We're going to Spain in September 07 and are going to rent a car to drive barcelona-valencia-madrid-barcelona. just wondering if anyone has done this route or similar and can recommend any good stop offs or even if it is a good route choice to take - we're just taking a 2 week holiday rather than 'travelling' (unfortunately!)
Any hostel recommendations in all locations would also be much appreciated!!
That's about 1300-1400 km if you take the fastest route, which will amount to about 16 hours of driving if you like blatting up and down motorways. Be sensible and realistic, take the scenic route and allow double that for your total driving time throughout your holiday. It wouldn't be my personal preference for the best way to spend a holiday, but i think it's ot unreasonable for a touring holiday. Do bear in mind though that neither Barcelona or Madrid are particularly car-friendly.
You haven't given us much of a hint about your holiday interests (city? country? mountains? beachs? walking? nightlife? shopping?) but these are the places that quickly stood out when I scanned route route on a map:
Sitges: great beaches and I was totally blown away by the old abandoned autodrome just behind the town (but that's probably a very personal thing).
Tarragona: brilliant Roman remains.
Port Aventura: great theme park, if you fancy the idea of turning your knuckles white.
Ebro delta: unique landscape.
Valencia: Interesting city. Don't miss the Americas Cup port. Shame you'll miss the Americas Cup.
Cuenca: Well, we all know why you would want to go there. I've never been there yet, but I want to.
Madrid: Not the most exciting city in the world. But if you insist, go to the Royal Palace and see "Guernica" in the Thyssen museum. If you're a real art fanatic, you'll want to go to the Prado too.
The drive back to Barcelona doesn't have any obvious attractions so either jump on the motorway and get it over quickly, or amble down the country roads and for sure you'll discover a little treasure that none of the rest of us know about.
Nearly forgot Barcelona itself: one of the few cities I would go out of my way to visit. If you like cities, allow yourself plenty of time here. Las Ramblas, the Gaudi houses, Montjuich Parc, Parc Güell, Pueblo Español, Olympic port, Gothic quarter and last but not least, Sagrada Familia. What was Gaudí on? Where can I get some of it?
I've done both of these routes a couple of times and is not a bad drive at all.
On your way south from Barcelona to Valencia, you must see:
- Tarragona: UNESCO Heritage because of the roman heritage.
- Peñíscola: Beaches, history, culture and a wonderful place to spend half a day.
Yhere are other places you could visit as Amposta or Tortosa, but two stops are enough since the drive doesn't take longer than 4 hours. If you take the motorway, the tolls will cost you about 30 Euro, if you take the "Nacional" you will drive a little longer (45 minutes if there's not too much traffic) and save the money.
Now you drive west from Valencia to Madrid and there're two places you must visit:
- Cuenca: One of the 9 (if I'm not wrong) UNESCO heritage cities in Spain, really beautiful, small but gorgeus. It's not on your way to Madrid but 30 minutes north in the middle of the trip.
- Alcalá de Henares: Another UNESCO heritage city. Alcalá had one of the first universities in Europe and nowadays there're plenty of churches, medieval palaces and other ancient buildings to visit.
You're already in Madrid but before you make your way back to Barcelona, don't forget to visit Toledo, it doesn't matter how much time you have, you MUST visit Toledo, a city that will make the whole trip worth.
About the three cities:
- Barcelona is one of the most beautiful big cities I know, historic heritage, culture, nightlife, modernism. You'll need three days to visit it.
- Valencia: My city. Very similar to Barcelona but smaller and without Gaudí. An unknow city that will surprise you. Take two days to visit it.
- Madrid: Well that's my personal opinion, but only if you like museums and art it's worth to visit it, it has a couple of interesting quartiers but the best of the city is its cultural offer.
So that's what I would do: 3 days in Barcelona, one day driving south and visiting Tarragona, 2 days in Valencia, one day driving west and visiting Cuenca, 2 days in Madrid, 1 in Toledo and 2 more driving back and visiting Alcalá de Henares and Peñíscola. That makes 12 and you have 14.
About finding a park place: You will have problems only in the big cities: in Barcelona look for a park place in the harbour, in Valencia around the street Blasco Ibañez, in Madrid will be even more complicated.
And about hotels:
Just wanted to add that the national road between Madrid & Zaragoza isn't the best I've seen, but still a decent drive.