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South of Spain Road Trip Guide
Andalucia epitomizes southern Spain; vibrant, colorful, and passionate. This ultimate Andalucia road trip itinerary will take you to the major cities and best places to visit, bringing this gorgeous part of Spain alive.
Andalucia is Spain’s most southerly region, heavy with Moorish influence, which is evident in the wonderful food and architecture, beautiful and romantic cities, the passion of flamenco, and its iconic pueblo blancos (white towns) set amidst stunning landscapes that you won’t want to leave.
We have spent years visiting and traveling in Andalucia, and in this road trip planner, we share travel tips, the best route between towns and cities, things to do and see along the way, and hotel recommendations to help you plan your perfect road trip through Andalucia.
Is this your first time visiting Spain? Get all the information you need in our Spain Travel Guide, including what to pack, the best time of year to go, getting there, and practical tips to help you have the best trip!
Where is Andalucia?
Sometimes called Andalusia (the Anglicised name), Andalucia is the southernmost autonomous community in peninsular Spain. Arguably Spain’s most famous region, Andalucia stretches from the border with Portugal in the west to the border with Murcia in the east, and nearly 300km / 186 miles north into Spain’s mountainous interior.
Andalucia has coasts on both the wild Atlantic, and gentler Mediterranean Sea and enjoys five costas; Costa del Sol; Costa de la Luz (Huelva and Cadiz); Costa Tropical, and Costa de Almería, and each has its own distinct character.
Getting to Andalucia
Whether you’re taking a road trip to Andalucia in a car, motorcycle, or campervan, self-driving is absolutely the best way to explore this spectacular European country.
You can stop whenever you want, try new activities, visit places you see along the route and have the freedom to change plans at the last minute.
Fly into Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport to start your roadtrip in southern Spain. With direct flights from America, Europe, and the UK, we recommend booking through Skyscanner for live deals and the best prices.
Are you planning to rent a car in Andalucia? As one of the largest car hire aggregator companies in the world, we recommend Rentalcars.com because they have massive purchasing power which enables them to secure the best car rental prices, which benefits you when you’re planning a roadtrip in Austria.
For a real adventure, hire a motorhome or campervan in Spain. We recommend Motorhome Republic, an aggregate booking site who pull together all the best deals from a number of rental agencies, to offer you a wide choice of options alongside an excellent English speaking expert motorhome Concierge Team.
When to Visit Andalucia
Andalucia is best visited outside of the summer months. In June, July, and August the temperatures are fierce and can be really uncomfortable – not the best time for a southern Spain itinerary!
Andalucia is one of the warmest places in mainland Europe in winter, although it won’t be quite warm enough for sea swimming. Evenings will be cooler and you’ll need to pack layers if you’re planning on visiting in winter. There may be snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are both fantastic times to road trip Andalucia. Roads will be quieter, accommodation and flights cheaper, and you’ll still get all the atmosphere and culture of Andalucia, but with fewer people!
Spring, from March onwards, is gorgeous with temperatures warming up and wildflowers appearing everywhere – the perfect time for a Spanish road trip!
If your plan is to hit the beach, May to July is the best time to visit, when you’ll avoid the summer heat and traffic, but still have beautiful warm weather.
Fall, from September through to November is also a perfect time for an Andalucia roadtrip in Europe’s best winter sun, with the warmth from summer lingering into autumn, but with quieter roads and cities.
Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when visiting Spain. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, best activities cover as standard, great prices, and excellent service.
Andalucia Road Trip Map & Itinerary
- Lonely Planet Andalucia
- Rough Guide to Andalucia
- DK Eyewitness Top 10 Andalucía and the Costa del Sol
Malaga – Marbella – Ronda – Cadiz – Jerez de la Frontera – Seville – Carmona – Ecija – Cordoba – Antequera – Granada -Nerja
How to use this map – Use your fingers (or computer mouse) to zoom in and out. Click or touch the icons to get more info about a place, and click the arrow in the box top left to open the index. To add to your own Google Maps account, click the star next to the title of the map.
Southern Spain Road Trip Itinerary
This south Spain road trip starts (and ends) in Malaga. Pick up your rental car or campervan at Malaga Airport and within an hour you’ll be at your hotel or on the road.
Malaga has lots to do and is a lively city, busy with bars, restaurants, cafes, and people. Don’t be put off by the high-rise buildings and billboards, look beyond and you will find a charming and historic city famous for its warm welcome.
