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Update - Spain Itinerary in Oct

Tickets purchased! We're headed to Spain! We had to cut back 4 days. Total 11 days :-) Day 0 - Fly into Madrid (pm) Day 1 - Madrid (arrive am) Day 2 - Madrid Day 3 - Day trip to Segovia (Aquaducts) Day 4 - Seville (Ave) - Plaza de Toros Day 5 - Seville Flamenco rent car? or train to Granada Day 6 - Granada Day 7 - Granada (All day alhambra) Day 8 - Fly to BCN (am) Day 9 - Barcelona Day 10 - Barcelona (Sagrada Familia) Day 11 - Barcelona Day 12 - Fly home Thanks for all your recommendations! ****** Original Post ****
Hi! Hubby and I are planning to go back to Europe this Oct for 2 weeks in Spain (15 full days - inbound/outbound flight not included). There are no direct flights back to ATL from Malaga, Seville, or Grenada. So we can either fly direct in and out BCN or Madrid (8-10hrs). Which one is a better option to start/end the trip - both around the same price. For example - does this make sense? Start in Barcelona or Madrid - regional flight down to Grenada, explore down to Gilbraltar - come back up to Sevilla, back to Madrid or Barcelona. With day trips around those cities. Do you recommend a trip to Mallorca or Ibiza? EDITItinerary included below...

Posted by
16416 posts

I would fly into Barcelona and out from Madrid. Fly from Barcelona to Granada and do the rest by train. The high-speed AVe train links Sevilla to Madrid ( and also Madrid to Barcelona if you need to fly back from there instead of an open jaw flight).

Posted by
117 posts

We did a similar trip spring 2010. Barcelona, flew to Granada, explored the south by car from Granada to Sevilla, the train back to Madrid. Just as easily done in reverse, and as in hindsight I preferred Barcelona to Madrid, I might be tempted to save it for last! I think time would be too tight for the addition of Mallorca or Ibiza.

Posted by
9110 posts

It's going to make a difference on how you plan to get around southern Spain. Bus/train or car? On the surface, it would make the most sense to start in Madrid, do the southern stuff ending in Granada and the fly up to Barcelona (driving from Granada to Barcelona is something like ten hours through a fairly unitetesting area -- flying is about an hour and a half with another three hours of getting in and out of the airports -- about half the time for three times the money). Barceona is not my favorite place in Spain by a long shot, but for most folks, it would seem to be a good place to cap the trip. I'd skip the islands, they eat up too much time for what they're worth. If you've got time to burn and want to see a part of Spain that most people never do, consider Badajoz, Asturias, or Coruna. Gibraltar might be hard to do without a car, just for the time it would take to get there and back with public transportation.

Posted by
123 posts

Thanks for your replies! The suggestion to fly into Madrid and out of BNC is looking good for the schedule! flying out of Lisbon was over 30hrs (layovers)! I just borrowed the RS Spain book from a fellow traveler. The last 3 week trip in Europe (Paris, Switz, Italy) we took all public transportation (rail, bike, bus, boat). We haven't thought about driving around Spain, we were hoping to take all public transport again if it's convenient/efficient. just checked Spain Air from Granada to Barcelona and it's a 57Euro for a 1hr 20min flight, Sevilla to BCN is 31 Euro. Not too bad right? Yeah the thing that will get us trying to get to Gibraltar or some of the other cute towns without a car...by the way - is 2 weeks too much for JUST 1 country? Should we combine with another one like Portugal?

Posted by
9110 posts

Two weeks too much for one country? Good grief! I've spent more than a year each in England/Wales, France, and Spain; half that much in Italy and Germany; months in the smaller countries. I'm a few months back from the Spain/Portugal border (two countries, but the area was smaller than some western counties). Cumulatively, I've spent over ten years somewhere in europe (three in the last ten years alone) and I still have gobs of stuff I haven't seen. The worst mistake people make is only hitting the highlights and moving on. The only case I can make for something like that is to toss in an abrupt change of pace for variety - - a couple of weeks in Spain and a few days in Beirut or Istanbul on the way home - - sorry example, but the idea's in there somewhere.

Posted by
16416 posts

Is two weeks too much? No. We spent two weeks in Spain this past May and had a wonderful time, but felt like we barely got started. It is a very diverse country and you do not have to cross a border to find something different.

