A road trip in Southern Spain – our itinerary of 10 days

We love Spain so much that we visit it at least once per year. Last year we decided to break the Camino routine and try something else we adore – a road trip. So here’s the itinerary for a 10-day road trip itinerary in Southern Spain. Warning: it contains so many unbelievable views, fascinating history, and indulgences, that you might become automatically hooked! Don’t think too long and just go on a road trip in Spain! It is totally worth it!

We did the trip at the beginning of June and the weather was warm and not too hot so sightseeing was unobstructed from the heat while it was still not the highest season to attract the crowds. Be sure to book accommodation, a rental car, and some major tourist attractions in advance so your plans don’t get spoiled. Anyway, the road trip to Andalusia will be worth it, trust us! Vamos a disfrutar España!

Valencia

We started with a very delayed flight to Castellan so we didn’t have time for a proper dinner in Valencia. Good news – we asked the airline for compensation and got 400 Euro each few months later. We went straight to bed and in the morning we visited a nice local market (it was Saturday) where one could get anything from local organic food to tights and underwear. We’ve been to Valencia before so we got the car and hit the road south.

Where to stay in Valencia: At this apartment with the very welcoming host Manuel.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Valencia

Dénia

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We found Denia on the map and the photos of it were so attractive so we decided to stop by for a walk and lunch. The town has influences from Iberian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, Napoleonic, and Christian civilizations so expect a lot in terms of culture, archeology, and architecture. We walked up to the Moorish castle and absorbed the views towards the sea. We decided to let the drone see from even higher but the nasty seagulls made us land quickly.

It started raining so we had to make use of the castle map to cover our heads. We went down from the fortress to the tiny center streets near the coast. They were welcoming guests for late (Spanish way!) lunch so we had to indulge with tapas and beer. Nobody cared about rain or something else… So, that’s why it’s nice to add random stops to your road trip itinerary in Spain. A nice welcome to Alicante province.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Denia

Calp (Calpe)

This was the stop for our second (and first full) day of the Southern Spain road trip. The first place to encounter difficulties parking (all those towns in the south are hard to navigate with their narrow streets and stair and even harder to find a parking spot in). Our hotel had this amazing Southern Spain vibe with colorful tiles and ship ropes everywhere.

The streets would go up and down until you find your spot at a tapas bar or reach the beach promenade. In any case, walking was both good exercise and delivered good views (Plaza Mayor, the public beaches). We drove to the nearby Ifaq peninsula to visit the sanctuary for migrating birds. The big rock is magnificent and well worth the walk (or swim, if you’d like). We finished in one of the coastline restaurants trying colorful liqueurs.

Where to stay in Calpe: Unfortunately hotel Galeon is not existing anymore but you might find another charming place to stay in Calpe.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Calpe

Salinas y arenales de San Pedro del Pinatar

We headed south to San Javier and San Pedro del Pinatar to seek the tranquility of a very small town while waiting for our friends to attend a wedding. Even small places are full of sunshine and color (especially when there’s the beach around) so we can’t complain. We read about the Salinas nearby and went to check them out.

It turned out to be a very peaceful area for bird watching, just walking or biking. You pass sand dunes, salty lagoons, mud pools, and even flamingoes. It’s a narrow strait of the boardwalk (later it turns to a pathway road) that separates Mar Menor from the Mediterranean. It was the perfect long walk with serene views, plenty of birds to see and a lot of wind to refresh our minds.

Where to stay in San Pedro: We stayed at a private apartment that had a very homey feel. Find accommodation in San Pedro on Booking.com.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Salina y arenales de San Pedro

Cabo de Gata

Cabo de Gata is one of those places you admire nature and feel respected about what it can do and how powerful it is. It’s a nice curvy road (with good asphalt) that ends up in between huge rocks. If you hike a bit, you will become a witness to dramatic waves crashing at the rocks, filling up underwater caves, and the majestic sounds of Mother Nature. Petrifying and awe-inspiring.

You can also stop by one of the nearby villages to check out what seemed to be a deserted huge wild beach or some lakes that are home to thousands of birds. It might be a detour from your Southen Spain road trip itinerary, but it is so well worth it. Take the Cabo de Gata detour, please!

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Cabo de Gata

Cartagena

We couldn’t skip the port city of Murcia and not explore what Carthaginians did when they founded the city. Again with the streets that go uphill and downhill, it was a nice exercise that sometimes had an ancient theater or a view of the naval base as a bonus. For such an old place, anyone can find something interesting in the city.

We found it hard to find a parking spot, even within the many paid zones. We got lost at least three times and actually lost more time navigating with the car than exploring the old town. But we did manage to get lost on the streets of Cartagena. We stumbled upon a touching monument for the victims of terrorism. We also tried to find something typical to eat, but the city center is quite internationalized and globalized so we decided to skip lunch in Cartagena.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Cartagena

Almería

We highly recommend Almeria to anyone who is looking for a more local vibe and off-the-beaten-path-Southern-Spain experience. It still has the Alcazaba – the Moorish Castle and the neighborhood which has the total Arabic vibe. You can also find out that people are actually living underneath the walls of the Citadel, inside holes in the rocks. The fortress survived (or didn’t) a lot of earthquakes and fierce sieges.

