The Best Spain Road Trip Itinerary

The Alhambra in Granada Spain

Drawn by the allure of the Alhambra, many visitors head to Granada unsure of what to expect. What they find is a gritty, compelling city where serene Islamic architecture and Arab-flavoured street life go hand in hand with monumental churches, old-school tapas bars and counterculture graffiti art.

When I envisioned coming to Granada, I pictured a medieval-Moorish village in the middle of nowhere. What I experienced on first arrival was the exact opposite. As we sat in traffic a few miles out from the city center, I was surprised by my surroundings. Chain restaurants, high rise buildings, neighborhoods – much like in the Western Hemisphere.

It wasn’t until we got to cobblestone streets were were getting so used to and the Moorish city center that I felt like I was back in Spain. Granda appeared to be unusual and was the first city on this trip where I felt like I was back home for a minute. I didn’t like it…

The Alhambra Palace Granada, Spain
The Alhambra – Granada, Spain

Instagram: @Navigator.Nick

To Granada’s credit, maybe I just didn’t spend enough time there. We only spent a little under 24 hours and maybe, just maybe, that’s our bad. Some day, I shall come back and give Granada another shot at a longer stay. But, no trip to Granada would be the same without visiting The Alhambra.

The Alhambra Palace Granada, Spain
The Alhambra – Granada, Spain

For around $45-60US per person, you can get a small guided group tour. We used to book our reservation and you can do the same below. Plan to spend closer to $60US if you want to skip the line, which I highly recommend. You don’t want to waste the day standing or sitting in line, just to get in.

The Alhambra Palace Granada, Spain
The Alhambra – Granada, Spain

Over two million people visit each year and attendance averages are around 8,500 people per day. The attraction gets very crowed so it’s also recommend to get a very early time slot. The third reason to book ahead and pay extra for skip-the-line entrance is, the heat. It can get very hot in Granada during the summer months so booking a ticket in advanced and at an early time, will let you experience the palace in the early morning when it’s still cool.

As I said on the previous page, our AirBnb was just steps from the fortress. All we needed was a 10 minute alarm to get us up and out of bed to meet our 8am group.

Enough chitter-chatter, onto the action inside.

The Alhambra was so called because of its reddish walls (in Arabic, («qa’lat al-Hamra’» means Red Castle). It is located on top of the hill al-Sabika, on the left bank of the river Darro, to the west of the city of Granada and in front of the neighborhoods of the Albaicin and of the Alcazaba

It’s location is strategic, with a view over the whole city and the meadow (la Vega) below, To the north is the river Darro and to the south is the valley of al-Sabika. The street Cuesta del Rey Chico resides on the eastern side. The Cuesta del Rey Chico is also the border between the neighborhood of the Albaicin and the gardens of the Generalife, located on top of the Hill of the Sun (Cerro del Sol). 

The Alhambra Palace Granada, Spain
Granada, Spain

Speaking of strategic strategy… what better way to start off the afternoon after a long walk with two scoops of cold gelato in a handmade waffle cone?!

gelato in granada spain
Granada, Spain
On the Road, Again, to Malaga Spain

Surprise, surprise, we were on the road again! The drive from Granada to Malaga was a good one. We drove down Highway E-902, just West of the Sierra Nevada National Park. The Park looked flourishing with floral and untouched by humankind. Once we reached the fork in the road down south, we took A-7 to head back West. There were so many tunnels that we drove through. These tunnels were carved into the huge rolling hills of Southern Spain. Lush plantation on one side and ocean on the other, it was a sight to see and one we very much enjoyed. If you’d like to keep track of our road map, take a look below of our route.

Map of Andalucia Road Trip, Spain
Andalucia Road Trip – Spain

I had a beach spot I wanted to checkout in Nerja called La Caleta de Maro. So, a quick detour off the highway and we were handing the gentleman on the side of the road (very odd) a few euros to pass and park near the beach. The beach was still a couple of miles down the road. Who knows who these gentleman were, but we paid them anyway to avoid any confrontation. As the road narrowed and zig-zagged down the hill, we felt the sea breeze outside of the car window. We knew we were close!

