Spain itinerary and direction help

Old Feb 5th, 2023, 08:21 PM
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Spain itinerary and direction help

I have a full 16 days late Sept/early Oct- arriving in Madrid at 08:00 on day 1. We arrive and depart from Madrid - this part cannot be changed since we are traveling with miles. My two big questions relate to how to split up the trip to avoid a "repetitive" sort of itinerary of museums and alcazars. I also need advice on the "direction" of travel. The plan is Madrid, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada using all public transport.

My first thought is:

Madrid - 4 nights (day trip to Segovia)
Cordoba - 2 nights
Granada - 3 nights
Seville - 5 nights (with day trips to Jerez and/or Ronda)
Toledo - 2 nights and then leave from Madrid airport.

In some ways, landing at 8;00 is tough, because although I may be able to drop off luggage, it's hard to be up and running with a walking tour of Madrid first thing in AM. Jet lag is not an issue.

OR:

Seville - 5 days
Granada 3 days
Cordoba 2 days
Madrid 6 days (day trips to Toledo, Segovia, and somewhere else)

My biggest concern with #2 is that I would be in Seville at end of September, and the heat may still be a factor. I was trying to save it until the end of trip, but maybe a week won't be a huge difference. I don't think i can go straight to Granada because that is too long of a day after getting off the plane. trip (I usually like longer stays at beginning of trip). I realize my thought process is all over the place here, so just need some advice.

Also - What's a good way to break this trip up? I thought I could do a day trip to Ronda from Seville (found a private tour) and then maybe a horse show and sherry tasting in Jerez. Possibly some hiking outside of Granada. Wine tasting from Madrid? I am not too interested in Malaga. Any other thoughts?

Thank you.


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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 12:43 AM
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#2 for me
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 01:12 AM
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I like to stay in the city where I land as I am usually quite tired after a long flight. I don't know where you are flying from but my flights are from California and let lag is always a bit of an issue. Once, my luggage didn't make it on the plane so I was glad to be staying in the city where I landed so I could retrieve my luggage more easily once it arrived.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 03:12 AM
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Six or half a dozen.
It is the usual Spanish itinerary that reads like a menu at a cheeseburger restaurant.
Residents of Seville deal with the heat regularly, just do what they do.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 05:05 AM
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It is the usual Spanish itinerary that reads like a menu at a cheeseburger restaurant.
I think you hit the nail on the head. This above itinerary seems very cookie-cutter to me. I am wanting something different, which is why I asked about other day trips. But maybe I need to go in a different direction - I just don't know what that direction is. I personally have been to Southern Spain 30 years ago, while my husband has been to Barcelona and Bilbao maybe 10 years ago for work. I do not want a car - we have had horrible driving experiences in the past and just don't want to repeat that.

I haven't seen much about wine county on this site - is that a good direction to go in? I don't mind doing SOME of the cities I suggested earlier, but am fine missing some (since I know what I missing). I need to break it up with something unusual. I have been researching away, but really only for these above cities. I feel it's the Rome_Florence-Vencie trip, which I do not want. Clearly I can't anyone to ask me to make my trip - but maybe other suggestions so I know where to start researching again.


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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 06:00 AM
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Renting a car, even for a day or two, would make day trips to Pedraza or Siguenza possible.

Forego most of the nights in Seville, replace with Almeria.

It is possible to enjoy Seville without joining the crowds.
Before it became the fridge magnet capital of Spain it was a working town producing wonderful ceramic tile.
The Triana district has a ceramic museum, and is just generally more interesting that the tourist core.

Instead of Ronda consider Albarracin and Teruel.
Salamanca is a delightful city, especially in September with all the young people that take over the town in the evening.
After Salamanca make your way the Galician coast, Vigo, Ferrol, the lighthouse at Fisterra at night, A Coruna.

We are doing to Spain in a week, staying 16 night as well, so far five are left open.
We will decide when we get there.


