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16 nights in Spain from July 24-Aug 10

My husband and I will be traveling to Spain for the first time from July 24 -August 10th. We are very excited for our first trip to Spain, and want to get the most out of it. (Who knows when we could afford to go back). Our main interests are eating food, drinking lots of wine, listening to live music, wandering around beautiful cities, and soaking up local culture, Not really into museums. Here's a tentative itinerary, that I would really appreciate some feedback on.. July 24 - Fly out of Miami (layover in Lisbon/arrive in Madrid 9:00 am on July 25) July 25 - Arrive in Madrid - train to Seville. (Sev /And from July 25 - July 30) 5 nights July 30 - Travel from Sev/And to Barcelona/Costa Brava. (Bcn/CB from July 30 - Aug 4) 5 nights Aug 4 - Travel from Bcn/CB to San Seb/Basque. (SS/Basque from Aug 4 - Aug 9) 5 nights Aug 10 - fly out of Bilbao back to Miami. We were thinking of about 5 nights in each area. I figured with this itinerary we would get a taste of each area without feeling rushed, how does this sound? My main concern is for the Seville area during that time of year..
How unbearably hot and crowded will Seville and that area be in late July? We live in the Florida Keys, so we're used to the heat, but our biggest concern is the crowds of tourists everywhere. If we get the feeling that it will be completely claustrophobic, we may just scrap this area and spend the entire time in Costa Brava and Basque. (but we would LOVE to see a bit of southern Spain, Flamenco, bullfights, etc.)

Posted by
7489 posts

If you don't care to buy Rick's Spain, look in the library. There aren't that many changes from year to year. Your broad sketch of the itinerary suggests a lack of detail that is harmful. For example, even if you don't like museums, you seem to be skipping Madrid/Toledo/Segovia/Avila. That's a big omission. It's also strange not to see Granada mentioned in your list. Are you renting a car? Are you staying in air-conditioned properties? Do you know that there are few window screens in Europe? You are right that it can be hot and crowded. BTW, I love Spain, so I'm glad you're going. But (referring to your quite correct concern for crowds ...) your orientation to coastal towns may expose you to as many Lager Louts as to American Tourists. To put that more practically (and I mean to be helpful, not acerbic), would you take a vacation on the coast and barrier islands of Georgia and S.C.?

Posted by
14 posts

You're right, I guess I am a bit general at the moment. I wanted to get the main "regions" down, then figure out more specific details later. I guess part of the reasoning for my post was to .. A) get a thumbs up of the itinerary in general
B) if it wasn't good, suggestions for a change C) "Detail" ideas for when we are in each regions, i.e. Grenada while we are in Andalucia, French Basque towns while we are in the NE...

Posted by
11294 posts

I think your basic plan is sound. You cannot see every region of the country in the time you have, so your plan to focus on three and omit others (like Madrid) is sensible, assuming Madrid doesn't draw you and the regions you have chosen draw you more. If you have not already bought flights, see about flying into Seville and out of Bilbao or San Sebastian. You will probably want to fly from Seville to Barcelona. I would think that beach areas like the Costa Brava and the Costa del Sol will be more crowded than cities like Seville or Barcelona at the height of the summer, but I'm just guessing. I do know that cities absorb crowds relatively well, and you're not going for something like April Fair or Holy Week, which are really crowded in Seville (I know because hotels have special higher rates for these times). I can say I was in Seville in early April 2006, and it was already as hot as I'd want it to be. Granada is up in the hills and is somewhat cooler.

Posted by
3614 posts

Just a comment about late July temps in Seville. The summer heat in southern Spain is different from that in Florida. It's quite a bit hotter - - think highs over 100 - - and usually very dry. There's a reason the afternoon siesta became a cultural institution. I was once in Seville in June, and the highs every day were 103 to 105. Brutal!

Posted by
6788 posts

Well I guess I'll sow the seeds of discord... 1. Why the interest in Costa Brava? I think you may have much nicer "beach experiences" at home. Barcelona is certainly interesting, but I generally think Americans who are looking for "beach experiences" should not look for those in Europe (different standards for what constitutes a "nice beach"). 2. I agree with the concerns about the heat in southern Spain during the summer (crowds, too). I would choose a different time of year to go if I possibly could.
3. It would break my heart to go to Spain - perhaps your only trip there (as you say, you don't know when you'll get back) - and miss out on the 5-star attractions: Madrid, Granada, Toledo, etc. - these areas are the equal of any in Europe in terms of touristic interest. I'd gladly trade away Bilboa and the Costa Brava for the chance to visit the great cities around Andalucia - what a shame it would be to miss them! Don't know if you've done much/any research yet on Spain, but if you have not already done so, I'd urge you to watch read Rick's book on Spain and watch his TV shows on Spain before sketching out your itinerary. Just my 2 cents - hope that helps.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you for the feedback. It seems as if the Costa Del Sol is just way too uncomfortable that time of year, so I'm going to scrap it. Grenada, Toledo, Andalucia sound beautiful and I am definitely going to include those cities. In reference to the beaches, since we live on an island all year, I'm actually not interested in a "beach vacation", I just want to see beautiful cities/towns/areas. Barcelona and SS/Basque just sounded like such great areas, I'm excited to go! So it sounds like I'm going to fly in to Madrid and stay around those local towns instead of Seville and that area. How does that sound?

