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First Timer Needs Help with Spain Itinerary

First Timer Needs Help with Spain Itinerary

Aug 25th, 2007, 09:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 11
First Timer Needs Help with Spain Itinerary

Hello all,

Headed to Spain & Morocco with my wife in mid-September for 3 weeks and need help. I've read through plenty of previous posts on Spain itineraries, but I'm now officially stuck. I have a fairly good idea of what I want to see. I primarily need help with how to get from one place to the next. Here's what you need to know about me:

- It's not only my first time to Spain, but first time outside the US (save border towns in Mexico & Canada)

- I don't like flying. I do fly fairly frequently, but it's rarely my preference.

- We live in San Francisco because we like lively, walkable cities. Hugely prefer public transportation over driving (when cities are involved).

- I'm going to Spain to experience the city life of Barcelona and Moorish architecture

- We're going for three weeks and must see Barcelona, Andalucia and Morocco. Everything else is negotiable.

- I prefer to settle in and get a feel for a place over rushing from one spot to the next.

- I love architecture, modern art & design (esp in hotels), music and good food & wine/sherry/madiera

- Using San Francisco as a example, we equally appreciate the City as well as the neighboring Wine Country

- I speak a decent amount of mangled Spanish

The only part of my itinerary that is set is flying in and out of Heathrow (and 4-5 days in Morocco). See what you think:

SEP 14: SFO-LHR, arriving Heathrow at 3:30pm. First question: stay this night in London, or try for 6:00pm flight to Spain? Is 2.5 hours enough time between flights at LHR?

SEP 14 or 15: Fly to Spain

OPEN: Sneak in a couple days in Bilbao here? Would love to but seems a tad much. If I did, how should I get to Barcelona?

OPEN: Barcelona for at least one week (sometime between 9/14 -9/24, depending).

OPEN: Sevilla, Granada, & Cordoba (sometime between 9/24 - 9/30, depending). A couple concerns here: 1) Not sure how to get to Andalucia. I realize Barcelona to Sevilla certainly warrants a flight. But I've toyed with the option of taking the train from Barcelona to Madrid, staying a night or two there there (Madrid only holds limited appeal based upon my quick research) and take the AVE train to Sevilla. 2) I definitely want to have time to experience these three cities, but would love to see surrounding towns such as Cadiz, Jerez, Ronda, etc. I'm assuming that's trying to do too much.

SEP 30: Ferry or fly to Morocco (Fez). We hired a guide to drive us from Tangier to Fez, and spend 4-5 days with us in that town. We can still rearrange if need be. If we ferry, should we stay the night in Tarifa?

OCT 3 or 4: Drive back to Tangier and take ferry back to Spain - or fly from FEZ direct to London to spend a couple nights there before our flight back to SFO? I definitely need help here.

OPEN: Get back to London at some point for early morning flight on Oct. 6th.

OCT 6: LHR-SFO (11:30am)

As you can see, I have a lot of open-ended questions and it's getting close to our date and I need to reserve my hotels, trains, Alhambra tix, etc. soon.

I've read many great posts (comfyshoes, Magellan_5, jgg, laartista, et. al.) and have a good idea of what to see, where to stay and what to eat in each destination. I'm just having trouble tying it all together. Any help you can offer would be hugely appreciated!


garrick5000 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2007, 09:55 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,663
Wow, you need to get busy. I hope budget is not a probelm. Intra European flights get much more expensive closer to the time of departure so you're already behind. I'd go immediately to www.whichbudget.com and find a flight from London to Spain. No, two and half hours is not enough time on two seperate tickets - if you had booked yourself through to Spain with just a change in London then maybe, but you'll have to checkin, clear customs, go through security - and if you miss the flight you'd really be in trouble. So look for something either much later that day or the next. I suspect this close lots of flight will be full so where you go first will depend on flight availability.

If you have a choice I'd go first to Barcelona, then to Andalusia. You can take a train between them but most people fly, given the cost, times, etc. I did them on two seperate trips so can't say for sure. You only have two weeks between arriving in London and when you want to be in Morocco so I'd probably limit it to just Barcelona and Andalusia - Seville and Granada are worth 3 days each, Cordoba could be done on a day trip or just one night. You don't really have time for Madrid, but if transportation connections make it turn out that you go through Madrid, then I'd stay a couple of nights.

