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Spending April 2020 in Andalucia, where to base ourselves?

Hi, My husband and I, (active, early 60's, foodies, love history and beauty, food and wine) plan to spend a month in Andalucia in the spring of 2020. We are thinking April but our time is flexible. Ideally we are thinking two bases rather than short stays. We plan to base ourselves for two weeks in Seville and explore from there, hopefully by public transit. We do not want to be there over the easter festival. First question, which neighbourhood should we look for an apartment in, walking distance to the sights but not in the thick of it. Second question, where should we base ourselves for the other two weeks? We are interested in visiting Cordoba, Cadiz, Arcos de la Fonrontera (which we wondered about as a second base, although it is fairly close to Seville), Ronda and the Puelos Blancos. We would also like to visit Gibraltar and Tangier. Ahhhh so many places look interesting! Ideally we would like to visit Granada as well but I realize it is a ways away. Any advice as to a second base would be appreciated. Do we need a car or can we accomplish this with public transit and where to avoid and what should not be missed?
Thanks in advance for your advice.
Lisa

Posted by
3283 posts

IMO, Andalusia is a big area that does not lend itself to a month stay with day trips. Cordoba is lovely and worth at least 2 days/nights. Granada and Ronda are quite far from Sevilla and Cordoba. Arcos is not very central to the other pueblos blancos. We visited Arcos on the way to Grazelema. From Grazelema we visited Zahara, Sentenil and Ronda. If I was going to Andalusia, I would definitely want to see the Alhambra in Granada, but that is a very long day. We were at the Alhambra, from 9am to 5:30pm. Except for Ronda, you pretty much need a car for the pueblos blancos. I would do some experimenting with Rome2Rio to look at distances and transportation options. (Note, many use Rome2Rio for a first look but wouldn't consider purchasing from them)

Posted by
1862 posts

Agree 100% with Jules, I don't think Andalucia warrants itself too well to having only 1-2 home bases, unlike Catalonia or Pais Vasco. With one month you could do a nice tour of Andalucia, moving from place to place, but not feeling rushed. Though if I had to only choose 1-2 home bases, for Western Andalucia, I'd go with Sevilla (trips to Cordoba, Cadiz, Costa de la Luz, Jerez) and for Eastern Andalucia, it would be Malaga (trips to Publos Blancos, Granada, Gibraltar).

I assume you are aware that April 5th-11th is Semana Santa in Andalucia? This is a very big deal in the south of Spain (kinda like Christmas on steroids), where all the towns put on colourful pageantry, spectacular processions, and other centuries old traditions. During this week it will be quite the unique cultural experience, however know that this will impact everything, from hotel prices to public transportation.

I'd also skip Gibraltar and Tangier, there are more interesting things to see in Spain ;-)

Posted by
3283 posts

While it wouldn't be my choice, Carlos' suggestion of Malaga is a good one for visiting Granada and Ronda. There is decent public transportation from Malaga to those places plus, there are options with tour companies so you wouldn't absolutely need a car to see at least some of the pueblos blancos.

Posted by
6127 posts

Easter 2020 is April 12. The week preceding ( Apr 5-11) is Holy Week ( Semana Santa)

Posted by
16762 posts

More bases would work better. I encourage you to dig into guidebooks with good coverage of Andalucia, make a list of places you hope to visit, and take a look at travel times from potential bases by train and by car. I find the Deutsche Bahn website easiest to use for train travel and ViaMichelin, for car travel. I don't like changing hotels either, but you'll spend less time traveling back and forth with some judicious changes of location, and you'll have a lot more options for visiting attractive, less-visited towns if you don't limit yourself to only two bases. I spent about a month in Andalucía earlier this year, and my research led to me spend nights in these places: Ubeda, Cordoba, Seville, Cadiz, Ronda, Malaga and Granada.

If you have a preference for using public transportation for multiple day-trips, it is virtually always a mistake to choose as a base a town that has no train service; it will take extra time to get there at the beginning of your stay and to leave at the end. That lets Arcos out. Even Ronda is a bit awkward despite having rail service, but it is potentially useful since you can day-trip to Grazalema from there by bus, and I think also Arcos. Renting a car for a few days of tooling some of the smaller towns would make your trip more efficient.

