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Traveling from Granada to Lisbon

My husband and I are planning our first trip to Spain and Portugal in May/June. I have read the warnings about trying to do both countries together but I can't give up Portugal. I've done a ton of research on train/bus times etc and feel good about the first and last portions of the itinerary I've designed, which include all my "must see" destinations.. These legs are pretty set due to flights purchased and home exchanges arranged but I want to provide some context.. We will start the trip in Madrid (3N) then take the train to Granada (2N). Eventually we need to make our way to Lisbon (4N) and from there will go to Porto (3N), night train to San Sebastián (3N), train to Barcelona (5N) and fly home.

My questions are about the middle section and working our way from Granada to Lisbon. I have 4 nights to work with (May 18 - 22) Here are the options I've come up with;

*All include traveling from Granada to Sevilla for a night or two then

Sevilla - Lisbon (6 hr by bus wth one transfer but minimizes travel days and could add add'l days elsewhere)

Sevilla - Évora - Lisbon (2 buses totaling 4 hours to get to Ėvora but an easy 1.5 hour train to Lisbon the next day)

Sevilla - Lagos - Lisbon (4 hours direct bus for each leg but no transfers and beach time is appealing)

I like the idea of stopping at a beach or small town in Portugal as well as avoiding a 6 hour bus ride with a transfer (I've traveled Europe at a similar pace by train but not bus). On the other hand, limiting travel days and additional hotel check in/outs has its appeal and none of the stops are on my "must see" list. Thus my dilemma 😊

I'd appreaciate any feedback on the proposed stop overs or alternative route suggestions. Also, what about leaving this section open and deciding as we go? Does anyone have a sense of how doable It would be to book transportation and lodging last minute in mid May at the above destinations?

A couple things to note,
We don't want to rent a car and would prefer not to fly.
As for our interests, we love to wonder places that feel like you've stepped back in time, pretty scenery, moderate hikes, bike rides, beach activities, live music. History and art but we only want to deal with the big crowded museums and other sights if they're over the top amazing.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

~Betsy

Posted by
5122 posts

Don't know if you've taken the bus in Spain before. I took the route Seville Granada 2 days ago operated by ALSA and was impressed how smooth it was. And the bus had wifi. I think you could get by booking lodging a couple days in advance using booking.com even better if you download the app .

I would probably break the trip up by staying in Evora.
Consult the Lonely Planet guidebook trip advisor or Google to find the things that meet your interests in a specific area

Posted by
12944 posts

Have you checked the schedule for that night train? (Use the Deutsche Bahn website and click on "Show details" then " Show intermediate stops".) I haven't taken that one, but I see that you start with a regional train south to Coimbra and a scheduled 6 minutes to transfer to the night train at about 11:30 PM. Now, the night train may wait for the regional if the latter runs late; I don't know. But I'd be looking for an earlier-than-standard departure from Porto, which would mean about a 1-hour or 2-hour layover at Coimbra B (depending on what day of the week you're traveling), making the scheduled 12-hour trip even longer.

After you board the night train, you have 13 stops before you get to San Sebastian, 8 of them before 6 AM. It's difficult for many people to sleep through those stops, because each is accompanied by braking, station noise and then acceleration. I have found nothing romantic about night trains; it's only been a question of whether I sleep very fitfully (on routes in northern Europe when I was in my 20s) or not one wink (in Italy when I was 64). That last trip made the next day totally useless and messed up my body clock as badly as the transatlantic flight had. An experience definitely not to be repeated.

Before deciding on beach time on the Algarve you should Google for water temperature in Lagos. I'm not sure that will be swimming season. I've never been to Evora but it's definitely considered a worthwhile destination.

Posted by
648 posts

I know you wrote that you prefer not to fly, so ignore the following, but I'd at least consider flying from Sevilla to Porto, then going down to Lisbon, then from there you can catch the sleeper train at its starting point, at a reasonable hour, and without the need to go via Coimbra.

I've not taken that particular sleeper service - you might want to check what the man at seat61.com says. But in general I love night trains; so much more relaxing and civilised than flying. Plus, go to bed in one town, wake up in another - it's perfect. Nevertheless, from what I've read on here and TA, not everyone seems to enjoy them, apparently. I think part of the problem is expectations - if you're picturing Murder on the Orient Express style luxury then you could be disappointed with the Sud Express.

Posted by
12944 posts

No, it's not (for me) the lack of luxury. I stay in the cheapest hotels I can find that have private bathrooms. It's the misery of not being able to sleep on a night train and therefore wasting the next day. I do not need to have two jetlagged days on a single trip!

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you for all the replies!

Regarding the night train, I did see that i have to get to Coimbra and had considered getting there earlier in day to check it,out or maybe even spending the night before. I did not realize it started in Lisbon, so thank you for that. I'm not entirely opposed to flying and will look into that option.

I took a night train about 15 years ago and it wasn't bad but the body bounced back a lot faster back then! I may re-think this.

I'm also liking the idea of booking as we go and I do have the booking.com app as well as hotel tonight .

I appreciate all the advice!