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UNESCO site vacation Madrid, Toledo, Avila, etc.

In addition to UNESCO sites along the way, which are the major focus, we have 8 days to spend on our entire vacation. But I have 2 questions after laying out our itinerary:

Fly Chicago to Madrid
Madrid to Toledo............................................................................................................................Day 2
Drive Toledo to El Escorial, and then on to Avila...................................................................Day 3
Avila to Segovia..............................................................................................................................Day 4
Segovia to Burgos/Atapuerca Archeological site..................................................................Day 5 and 6
Take in historic cities in the drive from Burgos to Madrid Barajas....................................Day 7
Return flight Madrid to Chicago..................................................................................................Day 5

Which city is deserving of a 2 night exploration? I have picked Burgos but am open to suggestions.
Sites (historic and otherwise) to see on the drive from Burgos to Barajas Airport (allowing for variance from the direct route??

TIA. Ken and Karen Novak

Posted by
3136 posts

If you enjoy castles, there’s one at Manzanares el Real. I can’t think of any one town between Burgos and the airport that is of any significant historic importance. If you didn’t want to take the direct route back to Madrid, the Royal Convent of Santa Clara in Tordesillas is nice, and there are nice castles at Medina Del Campo and Arevalo. There are other castles in Portillo, Coca, and Cuellar.
To the East, there are some sights in Soria, and I’ve been told Siguenza is nice to visit. That whole are is on my list to visit next year.

Posted by
18736 posts

No matter what the question is, my response is usually Toledo, and so it is here.

Edited to add: I did like Burgos; it's not a bad choice. But it isn't Toledo.

The historic university town of Alcala de Henares is very attractive and quite close to the airport.

Posted by
285 posts

Ken and Karen,

Not a UNESCO site, but maybe should be, is Sad Hill Cemetery. It was the cemetery used in the Good the Bad and the Ugly. There are is a route that goes to the different sites where the movie was filmed. Even if you are not interested in the film, Covarrubias, and the monastery of Silos are with a visit.

If you prefer more medieval, there is the Way of El Cid. The first stage, called The Exile includes Covarrubias, Silos and Burgo de Osma. You could finish in Siguenza at the Parador.

On your trip from Segovia to Burgos, you should try to visit Pedraza, it is between Segovia and the A1 highway.

Posted by
50 posts

Superior insights, all.

Speaking of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, I may be in the mood after watching PALE RIDER last night. lol

Posted by
285 posts

The Way of the Cid is made up of different stages. The website describes it this way....

The route runs through large natural areas and small, very quiet villages with a wealth of heritage. The Way of El Cid includes eight World Heritage Sites of the medieval world. Its diversity makes it a unique opportunity for seeing Spain in a different light, free from clichés.

Owing to its length (around 1400 kilometres of tracks and 2000 km of roads), the Way of El Cid is divided into interconnected thematic routes from 50 to 300 km aproximately, so you can adapt the journey to your holidays. All the routes are signposted.

If you do the whole thing it would take you from north of Burgos to south of Alicante. They have it set up into different stages (or routes). So stage/route one is in Burgos and Soria provinces.

This is the description of Stage/route 1

Posted by
3136 posts

I used cash on my 2017 trip, but credit cards are accepted. If you look at google maps, the toll roads will have a P in them, e.g., AP-6, AP-41, etc. There are some tolls between the places you’re visiting.

Posted by
4860 posts

I've spent a few nights in Madrid several times, and I'm not close to exhausting this city. You have a death-march vacation set up, with a new hotel every night? Do any of your hotels have on-site parking? You have a lot of local layouts to learn about just before you leave town for the next one. How's your Spanish?

Note that I'm not suggesting you have to speak Spanish to visit Spain. I'm suggesting that if you have to be on the move every single minute, you will lose a lot of time looking stuff up and learning on the fly.

Have you taken account of weekly closings for each of the attractions? What month is the trip - High Season? These are popular places.

Posted by
3136 posts

Not nearly a death march, since the places you intend on visiting are close together, but you will need to changes hotels daily. Since it’s the itinerary you chose, I assume it isn’t an issue. You seem to have a nice route flow to the trip and it wouldn’t make sense to backtrack by using one or two places as a base.
Madrid-Toledo - 42 miles
Toledo - San Lorenzo del Escorial - 51 miles
Escorial - Avila - 30 miles
Avila - Segovia - 37 miles
Segovia - Burgos - 99 miles

Since you are going from San Lorenzo del Escorial to Avila, consider stopping at the nearby Valle de Los Caidos since you need to drive right past it. It’s a monument to those who died during the Spanish civil war and was built using prisoner labor. Now that Franco’s body has been removed from it, maybe it won’t be quite as controversial.

