28 - Sevilla in AM, take 2.5 hour train to Madrid after early lunch, arrive in Madrid late afternoon
Monday, 5/29 - fly out of Madrid at 11:30am

I am aware that the trip to Portugal is out of the way and not the ideal way to spend our short time abroad, but my fiancee would really love to visit with his friend who will be there at that time, even if it's just for two nights and a day, so I'm trying to indulge him. Also, the friend's girlfriend's family is from Vilamoura, so it will be interesting to have a semi-local there to show us around the area.

One more question - right now I have it planned so that we will have (almost) 3 full days in Granada - is that too much? Would you recommend shifting the time around so that we have 3 full days in Sevilla, and just 1.75 days in Granada? I have a feeling that the Alhambra will be the highlight of my trip; I'm also looking forward to exploring the Albaicin (will the jasmine be in bloom in May? if so, even better!) and seeing the Alhambra from the San Nicolas viewpoint. We would also like to experience a Turkish bath and look forward to having some food with North African influences while in Granada. In Sevilla, we want to see the Alcazar, the cathedral, and experience a flamenco show. And in both cities we just want to take some time to wander around the neighborhoods. Anyone have any thoughts on which town is better for "lingering" - Sevilla or Granada? (I realize this is a very subjective question but appreciate all thoughts :) ). Thanks again!

Posted by
266 posts

I would be clear with your rental car company on if it's allowed to cross the boarder into Portugal. I suppose if you are returning it in Spain, it should be fine but may want to check?

Posted by
7140 posts

I question whether a long drive to what would be a short stay in Portugal is worth it.

May
17. Arrive Barcelona (4 nights)
18-20. Barcelona
21. Fly to Granada (2 nights)
22. Alhambra
23. Train to Ronda (1 night)
24. Train to Seville (3 nights)
25. Seville
26. Day to Cordoba
27. Train to Madrid (2 nights)
28. Madrid
29. Depart Madrid

Toledo as a day from Madrid could be an option if you dropped Barcelona back a night.

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks so much for all of your input! This community is truly the best :)

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks so much for all of your input! This community is truly the best :)