Malaga comes to life on the seafront and is a popular place for Malaguenos to go for a stroll after siesta, which is a fiercely protected custom in the south of Spain. Come to the seafront after 5pm and you’ll find whole families out, enjoying the sunshine and stopping for a beer and tapa along the paseo.
For real Malaga, head to the Pedregalejo district where you will find freshly caught grilled seafood being served from chiringuitos on the beach. In regal Malaga’s old town, you’ll find La Alcazaba, an ancient fortress dating back to the 700s, as well as the cathedral and several pretty churches.
A must-see is the Mercado de Atarazana, one of the best fresh food markets in Andalucia. Make your way to El Bar de los Pueblos, opposite the market to the left as you face the main entrance, for fantastic and authentic tapas.
If you’re feeling energetic after all the eating, then head into the lush hills of the Montes de Malaga to the 10th century Gibralfaro Castle, for a great view of the city, port, and coastline. From the Alcazaba, it’s a 30 minute uphill walk – if that’s a bit too energetic, the Malaga hop-on hop-off bus also visits the castillo.
Malaga is also the perfect base for a day trip to the stunning Caminito del Rey, the once-hidden Gorge of Gaitanes, which is deep in the hinterland. It’s a 50km trip to El Chorro, where the route takes you along suspended walkways through an impossibly narrow gorge – expect fantastic views, fascinating rock formations, and lots of other people!
We highly recommend this Caminito del Rey guided tour from Malaga, where a bus will take you to the start of the hike, and you will learn the real story behind the construction of this great work of engineering from your guide.
If you are tight for time, here is where you switch up the itinerary and take a Malaga to Seville road trip! From Seville head to Cordoba and then Granada, for a perfect Andalucia itinerary in 7 days.
In Marbella, spend a day soaking up the sun on one of the three immaculately kept beaches and enjoying the people-watching. The days of big celebrities here are long gone, but there is still a touch of glitz and glamour to enjoy.
Visit the charming old town and head for Plaza de los Naranjos at the center of the casco antiguo and enjoy a coffee whilst watching the world go by. For lunch, find Taberna Casa Curro Marbella where you’ll enjoy great tapas and fruity Spanish wine.
Or, if you like things organized for you, enjoy this highly-rated guided walk of Marbella’s old town where you get to try traditional tapas, local wine, and olive oils as you go.
If you have a few extra days, add to your Costa del Sol road trip by staying on the coast road and enjoying the pretty towns and beaches, until you reach Estepona. From here you can head north and explore Andalucia off the beaten track, through the stunning Natural Park Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja, to reach Ronda.
The drive from Marbella to Ronda is stunning, one of the best during this road trip in Andalucia. Situated between the natural parks of the Sierra de Grazalema and the Sierra de las Nieves, Ronda sits in a bowl surrounded by dramatic mountains.
As you head to Ronda, take a detour to the blue village of Júzcar, in the Valle del Genal. The village was a pueblo blanco until 2011 when it was asked to paint itself blue to promote The Smurfs movie!
Ronda is divided by the huge 120m deep river gorge of El Tajo, which is spanned by the stunning arched bridge of Puente Nuevo. The bridge is best seen from the beautiful La Casa del Rey Moro, where you’ll find lush and fragrant gardens and a spectacular view. For a more exciting view, tackle the vertical walls of the Tajo del Ronda using the via Ferrata route with a guide!
Bull-fighting is a divisive sport but a passion of the Spanish people, and the Plaza de Toros bullring in Ronda is architecturally spectacular. It’s interesting to learn the history of the corrida, in the well-laid-out and informative museum.
Understanding the love and admiration Spaniards have for the matadors’ courage and showmanship is key to understanding their love of bullfighting.
From Ronda, you are perfectly situated to take day trips to the iconic pueblos blancos (white towns) in the surrounding mountains, where you’ll find some of the best and most beautiful of the Andalucian villages.
For a truly spectacular drive from Ronda, set your sat nav for Zahara de la Sierra and then pick up the twisting CA-9104 road to Grazalema, which climbs to the Puerto de Las Palomas (Pass of the Pigeons), at 1180m it’s a spectacular drive and worth the fuel to get there!
From Grazalema, pick up the A-372 across the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park to Arcos de la Frontera, and from there the A-382 and E5 to Cadiz.
The famous faded splendor of the sea city of Cadiz is caused by the effect the sea air has on its architecture, leading to the facades of buildings crumbling and bleaching.
This imbues Cadiz with a sombreness that contradicts the true character of the city. In fact, Cadiz is known for its party vibe, especially during carnival, one of the naughtiest in Spain!
