From the historic cities of Seville and Cordoba, to the natural beauty of Ronda and the spectacular beaches of Cadiz and Valencia, this southern Spain road trip offers something for everyone.
Grab your keys, we’re going on a road trip! Is there any better way to get to grips with a country than driving around it? I love having the freedom to explore at my own pace! If this is your favourite way to travel too, then I’d definitely recommend a road trip through the south of Spain.
It’s a region I’ve visited on numerous trips, but only now am I piecing all the destinations together into one amazing road trip. This southern Spain itinerary offers so much. You’ll kick off in Madrid (lots of rental car options!) and spend your time visiting the museums and galleries, before travelling to the coast and enjoying the vibrant city of Valencia and the region of Murcia.
Then it’s time to kick off the next section – the Andalusia road trip! You’ll visit the peaks of Spain’s impressive Sierra Nevada mountains before immersing yourself in Andalusia’s fascinating history with trips to cities including Granada, Sevilla, Cadiz and Cordoba.
If you’re short on time, you could pick one section of this trip, and then return to do another section on a future visit.
If you love art, be sure to visit Madrid’s Prado Museum and Malaga’s Pompidou Centre. Meanwhile, nature lovers will enjoy Murcia’s natural rock formations in Bolnuevo and Ronda’s spectacular gorge.
Southern Spain is also one of the best areas in the world for history, with sights including Granada’s Alhambra, Cordoba’s Mezquita and Cadiz’s roman ruins.
And if you’re a foodie at heart you’re guaranteed to fall in love with Spanish cuisine on this trip. Feast on tapas, sample horchata in Valencia and enjoy the simple pleasures as you bar-hop around the ancient towns and cities.
So, whether you’re looking for a bit of inspiration or you’re already planning your itinerary, this guide will cover all of the best places to visit in Southern Spain on a road trip.
Weather in southern Spain
This region of Europe has warm summers and mild winters. While the summer holidays are a popular time to visit southern Spain, it’s also a great option in the colder months, when it offers some of the warmest winter temperatures in Europe.
The warmest and sunniest month of the year is July, with average temperatures around 28°C (82°F). The coldest temperatures are in December and January, with averages of 11°C (52°F).
However, some years the temperatures have reached 18°C in these months, so it can be a lovely place to escape the cold in northern Europe. The wettest month is March, so you may want to avoid visiting then.
Southern Spain Road Trip Map
If you’re happy to travel at a pretty moderate pace, moving on every single day, you could just about fit this itinerary into ten days. However, I’d recommend moving a little slower so you can soak up all the little details in each destination.
This is one of the most scenic drives in southern Spain, so even the journeys between destinations are enjoyable.
Here’s a handy map to go with this southern Spain road trip itinerary, which you can save to make your planning stress-free.
Southern Spain Road Trip Itinerary – Places To Visit In Southern Spain
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 1 – Madrid
Kick off your trip in Spain’s amazing capital city. Madrid is somewhere I often think is underrated as it gets pigeon-holed as the business hub of the country. However, it has a lot of charm and some incredible places to visit too.
Be sure to visit the oldest monument in the city, the Temple of Debod. The series of gateways here make up an ancient Egyptian temple that was presented to Spain by the Egyptian state. It was originally located close to Aswan and dates back to 200BC! It’s an amazing place for photography, with beautiful reflections in the pool of water.
Art lovers simply must pay a visit to one of Madrid’s most famous attractions, the Prado Museum. This enormous museum is considered as one of the greatest art museums in the world, and it’s not hard to see why!
The museum contains one of the largest collections of European art, with more than 15,000 paintings, drawings and prints, as well as over 1,000 sculptures. There are notable artworks by Goya, El Greco and Rubens and Titians.
One of the key pieces to see is Las Meninas by Velázquez. You could spend all day here, but remember there’s plenty more to see in the city! If you do decide to visit, I’d recommend booking a ‘skip the line’ ticket so you don’t waste hours queueing.
History lovers will also enjoy visiting the Palacio Real de Madrid (the Royal Palace). This palace takes the trophy for being the largest palace in Europe and it’s open to the public so you can have a nosy around!
For an escape from the busy streets of Gran Via and Puerta Del Sol, I’d recommend wandering around Retiro Park. This is a stunning and vast park with a large lake. It’s a serene place to take a picnic or grab an ice cream.
