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two weeks in Spain itinerary help

Two weeks in early September, flights round trip from Washington dc to Madrid (13 non flight days)...Nothing booked yet. We are interested in seeing the big sites but a little goes a long way as far as art museums, palaces and cathedrals. We like to be outdoors and love scenery and of course food. My initial plans had us spending most of our time in Andalusia but we'd like to visit areas that have significant differences in "feel" if that makes sense. Is it worth staying at a beach? Any suggestions? FYI: In Italy we loved Verona and Rome (I was sick when we were in Venice but the crowds were untenable to me) The Hill country in Tuscany was nice, Florence was beautiful but we wouldn't have wanted to visit another similar place. We really wanted to spend some time in cinque teree but it didn't work with our time frame.
Thanks in advance for your input

Posted by
25532 posts

I'm curious about your Venice comment about untenable crowds.

Were you there in the evenings and mornings or was it a day trip and you were only there for an afternoon? Did you wander off (or while you were sick did your travel partner wander off) the main thoroughfares and into the recesses of the neighbourhoods or did you stick to the "big" stuff?

Posted by
3789 posts

Which city do these flights from Milan land in?
Many of the typical tourist cities can offer less indoor pursuits.
You don't mention whether you want a road trip or not. Certainly, the White towns of Andalusia may offer what you are looking for. Better suited for having a car.
Smaller cities like Toledo and Segovia, particularly of you stay overnight, can give outdoor views and scenery, but given the timeframe, are going to be crowded and hot.
You may want to consider the northern coastal region, for fewer tourists and cooler temps.
There are also the regions outside Madrid with old castles or royal grounds, cities with cave art galleries, and the windmills of La Mancha province (Don Quixote territory)
Spain offers a lot of diverse geography and history, but much of the country is still going to be very hot in early September.
I think a little personal reading of regions that attract you may better suit, otherwise answers may be just shots in the dark.

Posted by
46 posts

Regarding Venice....Being sick certainly did not help my impression of the city and we spent two nights there. I did venture out as much as I could and even went to the less crowded areas in the city. My husband took an early tour and loved it. I was hoping to enjoy the ambiance of Venice and it just wasn't what I had imagined.

For our trip in September (which could be later in the month for temperature considerations) we will be flying from Washington Dc to Madrid but we could also fly into Barcelona if an itinerary makes more sense from there.

Thank you

Posted by
3789 posts

So, Milan? Where does that come into the picture? (Perhaps you meant to say Madrid).
North coast in September is cooling down and becoming off season. Andalusia can be hot well into October. It is also high tourist season in Andalusia until early November, and Barcelona seems to be high season most of the year.
You can consider splitting between Madrid and Barcelona for ease of flights and train travel, or look at flights home from Malaga or Seville which would be convenient for Andalusia.

Posted by
18718 posts

Andalucia could be miserably hot in early September and not necessarily comfortable even later in the month. I suggest going to the website and taking a look at the actual, historical, day-by-day weather statistics for Seville in at least the three most recent years (five would be better) to see the range of conditions you might experience there. It's not an area I'd choose to visit in September, nor would I use any of such limited time at one of the towns on the southern coast, though they would probably be a bit cooler due to sea breezes. Granada is at altitude and is somewhat cooler than Seville as well. The Alhambra is one of the world's great sights, but I'd hope to visit at a somewhat cooler time of year.

You can use the same website to take a look at conditions in Toledo and Segovia as well as Madrid. That area is quite hot in the summer (though not as bad as the south) and somewhat cool in the winter; early- vs. late-September might make a difference there. Logistically, Madrid (a big, bustling city) is a brilliant base for day-trips, though to my mind Toledo especially is worth a multi-night stay. Other options from Madrid are Salamanca, Alcala de Henares and Cuenca, though for Cuenca to be an affordable day-trip you'd need to buy the rail tickets early enough to get Promo fares. I've spent multiple nights in all those places except Alcala.

For a much-reduced chance of hot weather, there's a whole string of nice cities/towns stretched across northern Spain. Places near the coast tend to be much cooler than the rest of Spain during the hotter part of the year; clouds are common, and some rain is to be expected. You sound like folks who'd enjoy the generally-less-touristy places between Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela (both of which get a lot of visitors). One warning: There's considerable pilgrim traffic in some places; that will be most evident in the areas around the cathedrals. Places to research: Bilbao and the Basque Country: Burgos, Picos de Europa area, Oviedo, Leon and the region of Galicia. There are many other worthwhile places along the way.

Barcelona itself doesn't usually get super hot but can be humid, though it might be perfectly fine in September. It is tourist central, however. It has a wealth of highly popular, must-be-booked-in-advance attractions. I love the city, but it sounds as if that's not your sort of environment at all.

