3 weeks (actually 20 nights!) in Spain

Nov 14th, 2014, 10:24 PM
  #1  
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3 weeks (actually 20 nights!) in Spain

We are an 'older' couple travelling by public transport to three areas of Spain in May/June 2015.
Andalucia - 7 nights
Madrid/San Sebastien - 6/7 nights
Barcelona - 7/6 nights
The itinerary at present is Melbourne to Madrid (arr 2pm) and straight to Seville by train departing Atocha at 6.30pm (4 1/2 hours hopefully enough to allow for not-too-late arrival, customs, baggage, train to Atocha etc). 5 nights in Seville (poss inc day trip to Cordoba and/or Ronda), then 2 in Granada.
Train from Grandada to Madrid (3n); train from Madrid to SS (3n with day-trip to Bilbao)
Train from SS (or poss Bilbao if more sensible to go direct from there) to Barcelona where we meet up with our son and partner who live in Sweden.

Despite many fascinating hours reading Fodors, TA etc I'm still unsure about:
1.Should 5 n in Seville, 2 in Granada be 4 and 3?
2. or would 3 in Seville, 2 in Granada and 2 somewhere else (Cordoba, Ronda, Cadiz?somewhere else?) be even better?
3.If we reduce our week in Barcelona to 6 nights, where to spend the additional night?
4. Spain is huge and I know we've left out heaps of wonderful places, but I think we're pushing it already with what we're doing. Open however to suggestions!

I'd be hugely grateful for comments on the itinerary as a whole, as well as specific answers to above. And btw, we hate 'one-nighters' unless they're absolutely unavoidable. Thank you!
MRM49 is offline  
Nov 14th, 2014, 11:18 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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"Spain is huge and I know we've left out heaps of wonderful places, but I think we're pushing it already with what we're doing."

I agree: IMO, you should cut one entire area from your consideration.

"1.Should 5 n in Seville, 2 in Granada be 4 and 3?
2. or would 3 in Seville, 2 in Granada and 2 somewhere else (Cordoba, Ronda, Cadiz?somewhere else?) be even better?"

IMO, Sevilla deserves at least 4 nights, Granada requires a minimum of 2 nights just for the Alhambra and a 3rd night if you want to see anything else there (and IMO, there is more than enough to see in Granada to warrant that 3rd night), Cordoba deserves 2 full DAYS (i.e., 2 or 3 nights, depending on the timing), and Ronda deserves a night (it is too far for a day trip IMO and it has a special aura in the evening) YMMV. I haven't been to Cadiz yet. BTW, I think that Granada's Alhambra and Cordoba's Mezquita are among the most magnificent places in the world, and I encourage you to make sure you have time for them.

Madrid itself can easily take 4 full days (again, depending on your interests), not counting the places that many people visit as day trips from Madrid -- Toledo is, IMO, superb, and easily deserves 2 full DAYS, but even if all you can spare is a day trip, it is IMO a "must see." Segovia, too, merits either a day trip or an overnight.

I haven't visited Barcelona or San Sebastien yet; they will be part of my next trip. I am allocating a MINIMUM of 3 weeks for northern Spain.

I strongly encourage you to get some good guidebooks and/or consult them at your local library. Unfortunately, trip reports and TA and other on-line resources don't really let you plan a trip that matches YOUR interests because these sources generally only tell you about what people DID see, not what they neglected. And unless you are extremely careful, you will miss information about timing (not just opening hours, but open days) and a bunch of other stuff that can be critical to actually planning a trip. FWIW, I found the Rough Guide to Spain the most useful of the half-dozen guidebooks that I consulted for my last trip and so far, am finding the Michelin Green Guide the 2nd best guide for planning my upcoming trip.

BTW, I like that you plan to continue traveling on your arrival day after landing -- whatever your final itinerary, you will be exhausted upon your arrival anyway, and IME (YMMV), I'd rather wake up ready to explore than spend an overnight just to "recover" and then lose a chunk of time to get somewhere else.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 12:15 AM
  #3  
 
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IMO 5 nights in Sevilla and 2 in Granada would be okay if you want to see some more remote villages but since you have to rely on public transport, this will not be possible. In that case I would do 3 nights Sevilla, 2 Granada, 2 Córdoba (or Cádiz, or Málaga).