Downtown we started wandering the street in search of food and it was so empty. We couldn’t explain where is everyone but it’s always nice to have the whole city for yourself. We eventually found a very offbeat local restaurant (including no English-speaking customers or staff) and finished the day with good homemade food and surrounded by lots of paintings (we think it was a gallery, too).

Where to stay in Almeria: at a very decent old-school hotel Torreluz Centro.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Almeria

Western Leone Movie Set

Did you know that the semi-desert landscapes of Sierra Nevada are actually home to a couple of spaghetti Western movie sets? We couldn’t resist the feeling of being a part of an old Western Movie so we visited the Western Leone Movie Set. And it is an experience to have in that part of the country! Tumbleweeds in a Western village, the old church, city hall, farm, and a couple of cowboys that have some business to settle… It was definitely a highlight and a nice way to enjoy the Sierra Nevada.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Sierra Nevada, West Leone Movie Set

Alhambra

We don’t want to spoil your first encounter with the magic of Alhambra, that’s why we will just tell you: make sure you visit Alhambra! And here’s how to do it easily. We got so confused with those many fake websites that sell overpriced (or even fake) tickets online. We didn’t want to get there and hang in line for ages. That’s why we made the phone call to Alhambra authorities and they told us which is the only official Alhambra tickets website: alhambra-patronato.es.

While driving from Sierra Nevada semidesert to Granada, we bought tickets online, and here we went: a day visit to the Alcazaba’s Gardens, Palaces, and Generalife. There were no queues for us, just electronic tickets to scan at the entrance. The Nazaries Palaces line is usually quite long so reservation ahead of time is crucial. We didn’t have enough “ahead of time” but we did manage to reserve a night tour of the Nazaries Palaces of the Alhambra.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Granada, Alhambra
Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Granada, Alhambra

Granada

We chose Granada as the base to explore Alhambra but the city has its own magic – especially in its lively atmosphere of tapas, wine, and smiles everywhere. We woke up super early the next morning to drone the old town and Alhambra and the sunrise didn’t disappoint. The best part was having coffee, and fresh juice in a nice cafe with locals and practicing the Spanish lifestyle to the fullest. If you have more time, we suggest spending it on more things to do in the city or checking out some off-the-beaten-path experiences in Granada.

Where to stay in Granada: at the very quirky Casa Salvador.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Granada

Nerja

Nerja is an extremely picturesque town, kissed by the sea. We had to walk the tiny streets, get totally blown by the fresh winds, and mingle with all the other visitors at the Balcony of Europe. We found a sunny cafeteria and wondered if we should just chill the whole day collecting some vitamin D.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Nerja

Málaga

Malaga was a great stop for mainly indulging in food delights. The city is famous for its food and entertainment scene so this second visit confirmed that foodies will be super excited to visit Málaga. Of course, there are still many cultural and historical things to see in the city, as well as some architectural and natural wonders to admire, too.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Malaga

Ronda

Ronda turned out to be one of the nicest surprises on this road trip in Andalusia. The city is situated in a mountainous area about 750 m above sea level. The Guadalevín River runs through the city and it divides it in two and carves out the steep, 100-plus-meter-deep El Tajo canyon above which the city is built. It’s amazing and you have to be there and enjoy the majestic bridges and views. And Ronda is just one of many magical Pueblos Blancos of Andalucia.

Another surprise was the Ronda Guitar Festival. We were lucky to be there on one of its days and enjoyed well-known classical and flamenco guitar performers from all over the world!

Where to stay in Ronda: We stayed at this flat and the host very very responsive online. Alternatively, you can find accommodation in Ronda on Booking.com.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Ronda drone view

Gibraltar

It was time to exit Spain and enter Gibraltar – a British Overseas Territory. We crossed the border and the airstrip (it’s an international airport actually). While we didn’t quite catch the magical British stuff like phone booths and taxis, we did explore the Rock of Gibraltar and hiked one of its routes. We encountered lots of monkeys, hidden caves, great views, and tons of birds flying around. We used the funicular to go up and then walked all the way down to the parking lot, where we had to apply a set of techniques to get a parking spot. Gibraltar is just crowded. Great that the limestone rock is still not.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Gibraltar

Complejo Rural Huerta Grande

We booked an outdoor rural eco-resort at the edge of Los Alcornocales Nature Reserve. Our little wooden bungalow was so enjoyable and the peaceful area around, too. We were surrounded by forest although we didn’t have time for a decent hike, we did have time to wander through the woods to the nearby village to find the most local and delicious restaurant in the area!

