Spain/Portugal Itinerary for appx 10 days

We're still in the pre-planning stages, but we're thinking that our next international trip will include Spain and Portugal sometime in the Spring of '09. Our first two trips were 10 nights to Bath (2nt)/London (5nt)/Paris (3nt) and Rome (6nt)/Venice (3nt)/Verona (1nt). So that's the sort of trip we're looking to do again in Spain and Portugal.We'll likely want 3 or 4 destinations total over the course of 10 days, are used to booking everything ourself, take advantage of flying open jaw (out of Seattle), and travel between destinations on train or bus(if necessary). We walk everywhere at our destination that we can, only taking public transportation when necessary to get to a distant site or we wandered a little too far from our hotel to walk back.We can fly into either Portugal or Spain and out of the other, making logical steps from the cities visited.
So what have you for a trip like this?

Posted by Claudia
Lima
31 posts

Steve, It all depends on what you are interested in seeing. I would recommend going to Lisbon and visit this wonderful city and surrounding areas (Caiscais, Sintra, etc), then taking Vueling (www.vueling.com) to Barcelona, visit the Costa Brava (Rosas, Figueras, the Dali Museums), and then fly to Madrid and visit nearby Toledo, Avila, Salamanca).

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

Thanks Claudia and Kent,
I think there needs to be a RS book-swap location. I've got my Rome and Venice 2008 books that I've used and need to swap for the Spain/Portugal 2008 books...
Anyhow, I'm pretty easily amused by most anything. Lisbon is one stop for sure. But regarding places like Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville, at some point I'm going to have to cut bait, especially if we add a second Portugal destination. I think we should have traded a couple of nights in Rome for more in Venice +Siena or Florence, but 5 is a lot for 10 days. My wife is an architect, so much of her interests will be there.
Claudia, why do you recommend flying place to place over taking the train? It looks like the distances are too short to take advantage of night trains to reduce the day-travel unless we choose great distances between stops. I could also see a sweep starting in Barcelona around to Seville, Lisbon and end in Madrid. We could sleep overnight from Barcelona to Seville.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6808 posts

In Portugal the Master gives top priority to Lisbon (2 days) and a sidetrip to Sintra if you have a 3rd day. He throws in the Algarve if you have a total of 6 days. Your 10 days for both Spain and Portugal doesn't quite fit Rick's template but maybe this gives you some ideas.

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

Thanks Kent,
It looks like we could do just Lisbon, and then throw in maybe three destinations in Spain. There's nothing wrong leaving wanting more, but I don't want to feel like I did after Italy, wishing I had moved a couple of days to other destinations.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
6808 posts

What you said in your last post sounds like a realistic and enjoyable plan. Have fun!

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

I'm thinking something like Barcelona-Seville-Lisbon-Madrid (or the reverse), using a combination of trains and regional air (like Vueling). Maybe sleeper car train from Barcelona to Seville, but Vueling from Lisbon to Madrid. I've got some time to work on the exact itinerary, but this may get us our first look at these areas.

Posted by Tom
Newport Beach, CA, USA
756 posts

the RS tour seems pretty doable - so thats a good model. The Barcelona-Madrid train is 3-4 hrs - so you could do that. Then train to Seville and on to Lisbon, flying out of Lisbon back home - connecting back to a big hub since I dont think they go to SEA-TAC direct.

Re: books - dont toss your books yet- you may need them. Check amazon for discounts on books - the 15$ book cost is so tiny to the cost of the whole trip - dont skimp on the good stuff! :)

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2664 posts

We've taken a couple of Spain/Portugal trips. One option would be to fly into Madrid (2-3 nights), bus to Salamanca, a small university town (2 nights), bus to Coimbra, Portugal (2 nights), then bus or train to Lisbon (3 nights) and fly home from there. We travel very similar to what you described but we did rent a car to drive from Madrid south to Sevilla and Granada and also for northern Spain.

In southern Portugal we liked Salema and north we liked Porto. As for Spain we liked Madrid, Santiago de Compostela, Granada, Sevilla, Barcelona, and San Sebastian. It depends on what you most want to see and do. The food and accommodations seem less expensive compared to other parts of Europe.

