Europe

3 Weeks in Spain: The Ultimate Spain Road Trip Itinerary

Plan your dream road trip through Spain with this epic Spain road trip itinerary! I’ll show you how to spend a perfect 3 weeks in Spain travelling from Barcelona to Seville, plus everything you need to know about renting a car to self drive in Spain.

I was part-way through planning a six-week Eurotrip with my partner when I became fixated on visiting Spain.

Spain had never really factored into my travel plans. But as soon as I realised just how much variety the country has to offer – from majestic mountain villages to a postcard-perfect coastline – not to mention the sheer number of historical and UNESCO sites held within its borders – I decided we should spend a whole three weeks in Spain.

Wanting to pack as much into our short stay as possible, we thought renting a car for a Spanish road trip would be the best way to see the main sights plus a few smaller towns.

We were right – the action-packed Spain itinerary we devised saw us criss-cross the country from north to south, taking in most of the country’s top attractions.

A patchwork of green and brown fields seen on a Spain road trip.
On the road in Spain. Those views!

Spain is one of the top places for a self drive holiday in Europe. Both rental cars and petrol are relatively affordable. Travelling in shoulder season (November), we were often the only car on the road. For the most part, parking is cheap, even in hot spots like San Sebastian.

Best of all, having our own transport opened up a lot of opportunities to visit smaller towns and squeeze more into each day than our slow travel style would normally permit. Our trip was certainly fast-paced, but it was worth it to get a good overview of Spain in a short period.

This tried-and-tested itinerary for a three week self drive road trip across Spain includes my top recommended activities for key cities, ideas for where to break the journey, some handy Spain driving tips, and much more.

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Self drive Spain itinerary: Pin it for later


Hiring a car in Spain

Hiring a car in Spain is an efficient and affordable way to see a large part of the country in a short period of time. Since a lot of visitors drive in Spain, the market for rental cars is competitive, meaning you can usually get a pretty good deal.

We planned our Spain road trip from Barcelona, so we decided to rent our car on our last day in the city. I recommend collecting your car from Barcelona-Sants train station because it’s easy to get to using public transport, and easy to leave from to get to the highway.

There are two main things to consider when choosing a hire car: transmission type, and size of the vehicle. Manual cars are much more ubiquitous in Spain so it can be harder to find an automatic car to rent. In addition, you should prioritise hiring a small car that will be easier to park on the street and can better navigate narrow village roads (these were our two biggest qualms about driving in Spain!).

Discover Cars lets you easily browse and compare different rentals cars from a variety of international and local agents. It lets you choose the exact features you want, and offers a full range of price and date options so you can find the best value for money. Visit Discover Cars and plug in your dates to see what’s available.

At the end of the itinerary, I’ve included more detailed driving tips for Spain.


About this Spain self drive itinerary

Looking back over our itinerary makes my head spin a little! We drove almost every day and covered a lot of ground, but by splitting the long drives up into smaller journeys, we still got to visit some interesting local towns.

Spanish highways are incredibly easy to drive on and the scenery is invariably stunning no matter where in the country you are. Because of this, driving never really feels like a drag – it’s all part of the experience.

We started our road trip in Spain from Barcelona and finished up in Seville. From there, we continued on to Tarifa by bus and caught the ferry to Tangier, Morocco. You can adapt this itinerary to create a loop, but I recommend paying the one-way car rental fee so you don’t have to backtrack. If your Spain trip ends there and you’re not continuing on to Morocco, you can fly straight out of Seville.

There are endless options and itinerary combinations for seeing Spain by car. I’m not saying mine is the best road trip in Spain – but I can tell you that it’s tried and tested. Of course there are some things missing (you can’t possibly see all of Spain in 3 weeks), but after I did this road trip, I felt like I’d seen the main highlights.

If I had my time again, I would extend our stay in Madrid by a few days.

A good way to save time is by taking advantage of the Spain day trips and tours mentioned in this itinerary. If you think there’s too much packed in, you can easily take out a few places and stay in certain locations for longer (Madrid and Granada would both be ideal places to extend your time).

A small silver car parked on a roadside in Spain.
Our hire car in Spain.

How long does it take to drive across Spain?

A Spain road trip can be as long or as short as you want it to be. As you’ll see from the map, we covered most of Spain (apart from the north-west) in 21 days.

