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HELP! me with my itinerary(portugal-spain-S of France-switz)

Travel Forums Europe HELP! me with my itinerary(portugal-spain-S of France-switz)

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1. Posted by lepj2702 (Budding Member 4 posts) 6y

Hey everyone,

I'm going to europe for my first time with two of my friends(we are all 22yrs old) and i'm super excited.. Just can't decide on wich city to visit. We were thinking of doing Portugal-spain-south of france-switzerland then west italy in a total of a month or a bit more.

So here's where i need the most help. We are not the biggest fan of historic site and we are looking for outdoor activity with great scenery. We would rather trekk in a national park then to see and old church.

So wich city or town should we visit along our trip?? And what activities are fun to do there.

Thx for the help folks!

J-P

2. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

We would rather trekk in a national park then to see and old church.

Than instead of making this a typical city-to-city trip by train select a bunch of national parks that look interesting to you and string them together. Don't visit the cities, visit the national parks.

We were thinking of doing Portugal-spain-south of france-switzerland then west italy in a total of a month or a bit more.

Portugal to Italy via the countries mentioned would be a 2-3 month trip. As a rule you should plan on 2-3 weeks per country and 5-7 days for bigger cities like Paris and Rome.

Since you mentioned trekking, could you see yourself spend the whole of your trip walking? Ie doing long-distance hiking with a backpack? Portugal to Rome can be done using the old pilgrimage routes, the St. James Way and the Via Francigena.

3. Posted by lepj2702 (Budding Member 4 posts) 6y

Thx for the advice T_maia.

I know i should be doing less country's in that time span but since i wont be able to go back to europe for a while because of my studies. So i'm trying to cram a bit more in there. I might cut off the italy part but I absolutely need to see switzerland.

I hadn't tought about doing the national park and i will take it in mind. However i would still like to see some big citys and historic site along the way.

Anyadvice on a itinerary that links these countrys:
-Portugal (should i go south and follow the coastline until i reach barcelone or go east to madrid??)
-Spain
-south of france (any town i should visit there.. i thought about Nice??)
-Switzerland (I'm looking for outdoorsy location, kinda like interlaken?? anywhere else with this vibe?)

Thx for your input
J-P

4. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

Not very familiar with places you can go in Portugal, but for route planning in going from Portugal to Spain, it makes sense to end in Barcelona so you can then travel to South of France with relative ease and less back tracking time.

If you wish to go southward in Portugal, you can then cross eastward into Andalucia region in Spain, perhaps hike at Sierre Nevada range. The Andalucian region has a rich Moorish heritage, so it's definitely well worth visit. Then you can take a train to Madrid and spend a few days there, before heading in north-east direction to Barcelona.

If you go northward in Portugal, then t_maia's suggestion of Camino de Santiago (or the Way of St James) is a good one, and it'll even incorporate nature with churches along the way, since it's a pilgrimage route. Traditionally, people walk this route from east to west to ultimately arrive at Santiago de Compostela, but someone I know have done it the other way (which would be the sense of direction you'll take, coming from Portugal into Spain) and found it much more rewarding (his words), because by going in the opposite sense of direction, he met lots of people all along the way. From the route, you can then proceed to Barcelona. For this option, you'll see mainly north of Spain.

For South of France, Camarque National Park is worth visiting. From Marseille, you can take a boat trip to see the gorgeous calanques. Nice is very much a beach/sun-sea resort kind of town, and if you want some change of scenery there, Antibes nearby in my opinion makes a better stop. You can walk the beautiful Cap d'Antibes as well as seeing the French riviera.There are regular buses between Antibes and Nice.

Not to dwelve too much on Italy, since you have a time constraint and may leave it out. But if you do want to go and not be too far south or east into Italy, Cinque Terre near the north-western coast has amazing landscape and you can walk from village to village between the five villages. It's not far to get from Nice to Genoa.

I have not been to Switzerland, so I'm afraid I'm not in position to give any advice.

On the note of the time constraint, you could look into travelling by train from city to city, then do day hikes/walks at places/routes close to the cities. Sometimes, the trek may bring you to a next town, then you can proceed with rail travel from there. That way, you get to see the nature part of things, as well as doing some city visit.

Good luck in planning your trip :)

5. Posted by lepj2702 (Budding Member 4 posts) 6y

Wow!! Thx for all the input. It'S really appreciated.

Doing days trekk and then taking the train to the next city is definetly the way I want to go.

I'm currently tempted by the south of portugal and spain trip.

His it really worth the detour to go to Madrid or could i skip this and go to barcelona directly?? It's definetly a place i would love to see but on my time span i'm trying to cut off some detours..

Any nice places to visit in Valencia or Seville??