If it were me, I would spend more time in Andalucía (there's much more than Sevilla, Granada and Córdoba) and less time in Barcelona. Barcelona is just one city whereas Andalucía is a vast area.
MyriamC is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 02:27 AM
  #4  
 
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Hi MRM,

I reckon that you've got it about right, but I might tweek it a little as follows:

Day 1 - arrive, train to Seville, stay 5 nights. Gives you time to recover from the trip and do an excursion or two.
Day 6 - train to Cordoba, stay 1 night. [gives you most of day 6 there, plus 1/2 of day 7]
Day 7 - morning in Cordoba, pm train to Granada, stay 2 nights [if not enough, borrow a day from Barcelona]
Day 9 - train to Madrid. Stay 6 nights - allows for day trips to, say, Segovia and Toledo. IMO Bilbao is too far for a day trip. leave northern Spain for another trip.
Day 15 - train to Barcelona. stay 6 nights.
Day 21 - fly home.

[setting it out like this really allows you to see how much time you've got in each place - you could then make a daily plan to see what you're going to do each day if you really get into it!]
annhig is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 02:57 AM
  #5  
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Thank you kja and MyriamC. We have a number of constraints which perhaps I should have made clearer. Barcelona is where our son wants to meet us, so the number of nights there isn't very flexible, a minimum of 6. Australia is a long way from Europe and our time with him is very special. We only see him once a year.
And, whilst I would really love to have the luxury of spending 3 weeks just in the north of Spain, I shall only have 3 weeks' leave in toto by May. We may never have the opportunity to come back to Spain so, as often happens, we must compromise and try to see as much as we reasonably can in the time available.
Perhaps we could give SS a miss - add those 3 nights to Andalucia and one from Barcelona to Madrid. Trouble is, I'd really love to see San Sebastien! Ah well, it's obvious from what you've both written that something has to give, and I guess San Sebastien/Bilbao is the most logical bit to cut.
Thanks again - how I wish I could afford to just retire and travel!
MRM49 is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 03:07 AM
  #6  
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Sorry annhig, and thank you too - I just saw your reply then!
Yes, I think San Sebastien (with day trip to Bilbao) will have to go. Shame. Those extra few days to spread around does make a difference though.
I meant also to mention to kja that the Rough Guides are my favourite too.
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Nov 15th, 2014, 04:10 AM
  #7  
kja
 
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I fully understand that you want to see as much as you reasonably can. My intent was not to say WHICH places you should visit, but to encourage you to cut at least some places so that you can actually see the places that you do visit, instead of spending a disproportionate share of your time in transit between places.

I think annhig has given you a decent bare-bones outline -- if too rushed for my tastes, at least it would give you the time to see some of Spain's highlights. Use that, with your Rough Guide to map out the specific places you want to see and adjust accordingly. Be sure to watch out for Mondays, when many places in Spain are closed.

Enjoy the time with your son!
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Nov 15th, 2014, 04:20 AM
  #8  
 
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MRM - I think that taking into account your travel style [which i take to be slightly faster than ours but we have the luxury of being only a short flight away from Spain] that itinerary is about right. You could fit in SS and/ or Bilbao but then Granada and Cordoba might have to go, and I would move the trip round - Madrid first, then Andalucia, then fly to Bilbao and train to Barcelona. it is doable, but at a much faster pace and at the expense of really seeing and enjoying the places you have decided, presumably for good reason, that you want to see.

Less is more, IMO, particularly when travel is concerned.
annhig is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 04:40 AM
  #9  
 
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I too would add more time to Andalusia (3 major cities: Seville, Cordoba and GRanada, plus the white villages and number of other fascinating cities), consider cutting Barcelona back to 5 days and then figure out what to do with Madrid and the Atlantic coast. The latter is not one area. So I think you will need to make some hard decision here.

I'm not a fan of Madrid so would limit it to 3 days/4 nights, including a day in Toledo - but if you are a fan you will need more.

So really you need to cut something.

