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Spain itinerary suggestions - 17 days in October

I've done a fair amount of research and looking for any suggestions to fine-tune our October 2023 itinerary before I book everything. Travelers will be me, my husband, and our 4 year old. We'll spend the first 5 nights in Barcelona (mix of fun and work-related stuff so those dates aren't negotiable). Then planning to rent a car and explore Valencia and Andalucia before ended up back in Madrid (flying into BCN but out of MAD).

We're moderately seasoned travelers, love low-key outdoor activities (short hikes, botanical gardens, etc.) and wandering around smaller towns, with some museums sprinkled in. Not really into churches unless they're a "must see".

Days 1-5 Barcelona
Days 6-8 Valencia (really 2 full days, because I expect we'll stop a bit on the drive down)
Days 9-10 Granada (first day is driving there, second day will be Alhambra in the morning and town in the afternoon)
Day 11 Gibraltar (I know, but we're thinking we could walk/hike at La Laguna de Fuente or have lunch in Marbella on the way, do the rock/monkeys in the afternoon, and head out early the next day)
Days 12-14 Seville (for the drive, thinking of stopping at Parque Natural Los Alcornocales, or Jerez de la Frontera, or Arcos de la Frontera on the way. Then we'll have 2 full days in Seville)
Days 15-16 Madrid (high speed train from Seville to Madrid on day 15, one full day in Madrid, then easy access to airport to fly home)

To note, we originally weren't going to spend any time in Madrid, so I know we're shortchanging it, but my husband think we should give it a day. We're more likely to get back to Madrid before any of these other places, so really just going to check it out and not for the full experience. We're also not too into large cities, especially with a small child, so that last part I'm fine with.

I wish we can add an extra day just about everywhere, but this is what we have to work with. Appreciate any thoughts or suggestions!

Posted by
140 posts

Just to throw you a curveball. We spent time this past March at Casa Olea, a guest home in rural Andalusia. They were some of the best days we’ve ever spent on vacation. Given your interests, I think it might really appeal to you. We spent most of our time hiking and exploring the nearby villages.

The hosts are absolutely wonderful.

Posted by
7209 posts

Plan more time in Seville, it my favorite city in Spain.
Also, also plan day trips to Toledo and Segovia from Madrid.

Posted by
25613 posts

You only have so many days, so I think Toledo and Cordoba are off the table, unfortunately. I'd agree that 2 days is really painfully short for Seville, but I have no experience traveling with children, so this may be a good plan for you.

The two churches I'd recommend for your itinerary are La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and San Juan de Dios in Granada. The Seville Cathedral is also worthwhile. You'd need to buy tickets for La Sagrada Familia in advance to avoid what would otherwise probably be an hours-long ticket line. San Juan de Dios is a just-walk-up situation. The ticket line for the Seville Cathedral is also something to avoid. Rick has a tip in his guide book: Buy the combo ticket at the relatively nearby Iglesia Colegial del Salvador, pop in to see that church, however briefly, then show the combo ticket to the line-minder at the cathedral.

Posted by
3742 posts

Seems like you are trying to cover way too much ground in way too little time, and will miss out on a lot along the way, especially if you will be needing to attended to the needs of a 4 year old as you travel. Many North Americans underestimate the size of Spain, consider just driving from Valencia and Granada seems like a "no-brainer" but there are actually 3 entire regions (Alicante, Murcia, Almería) in between that you seem to be overlooking.

Also for being "not too into large cities" and "loving low-key outdoor activities" seems like you are focusing too much on large cities and not enough time on the countryside or smaller towns, very easy to do since you will have a car.

The drive between Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid has more than enough to fill up 16 nights. I would not dare to try to add Andalucia. I think that the undiscovered Matarraña Region will be perfect for what you're looking for, known as "Tuscany of Spain", numerous hiking trails, you can swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Matarraña River or go bird watching in the Ports de Beseit Natural Park etc,.

You can consider this revised itinerary, incorporating more of your preferences, like smaller towns and outdoors activities:

Barcelona (4 nights)
Tarragona (2 nights) - day trip to PortAventura Amusement Park (for the little one)
Matarraña Region (3 nights) - hiking, exploring villages, swimming
Valencia (3 nights) - day trips to Peñíscola or la Albufera Wetlands National Park
Cuenca (2 nights) - day trips to Serrania de Cuenca National Park or La Ciudad Encantada geological site
Madrid (2 nights)

Remember less is more. Hope this helps you out :)

Posted by
4 posts

Oh gosh, you have all given me a lot to think about. Thank you!! I love the idea of spending a few days in a smaller town so will need to think about that some more.

I tried to create the itinerary so that a lot of the driving can happen during our child's naptime which we've found successful on prior trips (morning adventure, lunch, then drive), but getting to Valencia and then Valencia to Granada are definitely longer driving days. Will definitely look into each of these suggestions and see how we can adjust. Appreciate all the advice.

Posted by
339 posts

I would do:
Barcelona 5
Sitges 3 a relaxing beach town
Valencia 4
Madrid 6
Less travel time. A lot less.