Posted by
28 posts

I highly recommend James Michner's Iberia. After reading it, you will find 2 years is not enough time in Spain. So rich in history and the fascinating results of the merging/intertwining of the Moorish culture and the Christian/Roman cultures. A fascinating country.

Posted by
16416 posts

I also recommend reading Michener's Iberia. We brought it along and read the relevant chapters on the train as we moved from place to place. It really enhanced our appreciation for what we were seeing.

Posted by
123 posts

Excellent! I will check it out on Amazon! Muchas Gracias!

Posted by
9 posts

Did you happen to catch the PBS series "Spain: On the Road Again"? Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman, and Claudia Bassols traveled all around the country seeing beautiful places and eating A LOT of wonderful food. There is a DVD of the series, a cookbook, (I think my library even has them) and a website. http://www.spainontheroadagain.com/ Have fun!

Posted by
123 posts

Thank you Katie! I just checked out the site and previewed the video! Excited to watch full episodes!

Posted by
800 posts

There is a frequent poster on the Fodor's website who has compiled city guides for much of Spain as well as a few regional areas. I used her guides for restaurant and hotel recs in Sevilla and Madrid and really liked the places we went to because of her. So check out: http://maribelsguides.com/

Posted by
931 posts

We just got back from 16 nights in So. Spain; open jaw into BCN and then out of Malaga. I wish we had more time there; we had a fantastic time. After a couple of nites in BCN we hopped a lo-cost flight into Granada, then picked up a rental car and did a circuit. Granada for the Alhambra, Cordoba for the Mesquita, 4 nites in sevilla, 2 nites in Terifa (we loved our cab tour of all of Gibralter), then three nites in Ronda (our favorite town!). The car gave us the flexibility to explore other areas on day trips (hill towns of Arcos, Horse shows, etc.)

Posted by
16416 posts

Maribel's Guides are indeed very good. Available online for free. When you get your dates nailed down, be sure to book your Alhambra tickets in advance so you won't be disappointed. The "day of" tickets were gone within a few minutes each day we were there. We did 3 separate visits over 3 days (a night visit to the palace, a "Conquest of Water" walking tour, and a regular "day" vist) and still could have spent more time at the Alhambra.

Posted by
123 posts

Thanks for your tips and suggestions! What you think of this itinerary: Day 0- in flight pm Days 1-2 arrive Madrid in the AM Day 3 - Valley of Fallen or other day trip Day 4 - Segovia or Toledo Days 5-7- Sevilla/Acrcos Day 8 - Gibraltar Day 9 - Analuscia towns Days 10-11 - Granada Day 12-13 - Barcelona Day 14 - Montserrat Day 15 - Cadeques or chill in BCN
Day 16 in flight Thanks!

Posted by
524 posts

Cookie 2 weeks in Spain! Awesome! Do you have the RS Spain guidebook? It will give you lots of practical info to help with your itinerary. Trying to get a sense of your trip. Looks like you are focusing on smaller towns and spending only one or 2 days in Madrid and Barcelona. Have you been there before? Would you clarify what city you are staying in your day by day itinerary? Are you renting a car in southern Spain? Just thought I would remind you of the travel time that needs to be added to your trip. Here is one way to visualize your itinerary. + Get an on line calendar for the month you are traveling. Such as WinCalendar.com free for the basics. +Fill in your current itinerary and add overnight stays. + Find travel times. Use RS city and regional guides. At the end of each city chapter, he has a section with the travel times by car, train, and flight to frequent next destinations. Or Google. Or use Via Michelin for car travel NOT the mileage but I think they also have driving times.
+For flights and train add the following: time to airport/station from hotel, time to wait in station/airport, actual travel time, and station/airport to hotel. This is where planning travel time is sometimes forgotten. Not sure given not knowing where you are staying each night, but you may have too many ciites to see. OTOH, you may be doing more day trips which would be good. Keep us posted as you adjust your itinerary. Bobbie

Posted by
800 posts

Cookie - Lola is right about booking your Alhambra tickets ahead of time. When I first started researching our trip we were going to go to Granada before Sevilla. When I looked at tickets for the Alhambra I found that the day I would want the tickets were sold out. It wasn't a big problem because I was able to change accomodations, etc. so that Granada came after Sevilla. Just don't lock into anything that requires you to prepay before you book the Alhambra.