Remember you don’t want to rush driving across Spain too much. Three weeks is the absolute minimum amount of time you need for a Spain road trip like this one – unless you’re prepared to seriously cut down on the number of places you visit.

This 3-week self drive Spain itinerary is fast-paced, but if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Spain that you’re planning, you probably won’t mind hustling to see as much of this beautiful country as humanly possible.

If you have less time in Spain, you can do a shorter itinerary that focuses on the North of Spain (Basque Country) or the South of Spain (Andalusia).

Every Spain road trip should include at least a few cute towns!

Spain Road trip route overview & drive times

Let’s start with a basic overview of our Spain road trip itinerary and the 17 cities, towns and villages we visited in Spain in 3 weeks.

Remember you don’t have to follow this itinerary exactly – you can use it as a Spain road trip planner to pick and choose the destinations that most appeal to you.

  • Days 1-3: Barcelona
  • Day 4: Barcelona to Sos del Rey Católico via Zaragoza
  • Day 5: Sos del Rey Católico to Bilbao via Pamplona and San Sebastián
  • Day 6: Bilbao
  • Day 7: Bilbao to Madrid via Segovia
  • Day 8: Madrid
  • Day 9: Madrid to Toledo
  • Day 10: Toledo to Valencia via La Mancha
  • Day 11: Valencia
  • Day 12: Valencia to Cartagena
  • Day 13: Cartagena to Lanjarón
  • Day 14: White Villages and the Sierra Nevada
  • Day 15: Lanjarón to Granada
  • Day 16: Granada to Córdoba
  • Day 17: Córdoba
  • Day 18: Córdoba to Seville
  • Days 19-20: Seville
  • Day 21: Depart Seville – or Seville to Tangier via Tarifa

This Spain itinerary covers a whopping 2,450km (1,523 miles). Remember that not all the driving is back-to-back – there are some rest days in between!

OriginDestinationDistanceDrive time
BarcelonaSos del Rey Catolico400km4.5 hours
Sos del Rey CatolicoBilbao217km2 hours
BilbaoMadrid400km4 hours
MadridToledo72km1 hour
ToledoValencia370km4 hours
ValenciaCartagena270km3 hours
CartagenaLanjaron330km3.5 hours
LanjaronGranada46km0.75 hours
GranadaCordoba200km2.25 hours
CordobaSeville145km1.75 hours

Spain 3 week itinerary

This section includes a detailed day-by-day breakdown of our 3 weeks in Spain, including the best things to do in each city, where to stay, and where to break up longer drives.

A city scape with a blue sky overhead.
Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona

Vivacious Barcelona is the perfect place to start your Spain road trip itinerary. Capital of the autonomous Catalonia region and the second-largest city behind Madrid, Barcelona is quintessentially Spanish and offers a perfect introduction to many of the things that make Spain so great – incredible architecture, beautiful beaches, and fabulous cuisine.

On top of that, Barcelona is logistically the best place to start a trip through Spain. It’s home to an international airport, a train station with services from most other countries in the region (we arrived by night train from Geneva), and a ferry terminal.

I recommend spending at least 3 days in Barcelona to get a good feel for the city and see the main highlights. The city has a great public transport system, so you don’t need a car here – in fact, it would be a major burden.

I highly recommend picking your car up on the day you leave Barcelona. Most rental companies have offices at Barcelona-Sants, the city’s main train station. This is a good place to start as the traffic isn’t too hectic and you can easily get to the highway.


Where to stay in Barcelona

Barcelona is huge – where you stay can make or break your trip. Take some time to familiarise yourself with Barcelona’s inner-city neighbourhoods so you can make an informed decision.

Here are a few recommendations for where to stay in Barcelona – car or no car.

