Help Wanted - Spain Itinerary

Jan 4th, 2013, 05:23 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 9
Help Wanted - Spain Itinerary

My wife and I are planning our first trip to Spain this May. We've got approximately 23 days available with some flexibility. We intend to begin in Madrid and have teed up 5 days there, including day trips to Toledo and Segovia. We want to end our journey in Barcelona, where we've also planned 5 days including a day trip to Montserrat. Madrid and Barcelona are our most valued stops based on our love of big cities in general, but specifically, art, history, museums, architecture and semi-aimless wandering. We're also big cava fans and would love to tour a winery or two while in the Barcelona area.

It's the remaining time that's vexing us. We'd like to head south from Madrid before going to Barcelona but don't want to be too rushed and would like to rely on public transportation if possible. Here's our tentative itinerary.

Day 1 - Arrive in Madrid from London
Days 2 thru 6 - Explore Madrid, plus day trips
Day 7 - Train to Seville, afternoon for orientation
Day 7 and 8 - Sightseeing in Seville
Day 9 - Day trip to Arcos de la Frontera
Day 10 - Train to Cordoba
Day 11 - Cordoba
Day 12 - Train and bus to Ronda
Day 13 - Ronda
Day 14 - Ronda to Granada by train
Day 15 and 16- Granada
Day 17 - Grenada to Barcelona (fly?)
Day 18 -22 - Barcelona, plus day trips
Day 23 - Fly to London

So, the time after Madrid feels squished and frantic, but we're intrigued by what others have shared about these towns and cities. We're also wondering if it would be better to turn the whole trip on it's head and start in Barcelona, as it feels like the most isolated spot insofar as accessibility to the other locations is concerned. We're also interested in Valencia, but recognize it's not likely possible.

The only other thing is timing. We chose May because we don't want to be there when it's too hot, but would also love to do some beach time in Barcelona. We've visited Mediterranean seasides in France and Italy in May on other occasions and found the swimming cool but definitely do-able. Hoping Barcelona would be about the same.

Thanks in advance.
Micrae is offline  
Jan 4th, 2013, 05:49 PM
Join Date: May 2003
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Be not vexed - I think you have something really good almost nailed down.

A couple of comments for you to consider;

Toledo and Segovia are both full, and fascinating, day trips from Madrid. That leaves you with just 3 full days in Madrid. You might want another.

Then you travel to Seville and have just 1.5 days there because of your Arcos de la Frontera day trip. My suggestion is that you do a lot of research on Arcos - I found it disappointing apart from it's position and it isn't even a very interesting drive from Seville. Given the choice I would spend that day in Seville.

Although Cordoba is More than the Mezquita, a lot of people do it as a day trip from Seville. If you did that you could add a day to both Madrid and Seville (this one you would use to visit Cordoba).

Two nights in Ronda is good and 3 in Granada is good. Again a lot of people manage Granada in 2 nights.

So, an option is ( I plan trips by "nights" of where I will be sleeping)

Madrid 7 nights - Segovia, Toledo day trips
Seville 4 nights - Cordoba day trip
Ronda 2 nights
Granada 3 nights - Alhambra day AND night ticket for the Nasrid Palace
Barcelona 6 nights - Montserrat, winery, possibly Girona day trips

That takes into consideration your stated preference for the big cities and takes one "move" out of the equation. If you choose just 2 nights in Granada you could add to Barcelona. Or if you decide that you will see Arcos, add to Seville as a second day trip.

Flying to Barcelona from Granada can be pretty cheap and convenient on Iberia, but book early to get the best fares. As I recall from investigating the route myself, travel by train is a real pain.
Aramis is offline  
Jan 4th, 2013, 06:08 PM
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You might consider Terragona just south of Barcelona--lots of Roman "stuff" and lovely Mediterranean views too!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jan 4th, 2013, 06:46 PM
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don't short-change Sevilla..add that extra days even if you have to take it from Madrid IMO. Barcelona is worth the full six days at least. You might want to do an overnight to Cadaques for Dali's home. Enjoy your time in Spain.
tower is offline  
Jan 4th, 2013, 08:07 PM
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One small routing thing to consider: When I checked some years ago, I thought Ronda made more sense between Grenada and Seville than between Grenada and Cordoba. I could have been wrong!

Many people enjoy 2 nights in Ronda. i enjoyed my time there, but was antsy to leave after just short of a day.