I have photos of Spain at www.pbase.com/annforcier - I've been to Barcelona, Andalusia, Madrid and several towns in Central Spain. But more than deciding what you want to see, you need to get going on your major transportation connections, then you can think about hotels and sights. Once in Andalusia and central Spain, transportation between towns is easy on trains and buses and you won't need more than a day or two ahead of time to buy tickets. But getting to Spain, and from Barcelona to the rest of Spain should be done now.
isabel is online now  
Aug 25th, 2007, 10:07 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
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garrick - sounds like you are planning a wonderful trip. It appears like you have read my trip report so I won't go into any of those details, and I haven't been to Andalusia (YET!!) so can't help you there.

But, I maybe able to help with a few others. I am not sure you can fly directly from southern Spain to Fez - you may have to stop in London or even Paris which can make the flight incredibly long. We were lucky to find the nonstop from Barcelona to Marakkech, and even that one did not fly everyday.

If you can't do the direct flight, I would consider the ferry as it might be quite interesting (although I haven't done it).

On your return, I would definitely consider flying direct from Fez to London (even if you can't find that, you could drive to Casablanca - easy- and then fly direct to London) and spend a few days there. It definitely seems like you have time to do that and London is a great city. Plus makes the end of the trip less stressful about making your return flight home.

I agree with isabel - time to make some decisions and book your main transportation and hotels. While I've never been, I would probably skip Bilbao and give your self more time for the rest of the trip. Also agree to just spend the first night in London and book an early plane to Barcelona the next day.

Have a wonderful trip!!
jgg is offline  
Aug 25th, 2007, 12:38 PM
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I agree with the others that it sounds like you have a great trip planned. I also agree that you should skip Bilboa this trip. IMO you'd be best off flying right from Heathrow to Barcelona, although it is an exhausting trip (I live in Seattle and know this firsthand!) You didn't mention you age, but hopefully you're younger than me and jetlag won't be as big an issue for you as it is for me.

I also think that you should save Madrid and that area for another trip if you plan to really see anything in Andalucia as well as Morocco.

Public transportation is excellent in Spain--both trains and buses, so you don't really have to fly, though certainly flying between Barcelona and Malaga would save time and there are often very inexpensive flights. Not sure if whichbudget has them all, but vueling, iberia, spanair, and maybe a few others (anyone?) are possibilities.

You should get tickets for Alhambra in advance on the internet--they do sell out. If possible, try going in the day and night.

If you love modern art, make sure you get to the Modern Art Museum in Barcelona and Picasso Museum in Malaga.

The flamenco festival may be taking place around this time in Sevilla--I haven't been, but oh boy, it's probably amazing.

Don't know exactly how to pull up my trip report from April in Spain, but I have a list of great restaurants in Barcelona.

Hope this helps. Have a great trip and tell us all about it!
artlover is offline  
Aug 25th, 2007, 05:29 PM
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Thank you all for your prompt responses. You have confirmed what I was suspecting: limit time to my three, primary destinations. Also helpful to have advice on Heathrow connecting flights. I'll post more once I have more details...and certainly a full trip report once I'm back.
garrick5000 is offline  
Aug 25th, 2007, 07:34 PM
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You will really need to start working on the hotel reservations ASAP. You'll be in Barcelona at the end of one La Merce festival, one of the largest of the year. I'll be there myself from September 22-27!

I'd agree with others to skip both Bilbao and Madrid for this trip. I think the best way to get from Barcelona to Sevilla would be to by air - Spanair or Iberia may have decent rates.

In my opinion, I think 2 nights are plenty for Granada.

I would definately spend at least a daytrip in Coroba if your interest is Moorish architecture. It's an easy daytrip from Sevilla or alternatively you could spend 1 night. I spent 3 nights in Cordoba in April and absolutely loved it - there is much more to the city than just the Mezquita. Unfortunately, most tourists go straight to the Mezquita and the Juderia then out of town.

Public transportation in Andalucia is good, not excellent particularly if you want to go into the white villages (which I'd recommend). But definately doable. It is most "tricky" on weekends, especially Sundays. Once you get an itinerary down, I can try to help you with bus or train schedules in Andalucia. I visit this region every spring for Semana Santa and rely on public transport.

Did you consider a visit to Ronda on the way between Sevilla and Granada?

