Planning a road trip to southern Spain? This travel guide will help you to enjoy your trip to the fullest. Discover a wonderful mix of Moorish, Gypsy and Christian tradition on a road trip of a lifetime, with passionate Flamenco dancers along the way. Welcome to Andalucia! Let’s get comfortable – but buckle up, because this southern Spain road trip is one for the books, I promise!
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Stop 1 on your southern Spain itinerary: Heartwarming Seville
We start our southern Spain road trip in Sevilla, the hottest city in Europe. Winters are mild, summers are hot, and spring with its blooming orange trees is the most beautiful time of the year.
Seville is thoroughly Spanish, but you won’t find the typical bustle of other major cities like Barcelona or Madrid. The Sevillians are friendly and open people who enjoy life in a slow but intense way. Seville is the beating heart of steamy Andalucia, where bars swing open their shutters at 7am and restaurants serve Andalusia’s best tapas until midnight.
This beautiful city deserves a blog post in itself, which you can read here. To fully enjoy Seville, plan three days for your visit. You need plenty of time to see the top attractions in Seville, like the Plaza de España, Real Alcázar de Sevilla, the Metropol Parasol and so much more…
Hotel Tip: Hotel Fernando III is centrally located and you can enjoy their lovely rooftop swimming pool with a cocktail in hand.
If you Sevilla visit in the summer, a hotel with a pool is definitely recommended. During these months temperatures quickly rise to 45 degrees, so you’ll need to make time for more than just a splash in the refreshing water during the daytime.
Tip: Download the Cabify app. Uber isn’t available in many Spanish cities, but you can use Cabify instead. Ideal if you prefer not to drive yourselves or plan on drinking during a night out.
Attractions around Seville
The Roman Archaeological Site of Itálica
The Roman Archaeological Site of Itálica is a twenty minute drive out of Seville. This beautiful site, known as the Dragon Pit film location from Game Of Thrones, is definitely worth a visit.
The site was a Roman settlement dating back to 206 BC. Later, Itálica was founded as a town under the rule of Emperor Augustus and was the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian. The entrance is 33 euros pp.
Playa de Rompeculos, Huelva
Do you want to escape from the bustle of the city (or just seek cooler temperatures)? Playa De Rompeculos is a 90-minute drive from Seville. It’s without a doubt one of the most beautiful Spanish beaches. To get there, you have to hike for twenty minutes through the Doñana National Park. This beautiful beach will make you forget all your problems. Sandstone cliffs formed from petrified sand dunes frame the 100-meter beach, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Cadiz. It is one of the few beaches in the area where dogs are allowed.
Stop 2 on your southern Spain itinerary: The beautiful Mezquita Cathedral of Cordoba
The second stop on our southern Spain road trip is Córdoba. The city is only a 1.5 hour drive from Seville. It’s a surprising town where you can explore everywhere on foot, and the delicious local food makes it an ideal day trip.
With its imposing arches, high columns and tropical gardens, the Mezquita is the radiant center of Cordoba. Mezquita is the Spanish word for mosque, which refers to the building’s original function. When the mosque was built in the 8th century, it was the largest mosque in Europe. The building has changed functions several times since the 13th century. After the Reconquista, in which the Muslim population was expelled from Spain, the building became a church. A cathedral was also built there during the 15th century.
Due to the housing of several religions over time, the Mezquita of Cordoba has a unique history. The historic center of the city with the cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be visited almost every day of the year.
Hotel Tip: Maciá Alfaros is located near the center, and has a lovely swimming pool.
Stop 3 on your southern Spain itinerary: Travel back in time in Osuna
Osuna is an hour’s drive from Cordoba. It’s a beautiful city, which became world-famous through the filming of Games Of Thrones in the bull arena. It is the perfect stop during your time in Andalusia to enjoy the real authentic Spain. Spot beautiful grand baroque mansions that were built between the 14th and 16th century. You can get all the main sights ticked off in just one day.
Attractions in Osuna
Colegiata de Osuna
This 16th century St. Catholic Church contains a rich collection of Baroque art.
Plaza de Toros
You’ll immediately recognize this place from Game Of Thrones!