Almost completely surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Cadiz is a fabulous city for simply wandering and soaking up the ambiance. Narrow buildings with painted facades, twisting back streets, pretty flower-filled squares, and a few fabulous churches await you.
Take a guided tour of medieval Cadiz, and see all the city’s landmarks, including the Neoclassical and Baroque cathedral and its museum, the Roman theater in the area known as the Pópulo, and structures dating back as far as the Phoenician era.
End the day by watching a perfect sunset from Playa de la Caleta, situated right in the old town.
Head out for food and you’ll find it’s all about fish! Whether you fancy picking your fish and having it cooked for you at Mercado Central de Abastos, or you’re looking for a plate of fabulous fresh tapas for dinner with a fino sherry or locally caught seafood, you’ll find it in Cadiz.
Spain Travel Ideas
5. Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez de la Frontera has been the home of sherry since the 14th century. The particular local soil, climate, and grape variety combine to create this complex and often delicious drink.
Initially, a pretty standard wine is produced and then placed in an oak barrel where the magic happens! You cannot visit Jerez without visiting a bodega and taking a tour with a tasting session at the end to understand how this often misunderstood drink is created.
As well as sherry, Jerez is also famous for its flamenco tradition. Flamenco literally means ‘hell-raising’ and when you watch this steamy and seductive dance you’ll understand why!
Considered an art form in Spain, you’ll find flamenco clubs aplenty in the narrow streets of the Barrio de Santiago quarter, but it’s probably easier to book a live flamenco show in advance – instead of getting lost in the narrow twisting alleys looking for a bodega, you’ll have the best seats in town!
Seville is a glorious city and is just as you expect it to be. Hot, passionate, loud, and colorful, this city is unashamedly flamboyant.
In the old town, you’ll find three of Seville’s best attractions; Seville Cathedral in all its Gothic splendor, the imposing Giralda Tower, and the stunning Alcazar. It’s highly recommended to visit all three for a real taste of Seville’s fascinating history.
Located right next to the old town, you’ll find the narrow alleys of the Barrio Santa Cruz, the heart of Seville’s lively tapas culture offering some of the best plates in Andalucia.
Sevillanos eat their tapas standing at the bar with a small beer or sherry but why not take a seat and watch the world go by to make the most of the atmosphere on the streets? Go slowly though, you could easily spend a small fortune on plate after plate of delicious tapas!
In the busy shopping streets of the Centro quarter to the north, you’ll find the contemporary Metropol Parasol, a huge wooden structure that is reported to be the largest in the world. This gorgeous wooden structure is shaped like a fluid parasol and shades much of the square in which it stands.
At the top of the viewing platform, you can admire its form and design whilst enjoying fantastic rooftop views of the Seville city center.
About an hour after leaving Seville, stop at the historic town of Ecija. This was a Roman city that later became Visigoth and Moorish, before being reconquered by the Castilian king Ferdinand III in 1240, when it became Christian.
Ecija has plenty of monuments of interest such as the Palaces of Benameji, Peñaflor, Valdehermoso, Palma, and Santaella, seven convents dating from the 16th to 18th century, and six churches!
From Ejica, head towards Carmona, nestled in the hills and olive groves between Seville and Cordoba, and one of the oldest towns in Europe.
A short drive west of Carmona are the Roman ruins of a 1st century amphitheater and Roman burial ground – the Necropolis Romana. The Necropolis was discovered and excavated in the 19th century and holds several tombs and family mausoleums from the 1st Century BCE to 2 CE. There is also a small museum on site.
Rich in history and Moorish architecture, Cordoba is an intimate and atmospheric city, most famous for the ancient Mezquita (mosque-cathedral).
The Mezquita is a remarkable building, the result of a mosque built well over a thousand years ago and added to numerous times before being consecrated as a cathedral in 1248 by the conquistadors who freed Spain from the rule of the Moors in the same year.
The result is an eclectic mix of Moorish and Renaissance architecture that blends to create a cathedral unlike any other in the world and is the one place you must visit in Cordoba.
Take a Mezquita guided tour with skip-the-line tickets to fully appreciate the history of this incredible building, and if you can, book a slot to climb the bell tower at sunset, the views are really spectacular.
The gardens of the Alcazar provide contrast and relief from the, at times, overwhelming Mezquita. With sparkling water, tall palms, and cypress trees, this is a perfect spot to stop for an hour or so before taking a stroll across the beautiful Roman Bridge, thought to be built in the 1st or 2nd century, for a fabulous view of the old town.
