Help with Spain itinerary for May

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Dec 4th, 2018, 09:11 AM
  #1
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Help with Spain itinerary for May

Hi everyone,

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Spain for 17 nights in the second half of May 2019. I've narrowed down a loose itinerary that I was hoping to get some feedback on. We both enjoy beautiful, charming places with a lot of history, taking in the scene at cafes and restaurants, making friends while traveling, experiencing more of the authentic culture, good food, good drink, and good views. We're not huge on art or museums but will want to visit more history-oriented sites and ruins. We like a slower pace (well, my boyfriend does and I aim to please haha) to get to know a place, but have upped our pace a bit for this trip because there's so much we want to see. We don't love big cities but feel like Madrid probably has a lot to offer so we've booked 4 nights there. Everything's flexible at this point and I'd love to hear what you guys think - where we should skip (base in Granada instead of Cordoba?), where you think we might be spending too much / little time, any must-see side trips, etc. Nothing is firm yet (including flights), so we're flexible. I presume we'll need a car some of the time but hopefully not all of it.

Here's what I'm thinking:
Fly into Malaga
2 nights in Marbella
4 nights in Ronda
3 nights in Cordoba
4 nights in Sevilla
4 nights in Madrid
Fly out of Madrid

Thank you in advance! We can't wait to experience Spain.
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Dec 4th, 2018, 09:27 AM
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I think it looks great, though I would probably choose Malaga itself over Marbella (but then I have not been to the latter). You could do the whole thing without a car, but you might want a day rental while in Ronda (or pick it up when leaving Malaga/Marbella and drop it in Cordoba). I am particularly fond of Ronda, as I am a hiker, but you may want to spell out why you have so many days there.
Yes, Granada is missing, but one cannot do everything, and you could visit as a day trip if you wish. I really liked being in Cordoba overnight, so I would never dissuade anyone from it.
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Dec 4th, 2018, 09:33 AM
  #3
twk
 
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I would take 3 of the nights you are spending in Ronda (or 2 at least) and do Granada, instead.

We stayed in Marbella for 2 nights, mainly as a base of operations. While we drove through Grazalema and Zahara, and spent an afternoon in Ronda, there wasn't anything all that compelling about the hill towns that required an overnight stay, in my opinion. We did enjoy making a daytrip to Gibraltar from Marbella, and the coast road from Gibraltar all the way to Motril (on the way to Granada) is rather scenic.
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Dec 4th, 2018, 10:59 AM
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You won't need a car to go to any of those cities and with just a few weeks and wishing to visit cities trains and or buses make most sense. Check Renfe - Spanish railways site for schedules and booking own tickets- at a discount if far enough in advance - lots of info on Spanish trains - www.seat61.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com. and yes Ronda for 4 days itself too much but yes a neat drive thru the iconic white villages could be neat.

Lots of neat day trips from Madrid if you want to add days there - Toledo, Avila, Segovia and Aranjuez - Castillian Versailles all great easy day trips.
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Dec 4th, 2018, 02:23 PM
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While I have not been to the white towns, I agree with twk about taking 2 or 3 nights from Ronda and staying overnight in Granada. The Alhambra is magnificent and should not be missed. Granada is also interesting, so it would be nice to have some free time to explore. Based on when I was doing my research for our trip in 2017, Ronda is a "secondary" site. You really should not miss Granada and the Alhambra, and trying to do it in a daytrip is too rushed and not enjoyable. You don't want to rush through the Alhambra; savor it!

I have not been to Marbella, but we enjoyed 2 nights in Malaga. I think it's an underrated city.Lots to do there plus nice coastal ambience.
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Dec 4th, 2018, 07:15 PM
  #6
kja
 
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Should be nice!

I agree with everyone who has said that staying in Granada for at least 2 nights is very well worth considering. I consider the Alhambra exceptional and was glad to have a full day plus an evening visit there, and could have enjoyed more. Even if you don’t want to spend that long, Granada holds a wealth of other treasures and so is easily worth at least 2, if not 3, nights.

While I thoroughly enjoyed Ronda, 24 hours were enough for me. YMMV.

I haven’t visited Malaga or Marbella, but read many more favorable comments about Malaga and have it (but not Marbella) on my wish-list. Again, YMMV.

While it depends on your intrests, I would not cut your time in Sevilla and am among those who felt that Cordoba deserved at least 2 days.

