Planning to visit Andalusia? – Grab my fast-paced 7-day Southern Spain Road Trip Itinerary and explore some of the best local sights in one week.
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Planning a Trip to Southern Spain
About Andalusia & Southern Spain
Southern Spain is represented by the Spanish autonomous community of Andalusia, composed of the provinces of Huelva, Cadiz, Sevilla, Malaga, Cordoba, Jaen, Granada, and Almeria.
The general population of the region reaches 8,5 mln.
What is Southern Spain known for
Top Landmarks of Andalusia
It´s no secret that Southern Spain is where most international travelers head after visiting Barcelona or Madrid. Therefore, Andalusia is one of the top touristy regions in Spain with 30mln visitors per year.
Some of the most famous local attractions include Alhambra of Granda, Mosque of Cordoba, Plaza de España in Seville, the Bridge of Ronda, and Andalusia’s white villages. You can check this post to discover the top places not to miss in Southern Spain.
Flamenco in Southern Spain
Both Seville and Granda are popular for their flamenco shows. To listen to the enchanting rhythm of guitars and stepping feet in the dance you will need to book a few days in advance, especially in the peak season.
Sherry of Andalusia
The small town of Jerez gave the world iconic sherry and brandy productions (as well as fine horses).
Columbus in Southern Spain
Movies Set in Andalusia
Another lesser-known region of Southern Spain, Almeria, was a filming location for some of the most iconic Hollywood westerns and Game of Thrones. You can still channel your inner cowboy and visit local Wild West Theme Parks. Almeria is not included in this Southern Spain road trip – you can read more about my Almeria trip in this post.
Stunning Nature of Southern Spain
Nature lovers won´t get bored in Southern Spain either, since the region is known for lots of adventurous activities and a few stunning Spanish hikes, like El Caminito del Rey and Torcal de Antequera.
Famous Spaniards from Andalusia
Andalusia was the birthplace of these famous Spaniards: the painters Pablo Picasso and Diego Velazquez; the writers Federico Garcia Lorca, Elvira Lindo, and Juan Romon Jimenez; the musicians Joaquin Sabina and Paco de Lucia; the actors Antonio Banderas and Paz Vega. Also, Javier Castillo is a popular contemporary Spanish writer, thanks to his novel La Chica de Nieve (or The Snow Girl in English) – it was the most-read book during the 2019-2020 strict lockdown in Spain. The Snow Girl (2023) is also a trending Spanish TV show on Netflix.
Books&Movies to check before your Southern Spain road trip
If you are looking for guidebooks to bring with you on the road do not miss –Rick Steves Snapshot Sevilla, Granada & Andalucia, Rick Steves Spain, Wild Guide Andalucia: Hidden Places & Great Adventures of Southern Spain, The ultimate local’s guide to Seville, and DK Eyewitness Seville and Andalucia.
From Coffee Table Books I like Sevilla. Acuarelas de viaje, The Houses & Palaces of Andalusia, No Singing Allowed: Flamenco & Photography, The Spanish Style House: From Enchanted Andalusia to the California Dream.
Want to learn more about local cuisine? – Check Andalusia: Recipes from Seville and Beyond.
Reading an engaging story set in Andalusia and Spain will definitely keep your wanderlust fueling – check my list of Popular novels in Spain & Top Wanderlust books. Especially set your eyes on Court of Lions, Shadows Over the Spanish Sun, and The Return.
For more visual inspiration do not miss Spain virtual tours and Cool Spanish TV Shows to Binge-watch, particularly La Otra Mirada (filming location: Seville), Money Heist (filming location: Cabo de Gata/ Almeria), and Isabel (filming location: Granada).
As to the international hits: The Game of Thrones had lots of filming locations in Andalusia; Killing Eve was filmed in Cadiz during the final season; Star Wars: Attack of the Clones shows a few epic locations of Seville, and The Kingdom of Heaven was shot in Cordoba. Moreover, as I have previously mentioned, lots of the iconic Hollywood westerns were filmed in the Las Tabernas Desert of Almeria.
