This article is split in to 2 sections.  The first is a summary of many of the great places to stop in a tour of Southern Spain.  The second section has several wonderful itineraries to help start planning a once in a lifetime trip.   … but first 

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The Best Cities and Stops on a Road Trip in Andalusia Spain

Andalusia has many wonderful cities, villages and towns to explore.  Each area has its own distinct personality and all are exploding with culture and beauty.  

Andalusia’s Amazing Historic Cities

Seville

Seville is the largest city in Andalusia but also has some of the best historical areas to explore.  Seville is a city that is fun to get lost in.  The historical old center of Santa Cruz is just beautiful with winding streets and amazing architecture.  Seville has 4 main stops that are the most popular with travelers (for good reason).  The Plaza de Espana, Real Alcazar of Seville, the Cathedral of Seville, and the Santa Cruz area of old town.  Watching flamenco dancing is a fabulous experience.

Seville is a fun day trip but to really enjoy the area without feeling super rushed plan to spend at least a few days.  Seville can make a wonderful city for a home base with trips branching away from the city.

From Seville you can visit most of the areas best places from Lagos to Granada in 2-3 hours.

Cordoba

Cordoba Spain is less than a 2 hour drive from Seville.  Cordoba is another very walk-able city with many beautiful things to do and see when traveling.  The most famous is the Mosque or Cathedral of Cordoba.  This amazing mosque with a Cathedral plopped in the middle is an architectural masterpiece.  It would be worth the trip just to see the mosque but the city itself is also really nice to explore – think old city walls, music in the air and afternoon strolls.

Plan to stay a night or 2 in Cordoba but it would also be a wonderful choice for a longer stay.  If you don’t have time to stay overnight then at least aim for a day trip.  It’s worth the drive.

Granada

Granada is on the east side of the Andalusia region.  It’s another wonderfully walk-able city with still more amazing architecture and views.  At the top of the city is the Alhambra.  The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex overlooking the city.  Here you will find the same beautiful architecture that if found in the rest of this area of Spain.

Seville to Granada is a 3 hour car trip.  Not far but also more than you would want to do in a day trip.  Granada is located under an hour from skiing at Sierra Nevada Ski resort so if you are visiting in the winter skiing in Spain may be a fun add on.

White Villages (Pueblos Blancos) of Andalusia

The famous and beautiful white town of Andalusia are a must visit for anyone visiting these areas.  These small cities and towns are white to prevent some of the excessive heat in the middle of the summer.  Many resemble wedding cakes with a white train of houses tumbling down a hill and a beautiful castle of church on top.  All of these villages have fabulous areas to take photos.  All have wonderfully small streets to wander with flowers and so much character around each corner.  You will also find local shops and restaurants with playgrounds sprinkled throughout.  The moorish architecture, white walls, meandering streets, beautiful churches, and local atmosphere make these towns and villages feel like out of a fairy tale.   The pueblos blancos of Andalusia are made to wander.  Generally you will need to book a tour or arrive by car.  Usually parking is at the bottom of the hill (and not always easy) then walk everywhere else.

Many of the white villages have the name frontier.  These towns were considered the frontier and many have castles, walls and other fortresses for protection from invaders.  Some are connected by small towers that allow the towns to warn of attack by sending out a visual signal.  Today the area has lots of amazing outdoor views, fields, beautiful hill and mountains and just amazing architecture that blends in to and emphasizes the natural views.

The pueblos blancos do not have big hotels or any big buildings (thank goodness).  Stay in small hotel, BnB, or independent apartment of house from AirBnB or Vrbo.  There are several complexes and farm stays outside of the towns that would be a fabulous experience as well.  Many of these options offer large pools and expansive views.

Ronda

Ronda Spain is the most famous and most photographed of the pueblo blancos in Spain for good reason.  It’s famous “new bridge” – that is — years old along with its beautiful winding streets and fabulous cliff side views scream “take a photo of me.”  Ronda is more than just a pretty picture.  It’s a vibrant town with many historic buildings as well of those famous Spanish streets just made to wander and explore.  The drive to Ronda and the start of exploring generally seems pretty flat but you’ll quickly find that the city is actually perched on the side of a cliff.

Ronda is usually visited during a day trip but it would also be a great stop for 1-2 nights and would also make a wonderful location for a long term stay. 

Olvera

Olvera Spain is about a 30 minute drive through winding roads north of Ronda.  This photogenic city has several areas to explore.  The church and castle that are located at the top of the hill that the city tumbles down are an absolute must area to explore.  However, just wandering the streets of this beautiful town is a lovely experience.  If you happen to be getting tired of so many pretty Spanish cities and would prefer to get out and hike or bike then Via Verde de Sierra is the place for your.  This former train track has be converted to a 38km biking and hiking area through the olive groves.

Grazalema

Grazalema is about a 45 minute drive from Ronda and located in the foothills of the Sierra del Pinar mountain.  This white city tumbles through a valley of these beautiful mountains is a very lush area with surrounding national park.   In Grazalema you can find people that make wool blankets, ponchos and scarfs that are exported to other parts of the world.  The city itself is photogenic and makes a wonderful place to explore but this is also a very good place to stop if you would like to hike and explore Andalusia’s beautiful scenery.

