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Please help us plan our trip to Spain--Madrid and Andalucia

Please help us plan our trip to Spain--Madrid and Andalucia

Jul 1st, 2013, 05:34 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 261
Please help us plan our trip to Spain--Madrid and Andalucia

Hi Everyone,

My husband and I are planning a trip to Spain in October. We've been to Barcelona (love!) and Majorca already, so this time we are focusing on Madrid and Andalucia. We are flying from Chicago.

Our plans so far--although we are waffling on the order:

Madrid--3 nights, with a day trip to Toledo
Sevilla--4 nights, with a day trip to Cordoba
Ronda and the white villages--2 nights
Granada--2 nights
Madrid--last night, then fly home

My first two questions for you nice experts--Madrid, Sevilla or Granada first?
And which direction is prettier/better--Sevilla/Ronda/Granada, or Granada/Ronda/Sevilla?

Our initial idea was to do the itinerary as listed above, taking a train from Madrid to Sevilla, renting a car for the drive to/through the white villages, then taking a train from Granada back to Madrid for the flight home. I usually like seeing the biggest city first, when I am less "relaxed" and more inclined for hustle and bustle.

BUT we could save a train ride/that fourth night in Madrid and money if we try to get a connecting flight to either Sevilla or Granada first. On the fence. What would you do?

A note--my husband loved driving around Provence and the Corniche in France, and is a good driver, but not a fan of terrifying heights ala the Amalfi Coast. So would love driving/itinerary ideas between Sevilla and Granada that are scenic and dramatic but not scary--i.e.--if you drive this direction, you will be on the inside, not the outside of the cliff.

Thank you all so much!

hax is offline  
Jul 1st, 2013, 11:52 AM
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Andalusia is quite mountainous and I'm not aware that there is one direction that is "inside" and one that is "outside" you can have drop offs on either side. And locals will probably be driving at speeds that will make you nervous.

However, the roads are much wider than on the Amalfi coast, have shoulders inmost places and rock walls next to the drop offs. I would not hesitate to drive there - and there are no places with just a driveway reflector between you and the cliff.
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 1st, 2013, 01:07 PM
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The time you have allotted to each destination looks great based on how much available time you have

There are better rail connections between Madrid and Seville. That makes connecting by air straight through to Granada and working your way to Seville, before training to Madrid a very efficient option. The Madrid - Granada airfare can often be found for well under $100, but there is a risk if you book the one-way flight in isolation from your return ticket from Chicago. You could miss the connecting flight to Granada and have to rebook. I usually prefer to book the ongoing flight with several hours of cushion and wait the hours out in the airport rather than do all the transferring to a train station and travel on from there - especially when the train trip is 4:30 hours (Madrid to Granada). Of course, I am so enamoured of travel that I can amuse myself in a foreign airport for hours and consider it as part of the trip.

If you really want to get the hustle of Madrid out of the way first, I would suggest taking the train from there to Granada, for one main reason. I would like to know that I had the best connection heading to Madrid for my last night before departure. I ma not suggesting that there is any reason to think that the Granada - Madrid route is less reliable, but the Seville Madrid route is on the fastest trains - the AVE to Seville takes 2:20 hours while the train to Granada takes 4:30 hours - and the trains run frequently giving you the most flexibility on that last day.

Also, you have the option to stop in Cordoba on your way to Granada (it's on the route) and then you don't have to do it as a day trip from Seville. That would give you more time options on your way to Ronda and Seville. Or you could even stay a night before traveling on to Granada.

The driving is not as fear inducing as thoughts of Amalfi - Provence or Tuscany would be pretty good comparisons.

Drop the little yellow man from Google onto the hillier portion of you proposed route - the green area SW of Ronda and near Zahara and see if your husband has comfort with the "views".


I drove this route from Seville to Ronda, through Zahara and it was beautiful but not at all nerve wracking. East of Ronda, on the way to Granada, things calm down even more and you are winding through valleys with interesting outcrops, primarily, until you reach some flat plains;
Aramis is offline  
Jul 1st, 2013, 06:39 PM
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Thanks so much, nytraveler and Aramis! Sounds like my husband will be fine driving--we do like a few days of exploring.

I hadn't thought of ensuring that the easier train ride is last--that's a good point. I am always a bit nervous connecting with an international flight. if I book it all at once, even if I have to change airlines (which I will) will they guarantee getting me there without rebooking?

The options for Madrid- Granada appear to be a one hour turnaround (unlikely) or a 4 1/2 hour turnaround--rather long.

I appreciate your help!
hax is offline  
Jul 1st, 2013, 07:11 PM
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It really depends on what you want to see and do, but FWIW, I thought Madrid worth 4 days, Toledo worth 2 full days, and Cordoba worth 2 full days. If you haven't already done so, you might want to think through your priorities for each place to make sure you allocate your time in accordance with your interests. Also note that many places in Spain will be closed on Mondays; plan accordingly.

kja is offline  
Jul 1st, 2013, 07:43 PM
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Thank, kja. I wish we had more time. I suppose we could swap out one night in Ronda for an overnight in Cordoba, but I really hate staying one night anywhere.