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

It's funny you mentioned Porto - the one place I forgot about wanting to go. There are all sorts of different options, and depending on air travel, the order may be dictated.
With Seattle flying direct into LHR, Frankfurt, CDG, and Amsterdam these days - the options are better. I prefer not to have my layover in the US though. When train trips start to reach the 3-4 hour range, they really begin to cut into the day though. That's the thought regarding Barcelona-Seville. It can be done in a sleeper car, since we would have been spending the night somewhere anyhow.
It's still very early in the process, but I'm rather fanatic about my travel research and like to have many of my options figured out as early as possible. That way when the airfare sales for next spring come late this year - I'll be ready.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2633 posts

Steve, two responses. Going Seville-Lisbon-Madrid would make poor use of existing infrastructure. Better to travel Seville-Madrid via Spain's super fast AVE train, then visit Portugal. Iberia is hard to get around, and open jaws is your friend.

More generally: we spent 12 days visiting Toledo, Madrid, Granada, Seville, Coimbra, and Lisbon. I am not recommending this punishing pace, but just to say that of these destinations my favorite place was Granada and the Alhambra, and my second favorite was Sintra, as a day trip from Lisbon (though it would also make a magical overnight).

Although we enjoyed every place we went, the least interesting was Madrid. (It's a relatively new city and we enjoy the old. No doubt that says something about us.)

Tastes obviously vary, but I would suggest adding 2 nights in Granada, taking the days from just about anywhere else.

Have a great time!

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2664 posts

I agree with Adam that Granada was a highlight and that Madrid wasn't my favorite city. Our trips were a little more than 2 weeks each and we used a combo train, bus, and rental car to get around.

Trip 1: Into Barcelona, then Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, Salema, and home from Lisbon.

Trip 2: Into Madrid, then Salamanca, Coimbra, Porto, Santiago de Compostela (another highlight), Santillana del Mar, San Sebastian and back to Madrid.

It's great that you're starting early to plan--it can be a challenge arrange an itinerary that uses your time most efficiently but, no matter what, it's always an adventure!

Posted by Norm
Ottawa, Canada
4555 posts

One of the problems with the fast AVE route between Barcelona and Madrid is the cost. The high speed line opens all the way thru on February 20th, for a 2:45 journey, at a cost of (get this) 101 Euro and up? So flying's better there. Also better between Madrid and Lisbon, since there's only one overnight train, and it too can be expensive. Here's a suggested route. Into Barcelona...overnight train to Granada...bus to Sevilla (much cheaper and just as fast as the train), AVE to Madrid, flight to Lisbon...cheap local rail to Sintra, Oporto, or wherever ...then home from Lisbon. IMHO, unless you like wierd Gaudi architecture, you'll find more to do in Madrid than Barcelona.

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

Thanks all,
I think it's going to end up being like our Italy trip - stuff is just going to have to get cut out. I would like some balance between urban and rural however. By the time we start seriously planning, I'll have spent more time researching what's available in the different location options. Even in the few responses to this thread there's been disagreement over Madrid (Adam and Norm).
I think Norm's point about the AVE cost is valid. When I first went to the Rail Europe site, I was surprised at costs. It may be better to take advantage of a slower night train that bridges costs between hotel and day trains. And Open Jaw is definitely our way to go, although ultimately we'll end up in and out of the same airport to get to Seattle (CDG, LHR, etc...).
I see some definite potential in some of the above itineraries. And the comment about that area being cheaper, is one of the other draws to this area for our next trip (Australia costs $$$$ and will wait).

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

It does look like we'll have to do our open jaw flights with Lisbon and Barcelona as entry/exit points. Going from Sevilla to Lisbon doesn't seem to make sense unless we fly.
Possibly Barcelona-Sevilla-Madrid-Oporto-Sevilla, but I had trouble on the Renfe site finding a train from Madrid to Oporto. That could have been user error though. The Barcelona-Sevilla trip would be an overnight train, saving hotel for a night while travelling. We could also consider Granada either before or after Sevilla, although that's starting to push the destination numbers unless we can rely on more night trains - assuming that the trips would warrant them.
hmmmmm... more research to be done.

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2664 posts

Hi Steve,
That's a tough route to plan with lots of distance between cities. One consideration is that Ryan Air flies from Barcelona (GRO) to Madrid OR Barcelona (REU) to Seville OR Barcelona (REU) to Santiago de Compostela which gets you closer to Oporto.

For 10 days you might want to consider something like Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Sevilla, Lisbon OR Barcelona, Santiago, Oporto, Madrid, Lisbon. Neither of these combinations are ideal but just something to think about--depends on your priorities.

A bus will get you from Sevilla to Lisbon--you have to go through Faro, Portugal. It's 2 hours from Sevilla to Faro and 4 plus hours from Faro to Lisbon.

