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The Best of the Mediterranean Coast - Suggested Itinerary

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A trip along the Mediterranean Coast You can do by Train or Car

From tasting the Paella in Valencia to Walking the Cinque Terre, our suggested Itinerary takes you to the best places along the European Mediterranean coast. See the map for the places we'll cover.

suggested itinerary mediterranean map

Mediterranean Map Showing Suggested Itinerary for this Trip
Towns are rated by happy faces
Map © 2006-1014 by James Martin, licensed to About,com

This trip, as suggested, can easily be done by train. All the cities and villages on this map have central train stations. If you don't mind driving in relatively large cities, you can do it by car as well.

How Far is it From Town To Town on the Map?

Below is a scale of the relative distances between each destination on the map. The actual distance in kilometers is shown in the scale. Notice that there are some recommended side trips you can take to Carcassonne and Arles, and getting to the Cinque Terre may require a train change or, better yet, a cheap ferry trip from La Spezia, so it's listed as a side trip.

mediterranean distances

Note that the whole itinerary is about 1760 kilometers, or nearly 1100 miles. Notice that if you do the three-smile (red) towns, you'll travel around 200 to 400 kilometers per destination change (or a maximum of 250 miles per day). If you have time and do all the cities, you'll reduce the time it takes to get between cities, and the itinerary will feel like a real vacation.

Information on the Destination Cities in our Suggested Mediterranean Itinerary

Here's where to go to get more information on the suggested cities, starting from West to East.

Spain

Valencia: Valencia is Spain's third largest city, but the historic center is compact enough that you won't feel the size at all.

Tarragona: Founded as a Roman Military camp in 218 bc. Interesting city with lots of Roman ruins peppering the seaside.

Barcelona: Everybody's favorite port city on the Mediterranean. Spend at least three days here.

France

Narbonne: Narbonne was the first Roman colony outside of Italy, and was located at the crossroads of the via Domitia, the Roman road linking Italy to Spain. You can get to Cathar Country or the Aude region from Narbonne.

Carcassonne: The best preserved Cathar Castle in France is a stunning view from the lower town (or even from the Autoroute). Worth a day or two, or can be done as a day trip from Narbonne.

Nimes: Like Arles, a historic center that shares space with remarkable Roman ruins. Nimes is more Spanish than Arles; you'll find bullfighting and tapas there. If you have a car, you might want to go a short way out of Nimes toward Arles to taste some Roman recipe wines called Mulsum that will revive you. See: Fountain of Youth in a Bottle

Nimes Travel Resources

Avignon: The City of the Popes is a must-see part of Provence. Lots of opportunities for day trips to Provence towns, so take at least three days here.

Arles: Founded by the Greeks, made a colony of the Romans, made famous again by Van Gogh--Arles is the essence of Provence--with a great Roman arena, er, bullfighting ring right in the center.

Arles Travel Guide

Marseille: Known as a big blue collar port, it's becoming the in place among seasoned travelers. I sort of like the place for its gritty lack of tourists.

Nice: It's not just Nice, but the whole French Riviera you might want to visit. And if you are ending your trip in Nice and are stuck in the airport without a car, there are some pretty nice things to do there as well.

Italy

Genoa: The old port city had been spiffed up when it became the 2004 European Culture Capital, and it's got lots to see and do. Two days minimum.

La Spezia, The Gulf of Poets and the Cinque Terre: Yes, folks flock to the Cinque Terre, but you can see equally compelling seaside landscapes without the crowds around the Gulf of Poets. You can spend a lot of time around here.

Rome: Old and new mix in interesting ways in Italy's capital city. Three to four days will leave you gasping for more, or just gasping, depending on how much you like what's here.

How Long will the Selected Mediterranean Itinerary Take?

Let's face it, to do it right would take at least three weeks. However, if you eliminated the end points, Valencia, Tarragona and Rome, the trip becomes much shorter--you eliminate 770 kilometers. Now, if you only do the three-smile towns, and spend 3-4 days in each-you might be able to do the trip in two weeks.

Wouldn't you rather ask your boss for the time off? I mean, that plane ticket over is mighty expensive; it's much cheaper to have one long vacation than two short ones.

Transportation--What Rail Pass Should I get for the Mediterranean Itinerary?

Good Question. Rail passes are more cost efficient when used for longer journeys. If you're doing the short version, with frequent stops at smaller destinations along the route, you might not need a pass at all--just buy your rail tickets at each station. Rail passes, even if they aren't cheaper than point-to-point tickets, can be more convenient though--considering that you often have to stand in line these days to get tickets.

So, I recommend the dual country Spain/France Pass, especially for those doing the longer routes (and remember, if you're coming from Paris or Madrid to start your journey, the pass will help you out there, too). Italy's trains are cheap, so you'll usually find point-to-point tickets the better deal.

Resources: Choosing the Right Rail Pass | Buying Point to Point Rail Tickets | Tips for Train Travel in Europe

The Mediterranean Itinerary by Car

You can also do this itinerary by rental or buy back lease car, but you'll have to face parking issues in major cities like Barcelona and Rome. You really want to avoid this. You can, of course, avoid the big cities entirely. It's relatively easy to park around Avignon, for example. Also consider: in Summer, road will be full of Europeans looking for their August beach spot.

Resources: Rental Cars in Europe | Buy Back Lease Companies | Buy Back Leases Explained

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