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Portugal and Spain 20 days in October - ideas?

Portugal and Spain 20 days in October - ideas?

Old May 18th, 2022, 03:16 PM
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Portugal and Spain 20 days in October - ideas?

Hello fellow Fodorites. It's been a few "covid" years since I logged into the forums. I do miss "Bob the Navigator" who introduced me to the Fodor's forums and trip reports. Thanks to this group, our 2018 three+ week solo trip to Japan was fabulous, even with a Typhoon rolling over us .

So here is where I am. I just booked a mileage flight into Lisbon in early October and out of Barcelona 20 days later. I have no plan or itinerary and am hoping this group can help me come up with a good plan. The key thing is that my wife no longer is willing to rush from place to place with 1 and 2 nights stops so this is all about enjoying the beauty of the people and the 2 countries. I am thinking that we may only want 5 different home bases, at most. We are experienced solo travelers in our early 70's. Comfortable in planes, trains and automobiles. Personally, I like hill towns and the charm (and food) that comes with them. My wife is interested in geological formations and history. I have not even thought about how even we end up in Barcelona. But really, I'm open to any suggestions on how to just have enjoyable experiences and plotting a fun and varied itinerary.

Any suggestions on how to best spend those 20 days would be welcomed. Thanks in advance.
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Old May 18th, 2022, 06:47 PM
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It make sense for Lisbon and Barcelona to be 2 home base cities - arrival and departure points.
Somewhere in southern Spain ( Seville ?) would be good , also Madrid with its proximity to many possible day trips.

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Old May 19th, 2022, 05:09 PM
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Vigo for the Iles Cies and WW2 history of spies and sabotage.

Ferrol for its street art and Spanish naval history ( nice Parador,)

Las Medulas Roman gold mine, (Ponteferrada is the nearest town with half decent hotels)

The drive along the Sil River canyon to get to Ponteferrada.

Teruel and Albarracin for architecture , Roman ruins, prehistoric rock art, fossils dino bones, hikes and scenery.and many other things (Teruel Parador)

Siguenza for the Cathedral and its art collection. Near Siguenza, the Rio Dulce area for hikes and geology.

Pedraza, a time capsule.

Almeira: the desert geology, movie history (Lawrence of Arabia, Duck, you Sucker, The Good , The Bad and The Ugly)

Antequera and the Torcal de Antequera for the geology (Good Parador)









Last edited by cdnyul; May 19th, 2022 at 05:14 PM.
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Old May 25th, 2022, 12:07 PM
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First, I have to second "cdnyul" above on Teruel, mainly because I found it to be a beautiful little city that gets so little attention. And while there is an abundance of charming hill towns in Portugal and Spain, one I can recommend is Trujillo (Spain), which seems to be more-or-less on the approximate way from Lisbon to Barcelona. Near-by Caceres is a great historic town as well. (My visits to these towns were several years ago -- Teruel in 2009, and Caceres+Trujillo in 2006.)
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Old May 30th, 2022, 11:51 PM
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Is this your first time to Spain? October would be a perfect time to visit Andalucia, weather-wise. If you only want 5 destinations, this is what i would recommend:

Lisbon
Seville
Granada
Cordoba
Barcelona

So much history in Andalucia! Great food! Beautiful architecture! Since you like the hill towns, you could add a stay in one of the hill towns in Andalucia.
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Old May 31st, 2022, 11:38 AM
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The cities listed one or two comments above this one (Lisbon, Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Barcelona) are fine places to see; there can be no quarrel there. You were open to "any suggestions," and these are legitimate ones. But they also happen to be the standard, scripted "must-sees" that are routinely recommended in ten thousand travel guides. I would be surprised if you weren't aware of them already. The "beauty" of the people, which you referred to, may sometimes be overwhelmed by the "frustration" of the tourist crowds, though in October, your proposed month, the problem may not be so bad. (I postponed my visit to Cordoba until I could go there in December, and even though the tourist presence was much lower, it was still approaching the limits of my rather uncompromising standards!)

Except perhaps Granada, those proposed cities not really the hill towns you expressed interest in. You could make short trips to hill towns from most of them, but the impression I got from your original note (perhaps mistakenly) was that you wanted to to indulge more in Spain's smaller but quaint historic towns, rather than glimpse them briefly. And while the preceding comment is quite correct about the history, good food, and beautiful architecture to be found in Andalucia, I could say the same about the other regions of Spain that I've visited. The fame of Andalucia, though well-deserved, is also well-established in tourism-world.
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Old Jun 7th, 2022, 11:02 AM
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Read my mind. I ended up with Porto, LIsbon, Seville, Grenada and Barcelona
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Old Jun 7th, 2022, 11:45 AM
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Hi Fodorites. I'm back now that things have firmed up a little more.