All my trips to Southern Spain
During my 10+ expat years in Spain, I was lucky to visit Andalusia quite a few times. Even though I still haven´t seen everything from my Spain Bucket List in Southern Spain, both Seville and Tarifa are already on the list of my favorite places to visit in Spain.
Currently, on the blog, you have available these posts on Southern Spain: 16 Best Places to visit in Andalusia, Best time to visit Seville, Tarifa Beach Getaway: A Unique Place to Recharge, The prettiest of Andalusia´s white villages – Mojacar / Almeria, The Ultimate Almeria Holiday Guide, Wild West Town experience in Spain, What to see in Cadiz , Blue Smurfs Village in Andalusia, 10-day Itinerary for Andalusia.
About this 7-day Southern Spain Road Trip with Kids
This 7-day Southern Spain road trip was really special since it overlapped with my 30th Birthday. Also, my parents came over to Spain, so that we could all travel somewhere together and celebrate. (My blog readers know that I always try to celebrate a new year of life with an exciting trip -for my 32nd Bday we went to Catalonia, for the 33rd to Andorra and counting…).
Our last reunion in Cambrils was so stressful, so we decided to choose Andalusia for this family trip (and haven’t regretted it for a second). Together with my husband and kids we drove from Valencia to Malaga to pick up my parents and travel across the region of Southern Spain all together.
When to visit Southern Spain
This 7-day Southern Spain road trip took place in February, so it was quite off-season. Since I have already visited Andalusia during every season, I’d say that Spring (from March to May) and September/October are my favorites. Nevertheless, in my opinion, winter is still way better than summer (despite the heat, lots of locals enjoy vacations, so everywhere in Andalusia is crowded).
Unique tours in Andalusia
Let me warn you. Some unique experiences in Southern Spain you really must book in advance:
- Royal Alcázar Entry Ticket in Seville
- Flamenco Show in Seville and Gypsy Cave Flamenco in Granada
- Caminito del Rey Guided Tour
- Guadalquivir River Sightseeing Eco Cruise
- Seville Exclusive River Boat Tour with Tapas
- Picasso Museum in Malaga
Within this post, I will share with you more unique experiences for each city on this Andalusia itinerary.
Also, from the places that I do not include on this Southern Spain road trip itinerary (e.g. Granada and Jerez de la Frontera) – you will definitely need to book in advance Alhambra Skip-the-Line Tour with Nasrid Palaces (in Granada) and How the Andalusian Horses Dance (in Jerez de la Frontera).
7-day Southern Spain Road Trip
Day 1 – Malaga
What to see in Malaga
One of the first places to visit in Southern Spain is definitely the city of Malaga. First of all, you can easily find great flight deals, best rental car offers, and budget-friendly bus/train tickets if traveling to Malaga. So, I had it clear from the beginning that we should start our Southern Spain road trip in Malaga. Therefore, we spent our first day in Andalusia exploring this charming Spanish city.
One of the top sights of Malaga is The Picasso Museum. The exposition houses 285 works of the famous Spanish artist, donated by members of his family. The Museum is located in the Buenavista Palace.
Also, the city of Malaga itself is one of the renowned gems of the Spanish Costa del Sol. Don’t miss: the port of Malaga, El Castillo de Gibralfaro, Malaga´s Cathedral, Alcazaba and its Roman Theatre (one of the top Roman ruins in Spain), El Pedregalejo. The fans of beautiful gardens in Spain should visit La Concepcion Botanic Garden.
To see the best of Malaga in a day you can book 3-Hour Complete Walking Tour. If you are not into walking but still want to explore the city – consider the City Tour by Private Eco Tuk Tuk. Foodies might enjoy the Traditional Tapas and Wine Tour in Malaga.
Some of the most unique experiences in Malaga include Hammam Al Ándalus, The Picasso Museum, Catamaran Sailing Trip on Sunset, Museo Automovilistico, and Flamenco Show Alegría. If you are on this Southern Spain road trip with kids do not miss Private Sightseeing Treasure Hunt.
