My husband and I (early 30s) will be in Spain from Sept 10th to Sept. 19th. We'll be arriving in Madrid and most likely returning home to the U.S. from Madrid. We want to visit Madrid, Barcelona, and the La Rioja region for wine tours. We are open to doing touristy things and walking from place to place while in Madrid and Barcelona, but we are looking forward to spending time in La Rioja and mostly relaxing. Where would you recommend we go to after Madrid? Barcelona or Rioja? How many nights would you recommend in each city and what is the best way to travel to each? AVE?
From what I've read on TA, there are many small towns around La Rioja that are Must See, but we don't really want to drive on our trip. We would prefer to take the bus if we want to get from one small town to the next. Do those exist? From what I've read, I know that we'll need to make reservations in advance..
If we don't want to drive, would Penedes for wine tours/tastings be a good option? I've heard getting there from Barcelona is not as far as getting to La Rioja. How is Penedes compared to La Rioja? Pros/Cons?
Another complicating factor is that I have read on TA that the La Merce festival might be happening around the same time of our trip. Should we go to La Rioja and then Barcelona to better coincide dates in Barcelona with the festival?
All advice is highly appreciated!! Thanks in advance!!