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Help with Spain Itinerary - extra days on my own

Help with Spain Itinerary - extra days on my own

Sep 15th, 2016, 03:13 PM
  #1  
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Help with Spain Itinerary - extra days on my own

Hello!

I posted a thread a few months ago on needing some tips for travel to Spain and I'm back to ask for more! http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...add-lisbon.cfm

I previously mentioned that we had two weeks only, but since I have a lot of extra vacation time, I've decided to head out earlier than my SO by about 5-7 days and go around on my own. Never traveled by myself before! This would give me 21 days total. 30 y.o. female, if that makes a difference.

I'm fairly certain my SO and I will do Barcelona-Madrid-southern Spain together. Question is where should I go on my own? Should I visit northern Spain? Should go down the eastern coast? Should I go to Lisbon?

I'm not opposed to any of flying, rail, or renting a car - just would like the most cost-effective, but also efficient means (maybe driving makes more sense for a bunch of day trips?). I'd also like to stay in the most cost-effective accommodations; might even prefer hostels to meet other travelers more easily!

Thank you!
krikopal is offline  
Sep 15th, 2016, 03:45 PM
  #2  
 
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When will you be going ? That might determine the best place to go !
Bedar is offline  
Sep 15th, 2016, 04:01 PM
  #3  
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Mid October to the end of the month!
krikopal is offline  
Sep 15th, 2016, 04:04 PM
  #4  
kja
 
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I think you will be very glad that you added time to your journey!

If it helps, I am one of many Fodorites who are firmly committed to solo travel. Across two trips, I‘ve spent 7.5 weeks in Spain as a solo female traveler, and found it very easy to do so. If you want a bit of inspiration about solo travels, here’s a link to a thread with some of our trip reports:
http://www.fodors.com/community/trav...collection.cfm

As already noted on your other thread (thanks for linking it in!), I found your initial plan overly ambitious – with just two weeks, I would consider just 2 or 3 areas at most. And as already noted on that thread, the time of year you will be traveling (the 2nd half of Oct.) makes Andalusia particularly well worth considering, IMO, and makes northern Spain a bit less attractive. But it really depends on your interests!

What to do with your exta time depends on what you end up doing with your SO and whether your added time is before or after your time with SO, or perhaps a few days on either side. As examples,
• 10 days in the Barcelona area could mean Barcelona, Girona, Figueres, the Costa Brava, Monserrat, Tarragona, etc.
• 10 days in and around Madrid could include Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Avila, Salamanca, etc.
• 10 days in Andalusia could include Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, Ronda, the Costa del Sol, etc.
And of course you have an extraordinary range of other options, whether you remain in Spain for the entire time (it is a huge, and very diverse country) or to add time in Portugal. (I prefer to avoid mixing countries when I can – among other reasons, I don’t like switching languages and I do like seeing how different neighboring areas of today’s countries – areas that were once distinct kingdoms – differ. Just my preference.)

Whether to go by public transportation or rental car depends on what you end up deciding to see. Whether to use base cities with day trips or move about more frequently depends not only on what you plan to visit, but also your preferred style of travel.

I strongly encourage you to consult a few good guidebooks, perhaps at your local library, with the aim of identifying priorities and narrowing down your choice of the areas that you and your SO will visit, and then use that as a springboard to identify the places that you might visit.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Sep 15th, 2016, 09:05 PM
  #5  
 
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What about Lisbon (3 nights), Porto (2 nights), and Salamanca (1 night)? Then you could meet up with your SO in Madrid and do Madrid (4 nights), Toledo (1 night), Cordoba on the way to Seville (3 nights), Granada (2 nights), and Barcelona (4 nights), for a total of 6 nights on your own and 14 nights with your SO. I'd fly Granada to Barcelona but take trains otherwise.
margotheangel is offline  
Sep 16th, 2016, 03:52 AM
  #6  
 
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I suggest Málaga by the Med or San Sebastián in the North, both are totally fantastic and completely different cities. I go to both all the time for ages. And both are wisely on New York Times "Places to go in 2016" list. Barcelona is the third Spanish city: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2...isit.html?_r=1

San Sebastián: http://www.euskoguide.com/places-bas...stian-tourism/
http://tourism.euskadi.eus/en/
http://www.sansebastianturismo.com/en/
Video intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRWCdjw1C8Q

3000 year old Málaga, "Spain's new creative heart": http://www.cntraveller.com/recommend...u-centre-guide
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/andalucia/malaga
http://www.malagaturismo.com/en
Video intro: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/de...pt-secret.html
kimhe is offline  
Sep 16th, 2016, 07:39 AM
  #7  
 
