It would be a delight to get lost in Spain, wandering about at your leisure, discovering unspoiled villages off the beaten path. But few of us have such a generous amount of time in the fast-paced 21st century. Vacations are getting shorter, and a lean-and-mean schedule is called for if you want to experience the best of any country in a ridiculously short amount of time.

If you only have seven days to spare, check out our one-week trip, or, if you have more time, our two-week itinerary. If you've been to Spain before, especially Madrid or Barcelona, you may want to skip either of these cities, using them as gateways, and hop down to Andalusia to explore the single-most intriguing region in all of Spain. Families might want to consider the family-fun tour, with more focus on sights that appeal to kids.

Spain is so vast and so treasure-filled that it's hard to resist the temptation to pack in too much in too short a time. It's a challenging, daunting destination, and you can't even skim the surface in 1 or 2 weeks -- so just go for the nuggets, such towering attractions as Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo, and Seville.

Spain ranks with Germany and France in offering Europe's best-maintained superhighways. It also boasts one of the fastest and most efficient public transportation systems in the world, especially its national rail system. Madrid stands at the hub of a vast transportation empire, with many once-remote cities now within easy reach of the capital -- for example, Córdoba in 1 1/2 hours or Seville in 2 1/2 hours.

Our itineraries take you to some major attractions and charming towns. The pace may be a bit breathless, so skip a town or sight occasionally to have chill-out time -- after all, you're on vacation. You can also peruse our review of the best of Spain to find out what experiences or sights appeal to you and adjust the itineraries to suit your own interests.

Plan on using various kinds of transportation. Because Spain is big, it’s worth covering long distances either by plane or high-speed train. Bear in mind that it may be faster to take a train from Madrid to Barcelona or Sevilla than to go to the airport and wait to get through security; and you’ll arrive in the city center. In practice, you may end up using trains, planes, buses, and rental cars for maximum convenience and efficiency.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.