Anyother suggestion is welcome has i'm miles away from finishing planning this! :)

Also any thoughts on Switzerland? And i would love to go to Cinque Terre if the time allows it! It's seems beautiful!

J-P

6. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

Doing days trekk and then taking the train to the next city is definetly the way I want to go.

Include 2-3 days trekk with staying overnight in mountain huts into your plans and you'll be spoiled for choice in Switzerland.

Mountain huts provide basic accomodation to hikers and trekkers in Switzerland. You can get food and a bed there. Expect to pay around 20-30 EUR per night at such a hut. Bring a hostel bed sheet / sleeping bag liner for staying at mountain huts.

Any nice places to visit in Valencia or Seville??

Not sure whether this is what you are interested in, but take a look anyway:

http://looklex.com/spain/index.htm

Plan on having 10+ days at minimum for Spain if you want to combine Moorish Spain with Barcelona.

Train travelling:

Note that the train ride from Spain to Switzerland is very long and exhausting. If you plan on getting a Eurail Global Flexible Pass it might be cheaper and better to catch a budget flight to Southern Germany or Northern Italy from Spain.

www.whichbudget.com and www.skyscanner.net will help you.

Some trains journeys are not included in the Eurail pass in Switzerland. As you can guess these are the ones most interesting to tourists. Often you can get a 50 % or 20 % discount on the ticket for these scenic trains with a Eurail pass, but it will still be an expensive trip.

Switzerland is overall the most expensive country on your list, don't keel over when you see the prices.

7. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

Valencia? All the way on the east coast of Spain? If you're looking to cut some detour, then you wouldn't want to go to Valencia. Therefore, between Valencia and Seville, Seville would be the better option. There's plenty to do and to see in Seville, including the cathedral, Real Alcázar, Museo de Bellas Artes etc and just outside of Seville, you can go to Sierra de Aracena Natural Park.

If you need to cut down on the detours and choose between Madrid and Barcelona, certainly, you may skip it. Do note that if you skip Madrid and goes straight from Seville to Barcelona, the train journey is a very long one as the route runs along the south and west coast (at least 11-12 hours), but you can travel overnight on this so you won't lose too much time. If you do do Seville-Madrid, then Madrid-Barcelona, it's about 2.5 hours and 3 hours journey respectively.

8. Posted by lepj2702 (Budding Member 4 posts) 6y

T_maia

Thx for all the info on south of spain. Seems to be something i wouldn't want to miss. Awesome site as well, lots of great info. We are planning to make a stop in the south of france to cut down the train ride from spain to switzerland.

The info on the way train travelling works down there was very valuable as I have no idea wish pass I should take. Something i'll have to check but right now i'm focusing on planning my itinerary and I will check those details aftewards cause it's aweful lot of things to take care of..

Doing a 2-3 day trekk in the swiss moutains seems awesome.. Any specifi names of places or routes to take?

Lil_lil

Thx for the info.. I don't know why but for some reason i thought going through valencia rather then madrid was going to save me some time.. I'm glad it's longer cause I will absolutely travel by madrid but probably concentrate most of my days in Barcelona.. Looking forward to check out the nightlife.. Probably comes with a big price tag though..

Spain part i pretty much done: Will do the moorish region (not sure wich town and activities yet) the madrid then barcelona..

Anythoughts on Portugal? I here there's some nice scenery down south?

How much money should i budget for each day i go approximately? And how does it vary from country to country?

9. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 6y

I have no idea wish pass I should take

Check out the ultimate guide to Eurail passes by Rick Steves:

http://www.ricksteves.com/rail/

My suggestion would be the following: if you end up going for 5-6 weeks buy a Eurail Global Flexible Pass and mix in some bus rides and budget flights. If you end up going for one month plus some days in an interesting city that is your arrival or departure airport buy the Eurail Global Continuous Pass.

We are planning to make a stop in the south of france to cut down the train ride from spain to switzerland.

I looked at connections from Barcelona to Bern (just an example) on

http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en.

Travelling times by train between vary between 12 and 20 hours for connections between these cities.

At first glance the most direct and obvious choice looks to be the connection that uses the NZ 4392 night train between Cerbere and Mulhouse Ville. But if you have a Eurail Global Flexible Pass it isn't, because the train departs Barcelona Sants 17:16 and thus uses up two travel days from your pass.

The most direct and shortest connection between Spain and Switzerland is the Talgo departing Barcelona Estacion de Franca 08:45 to Montpellier Saint-Roch and then catching the TGV train to Geneva, arriving 17:35. From there various connections to other cities in Switzerland exist.