  • Ayre Hotel Rosellón. Located in the shadow of the Sagrada Familia, you won’t find a better patio view anywhere else in Barcelona (just look at the pictures if you don’t believe me!). Parking at the hotel is guaranteed and only costs a modest 16 Euros extra per night.
  • Barcelona Catedral Hotel. This modern boutique hotel has light-filled, spacious suites, a rooftop pool and patio, and offers free walking tours for guests. Note that secure parking costs a bit extra, and you’ll need to reserve a spot in advance.
  • Motel One Barcelona-Ciutadella. Don’t let the name ‘motel’ fool you – this is a boutique hotel through and through. If you can tear yourself away from the trendy lounge-bar and rooftop terrace overlooking the city, it’s a short 20-minute walk to Las Ramblas. Private parking is offered at a nearby location and costs an extra 20 Euros.
  • Unite Hostel Barcelona. My top budget choice in Barcelona, this boutique hostel offers dorms and private rooms, all bright, clean and minimally furnished. The yoga studio and co-working spaces are the cherry on top. Reserve on-site parking in advance for 18 Euros/night.
An elevated park with colourful murals at dusk.
Park Guell, Barcelona.

Things to do in Barcelona

In all honesty, planning a Barcelona itinerary can be a bit overwhelming. There’s just so much to see and do. I’m only recommending a few select activities and restaurants that we really enjoyed – know that there is a lot more out there!

Start by pounding the pavement on Sandeman‘s free city walking tour. This will help you get your bearings while introducing you to some of Barcelona’s must-sees, including the Gothic Quarter and Barcelona Cathedral.

La Sagrada Familia, the grand cathedral designed by Gaudi, is the symbol of Barcelona. You should prioritise visiting on your first or second morning. Skip-the-queue tickets are essential – or else you risk spending hours waiting in line. Buy your tickets for the Sagrada Familia online through Get Your Guide.

Gaudi’s other works in Barcelona, including the iconic Park Güell Monumental Zone (buy tickets here) and Casa Batlló (buy tickets here), are absolutely worth a visit as well. Even if you’re not that interested in architecture, these buildings all capture the spirit of Barcelona and tell a fascinating story of Spanish and Catalonian history. The experience is even richer if you’re accompanied by a guide who can illuminate the symbology.

Stone pillars reach up to a high cathedral ceiling inside the Sagrada Familia.
Inside the Sagrada Familia.

Ride an e-bike around the gorgeous Gothic Quarter to explore one of Barcelona’s most charming neighbourhoods. For a break from the hubbub, head for the hills and spend an afternoon wandering around the cactus gardens at Montjuïc. Take the cable car over La Barceloneta beach for fantastic views, and visit the beach itself if the weather is right.

Don’t skimp on the food, either! Barcelona is packed with incredible restaurants. We especially loved eating Spanish ‘hamburguesas‘ at Hamburguesería Bacoa and pigging out on homemade churros at Bar Churrería Layetana. If you’re a foodie, this market to table tour of Mercado de La Boqueria, Barcelona’s biggest produce market, is a must-do.

Take advantage of the free entry to Museu Picasso every Friday night – it’s busy, but it’s a wonderful experience. And for something truly memorable, try to see a gig at the Palau de la Música Catalana (we watched an unforgettable performance by the late, great Sharon Jones). If there’s nothing on, I highly recommend booking in for a short guided tour – it’s truly one of the most majestic buildings I’ve ever been in (aside from Sagrada Familia!).


Recommended day trips from Barcelona

If you decide to extend your stay in Barcelona, there are lots of fantastic day trip opportunities within a few hours’ drive of the city.

No car? This 12-day journey around Spain by train, starting from Barcelona, takes in some of the country’s best cities and beaches.

A city scape with a square and a clock tower.
Zaragoza, Spain. ©Andrey Khrobostov via Canva.com

Zaragoza

It’s time to hit the road! After collecting your car in Barcelona, start heading due west towards the Bay of Biscay. The drive to Zaragoza takes 3 hours. If you want to make it in time for lunch, try to leave the city as early as possible (by 8am at the latest). That way you’ll also beat most of the traffic.

Zaragoza lies smack-bang in the middle of northern Spain. Capital of the autonomous Aragon region, it’s one of the country’s most underrated cities and an ideal place to break for lunch and a short walk.

On reaching Zaragoza, we stopped at a small tavern in the shadow of the Aljafería Palace and ate a bowl of fideos negros (black noodles simmered in fish stock). There are plenty of restaurants and gastrobars around the river, close to the historic centre. However, it might be tricky to find a car park, so I recommend heading to the city’s western fringe like we did.

A village of stone houses on the edge of a green cliff overlooking mountains and valleys.
Sos del Rey Catolico.

