Advice about Costa Del Sol, Andalusia, and North Africa
January 25, 2015 2:11 PM   Subscribe

We're trying to plan a honeymoon and are broadly looking for something that may take us from Madrid to Casablanca. Any travel advice, pointers, or warnings?

We'll have about two weeks and we're interested in Malaga, Seville, Gibraltar, Casablanca, Fes, Marrakesh, etc. Where would you go and what would you do? I have a gazillion Hilton points but they don't seem to have much in the area.

Also, is August a terrible time to go there?

Trains preferred to planes. I'd rather spend 4 hours on a train than 1 on a plane for scale.
posted by Raichle to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
August is going to be so hot in southern Spain. So, so, so, hot. Unless you are one of those people who really doesn't mind stunning summer heat, you are not going to want to be wandering around Andalusian cities in August during the day. I went the last week of September and there were some pretty unpleasant days even then.

The places I went were Sevilla, Granada, Cordoba, Ronda, and Arcos de la Frontera. My recommendations would be:
1. Do not drive in the cities if you can help it, but driving between them is fine and easy. Just park on the outskirts and cab it to your hotel.
2. Arcos is not really worth dealing with getting into (roads are harrowing and the alternative is a 20 minute hike straight up into the city center), but this hacienda outside of town is absolutely lovely and was one of the highlights of our trip - private, romantic, beautiful, with the nearby city on the hill. It's about an hour from Sevilla and after being in urban areas for most of the trip it was nice to have a peaceful rural break.
3. Ronda is stunning and definitely worth a visit.
4. Go to the Alhambra but make advance reservations. Granada was our favorite of all the cities we visited and is definitely worth spending a few days in. We stayed in a cave hotel in the Sacromonte district - very fun and cool.

We considered Gibraltar but everything I read made it seem more like a thing to do for the novelty of it, not necessarily because there's anything significant to see. I've not been to Morocco so can't comment there.
posted by something something at 2:26 PM on January 25, 2015

I did a very similar trip in April 2007.

We went: Barcelona, Córdoba, Gibraltar, Tarifa, Rabat, Marrakech, Sevilla, and then onto Portugal (Faro, Lisbon, and Sintra, which were GORGEOUS and so inexpensive), but we had a full 3 weeks and change. We took trains, buses, and boats between all those places, which was doable, pleasant, and affordable.

Gibraltar is eh unless, as something something says, you're committed to it for the novelty. Everything else we did was great. In particular I remember and recommend:

- you can get to Morocco from Algeciras and Tarifa. Algeciras was kind of a dump so we moved on to Tarifa, which (in April) was this fantasy off-season beach town, gorgeous and quiet and warm with lots of good food and wine and clear water. We'd intended to stay one night and leave right away the next morning, but we ended up just hanging out there for days doing nothing. It is stupid beautiful.

- we took a train from Rabat to Marrakech and back in a second-class car, which was the best. The scenery is beautiful and we met tons of people who were friendly and interested in talking to us in a combination of shaky English and French. So much fun, and I don't usually enjoy talking to strangers.

- Marrakech was the greatest; eat everything.

- I don't remember much specifically about Córdoba or Sevilla, except they were both very pretty and we took a lot of photos. Food was good there, as everywhere we went. Great street scene at night, especially in Sevilla. It was hot in April, though, so I'd imagine it's worse in the summer...

When traveling, I mostly enjoy just wandering around new cities and checking out whatever I come across that looks interesting: bars, churches, museums, plazas. These are very good places for that method of traveling. I don't remember a lot of specific sites outside of Barcelona and Sintra, but I have very fond memories of nice weather, good walking, and friendly people.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:57 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I was traveling in Morocco and Andalusia I found that, overall, buses tended to be much more frequent and convenient, if somewhat less comfortable (especially in Morocco), than trains.

If you do decide to take the bus starting from Tangier (having crossed the Strait of Gibraltar by ferry from Tarifa/Algeciras), I highly recommend spending a day in Chefchaouen, which is a beautiful town painted all in shades of blue, surrounded by very dramatic mountain views.

From there, you can bus to Fes, which has a ridiculous medina that you will get lost in (in the best way) and also has, among many other things, a wild honey souk that sold carob honey that I still dream about.
posted by Dante Riordan at 5:02 PM on January 25, 2015

It's going to be really really hot. Also, a lot of stuff will be closed. That said, the Andalusian countryside is beautiful. I've traveled all around that region, mostly by bus (the buses are really reliable and easier to deal with than the train). The bus from Sevilla to Gibraltar passes through a beautiful area with windmills, rolling hills, seaside surfing, etc. Malaga is ok; I'd stay outside the city in Torremolinos, if you choose to go there. Gibraltar is neat, but it's the first thing I'd cut off the list, if I had to. An afternoon there is plenty. Granada and el Alhambra are definitely worth a trip.

If you're set on going in August, I'd look at northern Spain -- Barcelona through San Sebastian/Hondarribia, Bilbao, on to Santiago de Compostela (more or less the Camino de Santiago). It is SO beautiful then and the food is amazing.
posted by melissasaurus at 5:43 PM on January 25, 2015

Visit Ronda - spectacular.
posted by Hugobaron at 1:45 AM on January 26, 2015

Response by poster: Didn't seem like such a great idea in August so, chose the Greek isles and Turkey instead. Thanks for the advice! Still a dream trip, so, someday!
posted by Raichle at 12:27 PM on May 4, 2015

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