Zahara de la Sierra

Zahara de la Sierra is a white village perched at the base and side of a cliff and meandering up.  A moorish castle is perched at the top. Zahara overlooks a man made lake and is about a 40 minute drive from Ronda.  This village is one of the more popular to explore for good reason.

Arcos de la Frontera

Arcos de la Frontera has been an historic monument since the 1960’s.  This small city is perched on a sandstone cliff and features a 15 century church build on a moorish fortress.  The town has wonderful winding streets and plazas and battles many lists as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.  Arcos is about an hour drive from Seville and Ronda.

Vejer de la Frontera

This beautiful Spanish pueblo blanco is located between Cadiz and Gibraltar.  This city has been named as one of the most beautiful in Spain by several organizations and numerous travelers.  Photographer love the beautiful arches, tiled entryways, small winding streets and white village walls adorning both flowers and things for sale.

Frigiliana

Frigiliana is a white village located on the east side of Andalusia a short drive from the Costa Del Sol Beach city of Nerja.  There is a bus that connects the two.  This pueblo blanco has beautiful winding streets lined with amazing displays of flowers and greenery.  It’s not only a photographers dream it’s a wonderful place to just relax and take in the atmosphere.

Photo below of the drive going in to Olvera Spain

Costa Del Sol

The Costa Del Sol area of Spain encompasses beautiful stretches of beaches on the Mediteranean coast.  These beaches and cities tend to be very pedestrian friendly and wonderful areas to just relax.  Many have playgrounds and nearby restaurants and shopping.  Each city has an unique feel.

Malaga

Malaga is the largest city in the Costa Del Sol.  It’s a beautiful and cosmopolitan city with beaches, history, a beautiful downtown, many activities and wonderful food scene.  Malaga makes a nice home base for exploring the Costa Del Sol especially if you prefer a vibrate city atmosphere.  Malaga is also a fun city to visit during Carnival.

Cadiz

Cadiz is an lovely coastal city that started as an ancient port.  The city has more than 100 watch towers and was the home of the Spanish Navy.  Many sources consider Cadiz to be the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe and is thought to be founded in 1100 bc.  The center of the city is almost completely surrounded by water.  The city itself is about 4 sq miles, very walk-able and has a lot of Spanish atmosphere.  The beaches are nice too. For a unique experience, visit during Carnival.  Cadiz has one of the largest celebrations in the area (if you can figure out parking).

Tarifa Spain

Tarifa is just to the west of Cadiz and is known as a jumping point for ferries to Morocco.  This beautiful town also has some fabulous beaches and is known for kite surfing.  The city has beautiful old town with white-washed houses and squares that is entered through one of the four medieval gates remaining from the original town walls.

Estepona 

Estapona is a resort town with tree lined streets, an old white washed town with square, and many activities.  The city features a popular Orchid House as well as beautiful streets full of flowers.  The beaches here are fabulous too.

Marbella 

Marbella is a beautiful coastal city with many different neighborhoods. Some areas have trendy and higher dollar touristy shops with a lively night scene.  Other areas are more working class. There are areas just outside of the city like the marina of Puerto Banús that is known for its rather extravagant luxury yachts.  Marabella also has beautiful classic Andalusia pueblo blanco areas.   

Nerja

Neja is a beach town on the west side of Costa Del Sol.  This former fishing village is now a wonderful resort area.  Try walking the Balcony of Europe for some of the best views in the area.  Nerja also has a cave system that is a favorite place to explore in the area.

Snow Skiing in Spain

Sierra Nevada

Going snow skiing is probably not the top of your list of things to do in Andalusia but it should be.  Who doesn’t want to say “I skied in Spain.”  The Sierra Nevada ski resort is just outside of Granada.  It’s a small resort but does offer nice skiing.  It’s a great stop during the winter.

Stay 1-2 nights in the resort to make sure you can get to the slopes easily.  You can also stay in Granada and budget time to get up and down the mountain.

Cities and Countries to visit Just outside of Andalusia

Gibraltar

Gibraltar is not Spain – It’s a part of Great Britain.  This little spit of land buffered from Spain by dramatic landscape has it’s own vibe that is all British.  Touring “the Rock” and visiting with the local apes are must do activities.  Getting to Gibraltar is also part of the fun experience.  Be sure to grab some fish and chips as you explore.

Gibraltar can be visited as a day trip from many of the cities in Andalusia.  It is 2 hours from Seville and less than 2 hours from Malaga.

Morocco

A quick trip to jump continents and visit Morocco should be on your to do list when traveling to Andalusia Spain.  Morocco is usually reached by an hour long ferry trip from the coastal town of Tarifa near Cadiz.  The ferry takes travelers to Tangier Morocco.  Spend the afternoon or stay overnight.  If you’re more comfortable in a tour group there are plenty to choose from.  If you prefer to wander on your own then just do a little extra research so you don’t get lost or end up spending money that you did not need to spend.