Sos del Rey Católico

When I picture an archetypal Spanish town, the Sos is what comes to mind. This little village on the frontier of the Pyrenees is located another 1.5 hours’ drive north of Zaragoza, so I recommend leaving after lunch no later than 1pm to maximise your time in Sos.

Ferdinand II of Aragón, husband of Isabel I of Castilla and one-half of the most influential royal couple in Spanish history, was born here in Sos. The little town is loaded with history and packed with charm.

The town is petite and easily navigated during an evening or early morning stroll; admire the flower boxes, pop in and out of charcuterie shops, and listen to the church bells toll.

We stayed a night at the Parador de Sos del Rey, which sits on a low rise overlooking the Sos’ ancient cobbled streets (you might recognise it from the 2017 film The Trip to Spain) and had a very memorable meal at the Parador’s Cinco Villas-themed restaurant.


Where to stay in Sos del Rey: Hotels with parking

  • Parador de Sos del Rey Catolico. It’s honestly worth the splurge to stay at this Parador. Set in a historic Aragonese mansion that overhangs Sos’s winding streets, it’s one of the most romantic hotels I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending a night in. Rooms are plush as, and the set dinner at the on-site restaurant is a must-try (I’ve never eaten so much food in my life). Parking on the grounds is free and easy.
  • El Peiron. For a budget-friendly alternative, this hotel has a similar 17th century ambiance. Cozy rooms feature large beds and exposed stone walls. The location on Sos’s main street, close to some of the village’s best tapas bars, will make you feel like you’re part of the city (unlike the Parador, which makes you feel like absolute royalty). Free street parking is available near the hotel.
A winding city street with tall, colourful buildings on either side.
Pamplona, Spain.

Pamplona

On your next full day of driving, break the 2-hour journey to the Bay of Biscay by stopping off in Pamplona for lunch. This will be your first taste of Basque Country tapas! Pamplona is the perfect place to practice the art of ordering ahead of your arrival in San Sebastián.

Outside of the famous San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) cultural festival, which takes place in Pamplona every July, the streets are surprisingly peaceful and sparse. Bakeries and boutiques run the length of the main pedestrian drag and are well worth a browse.

Small pieces of bread topped with ham, pickles and other ingredients.
Spanish tapas.

San Sebastián

Most people head straight for San Sebastián’s pintxos bars, but don’t forget to take a stroll along the waterfront promenade, too. After a day’s drive, this is exactly what you need to stretch your legs and re-fuel.

We spent a few early evening hours in San Sebastián, and while I didn’t really fall head over heels for the town like I’ve known other people to do, it’s a worthwhile stopover on the way to Bilbao. If food is in your wheelhouse, you can easily switch your itinerary and stay in San Sebastián instead of Bilbao.

A river with a futuristic building on one side and greenery on the opposite bank.
Bilbao, Spain. ©Konstantinyolshin via Canva.com

Bilbao

Bilbao and San Sebastián are only an hour’s drive apart, so you can plausibly stay in one city and visit the other as a day trip. If I had my time again, I would probably stay in San Sebastián instead.

The futuristic Guggenheim Museum is Bilbao’s main attraction, but I found the rest of the city a little bland. One full day is ample time to see the museum and explore Bilbao’s riverfront.

In 24 hours, you can discover the city by bicycle and tour a few of the key Game of Thrones filming locations around Bilbao. An in-depth Basque County gastronomy tour is worth considering if you’re particularly interested in food and wine (let’s face it, if you’re planning a trip around Spain, you probably are!).


Where to stay in Bilbao: Hotels with parking

  • Hesperia Bilbao. These trendy self-contained apartments are a 10-minute walk from the city centre (just across the river from the Guggenheim) and feature everything you need for a comfortable stay in Bilbao. There’s even a Japanese restaurant and a rooftop terrace bar – because both those things are basically travel essentials nowadays. Secure parking can’t be reserved but is available at an extra charge.
  • Ercilla Hotel. For something with a touch more old-world charm, this boutique hotel offers pretty rooms with herringbone floors and chequerboard tiles. The restaurant serves traditional Basque food, and there’s a panoramic bar here as well. Park on-site for 20 Euros (reservations essential).
  • Parador de Limpias. If you don’t mind staying outside the city, this Parador is a 50-minute drive from Bilbao. The former summer residence of King Alfonso, the setting amongst private gardens and a protected woodland is just divine. Free parking is plentiful.
The stone aqueduct in Segovia, Spain.
The aqueduct, Segovia.