FLIGHTS: I am using United miles. So I have a FC/BUS flight from Portland to Porto (3 flights), a freebie from Lisbon to the Andalucia region and then the flight home from Barcelona (2 flights). I am not sure if the "Excursionist" fare is talked bout in this forum but if you have United miles you can book your flights out, your flights back and get a third flight within a single region (i.e. Europe) for no miles at all. So it's like two open jaws. Just passing on that tip from The Points Guy. It worked very slick.

21 NIGHTS: Although I like hill towns, my wife does not want us to have a car this trip. Hence, I am thinking day trips by bus, train, guide or private driver. Or even renting a car for just a day at a time. So, the revised plan is fly into Porto for 4 nights. Train to Lisbon for 4 nights. Take advantage of Free "Excursionist" flight to Seville courtesy of United. Sevilla for 3 nights. Grenada for 4 nights. That gives us 7 nights total in Andalucia. Then train to Barcelona for 6 nights. We have found a nice large apt. in Barcelona with a very large terrace so we can be flexible there on day trips or just relaxing. In the end, this is not going to be my usual 3 week driving trip. The flight to Sevilla after 8 nights it Portugal can be easily changed with no penalty should I want to add a day or so to Spain.

LODGING: Right now, I have multiple bookings in each of my 5 destinations. A mix of hotels and apartments. Some booked direct, some Air BnB and many Booking.com. For me, not much sense in getting and apartment unless it has a nice terrace. I can remember some great evenings on a nice patio/terrace all over Italy that made the entire trip special. My issue is that I am not familiar with neighborhoods. But I have tended to pick places that the reviews gave a 9.8-10 or 5 out of 5 for locations as a guide. That seemed safe.

ANDALUCIA REGIOS FINE TUNING
Now, that being said, I could easily change the free flight from Lisbon to any spanish city but I obviously want a direct flight. Sevilla seemed to get me into Adalucia. No flights to Grenada or Cordoba. That is why I start in Seville. However, I could just as easily land in Sevlla, have the guide pick us up and have us end somewhere else as our home base.
I have talked to a guide who would be happy to get us at the airport when we arrive at 935am and then take on an all day tour to the surrouding area dropping us back in Seville at our lodging at the end. Might be a perfect way to deal with such an early arrival.

On the other hand, since we seem to be taking the train from Cordoba to Barcelona towards the end, maybe we should fly to Sevilla yet spend our first 4 nights in Grenada and stay in Cordoba our last 3 nights.
Managing the time in Andalucia with only 2 home bases can be flexible as all my lodging is currently refundable.
So help with fine tuning would be greatly appreciated.
TRAINS: It appears that the high speed train from Grenada to Barcelona does not run in October. That is the way the schedules look to me. Anyone know for sure? What I found for the best timing is for me to get to Cordoba the morning of my departure and take the 11:27am train from there. Then its one change in Madrid arriving in Barcelona at 4:57pm. I would love a high speed direct train but I simply do not see it as an option in October.

DAY TRIPS and GUIDE Recommendations:
what are people's thoughts about day trips out of Sevilla, Grenada or Barcelona by train, bus or driver? My main concern is overlapping.
Guide recommendations are welcome. We are open to private guides and also tours of 8 or less people. Just two of us. Once we were lucky in Serrento where we booked a provate guide for 2 days and met a couple at a gelato store that wanted to see the same things we did and they ended up paying for half. As private tours tend to be priced as one price for up to 5-6 people, one can only hope we luck out again.
Porto and Lisbon are easier to avoid overlaps.
At the same time, to keep my wife happy, I do not want to over-book either. In our 3 week Japan adventure we had a guide on about 9-10 days. But Japan's rail system goes almost everywhere. We are 71 and 72 so making sure my wife has rest- time or slow-days is the key to two goals: (1) a happy trip as a couple and (2) her being willing for me to plan the next big overseas trip.

So that is where I am today. Thanks, in advance for the help and ideas.
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Old Jun 7th, 2022, 05:21 PM
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I would spend 4 nights in Seville instead of 4 nights in Granada. Seville is a larger city with many important historical and cultural sites. There is the Alcazar, which is gorgeous, the Cathedral, Casa di Pilatos, the Triana neighborhood, Barrio Santa Cruz, parks, and Plaza de Espana. There are flamenco shows and carriage rides and awesome food.

I would spend 2 nights in Granada and one night in Cordoba. If you absolutely only want 2 bases in Andalucia, I would spend 5 nights in Seville with a daytrip to Cordoba by train, and 2 nights in Granada.
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Old Jun 7th, 2022, 05:32 PM
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FLIGHTS
The only non-stop, direct flight from Lisbon to the Andalucía region would be the TAP Lisbon-Sevilla flight, operated by White airlines. We'll take that flight in Nov.