The other thing to consider is the weather. Spain is HOT (summer in the south the high is often 100 and can be asm much as 120 - so it can be hard to do anything in the middle of the day - hence the siesta habit and dinner at 10 pm).
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 05:42 AM
  #10  
 
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May is an excellent time of year to go, spring blossom is here and the summer heat is usually still some weeks away.

May is serious festival time in Andalucia and Madrid. Could be a great intro to the local food, wine, music, dance and fiesta spirit, but Spanish fiestas are also usually massive, so take that into account.
San Isidro in Madrid: http://www.spain.info/en/reportajes/...en_madrid.html
The Feria in Cordoba: http://www.andalucia.com/festival/co...pring-fair.htm

But a real shame if you should miss Donostia/San Sebastian during a 20 days stay in Spain. Something completely different, the culinary capital of Spain if not all of Europe, arguably the most beautiful city in the country and European Capital of culture 2016. http://www.sansebastianturismo.com/en/
The San Sebastian 2016 video. See the last minute, and you're sold ;-): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2zTb7Eg9Lk
kimhe is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 07:52 AM
  #11  
 
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Okay you can't go wrong with a)5 in Seville (daytrips to Cordoba & Cadiz)2 in Granada, or b) 3 in Seville, 2 in Granada, 2 in Cordoba, Cadiz or Malaga. These cities are so spectacular that I wouldn't worry about trying to "see" too many out of the way white villages. You can get by with 3 nights in Madrid, then if you may never go back to Spain you have to see the beautiful city of San Sebastian. Then finish in Barcelona.
Egbert is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 11:00 AM
  #12  
 
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If you're going to fly in to Madrid and visit the city later, why spend the extra time/energy training right to Sevilla. I don't know if it was suggested prior but if you're not tied down to doing Andalusia first, I would check out Madrid while you fly in and move counter-clockwise to Andalusia and then Barcelona. Getting off that plan and onto a train seems like a recipe for a later possible start on enjoying the locale.
Just my 2 cents
branderson925 is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 11:25 AM
  #13  
 
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I agree with NYTraveller above, as to allocating a bit more time to the area of Andalucía and cutting down time in Madrid and Barcelona. Our only regret of this similar to be two Springs ago was that we wish we took 4 nights in Barcelona instead of Madrid; that said we did the following, (a bit of reverse of what you're doing):
Barcelona - 3 nights (definitely wanted another)
Madrid - 4 nights (wish we'd taken one less, even w side trip to Segovia)
Cordoba - 2 nights (awesome, do not miss, but can do from Seville if you do not have 2 nts)
Seville - 3 nights
Jerez de la Frontera - 1 nt (wish we'd gone to Cadiz instead)
Ronda - 2 nights
Granada - 2 nights (needed for driving and Alhambra day, did not love Granada otherwise)
Marbella - 3 nights to thoroughly relax, absolutely lovely

We did rent a car leaving Seville to get to the White Villages, Granada (where it was a nightmare) and then to Marbella (another nightmare since Granada & Marbella hotels were in pedestrian zones).

You can take an early train from Seville to Cordoba for a very full day, the old section in Cordoba is within walking distance from train station. I think there are tours to Granada to Seville including an overnight. We loved the Gaudi works in Barcelona which are all over the city, and absolutely do not miss the Casa Batllo (sp?), less renowed than Mila Pedrera but more beautiful IMHO. We did not have the day to get to Parc Guell, but wished we had. Madrid, yes has the Prado and Rastro Park, but thought the famous flea was rather a waste of time, all over it just didn't grab us. Ronda was spectacular, you can day-trip there from the southern coast or from Granada as well. Agree w/ one-nighters, they are rough. While we travelled north-south, we had to leave Marbella at 3:30 a.m. to catch a flight from Malaga-Madrid which now is amusing. Considered leaving Marbella the day before to get closer to Madrid, but glad we toughed it out for the extra day -- caught up w sleep en route back to States.
aliced is online now  
Nov 15th, 2014, 12:22 PM
  #14  
 
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Based on our Aug.-Sept. trip to Spain (Madrid-Northern Spain-Barcelona-Valencia-Madrid), I can only make these notes:

1. If your flight is landing and leaving Madrid then obviously you should keep Madrid as your last city to visit.

2. Barcelona has SO much more to offer than Madrid (yes, debatable, but it's my opinion and quite few others agree), so I'd stay more nights there than in Madrid.