Posted by
565 posts

Cookie,
Your itenerary looks identical to one my husband and I did a couple of years ago with the exception of Montserrat. Looking back at it, I don't think I would have changed anything except maybe stay a night in Ronda. We rented a car from Madrid to Grenada and took a regional flight to Barcelona. Try and stop at Cordoba on your way south if you can. Driving in Spain is 10 times easier than driving in Atlanta too. It's probably the easiest place I have driven in western Europe. For both of us, Barcelona was the highlight and I'm glad we saved it for last. We ended up delaying our flight back a few days just so we could chill out in the city. It's a foodie paradise. Have fun!

Posted by
565 posts

One more thing: Everyone is right on about the Alhambra. It was Easter weekend when we went and the only way I was able to get tickets was to go through a private tour. I tried months in advance too. You should be fine now but I'd definitely nail down your date. Also, stay in the old town in Granada. It's a little seedy outside the tourist areas. Some don't like Granada, but it's a beautiful old town if you look past the grittyness. We stayed at the Hotel Casa Morisca and loved it. We splurged for a room with a view of the Alhambra. It was so worth it at night.

Posted by
123 posts

Thanks again Karen, Bobbie, and Leslie. We are thinking to take a train to the Andalucia and then rent a car to drive around the southern region and Gibraltar and Granada, then fly back to Barcelona. So glad to hear that driving is nice in Spain. Most of the smaller towns I listed are just day trips - main base would be Madrid/Sevilla/Granada and Barcelona so (4 hotel spots?) Still working on the itinerary...Will definitely RSVP for the Alhambra when we have the dates set. We may add 2 more days. Any other places that you feel we should RSVP tix ASAP? By the way, I did borrow RS Spain book, watched all related RS shows on Spain (at least 2x) and I also started reading IBERIA. Sooo excited!!!

Posted by
3253 posts

Hi Cookie! I'm coming in late to the discussion but have a few thoughts to add. One is a caution, not to pack too much into your itinerary so that you don't have time to enjoy each place that you're in. Your idea of 4-5 hotel nights is a good one! If you wanted more "wiggle room" you could consider deleting Barcelona and Gibraltar for this trip and just concentrate on Madrid and southern Spain. It would also keep things more simple and costs lower. That would make flying into and home from Madrid an option. I agree that driving in Spain is easy to do. We prefer to pick a rental car outside of Madrid as we tend to get lost trying to drive out of the city. Perhaps picking up in Toledo or Cordoba. If you keep Barcelona in the itinerary then you could fly into Madrid and home from Barcelona. To check budget airline costs between cities check: www.whichbudget.com Also, you can find some good info for Madrid at the Madrid Man site (http://madridman.com/) You're doing a great job planning! You'll love Spain!
Best wishes!

Posted by
931 posts

Cookie, driving in Spain is easy. We took our GPS, but it was worthless (did not list) some of the newer East/ West roads. Make sure that you bring a fold-out Michelin road map of Spain. When all else fails, navigate from one town to the next using the road signs. We found our regonal flights from BCN to Granada on Whichbudget.com. Watch you luggage restrictions; one carry-on only (you cannot not include a purse or persoanl item also!), size and weight of carry-ons, etc.

Posted by
1501 posts

Cookie, I've "done" Spain several times, and my first trip itinerary looked a lot like yours! Never again! The constant repacking and lugging suitcases to train stations and bus stations was a nightmare, and can take a half day easily, thus cutting into your quality time. Spend a good 3 days in both Madrid and Barcelona. I'd give up the north daytrip from Madrid in order to really enjoy Madrid. I like the Hotel Europa in Madrid, because it is centrally located and you can walk to the Royal Palace don't miss this! (As well as the Plaza Major and the Prado Museum) Louis IVX commented that "it was a nicer house" than he had! Sit and enjoy a glass of wine at the Plaza Major!....spend a half day strolling through Prado.......Do allow an entire day for the Alhambra. Enjoy Seville, and book a flamenco show in advance or through your hotel (a good website for doing these is anamazinghotel.com a small group who specializes in Spain)........Barcelona is completely different than Madrid, a bustling more modern city.........on the water-front, and again, I'd slow down a little and enjoy. It will easily take three days to see it as well. Do get the RS guidebook for Spain, and try to pare down your itinerary a little! You can go back I've decided that I LOVE Madrid, not so much Barcelona........so next time, Madrid for me.....In Italy I LOVE Roma, and not Milan......I guess I prefer the older cities! This is your trip to find out!