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Margo's suggestion is a good one. Otherwise, I'd go to the Basque country - SS, Bilbao, etc. The weather should still be good the first couple of weeks of Oct. Malaga is OK but after you've seen the few things there, there is not much more to see in the area - perhaps a trip to Ronda.
Bedar is offline  
Sep 16th, 2016, 08:11 AM
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We just spent about a day and a half in Lisbon earlier this summer and loved it. It was an unplanned visit, which we ended up with due to a series of schedule changes, so we hadn't planned anything - just sort of showed up to see what we could see. It was great. I can't wait to go back. And it would be a very easy city to visit on your own. The people are helpful and friendly, there is a lot to do and see, the city is very walkable, plus you have trams and metro.
november_moon is offline  
Sep 16th, 2016, 03:00 PM
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Bedar, you have to go back to Málaga, not only tons of things to see. 3000 year old Málaga "has rapidly emerged as the province's city of culture with its so-called 'mile of art' being compared to Madrid, and its dynamism and fine dining to Barcelona". https://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/a...=lp-affiliates
kimhe is offline  
Sep 16th, 2016, 10:22 PM
  #10  
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Thank you everyone!

Kja - I am so far leaning towards going early and returning home with SO. Staying on after...not sure if I will feel bummed to then be on my own or happy that vacation is not over yet lol.

Margotheangel - thank you, this sounds like quite a good itinerary!

Kimhe - thanks for suggestions! I hadn't really considered Malaga, but keep thinking about San Sebastian. Malaga sounds like it should make the list!

Bedar - thwnks for the suggestion!

November_moon - I've heard many great things about Lisbon!
krikopal is offline  
Sep 16th, 2016, 11:03 PM
  #11  
kja
 
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If adding on both ends, then seriously consider adding IN the areas that you will visit with SO, as you won't have enough time to visit any of these areas together. JMO.

I'm curious, though -- if you've never traveled alone, why add on before SO arrives? I think that can work very well, but had thought you would wait to get acclimated before venturing out on your own, and too, had thought you would give yourselves the same adjustment for jet lag. No right or wrong answers here; as I said, I'm just curious....
kja is offline  
Sep 16th, 2016, 11:39 PM
  #12  
 
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And Málaga's immediate surroundings are also unique.

Just North of the city you have the Torcal limestone rock mountain, some of the most beautiful and impressive limestone landscapes in Europe. You can drive almost to the top, and great walks up here. On a clear day you see to Morocco: http://www.andalucia.com/antequera/torcal/home.htm

The totally mind-blowig Caminito del Rey is close by:
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2...s-spain-hiking
http://www.caminitodelrey.info/en/

A litte East of the city you find the spectacular Nerja Caves, lived people here more than 30 000 yars ago: http://www.cuevadenerja.es/index.php?lenguaje=en

And in general, the beautiful Axarquía region just east of Málaga city: http://www.rusticblue.com/andalucia_...a_axarquia.php

Can't wait to come back here in a couple of weeks! The problem is to prioritize among the many world class museums and decide for one or two of the many spectcular new restaurants in town. There are also so many tradtional places we always have to come back to. This time we'll try riverside Oleo by the Contemporary art museum, looks interesting, the Med meets Asia, spring rolls with suckling goat from the Málaga mountains etc. etc: http://www.oleorestaurante.es/

But probably nothing beats San Sebastián. Here's a great and fun intro to the out of the world food culture up here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwmBAvqa_0U
kimhe is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 12:05 AM
  #13  
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Kja - No real reason for before! I may change it to after, but it won't be part before and after as I like to include weekends, rather than fly mid-week. Makes best use of my work vacation days that way . I'm well-traveled and already live in a big city, so I'm not particularly worried about how I'll do...my biggest concern is boredom by myself and not having someone to share food with at restaurants! As far as jet lag goes, I'm lucky enough to adjust very easily . I don't even leave rest days when I go home...fly back Sunday, back to work Monday! Including many trips to Asia with 12+ hr time difference.
krikopal is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 12:09 AM
  #14  
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Thanks kimhe!! Spectacular info! Foodie here, so recs on that are always appreciated!
krikopal is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 12:11 AM
  #15  
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Any thoughts on Valencia and Mallorca?
krikopal is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 12:19 AM
  #16  
kja
 
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I obviously misunderstood your concerns.

I've never been bored when traveling alone -- after all, I get to do exactly what I want to do and I get to it when I want to do it, so it seems far less an issue than when trying to accommodate another person's interests. And of course, if you find that you're "done" somewhere, just move on.

As for restaurants, I've found my Kindle a great companion -- I can read discretely without lighting my face, as happens with a back-lit device.

As mentioned above, I've spent 7.5 weeks alone in Spain. My least favorite place was San Sebastian. JMO, and others obviously disagree.
kja is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 12:40 AM
  #17  
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Thanks for the tips Kja! Why was San Sebastian your least favorite?