If you don’t have hotels reserved, in Toledo we stay at Hotel Maria Cristina. It has its own parking garage, and the historic center begins about a 10 minutes from it. In Burgos, we stayed at Abba Burgos. It too has its own parking garage and is a 5 minutes walk to the cathedral. Both have very good breakfast buffets. Both are easy to find with GPS. For Avila and Segovia, consider staying at the Paradors in each. www.parador.es/en.

Posted by
4860 posts

Well, I chose a strong term, but since it takes "half a day" to change cities and hotels, this is a lot of overhead for a 6-days in-country (not "8-day") vacation. I love to travel, but not at that pace. We saw most of those places on daytrips by (gasp) tourist bus from Madrid. It worked great, no parking, no car rental, no navigating, and the tour lunch was optional, so we could grab a sandwich and have extra free time. I think we drove to Avila on another trip when we had a car.

Before you say that we say a fraction of the place, on the guide's schedule, note that we didn't spend any time changing hotels.

Posted by
2086 posts

Hi,
You don't need to stay in Avila. You can stay 2 nights in Segovia, and use Segovia as a base to visit Avila for, erm, maybe a morning? It doesn't need much more time really. Not the end of the world if you end up having to skip it.

Posted by
50 posts

Appreciate the insights...learned some local tidbits for sure.

My wife and I are experienced drivers and adventurers. We have taken many similar vacations. All are time constrained for reasons unnecessary to share.

We've also "spoked out" before with central locations thru rentals on VRBO..... But will look at a mid point to reconsider. Have to be around or north of Segovia I'd say..............

That all said in our 20 trips to Europe the past 10 yrs have never really had language issues. I recognize Spain could be diff. Perhaps some disagree, but 90% of Euros under 45 speak solid English.

The El Cid trail sounds so interesting. When we do get a couple months WE'LL BE BACK!

Thanks so much all!

Posted by
50 posts

balso,

Saying this out of ignorance mind you as I have never been there. But Segovia has many more "sights" of interest per se than Avila?

Does anyone disagree...strongly? Just curious, again, mind you.

Posted by
1237 posts

Well it's all just opinion, but I'd say Segovia has more "variety" of sights and is the one to choose if you can only pick one. However, Avila's principal sight (i.e. the wal) is very impressive and inside the wall it's a more attractive, relaxing town to stop in than Segovia, but other than the defences isn't a "wow".

Posted by
18736 posts

I love walls and am happy to wander around medieval districts with no guidebook sights. Still, I was ready to leave Avila after less than 2 hours. To me, it is nothing but a wall; it pales in comparison to Segovia, Toledo, Cuenca, Alcala de Henares and Salamanca. I've never seen a guide book with a glowing recommendation for Avila. It's nearly always mentioned as a place for a stop if already in the area. If it were not so conveniently located, I think most of us would never have heard of it.

Posted by
2086 posts

The other comments perfectly illustrates what I meant by "Avila deserves a morning". It's a beautiful postcard, not much else.

Posted by
50 posts

As a devout Catholic, it has one most very interesting attraction. And that is Teresa of Avila, who is a DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH. Since there are only 10 of them in our 2000 year history, and only 2 are women, her importance for Christendom can never be understated. So that I very much look forward to.

Nevertheless, I appreciate all your comments and opinions, as that is what I asked for. I in no way mean any insult to anyone whatsoever. I hope that comes through.

Again, much obliged to all. Outside of the WALL, and seeing Teresa's home and museum, I do also see that Segovia does have what I would also consider "more to see"...now that I have taken your insights and "dug a little deeper",

Posted by
3136 posts

As you have an interest in Saint Teresa de Avila, maybe you can find time to visit Iglesia de la Anunciacion in Alba de Tormes. Your itinerary takes you near there. Her tomb is there as are some relics of her and others (finger, heart, etc.). We came across the church by accident back in 2007 and are glad we stopped.

I too agree that Avila is only worth a couple hours. You can get a great view of the town and walls from Cuatro Postes (4 posts), that is really an observation area across the road from the town. It’s easy to get to.

Posted by
50 posts

OK, I see it. But we are going the other way and no time. Drats. But thanks for that. ken and karen