Are you someone who travels for food? Then you’ll definitely enjoy your time in Madrid. I’d recommend eating your way around Mercado San Miguel where you’ll find stalls selling everything from popular tapas dishes to sushi and ice cream. I love the food here – there is so much choice and the market has a great atmosphere.
For a sweet treat, pick up some churros from Chocolateria San Ginés. This café has been serving these delicious crispy sticks of fried batter with its signature hot chocolate sauce for well over 100 years. It’s something of an institution!
There’s a cool bar culture in Madrid too. I’d recommend checking out the likes of El Imperfecto and Café Central where there’s often live music. For a cheap meal, enjoy the aperitivo culture at El Tigre. Just order a drink and a plate of tapas will arrive too. It’s one of the most budget-friendly ways to eat out in Madrid.
If you’re deciding where to stay in the city, check out my guide to the best hotels in Madrid. There’s something for every budget.
Madrid to Valencia: 360 km / 3 hr 45 mins approx.
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 2 – Valencia
The second stop on this southern Spain itinerary is Valencia, one of my favourite cities in Spain. With its historic old town, modern museums and gorgeous beach, it’s a really varied destination. I’ve written lots of detailed Valencia travel guides so definitely take a look at those for more info on the city.
If you’ve only got one day on your southern Spain road trip, I’d recommend starting in Valencia’s old town. Here you can visit Valencia’s impressive cathedral, which is the most prominent landmark here. Its origins go back to the 13th Century, but you’ll find an interesting mix of architecture added at various times in history. Plus, if you’re looking for an amazing view of Valencia, definitely climb El Miguelete – the 167 ft baroque bell tower.
If you’ve found the old town a little hectic, take a breather with a leisurely stroll or bike ride through Turia Gardens. These amazing gardens span 9 km and feature landscaped gardens, natural parks, playgrounds, sports grounds and more.
Modern art lovers will adore the Ciudad de les Artes y Les Ciences. This complex of futuristic architecture is absolutely spectacular! There’s a concert hall, science museum, gardens and aquarium all within this area.
To complete your sightseeing trip around Valencia, finish your day at the beach. There are lots of bars and restaurants lining the sand here, it’s a lovely place to round off a busy day of sightseeing.
There are plenty of great delicacies to try in this city. If you haven’t tried it before, order a traditional Valencian paella down on the beach. After all, this city is considered to be the birthplace of this famous Spanish dish!
Horchata is another Valencian delicacy. This drink is often served with fartons, which are long sugar-dusted pastries, perfect for dunking! Horchatería Santa Catalina, a 200+ year old café in the heart of the old town is THE place to go for these! For a modern dining experience, I really enjoyed the food and atmosphere at La Manera, a modern restaurant serving tasty sharing plates.
Or if you want someone else to do the hard work and order for you, you could book onto a food tour of the city. I really enjoyed this experience as it allowed me to hear all about the city from a local, while tasting some really authentic cuisine. I wrote about my tapas tour of Valencia so you can have a read and decide if it’s something you’d like to try.
Valencia to Murcia: 225 km / 2 hr 25 mins approx.
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 3 – Murcia
While I’d recommend you stay in the city of Murcia, this is also the name of the region and it’s worth getting out to see as much as possible.
Murcia is one of the best parts of Spain for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. Not only is there the fabulous 250km Costa Cálida, there are also beautiful rivers, trails and caves.
If you love hiking, drive to the Segura River and explore some of the trails. Whether you fancy a gentle wander along the cliffs, or you want to spend a whole day out, there are trails for all fitness levels. If you want to challenge your adrenaline, you could go rafting on the river here too.
Another unique experience in Murcia is seeing the incredible rock formations on the beach at Bolnuevo. These natural sandstone wonders have been weathered by wind, rain and the ocean. They’re really eerie but definitely something special!
There are some impressive caves in Murcia too. Cueva de la Serreta in particular has cave paintings dating back a whopping 7,000 years!
The city of Murcia is pretty underrated. It’s striking with its wide plazas, pedestrianised areas and ancient buildings. Santa María Cathedral is a must-see, dating back to 1385. There’s also a popular archaeology museum and theatre nearby.
Murcia to Sierra Nevada: 325 km / 3 hr 23 mins approx.
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 4 – Sierra Nevada
How about adding in a ski stop to your southern Spain road trip?!
First though, did you know you can ski in southern Spain? It might come as a surprise to many… I mean it surprised me when I found out! A country I associate with beaches and summer holidays actually has a great ski resort too.
The Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalusia is very popular with snow bunnies from November to March. It’s a magical place to visit in the winter months right up until early spring. In fact, there can be snow on the highest peaks right up until June!
You can literally be on the ski slopes in the morning and sunbathing on the beach by the afternoon. How amazing is that?
The ski resort at Pradollano is home to over 130 slopes, and has peaks over 3,000m. It’s ideal for skiing, snowboarding and other fun snow activities, and has ski runs to suit all levels. There’s plenty of accommodation in the main town too.
If you’re driving in southern Spain in the summer months, there’s plenty to see and do in Sierra Nevada. You could visit Capileira or Las Alpujarras, two charming whitewashed mountain villages with some of the best views in the region.
You can also catch the gondola and chair lift up to the peaks in July and August. When not covered in snow, the mountain trails are popular with e-bikers, who love to take in the view without the effort of cycling up the steep slopes!
If you’re travelling with kids, how about taking a ride on Trineo Ruso, a fun alpine coaster that’s open in the summer. This is also an incredible place for stargazing, so don’t forget to look up once the sun goes down.
Sierra Nevada to Granada: 40 km / 55 mins approx.
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 5 – Granada
Granada is one of the best places to visit in Spain to see Moorish architecture. This is a walkable city at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range you’ve just visited. It’s absolutely jam-packed full of history with its spectacular cathedral, monasteries and historic markets.
Visit the Albaicín neighbourhood to see some of the best examples in the world of Medieval streets. You’ll quickly see why this has earned its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
The lanes are really skinny, with pretty houses, bars and restaurants scattered throughout. I remember finding a lovely Middle-Eastern café on one of the streets and sitting outside with a cup of mint tea, feeling like I was world’s away from Spain. It reminded me of towns I’d visited in Morocco and Jordan. Carrera del Darro is one of the best streets to really soak up the atmosphere of this neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, looking down on the streets is one of the most famous landmarks in Spain: the Alhambra. Translating as ‘red palace’ this ancient palace and fortress dates back to the 8th century. It’s one of the best-preserved Muslim medieval cities in the world.
I’d recommend booking a fast-track ticket so you don’t waste time queuing. A guided tour is a great idea too as there is not only a lot to see here, but also so much history to learn. This building really has seen it all – a lot of change!
In terms of food, Granada is one of the best places for the whole ‘free tapas’ with a drink culture! Just order a glass of wine, beer or cider and you’ll be rewarded with a dish of something tasty on the house. I’d recommend bar-hopping over an evening, trying lots of delicacies as you go.
Some of my favourite spots include El Bar de Fede, Los Diamantes and La Blanca Paloma. To be honest though, most are great and it’s partly about the atmosphere too! Consider it your very own Granada food tour!
Granada to Malaga: 125 km / 1 hr 25 mins approx.
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 6 – Malaga
Can you believe we’re over half way through this amazing south of Spain itinerary now? With over 300 sunny days a year, hot summers and warm winters, Malaga on Spain’s Costa Del Sol is a great destination to visit all year round.
While it may not have the vast history of somewhere like Granada, the museums of Madrid or the natural beauty of Murcia, I’ve always had great times in the city and would definitely recommend stopping here on your southern Spain road trip.
I’ve been thoroughly impressed with its cultural offerings and food scene. It’s a city that feels like it’s going through some regeneration right now too.
It’s somewhere you’ll find trendy bars and food markets right next to Gothic cathedrals and Roman ruins. I always love places with that mix of old and new, so I think that’s what drew me to Malaga.
One of the biggest attractions in Malaga is the Pompidou Centre. The entrance is via the colourful cube structure from which you descend underground to the main galleries. If you want to avoid queuing, I’d recommend booking a ‘skip the line’ ticket here.
Food lovers will enjoy the city’s markets. There’s Mercado Central de Atarazanas with its amazing stained-glass window. Shop for fresh ingredients such as fruit and vegetables, fish, cheese, meats and olives. If you’re self-catering on your trip, you can stock up on supplies.
For more substantial food options visit Mercado Merced, which sells tasty tapas and alcoholic drinks. Be sure to order a dish of Malaga’s famous fried fish to croquetas while you’re there!
If you’re looking to shop in the city, wander down Larios, Malaga’s chic shopping street which is often compared to Paris’ Champs Elysee. Alternatively, take a stroll along Muelle Uno, the promenade which snakes around the port, or take a spin on Malaga’s observation wheel for some great views.