Posted by
1110 posts

I am assuming you meant Madrid and not Milan...........
If you have not yet booked flights I ask you to research "open jaw" opportunities. Open Jaw is where you fly into one city and depart from another. The benefit is maximizing the use of your travel time and the additional expense of purchasing open jaw is often small especially in comparison to the time benefits.

We often travel to Spain and have settled upon early October as being a great month to visit due to great weather and a lessening of tourists.

Consider a direct flight into Barcelona where you have a huge menu of opportunities to select for experiencing the region. We rent apartments and suggest staying in the Eixample. Public transport is fantastic and the subway offers connecting stations to the railroad stations providing ease for making day trips. We recommend investing seven days in Barcelona and then taking a commuter flight to Seville to spend four days and then taking the bus/train to Granada to spend the remainder of the journey.

You can depart from Granada for home with a connection in Madrid.

We have used this route and find the travel easy and the destinations rewarding.

Posted by
2168 posts

If this was pre-pandemic times and you guys are traveling in September, I'd typically recommend first visiting Barcelona, during our annual city festival, La Mercè (Sep 21-24). In previous years the festival had 100s of events spread throughout Barcelona's squares, streets, museums, and parks. This was something that we put on for ourselves, not just for tourists and was a great opportunity to experience our Catalan culture like a local, at least for a few days.

However, with this weird pandemic transition phase we find ourselves in, La Mercè may be cancelled yet again, it all depends on the epidemiological situation at that time, I'd say it's 50/50.

From Barcelona you can venture north to the medieval town of Girona and spend several nights there. I think that Girona will be right up your alley, based on your previous likes and dislikes, similar to Verona in more than just rhyme lol!. From Girona, you can make some escapades to the nearby Pyrenees mountains to visit the medieval stone villages like Rupit or Besalú. You can also explore the nearby Costa Brava and get something similar to the Cinque Terre. I'd recommend Tossa de Mar for a Costa Brava adventure with a nice beach time or a daytrip to the ancient Greek colony of Empúries (Emporion).

Alternatively, from Barcelona, you could head south following the Coasta Dorada and Costa del Azahar, bassically the stretch of coastline between Barcelona and Valencia. It's a land full of ancient olive trees, citrus groves, sandy beaches, lazy beach towns, time-warped castles, and Roman Ruins. A nice romantic roadtrip could be to rent a car and drive down from Barcelona to Valencia, stopping at places like Sitges, Tarragona, and Peñíscola. Here's an article from Rough Guides about this area:

Posted by
21156 posts

I am miss something here. You indicate that you are flying into Madrid but most of your questions relate to Italy. With less than two week you can easily spend it in Spain without the time and expense of getting to Italy. Also look at the open jaw option. The last time we were in Spain we fly into Madrid and home from Malaga. There is no point in spending extra dollars and especially time returning to your original airport.

Posted by
2268 posts

I was also thinking that Girona had a similar "feel" to Verona, although I can't articulate why I think that. My reaction to the Costa Brava was "I expected the Cinque Terre to be like this". We visited Girona and the Costa Brava on a day trip from Barcelona.

Separate day trips from Barcelona took us to the Priorat wine country and Tarragona/Sitges. Both of these destinations were long on scenery and food, and short on art museums, palaces and cathedrals - although the cathedral in Tarragona was beautiful and interesting, as well as practically empty!

Posted by
505 posts

If you are interested in a beach, I highly recommend Mallorca. It has a great combo of museums, beaches, a nice central area. It’s a short flight from Barcelona and worth 3-4 days

Posted by
935 posts

Hello sbowers, have you considered flying into Barcelona and out of Madrid? TAP (Air Portugal) has a flight for $503 from and to IAD.
I do not recommend staying at a beach in ES, too tacky. If it were PT then yes. However, you do have to connect in Lisbon if you take this TAP flight, but I would focus on ES and see PT another time.
I would also buy Rick Steves’ ES 17th edition guidebook, not the “Best of ES”. This way you’ll be able to plan on how many nights you want to sleep in the places you’ll visit. I suggest going to Barcelona, Figueres (day trip from Barcelona), Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Madrid and Toledo.
From Barcelona I would take a direct train to Granada (6h 30m). From Granada take a direct train to Sevilla (2h 30m). From Sevilla you can take a 45m train ride to Cordoba and store your luggage in a locker then visit the Mezquita. Afterwards take the next direct train to Madrid (2h).
I would visit Toledo as a day trip from Madrid (45m) and take a bus to the old town. To get to Figueres from Barcelona, there’s a 2h direct train so you can see Salvador Dali’s museum.

Posted by
882 posts

Spent 3 nights in Ronda 10 years ago and would recommend. Also enjoyed both Madrid and Barcelona and would recommend 3-4 nights each - and more if using them as a base for day trips.

