10 Ideas for Planning an Amazing Southern Spain Road Trip

A Southern Spain road trip is a journey through a region shaped by powerful empires: the Romans, the Arabs, and finally, the Christian kings who flourished on the riches extracted from the newly-discovered Americas.

In Andalusia, it is not unusual to see a crumbling Roman Theater incorporated into the wall of an Arab fortress, both standing in the shadow of an immense Gothic cathedral. It is one of the most culturally and historically striking regions in all of Europe.

And then, there are the incredibly picturesque Andalusian white villages, the charismatic Iberian lynx, and beautiful mountains and sparkling coastlines.

To help you plan your perfect southern Spain road trip, we put together this guide to some of the best road trips in Andalusia. Whether you are planning a weekend break in Spain or a few day trips from major cities, we’ve got you covered. Simply hire car, pick a trip from the list and explore the magic of Andalusia.

Seville – Cordoba – Granada

South Spain road trip: Seville, Cordoba, Granada
Image © Becki from Meet Me In Departures
  • From: Seville – Cordoba – Granada
  • Days: 6 – 8
  • Distance: 346 km 

This road trip covers three UNESCO heritage cities, and if you’re a fan of Moorish architecture, then each of the cities includes an abundance of it. You can easily spend 2 to 3 days in each city. Although you could see the highlights in a day, it will be incredibly rushed.

Start in Seville, this is the capital of Andalucia and a hub of outstanding architecture. Some of the main things to see here are the Seville Cathedral and the Giralda (the Giralda dates back to the Moorish era). It’s also worth visiting the Alcazar to see the stunning patios and intricate plasterwork. 

The second stop is Cordoba. In the heart of the historic centre, you’ll find the mighty Mezquita – the Mosque-Cathedral, the most spectacular Moorish monument in Cordoba. This religious building was originally built as a mosque and still features beautiful red and white stone arches. After Spain was conquered by the Spanish, a Catholic Cathedral was built into the centre of the mosque

The final city is Granada, where you’ll find Spain’s second most visited attraction, the Alhambra. The Alhambra complex is made up of various areas including the Generalife, the Azacaba and the famed Nasrid Palaces. You will probably want at least two days in Granada to fully explore the Alhambra and the surrounding areas of Albaicin properly. 

For all the attractions, arrive early in the day to avoid the crowds. It’s also worth taking note that parking in the historic centres can be challenging or expensive so it’s better to leave your card outside the city and then walk in. 

Recommended by Becki from Meet Me In Departures

Malaga to Gibraltar

Gibraltar - south spain road trip
Image © Cristina of My Little World of Travelling
  • From: Malaga to Gibraltar
  • Days: 1
  • Distance: 137.5 km (one-way)

If you are looking for a short road trip from Malaga, Gibraltar is a fantastic option. You will enjoy a full day visiting impressive attractions, taking in beautiful views and relaxing at beaches with crystal-clear water.

A one-way journey only takes 1 hour and 45 minutes when driving via AP-7, a toll road, so the drive is straightforward. Once you arrive in La Linea de la Concepcion, it is a good idea to park there because there aren’t many places to park your car in Gibraltar. You will find a few car parks (public and private) close to the border control where you will need to show your passport or identity card.  

If you choose to enter Gibraltar by car, you might want to fill the tank as petrol is usually cheaper than in Spain.

There are incredible things to do in Gibraltar in one day. You can explore the Rock of Gibraltar and the Nature Reserve, where you will enjoy breathtaking views of Gibraltar, Spain and Africa and see plenty of macaques, visit St Michael’s cave, and soak up the sun at Catalan Bay.

The best way to access the Rock of Gibraltar is by taking the cable car, as this will save you time, so you will explore more attractions before heading back to Malaga.

Overall, going on a day trip from Malaga to Gibraltar is a fantastic experience. It is a day trip that families and any type of travellers will enjoy.