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

Thanks Sharon,
The large distance between cities isn't as big of a deal if the distances are enough that night trains can be taken advantage of for a couple of them. If they're all day trips, then most of my waking hours would be spent in transit - not good.
I guess it's good that I've got some time to work it out.

Posted by Thom
Redmond, WA
15 posts

Steve – we’re in Redmond working a similar trip from 3/31 to 4/27. We’ll be going SEA-SFO, then SFO-DUB on Aer Lingus, visit family in Ireland/UK thence to Alicante (easy-jet from, Liverpool) and Barcelona (family again). We will have 10 days before a BCN-DUB-SFO-SEA return. From BCN is where we could use some hints from you and other contributors.

We’re planning two trips from BCN – one to San Sebastian, then either drive or train to Aix en Provence via Lourdes returning to BCN from Marseilles – likely by air. The other is a BCN – Seville flight and drive to Arco, Granada, possibly Nerja per Rick recommendations. A quick trip to Algarve from Seville is not out of the question…yet. This will be our first, lay-of-the land visit to Andalucia with Granada/Alhambra the main site of interest before flying back to BCN and heading home. Striking a balance between travel time, cultural experiences and relaxing to watch a few sunsets is what I’m now trying to figure out. Ideas?

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

Thom,
There's not much feedback I can provide at this time. I'm in the planning stage for a trip in 2009 and haven't picked up Rick's book(s) yet to begin with.

Posted by Trish
San Jose, Ca, USA
6 posts

Hi Steve,

A friend and I are taking an independent trip to Spain and Portugul this April/May. We wil be spending 3 nights in NYC before flying to Barcelona (we are using frequent flyer miles so to get this we must fly direct to and from Barcelona) we will leave the same day ( Tap air $98.00 flight) we arrive to Lisbon basing ourselves in Lisbon we plan to visit Sintra,Nazare and maybe Porto we got these suggestions from the Rick Steves DVD's. We will then fly on Easy-Jet to Madrid (also about $90.00) for a few days and then stay in Toledo for 2 nights. A friend who has relatives in Spain said this is a must. We have not decided how will get back to Barcelona but looks like flying is less expensive then the train . I would love to see more of Spain but like you time is limited and moving too many times is exhausting We will spend 4 days back in Barcelona before flying back to NYC spend 2 days then home. Will write a post when we return with pro and con's of the trip Trish

Posted by Linda
Lynnwood, WA, USA
17 posts

Hi Steve
We are also in the planning stages for our Spain trip this September. Originally it was to include Portugal but we soon realized that even with over 2 weeks our schedule was too tight. We are doing Barcelona/Segovia/Sevilla/Marbella/Nerja/Toledo/Barcelona and then 2 nights in Paris on our way out on Air France. We are getting a railpass but renting a car in the south of Spain as it seems we would miss a lot if we did the train.We have just booked our rooms hoping to save any money with the US dollar looking so dismal. We can give you details of our trip when we return if you need more info let me know.

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

Thanks Linda,
That sounds like a fun itinerary. We'd like to include Portugal, and the chances are that we wouldn't get there if we didn't do it on this trip. Sevilla is a must, and I'm looking at the Hotel Amadeus as it's inexpensive and really highly rated on TripAdvisor. As far as Madrid and Barcelona go, we'll have to figure it out. We've already had a few nights in Paris, but we may look at the direct Air France flight when the time comes. We took it to Italy in November. Is that the one you're booking?
We'll likely fly open jaw using Barcelona/Madrid and Lisbon. But the key for us is using an airline that flies direct into Europe from SEA, and then has easy transfers to our first and last destinations.
We may end up doing some commuter plains instead of the train on some routes. But any that are going to be long, we may just substitute a hotel stay for an overnight train, and book a first class cabin for the two of us.
Still lots of time to plan.

Posted by Carole
Daytona Beach, FL
10 posts

Steve,
One thing you should take into consideration is the paucity of train service in Portugal as compared to other parts of Europe. If I were planning your trip I would fly into Lisbon, spend 2 nights and then fly to Barcelona or Madrid.

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

Thanks Carole,
That's something we're pretty much resigning to - that we'll use a plane to get from Spain to Lisbon. We'll probably do a little longer since we want to go to Oporto (Our local wine shop owner may not let us in the door if he found out we were in Portugal and didn't make it to 'Port'.
Since we did our 10 day Italy trip using nothing but carry-on's, we don't see a problem with taking advantage of commuter planes. We'll be traveling light for this trip too.
When the time comes to get serious about booking, I'll have to look into which airports are the best to fly into and home from - based on both cost and choice of airlines. I prefer flying directly from Seattle to Europe, instead of a layover in the States. As of now, there are a few choices from Seattle and may be more.
We were very flexible with our Italy itinerary amongst several different cities (as long as Rome and Venice were in there). That worked to our advantage when booking.