Also, another idea may be to base yourself in El Puerto de Santa Maria or Cadiz for 2-3 nights. You could easily visit the sherry triangle towns of Sanlucar de Barrameda, Jerez de la Frontera or El Puerto from these locations. The weather would be great this time of year and if you like seafood you'll be in heaven.
CathyM is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 09:51 PM
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Okay, got my open jaw tickets from London to Barcelona, and from Malaga (after Morocco) back to London.

CathyM, thank you for your insights. Can I get your advice on my time in Andalucia:

If I forgo Madrid (or even the coastal towns of the Costa Brava), I want to make sure I see a diversity of Andalucia (pueblos blancos, sherry-producing regions, countryside, etc.).

It seems to make sense to drive south from Sevilla to El Puerto de Santa Maria or Cadiz, as you suggest, ending up in Tarifa to take the ferry to Morocco. But does that mean flying from Barcelona into Granada and renting a car? What do you suggest?

Also, how do the seaside/country towns of Andalucia stack up against those of the Costa Brava? After Barcelona, Sevilla, and Granada, I really want to spend some time in a more leisurely setting.
garrick5000 is offline  
Aug 27th, 2007, 11:49 PM
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Not sure, but you might be better off flying from Barcelona to Malaga and picking up a car there.

I'm not a big "beach person" but have been to the beaches in Costa Brava and Andalucia and would say that they compare very favorably. Both have some beautiful, quiet beaches and lovely areas, and both have areas that have been overbuilt and are very touristy. I loved the town of Vejer de la Frontera and the nearby beach of Zahara de los Atunes, and thought Tarifa was interesting (especially the castle).
artlover is offline  
Aug 28th, 2007, 03:42 PM
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garrick- I'll try to help you as much as I can with my advice. I've printed out your post and one thing I'd stress is not trying to do too much particularly if you don't want to drive and it's your first trip. I'd err on the side of relaxing and not having enough to do (which I don't think is possible!) versus not enjoying yourself as you have so much planned. I learned the hard way....looking back at a couple of my early itineraries!

Unfortunately, I'm not a good person to ask about comparing the Costa de Luz in Andalucia to the Costa Brava in Catalunya. I've traveled only once to Catalunya and am going to spend 2.5 weeks next month in this area so I'm not the expert! However, given that you like Moorish architecture and you need to be in Andalucia for you Morocco visit, it would probably be easier to focus on the beaches in Andalucia.

You can fly from Barcelona to Granada. I believe Spanair has direct flights. Alternatively, you could take a night train (with a sleeping berth) from Barcelona to Granada.

From Granada you could take a bus or train to Sevilla - you wouldn't need to rent a car. You could even take the train or bus to Ronda for 1 night and then head from Ronda to Sevilla. I'd budget at least 3 days in Sevilla or 4 days if you wanted to do a daytrip to Cordoba. It would then be easy to base yourself in Cadiz or El Puerto de Santa Maria (or other nearby towns) for a few days and visit sherry bodegas or just relax. From Cadiz it's easy daytrips by bus to Sanlucar de Barrameda, Arcos de la Frontera, Medina Sidonia and Vejer de la Frontera. By the way, if you're a person that likes to lie on the beach or swim, I don't think I'd recommend Cadiz unless you stay outside of the old town. The beaches in the center of Cadiz aren't the nicest.

There are also buses from Sevilla, Jerez de la Frontera and Cadiz to Tarifa. So, you'd be able to go from any of these cities to Tarifa and start your Morocco trip.

CathyM is offline  
Aug 29th, 2007, 04:16 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
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I have done a slightly less than 2 hour transfer in LHR - was meant to be 2hrs 20 but plane in was a bit late. I made it but just and it was incredibly stressful. I was on 2 tickets and had to collect luggage and change terminals. However, madness must prevail as I am attempting the next trip on a 1hr 35 transfer - however with one ticket and cabin baggage only. I live in hope! I am trading off known stress against the possibility of getting to Spain the fastest way possible. Re Andalucia - we live there and are obviously biased but I don't think 6 days does Seville, Granada and Cordoba justice - as well as other towns you could see - white villages for example. Agree with other poster that you could do Cordoba in a day trip relatively easily. You will love Spain.
eliza3 is offline  
Aug 29th, 2007, 06:39 AM
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If you like mordern design you should definatley check out http://www.designhotels.com/home
they have quite a selection in Spain and beautiful unique properties in Barcelona.
Ryancowboy is offline  
Aug 31st, 2007, 11:04 PM
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Everyone's responses have been greatly appreciated.

