Spain and Portugal in Two Weeks?

Hi everyone, I am asking this question waaaay in advance of a 2014 trip. (This year my husband is dying to go to Africa.) However, while I am dreaming of a safari, I'd also like to get some things clear about the next European trip we want to take. We are generally agreed on going to Spain and Portugal, but will likely have only two weeks. I have read elsewhere that it's not feasible to do both in two weeks; however, I am wondering if it's possible if we don't want to cover everything. For instance, my main ports of call ideally would be Lisbon (with some side trips), Seville, Madrid and Barcelona. I know we won't do both countries justice and would want to revisit both someday. Also, it's important for me to get to Portugal since I am 100% Portuguese and have never been. I think I'd stick to Lisbon for now rather than going to the extreme north to see where my family is from. I'd rather save that for a another trip, perhaps when I can afford to take my mom along in 5 years or so. It's outside of Braga, almost at the border with Spain, in case anyone is curious. Anyway, I just wanted some initial thoughts on whether it will be feasible if we pick 3-4 home bases. If both countries aren't do-able in two weeks, then I want to think about picking one rather than dreaming of both.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

I should add that neither of us has been to either country (except my husband once crossed the Pyrenees briefly but had to backtrack to Lourdes when his father got ill). This is why the idea of a highlight tour appeals to me.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

Thanks! I know it's possible but I guess I wanted a sense of whether it would be feasible to do those four places or if the travel time beween them makes it all rushed. I guess my question wasn't very specific, but the plans are still nebulous. I should add that we prefer not to have to drive. My husband hates to and I haven't had a license in years.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

The is everyone! I wanted to run the numbers now rather than a year from now, before I had my heart set on a plan that won't work. I will parse the answers later and see if I have additional questions. As I said, skipping Portugal is not an option. I would skip Spain instead if forced to choose. Also, don't know if we will be able to extend beyond two weeks as I am changing careers before then. It may be possible but I can't count on it.

Posted by Neil
Whittington
581 posts

'Spain and Portugal in Two Weeks?' and 'my main ports of call ideally would be Lisbon (with some side trips), Seville, Madrid and Barcelona' Not for me, but I am not you. You will know when you have done the maths. based on, at least, inclusion of the time wasted/expended on arrival and departure days and travel between however many bases, using whatever transport, accommodation door to accommodation door in unfamiliar surroundings. Factor in how much and what you want to see in four cities, which many people can and do spend two to seven full days in on a two week trip. If indeed 'only two weeks' I think you may find you have a lot less time to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish with four locations.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7181 posts

Similar to Neil, the idea is to read about an area/city and decide what you want to see. Once that's established, you can decide how much time you need to experience your must sees. If it takes three full days, you need to plan four nights. If two days, three nights. If one day, two nights. One night only gives you time to sleep - since the day on either side is a travel day, those days are lost to anything more than a quick look around. Decide how long you want to spend in each of your destinations, Lisbon, Sevilla, Madrid, Barcelona, then account for your travel days in between and on either end. Do you have enough time to do it in two weeks?

Posted by Mike
Tampa, FL, USA
417 posts

OK, it is doable, but you will be spending a lot of time travelling between sights and only scratch the surface at most of them. Were I you, I would scratch Barcelona off of the list, and fly open jaws- into or out of Madrid & Lisbon. Something like this:
Day 1- Leave USA Day 2- Arrive Lisbon Day 3-5 Lisbon, night train to Madrid on day 5 Day 6-8 Madrid Day 9-12 Seville Day 13- Back to Madrid Day 14- Fly to USA Clearly you would have time for side trips in your three home bases of Lisbon, Madrid & Seville. I would consider staying in a small town in the Pueblos Blancos near Seville and only one night in Seville, but that is my preference.