Stay: Complejo Rural Huerta Grande

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay, camping and bungalows

Tarifa

There was no way to pass by the southernmost point of continental Europe. The beach, the sea, everything – it’s just a dreamy place to be at. Although a lot of seagulls tried to rain their digested food leftovers over us, the whole experience was so fascinating! We even managed to take a dip in the water while many were already practicing wind sports.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Tarifa

Cádiz

The weather, together with some decent traffic jams had decided to ruin our Cadiz experience. Nevertheless, we managed to take a walk in the mingled streets of old town Cadiz, found a bakery with fresh chocolate creations, and even found a place to have lunch without a reservation. That day was definitely the wettest one to our feet which didn’t really manage to get dry.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Cadiz

Seville

There is no better place to feel part of typical Andalusia than Seville. We just walked and walked, crossed bridges so many times, admired the architecture in cathedrals, the Alcázar castle and its gardens, and just every building around. We even went sightseeing at a privately owned Plaza de Torros – a stadium-like place where they do corridas. Bullfighting is still legal and allowed in many parts of Spain, but at least it happens a lot more seldom than before. Here’s a tour that combines Seville Cathedral, the Plaza de Toros, and the Alcazar.

A hidden gem in town was the impromptu flamenco showed performed in a local pub. They wouldn’t allow photographing to keep the experience intimate. And here’s another great flamenco experience in Seville.

Where to stay in Seville: We stayed in this apartment with a very offbeat interior. Find your accommodation in Seville here. Or you can choose your favorite hostel in Seville.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Seville

Córdoba

Cordoba turned out to be my personal favorite place on this road trip in Andalusia. Such an incredible mix of different cultures, influences, civilizations – and all that is tucked in charming winding streets. Daytime or nighttime – I wish we could have stayed at least a week there. Also, we witnessed the most amazing flamenco show ever! Here’s the link to book online Arte y Sabores.

Where to stay in Cordoba: at the colorful welcoming amazing Hosteria Lineros 38.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Cordoba, flamenco

Jaén

Jaen is not only the olive capital of Spain (maybe it should be such for the whole world) but also the place where we met our friend Eduardo. We met him on the Camino for the first time and he was so excited about Andalusia and Jaen that we had to give him the chance to show us what the excitement was all about. And he did a great job to show us around the city center and the lovely dressed-up locals (at it wasn’t even the carnival), the Castle of Santa Catalina and some secrets of the happy life of Spaniards. Gracias, Edu!

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Jaen

Úbeda

The last night we spend in a charming Ubeda where it was a little too high-end – and I mean everything. We stayed at one of the fanciest places on this road trip, we had a snack in a Michelin-star-candidate restaurant. It was so peaceful on Sunday and at the same time, high-end stores were waving to us at every corner. Everything was great when we had a Spanish-style but organic-and-vegan breakfast in the morning, read the newspaper and hit the road to Madrid airport.

Where to stay in Ubeda: at one of the super chick luxurious Apartamentos Sol Real.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Ubeda

Venta del Quijote

There is no way we could have skipped a place not only to have lunch but also to follow Don Quijote’s steps. We left our donkey in the courtyard while indulging in our very last lunch on this trip. Someone claimed to have seen Sancho Panza in the stables.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Venta del Quijote

General advice for your road trip in Southern Spain

Avoid toll roads and take picturesque ones

You can thank us later – not only will you save money, but also you will enjoy epic scenery all around Spain.

We drove 2152 km with 182.46 Euro for fuel. We chose a small car for the tiny roads so that we were flexible and never got stuck anywhere.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay in Spanish countryside

Major tourist attractions – book well in advance or skip

We got very lucky to be able to book Alhambra just few hours before we got there, and we also could compromise seeing the Nazaries Palaces at the night only. If you don’t want to compromise, make sure you book your favorite attractions long in advance. Or skip them and look for more alternative things to do. We had to skip Caminito del Rey because we couldn’t plan 4-5 months in advance. To visit a national park, for God’s sake.

Parking

If you rent a car in Spain, make sure you book accommodation with parking options. It might not be super close to where you stay (we walked 15 mins to get from the parking to the apartment in Ronda). Sometimes parking fees could go up to 25 euros per day so make sure you know what to do. Sundays and festive days are usually free, in some towns, there might be free parking zones but don’t count on that.

Road trip in Andalusia, travel in Southern Spain - itinerary, places to visit and places to stay, driving

What to eat and drink in Andalusía

As usual, we were finishing every tapas, dish, or drink they served us in Southern Spain so fast, so it was practically impossible to take photos. Just make sure you try whatever they recommend plus the stuff from the list below, OK? Buen aprovecho!

Pisto

Gazpacho

Pulpo Gallego

Salmorejo

Sobressada

Berenjenas rellenas (stuffed eggplant)

Tortilla de patatas

Pestiños, alfajoresamarguillos – anything your sweet tooth can find in one of the plentiful pastry shops

Vino – even simple house wine is delicious in Spain (incl. Sherry, and here you can find more tasty drinks from all over the world)

Cerveza – as much as you can drink of it

So that was a tasty, full of scenery and history road trip itinerary in Southern Spain. If you love nature, architecture, mixed influences from different worlds, and indulging in local flavors – make sure you hit the road to Andalusia ASAP!

A road trip in Southern Spain
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