I had 2 days in Grenada and found things to keep me happily busy, but if you need to trim your time somewhere, you might be able to cut Grenada a bit (depending on your interests).

I'm among those who thought that Cordoba and Toledo each easily worth 2 full days and nights.

Given your interests, you might find your time in Madrid and Sevilla too tight. I also love art, museums, and architecture, and thought 4 days in Madrid barely enough (and the only day trip I took from Madrid was an afternoon trip to El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen; I stayed overnight in Segovia and Toledo). I found 2.5 days insufficient for Sevilla itself. (I haven't been to Barcelona yet.)

Be sure to pay attention to your plans for Sunday afternoons and Mondays, when many things will be closed.

I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time whatever you choose!
kja is offline  
Jan 4th, 2013, 10:59 PM
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May is a great time of year to go, full spring blossom and serious festival time both in Andalucía and Madrid. Most of the festivals goes way back in time and are primarily local events, an excellent opportunity to experience the food, wine and culture in general.

In May, Andalucian towns - especially Granada and Córdoba - celebrate the "Cruces de Mayo":

Córdoba in May is something special, the "cruces" celebration is followed by the patio competition leading on to the flamenco inspired Feria by the end of the month.
Córdoba patio exposition and competition:
The Feria in late May:

May is also the month of the famous Jerez horse fair and the San Isidro festival in Madrid, the major festival of the year in the capital.
Feria de Caballo de Jerez:
San Isidro in Madrid:
kimhe is offline  
Jan 5th, 2013, 12:31 PM
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Thanks for the thoughtful comments and suggestions. We've adjusted our itinerary to incorporate some changes. Arcos is out and we'll do an extra day in Seville, plus we'll day trip to Cordoba as Aramis has suggested. That freed up two more days (plus one we've added) which we'll divide between Madrid and Barcelona. So, our trip looks like this now:

Madrid - 7 nights, day trips to Toledo and Segovia
Seville - 4 nights, day trip to Cordoba
Ronda - 2 nights
Granada - 3 nights
Barcelona - 7 nights, day trips to Montserrat, winery, and perhaps Terragona

This feels less hurried and one less hotel change is always welcomed.

Thanks again and we've enjoyed the links too. So much to see!
Micrae is offline  
Jan 5th, 2013, 02:10 PM
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Hey - I like this itinerary!

It is worth understanding all your options for getting to and from Ronda; whether to take the bus or train and how and when to do it, so you can start by checking out these links or just do a search here for the logistics of getting to Ronda from Seville, or Ronda to Granada

and from Ronda to Granada;
Aramis is offline  
Jan 5th, 2013, 10:46 PM
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If you're going to be in cordoba during the patio festival I'd personally skip Ronda and overnight 2 days in cordoba versus visiting as a daytrip from Sevilla. Ronda is. Ice but it certainly wouldn't be one of my top 5 choices in Spain especially depending on public transport. I'd add at least a day to Sevilla as it's a beautiful city itself and also has alot of daytrip options - you could cut a day in Granada. I'm a slow traveler and 2 full days/nights was good for me in Granada.

Purely a personal choice but I'd rather spend 5 days in Madrid and 2 nights in Toledo then 7 full nights in Madrid. 5 nights in. Adrid would be plenty of time to daytrip to Segovia. In fact I'd consider cutting the time in the Madrid area and added to Sevilla and Andalucia. Similarly I'd prefer 4-5 nights in Barcelona and 2 nights in Girona instead of a Girona daytrip as a away to break out of the larger city.
CathyM is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 11:47 AM
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More great feedback. This has been a good process for us as it's making us more focused on what we're really looking for. After feeling pretty set, we were leaning this morning to take one day off Madrid and spend two days at the end of our trip at the beach at Terragona. So, we're sort of thinking of Ronda and Terragona as some decompression time. But clearly, this is more of a work in progress than we thought, so once again thank you for your suggestions and comments.
Micrae is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 12:09 PM
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No need to explain.

Despite all the research I do, and it is often said that I enjoy the research at least as much as I enjoy the actual trip, our itinerary remains a work in progress until the cancellation window comes up for each booked hotel.

Fortunately, I have a trusting spouse.....
Aramis is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 02:12 PM
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Toledo is a good enough day trip. Segovia is a mini-Toledo and less interesting (your "day" trip needs to be just half that) because Toledo has its Jewish Quarter, sword-making industry, and historically significant Alcazar.