Hope that helps!
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Dec 5th, 2018, 11:54 AM
  #7
 
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Spain May itinerary option

You might want to consider the following option for your time in Spain:
Fly into Málaga - 4 nights - you can take a taxi or the bus to Marbella if you want to visit. It's a bit overbuilt and full of luxury yachts, villas and hotels, and considered southern Spain's answer to St Tropez. Málaga is far more interesting.
Bus or private transfer to Granada - 2 nights
Bus or transfer to Ronda - 1 night
Bus or transfer to Sevilla - 5 nights - you can do a day trips to Jérez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda and still get to enjoy some time in Sevilla.
Train to Córdoba - 1 night - you can also consider visiting Córdoba as a day trip and save changing hotels. If you want to cut a day and add it to Córdoba, then I would drop the night in Ronda unless you're driving.
Train to Madrid - 4 nights - there is more then enough to keep you busy in Spain's capital for a week or more. That, plus the day trips available using Madrid as a base.
Fly out of Madrid
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Dec 5th, 2018, 12:07 PM
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How much input before it gets overwhelming?!

Well IMO no need to stay in both Seville and Cordoba - they are very close together by train.

Also I am lonely in my opinion that if you visit Seville and the Alcazar , it is quite similar to the Alhambra and there is no need to do both.

I visited Malaga for the first time about about two months ago and found it a very pleasant city. Marbella does not necessarily have much Spanish charm.

Renting a car for the area around Ronda and the hill towns is better than public transportation but parking can be an issue.

Good luck sorting thru the options / opinions but I'm sure whatever you finally decide you will enjoy your time in Spain.
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Dec 5th, 2018, 12:10 PM
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We did 17 nights about 5 years ago, starting north-south, however. Suggest trimming two nights off Ronda, and one from Cordoba and Madrid to give you three nights in Barcelona. Easy to connect from Seville-Cordoba-Madrid-Barc. Gaudi architecture is like nothing else, and it abounds in this city. Our least favorite city was Madrid but wanted to see the Prado and Sofia Reina, and Retiro Park was a great stroll. And you should really experience the Alhambra; depending on arrival times from Ronda, might be possible to do in one night, but we spent two. That said, the rest of Granada was not appealing to us. Marbella was gorgeous, and suggest you look at lodging at Town House, a hidden gem on a hard-to-find street near the water and smack dab in the middle of this wonderful town. In Seville recommend you consider El Rey Morro, excellent location, on quiet alley, walk everywhere, pretty inner courtyard,
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Dec 5th, 2018, 03:29 PM
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Renting a car for the area around Ronda and the hill towns is better than public transportation but parking can be an issue.>

But there is good public transportation between Ronda and Cordoba or Seville by buses - I did this and the bus stopped in several hill towns - could easily stay in a few and not hassle with a car for just a few days. Direct Ronda-Seville bus took about a half day if I recall correctly. Nut ronda itself to me was about a good half-day stop or even few hour.
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Dec 5th, 2018, 10:43 PM
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[QUOTE=suec1;16835821

Also I am lonely in my opinion that if you visit Seville and the Alcazar , it is quite similar to the Alhambra and there is no need to do both.

.[/QUOTE]

I liked the Alcazar more but I don't think it's either or. Especially with 17 days to play with.

The question I have for the OP is why four days in Madrid if you don't like museums? I'd think about moving those days if you don't intend to hit the big museums.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 07:30 AM
  #12
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Hi everyone - thanks for all the tremendously helpful feedback!

We have decided to cut Marbella based on your feedback and further research. We are now considering either Malaga or Nerja (though favoring Nerja but have heard mixed things). We just really would like some beach / relaxation time and are having a hard time finding a town on the Costa del Sol that would itch that scratch and match our tastes. Malaga looks nice but a bit large for us but it's still in the running. Also, we would probably cut out Ronda if we do Nerja as I understand Frigiliana could itch that scratch. We were considering 4 nights in Madrid as to do day trips to Salamanca and Toledo but part of us would prefer to spend ~2-3 nights in Salamanca and finish with a night or two in Madrid. All in flux still but here's what I'm currently thinking:

Fly into Malaga
3 nights Nerja (day trip to Frigiliana)
2 nights Granada
4 nights Cordoba
5 nights Sevilla
3 nights Madrid (day trip to Toledo and Salamanca)
Fly out of Madrid

As it stands, my boyfriend feels this is too rushed (he likes to really get to know a location and loathes feeling rushed on vacation), in which case we'd probably cut out Granada and redistribute time there to our other current locations. We understand we'd miss the Alhambra, but truthfully it is not of tremendous interest to us, and we will be seeing Alcazar. That out of the equation, we've heard Cordoba has a better "feel" and ambiance and favor it for that reason.