If you simply want to have a day to relax on this road trip, you could spend a day at one of the nearby beaches. There really is so much to do in this city, and I’ve got plenty more tips for visiting in my Malaga travel guide.
Malaga to Ronda: 100 km / 1 hr 20 mins approx.
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 7 – Ronda
The 7th stop on this south Spain itinerary is somewhere I absolutely fell in love with! So much so, I’ve returned several times now. I think Ronda is one of the most magical towns in southern Spain, built across the deep El Tajo gorge.
This isn’t a big town so you could spend a half day here if you’re pushed for time, or just visit as a day trip from Seville. If time is on your side though, I’d totally recommend a bit longer because it’s the kind of place you’ll enjoy seeing at a leisurely pace.
The key attraction in Ronda is Puente Nuevo. This 18th Century bridge spectacularly joins the two sections of the city across the huge gorge. The bridge is 100m tall with its base down below in the gorge and Guadalquivir River.
There are lots of angles you can view it from, but I’d recommend strolling through the Jardines De Cuenca – a series of terraced gardens.
Another big attraction in Ronda is the Plaza Del Toros a.k.a. the bullring. It’s one of the oldest in Spain and is a pretty magnificent to see inside. I don’t condone bullfighting though, so this is somewhere I’d visit for the architecture alone!
If you’re partial to a glass of vino, you could visit Bodega Joaquin Fernandez for a wine-tasting session. This winery is in a picturesque location with vineyards rolling down the hill area.
From Ronda you could also drive over to Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park where you can explore the spectacular mountain ranges, caves, gorges and fir tree forests.
Ronda to Cadiz: 145 km / 1 hr 40 mins approx.
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 8 – Cadiz
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know what a fan I am of this pretty city in southern Spain. I’d go as far as to say Cadiz is my favourite place in Spain. Yet I’ve mentioned the city to friends and they’ve never heard of it… so, what’s so special about Cadiz?
Well, where to start! If you’re into history, you’ll be in your element here! Founded by the Phoenicians 3,000 years ago, Cadiz is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe. The Romans also settled there, building an impressive city (some of which is still in existence today).
But you don’t need to be history nerd to appreciate Cadiz. It’s home to several beautiful beaches, including La Caleta right in the city centre. Set back from the water is the medieval city filled with narrow streets, beautiful tree-lined plazas, fountains and great restaurants.
There’s also a port scattered with fishing boats and lots of pretty buildings all painted in white.
One of my favourite activities was the food tour I did. It was a fantastic way to learn how the locals eat, what produce is local and discover a few tapas bars to revisit during my trip.
I’d also recommend climbing either the Tavira Tower or the Cathedral Tower for the best views of the city. Personally, I preferred the views from the Cathedral Tower as I liked being nearer the water as well as seeing the bells up close!
Other things to do in Cadiz include visiting the castles Castillo De San Sebastian and Santa Catalina, as well as touring the underground caves and catacombs.
To be honest though, I loved mooching around Cadiz. Just set off and get a bit lost, stop for tapas at one of the many little bars dotted around the city, and see what you find along the way. It’s a place that is guaranteed to take your breath away .
Cadiz to Seville: 120 km / 1 hr 20 mins approx.
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 9 – Seville
If I was asked to describe Seville, I’d probably say it’s the most quintessentially Spanish city in Spain. It’s one of my favourite city breaks in the world as it offers so much.
It has that feisty Spanish lust for life, with flamenco shows, live music and buzzy tapas bars. You’ll see sunshine and blue skies almost all year round. It’s also packed full of historic sites.
You simply have to visit Seville Cathedral and climb the Giralda Tower. From there you’ll have the best view of the city. I’d recommend doing this at the start of your day before it gets too hot. It’s a great way to get your bearings too.
Also, squeeze in a trip to the Real Alcazar de Sevilla. This royal palace is absolutely stunning inside, with decorative courtyards, pristine landscape gardens and plenty of artefacts to admire. It can get really busy, especially in the holidays, so you might want to book a ‘skip the line’ ticket to save queueing.
My favourite building in Seville is Plaza de Espana. Built for the Ibero-American exposition of 1929, it’s an architectural masterpiece with its curved shape and beautiful water features. For a bit of fun, you could hire a rowing boat and view the building from a unique angle!
Seville isn’t stuck in the past though. If you love modern architecture, stroll under the Metropol Parasol. Consisting of six wooden parasols, this unusual structure is often referred to as the mushroom!