Lagos, Portugal

Lagos Portugal and the Algarve Coast of Portugal is about a 3 hour drive from Seville to the west (although there are much closer cities on the Algarve Coast to visit).  Lagos has a beautiful walled downtown area that is very Portugal with amazing tile, lovely cafe’s and many local shops.  There is also a very nice marina area.  The most popular part of Lagos is its beaches with photogenic rock structures.  Take time to take a tour of the area by boat.

Spend a day or two in Lagos so you have at least a full day to explore the town and a full day to explore the beaches.

The Rest of Spain

Andalusia is one of the most popular places to visit when traveling to Spain but there is so much more to see in this beautiful country.  Continue your journey north and west to see so much more including the larger cities of Madrid and Barcelona as well as popular smaller stops along both coasts and in the beautiful interior of this country.

 

Looking for some reading material when visiting Andalusia?  – Check these out …

Andalusia Road Trip Itineraries

Now you know a little more about the top places to see and things to do during your Andalusia vacation, here are some options on how to spend your time.

A Few days in Andalusia

If you only have a few days in Andalusia then pick a city or area and explore from there.  Great choices for short visits include Seville, A small city on the Costa Del Sol, and Ronda.

Option 1: Stay in Seville

Seville can take up all your time is you’re only staying a few days but it’s also a great city to pick for a base and take day trips.

Option 2: 2 Nights in Seville, drive the Costa Del Sol and stay along the beach or Malaga.

This trip will give you lovely Seville and a taste of the beach with a possible stop in Gibraltor.  Fly in to Seville and out of Malaga.

Option 3: The drive through

If your trip includes a quick drive through the area, you have so many options.  I do recommend still stopping and staying overnight in Seville.

The Beach Route: After Seville head south to the beach.  Depending on how much time you have, stop at any of the Costa Del Sol cities or Gibraltar.  Stop at any pueblo blancos that you have time to visit and make your way to Granada before heading west to visit the rest of Spain.

The White Villages Route:  This route to Granada will be a little more winding with more stops.  You can stop through Arcas de Frontera, Grazalema and Ronda before heading to Granada.  This would be a long day.  Staying in Ronda overnight would be preferred.

The Ancient Cities Route:  It would be a shame to miss beautiful Cordoba when visiting Andalusia but in a short trip seeing this city is a little out of the way.  If beautiful historical architecture surrounded by a vibrant city is more important to you than beaches or white villages then head toward Cordoba and stay overnight.  Then head toward Granada.

1 Week in Andalusia Spain

If you only have one week in Andalusia Spain you can see many of the larger sites.  

Best of Andalusia:

Seville 2 days -> Cordoba stay 1 day -> Ronda 2 days with side trips to other pueblo blancos -> Costa Del Sol (pick your cities) 2 days then back to Seville or leave from Malaga.

 

Andalusia Spain Road Trip 7 days (1 week) along the Costa Del Sol 

This 7 day itinerary for Andalusia misses beautiful Cordoba but brings in more sand and sun.  

Seville for 2 days -> 3 days in Cadiz or Tarifa with day trips to Gibraltar, Arcos de la Frontera, or Morocco -> Ronda 1 day -> Granada 1 day (or may be better to spend 2 days in Ronda or Granada)

 

2 Weeks in Andalusia Spain and Portugal

This 14 day itinerary for Andalusia  Spain starts in Lisbon Portugal, adds side trips to Gibraltar and Morocco while keeping time to enjoy and explore the best of Andalusia Spain. 

Lisbon for 2 days -> 2 days in Lagos Portugal on the Algarve Coast -> 3 days in Seville ->  2 days in Cadiz or Tarifa with day trips to Arcos de la Frontera, or Morocco -> Drive down the Costa del Sol with a stop in Gibraltar -> stay on Estepona (or another wonderful Costa del Sol City) 2 nights with day trip to Ronda  ->  Cordoba 2 days then back to Seville or Malaga for flights out

 

2 Weeks in Andalusia Spain 

This 14 day itinerary for Andalusia  Spain starts starts and ends in Seville but can also start and stop from Malaga.  This Trip includes the best of Andalusia including ancient cities, beautiful white villages and wonderful beach cities with a longer stop along the coast.

Seville for 3 days -> 5 days on the Costa Del Sol, stay within an hour of Gibraltar so you can add day trips to Morocco and Gibraltar, Estepona or Cadiz areas are good choices -> 2 days in Ronda  ->  2 days in Granada (via the coastal route) -> 2 days in Cordoba days -> back to Seville or Malaga for flights out

 

 

 

Andalusia Spain Road Trip and Itinerary

Planning your road trip to Andalusia Spain can be a lot of fun but being there is even better.  Spain is a wonderful country to explore and Andalusia has so much to offer travelers.  

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We’re a family of 5 (Physician Assistant mom, IT project manager dad and 3 kids ages 3,6,10) taking a gap year from normal life to travel.  For blog postslocations, and more information on how we did it and how you can to click here.