Any further input is much appreciated, thank you for your help! We can't wait!

Last edited by wanderwell6; Dec 6th, 2018 at 07:36 AM.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 07:49 AM
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On a trip of this length, for people like me (and I sense you partner, too), it is imperative to stay at least four nights somewhere at some point--stick to that, you won't regret it!
While Malaga is a large city, the old historic core feels very much like its own world--just so you have a sense of the place and why it has charmed some of us. I don't know Nerja, but Frigiliana looks great (bookmarked for my next visit to Andalucia!).
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Dec 6th, 2018, 07:52 AM
  #14
twk
 
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I only stopped for lunch in Nerja (Ayo's place on Burriana beach has some good paella), but if I wanted to spend time on the beach, that looked a lot more inviting, to me, than Marbella, Others may feel differently.

The Alhambra is a great site, but it's not crazy to prefer other things. It's not like you are proposing to go to Andalucia and completely skip out on the history. What I would say to people is that, although Granada has other attractions, if you aren't going to see the Alhambra, then Granada can be skipped.

We only did Cordoba as a daytrip but I can see the attraction to spending more time there. It is smaller than Sevilla, and perhaps, more manageable in that aspect.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 10:13 AM
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Yes I did Cordoba as a day trip from Seville but once there thought that it would have been nice to spend a couple of days there. Lots more to it than the famous cathedral. Problem with Andalusia - so many neat cities that all could use a few days or more. Granada to me was an exception - city did not appeal to me but of course the Alhambra is awesome and takes a full day.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 05:36 PM
  #16
kja
 
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Originally Posted by wanderwell6 View Post
We were considering 4 nights in Madrid as to do day trips to Salamanca and Toledo but part of us would prefer to spend ~2-3 nights in Salamanca and finish with a night or two in Madrid. !
Many people visit Toledo as a day trip from Madrid; I thought it worth at least 2, if not 3, nights -- and I am not a slow traveler. Likewise, I felt that 2 full days (so 3 nights) was the bare minimum for Salamanca. But it all depends on what you want to see and experience!

If it helps, remember that Madrid is one of the easiest places for international travelers to reach in Spain, and so one of the easiest to include on a subsequent journey. I think you are wise to make sure you are there the night before your flight, but you don't necessarily need to smash Madrid and Toledo and Salamanca into just a few nights. Just something to consider!
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Dec 6th, 2018, 08:05 PM
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Agree with Kja ... loved Toledo. We spent three nights there and also three night sCordoba. Ronda did noting for us, but I guess the gorge would be cool at night. I'd take three nights out of there, another one out of Cordoba and add Grenada and Toledo (two nights each).

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Dec 6th, 2018, 08:23 PM
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kja
 
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Originally Posted by maitaitom View Post
Ronda did noting for us, but I guess the gorge would be cool at night.
Actually, I didn't think it as interesting after dark. JMO.
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Dec 6th, 2018, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by maitaitom View Post
... loved Toledo. Ronda did noting for us, but I guess the gorge would be cool at night.
Originally Posted by kja View Post
Actually, I didn't think it as interesting after dark. JMO.
Ditto on both of those. Ronda gorge is interesting enough, but not any more at night. We spent two nights there, we are slow travelers. But Toledo was fantastic at night, the view from across the river, from our hotel rooftop bar, hanging in the square eating marzipan, and more. You won't regret time in Toledo, IMHO. We also liked Cordoba a lot.
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Dec 7th, 2018, 07:44 AM
  #20
twk
 
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My view on the hill towns is to see only as many as convenient (and that could be zero, depending on the rest of your itinerary), but you don't need to spend a night in any of them. They are good for lacing together other points on your itinerary. Perhaps worth a slight detour, but not necessarily worth giving up nights elsewhere.

Many places like Toledo, or Cordoba, that draw a lot of daytrippers will be a different experience if you can stay the night, so that's something to consider. But there's a reason why people make daytrips to these places, and it's usually either because they don't have the time, or they don't want to change overnight bases, or some combination of the two. On my recent trip, if I'd had 3 weeks, instead of 2, I would have spent the night in both, but I didn't feel like doing them as a day trip was a bad decision, given my time and logistics constraints.
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