Spain: Two Weeks in October/November 2016

In October and November 2016 I spent two weeks in southern Spain exploring Córdoba, Granada, Ronda, and Seville. My starting point was Madrid, where I had spent almost three weeks doing Spanish language study and sightseeing.

Itinerary

DayDaytimeNight
Fly to Madrid from USMadrid
Madrid - 2 1/2 weeks of language studyMadrid
1AVE to CórdobaCórdoba
2CórdobaCórdoba
3CórdobaCórdoba
4Bus to GranadaGranada
5GranadaGranada
6GranadaGranada
7Train to RondaRonda
8RondaRonda
9RondaRonda
10Bus to SevillaSevilla
11SevillaSevilla
12SevillaSevilla
13SevillaSevilla
14AVE to MadridMadrid
15Flight back to US

Timing

Sunny October day, Gran Vía, Madrid

Sunny October day, Gran Vía, Madrid

According to locals, October is the best month to visit Madrid. The weather is generally sunny and warm without the tourist crowds of summer. This October was unusually rainy, but I still loved seeing the fall color in Retiro Park.

November’s mild temperatures make it an excellent time to explore southern Spain. Historically, it’s also low tourist season. However, in 2016 tourists visited Spain in record numbers due to recent terrorist attacks in once popular vacation spots like Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey.

Transportation

Getting There and Away: I got a good deal on a return ticket to Madrid from the US on Delta. It’s worth setting price alerts for a variety of dates on Hipmunk and Skyscanner to take advantage of fare sales quickly when they arise.

Getting Around: Uber is not available in many cities in Spain due to taxi driver protests, although excellent public transport and walkable city centers make taxis less crucial.

I took the AVE high-speed train between Madrid and Córdoba and between Seville and Madrid since it saves so much time over bus travel. Book 90 days in advance to secure the lowest rate. I used the excellent Loco2 rail booking service to receive alerts when my dates were available for booking and to avoid using Spain’s notoriously unreliable official railway site.

Once in Andalusia I took trains when they were comparable in price to buses. Buses generally are the cheapest option, and comfortable although they lack on-board toilets!

Accommodation

View onto the Alhambra from my Airbnb in Granada

View onto the Alhambra from my Airbnb in Granada

My kind Airbnb host in Madrid took me out for a typical Spanish breakfast: churros, café con leche, and pan con tomate

My kind Airbnb host in Madrid took me out for a typical Spanish breakfast: churros, café con leche, and pan con tomate

I stayed in Airbnbs throughout Spain and had a fantastic experience. The hospitable, gregarious nature of the Spanish make them great Airbnb hosts.

SIM card and apps

I bought a SIM with a 2GB monthly data plan with limited voice and SMS at an Orange store in Madrid. I needed to show my passport but otherwise it was a straightforward transaction. At the end of the month Orange granted me another free 2GB of data as part of a promotion. This worked out well since I only had another week in the country.

Having a data plan for my phone turned out to be essential since Wi-Fi in the Airbnbs often was unreliable.

As in the rest of Europe, I recommend installing WhatsApp since it’s commonly used for messaging.

Madrid

View from El Corte Inglés, Callao, Madrid

View from El Corte Inglés, Callao, Madrid

I spent three weeks in Madrid. Most of my time was absorbed by intensive Spanish studies at AIL Madrid. I stayed at an Airbnb in Barrio de Salamanca, the upscale central neighborhood where my Spanish school was located.

Madrid is a vibrant city with a wealth of cultural activities and great day trips. Highlights for me included the Prado (go when it opens and during the week if possible to avoid crowds), Retiro Park, and a day trip to Toledo.

I’m still dreaming of Madrid and want to return soon for a longer stay.

Living wall, CaixaForum museum and cultural center, Madrid

Living wall, CaixaForum museum and cultural center, Madrid

Madrid Atocha. The only train station I've ever seen that contains a tropical rainforest.

Madrid Atocha. The only train station I’ve ever seen that contains a tropical rainforest.

Madrid Atocha

Madrid Atocha

Sanctuary for abandoned pet turtles, Madrid Atocha

Sanctuary for abandoned pet turtles, Madrid Atocha

View from El Corte Inglés, Callao, Madrid

View from El Corte Inglés, Callao, Madrid

Museo Reina Sofía. Amazing courtyard and glass elevators.

Museo Reina Sofía. Amazing courtyard and glass elevators.

Signs in Madrid

Signs in Madrid

Jamón ibérico, everyone's favorite snack

Jamón ibérico, everyone’s favorite snack

Delicious meal of typical Spanish food at the home of my awesome iTalki tutor Bárbara

Delicious meal of typical Spanish food at the home of my awesome iTalki tutor Bárbara

View over Toledo. Beautiful even in the rain.

View over Toledo. Beautiful even in the rain.

Mass in Toledo cathedral

Mass in Toledo cathedral

Monastery in Toledo

Monastery in Toledo

Córdoba

Mezquita, Córdoba

Mezquita, Córdoba

I’m glad I started off my Andalusian journey in Córdoba. While lovely, for me it was eclipsed by cities like Granada or Seville I visited afterwards. The Mezquita without doubt is breathtaking and was the highlight of my visit.

View from bell tower, Mezquita, Córdoba

View from bell tower, Mezquita, Córdoba

View from bell tower, Mezquita, Córdoba

View from bell tower, Mezquita, Córdoba

Richly gilded mihrab or prayer niche, used in a mosque to identify the wall that faces Mecca. Mezquita, Córdoba.

Richly gilded mihrab or prayer niche, used in a mosque to identify the wall that faces Mecca. Mezquita, Córdoba.

Dome over mihrab or prayer niche, used in a mosque to identify the wall that faces Mecca. Mezquita, Córdoba.

