I have just returned from my 4th road trip through Andalusia, my longest to date. The latest 10 day mid-summer adventure took me on some of the country’s most breathtaking roads, through natural beauty and countless quaint ‘pueblos blancos’. I finally feel ready to share everything I’ve learned from driving around Spain’s second largest region. This guide can help you plan a road trip around Andalusia at any time of year but I’ve also included a section for those wanting to take on the heat of summer.
If you’re new here you can rest easy, my travel guides are different to most you find online because they are written from personal experience. I’ve been travelling around Portugal, Spain and Italy since 2016 always seeking out the most authentic experiences and sharing them with you. I’m proud of my travel guides because they are written from the heart of experience.
Sitting in the heat of the south, Andalusia is appropriately nicknamed ‘the frying pan’ of Spain. You can expect blue skies and warm weather year round but it isn’t just the agreeable weather that should make you want to book a trip to this region. Long stretches of beach meet tumbling down Pueblo Blancos and exotic cities fade into grand mountains and stunning natural parks. This region in particular lends itself to driving more than any other in Spain. When you get out of the cities and tourist hot spots it’s easy to find stretches of tarmac to call your own and you’ll quickly find yourself oohing and aahing at Andalusia’s natural beauty.
Where is Andalusia
Located at the bottom of mainland Spain. It’s the 2nd largest region and boasts over 1000 km of coast. Andalusia’s highest point is Mt. Mulhacen in the Sierra Nevada national park.
How to get to Andalusia
International airports include Seville, Granada and Malaga. The Spanish regions bordering Andalusia are Murcia, Extremedura and Castilla – La Mancha. If you’re driving from Portugal there are several border crossings from Algarve and Alentejo. You can reach Andalusia from Morocco by boat using the Tangier – Tarifa crossing.
How to Plan a Road Trip in Andalusia
Andalusia is the ultimate road trip destination thanks to the diversity of cities, towns, villages, natural parks and coast to explore. Outside of the bigger cities of Seville, Malaga and Granada, the roads are generally quiet and easy to navigate. All you need is a car, a rough plan and a sense of adventure and you are ready to road trip your way around this mesmerising region.
Planning on a road trip in Portugal too? >> best road trips in Portugal.
Best time of year to road trip in Andalusia
The short answer to this question is whenever you are able to. But to be able to make the most of the region and to do it comfortably I would recommend shoulder seasons May/June or September/October. Christmas and New Year are twinkly times to visit the bigger cities and the first few months of the year are great for Sierra Nevada if you’re hoping to hit the slopes. Many will tell you to avoid cities like Seville or to miss out Andalusia all together in the summer months because of the heat/crowds. However, having now completed two road trips in August I’m going to go and say don’t let this stop you. Summer is an amazing time to visit the region; you just need to be prepared to make a few changes to how (and how quickly) you do things.
How to navigate Andalusia in summer
Summer is scorching hot in Andalusia and things work a little different at this time of year. Temperatures in the interior can reach mid 40’s and even the coast remains sweltering. The majority of shops, restaurants, bars etc close in the afternoons between 3pm-8pm. Most people sit down for dinner at 9/10pm at the earliest (kids included). The beach destinations such as Costa del Sol are at their peak busyness but in stark contrast much of the interior is sleepy and slow.
Summer road trips call for long afternoon siestas and early morning and late night experiences. Summer road trips do offer a chance to slow down, and experience everything deeper. While some towns and cities can be busier in summer (especially on the coast) this time of year is always when the locals go on holiday leaving many interior towns and villages quieter and calmer than you would expect. The beauty of road trips at this time of year is that the roads are almost entirely empty in the afternoon. As long as you are sensible and take it slow you can experience the beauty of southern Spain without another soul.
- Do as the locals do
- Do pull the shutters down/ Seek shade
- Do embrace the power of an afternoon nap
- Do your sightseeing before 11am
- Do enjoy cold Salmorejo at every opportunity
- Do wear lightweight clothing
- Do drink plenty of fluids
- Don’t overdo the alcohol
- Don’t rush your itinerary
- Don’t leave the house without water
- Do listen to your body
In most smaller towns and villages (and some larger ones too) shops, restaurants and attractions close on Monday and/or Tuesday. If you have the flexibility, stay in the larger cities (Seville, Granada etc) on these days where there will be more options open. Alternatively rent an apartment with a kitchen, stock up on some food from the market and create your own tapas evening.
