We are planning to fly to Barcelona, drive to Grenada and Seville and then to Madrid to fly home. That would be from March 2-19. Is that too much for that time frame? Is driving OK? We wouldn't drive in Barcelona or Madrid.
Last year, we went to Spain from 4/4-4/19, flying into Barcelona and out of Madrid, so it sounds similar to your trip. Our itinerary: Barcelona- 4 nights (You HAVE to see La Sagrada Familia!) AVE train to Sevilla/immediately pick up car & drive to Arcos de la Fronterra- 1 night Ronda-1 night Granada- 2 nights drive back to Sevilla/drop of car/stay in Sevilla for 3 nights AVE train to Madrid- 3 nights, daytripping to Segovia and Toledo. I would reccommend the route, but tinkering with the number of nights. I would skip Arcos, maybe adding that night to Ronda or Granada. I would probably trade Segovia for Cordoba. We packed a lot in, so I wouldn't do any MORE than that!
Have fun planning!
It'd speed things up if you didn't drive from Barcelona to Granada. Also, it's boring as heck. Seville is difficult to get in to by car unless you know the city. I drive everywhere and very seldom use public transportation. With what you have in mind, you couldn't start to talk me into renting a car unless you haven't fessed up to all that you're about.
Fine amount of time to accomplish this whatever your transport, but if all you want is the cities I see little point in a hire car.
'We wouldn't drive in Barcelona or Madrid' - You certainly have little need or will be able to use the car in Granada and Seville, so wasted expense, plus the additional parking costs (if this matters).
We really want to see the smaller towns and countryside. Is there a better route to take? We can fly into or out of either city. We can rent a car or take trains or both.
The problem is having your sights set on Barcelona with a short trip that includes other parts of the country. Draw a line from Bilbao through Madrid to Gibraltar. With a few notable exception, mostly spurs and not areas, all the good wandering around area is on the west side of the line. Snoop at the map in a Michelin Green. It's pretty good at showing the hierarchical merit of what's around. And rethink what Neil said. Barcelona and Madrid are much easier driving than Seville and you wind up garaging the car in all three.
Thanks, we could scrap Barcelona altogether. It seems that Rick has that as a high priority, but, we aren't that into the big city stuff. Would we be better off flying into and out of Madrid and do a southern loop?
Southern, Western, Northern. Mr Steves only goes southern and a little bit to the west (except for his Barcelona fascination). Look at the Greens, there's a heck of a lot out there.
Festivals are commencing throughout Spain in March, big one in Valencia, so suggest you check out schedule to determine if your travel schedule can include attendance. These are great experiences that get you right into the heartbeat of Spain.
'Thanks, we could scrap Barcelona altogether. It seems that Rick has that as a high priority, but, we aren't that into the big city stuff. Would we be better off flying into and out of Madrid and do a southern loop?' As I said you have an adequate amount of time to do the four cities justice, if you wish, weighted properly. Make your way from wherever in the north to wherever in the south and return by train or plane. Meander or not between Seville or Granada, or reverse, or around Andalucia by rental car. You could be wasting two days driving there and back between north and south, door to door. Hugely comprehensive guide on rail - http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187514-c80518/Madrid:Spain:Buying.Renfe.Tickets.Online.html http://andalucia.com/
Thank you for the advice. Is Malaga a decent area to set up a base for a week? It is 90 minutes from Grenada, Gibraltar, and Seville area.
Bill, I'd suggest keeping Barcelona on the Itinerary, if at all possible. It's an interesting and beautiful city and culturally different from Madrid and other parts of Spain. If you visit Barcelona, it would be a good idea to brush up on Catalan. It's very easy to travel from Barcelona to Madrid via the AVE which travels at 300 kmH, and that's the method I'd suggest. If you want a car after that, you could rent in Madrid or elsewhere. As the others have mentioned, having a car in some of the cities will be a "pain" as you'll not only be paying for the rental (which you won't be using in the cities) as well as parking. One other point - as I recall, an International Driver's Permit is required in Spain, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. ¡Buen viaje!
