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Andalucia Sept 24-Oct 10 2021

Hola. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip which far exceeded my expectations (maybe limited travel due to pandemic elevates the experience). What follows has a few lessons learned which may help others.


Flew from Uruguay ("home") to Madrid, and caught connecting flight to Sevilla. Getting to the shuttle for the int'l to domestic terminal was a little confusing I think due to covid routing changes - so ask someone if not sure which way to go (we wasted some time not asking). Side note - I visited Madrid some years back and intentionally skipped this trip - just not my thing.

Sevilla was fabulous. 3 nights were great but would consider more on a return visit. Stayed in Old town so several tapas bars and major sights easy to get to. We booked the early am cathedral rooftop tour (do in advance as english tours are limited). Despite RS claim, after that tour we were ushered out and had to buy a separate ticket for a Cathedral visit later that day. We did the Nasir palace rooms at our allotted time, and thought we could depart then return later for a tour of the rest of the palace. Ticket checker turned us back on return and we heading out to get new tickets when the supervisor said "ok...but show passport." We had a lot of fun a one tapas bar with a zany bartender who even threw out some Japanese phrases (my wife is Japanese and loved that).

Took bus to Ronda for 2 nights. All buses seemed to arrive earlier than scheduled which was nice. We did a very dry walking tour booked thru the information office. Informative, but I think we were an hour into it before the guide cracked a little bit of a smile. Next day we walked in to the gorge for some photos/etc. We had our 1 bad meal of the trip on a square which was my fault - i thought the low google review was for an adjacent location. We didn't make that mistake again. Good times and long enough visit with one full day (but we did not venture out). We would have liked to do a winery tour but found those a bit too late.

Next, bus to Nerja for 2 nights with an intentional long layover in Malaga to see some sights - castle/Picasso/etc. Scenic big city which was nice but a little too hectic for us. Short under an hour bus ride to Nerja arriving 8 pm. Walking to our hotel near the "balcony of Europe" we waded through a LOT of tourists/expats on sidewalk tables. First impression was a bit too hectic, but the area grew on us. Next day, as a break from sightseeing, we did a standup paddleboad tour in A+ weather (no wind/waves/clouds), which was lucky since next day was supposed to be windy. We SUP'd a lot while living in Okinawa Japan so this was a lot of fun for us. We did the beachfront paella place (RS) which was very good. Not much to do in the afternoon so we somewhat hastily took a taxi to Frigiliana to check that out (SUP guide lived there and suggested going). It was nice but less than an hour we pretty much saw the town, stopped for wine, then caught the last bus back to Nerja.

Bus to Grenada for 2 nights. Did a free (tip only) walking tour which was enjoyable seeing some off the beaten track locations. We did the obligatory Alhambra as well as the upper rooms. We hit (too?) many tapas bars and even closed down a few (didn't expect that). Too much fun!

Next up was train for 2 nights in Cordoba which was a late addition to our itinerary. As RS mentions it definitely lacks a lot of charm compared to other areas, but I LOVED the mosque-cathedral and highly recommend a visit. Very unique. We used a taxi to/from the train station since our luggage was getting a little heavy, and cobblestone streets were a bit brutal on our one roller.

end of part 1

Posted by
921 posts

My husband and I are planning a trip to Andalusia at the same time as yours in 2022! We were there in early April 2019 and had sideways rain the entire time. We are hoping for much better weather. I found Seville to be delightful as well as Granada. We did do a day trip to Cordoba and loved the La Mezquita and walking around the area, but a day trip was enough. Out of Ronda, Nerja and Malaga, which would you say is a must-see? We want to recreate our trip deleting Cordoba. Btw, how was your weather, could you dine outdoors for dinner and how late did the sun set? I see you have an "Andalusia II" which I can't wait to read.

Posted by
75 posts

Weather was A+++ with one cloudy/drizzly half day in Granada. We literally had zero clouds for the trip. First week (end of Sept) was mid to upper 80's...perfectly comfortable in shade but a bit hot in full sun. Things cooled a bit for week #2 (first of Oct), but still 70's during the day. Trip end was coolest @ Toledo (but is higher elevation) and Segovia where we needed a light jacket in evening, and had the jacket either on in shade or around waist in sun. (PM me for instagram link if interested in our photos).

Sunset seemed to be ~ 7:30. We dined outside most of the trip, including evenings, and it was only coolish the 2nd week so was inside a few times.

Posted by
75 posts

Re: "Out of Ronda, Nerja and Malaga, which would you say is a must-see?"