I am hoping we will only have to deal with one Monday--would it be okay to be in the white villages/Ronda or in Sevilla?
hax is offline  
Jul 1st, 2013, 09:35 PM
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> I am hoping we will only have to deal with one Monday--would it be okay to be in the white villages/Ronda or in Sevilla?

To answer that, I think you'll need to check a good guide book to see the opening hours for the things you most want to see.

BTW, I trust you are planning to book your times at the Alhambra in advance. I thought it well worth going twice, first during the day and then again at night.
kja is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 04:08 AM
Join Date: Jul 2013
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hello Mr hax

I recommend after 3 nights in Madrid, catch a train to spend 2 nights there cordoba, sevilla travel below to stay 2 nights there, then 2noche in round 2 cordoba grenade back in the morning to return the car and grab the AVE and overnight in Madrid to fly again

I will make a plan like this

day 1 MADRID
Arrive in madrid from Chigago visit Puerta del Sol
Plaza Mayor
Gran Vía
Puerta de Alcalá
Plaza de Cibeles
Fuente de Neptuno
Barrio Salamanca

day 2 MADRID
Templo de Debod
Las Cuatro Torres
El Retiro
Palacio Real
Catedral de la Almudena
Palacio de El Pardo

day 3 MADRID
Santiago Bernabeu
Museo Reina Sofia
Museo del Aire
Museo de Atocha
Museo Naval
Museo Thyssen

Mezquita Catedral
Puente Romano

Medina Azahara
Castillo de Almodovar
Palacio de Moratalla
Palacio de Viana
Cuesta del Bailio

Museo Julio Romero
Museo de Flamenco
after lunch rent a car to Seville

Torre de la Giralda
Los Reales Alcázares
Barrio de Triana

day 7
Casa de Pilatos
Plazas de Toros y el museo
Barrio de Triana
Jardines de Murillo
Crucero por el Río Guadalquivir
Hospital de la Caridad
Barrio de Santa Cruz

day 8
Museo de Bellas Artes
Virgen de la Macarena
El convento de Santa Paula
Trip to Ronda

day 9 RONDA and surronding

day 10 RONDA
Plaza de toros
Trip to Granada
Plaza nueva

day 11
Monasterio de los Jeronimos


If you need more help about tickets of mezquita alhambra or hotels please write me
Best Regards
manoy is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 04:09 AM
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If your definitely going to hire a car I suggest you do two nights in Madrid, one in Toledo hiring a car this day, Seville, Ronda, then Granada or Cordoba and back to Madrid for a night leaving the car on arrival day.

Things are closed on Mondays but that's usually museums, castles etc. Ronda gorge and white villages are all about views so no worries there.

Driving is easy and the roads quiet apart from cities of course. Have a great trip. I know you will.

Only Spain
Spaniola is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 05:22 AM
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Your Madrid whirlwind has me tired just thinking of it.
BigAleinstein is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 05:23 AM
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Another travel professional. What is going here?
BigAleinstein is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 06:27 AM
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kja--Thanks again. Yes, I will be sure to book the Alhambra in advance once I book my flights.

Spaniola--I don't think we'd want the car for the whole trip. It seems it would be a pain in Sevilla. We are just planning on two days with a car for a change of pace.

Big Al--MY Madrid whirwind (only three days to spend) or the one described by Manoy? While I appreciate his/her suggestions--I will certainly look into the ones I hadn't heard of yet-- they are a little overwhelming.

I know Madrid is a great city, but this trip is more about Andalucia for us and we are planning to spend the most time there. Our first day there will need to be a light one just because of jet lag.

I had done a lot of lurking on this board before I posted, plus a couple of guidebooks. The consensus seemed to be to do Cordoba as a day trip and to allow a lot of time in Sevilla. Manoy and kja seem to think I am shortchanging Cordoba. Do others agree?

Thank you so much, all! I appreciate it!
hax is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 07:25 AM
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We are inveterate museum goers, but for the oddest reasons museum walking is tiring. When in Madrid or other cities with many worthwhile museums we alternate a day of museums, other activities the next day, museums again, etc. The Prado is one of the world's great museums and should not be missed.
BigAleinstein is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 08:00 AM
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You could easily spend several days in Córdoba, once the most advanced city in the western world. Much more than the most obvious sights such as the Mezquita, the Alcázar etc. "Córdoba: the city that changed the world": http://www.guardian.co.uk/spanish-to...-changed-world

The "other" Córdoba around Plaza de las Tendillas, the Plaza Mayor-like Plaza de la Corredera, the Roman ruins etc can be highly recommended. All very close to the main tourist attractions but a totally different and more local atmosphere. Bustling outdoor cafés long into the night. Several fine bodegas/tabernas in this area. Here you'll find great local places on every corner. Had some excellent meals in a couple of them in the summer of 2011.

