A road trip in Spain – just the mere mention conjures up images of scrumptious tapas, ambrosial wine, affectionate and fun-loving people, pristine beaches, stunning landscapes, and architecture that spans pretty much all ages.
Today, we take you on a journey from Andalucía in the South of Spain all the way up to Figueres in the North-East with a suggested itinerary for a Spanish road trip that will let you savour the best of what Spain has to offer. Expect to see sights like this:
I would like to add that this was a “birthday trip” for Savi, so the idea was to hit as many carnivals and festivals in Spain as possible. Besides having tons of fun, this also made us see the real Spain and helped us understand local culture.
Spain Road Trip Itinerary
- Day 1: Fly from London to Malaga and pick up rental car
- Day 2 – 4: Malaga and some gems of Andalucia
- Day 5: Drive to Valencia via Granada
- Day 6 – 7: Explore Valencia and get bruised by tomatoes in Bunol and coloured by red wine in Valencia
- Day 8: Drive to Figueres
- Day 9 – 11: Explore Figueres and the surrounding areas
- Day 12: Fly back to London from Barcelona
Total distance: Approximately 2,000 Kms including the day-trips
Malaga and Costa Del Sol (4 days)
Malaga is a party-hub and a popular beach-side resort on the Southern coast of Spain. Popular with British tourists, it’s quite cheap to get to Malaga from London. To avoid the commotion, we opted to stay in an adjacent village called Benalmádena – great choice. The beach was quieter and nicer as compared to the one in Malaga and it was just a short drive from the centre of Malaga.
A major reason for us to fly into Malaga was to attend the annual carnival in Malaga, also known as Feria De Malaga. People take to the streets and the Feria grounds as early as 10 in the morning. There’s wine, there’s tapas, there’s dancing, and there’s a lot of happy people. We spent the entire day and the evening partying with the locals.
Read more about our exploits at the Feria De Malaga (opens in a new tab).
The following morning (what with the hangover!) we decided to enjoy a leisurely Spanish breakfast coupled with a strong cortado (espresso with little milk) and make friends with some locals. Morning well spent, we got into our car, put on our favourite road trip playlist over at Argus, and off we went to explore the surreal rock formations near the quaint village of Antequera. The layered rocks are a sight to behold and the neighbouring village of Antequera is right out of a Spanish fairy tale – cobbled streets, majestic churches, street side cafes, and a towering castle.
Read more about our adventures at the surreal rock formations in Antequera (opens in a new tab).
It’s not possible to visit South of Spain and not visit the mighty Alhambra. Make a day trip out of it, and instead of taking the highway, opt for what is now called the “old road to Granada”. The serpentine road will take you through vineyards, rustic houses, treacherous mountains, and our favourite, Rio Frio, a tiny hamlet which is known for Trout fishing. We’ll be writing a detailed post on this day trip soon, so watch this space.
Accommodation in Malaga
Like we mentioned before, we stayed in Benalmádena, a 20 minute drive from Malaga. The village and the beach were definitely quieter than Malaga, especially in the carnival season. You can compare and book a hotel here.
Valencia and Bunol (3 days)
Valencia is a bustling city and it’s easy to spend a couple of days just walking around countless Plazas (squares), sampling tapas in hidden tapas bars, and sipping on the local drink, Horchata, a traditional beverage made of ground almonds. The highlight of this segment of our road trip, however, was the day we spent in the tiny village of Bunol, made famous by the annual Tomato throwing festival, La Tomatina. Thousands of visitors descend upon this otherwise sleepy village to partake in the biggest food fight in the world. How could we have stayed behind? We can safely say we came out with a lot of bruises and an aversion to tomatoes, at least for the next couple of days. If you can, definitely plan your Spanish road trip so that you can enjoy the madness in Bunol. La Tomatina festival takes place on the last Wednesday of August each year.
If you do make it to Spain during the last week of August, don’t miss out on the wine fight that happens in Haro near Valencia . Participants pour wine all over each other using water pistols, glasses, and buckets at the La Batalla del Vino festival. Expect unending dancing and revelry.
Recommended Reading: Our experience at the Tomato throwing festival, La Tomatina (opens in a new tab).
Accommodation in Valencia / Bunol
We would recommend staying in Valencia instead of Bunol Bunol is a tiny village and accommodation options are limited. Valencia has tons of places to suit all budgets and needs. You can compare all hotels and book here.
Figueres and Costa Brava (3 days)
Figueres is known for the The Dalí Theatre-Museum, which is the largest surrealistic object in the world and houses the largest collection of Dalí’s paintings and sculptures. It’s easy to spend an afternoon in the museum. Owing to the popularity of the town, accommodation is sometimes difficult to come by, so it’s best to set base in one of the neighbouring quaint villages like St. Miquel De Fluvia.
There is no dearth of picturesque towns in the Catalonian region, Cadaques being one of the most popular ones. For us, however, the medieval town of Besalu and the seaside town of Begur stole the limelight. This region boasts of some of the most spectacular drives and scenery in Spain, not to forget vast expanses of sunflower fields.
On the last day of our road trip, we spent the entire afternoon lazing on one of the hidden ‘Calas’ (coves) that are commonly found in Costa Brava. Looking back on the last 10 days, we realised that we had seen so much, met such amazing people, eaten some of the best tapas, and sampled lush wine. The following day we drove to Barcelona to catch our flight back to London.
Accommodation in Figueres / Cadaques
We stayed in a tiny village called St. Miquel De Fluvia. To be honest, you won’t go wrong if you choose any village/town to stay in this region. If you don’t mind the crowds, then definitely go for Cadaques. If you’d like to be in a quieter place, then look for a hotel or apartment near Figueres.
The next road trip to Spain, this time through central Spain, is currently being planned as we pen this post 🙂
- We opted for self-catering apartments in Malaga, Valencia, and Figueres. The cost was roughly £15 per person per night on an average. You can find more details in our Where To Stay In section.
- Car rental in Spain is cheaper than other European countries. We paid £15 per day for a 5-door economy car from Hertz. There was NO one-way drop-off fee when renting with Hertz.
- There are two kinds of highways in Spain – Autopistas and Autovias. The former are mostly toll roads, so if you want to save some money, use the Autovias which have a lower speed limit.
- All towns and cities are well connected by road and it’s easy to drive in Spain. As always, it’s handy to have a GPS during your road trip, especially if you like to take detours to discover hidden gems like we do.
- For your visit to The Alhambra, book in advance as the tickets run out fast. The combined ticket to Alhambra, Generalife, and the Nasrid Palaces costs around 14.50 Euros per person. Keep in mind that you have to choose the time of your visit to the Nasrid Palaces when booking the ticket, so plan your day-trip accordingly.
- Entrance to The Dalí Theatre-Museum is 12 Euros per person, but in summer, there is an option of a night time visit, which comes highly recommended from us. Tickets for the night time visit cost 13 Euros per person. It’s strongly advised to book in advance.
We have been to Barcelona and Madrid on city-breaks in the past, so we wanted to do a road trip that would take us to some offbeat places in Spain, and this particular itinerary did not disappoint. From grand palaces to barren deserts, from windy beaches to the snow-capped mountains of Sierra Nevada, we saw it all.
If you are planning a road trip in Spain, you can read all our posts about Spain here (opens in a new tab).
If you love driving as much as we do, you should definitely check out our epic Iceland road trip (opens in a new tab). We can guarantee you that you will be tempted to pack your bags and leave for Iceland 🙂
Drop us a line if you have questions about planning and places to visit – we’d love to help. If you have done a road trip in Spain already, share your tips with us in the comments below 🙂