How to hire a car in Andalusia
Hiring a car in Andalusia is easy. To start with, work out where you will be arriving. The best cities to rent a car from are Seville, Malaga and Granada but there are many other locations across the region. It is possible to drop the car in a different location in the region (and indeed Spain) but be prepared to pay extra for this. I personally always use Zest for my car hire in Spain (and in Portugal and Italy) because they offer fully comp insurance as standard and the customer service is quick and friendly.
To use Zest enter your desired pick up and drop off location, dates and driver’s age. Then filter the list as you wish. Maybe you want an automatic? or a particular size or model of car? Once you have applied your filters you’ll be shown a list of companies offering what you want. The price you see upfront is the price you pay, there are no sneaky extras added at checkout. Remember, most hire companies require a credit card and will want to put a hold on an amount (usually a few hundred euros). Don’t forget to bring one!
Want to pick up from a different location ? Search here
Driving in Andalusia
If it’s your first time driving in Spain it’s natural to have some concerns or worries, especially if you are coming from outside of continental Europe, but don’t worry. I’m here to tell you – driving in Andalusia is easy! Despite any rumours you’ve heard about the Spanish (or Portuguese or Italians) being bad drivers I can assure you there are no more bad drivers here than in whichever country you are from. I’ve driven solo all over Europe and I have never had any major issues with navigating or “bad” drivers. Believe me, if I can drive solo through mountain roads, natural parks and tiny villages, anyone can!
A few important pointers…
- In Spain (and the rest of continental Europe) we drive on the right hand side.
- Manual cars are not that common in Spain but there are still plenty of manual options available to hire – search on Zest.
- Some of the mountain roads are (obviously) windy but as long as you keep your eyes on the road (not your phone!) you won’t have any problems.
- The majority of roads are well paved but the more ‘off the beaten path’ you go the more likely you are to experience potholes or other small annoyances.
- Avoid driving in Seville and Granada at rush hour. If you can, aim to arrive in the bigger cities early in the morning.
- The toll road between Malaga and Marbella/Estepona can get very busy in the summer months.
- When you get to the natural parks you’ll want to stop at every corner because the scenery is just so beautiful. As tempting as it might be to just pull over and take a quick snap, don’t do it. Instead drive on until you find a waiting spot. There are a surprising amount of viewpoints in the natural parks and you won’t have to drive far to find one.
- Avoid driving through the ‘old town’ of any pueblo blanco you are visiting unless it is absolutely necessary. These narrow, often cobbled streets can be difficult to navigate if you don’t know the town, which means at best you end up frustrating the local people who are simply trying to get to work, or at worst getting yourself stuck (cringe). These streets are best admired on foot. The exception is if your guesthouse/hotel has given you exact instructions to get you to where you need to go. If you do find yourself needing to drive through the smaller villages, aim to do it outside of the busy times of day.
- Don’t be afraid of taking the smaller roads outside of the pueblos. Some of my best adventures have been when I’ve switched off motorways on GoogleMaps. Set aside some extra time driving between destinations and see what you can find.
- Do leave time for ‘getting lost’. Part of the joy of road trips is the freedom it gives you to discover the wonders of the world you can’t reach with public transport. If you plan every hour of every day you’ll no doubt miss out on some of the best of the country. Andalusia has an abundance of hidden gems, go find them!
Best driving roads in Andalusia
As soon as you get off the motorway in Andalusia (and sometimes even on the motorway) you’ll find yourself surrounded by gorgeous views for miles and miles. There are so many stretches of road to enjoy through out the region but some there are some in particular that are definitely worth including in your road trip itinerary (note that some of these are not suitable for motorhomes or larger vans).
A-372 between El Bosque and Grazalema
CA-P-5131 Between Castellar de la Frontera and Castillo de Castellar
MA-5043 + MA-4401 Between El Chorro and Valle de Abdalajís
What to Pack For Your Road Trip in Andalusia
This largely depends on what you plan on doing but there are a few basics not to forget.
Good driving shoes/sneakers. Flip flops and sandals do not make great driving shoes so make sure you have a pair of comfortable sneakers.
Water. It’s unlikely you’re going to break down but just in case you should always have some water and snacks in the car. This is really important in summer when temperatures can be very high, even waiting 20 minutes for a pick up truck can be exhausting. Keep a few big bottles of water in the boot just in case.
GoogleMaps. If you’re hiring a car you may already have sat nav included but if not, I use GoogleMaps on your phone or bluetooth to navigate. This app is one of my most used travel apps. I pin everything I want to visit so that when I’m travelling around I can see what’s closeby.