Felt immediately at home in central Plaza de las Tendillas, 300 meters north of the Mezquita. The thousands of people gathering here for the midnight eating of the grapes on New Years eve is traditionally directly televised on national tv. The clock on Plaza de las Tendillas has got no bells. Since 1961 the hours has been chimed in by recorded flamenco chords from the guitarist Juanito Serrano. Great atmospehere and good spirit well into the small hours, at least in the week-ends. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fexMbX4EsRE&NR=1

When in Córdoba, you should also visit the ruins of the 10th century palace city Madinat al-Zahra just outside town. http://www.andalucia.com/magazine/en...d4/madinat.htm

But you must of course prioritize.
kimhe is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 09:13 AM
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Your original itinerary is just About perfect. I would not change it. Cars are a major hassle in Seville, Granada and Madrid. I like to put Madrid at the end of my trip but doesn't really matter. Your time in the white villages would be boring to me as I prefer the fantastic cities in Andalucia but if you like peace and quiet you will love Ronda and the surrounding area. If you had extra days I would spend 2 in Cordoba but since you don't it is such an easy daytrip from Sevilla.
Egbert is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 03:45 PM
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One thing you might keep in mind is that Madrid is a "gateway" city, and may therefore be a place to which you are more likely to return (even for a day or two) than Andalusia.

If you do add time to Cordoba, consider visiting El Museo Palacio de Viana - beautiful!

The good news is that you won't go wrong with any of your options - you'll be visiting a wonderful part of the world.
kja is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 04:54 PM
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Thanks so much everyone--great input from all.

Just saw on the official Alhambra website that night tours are greatly reduced (just Friday and Saturday) after October 14. Most guides said that happened in November. So my latest conundrum is trying to configure our schedule so we are in Granada before October 14 or on a Friday or Saturday. Is Saturday at the Alhambra a mistake? Too many crowds even in October?

Also trying to keep our one Monday in Ronda/the white villages.

And in my heart of hearts, I know I would be happier doing Madrid at the start. Good point about it being a gateway, kja. There are definitely other parts of Spain I'd like to see.

Kimhe, you've sold me on Cordoba, but I do have to prioritize. Now just trying to make sure I don't go on Sunday or Monday.

Thank you all!
hax is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 05:27 PM
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> Just saw on the official Alhambra website that night tours are greatly reduced (just Friday and Saturday) after October 14. Most guides said that happened in November. So my latest conundrum is trying to configure our schedule so we are in Granada before October 14 or on a Friday or Saturday. Is Saturday at the Alhambra a mistake? Too many crowds even in October?

I believe the number of admissions in the evening is limited to such a small number that it shouldn't be a problem. At least that was my experience, and part of why I found it so special.

> There are definitely other parts of Spain I'd like to see.

So then do everything you want to do in Andalusia on this trip!
kja is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 06:24 PM
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kja, I'd be going to the Alhambra Friday night and Saturday day....still not a problem?
hax is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2013, 07:02 PM
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I'm not an expert and it's been a long while since I visited; maybe someone who has better or more recent info will jump in.

FWIW, my recollection is that I visited the Alhambra in Oct. of 2004. I had an afternoon ticket, with a timed entry for the Nasrid Palace that was just after the afternoon session began. The place was PACKED with tours and their guides and others - and I barely noticed. That is extremely unusual for me, as I do NOT like crowds and generally find that they make me extremely uncomfortable. I was so awed by what I was seeing that the crowds just did not matter. My strategy was to step into a corner, listen to the audio guide (which I found very helpful) and just gawk and gape. There were moments when tour groups moved on and I could take advantage of the chance to look closely at something they had blocked from my view. I was patient, and so glad to be seeing that place! I spent hours and did not feel that I had wasted a single minute. And then I explored the rest of the palace and grounds. I must admit that I wish I'd had a bit more time, but I was delayed by about 1/2 hour for a photo shoot in the gardens, and without that, I think I would have been reasonably well satisfied by the time I had. (At the time, I had been given reason to believe that those admitted to the grounds in the morning had to leave at noon; if that was true -- and I'm not sure it was -- I don't believe it is true now, but again, I'm no expert.) I then went back to the Nasrid Palace that evening, when very, very few people were admitted and everyone who was there that night spoke, if at all, in a hushed voice. There were moments that were so quiet that I could hear the quiet murmur of water rippling in fountains and smell the delicate scent of flowers and see the exquisite decorative details in dimmed light - awesome! I was very glad that I saw it at night after seeing it at day, because I then had a better sense of what I was seeing during the evening visit. But one can only see the Alhambra first in one order, so I can't speak to which is best. I think I remember reading another Fodorite's recommendation to see it first at night, so maybe it doesn't matter! Either way, the numbers of visitors are limited and much more so at night than during the day. And better to see the Alhambra with a crowd that not to see it at all! Sorry I can't be of more help.

Since I visited, I believe they also began offering evening visits to the gardens. Are you considering that, too? I'm sure it would be memorable.

BTW, do consider visiting some of Granada's other sites. The Alhambra is its jewel, but not it's only worthy destination!
kja is offline  

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