Malaga is where we set up base camp for a week last October. We took ave from Madrid to Malaga and rented our car at the station. Highways are excellent from Malaga. We took a day trip to Alhambra and chose to only focus on Alhambra, saving the old town for another trip. We then took a day trip to Ronda, taking a longer mountain road to goto Ronda and then sped back via highway. We journeyed around the coast with ease and no parking issues. Malaga gets a bum rap, but we enjoyed the port, fort and downtown area. We chose to stay overnight at Seville (a 3 hour drive one way).
I agree with Ken, don't ditch Barcelona. It's a fascinating city with some very unusual features, especially the work of Gaudi. I've stayed in the Malaga area quite a few times. The public transport links from there (bus and train) are excellent. And I like Malaga itself, too.
Sounds like a great trip you have planned!
If you have a car in Seville, I'd suggest staying somewhere near the football stadium. There's plenty of free, and safe, on-street parking in that neighborhood and a city bus goes into downtown regularly (four or five times an hour). That will save you the hassles of driving in the old quarter and provide easy transport into town for sight-seeing each day. Also a thought, 17 days seems like a lot - until you start looking at everything you want to see and do in Spain. I'd probably save time by flying from Barcelona to Granada, then pick up a car to see small towns either there or train to Seville and pick up a car to wander towards Madrid. In March, the mountains and north are likely to be really cold. Don't assume it will be warm weather just because it's Spain.
Since you are not as interested in bigger cities and want to see smaller towns and landscapes, I think your plan to skip Barcelona this time and rent a car is a good one. The white hill towns are perfect for touring by car and there are several excellent Roman sites in the south that are best reached by car. You will need to look at guidebooks other than Rick Steves as he doesn't cover the rural areas well. You might also consider renting the car from Sevilla or Malaga rather than Madrid. Toledo is an easy 30 minute train ride and a car is useless there. Sevilla is a 2.5 hour trip by AVE versus 6 hours driving (with little to see). Cordoba is a great stop along the way off the AVE, and again a car is a hindrance. When checking AVE and regional train costs, be sure to use the RENFE site - not Rail Europe. RENFE offers deep discounts for advance tickets.
Bill-we're visitng Spain next month and renting a car for part of the time. After checking several companies, we're using Europcar. They're not charging us a one-way fee, since we're picking up and dropping off within the same country, so even if you wound up doing an open-jaw rental, this might be worth checking out.
Thanks again for all the great advice. We are thinking of just doing the Madrid and south tour. We figure 17 days should be enough to really absorb that area. We didn't like the available flight times of the into Barcelona part and the pretty expensive train ride to the south from Barcelona. We may rent a car for two weeks of that if the rates are good from Madrid and back.
Hi, I think that Malaga would be a great base for one week as you are only a short drive from Sevilla, granada, Ronda, Nerja and Gibraltar. If you arent into the big city thing and would like to visit smaller cities then i would say to put Ronda and Nerja on your list as they are lovely places to visit. It would only take you 1 hour to get there from Malaga. I would also suggest to use Spains train system if possible as they are reliable and it would be much better then driving. You can have a look on renfe.com to see train times. Plus if you are leaving out of Madrid there is now a high speed train that will take you from Malaga to Madrid in a little over 2 hours. So you could always rent a car in Malaga and take day a day journey and then return the car and catch the train back to Madrid for the plane home. For car hire you could also look on travelsupermarket.com.