An actual map. I know it’s 2023 and we can do literally everything on our phone but sometimes you can’t beat an old school map. In some more remote places there is no phone signal so it’s great to have a back up.
Cigarette car charger/ phone charging cables. To keep you connected.
Swimwear. If you’re travelling in the summer months you’ll find outdoor pools in most cities and large towns, sometimes in villages too. Not to mention the lakes, rivers and ocean. There are lots of opportunities to cool down so don’t leave home without some swimming gear.
A tent/ camping gear. If you are absolutely sure you won’t be camping then there is obviously no need to do this. However if you are open to camping, stick a small tent and sleeping bag in the back. You never know what quirky campsite or wild camping spot you may find. Remember wild camping is illegal. If you do choose to stay somewhere, make sure you are not on someone’s property, and you must arrive late, leave early and take everything with you. Most importantly – no fires! Respect this beautiful landscape and the people and wildlife that call it home.
Toll Roads and Parking in Andalusia
The majority of Andalusia is toll-free however there are a few you should be aware of. Toll roads are classed as AP rather than just A. The toll roads are located on the Costa del Sol between Malaga and Marbella, Marbella and Estepona and Estepona to Soto Grande. This stretch of motorway is one of the busiest in summer. You can find out more here.
Parking availability varies widely. In big cities such as Seville and Granada it is not easy to find free parking but in smaller towns and villages you can often find free street parking. Something worth noting is many of the Pueblos have an old town and a new town. The old towns usually consist of very narrow streets and extremely limited parking. All these towns have paid and sometimes free parking areas outside of the old town. Do your research first.
There is an app called ParkEasy which can be used in many places in Europe including Spain. However the extra charge for using this often outweighs the efficiency of it.
Andalusia Road Trip Itinerary
The freedom that comes with a set of wheels and the open road ahead of you is unrivalled. There is no need to follow a set itinerary in Andalusia if you don’t want to. You can simply set off on an adventure and see what you find. Of course, it helps to have a few destinations in mind so you can make the most of the region. During peak season some accommodation in these cities and towns can fill up so you may choose to book these places in advance if possible. While I enjoy the spontaneity that comes with road trips and travel in general I’m a planner by heart (and by job!) so as always many, many hours of research goes into my trips. I’ve visited each and everyone of the destinations mentioned in this itinerary and guide.
For a deeper dive into the best and most authentic pueblos to add to your Andalusia itinerary cruise on over to…
In the meantime here are a few must-visit stops to add to your Andalusia Road Trip Itinerary
An obvious destination and a great choice to start your Andalusia road trip. Sizzling Seville, one of the sunniest and warmest cities in Europe; home to moorish history galore, authentic flamenco and far too much amazing cheese. This is also a great place to pick up a hire car and start your journey from west to east. Parking in Seville is not so easy, so if you’re picking up your hire car in Seville, wait until you’re ready to move on to the next destination.
Seville Where to Stay >>
For a budget stay with possibly the best rooftop terrace in the city check in to Pension Perez Montilla I stayed here during a very quick stop off and although basic, the room was super comfortable.
Staying a few days? I would grab an apartment and make the most of having your own space to rest in the city. Casa Triana 1888 has 2 apartments both with terraces and a pool. Free airport taxi too!
This one is on my wish list >> ⭐️Casa Sevilla 1855
Seville Eats + Drinks >> Share some plates of jamon at the oldest tapas restaurant in Seville El Rinconcillo, enjoy Spanish omelette with whiskey sauce at Carmela, or see what awaits you on the menu at my personal favourite is La Teresas.
Seville Experiences >>
- Book a tapas and taverns tour with Spain experts Devour. Or get pinning GoogleMaps and plan your own tapas crawl.
- Visit the grand and exotic Real Alcázar. Undeniably magical.
- Hire an electric bike and ride to Plaza da España at sunrise before the crowds. Top Tip – If you’re just hopping from place to place for 5 minutes use the Bolt bikes/scooters but if you want to use for the whole day hire with a company directly as it’s much cheaper.
I spent a week in Córdoba mid-summer and fell a little bit in love with the city. In no way as grand or spectacular as neighbouring Seville but that’s what I love about it, it has an understated and calmer magic about it. After my week in an apartment in Córdoba I wrote a travel guide about it.