Also I misunderstood what you meant about the jet lag - good point. Though in this case it's more about enjoying a full day after a fun red eye flight
krikopal is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 01:12 AM
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If food is a priority:

According to the world's most famous chef the past fifteen or so years Ferran Adrià of the late El Bulli in Girona North of Barcelona, San Sebastián is the best city in the world "in terms of the average quality of the food, in terms of what you can get at any place you happen to walk into".
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeands...rink.shopping2

16 Michelin stars in town, and four of the best restaurants in the world, Arzak, Akelarre, Mugaritz and Martín Berasategui are here. 39 Michelin restaurants in the small Basque Country, 2,2 mill people. And on the last "World's best restaurant" list for 2016, there are four Basque restaurants among top 21, twice as many as both US, UK and France: http://www.euskoguide.com/food-drink...r-restaurants/
http://www.theworlds50best.com/

Casa Urola is my favourite restaurant in San Sebastián since the late 1980s. And last year it was voted best restaurant in the region by the major local newspaper El Diario Vasco, ahead of all the Michelin star restaurants. And a spectacular pintxos bar on the ground floor. http://www.casaurolajatetxea.es/es/portada/
The pintxos bar in Urola is now arguably the best in town, and the competition is sky high: http://allaboutfoodmag.com/de_pintxos-en-casa-urola/

All about going for pintxos in San Sebastián with suggested routes etc.: http://www.todopintxos.com/home/home.php

BUT:

Málaga is now the avant garde also on the Andalucian food scene. A hot tip would be brand new Eboka. Antonio Fernández used to run top notch Dom Vinos before opening this a few weeks ago: http://ebokarestaurante.com/
http://andaluciadiary.com/malagas-ne...aurante-eboka/

The new gastro market, next door to the Picasso birth house: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2...odie-traveller

The five "gastronomic spaces" within the luxcury five star Gran Hotel Miramar. The old hotel from 1926, and with a dramatic history, is about to reopen: http://www.granhotelmiramarmalaga.com/en/

And my no. 1 favourite in Málaga, the fabulous old Atarazanas market and the tapas bars in here: https://eastofmalaga.net/2014/07/25/...ry-perception/
Café Bar Mercado Atarazanas: http://azahar-spain.com/azahartapas/...do-atarazanas/
El Yerno: http://azahar-spain.com/azahartapas/el-yerno/
kimhe is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 01:44 AM
  #19  
kja
 
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Good question about my response to San Sebastian / Donostia! Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can articulate my reactions very well. In the end, I think that there was too large a difference between my expectations of the things that drew me to San Sebastian / Donostia and what I actually experienced, and too many of my experiences there were, frankly, disappointing.

There were a some things that I thought very well worthwhile – the Museu San Telmo and the El Peine de los Vientos are the two things that stand out quite positively in my memories of San Sebastian / Donostia -- each is, IMO, well worth seeing! And the city certainly has some lovely gardens (at least it did when I was there, in mid/late May), some beautiful waterfronts, and, from high points, some glorious views, which I appreciated.

But little else grabbed me, and unfortunately (and in a very rare experience for me) I was often reminded of comparisons that put San Sebastian / Donostia in a less than favorable light than other places I’ve visited: I’ve been fortunate enough to hike sea-side trails that were, IMO, infinitely more interesting than the sea-side trail to Donibane; to see Belle Epoque architecture that, IMO was much more interesting; to see churches and estates and markets and squares that, IMO, were more interesting and more dynamic. JMO.

I ate very well in San Sebastian / Donostia (thanks, in large part, to kimhe’s recommendations), but I’ve eaten at least as well elsewhere in Spain, and in many other parts of the world. Note, however, that I didn’t dine at any of the Michelin starred restaurants in the city itself.

To put my remarks in context, I should note that I don’t travel for beach time or down time. I suspect that San Sebastian / Donostia probably has a FAR greater appeal to those who travel for these reasons.

For my tastes – JUST my tastes – I preferred Bilbao to San Sebastian / Donostia. But I’m glad I saw both, and have no regrets about my time in San Sebastian / Donostia – it is very pleasant, and I wouldn’t have known how I would view it if I hadn’t visited!

Again, JMO! Sorry I can’t be more articulate (and less wordy) about my reactions….
kja is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 02:11 AM
  #20  
 
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Tons of more to San Sebastián than the amazing food, the Belle Epoque architecture and the fabulous beaches.

A very rich cultural agenda: http://www.sansebastianturismo.com/en/to-do/agenda

A very distinct culture that people take great pride in: http://www.euskoguide.com/basque-cul...tivals-events/

San Sebastián is film city since more than a century: http://tourism.euskadi.eus/en/top10/...aa30-12376/en/

San Sebastián is jazz city with one of the major and oldest jazz festivals in Europe. Plenty of jazz clubs and other live Music venues around town: http://www.spain.info/en/que-quieres...sebastian.html

And there are no better expression of the San Sebastián spirit than the annual Tamborrada (drum festival) celebration on January 20. Here is the outstanding city choir Orfeón Donostiarra (they often sing in the Santa María basilica in the Parte vieja/Old town) leading the crowds on the main square in San Sebastián's Old town singing for the 75th anniversary of one of the city's most famous gastronomic societies (Gaztelubide) during the Tamborrada in 2008. Poor quality video, but everything else is out of this world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhncDjXMeQ4

And no, you don't eat better in other parts of Spain or elsewehere in Europe for that matter ;-)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WowXrGJdFCU
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