Posted by Mike
Tampa, FL, USA
417 posts

But to be clear, I adore Barcelona, it is just out of the way from the rest of Spain. Were you to scratch Portugal all together, you could easily fit it in.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2372 posts

I respectfully disagree with my fellow posters. While a bit rushed, the cities you mention are very doable within a two week span (14 days). If you assume as a base - 3 nights in each city, that is only 12 nights plus an extra day to return home. That leaves one extra day in a city of choice. The following is a possible itinerary: You'd depart NY later in the day so day 1 starts with arrival in Barcelona. Spend 2.5 days/3 nights in Barcelona. Take the AVE to Madrid on the morning of day 4. Spend 2.5 days/3 nights in Madrid. Take the AVE on the morning of day 7 to Sevilla and spend 2.5 days/3 nights. On the morning of day 10 take a flight from Sevilla to Lisbon and spend 2.5 days/3 nights. Fly home from Lisbon on the morning of day 13. That leaves one extra day in a 14 day span. But actually, if you leave NY on a Friday evening, you'd have 2 extra days if you take 10 days of vacation. If it were me, I'd use 1 day for Lisbon so I had time to see Sintra and a day for Madrid so I could go to Toledo.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

Now that I have thought about it, I guess the main sticking point is tha I would slightly prefer seeing Barcelona to Madrid, but that makes things trickier. Clearly, I have some food for thought here.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

Thanks again, everyone. I did some reading and decided cutting Barcelona would be best. I'd rather save it for a trip where I can concentrate on that area of the world. Plus, there are a number of interesting side trips from Madrid, and I know I will go wild for the museums there.

Posted by George
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
199 posts

Several years ago we started in Lisbon for a few days plus a couple of days in villages to the north. Flew to Madrid (got a good bargain) and then did Grenada and Sevilla by bus...(Alhambra and Sevilla who be musts for us)- Bussed back to Lisbon Airport staying half way back in a small village in the Algarve...we were fifteen days... also saw Toledo on a day trip. We are old, slow, experienced travelers who take our time to hang out with locals and were able to do that kind of trip in your two weeks. Bon Voyage.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

That's a great itinerary, George. I think we will try to fly open jaw, but otherwise we may try something like that. I am now considering whether I want to get Granada in there because it does sound awesome. I am looking forward to seeing Andalusia in general; the Islamic art wing at the Metropolitan Museum has a courtyard directly imported from southern Spain, and it really ignited my desire to visit that part of the world. Could you please tell me what the Portuguese villages you visited were? While I won't be going to my family's village on this trip (way up north and hard to get to without a car), I want to see some of small town life.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2372 posts

If you have decided not to do Barcelona, then refer to my itinerary and you will see you'll have at least 2 nights free to include Grenada. You'll need the 2 nights to see the Alhambra, but no more than that is needed.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

Granada is tempting! But my husband may prefer us not to exceed 3 locations. He likes go settle in and explore a place. I will see if I can sell him on taking pictures of the Alhambra.

Posted by Dean
El Cajon, CA, USA
126 posts

My wife and 2 adult children traveled to Spain and Portugal over a 2 week period. Here was our itinerary: Flew from San Diego to Barcelona 3 nights Barcelona 3 nights Madrid (Cheap flight on Iberia to Madrid) 3 nights Sevilla (Took AVE Madrid-Sevilla) 3 nights Salema, Portugal (Bus Sevilla-Lagos-Salema)
3 nights Lisbon (Bus Salema-Lagos-Lisbon) It was a fantastic trip and we didn't feel rushed. Salema was a great relaxing break in the middle of the trip and you could probably reduce it to only 2 nights if you are pressed for time. More time in Barcelona would have been nice but I would recommend that you don't take it out of your plans.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

Ah, Dean, I think my husband will be unhappy if I choose more than 3 locations. Maybe I can sell him on 4, but that's it. So I thin Barcelona is out, but I am going with the RS dictate of "assume you will return." Maybe in a few years we will go to Barcelona and then to the Pyrenees and Basque country. But I'm not going to rule anything out just yet. So my sense is that May is a good time to go, btw. Thoughts?