Last edited by cdnyul; Feb 6th, 2023 at 06:08 AM.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 07:00 AM
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It's a very common itinerary, but that's because all of these places are beautiful and popular for a reason! I would never advise someone to cut out Seville; I can't wait to get back and revisit! In many instances I think the key to getting beyond the "cookie cutter" trip is to have more time in a popular place, not less. With 4-5 days based in Seville (same goes for Madrid, Barcelona, etc.) you have time to explore beyond the main attractions, wander down little streets and alleys, sit in a plaza and people-watch, and perhaps take a day trip out to a less-visited village or town. The "fridge magnet" people are the ones who stop in for two days, only hit the top attractions listed on Trip Advisor, and move on.

There's certainly something to be said for visiting the less-touristed areas - especially if you've already visited a place several times - but I wouldn't let anyone dissuade you from your original lineup of cities/towns.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 07:03 AM
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This article might give you some ideas.
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2...na-ecija-osuna

Some of our most memorable times in Spain are of late, leisurely, Summer evenings having dinner in plazas and squares in towns like those above. I agree that cities are a real pain. We stupidly actually drove into Toledo once. Idiots we were. However, to enjoy some of these smaller cities and towns in the evening, you need a car or you need to be staying there. Consider something like Carmona and do day trips from there.
We did also love Granada at night, quiet and mystical.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 07:10 AM
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Sassafrass THANK YOU so much for this article. This is exactly what I needed - just a day trip or so to break up the big cities. I don't here about these much (usually see a lot of Jerez and Cadiz from Seville) so I will definitely be exploring.

@memejs - you are so right We like to stay longer in a city to explore, which is why I was looking at the day trips. There's a reason I wanted to go back after 30 years, so I thanks for the reminder.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 07:43 AM
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The most popular itinerary allows one to visit word class art museums ( Madrid ), unique historical monuments ( Granada. Cordoba ), famous churches ( Seville, Barcelona ). etc,
which of course is not everyone’s “ cup of tea “ .
Distant villages , quiet evenings in atmospheric small towns . places off the tourist maps might be more enjoyable for others.
No reason to listen to anyone except your own interest .
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 07:44 AM
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I agree completely with memejs, Your proposed itinerary may seem cookie cutter but there are very, very good reasons to choose those cities, the jewels of Al-Andalus.
I would never consider switching Sevilla to Almería (my sister-in-law lives in the latter, so I do know the city—simply can’t be compared to Sevilla, ime, but courses for horses…)

I also agree with memejs about spending more time in a city to get to know it fully. 4 or preferably 5 nights in Sevilla would give you that opportunity and to take the long day trip to Ronda with a private tour (but it will be a 10-hour day).
I’ll be in Sevilla later this month for 8 nights and will find plenty to do in this my favorite Andalusian city. From Sevilla a day trip to Jerez can be easily done by inexpensive MD (Media Distancia) train to attend the Tues/Fri horse ballet at the Real Escuela del Arte Ecuestre or to visit a sherry bodega.

While the Triana district does still produce ceramics you may or may not find something you like there, but it´s certainly worth a walk over the bridge and to visit the Mercado de Triana, but personally I find far more of interest to see in the center.
There you have the many Baroque churches, the Cathedral and Giralda, the Real Alcázar, Museum of Fine Arts, Palacio de las Dueñas, the former home of the Dutchess of Alba, Casa de Pilatos for its magnificent tiles, Palacio de Lebrija for its Moorish architecture, the Iglesia de El Salvador, a Baroque masterpiece, the lovely María Luisa Park and Plaza de España the Hospital de los Venerables with canvases by Velázquez, etc.

But….it can still be very warm in late September. Today, Feb.6, the high in Sevilla was 66F. So be prepared for high temps.
I would do Granada first and end with Sevilla. Córdoba can be equally warm. It was 65F there today.
And a car is an absolute albatross in these Andalusian cities with inner cores like Moorish mazes.

An alternative would be to head north to the cooler Basque Country, to Bilbao (by train), then to San Sebastián (by bus) with a multi-day stay there for day trips by bus to Getaria (txakolí wine country) and Hondarribia, then fly to Barcelona and fly home from there. But the International Film Festival will be held in SS from Sept. 22-30 when hotel rates with skyrocket!
Northern Spain isn’t well serviced high-speed rail, so Alsa and local buses best serve the region.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 08:31 AM
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Wow - thank you all for your responses. I will go back to the original itinerary with a few added day trips. So now I am back to my original question. I land in Madrid at 08:00 - which is very early. I feel I will lose 1/2 by wandering around waiting for my hotel to open up (which happened to me last year in Norway and do not want a repeat).