Another thought, It might be better to train from Madrid to Seville (with a half day stop at Cordoba to see the Mesquita). If you buy your AVE tickets early, it's a good buy. Otherwise it's a long drive. Pick up a car when you're ready to leave Seville and take a circuitous route toward Granada. Places we stopped included: Jerez, really liked Jerez. Enjoyed the Bodega tours. Cadiz, a little disappointing. Arguably the oldest city in Europe (dates back to the Phoenicians). Unfortunately, it doesn't show well. Plenty of lightly populated beaches along Costa de la Luz (nothing like Costa del Sol east of Tarifa) Baelo Claudia Roman ruins. Nice, right on the beach and a modern museum with it for around $1 admission. Tarifa, surprisingly nice town - good eating, windy beaches for wind and kite surfing. We didn't take the ferry to Tangier but were surprised with how much we liked Tarifa. Gibraltar, definitely worth a stop to see the rock - one of the Pillars of Hercules. We ended up with a group in a cab because the wind closed the cable car for the day. That turned out well because the driver makes sure you get to see the apes up close. Ronda, nice white town with more sights than most (bull ring/museum, gorge, stairs down, some ruins from Moorish times). Anteqeura, worth a stop to see the passage tombs. The tombs and modern museum are free. Grenada, plenty to see and do. Plan a very full day for just the Alhambra, other days to see other sights. I'd fly home from here to save time.
I did this trip in late April of this year, and it snowed one day in Ronda! Probably rare, though. Agree with the other poster who suggested Malaga as a
base. We rented a car there, and drove to Grenada, Nerja, Ronda and, Antiquera Stayed in a very SWEET little hotel in Velez Malaga called Palacio Blanca. Lovely owners, check it out on Trip Advisor. Better speak a little Spanish in that sweet little town, though, although the owners are Dutch and speak Very Good English. (I am particularly fond of Nerja with the beautiful Balcon de Europa with an amazing view of the Med) The driving is very easy in the South of Spain. You can bring your Garmin from home, just load the Spain maps before you leave. The highways are a breeze! Fly into either Madrid or Barcelona, spend two nights, then FLY into Malaga. We found this was less expensive than the train! Rent the car at the Malaga airport and drive to Granada, Antiquera, and any other of the small towns you're interested in. You can return the car to the Malaga airport at this point and take public transportation (bus or train) to Seville, or drive there as a day trip and find a public parking lot. From Seville, another inexpensive flight to depart from either Madrid or Barcelona. Make sure you see a high quality Flamenco show in either Seville or Madrid.
Thanks for the great advice. I have been looking at car rental from Madrid and two weeks starts at only $114 on Auto Europe. That is pretty cheap! What is the downside of driving from Madrid to Malaga? I'd try not to drive much in the city, of course.
Minuses of having a rental car:
Overnight parking can be expensive if you are staying in the old part of town (Madrid, Seville, Ronda, Granada, Cordoba, etc.) and if you aren't, then you'll waste time getting back and forth. Trains are comfortable, efficient, fast and the routes are scenic. Train stations are generally a short taxi ride from the old town centers (in Madrid take the metro). If you buy tickets in advance, you can get huge discounts.
I did a slightly longer trip in February (round-trip from Madrid, no Barcelona). I took a rental car when I left Jerez and spent several days driving around the pueblos blancos, then the Pink Lagoon (flamingos) and El Torcal for a nature hike before ending in Granada. I used trains everywhere else (Madrid-Cordoba-Seville-Jerez, Granada-Madrid). Driving in the remote hill towns was sometimes a challenge, with very steep, narrow streets and sharp corners (I drove for years in San Francisco and that's a piece of cake in comparison). in the larger towns, parking is a problem. I was very lucky in Antequerra - and happy in the other cities not to have to deal with a car. I had the car for 3 nights in Ronda (my base for the pueblos blancos), and the hotel paid for parking in a public garage, about a 10-minute walk away.
If you go to Jerez, you can take the bus for a day trip to Arcos. Unlike Brad, I really liked Cordoba, and as he said, the Mezquita is a must-see.
Most important word in Andalusia - aseos It's better to go into a cafe and buy a drink for €1 than to pay €1 for the public ones.