For bus service you can try Googling Bus City A to City B or you can start on Rome2Rio.com and keep drilling down until you find the name of the bus company you need--and probably also a link to its website. Do not under any circumstances trust the fares, travel times or frequencies displayed on the Rome2Rio website itself. They are utterly unreliable and can lead you seriously astray.

Tangier is really a very poor introduction to Morocco. If you want to see Morocco, fly to Fes or Marrakech (or into one and out of the other) and spend at least several days in the country. Don't waste time going to Tangier. You have time to see a bit of Morocco on this trip. Yes, it will mean cutting back on what you can see in Spain, but that is going to happen anyway. I didn't have time for all that I wanted to do over the course of 28 days, and I wasn't trying to include Morocco (already been there, and I highly recommend it).

If you are trying to avoid Holy Week crowds and inflated hotel costs, Seville isn't the only city you need to worry about, though I had the impression hotel rates might have risen the most in that city. Still, there are a lot of significant celebrations elsewhere in Andalucía. I hope our Spain experts can help you figure out how to tweak you itinerary to avoid the busiest days in Granada and Cadiz and any other cities that are especially heavily affected.

Posted by
2681 posts

Feria Week is April 25 to May 2 in Sevilla. Consider it as Santa Semana on steroids as far as crowds and increased accommodation costs. Exciting, but challenging. And by then temps have been known to inching up to 100F

Posted by
4 posts

All very helpful points, thank you! It gives us much to think about. My idea if having two bases was partially based on the hope that we could emerse ourselves in the Spanish culture by renting an apartment, touring and enjoying the local cuisine by day, going to markets and do some cooking on our own in the evenings. Perhaps this is not the best plan as the area is so big and we would be missing so much. Ok. So whole new plan 😂. Firstly, your advice on avoiding Gibraltar and tangier are right on, thank you. I'm going to make a list of the places we are most interested in and work backwards from there. Perhaps a week in four places? It also sounds like much of April has celebrations and festivals that will be busy and pricey. We could go in March instead, what is the weather like in March? Don't mind cool but not rain. How much time to you think Seville warrants? What are your thoughts on estapona? (Was recommended by a friend) Thank you everyone for your advice, it is most helpful.
Lisa

Posted by
1131 posts

Seville's April fair begins on 26/4. That will make it more crowded and hotel prices go up (a lot). Of course, you might want to spend time there to enjoy it. Holy Week begins on 5/4 - that affects cities other than Sevilla too.

April is, normally, a bit hotter than March. But not significantly so compared to, for example, August. It will (statistically on historical averages , but it might not next year), rain a bit more and on more days in April compared to March. But the amount is unlikely to be huge in either month. And remember that rain is just nature's way of telling you to go to a bar for a drink. You'd be very unlucky if either month meant whole days of drizzle, more likely just rain then no rain.

Pretentious smugsters sneer at Gibraltar. But it's great. Given how long your holiday is, you should definitely plan at least a day-trip there. Missing it would be foolish.

For a variation from the usual, you might consider a week in Jaen province, perhaps Ubeda or Baeza? Or you could really break the holiday glass ceiling and spend a week in Murcia. Perhaps not, Andalucia is better. I'd settle for 10 nights in Sevilla and take day-trips. Then a week in Cadiz province. Then time in Ubeda and the last part in Granada, perhaps staying outside the city..

Posted by
1862 posts

Hi Lisa, March would be a fine time to visit Andalucia, if you do not mind a bit chilly night temps, but it should not be too rainy, compared Nov or Dec. Though in March I wouldn't count on going to the beach it can be quite windy and unpleasant along the southern coasts at this time (so maybe bypass Estepona). I agree the festive month of April has its pros and cons, but it can definitely be a little unpredictable, in terms of logistics and pricing.

