I will be in Spain 13/11-13/12/08 - I fly into and out of Madrid...and want to visit as much as possible of Spain and Portugal (by public transport)..can you please advice me how I could do that, where I should go and how I would get there...I really value your advice (and books:-) and look forward your reply soon..thanks regards Elly in Queensland Australia
Elly, I don't know if you have access to any of Rick Steve's guidebooks. If no, go on this website to the "Plan your Trip" tab above, then select "destinations" and "Spain." Rick has outlined (with map) a suggested 22 day itinerary. He has the same for Portugal. They are a good place to start and you can incorporate and tweak to suit your particular needs. BTW, my wife and I leave 1 Oct for 6 weeks in Spain and Portugal. We're renting apartments in many of the cities (much less expensive than hotels!) and using the apartment as a hub for day trips to the surrounding sites.
Elly: You will want to buy a guidebook or two to get the kind of answers you need to your very broad questions of "where should I go and how would I get there" for a 30-day Spain and Portugal trip. We can't give you the kind of full answers you need here in this limited space (we're all volunteers here, we don't get paid to do this). We'll try to help a little (see my sample itinerary below)--but buy the guidebooks and soon--think of the guidebook as a $20 - $25 instruction manual for the trip you're spending several thousand dollars to do: a good investment.Rick has written two books for you to consider and his books might be especially good for you if you're not experienced at traveling to this area: Spain and a separate one for Portugal. A new Spain book will be available in about two weeks but you can order the Portugal one now because it won't be updated until March 2009.See my next reply for a couple of ideas on itinerary. And maybe others will chip in, we have a few people here who've been there a lot. Note that Rick's guidebooks are deliberately selective and not intended to cover the entire country.
Just a word of caution: except for Santiago de Compostela, Rick Steves ignores almost all of northern Spain. When I was planning my trip to that area I purchased the Spain book, but returned it because there was not one word about the areas I was visiting. The Lonely Planet book on Spain is much better if you are interested in that area of the country.
This is one of many possible itineraries. It's a modified version of one Rick has published, I've modified it somewhat. This itinerary was designed to be done by car, with the assumption that the trip would be in the spring or fall, not on your trip dates which span late Nov & Dec , thus weather is a factor you may want to consider and modify this itinerary accordingly.Hopefully this will at least give you some ideas--although there are a hundred ways to do this and each traveler would do it differently.You need to be looking at a map for this itinerary to make sense. It's designed to be a "circle route" starting and ending in Madris. It omits the northern third of Spain. It minimizes one night stays although there are a couple.The numbers refer to day 1, day 2, etc and which destination you sleep in on each night.1 arrive Madrid2 Madrid3 side trip from Madrid to Escorial and Valley of the Fallen (you could also see these on the day 5 drive to Segovia)4 Madrid5 pick up rental car and drive to Segovia6 Segovia7 Salamanca8 Cross border into Portugal and sleep in Coimbra9 Coimbra10 Batalha & Batima on way to Nazare11 Alcobaca on way to Lisbon12 Lisbon13 Lisbon14 Evora on way to Salema15 Salemacontinued with Day #16 in next message
Continuing with day 16:16 drive east across Spanish border to Sevilla17 Sevilla18 Sevilla19 Follow Andalucia's Route of White Village to the hill town of Arcos de la Frontera20 Arcos21 most of day in Jerez and on to sleep in Tarifa22 Use Tarifa as a home base for a day trip into Morocco23 Visit Gibraltar and drive along the Costa del Sol to Nerja24 Granada25 Granada26 Granada27 drive through La Mancha to Toledo28 Toledo29 Toledo30 return to MadridCouple more notes: The itinerary tries to minimize driving time in any one day, but there's pros and cons to driving and one of the cons is driving time, and one of the pros is the flexibility a car gives you to explore places trains don't go.So, hopefully this gives you some ideas, but plan your own trip--there are many many ways to do 30 days in this area. And this itinerary would have to be modified for the conditions and time of year of your trip: are you open to driving, if not this will have to be modified to suit where rail and buses go. Also, you're going in late November and December, Spain has roughly 3 climate zones and this has to be considered in your planning as the itinerary given assumed a fall or spring trip.
By public transport you could also do something like ; Madrid - Barcelona – San Sebastian - Leon – Santiago – Porto – Sintra - Lisbon – Seville – Rhoda – Tarifa – Gibraltar – Costa del sol – Malaga -Madrid
You can see pictures and details of our trips to these areas at my personal blog at: http://gadtravel.blogspot.com/
Here's a 3-week itinerary designed to be done by public transportation: Spain 3-week itinerary
So many thanks everyone for your informative and kind replies..this will be the third time I've bitten the bullet and nicked off alone..I must say it's very liberating (I was a late starter) , although sometimes lonely but I wouldn't have it any other way..I've met some really interesting, friendly and welcoming people and visited some places in my travels that I'd only dreamed of ..I'd like to think that I could continue traversing this wonderful planet for many years to come...mucho gracias ..regards Elly on the Gold Coast Queensland in the wonderful land of Oz :-))...
I just got back last week from Spain and this was my itinerary which was very aggressive - Barcelona, Segovia, Sevilla, Marbella, Salobrena, Granada and back to Barcelona. If I was to do it again I would have stayed longer in Salobrena (stay at Best Western) east of Nerja..fabulous beach area and scenery and skipped over Sevilla, a busy and noisy city. I didnt make it to Portugal but I have heard the Algarve has nice beaches. We did the train from Barc-Seville and then rented a car for the other week in the south and then night train from Granada back to Barcelona. I have been to Queensland 4 times and I love the northern beach area between Trinity Beach and Port Douglas. Have a great trip.
We've taken two separate trips to Spain--each modified versions of the itinerary that Kent posted. Trip 1: Barcelona, train to Madrid, rental car to Granada and Seville, bus to Salema and Lisbon. Trip 2: Madrid, bus to Salamanca, rental car to Coimbra, Porto, Santiago, stopover in Bilbao for Guggenheim Museum then San Sebastian and return Madrid. My favorite cities were Granada, Salamanca, and San Sebastian in Spain and Lisbon, Salema, and Porto, Portugal. Madrid and Barcelona were both interesting as well. You might want to chose a focus of either northern Spain or southern Spain and then decide which cities have the things that interest you the most. My most favorite city was Santiago de Compostela.
Thank you everyone for your posts and advice...I've sort of worked an itinerary to fit around public transport (I wouldn't have the courage to hire a car and map-read and drive at the same time!!)..so I'm planning on using local bus and train services, but am starting with a confirmed flight from Madrid to Porto-(homestay for a week) then train to Lisbon and bus(?) to Seville-??-Granada and then it's however I can get to Barcelona (for 6 nights) with a flight to Madrid and home...all along the way I'll stay in local accommodation and I dont think I'll need to worry too much about pre-booking because it's kinda out of the tourist season..thanks again everyone..I really value your advice ..best regards Elly in Oz..ps..it's a glorious Spring morning here on the Gold Coast Queensland !!!