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Trip to Spain

Good day everyone!

My wife and I just got back from our first oversees trip...in Italy. It was amazing! and its given us both the "travel bug". While we cant go quite as quickly in 2020, we are looking at 2021 for our next big trip. After some discussion...we are considering going to Spain. UK was on the table, but we are both thinking that would be another time...maybe with family.

That said, I hoped to get a feel for what the community has experienced in the beautiful country of Spain? Suggestions on places to visit or MUST see areas. Preliminary thoughts are that we would do about 11 days, and probably 2 locations (with the possibility of an overnight/day trip somewhere). Again, very early stages. However, when planning our trip to italy, this forum was a terrific spot for getting the ideas flowing and prompting additional planning.

Thoughts. Questions. long narratives. all welcome!

Posted by
1996 posts

2021 is quite a ways off, so you still have a lot of time to organise and collect information. With 10 nights available, I would say there two "must-see" itineraries that most people envision for Spain:

The Classic: Barcelona (4 nights) + Madrid (3 nights) + Toledo (2 nights)

Andalucia: Sevilla (4 nights) + White Hill Towns (2 nights) + Granada (2 nights) + Cordoba (2 nights)

However, this does not take into account your own personal preferences, I would highly recommend you look up a few guidebooks, like DK, Lonely Planet, or RS, and see what things of Spain really attracts you. There are plenty of areas in Spain, some not too popular with foreign tourists, that I would personally consider "must-sees" like the Pyrenees, the Picos de Europa, the Basque Country, or Extremadura.

What time of year also plays an important role in planing your trip, like I would not recommend Andalucia in the high summer months (deathly hot) or the Basque Country in March/April (lots of rain).

Hope this helps :)

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks @Carlos!

I agree, it is quite a ways off. No shame in planning and getting ideas :).

What we want is to look at art and see natural beauty, We also like to build in a day or so hang by the coast and chill...and OF COURSE...good food.

Based on past travel and planning, it would likely be mid September or late April into May (2021)

Posted by
1996 posts

You are right, no time like the present to dream of future travels :)

For mid September, I would recommend the Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo itinerary. If you can time it right, then you may be in time for Barcelona's annual Major Festival, La Merce, September 21-24, which is a great way to experience Barcelona as a local.

For late April into May, I would recommend the Andalucia itinerary, but switch out White Hill Towns with Malaga for the beach/relax time you desire. So it would go like Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga. Again, if you can time it right, you may be in time for Sevilla's April Feria, in mid-late April, a good way to experience Sevilla like a local.

As you can see, in Spain we love our festivals :)

Posted by
4210 posts

Do you want a coastal location or do you want to be on the beach and in the water? If it's just the location then Malaga in April would be fine although we have experienced days of rain in April on the Costa Del Sol. If you want to be on the beach and in the water then forget about April.

Posted by
46 posts

@JC sit by the beach and chill. Not necessarily swim, but just enjoy the sea breeze and mild to warmish temps

Posted by
4210 posts

Then you'll be fine (as long as it's not raining) but at least with Malaga, if it does then there's plenty more to do instead.

Posted by
17869 posts

I think Andalucía in late April is a fine idea. Note that it can hit 90 F quite early in the year down there. I see that this year it happened on May 1 in Seville, and it broke 80 F on April 14 and 16. That link will take you to timeanddate.com, which has actual, day-by-day historical weather stats going back at least 10 years. I like to use detailed data like that rather than monthly averages, because it's the extremes I'm worried about. I always check at least 3 years' worth of statistics; 5 would be better.

I believe Seville is usually hotter than Granada and Malaga. Timeanddate's April-May 2019 information for Granada is rather patchy.

Posted by
578 posts

I also recommend the Classic Itinerary or Andalucia that Carlos suggests. While April/May might be the "perfect" time to visit Andalucia, I think it's also doable in mid-September. We visited Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga, and Seville from mid-September to early October in 2017. The temps in Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, and Granada were in the 80's so certainly tolerable for us for sightseeing. Malaga was the high 70's. And acraven is correct about Seville being hotter than Granada and Malaga, at least based on our experience. Temps were 90F- 95F in late September/early October. I really don't regret going when we went. I wore capris every where, except when we reached Seville, I started wearing shorts. We were still able to do all the sightseeing we wanted to do.

I recommend Malaga for a couple days by the beach. We loved Malaga, and I think it's an under-rated city. There is a lot of interesting and beautiful sights, but you can also walk along the seaside promenade, and sit on the beach if the weather is nice. As JC states, there is plenty to do if the weather doesn't cooperate.

For guidebooks, in addition to the books that Carlos recommends, I recommend Michelin Green Guide. Please don't rely only on Rick's guidebooks. I've noticed that he omits destinations in many of his books. For example, he devotes only one page to Malaga in his Andalucia book, and it's only about using Malaga as a transportation center.

I really like Barcelona, Madrid, and Toledo, but for me, Andalucia was more interesting and beautiful with its Moorish history, influence, and architecture. The Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita in Cordoba, and the Royal Alcazar in Seville are AMAZING!!!

Posted by
1201 posts

Rough Guide has a comprehensive guide for Spain which would be worth starting with to get an idea of what attracts you. I fear, though, you'll come up with a long list of destinations that can't be seen in 11 weeks let alone 11 days. So some pruning will be necessary. Presumably, you had the same "problem" with Italy which also offers an embarrassment of riches for the tourist.

But, at least, you've lots of time to plan.

If you want two destinations in 11 days, then Seville and Barcelona would be my recommendation. Both are fine cities and contrast each other, both have plenty of their own sights plus easy day-trip options (including scenic, mountainous, coastal, etc. - although Barcelona is at the seaside anyway), and they're straightforward to get between (though not a very quick journey). Sevilla is Spain's best major city and Barcelona is the third or fourth best, so both are a good option, especially as they'd provide a glimpse of diverse Spanish (or Andalusian & Catalan really), cultures, food and so forth.