Meander through the Jewish quarter where you’ll find narrow lanes and pretty squares. Many of the whitewashed houses are covered in blooms from window boxes filled with colorful trailing geraniums in summer, providing the perfect images of this gorgeous city.
As you head to Granada, stop in Antequera, deep in the heat of Andalusia, home to over fifty monuments and archaeological sites of extraordinary importance.
The Antequera Dolmens have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of their fine quality and exceptional state of conservation. A fascinating example of megalithic construction, the Menga Dolmen is six thousand years old and is an enormous passage tomb formed by huge slabs of rock that lead to the burial chamber. The Viera Dolmens and El Romeral complete the prehistoric ensemble.
When you visit the Dolmens you can look northeast to the limestone crag of Peña de los Enamorados or Lovers Rock, where legend has it that two star-crossed lovers ran away together and were chased by Moorish soldiers to the top of the rock, where, rather than renounce their love or be captured, they chose to hurl themselves over the edge holding hands.
In the spectacular Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is all about the Alhambra Palace, one of Spain’s most romantic cities. This spectacular Moorish palace sits high on a hill overlooking the city and is the jewel in Andalucia’s crown as well as being one of the most famous landmarks in Spain.
The Alhambra is simply breathtaking in its beauty, with typical Moorish symmetry and beautifully proportioned rooms full of intricate detail and tile work. The Nasrid Palaces of opulent Moorish-style courtyards, reception halls & royal quarters, and the shaded and leafy gardens with running water, secret paths, and beautiful planting to excite the senses, are both must-sees.
Book your Alhambra tickets and guided tour well in advance (unless you’re visiting Granada in winter when everywhere will be a little quieter) as the Alhambra Palace is one of the most popular attractions in the whole of Spain.
Alternatively, get a Granada Card which allows you to book Alhambra tickets in advance and also covers public transport and other important monuments in the city.
One of the best things to do in Granada itself is to visit the medieval Albaicin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander the tangle of streets and alleys, enjoying the gift shops and boutiques.
Head for the Plaza de San Miguel Bajo, a charming tree-lined square before climbing uphill beyond the city walls to the church of San Cristobal for a fantastic view of the Alhambra.
If you’re making this a 14 day southern Spain itinerary, then you should have enough time to spend a few days at the beach at the end of your tour of Andalucia.
Make a detour from your Andalucia travel itinerary and take the gorgeous coastal route from Granada to Malaga. Stop at Nerja and Torre del Mar for some of the best beaches in the region and a perfect end to your Andalucia holiday.
Spanish Road Trip Resources
Here are the websites and services we personally use and recommend for traveling in Spain.
Driving in Spain
Car travel in Spain is easy, with a good network of autovias (A) and autopistas (AP). The latter were toll roads until 2020 when many (but not all) became toll-free.
Car rental, fuel, and parking are some of the cheapest in Europe making Spain a really cost-effective place to take a road trip.
Touring Spain by car in rural and mountainous areas can take longer than you think although the standard of non-motorway roads in rural areas is generally good. Allow time to get off the beaten track and experience the real Spain as you tour this fabulous country.
Whether you’re driving your own vehicle to Spain or you’re in a rental car, follow our driving in Spain tips;
- You must have at least three months remaining on your passport (issued in the past ten years) at your intended date of departure from Spain.
- You must have at least 3rd party insurance for your vehicle.
- Citizens of non-EU third countries may require an IDP, you can check here.
- You must carry two warning triangles for the front and rear. These warning triangles are now being phased out and from 1st July 2021, a new law requires that a V16 flashing emergency light is used, although both means of advising other traffic will be legal until the end of 2024.
- You must also carry a reflective jacket (for the driver and all passengers) and a spare wheel and the tools to change a wheel or a tire repair kit.
- If you wear glasses you must also carry a spare pair in the vehicle.
- UK cars will need headlight beam converters to be fitted (unless they adjust automatically).
- The use of winter tires in Spain is regional. Look out for traffic signs indicating that winter tires or snow chains are compulsory where you are.
- Anything with a screen (television, video, DVD, etc.) which could distract you when driving should be positioned where you can’t see it. This doesn’t apply to a sat nav but you must not touch or program your sat nav unless parked in a safe place.
- Using radar detection equipment is prohibited under Spanish law and new regulations from January 2021 mean that it will also be illegal to be in possession of such equipment.
- On roads with single carriageways, the speed limit established may not be exceeded by more than 20km/h when overtaking.
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