Andalucia plans/itinerary


Nov 10th, 2015, 09:39 AM
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Andalucia plans/itinerary

Still in the planning stages for a trip to Spain (beginning in Madrid, ending in Barcelona) next fall. Looking for advice on what to see and the best modes of transportation. Our travel dates are sometime in late September until October 25.

We will have about three and a half weeks, planning for three or four days in Madrid at the beginning and then five days in Barcelona at the end. So- that leaves about two and a half weeks to travel through Andalucia.

The places on my list right now are: Seville, Cordoba, Granada, and the White Hill Towns. Maybe parts of Costa del Sol?

I am thinking that taking the train to Seville, staying a few days (how many?) would be a good start after Madrid.

Then take the train or bus to Cordoba (stay two days?)

Train to Grenada (three days?)

Rent a car as we depart from Granada and travel through the Pueblos Blancos/White Hill Towns and then on to Barcelona? Is there a "base" village or town where we could stay and plan day trips with our car? Maybe Ronda? Would driving along Costa del Sol be worthwhile? Any places we are missing? We will return the rental car as soon as we reach Barcelona.

We are a couple in our mid 60s, have traveled extensively in Europe and Central/South America. This will be my third trip to Spain (Castilla y Leon and Galicia) and my husband's second. neither of us has been to Andalucia. We've both driven rental cars in Spain. I speak passable Spanish. We enjoy cultural offerings, local communities, history, food, and walking. The idea of driving on smaller routes and through towns and villages is appealing to us, although we do want to sample the cultural and historical offerings of the big cities.

Any and all suggestions welcome and appreciated!
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Nov 10th, 2015, 09:56 AM
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I wold rent the car for all of Andalusia we found it very convenient to get to a number of different places - but drop it before heading to barcelona - which is about a 12 hour drive. So doesn't make a lot of sense unless you are stopping onthe way.
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Nov 10th, 2015, 10:15 AM
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I don't think a car is practical for Seville, so think your plan is good. Your tentative times seem good to me (days in each place).

It doesn't seem to make sense to go from Granada back to Ronda, it's going back towards SEville, to the SW. If anything, it might be more convenient to go there in-between COrdoba and Granada. Or right after Seville, then I guess you'd have a car in Cordoba, I suppose you can do that even though it's not some small place. I just dont understand why you'd go all the way back to Ronda from Granada.

I don't see anything wrong with driving from Granada to Barcelona as there is no direct train route. YOu could stop to see Valencia, if you have enough time for all this, it's right on the route. I don't think it really needs to take 12 hours to drive, more like 9-10. The train would take 12 hours, though, as you have to go through Madrid. Alicante is on the way for the drive, but I don't know much about it.

If you don't drive, I'd fly myself.
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Nov 10th, 2015, 11:00 AM
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We use AutoEurope to rent cars. Get a smallish model to better navigate narrow streets. And, very important, be sure the trunk will accommodate, hide, all your luggage and never leave anything visible in the car. I would pick up the car on leaving Seville and drive to Ronda and then to Granada. Visit Cordoba from Seville. From Ronda you can visit the so-called (Rick Steves ?) White Villages, but if you don't have the time, you can certainly give them a miss. Don't worry about parking in the cities. If you can't find a place on the street, there are garages everywhere. In driving from Granada to Barcelona, you might want to visit, Altea, Valencia, and Tarragona. Have fun !
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Nov 10th, 2015, 12:42 PM
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We are over here right now visiting Spain and Portugal for three and a half weeks...four days left.

We started in Madrid for four nights with a day trip to Segovia on the train. Then we trained to Toledo for a night, Cordoba for 2 nites and Seville for three nights. Then we picked up our rental car and drove to Ronda for two nights, visiting Pileta cave along the way. We took a winery tour from Ronda. We then drove to Granada for one night and Malaga for one night before flying to Lisbon.

I would suggest training to Córdoba from Madrid and then training to Seville before picking up your rental car and driving thru the white villages. Toledo is quite nice if you have the time. Driving in Granada is a nightmare, as is most big cities. Gps really helped.

Have fun!
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Nov 10th, 2015, 01:39 PM
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Some great ideas, thanks!

I'm having a hard time with the maps of Andalucia, as far as roads and railways go. I agree we may be doing some unnecessary backtracking, so will continue to try to figure it out.

I can't seem to see what's along the coast from Andalucia to Barcelona - anything worth driving that way for? Murcia? Otherwise, maybe heading to Granada just before Barcelona and then stopping in Valencia for a night along the way ...

I need a better map! Or a good website with an overview of the area.

I've been to Toledo before - but my husband hasn't, so we may take the train for a day trip out of Madrid. We've both been to Segovia - three times for me - so will not do that.

Why are the White Villages ("so-called??") a Rick Steves thing? I'm not a Rick Steves follower, so not clear on that. They're actually in my DK Guidebook, but if they're not worth visiting, we can skip that.

I am SO glad I have almost a year to figure this all out.
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Nov 10th, 2015, 02:52 PM
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We just got back, our first trip, mainly in Andalucia. We took trains everywhere. FWIW: Seville was wonderful and we could easily have spent a week (we had time constraints on this trip, only 10 nights total).

For Cordoba: you will find a lot of different opinions about this small city. We loved it and stayed 2 nights. Other people make it a quick day trip from Seville, to see only the Mezquita (now the cathedral, formerly the mosque--a must see in any case if you are going to Andalucia). I'm glad we stayed 2 nights because the tourist crowds thin out by late afternoon and wandering around the old center is much more pleasant in the evening.