Posted by
2 posts

Hi, I´m from San Sebastian, I suggest you to visit San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander, Pamplona, Biarritz. I suggest you to eat in Sidreria It´s typical in Guipuzcoa ( http://www.petritegi.com/en.html ) It´s very wonderful the coast between San sebastian to Bilbao I advise you to rent a car to travel ( Getaria, Zumaia, Bermeo, Mundaka, Gaztelugatxe, Gernika ) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaztelugatxe. The summer is very nice the temperature in Basque country. Also I know Madrid, Araund to Madrid there are Toledo, Segovia, Guadalajara, Cuenca, El escorial
If you want more information, Where can you eat, which sites to visit, tell me.

Posted by
49 posts

Not to take away from Julio's comments, especially since he lives in that great country, but Tim, Harold, and David all have very valid comments. I have visited Spain several times in the past 40 years, and have yet to find a part of the country I did not think was great. The people are great and the food (and wine) are tops. If I had to choose two cities to visit, those two cities would be Seville and Segovia. However, I could spend a month touring the white hill towns and still not have seen enough. Having said that, I feel that Madrid and Barcelona should not be missed, and as a MUCH younger man, ran with the bulls in Pamplona, another great place. As Rick Steves says, try not to see too much in one visit, expect that you will return. My wife and I have spent about six weeks in Spain in the past two years and feel like we still haven't even begun to experience what is out there. We are envious and wish you a great and safe trip!
FYI - Although the mass transit system in Spain, especially the city metros are very good and efficient, but we typically rent a car so we can stop when we want to stop, but that's just a personal preference.

Posted by
9363 posts

In addition to the "omissions" others have mentioned, you might also consider seeing a completely different part of Spain, Asturias, on the northern coast. There are lots of great fishing villages, cities like Oviedo and Gijon, the Picos de Europa mountains, and lots and lots of natural areas. It doesn't get as blistery hot in the summer as it does in the south (early last May I was in Sevilla when it was already 102F), and it stays green.

Posted by
49 posts

Just saw your question; you may have plans set by now, but I'll offer my two cents anyway. With summer heat and 16 days, I might choose carefully either Seville (easy to get to Cordoba)and Granada. Both have Moorish heritage, sections with narrow streets, flamenco (PM me for Granada details!), wonderful paseo. Barcelona and area for 5 nights sounds good. Think you're wise to spend 5 nights in an area and not waste precious time packing up and moving. We spent April in Spain, loved it all..... Bon voyage!

Posted by
9110 posts

Here's the good part: all the people from up north (Ogden excepted) telling somebody from the Keys about heat and humidity. :)

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you so much for all your advice. They are all appreciated. We will start out trip in Sevilla for 3 days (already booked room at Hotel Murillo),explore the white villages for 2 days, then take the fast train from Sev to Bcn. As long as there's low humidity, the heat won't bother us, We live on an island. :) Then, 3 days in Bcn and 2 days touring Costa Brava. Take fast train from Bcn to San Seb. Finally, 3 days in San Seb and 2 days touring Basque villages (would actually love to tour the French villages for something different). At last, we'll take the fast train again from SS to Madrid and fly home from there. 18 days total. We're very excited, and any more advice about travel methods, beautiful towns to see, things to do are always welcome and appreciated. Thank you. :)

Posted by
14 posts

Also, I wanted to add...if we get to a city (Sev, Bcn, or SS) that we just absolutely adore and don't want to leave...we won't. :) we'll just spend the whole 5 days scheduled for that area there.

Posted by
2 posts

I'm sorry Jim but I don't agree with you, I know this country too well. I think are more beautiful other cities like Caceres, Salamanca, Santiago de Compostela, Asturias than Costa brava but Jeanette is going other cities. Reading this article of my city http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324493704578432824291299526.html
I suggest you to tour the French villages Saint Jean de luz, Biarritz, Bayonne, Sara´s cave, mountain La Rhun.