21 NIGHTS
The easiest way to travel from Porto to Lisbon is on the high-speed Alfa Pendular train from Porto's Campanha station to Lisbon's Santa Apolonia. If you purchase your tickets up to 2 months in advance, you can often snag very favorable discouts. There's also a 50% sr. discount. See the current schedule at www.cp.pt and sign up before purchasing tickets.

I would choose 4 nights in Sevilla and 3 in Granada (for your online research please note the spelling) simply because Seville is so very, very rich, extraordinarily rich in sights, while Granada can easily be seen in 3 nights. I love both cities, but you really need the extra day in Sevilla, particularly if you want to do a day trip by high-speed rail to Córdoba. I would never choose to omit entirely Sevilla for 3 nights in Córdoba. Though you *might* consider 3 nights in Sevilla, 3 nights in Granada, train to Córdoba with your final Andalucía night in Córdoba to have a shorter train ride to Barcelona (4 hrs. 37 min). But it seems you want only 2 bases in Andalucía, which makes sense.

Purchase your Alhambra tickets online in advance, with plenty of lead time, here-
https://www.alhambra-patronato.es/en.

TRAINS
There is only 1 direct train from Granada to Barcelona. It departs at 8:15 am. Yes, it runs all year, but you don't see it on www.renfe.com yet because the fares haven't been loaded. The Granada-Barcelona train ride takes 6 hours, 5 minutes. It does go through Córdoba. The Córdoba to Granada AVE train departs daily at 9:33 and does not require a change in Madrid either but it's not significantly cheaper than the Granada-Barcelona daily AVE that also requires no change in Madrid.

Purchase your rail tickets in advance on www.renfe.com for the best discount fares. Tickets are currently available only until Sept. 11. Keep checking and you'll see the October fares later once they're loaded.
The alternative would be to fly from Granada to Barcelona on Vueling, a flight of 1 hr. 30 min. There's a 9:30 am flight.
The airfare can sometimes, but not always, be equal to the train fare.

LODGING
We can't comment on your lodgings without knowing the location. For Barcelona you would want something very central, as sights can be very spread out. Ditto to Lisbon. Sevilla and Granada are very walkable.

ANDALUCÍA FINE TUINNG
If you've chosen a Sevilla apartment and can't drop off your luggage there upon arrival or can't check in to that apartment until late afternoon, the Seville guide that you've contacted could take you on a tour of pretty Carmona before dropping you off at your Seville apartment.
A drive to Arcos de la Frontera, the closest "white town" from the Sevilla airport would take 1 hr. 30 min, more or less. But it's do-able. But again, if you spend your first Sevilla day on a day-long excursion with a guide before checking into your Sevilla lodging, you'll really need to spend 4 nights in Sevilla and 3 in Granada rather than the reverse.

DAY TRIPS AND GUIDE RECOMMENDATIONS
Popular DIY day trip from Sevilla by high speed AVANT would be Córdoba
Popular DIY day trips from Barcelona also by high speed rail would be the provincial capitals of Girona or Roman Tarragona
Private or small group day trips from Barcelona could be to the shrine of Monserrate, the Penedés wine region, Costa Brava (a much longer, 10-11 hr. day) or to Figueres for the "over the top" Dalí Teatre-Museum, if you're a Dalí fan.
I've worked extensively over a number of years with Spanish Trails, which provides excellent private of small group excursions from Barcelona. See their offerings here-
https://spanish-trails.com/tours/.
I've also worked extensively with Forever Barcelona for the same, but especially for professional guided tours with licensed guides within Barcelona, especially for the Moderniste sites.
https://foreverbarcelona.com

Hope this helps.

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Old Jun 7th, 2022, 10:50 PM
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I agree Seville has much more to see. Four nights in Granada only if you're planning to day trip out of it. But Seville is likely better for day trips also.
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Old Jun 8th, 2022, 07:27 AM
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Great Tips.
AIRLINES
Yes, we have booked the White airline morning flight from LIsbon to Sevilla. It is part of Tap Portugal so is covered by United and the star alliance.
ANDALUCIA
Very easy for me to change my Andalucia night assortment. You all have me convinced that 4 nights in Granada is too much. I will rethink. Maybe 3-3-1 or 4-3.
For my wife, we do not have to see everything and sometimes just sitting in a nice piazza with wine and antipasto for a couple of hours is better than anything.
TRAINS
Thanks for the answer that I could not find online. My current plan was to have a drive from Granada to Cordoba and catch the train to Barcelona but if, as you say, I can't find the AVE direct train because it is too soon, that is wonderful. A direct train from Cordoba to Barcelona would be great. Though a flight would take less time, there is the added hassle of checking in early and I think a nice high speed train trip would be more enjoyable. We used them in Japan more than flying.
DAY TRIPS
Thanks for the link to excursion sites
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Old Jun 8th, 2022, 10:40 AM
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gfeibleman,
Yes, the morning flight from LIS to SVQ is the one we've booked as well.