Crowds: Of the 5 cities we visited, only the area around the Mezquita seemed to be unpleasantly hyper-touristy with tacky souvenir shops and all that. And we went in mid-October. I'd hate to see it in high season. The Alhambra in Granada, in contrast, has strict crowd control, admitting only a limited number into the entire complex, and imposing even stricter controls hour by hour for entry into the Nasrid Palace.

Trip planning: 2 things--be sure to reserve your Alhambra tickets as early as possible. Check the ticket site, they usually have an advance sale period of about two months. Also, if you do choose to use the train, you can get good prices on your RENFE tickets if you buy weeks ahead of time.

You have a lot of time to make your choices, but as you approach three months or so before departure day, start deciding on your Alhambra and your train ticket plans.

Here's our TR, with info on hotels, bars, tapas, and flamenco:
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Nov 10th, 2015, 05:25 PM
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I was glad to avoid using a rental car while in Andalusia; others obviously have very different views. And others also have varying opinions about how much time to give any one location, or what to do once there -- and I think that makes sense, since we all travel for different reasons and at different paces.

So I recommend that you get some good guidebooks or spend some time with a few in your local library (for this area, I found the Rough Guide and the Michelin Green Guide particularly helpful), identify the things you most want to see in each location, check their opening/closing times on the internet, and mark them on a calendar. (Many things in Spain are closed on Mondays, part / all of Sundays, and for a very long lunch interval.) Pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from your lodging, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). And then see how things fit together.

FWIW, I was very pleased with the way I allocated my time -- 4 full days for Madrid (not counting 2 full days for Toledo, 1 for Segovia, 1 for Avila, and 2 for Salamanca), 2 full days for Cordoba, 2.5 days for Granada (including both a day and evening visit to the Alhambra -- do reserve well in advance!), 1 day for Ronda, 1 day for Las Alpujarras, and 3.5 days for Sevilla, and (on a different trip). 5.5 days for Barcelona (not counting any day trips from that city).

For your mapping options, try viamichelin
For excellent information about public transportation options between cities, see the Rough Guide.

Hope that helps!
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Nov 11th, 2015, 02:57 AM
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Yes, you need to get a good map so that you can get the lay of the land spread out before you. Get a Michelin map at B&N or a free one at the Automobile Club. We find that maps on the computer are inadequate for the big view.
I think the tour of the White Villages was originally a fabrication of Rick Steves, just as he popularized visits to Cinq Terre in No. Italy. There are many, many white villages in Andalucia, and it's kind of if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Some very nice white villages are in the Alpujarra, south of Granada. Capileira and Bubion are a couple of them.
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Nov 11th, 2015, 03:34 AM
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The world's greatest flamenco festival goes on in Sevilla theaters all around town for some three weeks from September 9 to October 2 2016. Mostly a local and knowledgeable crowd, and a night at the Bienal could be a great intro to this powerful and beautiful art so important for Andalucia, and a definite highlight of your trip.

And you should also consider small town Antequera (pop 40 000). Known as the heart of Andalucia or the crossroads of Andalucia, almost right in the middle of the Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga rectangle. First of the Granada emirate towns to fall to the Christians in 1410 and as genuinely Andalucia as it gets. Here you'll find dolmens (some 5000 years old burial chambers), Roman baths, a Moorish Castle, Gothic churches, Renaissance fountains and Baroque bell towers.

I love the terrace in the corner of the peaceful Escribanos square in front of the Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, the first partly Renaissance-style church in Spain (built 1514-1550). Up here it's totally peace and quiet. Next to the recently excavated Roman baths beneath and looking up on the 13th century Moorish alcazaba/fortress. Great views over unique landscapes (the spectacular Torcal limestone mountain, the Lovers leap etc.) My favourite spot in all of Spain.

A tapas tour of Antequera:

And the train stops here ;-)

And Antequera is also very close to fine white villages outside the most beaten tourist track such as Alora and Ardales:

You can drive up to the spectacular Torcal limestone mountain right outside Antequera, several fine walks up here, and on a clear day you could see to Morocco:

And the Caminito del Rey walk is also very close to Antequera!
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Nov 11th, 2015, 03:54 AM
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The Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos is definitely worth driving! After your stay in Sevilla, drive to Arcos de la Frontera (no-one ever mentions this gem of a town) which is the starting point of the Ruta that goes all the way to Ronda (via Algodonales, Villamartín, Algodonales, El Bosque, Grazalema, ...). Do take your time!

The Costa del Sol isn't very interesting, IMO. There are some nice towns along the Costa de la Luz, though. Think Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera, Vejer de la Frontera.

We like to drive, so if it were us we would rent the car in Madrid and drive most of the time. This could be our itinerary: Madrid - Córdoba - Sevilla - Arcos de la Frontera -(Pueblos Blancos to) Ronda - Granada - Málaga. Drop the car and fly to Barcelona. Or, after Granada, drive to Jaén - Úbeda - Valencia and drop the car.
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Nov 11th, 2015, 04:28 AM
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And a little more info about Antequera:
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Nov 11th, 2015, 07:59 AM
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And when it comes to Costa del Sol, you should perhaps consider Malaga city itself (3000 year old Phoenician Malaka), genuine and laid-back Andalucian atmosphere, lots of museums, sights, great cafes, terraces, restaurants and tapas bars. My favourite city in Andalucia after much travel in the region the past 13 years.

"Malaga: Spain's best kept Secret", Telegraph:

"Picasso's city of hidden treasures", Guardian:

"Málaga, Spain’s Self-Appointed New Arts Hub".

Updated and good guide from The Guardian:
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Nov 11th, 2015, 10:08 AM
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Agree with kimhe about Málaga. Spent a week there in 2014 and have booked another five days next June (after which we'll 'do' Ronda, Sevilla and Conil de la Frontera).
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