Córdoba Where to Stay >>
I can highly recommend this 2 bedroom apartment ⭐️ El Balcon de la Axerquia with kitchen and balcony with courtyard views if you want your own space for a few days. If you’re looking for more of a hotel experience, NH Collection Amistad Córdoba, Las Casas de la Judería de Córdoba or Hospes Palacio del Bailio which are in the heart of the city.
Córdoba Eats + Drinks >>
Definitely drop by Bar Santos for a cheap but authentic tortilla and enjoy it at the bar with a Cruzcampo.
Córdoba Experiences >>
- Keep an eye on this website for live flamenco in summer here>> https://www.turismodecordoba.org/ or check out >> this theatre.
- Climb the Mezquita bell tower for the best view in Córdoba.
- Get up early and admire the Alcazár de los Reyes Cristianos gardens.
A refreshing break from the interior, the (almost) island of Cadiz manages to squeeze grand architecture, delicious street food and beaches in a shoebox sized city. Plenty of reasons to add this impressive destination to your road trip itinerary. Parking isn’t easy in Cadiz. I recommend leaving your car in Jerez de la Frontera and taking the train in or staying in in El Puerto Santa Maria and catching the ferry.
Cadiz Where to Stay >> I have yet to stay in Cadiz itself and after much research I am yet to be inspired by the accommodation options in the city. However here are a few options to contemplate…
Cadiz Eats + Drinks >> When in Cadiz, eat fried seafood, and there is no better place than Freiduria Marisquería Las Flores. Whatever you do don’t leave without churros con chocolate at cafe bar La Marina.
Cadiz Experiences >>
- Sip on sherry
- Wander the Calle Virgin de la Palma
Arcos de la Frontera
One of the biggest and more well known Pueblo Blancos in Andalusia, Arcos is a must-visit stop to add to your road trip itinerary. Arcos is a well organised town and despite the jumble of streets you’ll find your way round in no time.
Top Tip: Don’t try and drive to the old town. The streets are extremely narrow. Keep these streets for the locals. There is free street parking just before you reach the old town, although this can get busy. Alternatively you can use the underground parking.
Arcos de la Frontera Where to Stay >> I enjoyed a stay at the oasis of calm that is La Casa Grande. Located in the heart of Arcos with a terrace overlooking the Basílica de Santa María de la Asunción. Each room has unique features. I will 100% stay again!
Arcos de la Frontera Eats + Drinks >>
These two restaurants opposite each other are the best places to eat and drink in the centre of it all. I had the best Salmorejo I’ve ever eaten at Taberna Jóvenes Flamencos and enjoyed last night garlic prawns at neighbouring La Cárcel.
Pull up a stool on this corner bar and count how many cars pass with scratches above the wheel arch from the exact bar stool you’re sitting on.
Arcos de la Frontera Experiences >>
- Rise and shine and wander the streets at dawn
- Don’t leave without buying convent cookies from the nuns at Comunidad de Mercedarias Descalzas. Enter the convent and ring the bell. You’ll then place your order to a clouded screen and wait for the turnstile to deliver your sweet treats.
Jerez de la Frontera
Just an hour away from Seville, Cadiz and Arcos de la Frontera Jerez is in a fabulous location for exploring. Many people just stop off her for a sherry tour and then move on to the next destination but it is definitely worth a day or two of your time. I really loved the grittier vibe of of Jerez compared to Andalusias’s sparkly crown jewel Seville.
Jerez de la Frontera Where to Stay >>
Jerez de la Frontera Eats + Drinks >>
On my short visit I stumbled across (the very popular) Las Banderillas and instantly fell in love with the buzzy atmosphere. Next door is Tabanco San Pablo which was closed when I was there (Monday afternoon) but also looks like a great stop off. At night head to the twinkly Calle Pescadería Vieja for evening drinks and dishes.
Jerez de la Frontera Experiences >>
- Sherry tasting is the number one activity in Jerez. I can’t personally recommend a tasting but I’ve heard good things about Gonzalez Byass (Tio Pepe)
One of, if not the most popular Pueblo Blanco in Andalusia. Ronda has all the expected downfalls of a tourism heavy town but there is absolutely no denying the views here are spectacularly astonishing. I recommend visiting outside of the summer months to be able to wander without the crowds.
Ronda Where to Stay >>
La Colegiata Small 1 bedroom apartment with the cutest terrace. Great for a couple.
Hotel Montelirio Gorgeous 4 star hotel with the best view in Ronda
For an alternative stay 25 minutes outside of Ronda stay in the sustainable and totally peaceful El Molino del Abuelo in hidden gem Montecorto.
Ronda Experiences >>
- Wine tasting at one of the many wineries close by.
