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Where to spend 2 months in Spain (Nov/Dec)

Hello,
As the title says, I'm planning on spending 2 months in Spain this November and December and I keep going back and forth on where to spend my time. I want to have a base and settle on one spot for the entire time and from there take 3-4 days trips to visit other areas.

I was initially looking at Costa Brava because the landscape really caught my attention and seems so beautiful! However while researching, I discovered that the weather is not great during those months (cold and very windy) and many businesses close for the winter.

I did like the idea of staying in a small coastal town but I'm not drawn to touristic areas... so I'm unsure about the South coast, but honestly I'm not very knowledgeable about the area!

If the coast doesn't make sense I was also considering a mountainous area as I love hiking... but again the location needs to be accessible for weekend getaways.

I'm a 40 year old, I prefer nature and outdoors more than clubs or bustling cities. My main passions when travelling are scuba diving, hiking and visiting historical sites.

Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

Posted by
2917 posts

When making your decision consider that many of the smaller beach towns essentially shut down after the tourist season, so many shops and restaurants are closed. Since you want to take short trips, I’d select a location from which you could easily get to other places that interest you. Some cities to consider; Zamora, Leon, Burgos, Sevilla, Cordoba, or Zaragoza. From any of those it’s easy to get to any number of interesting places. There are castles, hermitages, churches, and Roman ruins throughout the country that are worth seeing. Since there’s a good chance there could be snow in the mountains that time of year, hiking in them could be problematic. Throughout the country are walking trails where there used to be railroads (www.viasverdes.es). Additionally, a number of smaller towns have walking trails where you can take a scenic walk around the town, e.g., Alarcon and Siguenza).

Posted by
6098 posts

We have been in Madrid and Andalusia twice during November. It was beautiful in Andalusia at that time of year, warm and sunny, not hot. It was much more fall like in Madrid. You need to keep the average weather stats in mind as you plan your time in Spain.

Posted by
1201 posts

There is plenty of coast in the south that isn't built up if you're imagining it's all like eastern Costa del Sol. For example you could consider somewhere along a lot of Costas Tropical or Almeria or (most of) Costa Calida. These won't be touristy in November, but whilst the weather is generally better than in the north, you'll still run into the problem of a lot of places being closed up in Winter and the weather certainly isn't at a sunbathing level. Personally, I'd consider someplace away from the seaside at that time of year.

Will you have a car? If so, you might look at towns inland of Costa Tropical in Granada province, then you'd have access to both the coast and the mountains plus some big-hitting day trips or overnight stays.

If it were me, I'd forget the seaside and instead settle in Sevilla or Cordoba or Granada (cold), for your time. The weather is okay for that time of year, you've the amenities and sights of a big city and, importantly, good transport links, including coastal. But perhaps you want somewhere smaller, perhaps? How about Antequera, a great small and central city. Or, as wildcards, Canary Isl. (warm, coast) or even Extremadura - for the latter no coast and it can be bitterly cold in Winter, but lots of countryside to walk and several towns and cities worth exploring.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you for your input! I will look into the suggested areas.
I'm open to getting a car for the duration of my stay unless I end up in a bigger city.
I've been reading more about Seville and Grenada since it's been mentioned the weather is good that time of year. Would you recommend one over the other for a longer stay?
I think Seville would be a good size as I am travelling alone so it would give me the opportunity to do more things. But the backdrop and mountain access in Grenada is appealing. I've heard it's more difficult to get to though?

Zaragoza also seems like an interesting choice being so close to Barcelona and access to the airport...

I will keep researching!

Thanks again for all the advice!

Posted by
3547 posts

I know it is your hope to stay in one place 3 months. Personally, given the size of the country I would do 2 different locations, but it isn't my trip. I'd it was another season, I would choose Madrid for its many choices of villages, windmills (Don Quixote country), places, stately homes and gardens. These are still feasible in Oct/November, but by mid-November it could be wet and gloves required. I saw it 2017 when it was drought, so my like if it may be skewed.
Of Sevilla or Granada, Sevilla I's a better hub for longer stays and a variety of short trips. It is quite lovely.

Posted by
17861 posts

Is there a reason why you want to have just one base yet make several multi-day trips to other places? I would divide my time into smaller chunks and establish several bases. The total lodging cost might not be higher, because you'd not be double-paying for so many nights. For sure your transportation cost would be lower, and your time spent on trains and buses might be less. Personally, I do not like making multiple day-trips along the same route, and having a single base will limit your range.

If you stayed in multiple cities, you could spend most of your time in the south, where the weather should be nicer, and include Barcelona for a while. Being coastal, that city shouldn't have bad weather in November and December. Madrid, being inland, is usually considerably cooler than Barcelona in November and December; the differences are about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, on average. Madrid is also wetter at that time of year.