If you have more than one day in Malaga – it´s even better, since there are numerous epic day trips available from Malaga: Caminito del Rey Tour, Gibraltar Tour, Ronda and Setenil de las Bodegas Tour, Caves of Nerja and Frigiliana Day Tour, Granada and Alhambra Tour, Antequera Torcal Hiking and Dolmens Site, Cordoba Day Trip, and Cliffs of Maro-Cerro Gordo Guided Kayak Tour.
Where to stay in Malaga
If you like central locations, head to ICON Malabar and Apartamento Paseo Marítimo Antonio Banderas. However, I prefer living outside of the city center to avoid the traffic and elevated parking costs – Casa Jardín apartments or Hotel Apartamentos Bajondillo.
Day 2 – Colomares and Marbella
On the road to Marbella
On the second day of this Southern Spain road trip, we were ready to hit the road towards Marbella. Honestly, I was really excited to revisit, since years ago my parents sent me to a summer camp in Marbella to learn Spanish (back when I was 16). It was one of the first solo trips in my life, and I ended up so impressed with the lavish sports cars, golf fields, and villas of Marbella.
On the way to Marbella, we made a stop at Castillo Monumento Colomares, a peculiar monument built to honor Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America. It is located in Benalmadena. Despite its old castle-inspired look, Castillo de Colomares was built between 1987 and 1994 by Esteban Martin Martin. If you want a tour with explanations – you should book it in advance, otherwise you’ll just wander around the monument on your own.
Once in Marbella, we went to explore its picturesque old town and later on, the famous Puerto Banus, one of the most luxurious neighborhoods in Spain. I also liked Marbella’s El Corte Ingles with its gourmet section, since it had lots of premium-quality foods (that I haven’t normally seen in this chain across Spain) – so it was perfect to shop for Spanish food souvenirs.
Where to stay in Marbella
Marbella and its surroundings are known for its luxury hotels, like Hotel Don Pepe Gran Meliá, Marriott’s Marbella (the most budget-friendly of all 5-star hotels in Marbella) Marbella Club Hotel, Nobu Hotel, Puente Romano Beach Resort, Anantara Villa Padierna Palace, and Kempinski Hotel Bahía Beach Resort & Spa.
Day 3 – Ronda and Juzcar
Things to see in Ronda
Ronda is often called one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. It is the third most visited place in the province of Andalucia.
The New Bridge of Ronda absolutely belongs on the list of fairytale places in Spain. It is one of those epic constructions you simply need to see with your own eyes to believe it exists. This 98m-high bridge was built in 1793 and is still one of the most iconic landmarks in Spain.
Usually, everyone combines a visit to Ronda with Setenil de las Bodegas, one of Andalusia’s top white villages. However, since we were on this Southern Spain road trip with kids, we opted for another plan – Juzcar.
Before 2011 Juzcar was one of many typical white villages in Andalusia. But after Sony Pictures launched the idea of “The Blue Smurfs Village“, as a part of their promotional campaign for The Smurfs movie, locals decided to take part and painted their traditional pueblo blanco in bright blue. Even though, what was initially supposed to be a temporary project, the Smurf’s color ended up turning into the village´s trademark.
The only drawback of Juzcar is that the road leading towards it from Ronda is really narrow.
Where to stay in Ronda
Day 4 – Tarifa Beach Getaway
On the 4th day of our Southern Spain road trip, we headed to Tarifa.
Initially, I considered staying in Tarifa for 2 days to make day trips to Tangier, Morocco, and Gibraltar. Since it was not my first time in Southern Spain, I would love to give this trip an international twist.
Unfortunately, one of my kids got flu and we decided to have the doctors close, just in case, and not leave the country. I was lucky to have a free cancellation via booking.com. So, back in Malaga, we booked a hotel in Cadiz instead. But even though our hotel was in Cadiz, it was my Bday and I really wanted to celebrate it in a unique natural setting. So we spent the whole day in Tarifa.
It is famous for infinite white-sand beaches, chilly surfer vibes, hipster cafes and shops, boat tours to spot dolphins and whales, Parque Natural Los Alcornocales, kite-surfing classes, and delicious tuna dishes.