- Marvel at the Mirador de Aldehuela, obviously.
- Go for a refreshing swim in Cuevo del Gato cave and pool
Zahara de la Sierra
All roads leading to Zahara de la Sierra are nothing short of spectacular. The lake appears out of the muted rural scenery like an azure mirage. The town itself is small but has great parking on the outskirts and is easy to navigate. Zahara is satisfyingly close to several amazing pueblo blancos including Grazalema, El Gastor, and my favourite( and almost unheard of Montecorto). All featured in my travel guide…
Zahara de la Sierra Where to Stay >>
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
I accidentally found Grazalema while driving between Ronda and Zahara de la Sierra back in 2022. I went back the following year to confirm it is still some of the best driving I’ve experienced in all of Europe. The natural park is strikingly beautiful and worth at least a few days of your time.
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park Where to Stay >>
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park Experiences >>
- Swim in the municipal pool for 1 euro (summer).
- Wander the streets and shop for handmade clothes and artisan produce.
- If you’re here in the summer, pay only 1Euro to use the jaw dropping municipal swimming pool in the centre of Grazalema. The views will blow your mind.
- Enjoy one of several hikes through some of Spain’s best natural scenery.
- Wander the colourful streets in search of tapas and cute shops with traditional products like handmade baskets and local honey
A hiker’s dream El Chorro not only looks spectacular but offers breathtaking trails too.
El Chorro Where to Stay >>
Bonita Casa with views of El Chorro.
El Chorro Eats + Drinks >>
Fuel up for your hike with giant toasties at the train station cafe.
El Chorro Experiences >>
- Hike the famous Caminito del Rey or the Pico Huma route aka The Balcony of Andalusia.
A grittier city compared to Seville but no less impressive. Based at the foot of Sierra Nevada it makes a great base for some mountain adventures. Roam the streets here and welcome to ‘free tapas with every drink’ land. I didn’t spent long enough to recommend stays and eats in Granada but I’ll update after my next trip.
The highest mountain range in mainland Spain, Sierra Nevada takes you to new heights. In the summer months you can hike and mountain bike but in my opinion the best time to travel to these mountains is the snow season.
Sierra Nevada Where to Stay >>
If you’re here for the snow this apartment is in the centre of it all with insane views.
Sierra Nevada Experiences >>
There you have it, a run down of a few must-visit Andalusia gems to add to your road trip itinerary. Definitely don’t stop here though. Don’t forget to read my BEST PUEBLOS BLANCOS GUIDE for some extras to add. And as always, don’t make this an exhaustive list; get out there, scour the map and see what other experiences you can find while on your road trip in Andalusia.
What to eat and drink in Andalusia
Andalusia has some truly tasty cuisine with plenty of regional dishes and treats to try. Here are just a few you should add to your road trip foodie wish list.
Salmorejo A cold tomato soup (thicker than gazpacho) served with egg and ham. Traditionally from Córdoba
Jamon Ibérico Iberian ham, need I say more?
Berenjenas con Miel Hot, fried eggplant served with honey.
Solomillo al Whisky Pork tenderloin in whiskey sauce from Seville.
Cazon en Adobo Fried Cazon fish. One of my go to tapa dishes with wine in Andalusia.
Tinto de Verano What the locals drink in summer. Cold red wine (usually Tempranillo) with soda water, sometimes with lemon. Order this instead of sangria!
Fino Dry, delicate sherry.
Money in Europe
The majority of hotels, shops and restaurants in the bigger cities accept card but some smaller places only accept cash or non-foreign cards. Always carry some cash with you. ATM’s are easy to find all over the town. Unless you already have a Euro currency bank account I highly recommend getting a Wise Card. This will allow you to hold and exchange multiple currencies at the best possible rate. There is no charge for withdrawing or using your card to pay. I’ve been living in Portugal since 2016 and I use Wise as my primary bank card here despite also having a Portuguese bank account. I’ve also used Wise to pay and withdraw money in Spain and Italy.
Top tip: Avoid Multi Currency machines such as ‘Euronet’ (usually set up outside souvenir shops etc) as they charge you 3 or 4 euro to withdraw. Look for ‘Multibanco’ machines to withdraw money. More info here…
I’ve spent more than half my life curating trips for myself around the world, more recently those trips have been deep adventures (mostly by car) in Portugal, Spain and Italy. If you want to plan a memorable trip but don’t know where to start, I can help. Just get in touch and together we’ll make a road trip to remember.
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