Recommended by Cristina of My Little World of Travelling

Malaga to Frigiliana

Southern spain road trip - Malaga to Frigiliana
Image © Victoria from Guide Your Travel
  • From: Malaga to Frigiiana
  • Days: 2
  • Distance: 60 km (one-way)

A road trip from Málaga to Frigiliana in 2 days is a great way to explore the beautiful region of Andalusia in southern Spain. The journey will take you through the picturesque countryside, where you’ll be able to see rolling hills, olive groves, and charming villages. You’ll leave Malaga and head towards Rincon de la Victoria, passing through the charming neighbourhood of Pedregalejo on the way.

The highway is modern and easy to drive and follows the coast so you can enjoy stunning views of the small bays. Definitely stop in El Morche for a drink and a snack as you watch the sun go down. You can either spend the night here or in nearby Torrox before heading towards the small town of Nerja the next day.

You definitely have to visit the famous Nerja Caves, which are a network of limestone caves that offer a fascinating glimpse into the past. After visiting Nerja and spending some time by the beach in Maro, head up into the mountains to Frigiliana.

Once you reach this beautiful white village, spend the rest of the day exploring the narrow cobbled streets, visiting the local churches and museums, and savouring the delicious local cuisine. You can also take a short hike to the Mirador del Rio viewpoint for stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

On the second day, you can take a drive around the area, visiting some of the nearby towns and villages. For example, you could visit the town of Competa, known for its wine production and beautiful views of the sea.

Recommended by Victoria from Guide Your Travel

Malaga to Seville

Plaza Espana in Seville
Image © Noel from Travel Photo Discovery
  • From: Malaga to Seville
  • Days: 1 to 7, depending on the route and the number of stops
  • Distance: 211 km (one-way)

If you are looking for an iconic Southern Spain road trip you can easily do the route from Malaga through the coastline and then up north to Seville. If time and distance are more pressing then taking the northern route to Seville takes about 2.15 hours and covers around 211 kilometres.

Going through A-45 and A-357 to A-92, the route is direct through rolling hilly areas and you can actually stop in the white village of Antequera and Osuna just outside of Seville. The trip can be direct or you can do detours to each of these hidden gems to explore and catch a fabulous local meal. 

Once you reach the Andalusian city of Seville, you will enjoy all the historic and cultural treasures of the city to visit. This includes architectural wonders like the Royal Islamic palace of the Royal Alcazar, Plaza de Espana, the cathedral of Seville, La Giralda to more modern architectural treasures like Setas de Seville – a modern wooden sculpture with a viewpoint of the city to marvel at.

Seville is an easy walking city to explore so you don’t have to use your car to get around and see all the ancient and beautiful treasures of the city. 

If you take the direct route to Seville from Malaga, you can visit the wonderful white villages. But if you decide to take the coastal route, you can stop at iconic Costa del Sol stops like Marbella, Torremolinos, Benahavis and so many other amazing beach venues to explore on this route. Either way, you’ll really have a fantastic drive through the Southern region of Spain and enjoy all the highlights here.

Recommended by Noel from Travel Photo Discovery

White Villages of Andalusia

Olvera white village in Andalusia to see on a Southern Spain road trip
  • From: Ronda
  • Days: 1 – 3
  • Distance: 75 km (one-way)

The famous white villages of Andalusia are among Spain’s top highlights. Also referred to by their Spanish name, “pueblos blancos”, these spectacular, fascinating remnants of Moorish occupation are found among some of the best scenery southern Spain has to offer.

Most are built atop picturesque hills and feature dramatic castles, forts and churches. There are nearly endless road trip variations to be had among the more than two dozen white villages but many of the best ones can be found very close to Ronda, the region’s main tourist centre.

Starting with a visit to Ronda’s incredible El Tajo gorge and iconic Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), you can enjoy a 115-kilometre loop with stops in four of the most beautiful and intriguing white villages in Spain.

Heading north, start in Setenil de las Bodegas, a bizarre and unique cave town, before moving on to Olvera and Zahara de la Sierra, both featuring candidates for the most dramatic hilltop castle in Andalusia. From there, it is up and over a high scenic pass before descending to lovely Grazalema, tucked photogenically into a forested valley in the incomparable Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema.

Based strictly on driving time, this white villages road trip can easily be done in a single day but we would strongly recommend spending at least one night in either Zahara de la Sierra or Grazalema to give yourself more time to enjoy each village and possibly add in a day hike in the national park.

