My wife and I will travel to Spain in late April and want to visit Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Sevilla and Barcelona. From looking at the travel guide for Spain, it looks like it would be better to go by bus or train from Madrid to Granada to Sevilla to Toledo and then back to Madrid to fly to Barcellona. Does this seem like the best itinerary or would another order work better from a time and cost standpoint?
From a time standpoint, a train will be faster, door-to-door, than flying on the Madrid-Barcelona segment. I don't know how public transportation in and out of Granada works. The rest seems logical enough.
Assuming you are flying into Madrid and out of Barcelona, that order looks great. And as Ed said, train is better than flying between Madrid and Barcelona. The AVE train takes only 2.5 hours, center to center; no hassles getting to the airport and waiting in long security lines. And it is pleasant and comfortable. As far as costs, you can save a whopping 60% on the AVE trains between Sevilla and Madrid, and Madrid and Barcelona, as well as the Altaria train from madrid to Granada, by buying 60-62 days in advance on Renfe.com. For example, the full fare from Madrid to Granada is 68,40. But buying today for March 30, you could get a Web fare of 27,35. for late April you would buy your tickets in late February. The WEb fares are non-refundable so not flexible, but if you know your itinerary in advance it is well worth it.
Are you flying to Madrid from the US? I would do an open Jaw. Arrive Madrid - Return to US from Barcelona. Arrive to Madrid, visit Madrid. Visit Toledo (it's about one hour away by commuter train), then back to Madrid. From Madrid take the AVE High Speed train to Sevilla. Visit Sevilla. From Sevilla go to Granada (bus or train, bus probably better). Actually from Sevilla I would rent a car and visit Andalucia (Arcos, Ronda, Nerja etc.) on the way to Granada). Visit Granada. When you are done with Granada, fly to Barcelona. You can fly from Granada to Barcelona with Vueling or with Iberia (via Madrid). Last resort go from Granada to Malaga (bigger airport) and fly from Malaga to Barcelona. You can fly from Malaga (AGP) to Barcelona with Ryanair, Vueling, Iberia. Don't do the train from Andalucia (Sevilla or Granada) to Barcelona (BCN). That's too long, even with the AVE from Sevilla.
Once in BCN, visit the city then return to the US directly from BCN, if possible,
Madrid to Toldo on the train is more like half an hour. If they stick with the order they have, but put Toledo in as a daytrip from Madrid, they can go Granada to Sevilla, and the take the trainFrom Seville to Barcelona in 5 1/2 hours. Mthat is pretty comparable to flying time from Granada to Barcelona, by the time you add in getting to and from the two airports and waiting time at the airport. Plus, you don't have to worry about bag restrictions which are more stringent than the overseas flights.
The train from Madrid to Granada is almost 5 hours, so not exactly a quick ride. Much faster to go to Seville from Madrid. 2 and 1/2 hours and you are there. From Sevilla to Barcelona via AVE it's 5 and 1/2 hours and it costs about 140 euros unless you lock yourself up on a major deal. From Granada to Barcelona with Vueling it costs 75 euros (incl. baggage fee) and it takes 1hr and 20min. From Granada to the airport it's only 20 min. BCN is not far from the city either. 20 minutes unless it's rush hour. Even city center to city center, flying is half the time (for half the price). There are 1,000 km between Seville and Barcelona. Sorry but anything over 600-650 km I fly.
I think you forgot to add security/ waiting time for the flight. I think it is not less than four hours, center to center. And you have to add cost of transport to and from each airport. And the pollution factor. The train is much cleaner. I see tickets on the AVE from Seville to Barcelona for 53,50 on Rumbo.es. That is buying 7 weeks ahead. The train travels at 306 km/hr and is smooth and quiet. Anything less than 6 hours and we take the train and skip the airport hassles.
I did almost this same trip three years ago. I took the train from Madrid to Toledo and back, then the train to Sevilla, bus to Rhonda, train to Granada and a flight to Barcelona. The flight was super cheap, around $45.
I would recommend you take the train from Madrid to Barcelona - it is fast (3-3.5 hours), comfortable, and delivers you from city center to city center, avoiding the need to go to and from the airports. And you have less waiting/security time before you board. If you buy your ticket in advance on line, it should only be 50-60 Euros per person - probably the same, or cheaper, than two airline tickets, cab fare, and baggage charges. In my experience, a "tourista" class seat was also much more comfortable than an economy airline seat.
We took a 9:30 flight from granada to Barcelona. We got to our guesthouse by 12:15. I wouldn't recommend going from granada to Madrid, just to get to barcelona.....unless you save your madrid portion of visit for then. Edit: I'm also team fly into Madrid and out of Barcelona.
We flew from Madrid to Granada, as that seemed the best way to do it. The bus from the airport then got us pretty close to our lodging. We did all the other transfers by train, including Granada to Sevilla and Sevilla to Toledo before a final departure out of Madrid (no Barcelona on that trip and returning to Madrid for a direct international flight was more appealing than the flight options out of Sevilla). If you want to flew home from Barcelona on an open jaw ticket, I'd agree with the suggestion to go from Madrid/Toledo to Sevilla, then Granada, and fly from Granada to Barcelona.
While some folks are suggesting a day trip to Toledo from Madrid, I'd suggest you spend at least one or two nights. Toledo is lovely after dark, and much easier to enjoy, once so many of the folks have returned to Madrid. I spent a week in Toledo and didn't run out of things to do (although, admittedly, El Greco was the only reason I went to Spain).
Sevilla's April Fair is the week of the 16th-21st this year. I'm not sure if that's before you arrive in Spain. If you can visit Seville during that time frame, it's worthwhile - even worth choosing a somewhat less convenient itinerary.
pbi: I will be travelling to Spain in late May. Plan to take the train from Madrid to Barcelona. Are there any safety tips. i.e., luggage that could be stolen? Thanks!