Dear GoMad Nomad,
I’m headed to Spain and Ibiza in August. Probably will only be able to take a week from work along with both weekends on either side. Wondering if you have thoughts on what’s not to miss.
Do you think you could let me know the approximate travel time and travel days needed in each city? I think the goal is a bit of R&R at the beaches, hitting the gay scene and Barcelona (I’d like to sightsee, see the architecture, etc.) and Ibiza are a must, the other cities we are flexible on. I plan to use miles to book the trip. I assume the best airport would be to fly in and out of Madrid.
Ibiza & Spain Itinerary Recommendations
Know that August is high season in Ibiza. The beach and legendary nightclubs will be packed. So will the cafes and beach bars. Accommodation will be expensive (book ahead!). I’m not saying this to deter you; many people come at this time because it’s the most fun. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into.
Where you fly into depends on how you want to get to Ibiza. There is ferry service most commonly from Barcelona and Valencia and flights from other cities throughout Spain and the rest of Europe. (Check to make sure your miles can’t get you all the way to Ibiza on your carrier’s partner.) Barcelona is one of the most popular cities in Europe, so I’d expect you’d like it there like most everybody else does. Probably give yourselves two days there to get oriented with the city. Visiting Madrid depends on your interest level.
Madrid & Day Trips
The opposite of Ibiza, Madrid is empty in August. Practically all Madrilenos spend the month on the beaches of the Costa Blanca or elsewhere. You may find bars, restaurants, and clubs closed. Accommodation will be cheap (check here for good deals). But Madrid’s biggest attractions, the Prado and Reina Sofia art museums will still be open for business. Also, consider there are excellent day trips from Madrid. Toledo and Segovia are two of my favorites. Madrid is lovely (I used to live there) but you may want to visit another time.
Another option would be to stop in Cuenca if you fly into Madrid. You can stop there on your way to Valencia, which is actually quite close to Ibiza. Valencia would be nice to check out for a day before the short ferry ride to Ibiza.
If you fly in and out of Barcelona, you may just want to stay in Catalonia. The Costa Brava is gorgeous and lined with small coastal resort towns. They each have their own vibe, so read up and pick your favorite. For a non-coastal city, Girona is an excellent stop. Only an hour north of Barcelona it’s packed with multi-cultural history, a beautiful old town, and a fantastic food scene. Catalonia is basically the foodie capital of the world, by the way.
Sitges – LGBT must-stop
South of Barcelona is the coastal city of Sitges. This is a stalwart on the LGBT scene. The city throws a renowned Pride and attracts a largely gay crowd. Plus the beaches are nice and the clubs or some of the liveliest at this time of year. If you choose to skip Ibiza, Sitges would be a great alternative. Check out these deals on Sitges accommodation.
Galicia – if more time
If you had more than 12 days, I might suggest going to Galicia in the northwest of Spain. The Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage ends in Santiago de Compostela and it’s one of my favorite small cities in Europe. The Galician countryside reminds me of Ireland and its rugged coastline is famous for shipwrecks. Like most of Spain, Galicia’s seafood is top-notch.
Andalusia – but not in Summer
If it weren’t August I would point you to Andalusia in the south of Spain. But seeing that the temperature in Seville in August reach 40 °C plus (over 104 °F) I would steer clear of the south. But Seville, Cordoba, and Grenada are three more excellent destinations as well as the gorgeous Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) in the Sierra Nevada.
Basque Country – alternative to Costa Brava
If you want a seaside alternative to the Costa Brava, then San Sebastian is hard to beat. It’s situated in Basque Country, which gives you a taste or another culture but is an additional 4-5 hours to the north from Madrid. The food scene, with its delicious pintxos (like tapas), is unbeatable. Plus you’d be hard-pressed to find a more gorgeous urban beach.
But if your main objective is a slower-paced trip, beaches, and R&R, I have some recommend Ibiza & Spain itinerary recommendations below:
1) Barcelona & Costa Brava with Ibiza
Barcelona (3-4 nights), Girona (1 night), Costa Brava (2 nights), Ibiza (4 nights including travel time)
2) Barcelona & Costa Brava without Ibiza
Barcelona (3-4 nights), Girona (1 night), Costa Brava (2 nights), Sitges (4 nights)
3) Madrid, Barcelona, & Ibiza
Fly into Madrid (2-4 days including day trips to Segovia & Toledo), Cuenca (1 night or day stopover), Valencia (1 night), ferry to Ibiza (4 nights), ferry to Barcelona (2-3 nights) Fly out of Barcelona.
4) Madrid, Barcelona, Sitges without Ibiza
Fly into Madrid (4 nights including day trips to Segovia & Toledo), Sitges (4 nights), Barcelona (2-3 nights) Optional day/night to check out Costa Brava/Girona. Fly out of Barcelona.
You may also want to check if your miles can get you directly to Ibiza on a flight. Sometimes your carrier’s partner goes to smaller airports like this. You also may want to consider flying into one city (Ibiza or Barcelona) and out of another (Madrid). For most airline awards, this doesn’t cost any extra miles.