Recommended by Dean and Laynni at Routinely Nomadic

Cordoba to Ronda

Cordoba to ronda road trip in southern spain
Image © Alyssa of An Apple A Plane
  • From: Cordoba to Ronda
  • Days: 5
  • Distance: 165 km

Taking a road trip from Cordoba to Ronda is an unforgettable experience.  Cordoba and Ronda are two towns often overlooked in the Andalucia region of Spain due to their close proximity to the more famous Seville and Granada.

Consider spending at least three days in Cordoba and two days in Ronda for the optimal time to enjoy each location.  Follow Highway A-4 just over 2 hours south of Cordoba to arrive in Ronda.  

Cordoba’s historic centre is home to Calleja de Las Flores, one of the prettiest streets in Spain. Perhaps the most famous landmark in the town and one of Andalucia’s three great monuments is The Mezquita.  Built in the 16th Century, The Mezquita is a stunning Mosque-Cathedral.  You can buy tickets online in advance, on arrival.  To save money, visit on a non-ticketed morning.  

Ronda is one of the most famous Pueblos Blancos in the Andalucia region of Spain.  While I thought I could see it all in one day, I encourage at least two days in this small town to fully give yourself time to soak up its charming ambience without rushing. 

Enjoy the classics like charming views from Puente Nuevo Bridge and an underground excursion through Casa Del Rey Moro Water Mine.  Just past Casa Del Rey Moro and Jardines de Cuenca is Ronda’s Old City, which is fully white-washed on the other side of town.  

For time spent in nature outside of the city, locals recommend the hiking trails and turquoise waters of Cueva del Gato. And don’t miss the pretty waterfall right under the bridge – Cascada de Ronda. It’s not one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Spain, but it’s one of the most accessible.

Recommended by Alyssa of An Apple A Plane

Jaen, Ubeda, and Baeza

Jaen, Ubeda, and Baeza road trip in south spain
Image © Linn Haglund of Amused by Andalucia
  • From: Jaen
  • Days: 3-4
  • Distance: 116 km

One of the most underrated road trips in Spain is the trio Jaen, Ubeda, and Baeza. Situated in one of the highest olive oil production areas in Spain, there are a lot of things to do in Jaen and you should consider spending at least one day there to see the castle, cathedral, Arab Baths, and war shelters among other things either at the beginning or end of your road trip.

Ubeda is a UNESCO-listed site for its astounding Renaissance civic architecture and some of the most elegant examples are found on the Plaza Vázquez de Molina Ubeda. Among them, there is the 16th-century Sacra Capilla de El Salvador, Colegiata de Santa Maria de Los Reales Alcazares, and Palacio Vazquez de Molina. There is a magical charm to Ubeda at night too when the streets come to life, lit by warm street lights, and busy bars and restaurants invite for a tapas dinner and a bottle of wine.

As with Ubeda, Baeza is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list for its Renaissance architecture. However, both cities have a long history including the Romans, Visigoths, Jews, and Moors, and hide many incredible historical and cultural gems.

In Baeza, do not miss out on the Plaza de Los Leones where you find the oldest landmark in the city, the Fountain of the Lions, the Arch of Villalar, and the Butcher’s Building with its imposing façade. The cathedral is also incredible and walking around it takes you straight back into medieval times. There is no doubt this trio is perfect for a road trip!

Recommended by Linn Haglund of Amused by Andalucia

Cadiz to Seville

Cadiz to Sevilla road trip in Andalusia
Image © Paulina of UK Everyday
  • From: Cadiz to Seville
  • Days: 1-2
  • Distance: 138km

A road trip is a fantastic way to discover wonderful places in Andalusia. Why not start an unforgettable journey in Cadiz? One of the oldest cities in Europe. It is filled with historical buildings and the sandy beaches of Cadiz offer stunning views of this ancient Spanish city.

Start exploring Plaza de la Catedral to see Catedral de Cádiz – one of the most beautiful churches in southern Spain. Then, drive via the Constitution of 1812 Bridge which is one of the most impressive bridges in Europe that connects Cadiz with Puerto Real.