Monasterio de la Encarnación
This former monastery is now Osuna’s religious art museum. The church has an impressive Baroque altarpiece and the patio has some beautiful 18th century Seville tile work. Entry is only possible with a guided tour (in Spanish), led by one of the resident nuns.
Hotel Tip: Palacio Marques de la Gomera is located in a striking 18th century building in Osuna. It features spacious rooms with a traditional décor. The property has its own restaurant and a charming courtyard.
Stop 4 on your southern Spanish itinerary: Enjoy beautiful sunset scenery on a Ronda day trip
The town of Ronda is the next stop on our southern Spain itinerary, just a short hour’s drive from Osuna. This is a city I have wanted to tick off my Spanish bucket list for years. The road there takes you through countless sunflower fields. (I see you dreaming of beautiful sunflower fields with a breathtaking sunset in the background, but sadly nothing could be further from the truth. The fields here are unfortunately not as beautiful as those in Provence, but they’re at least as much fun to drive through!)
Thanks to the unique location and stunning panoramic views, Ronda charms all its visitors. There’s certainly a reason famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and Rainer Maria Rilke fell in love with this old town. The romantic atmosphere attracts visitors from all over the world, who enjoy this picturesque town and its renowned Puente Nuevo every day.
Attractions in Ronda
You’ll be surprised by the views here. The spectacular bridge is undoubtedly the main attraction of the city. The world-famous bridge was built to replace the lower Puente Viejo bridge. Under the leadership of architect Martín de Aldehuela, hundreds of men worked on the bridge for 42 years, 50 of which tragically lost their lives.
Plaza Duquesa de Parcent
Known as one of the most beautiful squares in Ronda. During the Moorish occupation of Ronda, it was home to the most important buildings in the city. Today you can still discover various monuments and historical palaces that are definitely worth a visit.
Church of Santa María la Mayor
Like many other Christian places of worship in Andalusia, this church also rests on the remains of an old Moorish mosque. Construction started in the 16th century and was only completed in the 1800s. This has meant that the church comprises different architectural styles. For example, the church preserves the old mihrab of the Moorish mosque, three Gothic hubs, a Renaissance-style chapel and various Baroque features.
Beautiful viewpoints on your Ronda day trip
- Mirador de Ronda – This beautiful viewpoint in Ronda is located along the promenade Blas Infante. From here you can enjoy a beautiful view of the valley of Guadalevín, a significant part of the region of Ronda, at a height of 200 meters. This viewpoint is one of the most popular, and you’re guaranteed beautiful photos.
- Mirador de Aldehuela – This lookout point is located near the Puente Nuevo, right next to the monastery of Santo Domingo. It offers spectacular views of the Guadalevín River, the bridge and the hills of the Serranía de Ronda.
Hotel tip: Hotel Bodega El Juncal is the ideal place to end your Ronda day trip. This beautiful hotel guarantees sweet dreams. It has a beautiful swimming pool with a view over the surrounding mountains, and numerous birds drop by for a drink. The staff are super helpful, and the rooms are clean.
Restaurant Tip: At restaurant Bar El Lechuguita you can experience authentic Spanish tapas. It’s a small restaurant with cozy outdoor tables. As well as being super tasty, it’s also super cheap. You can thank me later!
Stop 5 on your southern Spain itinerary: Delicious dining in Malaga
Welcome to the Costa del Sol! In the 1960s and 70s, countless holiday homes were built here along the ‘sun coast’. At the time it was very chic to spend your holiday here, but over time the region’s reputation diminished due to mass tourism. Despite that, there are still plenty of beautiful spots to discover during your southern Spain road trip.
Beautiful sandy beaches, perfect temperatures, a hip harbor area, an old cozy city center and tasty cheap restaurants: Málaga has it all. It’s quite a big city, but still ideal to explore by bicycle. Personally we weren’t the biggest fan of Malaga, but it is the ideal base for many activities during your holidays in Andalusia.
Attractions in Malaga
Mercado Central de Atarazanas
You should definitely tick off the local market, Mercado Central de Atarazanas. It’s the best place to find the freshest fish and eat the most delicious tapas.