The best (if the longest) is the one that gives you a half-day stop-over in a French city. Guess which? Paris.
For this depart Barcelona Estacion de Franca 21:05 using the EN 475 to Paris Austerlitz, arriving in Paris 09:00. You can then catch a TGV to Switzerland later in the day, say by using the one that departs from Paris Lyon 18:10 to Geneve. Why is this the best? With a Flexible Pass a night train that departs after 19:00 is counted as one travel day only. You simply enter the date of the next day into the travel pass. This gives you the chance to travel from 19:00 the first day to 23:59 the second day - but using up only one pass day.

http://www.eurail.com/eurail-faq-what-is-a-travel-day

but right now i'm focusing on planning my itinerary and I will check those details aftewards cause it's aweful lot of things to take care of..

Your initiary can influence your travel pass choices and vice versa, so keep an eye on that. Eurail passes are not the only option, you could take bus or plane just as easily. There is the Eurolines bus pass and the busabout network for buses that you could use instead of riding the trains.

How much money should i budget for each day i go approximately? And how does it vary from country to country?

You should have around 65 EUR per day and person (plus the costs of flights to Europe) as minimum. If the Eurail pass and all other transport (including reservation fees and supplements for trains) is already paid for plan on having 50+ EUR per day and person. At the bottom end plan on having 35 EUR per day just for food from the supermarket and for a bed in a hostel - you won't need this everyday, but there will be days when you will come close.

[ Edit: Edited on 04-Nov-2009, at 15:56 by t_maia ]

10. Posted by lil_lil (Travel Guru 462 posts) 6y

Taking cue from t_maia, if you're considering going directly from Barcelona to Switzerland, Elipsos night trainhotel may be the way to go if you don't want to lose too much time. Just plugging in a random search for travel in January, the timetable (which may be subject to changes) shows departure from Barcelona at 7.38pm and arrival at various Swizz cities the next day would be: Geneva (5.45am), Lausanne (6.54am), Fribourg (7.46am), Bern (8.49am), and Zurich (10.07). It's a single journey without train changes, making it quite convenient.

Nomadic Matt recently wrote an article of his opinion if getting an Eurail pass is of good value. Have a read.

Another option you could consider, for inter-European countries travel, is travel by bus (i.e. the Eurolines). Say, if you plan to stop in South of France, there are limited train options and you may even need to look into booking trains separately, e.g. Barcelona to Perpignan (3-4 hours), then Perpignan to Marseille (4-5 hours). These short train rides would usually be done by day, so you could potentially lose quite a lot of time for the rail travel. But Eurolines would have a bus leaving at near midnight from Barcelona and arrive in Marseille at near to 9am the next morning. So similar travelling time, but overnight, and bus is usually cheaper than train too. The strategy with Eurolines is to buy your ticket ahead of travel, as there's usually a discounted price on the web.

Re spending money, assuming the flights and train tickets/passes etc have been taken care of, t_maia has already given a good indicator of how much you would need for accommodation, food, local transportation and some sightseeing. Do remember that Switzerland is going to be expensive, whereas Spain and Portugal would be cheaper, with France somewhere in between, so your daily need in the different countries will vary. I'd guestimate €40-€50 per day for Portugal/Spain, €50-€60 per day for France, and a good €70 per day for Switzerland. This should allow you to travel in reasonable comfort. I don't particularly like thinking in terms of what's the absolute minimum I can get away with because it means constant worry on the budget, but to allow a bit more wiggle room with some extra allocations, it's always nice if there are extra unused money left. (But that's just me) ;)

In terms of accommodation costs, in Portugal, e.g. Lisbon - you can get dorm beds in very good hostel (say the ones that won HostelWorld best hostel awards last year) for about €16-€18 euro pp/pn. In Spain, Seville's rate for hostel varies between €12-€15 pp/pn. For Barcelona, it'll be similar to the prices in Lisbon. When it comes to Marseille in France though, now it'll be about €25-€30 but they tend to be private rooms rather than dorm beds. Next up, Switzerland, e.g. in Bern, the price of €25-€30 is now for a dorm bed. To reduce your accommodation costs, you may look into couchsurfing. And for one stop hostel booking website, I normally use HostelWorld.

Bearing in mind the estimate of spending money, food will inevitably be common day-to-day items and no fancy restaurant eating. There's usually cooking facilities in hostels so you can buy stuff for cooking from a local supermarket. However, do look out for local foods and some of them do come at reasonable prices, e.g. tapas in Spain can often come by for about €10 per person. Eating out at lunch time will also be cheaper than at dinner, which works quite nicely since you'll be out and about at that time, and can get the food as you go along. In the evening, you'll be back at the hostel, which makes the possibility of cooking more likely. Or, check the hostel notice board - often there could be special nights organised for group outing where it won't cost too much to eat out etc.