While we always allow 3 nights for Granada so as not to be rushed, many visitors just have 2 and some, especially cruise passengers from the Málaga port, do the Alhambra as a very long day trip, which means they don't have time to visit the center city monuments (the magnificent Royal Chapel, the Cathedral, Monastery of the Jerónimos), or take a walk through the former ancient Arab quarter of the Albaicín, or visit the Baroque masterpiece, La Cartuja, out by the University, or to enjoy the tapas scene at night. But 4 nights for me is one night too many because there is even more to enjoy, both monument, relaxation and scenery-wise in Sevilla, and an even better tapas bar scene at night.

About the one daily high speed AVE train to Barcelona that doesn't require a train change in Madrid's Atocha station--
From Granada, it's the AVE 03931, departing at 8:15 am that arrives at Barcelona Sants station at 2:20, with 3 classes of tickets--basic, "elige" and premium (the latter with meal/drinks served at one's seat, XL seat, seat selection and change w/o penalty). All 3 tickets allow 3 bags/p.
See the explanation here-
https://www.renfe.com/es/en/viajar/p...ia/all-tickets.

From Córdoba it's the same AVE train, departing there at 9:43, arriving at 2:20.
There's very little difference in price between the 2 trains.
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Old Jun 8th, 2022, 05:36 PM
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Thank you, Maribel. It seems that if I change Sevilla to 4 nights and Granada to 3 nights, I can then pleasantly catch the high speed AVE train to Barcelona on my final morning in Grenada.
Is there only one station in Grenada? and are there Senior rates?

I will check the link you provided. Thank you.

https://www.renfe.com/es/en/viajar/p...ia/all-tickets.
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Old Jun 8th, 2022, 06:41 PM
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Yes, there's only one rail station in Granada.

If you want to purchase 2 Tarjetas Doradas, which are for seniors only, age 60 and over, and cost 6 euros each, you can then receive a 25% discount over the regular fare, but..... the Tarjeta Dorada can only be purchased at a Renfe station or travel agency in Spain--not on line-- and you need to show proof of age. It's valid for one year.

If you purchase a Tarjeta Dorada at Sevilla's rail station for the rail trip to Granada and the rail trip from Granada to Barcelona, the regular fare will by then have increased and will not give you the discount that an advance purchase fare will when purchased in advance online.

If I purchase today online at www.renfe.com an advance fare "Elige Comfot" with XL seat with a 2-1 seat configuration in each car, for the Granada-Barcelona AVE ticket for Sept. 11 (fares still haven't been loaded after this date), it will cost me 116 euros/p.

It's usually less pricey to purchase an advance discount fare on Renfe than wait until your arrival in Spain to go to a rail station to purchase a 6 euro Tarjeta Dorada for a last minute 25% discount on th AVE trains.

https://www.renfe.com/es/en/viajar/p.../mayores-de-60

My husband and I both have a Tarjeta Dorada purchased in December, 2021, so we can use ours to get a 25% discount now on any advance purchase fare booked online at www.renfe.com until next December. But again... this senior 60+ Tarjeta Dorada can only be purchased in Spain at a Renfe station or at a travel agency since proof of age is required.

Last edited by Maribel; Jun 8th, 2022 at 06:57 PM.
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Old Jun 8th, 2022, 06:46 PM
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AVE to Barcelona query

Maribel - I checked the Renfe link and it showed AVE 03931 to Barcelona in October but only from Cordoba. Nothing starting from Granada. Am I missing something?
It would seem that if they have released the Cordoba schedule, then they would have released the Granada Schedule.
The "route" shows it starting in Granada but ticketing only shows ticket availability from Cordoba.
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Old Jun 8th, 2022, 06:50 PM
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Yes, the fares from Granada, where that particular AVE commences, for some strange (typical of Renfe) reason haven't yet been loaded. Renfe just works in strange ways... They get around to loading fares, well....when they get around to it. There's just no rhyme or reason.
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Old Jun 8th, 2022, 06:59 PM
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Thanks. Yes, I can see that they only have the AVE route from Granada posted 90 days out but they have the AVE from Cordoba posted farther out. It seems best for me to get the advance purchase ticket next month and just leave from Granada. But maybe still get Tarjeta Dorada cards for last minute day trips during our time in spain.

Thanks again for clearing up this troubling issue
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Old Jun 8th, 2022, 07:16 PM
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Yes, the loading of fares on Renfe.com can be very frustrating. I know because I'm on the web site every other day.

You most likely won't benefit from a Tarjeta Dorada card unless you want to make day trips from Barcelona on an AVE or....if you plan to take an AVANT (also high speed) train from Sevilla to Córdoba round trip, which will give you the Tarjeta Dorada discount online.
From Monday-Friday it's a 25% discount but on Sat/Sun it's a 40% discount.
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