For monthly averages you can check out the Climate chart included in the Wikipedia listing for most cities. For day-to-day, historical weather statistics, go to timeanddate.com. I really like the temperature graphs on timeanddate.com; they overcome my tendency to look only at the monthly average high temperature, forgetting that I will be outdoors early in the morning and late in the afternoon as well as at midday.

For me, Barcelona's sights require more time than those of any other city in Spain, so it's a great place to really settle in for a while. There are also attractive side trips (including Girona, Figueres, Tarragona). With my interests (which include modernista architecture as well as art), two weeks would allow a nice visit to Barcelona and several days for the surroundings, but three weeks would not be too long.

Madrid is a big deal for its three major art museums. There are of course other sights (including the Palacio Real), plus some fabulous day-trips (Toledo, Segovia, Cuenca, Salamanca, Alcala de Henares; I was not impressed with Avila). With time spent exploring Madrid's various neighborhoods, you could spend seven to ten nights in the city and not be bored--as long as the weather didn't turn against you. However, I wouldn't choose Madrid at the time you'll be traveling; I do not like cold weather.

In Andalucia, Seville has more sights than the other cities. There are also some workable side-trips. Then you have Cordoba and Granada--both worth more than one day, but not requiring as much time as Seville for the average visitor. Granada is at altitude and will be cooler. Granada has potential side-trips, including the Alpujarras hiking area, but I don't know that the weather would be suitable in late autumn.

The Renaissance towns of Ubeda and Baeza (in northern Andalucia) are also cooler; most likely Jaen is, also. You can stay in one of those places and day-trip to the others.

In southern Andalucia you have historic Cadiz, Jerez (sherry and horses) and the nice coastal city of Malaga. You can day-trip from Cadiz to Jerez or vice-versa, and Jerez has bus service to Arcos de la Frontera, one of the white hill towns. Malaga has local-train service to some of the small coastal resorts, but I don't think they'll be very lively at that time you'll be there.

I encourage you to pick up a guide book with comprehensive coverage of Spain, or at least of Andalucia. Rick covers some of the cities in depth, but I think you need more breadth than he provides. Make a list of the places you feel you must see and those you'd like to see. Then spend some time on the Renfe website (or Deutsche Bahn if you prefer, though it won't give your fares) to see what travel times look like.

Out of space. To be continued.

Posted by
17861 posts

Part 2...

There's super-fast rail service running Figueres-Girona-Barcelona-Zaragoza-Madrid-Cordoba-Seville-Cadiz with branches for Cordoba-Antequera-Malaga and Cordoba-Antequera-Granada. The AVE, ALVIA and AVANT trains on those rail lines really chew up the miles, but tickets are costly unless you pin down your itinerary early enough to buy Promo tickets. If you take the slower trains (or buses, which are very comfortable but not speedy), trips will take much, much longer, and suddenly a potential destination doesn't work as a day-trip any more.

This is a schematic of the Spanish high-speed rail network; only the green lines are in operation. As you can see, there's not all that much high-speed track in Spain. Slower trains and lots of inter-city buses fill in the gaps, but they limit you to places not terribly far away if you need to get back to your base in the evening.

Example: Madrid to Cuenca. The fast trains take about 1 hour each way. The regional trains take over 3 hours each way. It's the existence of the fast trains that make Cuenca a practical day-trip from Madrid.

Ubeda, Baeza and Jaen have no AVE service, so they really are not viable day-trips from any of the larger cities I've mentioned.

The day-trips I referenced in my earlier message (plus others, like Priego de Cordoba from Granada and Carmona from Seville) are totally practical if you're sleeping in the specified base city. They would probably not work at all if you were staying in one of the other large cities.

If you're interested in the white villages (Arcos de la Frontera, Grazalema, etc.), you may be able to pick up a one-day bus tour from Seville. I'm not sure such tours are offered from other origins; perhaps they are available from Malaga.

Posted by
1992 posts

Here's an out of the box idea:

The Canary Islands (Las Canarias), Spain's most southerly archipelago, have much to offer outside of beach resorts, for example the island of Gran Canaria is nicknamed the "Miniature Continent" because of the diversity of landscapes, from sand dunes to green ravines. It's a paradise if you are into hiking and nature. Gran Canaria also has quite a few picturesque towns like Arucas or Firgas that are worth checking out.

From a cultural standpoint, the next door island of Tenerife should also do the trick, its home to the second largest carnival in the world, after the one in Rio de Janeiro, so it's always in a festive mood. The charming town of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes for a nice day trip too. And one can also check out Teide National Park, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to Mount Teide, the third highest volcano in the world. Not to mention all the unique and fascinating history and culture of the local Guanche indigenous people.