Dome over mihrab or prayer niche, used in a mosque to identify the wall that faces Mecca. Mezquita, Córdoba.

Lots of fancy weddings at the Mezquita, Córdoba

Lots of fancy weddings at the Mezquita, Córdoba

Granada

Alhambra at night from my Airbnb's roof terrace, Granada

Alhambra at night from my Airbnb’s roof terrace, Granada

Typical Moroccan shop in the Albayzín Arab quarter of Granada

Typical Moroccan shop in the Albayzín Arab quarter of Granada

Granada is magical. I recommend reading Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra during or after your visit to gain an appreciation of the city’s fascinating legends and history.

I bought my Alhambra tickets online two months in advance. In summer it would be wise to book three months ahead, as it is incredibly popular and it’s very difficult to get tickets on the spot.

Generalife gardens, Alhambra, Granada

Generalife gardens, Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada

Alhambra, Granada

Skylights in Arab baths, Alhambra

Skylights in Arab baths, Alhambra

Wall carvings, Alhambra, Granada

Wall carvings, Alhambra, Granada

Flamenco in Granada

Flamenco in Granada

Ronda

Sunset at Puente Nuevo, Ronda

Sunset at Puente Nuevo, Ronda

Ronda is lovely and worth at least one night’s stay. I recommend doing the two to three hour Camino de los Molinos hike through the surrounding countryside to see the famous Puente Nuevo bridge from below.

View from cliffs of Ronda

View from cliffs of Ronda

Arab baths and Arab bridge, Ronda

Arab baths and Arab bridge, Ronda

View onto Puente Nuevo from Camino de los Molinos hike, Ronda

View onto Puente Nuevo from Camino de los Molinos hike, Ronda

Camino de los Molinos hike, Ronda

Camino de los Molinos hike, Ronda

Octopus and apple salad tapa, Ronda

Octopus and apple salad tapa, Ronda

Ronda's famous bullring

Ronda’s famous bullring

Ronda's famous bullring

Ronda’s famous bullring

Seville

Performance at the Museo del Flamenco, Seville

Performance at the Museo del Flamenco, Seville

Seville is justifiably famous as the crown jewel of Andalusia. You could probably spend a week here without running out of things to do. Three days was just enough to get a taste.

Devour Spain’s tapas and wine tasting tour was a highlight of my time in Seville. Our small, friendly group sampled 10 traditional tapas and seven local wines over a very enjoyable evening. Devour Spain also has tours in Madrid, Barcelona, and Málaga, and I definitely plan to check out more of their foodie experiences.

Trying delicious tapas on Devour Spain's Tapas & Wine Tasting Tour

Trying delicious tapas on Devour Spain’s Tapas & Wine Tasting Tour

Christopher Columbus's tomb, Seville cathedral

Christopher Columbus’s tomb, Seville cathedral

Triana Market, Seville

Triana Market, Seville

Patio de las Doncellas, Alcázar, Sevilla. Lots of Game of Thrones scenes were shot at the Alcázar.

Patio de las Doncellas, Alcázar, Sevilla. Lots of Game of Thrones scenes were shot at the Alcázar.

The Baths of Lady María de Padilla, Alcázar, Seville

The Baths of Lady María de Padilla, Alcázar, Seville

Tiles, Alcázar, Seville

Tiles, Alcázar, Seville

View from Giralda tower, Seville

View from Giralda tower, Seville

Future Visits

Spain is now my favorite country in Europe! I’m already planning my return. Next time, I’d like to do more language study in Madrid followed by a visit to the Basque Country and the north.


Note: I never accept compensation or freebies for my writing. If I recommend a business, it’s because I loved them and think you will too.

4 Comments on “Spain: Two Weeks in October/November 2016

  1. Gorgeous photos, as always! Interesting how you felt the effects of current world events on your travels. And thanks, you’ve gotten me interested in Spain – I generally don’t think about it much when planning trips and yet, it’s so easy and (relatively) inexpensive to get to from DUS. Will certainly take your advice at some point to visit Granada and Seville!

    • Danke dir! I’m so envious of you, living in the heart of Europe with the benefit of budget airlines. It must be incredible to have so many world-class destinations a short flight away.

      It’s funny, I’ve been analyzing why I loved Spain so much. To me it’s the perfect mix of what I love best about both Europe and Latin America: the sophistication of an ancient civilization combined with a warmth and openness of the people that I miss in northern Europe. 😉

  2. Hello Ingrid, I just found your blog this morning as i researched spanish immersion classes. I then found your report on your visit to Spain. I returned yesterday from a 4.5 week trip, 3 weeks in Portugal then to Madrid for 10 days in central Spain. Your photos of Andalucia took me back to a previous trip to beautiful southern Spain. It is an amazing country and I hope to return soon.
    I thought you may be interested in extending your next trip to central Spain by volunteering for a week in an English immersion course for Spaniards – check http://www.diverbo.com. I just completed a week at the La Alberca site and it was very interesting. “Anglos” get free room and board, and the opportunity to get to know some amazing Spaniards by talking with them for a week. The students last week were almost all professionals, ranging from late 20s to mid 50s. The week was tiring (especially for the introverts) but a great experience. The program is also offered in Germany. Thought I’d share with you.

    • Hi Jane, great minds think alike! I have in fact seriously considered doing this volunteer program. My only concern as an “Anglo” fluent in Spanish is that I might be tempted to use a Spanish word or two, or to let drop somehow that I understand Spanish. And then there is the introvert thing… although I suspect a few glasses of wine might help with that! 😉 I think it sounds like a fantastic opportunity to get to know Spanish locals and spend a week in a beautiful location. Thank you for your recommendation… Maybe I need to write a post on it. 🙂

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