After parking up a steep incline and changing inside of the car into our bathing suits, we grabbed our bottle of wine and headed to the beach. The beach had dark, coarse sand and it was full of more pebbles and stone, rather than sand. There was a shack where you could rent kayaks and paddle boards but the ocean was too choppy. My original thought was that we could rent a kayak and kayak over to the waterfall of Cala Barranco de Maro.

Cala Barranco de Maro Nerja, Spain
Cala Barranco de Maro – Nerja, Spain

Instagram: @Navigator.Nick

This waterfall was a quick 15 minute paddle, but not today. It would’ve been almost impossible, so we didn’t attempt it. Nevertheless, it was still nice to lay and relax on the beach for a little while to break up the drive.

Arriving in Málaga, Spain

We arrived in Malaga with high spirits. As the town was starting to pick up mid-afternoon, we ended up parking on the sidewalk (which we did not know until we started getting very peculiar looks) to check in for our reservation. Something to note for this particular stay; The reception desk was at a different location than the studio apartment. After sorting out where the condo was located, we paid to park the car for a couple of days at a nearby parking garage, as we wouldn’t be needing it until our final departure from Malaga Airport.

Soho Boutique Museo – Malaga, Spain

Soho Boutique Museo was a beautiful and modern upscale studio apartment with all the amenities we needed. The mini kitchen made for quick meals and the location was right in between the city center and the beach. For around $100 per night, this studio cannot be beat in price and location. Check out this quick time lapse of the Alcazaba from our balcony!

Alcazaba – Malaga, Spain

As the sun started to set, we took a stroll a few blocks away from our studio to find Casa Lola Taberna. The tapas here were incredible! I paired them with a hometown Malaga brewed beer and it was like magic. Just look at these photos, deliciosos!

After finishing our delicious tapas, we moseyed on over to the famous landmarks in Malaga’s city center like Pirámide de Cristal (The Crystal Pyramid), Catedral de la Encarnación (Cathedral of Incarnation) and Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón (Sacred Heart Church).

Catedral de la Encarnación Malaga, Spain
Catedral de la Encarnación – Malaga, Spain

Instagram: @Navigator.Nick

We walked off our tapas until our legs couldn’t walk anymore. Tomorrow was another day and we had no itinerary whatsoever! If you didn’t notice already, the day by day planning and itinerary has got more and more lax as the road trip continues. I did this on purpose since the first 3 days were really planned out because of the surprise engagement.

Do you prefer everything planned or go with the flow?

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9 Responses to “The Best Spain Road Trip Itinerary

  • This visit looks like a gem! I would love to go – the pictures are gorgeous (even the ice cream cone was tempting ;-))

  • Lovely pictures Nick! Spain looks great and would love to visit next year when this craziness is over.
    Thanks for sharing!

    MagicandBliss | |

    • It’s an amazing country and in so many different ways. I’m not much of a writer, but I tried to put in as much detail as I could without boring you!

  • Thanks for sharing, I loved Barcelona when I visited sounds like you had a lovely trip 🙂

    Nic | Nic’s Adventures & Bakes

    • What was your favorite thing about Barcelona? I actually preferred to be outside of the chaos of the city and enjoy the views and things to do from afar

  • Awesome guide! I lived in Spain for more than 15 years and was actually going to visit Córdoba, Granada and Seville in September but had to postpone it due to Covid. Your tips will definitely come in handy when we finally visit!

    • Excellent choice. I would spend the most time in Seville. Let me know what tips you found most helpful as I will be adding to the guide for years to come. Have you rescheduled your trip?

  • Your pictures are great and for me that lives now in Madrid, I had to have a hard debate to live in Barcelona or Madrid. At the end, Madrid won but Barcelona is such a gem and you portrayed it very well. Thank you for sharing

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