Here's a more detailed itinerary for you all to punch holes in:

SEPT 14: Arrive London.

SEPT 15-21: Fly to Barcelona. A week at the Hotel Pulitzer and Casa Camper.

SEPT 21-23: Still a little sketchy here. Not sure whether to fly or take the overnight train to Andalucia. If we flew, we'd fly into Granada, hire a car and stay at a B&B in Itrabo: www.itrabohills.com. If we took the train, we'd have to skip that. I've also considered just staying in Barcelona longer and skipping Itrabo, but really want to spend as much time as possible in the small towns of Andalucia.

SEPT 23-25: Stay in Granada City at Carmen de la Alcubilla del Caracol: www.alcubilladelcaracol.com. Of course I'd prefer to do this first, and stay in Itrabo second, but availability wouldn't allow it.

SEPT 25-28: Seville (take the bus from Granada? Would love details here). We're staying at Petit Palace Santa Cruz (www.sevillapetitpalacesantacruz.com) with a day trip to Cordoba. This is only 3 nights in Seville: too little?

SEPT 28-30: Hoping to drive south and visit small towns along the way, and stay two nights in Vejer de la Frontera. I saw a nice B&B there, that's why I picked this town: www.aquivejer.com

SEPT 30-OCT 3: Morocco

OCT 3-5: See Ronda? Not sure how to manage this last day and a half in Spain. Should we hire a car for this leg? Where should we stay to catch an early morning flight out of Malaga?

OCT 5: Flight from Malaga back to London.

As always, your thoughts are always appreciated. Need to wrap this up in the next day or so.


garrick5000 is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2007, 04:46 AM
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For architecture lovers Ubeda & Baeza in Andalucia are great.
Revulgo is offline  
Sep 4th, 2007, 03:02 PM
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Anyone else have any thoughts on the concerns I've posted above? Particularly the dates SEPT 21-23 and OCT 3-5.

It's been difficult for me to gauge how to navigate the smaller towns in Andalucia (how much time to spend in each, how to get between them, and weighing relaxing in one place vs. rushing around to many).

Thanks again.
garrick5000 is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 08:34 AM
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Hi, garrick5000 -

> This is only 3 nights in Seville: too little?

It depends on what you want to see and do, and whether 3 nights means 2 days or 3 days! I would want a minimum of 2 full days in Sevilla, not counting any time you spend in Cordoba.

As for Ronda, I found a day there sufficient. I don't like to plan on traveling prior to a flight, so I personally would want to be in Malaga the night before your flight.

Hope that helps!

kja is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 08:54 AM
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no-one has mentioned vueling.com for great inter-spain flights.
travel_buzzing is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 08:57 AM
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oh try and be in barcelona for the 23rd weekend as its the biggest festival of the year- La Mercé. fire parades, giant puppets, lots of outdoor gigs, castellers etc.
but reserve accommodation asap
travel_buzzing is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 09:42 AM
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I have used the Ferry (from Spain)to Tangier and have flown (from Madrid) to Marrakech. Flying is better. If you do use the ferry I would suggest skipping Tangier. Fez is terrific and well worth visiting. Depending on what you have time to see I strongly recommend Rabat, Essaouira and Marrakech. Rabat is the modern capital; it has a very interesting medina, roman ruins, gardens and not quite the hordes of tourists one finds in Fez and Marrakech. Essaouria is a bit smaller, maybe friendlier, a very pretty coastal town. Essaouria has a smaller medina, fewer shops (perhaps cheaper but less push than other cities). Marrakech is quite a spectacle and should rank high on anyone's list of places to see. Obviously you will not have time to see more than one or two but I think you will have a terrific time wherever you go. In summary, Fez and Marrakech are the big tourist destination cities and well worthy of their reputation but both Rabat and Essaouria offer much and do so with with less hustle.
floydvic is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 11:47 AM
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Thank you, kja. I booked the night before my return in Malaga at the Molina Lario to save myself early morning travel. I think that makes good sense.

I will look into Vueling for getting from Barcelona to Granada.

For Morocco, we hired a driver to take us direct to Fez for four days.

I'm eager to book at least one night in a country setting in Andalucia (or possibly north of Barcelona). Can anyone recommend an area, village, or destination "hotel" for a chance to do nothing but sit and admire the natural beauty of its surroundings?
garrick5000 is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 12:02 PM
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kja is offline  

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