If you can figure out how, look into traveling to Salamanca, which beats both of them.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 07:18 PM
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While I agree with BigRuss that Salamanca is absolutely wonderful, I'm glad I don't have to decide whether it is better than Toledo (which I loved and thought merited about the same amount of time - 2 days) or Segovia (which I loved, but thought required less time - 1 day). IMHO, a visit to Salamanca merits at least 2 full days. So much as I love it, I'm not sure I would agree that it should be considered for this itinerary that already skips and skims so much.

The only way to visit Spain in 23 days is by being selective; its just too large and too magnificent a country to see in that time frame. The good news is that Micrae and his wife should have some wonderful moments no matter what.
kja is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 07:28 PM
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On several forum entries I have echoed the kudos of Big Russ for Salamanca..Was there for 2 seperate monthe (Oct 11 & Apr. 12) Need to go back because I know I missed alot. DD was there for 9 months (school) and still needs to go see more. It is a magical place.
amer_can is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 07:58 PM
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Hi there, we returned from Spain on Dec20th, this was our 5th visit.Where ever you go you will have a great time. We love cities too and my comment would be check the museums and galleries you want to go to for opening days and times. Monday is often the day when places are closed,for example: Thyssen in Madrid is closed Mondays, Prado is open every day, Reina Sophia is closed Tuesday. Also book Alhambra tickets in advance to get the day you want. Rail transport in Spain is easy particularly if you are connected on line, we usually take a tablet. Often it is worth the more expensive option to get the time you want, for example trip by train 1.5hrs Regional train to Segovia, Ave 25-30mins. When you have limited time in places time spent on slow transport is a waste. Also check schedules on renfe 61days out, this is when the cheapest internet fares a available.
We went to Salamanca this time, I'd waited to see this place for a long time and I wasn't disappointed but, don't try and see too much. Sevilla is a gem so I'd probably add more days there. Have a great holiday.
misskdonkey is offline  
Jan 6th, 2013, 09:48 PM
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I agree with Cathy re Ronda.. Not easy to get to, not much to see.
If you wish some relaxing time on the beach , Malaga( 2 hours from Seville by train)
is a lovely town....
A day in Toledo and Girona was enough for me.
danon is offline  
Jan 7th, 2013, 06:55 AM
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You may seriously regret to only plan for a daytrip to Córdoba in May:

Wonderful place and once the most advanced city in the Western world. Córdoba is also much more than the most obvious sights. I highly recommend "Roman" Córdoba a little North of the Mezquita. Much more local atmosphere and great and affordable tavernas on almost every street corner around central Plaza de las Tendillas and Plaza Mayor-like Plaza de la Corredera.
kimhe is offline  
Jan 8th, 2013, 09:09 AM
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Your current itinerary:

Madrid - 7 nights, day trips to Toledo and Segovia
Seville - 4 nights, day trip to Cordoba
Ronda - 2 nights
Granada - 3 nights
Barcelona - 7 nights, day trips to Montserrat, winery, and perhaps Terragona

I have no idea why you'd stay in Granada for three nights. You can see its major sights in a day. Other than the 1-2 major sites (not including Alhambra, which is why everyone goes there), it's not notable.

Seven nights in Madrid is a lot. It has some great museums, the palace, some nice neighborhoods and tons of nightlife, but the main tourist attractions can be seen in a few days.

Do you have a specific reason for Ronda other than random comments on it's a nice small town? Honestly, you can decompress in Barcelona (it has beaches).

Consider seeing some local sports - Madrid and Barcelona both have two local soccer teams and the better of the two in each city is internationally renowned. Tickets are easiest to get on the teams' own websites.

Consider apartments in both Madrid and Barcelona, not hotels. More room and amenities for the price.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 8th, 2013, 09:27 AM
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I am a huge Ronda fan, and I always found it easy to get to (both bus and train), so I will encourage your plan. There are some easily accessible hikes nearby, and I think you have to be in the town at night to really enjoy it (the sunset alone is worth it). I do think you might be able to shave a night off Madrid/Granada/Barcelona to enable you to overnight in Cordoba since your trip will coincide with the patio festival. Enjoy!
yorkshire is offline  
Jan 8th, 2013, 01:17 PM
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You can fit valencia into the itinerary if you fly from sevilla then train from valencia to barcelona. Not sure you have extra days at this point but since you mentioned a desire.. Malaga or Sevilla are the easiest ways to get here. There is the high speed train now from Sevilla to Valencia. Might also be a solution. ( 3 hours+)

Looks like a lovely trip.
lincasanova is offline  

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