This small town is surrounded by the Bay of Cádiz Natural Park where you can spot flamingos or sea eagles and many other incredible animals. This region is not only a sanctuary for birds but also the ancient Roman settlement of Portus Gaditanus.

Puerto Real is well connected with Jerez de la Frontera so don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit Bodega La Constancia to buy delicious Spanish wines. Jerez de la Frontera is famous for its wineries and walking along narrow streets covered with vines will be an unforgettable experience.

Finally, head to Seville to explore famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Alcázar of Seville, Seville Cathedral, and General Archive of the Indies are must-see places in the Andalucia road itinerary.

Recommended by Paulina of UK Every Day

Cadiz to Tarifa

Cadiz to Taifa road trip
Image © Joanna of The World in my Pocket
  • From: Cadiz to Tarifa
  • Days: 5
  • Distance: 103 km

If you love remote and wild beaches, rural areas and beautiful whitewashed towns, then you must go on a road trip between Cadiz and Tarifa, on Costa de la Luz. Whilst most tourists prefer to go to Costa del Sol when they visit Andalucia, Costa de la Luz remains relatively unknown.

Cadiz is one of the oldest towns in Europe. Despite this, the city has a fantastic vibrant atmosphere and makes a great start to your road trip. You can spend the first day exploring Cadiz and its cultural heritage. Don’t miss visiting the Cathedral, which is unique because of its crypt, which is under sea level. Have lunch in the fish market, for an authentic experience and the most delicious fresh fish you will taste on this trip.

The next day start exploring the coast, and the wild beaches in this area. Your first stop should be Conil de la Frontera, a whitewashed village known for its sandy beaches. Just down the road, in El Palmar, you can learn how to surf in the South of Spain. Spend the evening enjoying a glass of wine in the beautiful Vejer de la Frontera, watching the sunset over the ocean, from the top of the hill.

On the third day, continue to Barbate and learn about the traditional tuna fishing in this part of Andalucia. In the evening, go for a horse ride at sunset, on the beach, to the Trafalgar lighthouse.

On the next day, explore the sand dunes from Playa Bolonia, which are supposed to be some of the most beautiful in the entire country. They are still pretty unknown to tourists so, if you travel here out of the season, you might have them all to yourself.

On the last day explore beautiful Tarifa, the capital of water sports in Andalucia. Here is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, and you can walk between the two bodies of water, on a pier over the sea.

Recommended by Joanna of The World in my Pocket

Costa Blanca

Costa Blanca road trip in south spain
Image © Martina of PlacesofJuma

A road trip along the Costa Blanca is a wonderful experience. The so-called White Coast of Spain is located in the province of Alicante, and on a trip, you can look forward to breathtaking beaches, fantastic attractions and romantic towns. For a perfect road trip, you should plan 1 week, although a few days more to relax and swim at the gorgeous beaches is well worth it!

The best place to start the tour is Xabia in the north. There you visit the picturesque cliffs and discover dream beaches like the bay Granadella or the Cala del Moraig, just to name a few.

After, continue to Calpe, a coastal town with the famous Penon Ifach mountain – a stunning natural park that characterizes the landscape of the picturesque coast. You should also visit the pink flamingos in the small salt lake in the centre of town, and of course, the colourful old town of Calpe.

The next stop is Altea. Here you can visit the snow-white old town overlooking the sea, which is actually untypical for this region of Spain. Not far away is Benidorm, where the “Manhattan of Spain” awaits you with countless skyscrapers, clubs and amusement parks.

The colourful town of Villajoyosa is also worth a visit. It is still a little unknown and therefore an insider tip on the Costa Blanca. Finally, the city of Alicante with its beautiful old town and great sandy beaches.

Recommended by Martina of PlacesofJuma

Final Thoughts on the Southern Spain Road Trip

A Southern Spain road trip can take you from the Roman Empire to Moorish Spain to striking coastlines and adorable white villages. You can even try your luck at spotting one of the world’s rarest felines! This guide introduced a few different options for planning a Southern Spain road trip to get you started. Whichever itinerary you choose, Andalusia is bound to sweep you off your feet.

More on Exploring Spain

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