3. San Sebastian is beautiful (Bilbao is less), but not a must. If you still decide to visit there - check flights (Vueling airlines). You save lots of time, maybe even money...

4. If you can spare a couple nights, Valencia (train ride between Barcelona and the South) is a really charming city!
mamamia2 is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 03:59 PM
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Second Valencia being worth visiting. The main thing I hear about Andalusia is that in general people wish they spent more time there and less time places like Barcelona and Madrid. Obviously this is in general and is super dependent on your interests but that's what I've heard firsthand and read quite a bit
branderson925 is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 04:03 PM
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Since it is important that you spend time in Barcelona to see your son, personally, I would stay in the north of Spain; Barcelona, San Sebastian-Donostia and Bilbao, heading down to Madrid to finish your stay and catch your flight home. May is an excellent time of the year in Barcelnoa and along the north coast, and despite some comments here, Bilbao is an exciting city, full of culture, music and performing arts and on a par with San Sebastian when it comes to gastronomy. 20 nights, three moves!

If you want to visit Andalucia, then it's best in the mid to late spring, in and around Semanta Santa is best. You could do that another time, flying into Sevilla and out Malaga.
Robert2533 is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 04:15 PM
  #17  
 
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Just about to write up a report on our recent Spain-Portugal trip...but we were with Grand Circle and probably older than you. Lots of walking was a challenge. DW and I were in Salamanca/Avila/Segovia area years ago and this time in Andalucia (both times also a little bit of Madrid). Certainly much to see in Sevilla, Cordoba, Toledo, Granada and other places, too.

Other than the visit with son in Barcelona I would think you could enjoy much sightseeing in Southern Spain depending on interests...and energy and money.
Ozarksbill is offline  
Nov 15th, 2014, 08:14 PM
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I guess the op should wait for your trip report before committing to anything.
Robert2533 is offline  
Nov 16th, 2014, 01:16 AM
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Bilbao is of course also a fabulous city, and completely different from sister city San Sebastian. High energy, cutting edge architecture and art and out of this world food: http://www.euskoguide.com/places-bas...ilbao-tourism/
http://www.bilbaoturismo.net/BilbaoTurismo/en/tourists

With twenty days and arriving in Madrid in mid May, and six days tied up in brilliant Barcelona at the end, I would do three-four days in Madrid during San Isidro, five-six days in Sevilla with a daytrip/stayover in Cordoba during the spring fair and five-six days in San Sebastian and Bilbao before taking the one hour direct flight from Bilbao to Barcelona.

Cordoba, once the most modern city in Europe and "The city that changed the world": http://www.theguardian.com/spanish-t...-changed-world

You would then get a real taste of four very different parts of a fantastic country, the very "Spanish" capital, Andalucia, the Basque Country and Catalonia, the two latter on their way to more or less full independence from Spain.
kimhe is offline  
Nov 18th, 2014, 02:01 AM
  #20  
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WOW - so many interesting and different responses in a few days - thank you! In response:

I had originally planned not to go to Madrid at all - not keen on big cities - but my husband's never been to Spain (and it's 35 years since I was there!)so nytraveler I decided to pull that back to the original 3 nights - just give us time for jetlag recovery, the Prado and the pedestrian streets and squares.

The reason for not stopping in Madrid on arrival in Spain branderson925 was that we planned to stay there later enroute between Andalucía and San Sebastien. However, if we cancel San Sebastien, then obviously it would make more sense to stop in Madrid prior to heading south to Seville.

We were never doing a day trip to Bilbao from Madrid annhig - it was to be a day trip from San Sebastien.

Anyway, after all this, I'd finalised the itinerary, cancelling the north, adding in a couple of nights in Valencia - then kimhe's next reply came through. Dear oh dear.

With so many differing opinions, all with good reasons to support them - I can see I'm just going to have to toss a coin here.

Thanks again for the responses and links - very informative and much appreciated.
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