The Alcazaba towers over the city. The fort is a mini version of the Alhambra in Granada, but definitely worth a visit as it’s certainly less crowded. For an even better view of the city and the harbor, continue your walk up to the Castillo de Gibralfaro, built to protect the Alcazaba.
The Pedregalejo district is the perfect place to eat all kinds of fresh fish near the sea. After a nice long walk along the beach, you’ll stumble across this neighborhood. This area is all about small fish restaurants where families and friends gather to enjoy simple but delicious dishes.
Soho has been labeled as the Barrio de las Artes (the arts district). This was once the neighborhood where the bourgeoisie lived, until the neighborhood started to deteriorate fifty years ago. Now you will find art galleries and trendy restaurants, and it’s the central spot for cultural events.
Hotel tip: Salles Hotel Málaga Centro is centrally located, so you can reach everywhere on foot. On the roof terrace there’s a lovely swimming pool with comfortable sun beds and a bar.
Restaurant Tips: El Balneario – Baños del Carmen is a traditional fish restaurant by the sea, which also does some of the best tapas in Andalusia. You can relax in the romantic setting and eat fresh fish for the day. Moreover, it is a lovely beach hike from the town to the restaurant. At Casa Lola in the center, you can indulge in Spanish tapas at its best – definitely worth it!
Stop 6 on your southern Spain itinerary: Be surprised by the Caminito del Rey tour
We paused our southern Spain road trip for an adventurous walk on the El Caminito del Rey. It’s a hike that has been on our Spanish bucket list for years, but we were always too late to get tickets. This time we were well prepared, and booked our tickets online for the Caminito del Rey tour beforehand!
El Caminito del Rey used to be known as one of the most dangerous roads in the world, partly due to the 100 meter deep cliffs. The history of the rock path goes back to 1901, when a power plant was constructed near the neighboring waterfalls of El Chorro and Gaitanejo. This narrow path along the El Chorro river was partly constructed for the transport of building materials. In 1921, the dam of Conde del Guadalhorce was opened at Ardales by King Alfons XIII. The king himself had trod this dangerous path, and it therefore was given the name ‘Caminito del Rey’ (King’s Path) as a reminder. Since then, the Caminito del Rey has served as a donkey transportation path for years.
In 1992 the path was closed because it had become so dangerous, due to the many holes, broken railings and missing pieces. Daredevils continued to try the Caminito del Rey tour anyway – and the path obtained a deadly reputation. In 2015, the path reopened after years of restoration work and the Caminito del Rey tour is now definitely the most beautiful hiking trail in Spain. You can walk 8 kilometers on the largely wooden path with the many handrails, stairs and steel cables, no longer having to worry for your safety.
The walk does not disappoint. It is a super pleasant well-marked trip, with beautiful fauna and flora along the way. Definitely try to spot some of the huge eagles flying high above the canyon!
Things to know before starting your Caminito del Rey tour
- Buy your tickets online in time! The Caminito del Rey tour often sells out weeks in advance, so buy your tickets online beforehand.
- The walk itself is 5km long, but you’ll walk around 8km in total including the distance from your car to the starting point and back to the bus station at the end.
- Make sure you take enough water and sunscreen!
- Good footwear is definitely required (no slip-on sandals).
- Children under 8 years old are not allowed to participate.
- You must wear the supplied helmet during the tour.
- Park your car in the acesso norte parking lot (close to restaurant El Kiosko Ardels). From here, you walk for about 20 minutes through the pedestrian tunnel to the control point. At the end of the Caminito del Rey tour, take the shuttle bus back to the starting point. (A ticket costs €1.55, and the bus runs every hour on weekdays, every half an hour on weekends and during the summer months. We bought our tickets with bus transport included.)
Stop 7 on your southern Spain itinerary: Relax at Playa De Maro in Nerja
It’s time to chill out! A southern Spain road trip is breathtaking, but let’s not forget that the temperatures here can rise to around 40 degrees celsius in the summer. A sea breeze is more than welcome – and you can get a breath of fresh air on one of the most beautiful Spanish beaches, Playa De Maro, in the coastal town of Nerja.