I also understand the desire to live like a local for a few weeks in one town or the other, but remember locals are not on the tourist schedule, they have all year to see things, plus other responsibilities. You will miss out on a lot by spending a prolonged amount of time in only one place. The best would be a bit of a hybrid, to do some things outside of the main tourist circuit, but also be aware of the realities that you are on vacation too! lol

If I had a month, I'd probably do something along these lines:

Fly in to Sevilla
Sevilla (6 nights) - Daytrips to Jerez and Italica Roman Ruins

Cordoba (3 nights)

Úbeda (3 nights)

Granada (4 nights) - Daytrip skiing in the Sierra Nevada (if still snow)

Málaga (4 nights) - Daytrip to megalithic tombs in Antequera

Ronda (3 nights) - Daytrips to Pueblos Blancos

Cadiz (3 nights) - Daytrip to Doñana National Park

Sevilla (2 nights)
Fly out of Sevilla

Posted by
3925 posts

Estepona is a good option. Easy access to Ronda, Malaga is about an hour drive and Nerja a bit more. Marbella is great for a day trip and nearby Benahavis in the mountains is a foodie's paradise. Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada are all around a 2 hour drive.

Estepona is not well known amongst American visitors as it doesn't feature in Rick's bible and isn't on the well worn path of predictability. Here's a website that sums Estepona up quite nicely - https://theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/heres-why-you-should-visit-estepona-spain-before-everyone-catches-on

I love walking the streets of Estepona's old town, eating lunch at some fantastic restaurants and then walking the promenade with an ice cream. April is better than March however I have experienced three solid days of drizzle in April so there is the possibility of inclement weather. I've also been in February and it was shorts and t-shirt weather during the day (however being British the sight of sunny blue skies and temperatures nudging 18c in February is enough to warrant such clothing). In April the flowers are in full bloom in the pots adorning the walls of every street in the town and the orange trees are covered with fruit which all makes the Plaza de las Flores one of my favourite areas to eat.

Contrary to Nick's assertion, it isn't snobbery to dislike Gibraltar. Whilst the Rock and its history is interesting the rest of the territory is a bit boring and dated, a tired old outpost belligerently refusing to move with the times, it resembles a part of Britain stuck in the 80's. I appreciate that it may hold some interest for those who are not British but when I travel I don't want to go to Marks and Spencer or Tesco, I don't want to see the familiarity of my local High Street or eat pie and mash in a 'traditonal' pub whilst being served a pint of familiar beer. However, if I had to choose over Gibraltar and Tangier then Gibraltar would win hands down every time. You're in Spain (for not long) enjoy as much of it as you can cram in, forget Tangier, it's a dump and Gibraltar is simply an old curio.

Posted by
16762 posts

I think four bases would probably be workable, but it would likely mean missing out on overnights in Cordoba, just as one example. Build your list and see how it works out. I don't see any reason why you can't have you puttering-around-markets time in conjunction with a trip spread across 4 (or even more) bases. If you don't establish a separate base in Cordoba, there's no question that Seville is worth a week if not longer. You could/should make two day-trips to Cordoba. (Don't neglect to check out the cost of doing that; it looks like over 24 euros per person, round-trip, for promo tickets bought well in advance or over 48 euros for last-minute round-trip tickets.)

One thing to keep in mind is that the small white towns folks tend to mention here (Arcos de la Frontera, Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra) are most accessible from Jerez (which didn't make my cut since I'm not interested in sherry or horses) or Ronda. They aren't easy to visit from Seville, Cadiz or Malaga without a car. However, you could find a one-day bus tour that hits Ronda and at least one of the others. I opted not to do that since I wanted to spend a few nights in Ronda, but it's not a crazy idea.

I like to get to some places that aren't on every American tourist's itinerary. In addition to Ubeda/Baeza/Jaen (basing in Ubeda), I daytripped to Carmona from Seville and to Vejer de la Frontera from Cadiz. I made two side-trips from Granada: Priego de Cordoba and Bubion/Capileira in the Alpujarras. Pampaneira, closer to Granada, also looked attractive and was a lot livelier than Bubion and Capileira in early May.

I don't care about beaches and cannot imagine (as an American) wanting to spend a week in a Costa del Sol beach resort when there are so many other places to see in Andalucía. I'd choose Malaga with day-trips in a heartbeat, but I think a week would be too long there. I'd try to slot this area into roughly the middle of the trip, because after heavy-duty sightseeing in Cordoba, Seville and/or Granada, you'll probably be ready for a bit of a mid-trip break.

Posted by
2681 posts

I use wunderground dot com for calendar view of historical weather. It lists high and low temps as well as precipitation. I look back 5 years to see trends. March 2019 was 70's into low 80's with little rain. March 2018 was about 1p degrees cooler. 2017 ranged 59 to 83F. I use apartments for any stay over 2 nights. Checking out the local bakeries or jamon shops, quiet night streets or sitting on a private balcony with some local wine watching sunset on Sevilla Cathedral doesn't need a week.