Madrid-Cordoba- Granada-Seville-Toledo

OR

land in Madrid with quick train to Seville - Granada-Cordoba-Madrid.

In alternative #1, I gain 2 nights in Toledo and waiting an extra week for Seville weather to get better (pure speculation but I can only work with what I have). But I lose 1/2 day just or wandering unless I book a hotel room starting the day before which is a distinct possibility.

#2 seems less choppy to me, but possibility of more heat in Seville. Again - talking of just 8 0r 9 days difference.5 hotels in 16 days can be a lot even though two of those stays are for long periods of time.

I don't think I want to go straight to Granada after I land because the trains and busses are less frequent, but also because I don't want to start with a shorter stay and go straight to Alhambra. But I can be convinced otherwise.

We are flying through Washington DC - so it's a straight 8 hour flight, but a 16 hour journey. Jet lag has never been an issue for us going to Europe - only coming home.

I may not go to Ronda but maybe some other hilltop towns - still figuring that part out.

Thank you!

Last edited by marinawright7406; Feb 6th, 2023 at 08:36 AM.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 08:48 AM
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I agree with memejs, danon, and maribel! There is nothing wrong with a "cookie cutter" itinerary because these places are all very popular for good reasons! I agree that to go beyond the cookie cutter sites you need to stay longer in a place to have time to explore, wander around neighborhoods, and see the lesser known sites. For example, in Seville, we found the Triana neighborhood very interesting to explore and we enjoyed the Mercadao de Triana that Maribel mentions. We loved Casa de Pilatos that Maribel also mentions. We spent 4 nights in Seville and I wished we had 1 or 2 more nights. On our last full day in Seville, after visiting the Cathedral, we had lunch at the Mercado Barranca. There is a very attractive bar (that is not part of the market) close to the river. It has large umbrellas and comfortable chairs with colorful cushions and palm trees. We asked if we could bring food from the market to the bar if we purchased drinks, and of course they said yes. We had a great meal, the best gin tonics, and spent a lazy afternoon here enjoying the views of the river.

In Cordoba, take the time to visit Palacio de Viana with its 12 lovely courtyards. Enjoy lunch or dinner at Mercado Victoria. Markets are so much fun to explore and to try new foods and to photograph!

I like Option #1 with or without the day trips.

An alternative itinerary would be Barcelona and the Costa Brava, including Cadaques and Girona. And make a trip to northern Catalonia, including the villages of Besalu, Ripoll, Rupit and Vic. But you would really need a car for this part of the itinerary. I know you can take a train to Girona, and I think a bus to Figueres. But if you want to include some mountain scenery I think you need a rental car.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 09:00 AM
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Whether to continue on by train after your arrival in Barajas depends, I think, on your stamina. Coming from the West Coast, US, through LHR, we are usually too tired to move on to Sevilla, although we used to do this regularly coming in on a non-stop flight from the East Coast. Since you are coming in from D.C. you will be able to continue on as we used to do. Córdoba is a shorter train ride, the quickest only 1 hr. 45 min., which if we were to do this now, is as far as we would want to go on our first day. So I would opt for your first plan, Madrid, Córdoba, Granada, Sevilla, Toledo.

No, don’t try to go to Granada on day one, as there are far fewer train options and the high speed AVE train takes 3 hours.
I would never go from Madrid to Granada by bus now that they discontinued the Alsa Premium service.

Arcos is closer to Sevilla than Ronda, but it´s still a 2 hour bus ride.

About continuing on to Córdoba by train,
Allow 3 hours at an absolute minimum these days from your arrival at Barajas to your train departure from Puerta de Atocha. The speediest way to Atocha is by taxi, about a 25 or 30 minute ride and a flat fare of 30 euros.

When we arrived at Barajas last month, the line at the immigration hall of T4S was huge, spilling out of the hall, and at least a 40 minute wait to get one’s passport stamped. If coming into T1, I don’t know if the immigration lines are the same currently.