If you're willing to extend the trip to three bases, then I'd recommend the "golden triangle" of Barcelona, Granada and Sevilla, plus more limited day-trips.

Having written that, I can certainly see the attraction of spending all 11 days in Andalucia, but I think for a first trip seeing some contrasts is a good idea.

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks @Nick and @kmkwoo. SO it sounds like,even though they fit into two different itineraries, because we're going to do Spain for approximately 11ish days...ts really worth bypassing Madrid, in favor of the southerly towns in adulucia. Especially with respect to our desire for culture,art, food and some beach time?

Posted by
1201 posts

Madrid doesn't seem to be many people's favourite Spanish destination (at least on this forum - it is a very popular weekend break city for many Europeans and Britons). I think it's a worthwhile city to visit, at least for a couple of days, and it's well located for some great day-trips. Nevertheless, I think it rather looses out in comparison to some other Spanish cities. If Madrid were in many other countries it would be the "must-see", but in Spain it is overshadowed by the even better cities.

Given your interest in culture, food and, especially, art Madrid may well be a perfect destination for you. It's just that, as I wrote before, with limited time and not wishing to change cities too often, I think Barcelona and Sevilla are a more interesting mix. But if you favour Sevilla and Madrid, then that's understandable too.

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks @Nick. I will have to go through the guide(s) for what madrid has to offer.

Posted by
46 posts

Hi all,

I have question (albeit a little random) regarding travel from Madrid to Lisbon. =Looks like the plan is to visit Lisbon-Madrid-Barcelona on our next trip (across 12 days)...what are the thoughts or experiences on taking a flight from Portugal to Spain versus taking the overnight sleeper train? Has anyone ever taken the train?

Second, Is there issues with "going through customs" when flying between two foreign countries that you aren't a citizen of either (i.e., US citizen on travel into Lisbon but then taking a short flight to Spain and then leaving out of Spain)? Obviously the flight time of 90 minutes ( versus a 9 hour train ride), is a big perk. But to those who've done it...i would obviously defer to you.

Appreciate the help. apologize for the rambles.

Posted by
4210 posts

I've never taken a sleeper train and have no desire to, why waste nine hours doing something that can be done in an hour? Plus by all accounts a 'sleeper' train is a bit of an oxymoron as most of the reports I've read highlight that very little sleep is achieved. My advice is to fly.

As for customs, both Portugal and Spain are within the Schengen area and there are no border or custom controls between both countries. You will only pass through immigration at your point of entry into the Schengen Zone and then your point of exit.

Posted by
1201 posts

I've taken that sleeper and would certainly recommend it over flying between Madrid and Lisbon. On the other hand, I've read many comments by those not so keen on night trains - mainly that they didn't sleep. The sleeper is convenient, city to city, comfortable and pleasant with opportunities to eat and drink along the journey as well as sleep (though, I'd take my own refreshments on board, not rely only on the train service). Personally, I cannot understand why you'd put yourself through the faff and horror of flying such a short route when a sleeper is available. But others don't agree and prefer "speed" to actually enjoying their travel. I may well be in the minority in recommending the sleeper!

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks @JC and @Nick! Figures you both have opposite opinions lol.

I guess i see both sides, and to your point JC, if flying those short flights would be similar to a short US flight (and no customs) then it does make sense for the convenience side.

I guess i like the idea of a sleeper train in this scenario as I inevitably have the 7 hour flight to Portugal and 9 hour flight back to the east coast of the US, so the thought of minimizing add'tl plane time was high on the list. Plus, the italian trains we've done and they were so relaxed and what not as compared to air travel.

other thoughts..similar or different..are welcome

Posted by
46 posts

Hi all,

What are the thoughts on 12 days split between Barcelona, Seville and Madrid? (5 days, 3 days, 4days) respectively.

We could see the “typical” Spain as well as see Madrid and Barcelona’s art and culture

Posted by
17869 posts

It's a long train ride from Barcelona to Seville (or an annoying trip to the airport). Three nights in Seville gives you only two full days and a few hours. I'd want at least four nights; Seville is quite large. Whether I'd go for just three nights would depend on the alternatives. Toledo and Cordoba are closer to Madrid and Barcelona (by train) than Seville is, and they are worth visiting, too. I think most people would say Seville needs more time than Toledo or Granada.

Andalucía has three major destinations (Seville, Cordoba and Granada) and a lot of other great places that aren't on the typical short itinerary for lack of time. You're going to need to go back to see more of Andalucía, so I'd tend to hold off on Seville until then, rather than making what I'd consider a too-short visit, given the amount of travel time involved. However, plenty of people go to Seville for just three nights.

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks @acraven. The question came from a place of trying to determine if a) we should stick to just Spain (i.e. Barcelona, Madrid & Toledo) or if b) Barcelona, Madrid and a Lisbon would be the preference.

Weighing all of my options here. Thanks for all of the help everyone has been giving!

Posted by
1996 posts

Adding Lisboa to your schedule would necessitate flying there from Madrid (around 2 hrs), as land routes between Spain and Portugal are quite limited, though I have heard there is a night train between the two (not everyone's cup of tea). I'd say stick to Spain with Barcelona + Madrid + a smaller city like Toledo or Cordoba (nothing as big as Sevilla though).

Posted by
46 posts

Right, makes sense Carlos.

The overnight train (for a single) is 300+euro for two people and the plane (roughly 90minutes) is 125 euro for two. As you saw...in my other...just looking at the next trip and how best to maximize.

Thanks for both your answers lol