Posted by
1862 posts

@MariaF - What part of Andalucia did you look up that March weather? I could see Sevilla, but Granada and eastern Andalucia for sure is not that balmy in March lol!

Posted by
13930 posts

Are you willing to rent a car for a few days? You can see and do a lot without one, but some places, especially the pueblos blancos, are only feasible by car.

I've been to Andalucia 3 times, twice in February and once in March. The weather was very mild, lots of sunny days, daytime temps in the high teens and even low twenties. In March all the citrus trees were in bloom and the scent was wonderful.

Posted by
2681 posts

@Carlos, yes, I just looked at Seville temps. Should have mentioned that, I guess, but I assume people to do their own follow up.

Posted by
16762 posts

Although I fairly often end up on buses because I make spur-of-the-moment plans and last-minute tickets on the fast trains are quite expensive, I think few plan-ahead tourists are going to want to spend 2 hours on a bus from Seville to Cordoba when a fast train will get them there in 40 to 46 minutes. True, if one was spending an entire month in Seville, a 4-hour round-trip bus ride wouldn't be so bad.

But as far as Granada is concerned, I think the typical tourist (as opposed to a resident) plans one trip to the city; I just don't think traveling in from Seville provides a reasonable amount of sightseeing time for what may well be the visitor's only trip to Granada.

Posted by
4 posts

Wow, thank you everyone for your advise, it has been most helpful. We have booked our flights! Yay! In and out of Sevilla, March 22-April 19th. Now???? 😁 We are open to any thoughts and advise to tweek our plan. We are thinking a week in Sevilla with day trips by train to Carmona and Cadiz. Thinking of looking for an apartment in Triana. Train to Córdoba, spend one or two nights there. Train to Jean, one night and find our way to Ubeda for one week?? Too long?? With day trip to Baeza and ?? Bus to Granada one night. Somehow find our way to estapona, one week. Maybe rent a car whilst there? On to Ronda one night. I saw a two day driving trip that I thought looked nice. We could rent a car in Ronda (if there is a car rental there and if we ca drop it off at the other end Argos de la Frontera or maybe Jerez? The drive starts Senenil de las Bodegas - Torre Aalhaquime - Olvera - Aalgodonales - Zahara - Grazalema, over night, - Villaluenga del Rosario - Benaocaz - Ubrique - El Bosque - Arcos. Hmmm, just typing it is a bit daunting, it may be too much but I'm sure we can cur some out if need be. And then back to Sevilla for a night or two before heading flying out. What do you think?
Lisa

Posted by
1131 posts

a) I haven't bothered to work out how much "spare" time you have available, but Cordoba is certainly worth two nights (or even three), if you can fit it in. There is an easy half-day trip to the ruins of Medina Azahara which is worth considering.

b) I wasn't hugely impressed by Jaen city - it's okay, but a bit of a disappointment compared to the other provincial capitals such as Seville and Granada. To be fair, most cities are when compared to those two, I suppose. You could save an hotel change by going direct from Cordoba to Ubeda. Alsa run a coach on this route (I think). From Ubeda you could do Jaen as a day-trip since it's only about 1 hour away by coach/bus. How long you stay in Ubeda depends on the sort of holiday you want. You could see it's main sights in one very busy day or two more sensibly paced ones. Add a day-trip to Baeza and one to Jaen, that would suggest four full days. But if you prefer to relax as well as sight-see, Ubeda is a nice town to base in for longer. With a car you could visit the nearby national parks, see link below, and visit one of the olive oil "farms/factories" that do tours.

http://www.andalucia.com/environment/protect/jaen.htm

c) I think one night in Granada is too little. Perhaps cut-back Ubeda to allow more time.

Posted by
16762 posts

I agree with Nick. A week is a really long time in Ubeda even if you day-trip (as I did) to Jaen and Baeza. There should be bus service to Ubeda from Cordoba, I assume. As you probably know, there's no train station in Ubeda, and the Baeza station isn't actually in Baeza, so buses are needed in that area. I enjoyed my day in Jaen, but I was glad I had chosen to base in Ubeda instead.

