Help Wanted - Spain Itinerary

My husband and I are planning a trip to Spain in May. Here is the itinerary we have come up with, but aren't sure if we are trying to do too much, or should spend more time in certain cities. Any input would be very much appreciated! Day 1 – Fly into Barcelona, Sleep Barcelona Day 2 – Barcelona, Sleep Barcelona Day 3 – Train to Madrid, Sleep Madrid Day 4 – Madrid, Sleep Madrid Day 5 – Toledo Day Trip, Sleep Madrid Day 6 – Train to Seville, Sleep Seville Day 7- Seville, Sleep Seville Day 8- Gilbraltar Daytrip from Seville (Through Viator) Day 9 – Train to Granada, Sleep Granada Day 10 – Granada, Flight to Madrid, Sleep Madrid Day 11 – Flight from Madrid to the United States

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4866 posts

Yes, I personally feel you're trying to do too much. If you really want to see all these places in 10 days, take an organized "escorted tour." Going on your own, it takes time to get to and from places; the tourbus driver and guide know the way, so they can move much faster and more efficiently than you can. Remember that even with short connections (like Barcelona to Madrid, less than 3 hours on the AVE train), you lose a half day (check out of hotel, get to train station, take train, get from train station to new hotel and check in). With longer transfers, you lose most of a day. I think if you do this itinerary (even with a tour), it will all be a blur. I'd pick any two of the following three: 1. Barcelona (can include day trips to Montserrat, Sitges, Girona, Cadaques, etc). 2. Madrid and Toledo (can also include day trips to Avila, Segovia, El Escorial).
3. Andalucia (Seville and Granada; can also include Cordoba, white towns, etc). and then see them better. This will still be a short introduction, but at least you will enjoy it. And, if you still want to do your original plan, don't fly back to Madrid on day 10. Book an open jaw ticket ("multi-city" on Kayak, Expedia, etc), into Barcelona and out of Granada. Even though you have an extra plane change, it avoids backtracking, which you just don't have time for.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

That is a very ambitious itinerary - certainly not for the faint of heart. You will be in high gear pretty much the whole time - do try and slow down a bit in the evenings - definitely do the "stroll" & tapas at night & linger over dinner somewhere. Some keys to travel "warrior style" - only carry-on luggage, never unpack, hotels near train station (5 - 10 min walk), study the maps of a city before you arrive and familiarize yourself with the layout. Harold makes a good point about flying straight back from Granada - definitely worth checking. If I were to cut anything (not saying I would) it would be the day trip to Gibralter - while it is a very interesting rock it might be best saved for a longer trip. But I am the original "warrior" traveler! What ever you choose have a great time!

Posted by Anita
Philadelphia, PA, USA
347 posts

Hi Sarah! I'd also skip Gibraltar. You will also save a bit of time by putting your Madrid sight-seeing at the end of the trip. Try Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada, Madrid and a day trip to Toledo. Every travel day and hotel checkin/checkout uses up sightseeing time.

Posted by Kelly
St Petersburg Florida
951 posts

I would opt to spend more time in each city but if you can not add more time to your trip, this is what I would do.. Day 1 Barcelona 2 Barcelona 3 Barcelona 4 Fly to Granada: takes 12 hours by train, 1.5 hours by flight. You can get cheap 1 way fare from Iberia/Vueling 5 Granada 6 Seville 7 Seville 8 Madrid 9 Madrid 10 Madrid
Day 11 Leave Madrid I would hate to waste day 10 traveling to your fly out city. Just make Madrid your final destination. I would skip all the day trips, unless on day 10 you have had enough of Madrid, then go to Toledo.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
6235 posts

Kelly has made a great suggestion ( fly Barcelona to and end at Madrid) and ironed out the wrinkles for you. This eliminates some of the wasted time you had built in to Day 10. And I complete endorse skipping Gibr. Also, consider a stop in Cordoba on your way from Sevilla to Madrid. If you are there in early May, you might hit the Patio Festival. And in any case, the Mezquita is well worth the stop. My husband and I did a similar trip 2 years ago in May, over 12 nights not 10. New used the extra two nights to sleep in Toledo. The pace of the trip felt just right; we saw and did everything we wanted to, including time each day to sit at a sidewalk cafe with a Tinto de Verano, lighter and more refreshing than Sangria. It is a beautiful country, the people are kind and welcoming, and the historical sights amazing. Traveling by train is fast, easy, and comfortable. Mew are used toSwiss trains so our standards are high, but we found thenSpanish train system equally good. Buy your tickets on the AVE from Sevilla to Madrid ( or Sevilla to Cordoba to Madrid) on Renfe now to get the Promo fares, which are 60% to 70% off. You can avoid a lot of Renfe frustration by reading up on how to proceed on Tripadvisor ( the Madrid forum FAQ page) and pay particular attention to the advice to register your credit card with Verified by Visa.

Posted by Teresa
Victoria, BC, Canada
101 posts

You really are pushing it with an itinerary like that! Barcelona you need a minimum of 2 whole days to even begin to scratch the surface! We were there in 2011 for 3 nights as part of our 5 week trip and went back again last year for further nights as we felt we missed so much. . If you haven't booked a place to stay in Barcelona we were at the Hotel Lleo which is in a great position (wouldn't eat breakfast there) We too took the AVE to Madrid, after 2 nights in Madrid we picked up a car to do a driving tour.. .
Do you really want to go to Gibraltar, personally I'd opt for a day in the Pueblo Blancos.. I'm exhausted just looking at what you have planned. I don't know the time of your flights and if that gives you extra useful time in Madrid (eg day 10). Personally I'd have less time in Madrid and more in Barcelona. We loved Spain ~ After our initial 5 week tour of Spain and Portugal in 2011 we went back again last year for a further 5 weeks :)

Posted by Sarah
2 posts

All, Thanks for your advice! You're right, the itinerary is too ambitious for our first trip to Spain. Kelly's proposed schedule looks great, so I will try to plan the trip off of that, and see if we can make a few extra days work. Thanks for the tips on buying the Renfe tickets - would you suggest booking all train tickets in advance? Thanks again! Sarah

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1972 posts

If you follow Keyy's suggestion you only need two train rides. From Granada to Seville the fare does not have a discount, but there are only a few trains each day so it's a good idea to buy them ahead to get the train you want. The train can sell out.