Playa De Maro is a very popular place in the summer. How could it not be… turquoise waters and a pebble beach define this perfectly preserved bay in the Natural Park Los Alcantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo. Due to the fishing ban, marine life thrives here and is easy to spot. With a sea kayak, you can paddle through natural caves and epic waterfalls from Burriana beach to Maro. I highly recommend it!
The beach offers toilets and a bar, as well as an outdoor shower to rinse off the salt water from the Mediterranean Sea. Be sure to bring your snorkel goggles!
Tip: Come early so you can park your car as close to the bay as possible. We were parked in the village and had to walk about 1.5 kilometers to the beach. I can already hear you thinking, that’s a piece of cake… think again, as the walk back slopes upwards which becomes quite a challenge in 40 degrees. Sweaty backs assured!
Attractions in Nerja
Rio Chillar – The Nerja river walk
The beach not your thing? The Rio Chillar might be for you. It’s a lovely walk through the riverbed, providing you with an opportunity to cool off in a sportier way. The hike is immensely popular, so start your adventure early in the day to avoid the crowds. In total, it’s 16km (8km there and 8km back), but you can turn back whenever you want. There are several parking spaces along the street ‘Calle Mirto’ (see map).
After a day of water fun, Frigiliana is the perfect town to enjoy a beautiful sunset and some tapas. The village is located six kilometers above Nerja, and presents itself as ‘villa de las tres culturas’: the village of three cultures. Moors, Christians and Jews have lived here peacefully together for centuries. The history of the Moorish times can still be found here most in barrio alto, the highest part of the village. It’s the perfect spot to stroll through the car-free streets with countless shops.
Stop 8 on your southern Spain itinerary: Explore Gibraltar
In the car on the way to Gibraltar you can spot countless fields full of olive trees. They’re certainly trees to be envious of… in my mind I wonder if our two olive trees at home will ever get as tough as these ones. If you’re still looking for a home souvenir, now’s the time to stock up on a supply of olives and olive oil!
If you’re planning to rent a car in Spain, you should mention in advance if Gibraltar is on your schedule. This may incur additional costs from your rental company.
Gibraltar was conquered by an Anglo-Dutch force in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession, and subsequently became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain. The peninsula thrives on tourism, with the rock of Gibraltar being the main attraction.
Stop 9 on your southern Spain itinerary: Relax by the sea in Cádiz
Before continuing our journey towards Cádiz, we stopped at Playa Bolonia in Tarifa. The beach is part of the El Estrecho Natural Park. On one side of the vast beach there lies a beautiful pine forest, and on the other there’s the crystal clear water of the Atlantic Ocean.
At low tide you can swim in natural pools on the south side, while looking across the Strait of Gibraltar towards Africa. There are many cozy beach bars and restaurants, and it’s known as surfer’s paradise in Spain!
We continued our journey towards Cádiz, a town that I have always wanted to see in real life. The location of this city is special. It lies on a long, narrow peninsula that must be entered via an old gate during your drive to the city.
Cadiz is completely surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. When you arrive, take a drive around the peninsula so you immediately have a good understanding of the city. Except for the Cathedral, Cádiz does not have many cultural highlights.
If you have enough time make sure to stop in this cozy seaside resort. Even though there’s not much to do, the city does have plenty of charms. You can also eat the best tapas in Andalusia, and Plaza de la Tiza is a pleasant square with several nice tapas bars. In Calle Colombia, you can also discover lots of lovely little cafes and restaurants.
Stop 10 on your southern Spain itinerary: Jerez de la Frontera, your last stop
Jerez is the city of sherry and the Andalusian horse. Motorcycle enthusiasts will know the city from the Grand Prix circuit. With 200,000 inhabitants, it’s the fifth largest city in Andalusia. The old center is not too big, meaning you can discover everything by foot.
Arguably even more beautiful is Arcos de La Frontera, a super stunning white village in a beautiful hilly landscape. From the viewpoint Plaza El Cabildo, you can spot the special location of the town on the perpendicular mountain wall, and of course you’ll have a breathtaking view over the valley. Arcos is a very traditional village, where you will be catapulted back in time.
This southern Spain road trip was pure enjoyment! For me, Andalucia is by far one of the most beautiful regions in the whole country. Real authentic Spain, where joy and quality of life come first.
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