Posted by Carole
Daytona Beach, FL
220 posts

Steve,
The train service between Lisbon and Porto is excellent. We enjoyed Porto more than Lisbon. A Duoro river cruise gives you a good look at the bridges of Porto.

Posted by Joe
Bloomington, MN, USA
1 posts

My wife and I are renting a car (I speak Spanish) and meeting our daughter who is studying in Sevilla. We're planning 2-3 days in Portugal, the rest of time circling the country, and settling into Sevilla's Feria weekend.

If you had 7-8 days, and you were an adventurer who speaks the language, what would you do (daughter is 21 y.o. and speaks Catillano tambien.

JB

Posted by Larry
Kirkland, WA, USA
3 posts

My wife, 15 yr son and 12 yr daughter are traveling with me driving through Europe for 75 days this summer, ending with 18 days in Spain & Portugal. I'm starting to blog about the trip at http://lmorri.spaces.live.com

Currently, the list of places we hope to hit in Spain is shown below. The only parts I'm final on are that we end with 4 days in Barcelona, and spend 3 days in Salema. The general model for our 75 days is to spend 3 days relaxing in an apartment, then spend several days where we repeatedly drive 2-4 hours and overnight in a new location, then another extended apartment stay to unwind and enjoy.

Not all location below are overnights, this is our driving itinerary:
Madrid
Toledo
Lisbon
Salema
Seville
Arcos De La Frontera
Jerez de la Frontera
Tarifa
Nerja
Almeria
Valencia
Barcelona

Posted by Larry
Kirkland, WA, USA
3 posts

For your time in Barcelona, an absolute must-do is Cal Pep restaurant. Fresh simple food and great ambiance. You can either make reservations well in advance for the small private dining area, or show up early for a seat at the bar. The wait is well worth the experience of dining with locals and watching the kitchen action behind the bar. If you end up waiting in line, just ask a waiter to bring you glasses and a bottle of wine to drink while you wait.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2391 posts

This is a 3 year old thread. You really would be better served starting a new thread to ask your questions and comment.

Posted by Hadia
Austin, tx, usa
1 posts

I was just curious to know if you were able to fit in Spain for this itinerary . I just booked 6 day venice and 10 days portugal flight. Do you think I will be able to squeeze in a little bit of Spain? If yes, where in Spain would you recommend. I will have to fly back home from Lisbon.

Posted by Debra
Sacramento, CA, United States
35 posts

We have been traveling a little bit of a reverse course from what has been discussed so far. I'm not saying we're doing it better, just different (and we have taken a lot more time to do it). We took the bus from Lisbon to Merida, Spain (Extremadura) to see the Roman ruins (allegedly best on the Iberian Penninsula). While in Lison we took day trips out to Sintra, Tomar and a few other sites. From Merida we traveled by bus to Sevilla. We skipped Granada (I know, a sin, but we will be back next year to combine it with a Southern Spain and Portugal itinerary. We also have plans for a northerly route that will include Oporto and Asturias...but that's another trip to plan:). While in Sevilla we took day trips to Cordova and Carmona and overnighters to Ronda and Cadiz. We took the Ave from Sevilla to Barcelona and will take a flight from Barcelona to Madrid where we will return to the states.

Posted by Steve
Bellevue, WA, USA
357 posts

Hi Hadia, As mentioned, it's a 3yr old thread. However I'll let you know what we did: SEA-OPO (layover Frankfurt on Lufthansa) Arrived mid-day 3/26 Two nights in Porto, left mid-day on train to Lisbon Two nights in Lisbon, flew to Sevilla 3/30 One night in Sevilla, bus to Granada 3/31 Two nights in Granada, fly to Barcelona 4/2
Three nights in Barcelona, fly BCN-SEA (layover Frankfurt on Lufthansa) This was pretty much pushing it, but we didn't necessarily feel that rushed either. For the most part it gave us a snapshot of what was there and ideas for what we'd like to come back to. I loved Porto, and could see doing four or five days there, with a trip into the Douro to the wine country. We loved Granada - would like to stay in the hotel in the Alhambra next time and be there for a few more days. We'd also like a few more nights in Sevilla.