So going through immigration in Barajas, which we do very often, can these days be a time killer. It really depends on the luck of the draw…how many police are manning their booths at that hour, how many flights arrived at around the same time as yours, how slow the baggage handling can be if you have checked luggage, etc.

Just a few more thoughts…
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 09:59 AM
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Thanks Sassafrass!
Bookmarked.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 10:24 AM
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@karenwoo - thank you. We plan to do Barcelona and surrounding areas on a different trip. The trip length was getting out of control, so will go back maybe next year.

I also think we will stick with #1. I am just trying to determine if 4 nights (including arrival night) is enough in order to add 1 more day to Seville area. I may have to drop Segovia. Still researching a bit.

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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 10:46 AM
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We spent 4 nights in Madrid without a day trip. We spent one night in Toledo, and it would have been nice to have 2 nights in Toledo. Whether or not 4 nights is enough for Madrid depends on how much you like art museums. Madrid has some outstanding art museums. We only had time to visit 2 while we were there (Prado and Reina Sofia.) We also visited Retiro Park, the Royal Palace, Temple Debod and had time to explore some neighborhoods, the San Miguel market, and relax at cafes. I wish we had an extra night in Madrid to visit another museum or two. I think it is impossible to have "enough" time in any one place, especially a major city like Madrid.

I think you need an extra night in Seville to do 2 day trips. We spent 4 nights in Seville (no day trips), and again, I wished we had an extra night just for Seville.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 11:03 AM
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KarenWoo Thank you. The plan for Madrid is to hit the Prado and Reina Sofia as the only "must" museums. I have a 6 hour tapas tour that takes us through the markets and little neighborhoods. We will go the the Palace as well as Retiro Park. Possibly Temple Debod - so our itinerary sounds very similar to yours. I think I may just use Segovia as a placeholder if we have enough time.

The only way to give me more time in Seville (currently at 5 nights) is to either take one night away from our 3 days in Granada, or take out two nights of Cordoba completely and go on a day trip from Seville, which frees up one more day. I can't/won't do a 1 night only anywhere. OR maybe we don't do a day trip from Seville. I really wanted to try a white town village for a little variety, but something needs to give. I just know some of these I had planned on 3 nights in Granada to go to the Sierra Nevada one day to get outside in nature a bit at the midpoint of our trip. I'm more thinking out loud more than anything.....
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 11:57 AM
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Since your only “must” museums are the Prado and Reina Sofía, I think that 4 nights will probably be enough. Do you not plan to overnight in Toledo? (For Toledo, Monday is the day when a few museums are closed anbd Sunday the cathedral doesn’t open for tourist visits until 2 and museums close early).

I wouldn’t take the nights out of Córdoba. I will have 3 nights there next week and only have added an extra night because I plan to spend most of my last day at the Medina Azahara archaeological site.

You will want to purchase your Royal Palace tickets online a few days in advance to avoid standing in a very long line in the hot sun.
Retiro Park yesterday, and all Sundays, is wonderful. There will be probably be a special exhibit at the Crystal Palace and we like to watch the swing dancers between 1-3 pm show off their stuff at the Templete (they are really, really good, some professional dancers).

Unless you can find a small group or private tour to Arcos (and not the 10 hour one to Arcos, Grazalema, Ronda) you may want to skip the white towns, as they aren’t that easily accessible from Sevilla sans car.

We usually plan on 3 nights in Granada, but we have a long list of things to do there.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 12:33 PM
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Maribel We are going to Toledo the last two nights to end the trip.

I have found an expensive private tour for white towns, so still deciding if that is the direction I want to go. I wish I had about 3 extra days. I was trying to avoid the National Holiday on October 12th, so leaving on the 11th. And the earlier into September I go, the hotter it will be. Not sure if i can change my free tickets at this point or not. We will probably have to skip Segovia. So right now:

Madrid - 4 nights and 3 1/2 days (and could squeeze another 1/2 day before heading to Cordoba)
Cordoba - 2 nights
Granada - 3 nights
Seville - 5 nights
Toledo - 2 nights

This is actually my original plan, but I feel MUCH better about it!
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