Plus, Seville is one Spain’s finest cities for food, particularly if you like the flavours of Andalucia. I’d recommend eating your way around gourmet food market Mercado Lonja Del Barranco or trying some local, authentic tapas at El Rinconcillo – the city’s oldest bar.
One little tip, park outside of the city centre. The streets are narrow and you don’t want to scratch your rental car!
Seville to Cordoba: 140 km / 1 hr 30 mins approx.
Southern Spain Road Trip: Stop 10 – Córdoba
Time for the final stop on this amazing road trip through the south of Spain!
It’s hard to believe that Córdoba was once the largest city in the world with around 1 million people living there… but that was 1,000 years ago! This is another city famed for its history, with four amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The most famous place to visit is the Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (I’d recommend booking a skip the line ticket to save queuing). Starting its life as a mosque, it was later converted into a cathedral. It’s the most amazing blend of Christian and Muslim architecture. This story alone is fascinating and a good indication into the melting point that this city is.
Just wandering Cordoba on foot is a delight. You’ll notice some differences in architecture here compared to some of other places you’ve visited so far on this itinerary. In particular, keep an eye out for the beautiful patios and courtyards in the centre of many of the buildings.
If you visit in May, you might get the chance to see some of these hidden gems up close! At this time of year there’s a special festival known as the Fiesta de los Patios where locals open their doors to show off their courtyards. It can get quite competitive, with pretty displays of flowers and art too!
You’ve seen the traditional blue pots filled with flowers, mounted on whitewashed walls before, right? Well, that’s a signature style of Cordoba (and Andalucía as a whole), so keep your eyes peeled as you wander the city.
There’s plenty more to keep you busy in Cordoba, including walking the Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir River, feasting on plates of tapas in local bars and enjoying some nightlife too. What better place to end an amazing adventure through southern Spain!
Cordoba to Madrid: 395 km / 4 hours approx.
Where To Stay On A Southern Spain Road Trip
If you’re wondering where to stay in southern Spain, here are a few of my top choices along this route.
Dear Hotel boasts one of the best hotel views in the whole of Madrid. What better way to relax after a hard day’s sightseeing than by sipping a cocktail from the stunning (but compact!) rooftop pool? It’s enough to make you feel as though you were swimming right over the city itself, and it’s a lovely place to take in the glittering city lights at night.
Located directly on the Calle Gran Via, Dear Hotel offers everything you need for a luxury stay in Madrid – so why not travel in style and treat yourself to a slice of opulence during your trip?
Of all the 5-star hotels in Valencia, the Westin Valencia is arguably the most impressive. It’s an Art Deco dream, filled with glittering chandeliers, exquisite marble, and elegant artistic touches. It occupies a great location next to the Turia Gardens, just a short walk from the city centre and all of the charms of the historic old town.
The Westin offers the best in comfort and luxury with exceptional service, a world-class spa, and the fabulous Komori Restaurant, which serves up Japanese-European fusion cuisine. This chic hotel is one of the best places to stay in Valencia for couples, offering romantic surroundings to unwind in, after a busy day of sightseeing.
If you’re looking for a modern and stylish place to stay in Cadiz, where you can catch a glimpse of the sea from every room and balcony, check out Parador de Cadiz. With incredible views of the bay as well as a relaxing spa and wellness centre, this is one of the best equipped hotels in the city.
After a busy day of exploring you can head back to your hotel and unwind in the spa or swimming pool. If you fancy a culinary treat, the hotel’s tapas bar and restaurant serve a variety of traditional Spanish delicacies.
EME Catedrale Hotel, Seville
With Moorish-inspired interiors and luxurious contemporary rooms, EME Catedrale Hotel is one of the most popular 5-star hotels in Seville’s old town. As the name suggests, it’s just a stone’s throw from the cathedral, and offers one of the best views of any hotel in the city from its rooftop pool terrace.
It’s also an ideal base from which to explore the Jewish quarter and all the main sights and sounds of the city. Along with the pool, another great feature is the hotel’s cocktail bar, which has a glass floor showing the subterranean Roman ruins below. Definitely a great spot for an atmospheric pre-dinner drink!
I hope you enjoy your south Spain road trip – let me know if there’s anywhere you’d add to the itinerary! I think you’ll agree, this is one of the best road trips in Spain. It just offers so much variety.
My best advice is to use this guide as a starting point, but don’t be afraid to add some extra spots along the way too. If you’re wondering where else to visit in Spain, have a read of my northern Spain road trip itinerary! I hope you have the trip of a lifetime. Happy driving!