You can read more details about my day in Tarifa in this post.
Day 5 – Cadiz
What to see in Cadiz
Our second day in Cadiz was dedicated to exploring the city. You can check this post to learn more about the landmarks in Cadiz.
Unlike many other cities in Andalusia that have started turning quite international in recent years, Cadiz still feels very Spanish. It is one of the most underrated cities in Spain I’ve ever been to. You simply owe yourself a visit to this hidden gem.
Cadiz Old Town will unveil in front of you some unique historical insights, including traces of different epochs and civilizations – from Phoenicians, Romans, and Moorish, to Christopher Columbus (who sailed from Cadiz on his second and fourth journeys to America) and the inaction of Spanish Liberal Constitution in 1812.
Some of the unique experiences in Cadiz include the City Walking Tour, Medieval Tour, Beach and Photo Tour by Segway, and Cadiz Tapas Tour. For kids, you might like the Mysteries and Crimes Walking Tour or Pirate Route Guided Tour.
Also, if you have more than a day in Cadiz – consider visiting Jerez de la Frontera. This Spanish town is worldwide famous for two unique experiences: the Andalusian houses show of Real Escuela Andaluza and Sherry wine-tasting experiences.
Where to stay in Cadiz
Day 6 -Seville
One day in Seville
We planned to end this Southern Spain Road Trip in Seville. Let me clarify – one day is not enough to explore the city. Nevertheless, since my perfect weekend in Seville still felt quite recent, we simply enjoyed a day in the city center of Seville.
While Seville is one of the most vibrant and romantic places in Spain, Plaza de España is definitely the heart of the city. It was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Expo in 1928. The atmosphere is especially magical during the blue hour or if you´re catching a glimpse of the setting sun. Plaza de España has been used as a filming location in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Star Wars II – Attack of the Clones (2002).
To make the most of your day in Seville you can book these tours: Tapas Crawl, Sangria Tasting with Rooftop Views, Cathedral, Giralda & Alcazar Entry With Guided Tour, Guadalquivir River Sightseeing Eco Cruise, Spanish Cooking Class with Dinner, Segway Tour, and Exclusive River Boat Tour with Tapas.
Where to stay in Seville
Day 7 – Return to Malaga
On the last day of this Southern Spain road trip, we returned to Malaga and still had some time to enjoy the port area before my parents headed to the airport.
By the way, on your way back from Seville to Malaga, you can make a stop at Dolmenes of Antequera, hike Caminito del Rey (need to book in advance), or visit Museo de Belenes.
Click here to check the Itinerary on Google Maps.
- Accommodation: For short stays, I usually book via Agoda, Booking, and Hotellook
- Tours&excursions: My favorites for guided tours are GetYourGuide and Viator
- City breaks&sightseeing: Go City helps to avoid multiple entry fees and paper tickets
- Travel Insurance: find the best trip insurance plans via VisitorsCoverage, EKTA, and Insubuy
- Flights: To find the best deals I like WayAway and Aviasales
- Airport Lounge: Get independent airport lounge access worldwide via Priority Pass
- Train&bus tickets: Currently, I book via RailEurope, Omio, and Busbud
- Car rental: To find the best deals I use Rental Cars, Discover Cars, and GetRentalCar
- Transfers: For individual transfer services I like Kiwitaxi
- For Foodies: Eatwith is great for finding culinary experiences with locals
- Cruise Reviews: To find the best cruise offer I check out Cruise Critic
- Suitcases&Luggage: To eliminate problems of early arrivals/late departures I find helpful Radical Storage
- Compensation for delayed/canceled flights: AirHelp is useful for all flight cancellation or delay claims
- To avoid roaming fees I use Airalo eSIMs around the world
- Budget-friendly stays: Check Hostelworld to find the best deals around the world
- Events: To find the best offers I use Ticketmaster and TicketNetwork
- Renting Bikes: to find motorcycles, scooters, quads, and bicycles I use BikesBooking
- Package Tours: head to CheapOair, Expedia UK, Tourhub, and loveholidays
- For Bloggers: To monetize my blog I use Travelpayouts