PS: From personal experience, you are on the money about the Costa Brava during this time, terrible weather.

Posted by
4335 posts

Seville or Cadiz/Jerez will probably provide as good weather as anywhere in mainland Spain, but it can still be cool and wet.

I head to the Canary Islands in January to avoid the drab weather of mainland Europe. I prefer Fuerteventura to Tenerife or Gran Canaria, as it’s less developed and is quieter, but it’s not dead as many people head there in winter. It’s good for walking but lacks historical sites other than the old capital Betancuria.

Posted by
1992 posts

Jennifer makes a good point, with all the time on your hands, you can even "island hop" around the Canary Islands, as each island has their own flavour.

Posted by
314 posts

Canaries. "I prefer nature and outdoors more than clubs or bustling cities. My main passions when travelling are scuba diving, hiking and visiting historical sites" .Enough to keep you busy in every regard. Plus very easy access to mainland Spain for cheap and easy getaways. Done.

Posted by
2529 posts

Hi Christine

Coming from Canada, the word "cold" has little meaning when referring to Costa Brava. "Cold" means, in the worst day of winter, something like 3-5º, but on average it'd be more like 10º anywhere in the coast. As per wind, the Costa Brava can be windy all year long except in summer, with tramuntana being the typical wind of the area.

If you're a nature lover, you'll need to rent a car if you want to really get to know the area. While there are buses and trains, without a car you're somehow "limited" to those places with such connections and, as you know, these tend to be, majoritarily, urban areas rather than the most beautiful rural places. Still, you could manage to visit a number of very beautiful places on public transportation, but it's always cumbersome to depend on fixed schedules.

One advantage of choosing CATALONIA over other areas is the sheer amount of different landscapes in such a relatively 'small' territory. Catalonia is half the size of New Brunswick but due to its location and its orography, it has large areas of fields and prairies with the most amazing colours and vegetation, different types of forests all over, a number of mountain ranges with peaks over 3000m high and plenty of national parks and reserves, some of which are UNESCO listed, a rough coastline in the north and a flat smooth one with golden beaches in the south, several national parks... and all at a few hours drive from each other.

In fact, from its capital Barcelona, which is roughly in the middle, you can be skiing in the slopes of the Pyrenees in two-three hours flat, scuba-diving in a natural reserve in Costa Brava in two hours, or birdwatching in the largest wild bird reserve in Europe at the Ebre river delta, 200km south in three.

Still, if the area of Costa Brava caught your eye, I'd probably choose Girona as a base, since it's closer and the city it's large enough to be very well connected to most everywhere else and small enough not to feel engulfed in a very urban environment.

Here some ideas on what to do/see, especially if you're more "nature lover" than "urban explorer":

I hope this is enough food for thought. If you decide to be based in Catalonia, feel free to post more specific questions and I'll try to point you to the related sources of information.

Posted by
4600 posts

Before I visited Spain, I read a guidebook (this was in the 1980s) that advised that there were two cities in Spain that were MUST see places, Toledo and Seville. Those are still two of my favorite places in Spain. I am fond of Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Segovia, and more, but just my take.

If you like hiking, consider hiking one of the many trails to Santiago de Compostela in NW Spain (Galacia) which is very Celtic, were some people were kilts and play the bagpipes.

Posted by
17861 posts

While I really enjoyed my trip across northern Spain from the Basque Country to Galicia back in 2016, I wouldn't choose that part of the country for a November/December visit. It's not particularly warm or sunny even in mid-summer. The city of Burgos, as one example, gets only 99 hours of sunshine for the entire month of November. Santiago de Compostela gets even less sun, plus it rains there about one out of every two days.

Posted by
1 posts

In Europe, it's a lot to spend 2 months in one spot. What I would personnally recommend:

Posted by
6098 posts

I would choose Sevilla for a long term stay over Granada but do visit Granada as well.

Posted by
577 posts

If this is your first time in Spain, I would see Madrid and take the train to Sevilla and stay for a while. Add in trips to Cordoba (easy day trip) and Granada (2-3 days). Then for better weather, I would head down to the Canary Islands as others have suggested. Even though they are Spanish the islands are located on the west coast of Africa. My relatives in England (and many other Europeans) will vacation in the Canary Islands in December as the weather is so much better and warm enough to sunbathe. I have only been to Teneriffe and Gran Canaria. Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are others to consider. There are other smaller islands but the aforementioned islands are the most popular in that order. You could definitely get hiking and scuba diving in. The national park of Mount Teide is wonderful.

Margaret