Posted by
3130 posts

Last time I was in Andalucia in early September, Spain was in a heat wave and it was near 100 every day. Don’t let that stop you if Andalucia is where you want to go. If spending the majority of you time there consider flying into Sevilla, or, Malaga which is in a great location. From Malaga you could go northeast to Granada, west to Ronda, Cordoba, and Sevilla, or east to Almeria, Mojacar and some beaches. Your itinerary will be partially determined on how you’re traveling between cities.

Some smaller cities worth visiting In the Madrid area include, Segovia, Toledo, Salamanca, Avila (good for a couple hours), and Cuenca. As mentioned by MariaF, if you had a car, south of Madrid is Consuegra with its castle and windmills and Campo de Criptana and its windmills made famous in Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

I agree with acraven about there being plenty of cities in northern Spain worth visiting if you decided to go that route.

Posted by
46 posts

Thank you all for the information!!. I have looked at the temperature chart, open jaw flights and researched some cities in Andalusia. My husband and I decided it's best to do southern Spain for this trip and we are both okay with the heat (we went to Austin Texas in July). Please comment on the time line and if you would replace one city for another. We prefer to spend the night rather than a day trip but not opposed if there is a great place, not to far away. Looking to plan the last week of September into the first week of October. We will have 13 full days not including arrival and departure days. We are used to planning pretty full days. I have not researched travel times but we plan to use trains and buses and I know that adds time to travel.

Saturday: arrive early am in Barcellono, Sunday: Barcellona, Monday Barcellona

Tuesday and Wednesday Granada
Thursday, Friday, Saturday Sevilla
Sunday: Cordoba
Malaga ?
Rhonda ?
Madrid Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Saturday flight home from Madrid
I appreciate all your advise.

Posted by
935 posts

Hi sbowers, I would travel by train in this order:
Barcelona to Granada (direct meaning no connection required taking 6h 30m).
Granada to Malaga (one connection required taking 1h 45m).
Malaga to Ronda (one connection required taking 2h).
Ronda to Sevilla (one connection required taking 3h).
Sevilla to Cordoba (direct taking 45m).
Cordoba to Madrid (direct taking 2h).
If you have time, consider taking a day trip to Toledo from Madrid (45m). I’ve been there twice, the first time as a day trip and the second time I spent one night. I was bored the time I spent the night.

Posted by
18718 posts

To me, Madrid's big attraction is the art museums, which don't seem to interest you much. That's not to say there aren't other points of interest--like the Royal Palace. But I think there's more for the non-art-loving tourist in Barcelona. You'll only have two full, non-jetlagged days in Barcelona, which I think you will find inadequate. For one thing, even pre-pandemic, many top sights in Barcelona required pre-purchased, timed tickets, which made it difficult to squeeze a lot of sightseeing into a day. On the other hand, Barcelona has a lot of sights that are crowded (La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Picasso Museum); if that's going to turn you off so much that you don't want to see them, you obviously won't need much time in the city.

Although I like both Ronda and Malaga, I'd choose Toledo instead without a thought, and I'd also prefer at least one extra day in Barcelona. As I mentioned in an earlier response, Toledo can be handled as a day-trip from Madrid, though I prefer to spend multiple nights there. And Segovia's also a good Madrid day-trip.

There is rail service connecting Ronda to both Seville and Malaga, and there's direct rail service between Malaga and Seville, but including both of those additional destinations would mean at least seven extra hours for train travel alone (and it could be worse--trains in and out of Ronda are infrequent and some are slower than others). That seems a lot to me, given that you have only 13 days to work with.

I believe there are one-day bus tours from Seville (maybe also from Malaga?) that go to Ronda and at least a couple of the smaller white villages. To me, that approach would mean a too-short visit to Ronda, but you'd also see a couple of other places, which wouldn't be possible in one day via public transportation.

Really, how you divide up your time should depend on what you want to do at each destination. I like both architecture and art, so I had rather long stays in each of those fascinating cities.

Posted by
1 posts

Acraven - thanks for your observations, as we might use some ourselves. We’re going to Spain for 14 days May 14-28 of 2022. We are flying to Madrid, with one day trip to Toledo during our four nights there. We are actually not art lovers, but will enjoy the palace, parks, and just exploring. Will substitute a day of city sightseeing by simply being there over their big Festival of San Isidro on May 15th. So we’ll just people and parade watch! From Madrid, train to Granada for 2nights, then Cordoba for 2 nights (we love exploring ancient old streets). From Cordoba to Sevilla for 3 nights, then finally Barcelona for 4 days. We plan to pre-purchase timed tickets to all those Gaudi locations. We will also splurge by hiring local guides on maybe half the days throughout, as we are quite inexperienced European travelers. Even though I devour Rick’s and other guide books, a local guide can give us so much more personal insight.