Posted by
23 posts

Wherever you decide to go try booking an open-ended flight, flying into one city and flying out of another. We were in Spain last October and booked a flight to Madrid and out of Seville and paid less than flying in and out of Madrid. Also, take a look at flying within Spain using Vueling. We did and paid less money than using the train. This would only work if your luggages meet the free requirement, otherwise, the high fees eat up the savings and may cost you more than taking the train.

Posted by
123 posts

It's our first trip to Spain (backpacking) so all your advice is appreciated! So we're still tweaking the itinerary (debating on whether to add 2 more days - cheaper on flight fare) or just stay w 15 days and skip Gibraltar. But the view looks so beautiful and monkeys look soo fun! :-) Madrid to Sevilla (on AVE). Swing by Cordoba (Mezquita) and pick up rental or pick up in Sevilla? Is the rental car needed in Sevilla or is the car recommended for visiting hilltowns? What's the best way to get from Sevilla area to Granada - drive or train?

Posted by
3253 posts

Hi Cookie, Part of your plan, depends on what city you're flying into and home from. For example you could: fly into Barcelona train to Madrid (or begin here if you don't go to Barcelona) train to Cordoba, visit Mezquita & pick up rental car drive to Granada (explore region) drive to Sevilla (explore region) decide on Gibraltar depending on time available
*fly back to Madrid or Barcelona on budget airline for return flight to Atlanta. There are so many options but whatever you decide will be great!

Posted by
123 posts

We're ready to continue our planning and scoping out areas for best photo opps! Hotel and restaurant recommendations welcome! Thanks again RS family!

Posted by
1178 posts

Suggestion: SLOW DOWN and enjoy where you are..Save some for a return trip!! Or Return Trips :-) :-) Actually I think you have done this a lot from your first posting.... Get the Moon Guide To Spain -- excellent coverage of the places you will visit. In Madrid be sure to take a stroll through the Park Retiro...excellent people watching and beautiful as well. The Royal Palace is great, but most people miss the imposing Armory located there...it is a separate building and well worth the visit. The Prado is an excellent choice..go early and miss the lines. The lines at the Palace will likely be long, but move fairly quickly. In Sevilla you do not need a car - and will likely have difficulty parking if you do! Check out Really Discover Sevilla Tour - good and small as well. They can put you in touch with an excellent flamenco show as well. Enjoy your trip!!

Posted by
2376 posts

In Barcelona, eat or at least stroll through the market on Las Ramblas, it is great. We found several tiny shops off Las Ramblas that sold great gryos, filling and cheap. You can also take a cable car that gives you a good view of the city, especially from the top where I think there is a little cafe. Also great day trip is to Monserrat (spelling?). It is a great walking city, just be aware of the numerous gypsies, they were at a lot of the tourist stops trying to get you to sign petitions, etc while 3 or 4 surrounded you. Strangely they tried to pick pocket my brother-in-law twice and left me totally alone. They didn't get any money from him but a man on the metro got his metro card, again leaving me alone. Maybe it was my "New York" attitude that saved me. Enjoy.

Posted by
123 posts

Thanks so much HJ and Gail! Yes I did cut out a lot because 17 days was a lot to plan! So we decided to cut days and will save some of Spain for our return trip :-) Yes I have on the list for BCN - las ramblas, la boqueria, casa mila, parc guell, sagrada familia, and catherdral. Would like to see Guernica if there is time. I did consider including a day trip to Monserrat - or do you think a day trip to the Dali museum would be a cool?

Posted by
5 posts

(Wondering if I should start a new post!) My husband and I are planning an almost IDENTICAL itinerary for the same time period (Oct 19 - Nov 3) and from Atlanta! We have tickets into Madrid and out of Barcelona. My brother is kind enough to be giving us Marriott/Starwood points, so we have hotel options taken care of for Madrid (an AC Hotel) and Barcelona (Le Meridien). I am unsure as to how to split up our time, however, and am unclear about transportation between a few cities. Any recommendations? See below: - Madrid (how many days?) - Day trip to Toledo (AVE? sleep in Madrid) - AVE to Seville (how many days?) What to do in between? Cordoba, Grenada? If so, how much time and what is the best transportation to get there? I really don't want to have to rent a car, but am not averse to flying, though we will have checked bags. - Barcelona (how many days?) Finally, is it worth trying to fit in Bilbao in there? I really want to see the Guggenheim, but if it's going to be a busy schedule and it's out of the way, then I can skip it. (Been to the one in NY dozens of times.) Thanks, everyone!
Valerie