A day in Granada is grotesquely short. There's a lot to see in that city. You'll miss out on a lot if you have only one night there. Given the length of your trip to Andalucia, I think 4 nights is a reasonable minimum in Granada, more if you want to drive out to the Alpujarras. You can take some time from Ubeda and/or Estepona. Actually, I'd choose Malaga instead of Estepona, but I don't like being pinned down in small place for so long because I'm a public-transportation person.

I think you have too many planned stops on your white-village drive, but you'll be able to drop some places as you go.

Posted by
4 posts

Hi everyone and thanks again for your advise. Here is our revised itinery for your appraisal. Please feel free to point out any mistakes or offer and advise as nothing is set in stone and I have not booked apartments yet.
Seville - 5 nights with day trip to Carmona
Córdoba - 3 nights by high speed train ( will look for side trips or just chill)
Anteauera - 2 nights by high speed train
Granada - 5 nights by high speed train. Rent a car, side trips Ubeda, Baeza and ?
Estapona - 5 nights by bus. to Relax, day trips to Marbella and ?
Ronda - 2 or 3 nights?? Arrive by bus, Rent a car with side trips to Zahara and Grazalema
Jerez - 2 or 3 nights arrive by bus. with side trips to Sanlucar de Barrameda, Acros maybe Cadiz
Fast tran back to Seville for the last 2 or 3 nights.
Thoughts? And thanks.
Lisa

Posted by
16762 posts

Ubeda and Baeza are each about a 3 hr. 15 min. round-trip from Granada, according to ViaMichelin. I wouldn't want to do that drive twice. The drive from Granada to Antequera is a bit shorter, so I'd prefer to give up the stay in Antequera and stay in Ubeda instead. That should yield a net reduction in hours behind the wheel.

One other thing: The train station in Antequera is well outside of town. That's the main reason I nixed Antequera; it does sound like an interesting place.

When I researched my trip to Andalucía, the three possible side-trips from Cordoba that made it into my notes were Aguilar (45 min.), Ecija (49 min.) and Baena (1 hr. 8 min.); those one-way driving times are from ViaMichelin. In the end, I didn't see any of those places because there's never enough time and I decided Carmona (from Seville), Vejer de la Fontera (from Cadiz), Priego de Cordoba (from Granada) and the Alpujarras (also from Granada), sounded more interesting. YMMV.

What I most regret is missing Medina Azahara, which is only a few miles from Cordoba.

Posted by
1131 posts

You've changed around a bit again! You cannot see it all. On your latest itinerary:

  • Don't get too fixated on "fast trains". The AVE service is ideal for long journeys, but some of yours within Andalucia are short enough that it doesn't make much difference in time - for example between Sevilla and Cordoba. Especially if, as in Sevilla and Antequera, one station might be quicker/easier to get to from your accommodation; also don't ignore coach services, they can often be more practical between smaller destinations, with the bus stations in the centre whilst the railway station is miles outside, and more frequent services (and sometimes faster too).
  • Antequera is very interesting and worth a couple of days. As well as the usual castle & church sights it has the dolmens which make a change from other town's more typical attractions. This town is an example of the above. The fast trains use Antequera Santa Ana station which is 10 miles from the town. The coaches and local trains (if they've restarted), use stations actually in the town.
  • Similarly, Ubeda/Baeza are interesting because the renaissance style makes them very different from your other stops (and they're both beautiful towns and especially delightful at dusk). But I don't think visiting either is practical as a day trip from Granada.
  • How about after Cordoba driving to Ubeda, stopping three nights, then driving to Granada via the mountains. Dropping the car and stopping three nights. Then coach/train Antequera for two nights before starting the rest of your itinerary? That would be a loop east, rather than having to backtrack.
Posted by
1 posts

We are also travelling to Spain from Canada (Ontario) in March 2020. Does anyone have experience and/or recommendations on the following:

  • the prevalence of WiFi as you travel throughout Spain?
  • experience buying SIM cards for unlocked iPhones and which provider you found had the best coverage for the price?

Thanks in advance!
-Lizzie

Posted by
16762 posts

Lizzieluluhead, it would be better for you to start your own thread. That way you'll get notifications about responses, rather than lisaandmike.