That's kind of a toss up which I think you should post on the forum for better feedback. But...

For us, Ronda covered a token white hill town so that was our must-see. Nerja has mixed reviews from RS forum feedback, but we loved the "on the water" SUP outing mid-trip as a break from historic sights/views. If you don't care about the coast, I would choose Ronda over Nerja as it was more enjoyable (& fewer party expats/tourists). Note we didn't have enough time to day trip from either location so I can't speak on that option.

Malaga is a big city with some decent sights, but I feel we knocked those out during our 7 hour layover. I was going to skip Malaga entirely but suggestions from a friend soon moving there, and RS forum feedback, I added a layover there. Coming from small town Ronda, Malaga seemed very hectic. Side note - we did have lunch at an amazing Italian restaurant with maybe the best pasta we've ever eaten - & I've been to Italy numerous times when living in Germany for 3 years.

Posted by
75 posts

(didn't think to do Part II as a reply as someone suggested...)

Part II of trip report:

Train from Cordoba to Madrid went as scheduled despite a RENFE notice of possible strike (multi-day happening). However, our connecting train to Toledo was cancelled resulting in 2-3 extra hours in Madrid. After realizing no train station lockers, and wandering towards a locker spot found on google maps, we decided to spend the time having a leisurely sidewalk cafe lunch instead of stressing over city sightseeing. After arrival/settling @ Toledo, we bought tickets for the tourist train for 2 hours later (dusk). By the time we took the train it was booked solid so glad we got tickets a few hours earlier. Had great nighttime views of Toledo across the valley. Town was quite busy.

Last night in Segovia - took train from Toledo to Madrid and then planned to buy bus ticket to Segovia. Did not book bus ticket in advance since we were unsure of our metro connection time. By the time we arrived at the Monocola (sp?) Madrid bus station several buses were booked and we had to wait ~ 2.5 hours for the next one. Huge line for buying tickets but kiosk machine was easy to use...sort of. In my haste I accidentally booked same day return instead of next day, so had to stand in that same long line after all to fix that (ticket clerk spoke english so easy to change). So...again stuck in Madrid and felt best to just do lunch. Turns out it was a Spanish 4-day weekend so Segovia was packed as I heard from Spain tourists that town is very popular. No matter...I had to see the aquaduct (I'm a structural engineer). Had a late bus the next day returning to Madrid for midnight flight home so we had a good 1-1/2 days in Segovia. Easy metro connection got us to the airport what to me is way too early (4 hours), but just in time as far as my wife is concerned. Due to lengthy time dropping bags and paperwork check (note - flying to Uruguay), turns out 4 hours wasn't too early.

A few tips -

Always carry headphones as many sights have QR code audio guides for cell phones.
Alhambra had what I'm guessing poor quality audio guides to rent but the night prior I downloaded the guide to my phone (paid either a dollar, or 9 dollars?) and used my own headphones. I had one airpod, wife had the other which was cheaper (lol) and we always were in synch as far as location.
Listening to classical music w/noise cancelling ear buds was great for touring some sites when reading guidebook walking tour.
Unscheduled arrival at Alcazar in Segovia saw a huge ticket buying line. I checked the website on phone and bought tickets for entry 5 minutes later (but tour w/bell tower was sold out). So...always check on-line option if you don't have tickets & the line is lengthy.
VAT tax refund. Wasn't planning to do this but I bought 380 euros worth of sporting goods so decided it was worth the effort. Have the store do the tax form for you (bought our stuff at chain store in Grenada but asked store in Toledo and they very graciously did so). Have them enter your Credit Card number for account refund! At Madrid airport tax refund self serve kiosk, scan the form the store created and you are then good to go. I thought I still had to go to a counter (skip ones before on landside as way too busy) but waited in line at VAT tax refund counter only to find out the kiosk scan completed the process. Note - some people show up with many forms so it takes time. Also, sporting goods store used global blue. Airport counter appeared to cover several different VAT refund companies.
We did not miss a car at all - easy to get around, no parking hassles, would not change a thing for a first time visit to Andalucia.

Despite seeing a lot of Europe when I lived in Germany for 3 years, this trip far exceeded my expectations. Highly recommend!

Posted by
921 posts

Thank you for the detailed comments, Brian. I was leaning toward Ronda, so you've confirmed that choice for me. The weather sounds lovely at that time and certainly better than the summer months which I wouldn't feel comfortable in. I hope you'll post your next adventures here, too.

Posted by
681 posts

Thanks for the detailed trip report. We are looking at doing Spain in early May 2022 and are just in the planning stage. This was very helpful.