Segovia

After a short but sweet introduction to Basque Country, it’s time to leave the coast and start driving inland towards Madrid.

Segovia is 100km shy of Spain’s capital city. Coming from Bilbao, you’ll naturally pass through it – so there’s no reason not to stop off and check out two of Central Spain’s most impressive historical sights.

Looking down over a small town surrounded by fall foliage.

Aqueduct versus alcazar – when an urban landscape is a battle between the most important Roman civil engineering work in Spain and a Moorish palace so beautiful that it’s instantly recognisable from pop-culture, you know you’re in for a treat.

Segovia is a complete contrast to Madrid. Park your car on the hill leading up to the aqueduct and ease your way into the capital by wandering around this charming town for a few hours first.

Sand-coloured turrets of the castle in Segovia.
Segovia.

Climb the concealed staircase to the right of Segovia’s UNESCO-listed aqueduct for a different perspective on this feat of engineering. Visit The Alcazar, apparently Walt Disney’s architectural inspiration when creating Cinderella’s castle.

Between 10.30am and 4.30pm you can join a 60-minute guided tour of Segovia Cathedral, another of the city’s landmarks. This particular tour also allows you to climb the 500-year-old belltower for a panoramic view of Segovia.

And as a reward for all that walking, treat yourself to a Pasteleria Limon y Menta, Segovia’s signature pastry. It’s lemony, it’s minty, and it’s wrapped in caramelised marzipan. Yum!

If you opt to drive straight into Madrid, you can always visit Segovia on a day trip. This itinerary includes a magical hot air balloon ride over the city.

Looking down on a city with wide boulevards and a beautiful corner building.
Madrid, Spain.

Madrid

Our first experience of Madrid was the nightmarish drive through the city at peak hour. Don’t make the same mistake we did – try to arrive in Madrid before nightfall!


Where to stay in Madrid: Hotels with parking

  • Only YOU Hotel Atocha. The design of this jaw-droppingly beautiful hotel draws on the 19th-century building its housed inside. Deluxe rooms face onto an inner courtyard and are bright and airy as a result while still feeling private. There’s a cafe, bakery and lounge, and breakfast is served on the 7th floor with city views. The Prado Museum is only 900m away, making this a great choice for museum and culture lovers. Parking on-site is guaranteed and costs extra.
  • Hostal Patria Madrid. Coming in at under $100 a night, this hotel is excellent value for money in Madrid. Rooms are basic but comfortable with Scandi-style furnishings, and the location on a popular cafe strip is perfect for hungry travellers. Parking (reservation required) costs a very reasonable 17 Euros.
  • Parador de Alcala de Henares. If you want to avoid driving into Madrid (smart choice!), this Parador is 45 minutes outside of Madrid. The 16th-century convent building reminds me of a Silk Road Caravanserai. There’s an outdoor pool, and parking on the grounds costs a little bit extra.
A vast blue lake surrounded by historic buildings and fall foliage.
Madrid.

Things to do in Madrid

An easy walk or cycling tour through the city is the best way to see central Madrid. Make sure you explore the gorgeous Real Jardín Botánico, wander through the bookstalls that line Cuesta del Moyano, and top it off with sunset at the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled, shipped to Spain, and reassembled in all its glory on a hill in the city centre. A live flamenco performance is the perfect way to end your first day in Spain’s capital.

For a dose of history and culture, visit Madrid’s four most iconic landmarks: The Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, the Royal Palace, the Plaza Major, and of course the Prado Museum.

Here are my top tips for exploring historic Madrid:

Find more great things to see and do in Madrid here.


Recommended day trips from Madrid

A half-moon bridge over a river.
Toledo.

Toledo

Leaving Madrid, start your journey to Southern Spain’s enchanting Andalusia region. Over the next 12 days, you’ll be driving from Madrid to Granada and Cordoba via some of the loveliest small towns and historical villages in the country.

The first of these, Toledo, is just an hour outside Madrid. After the chaos of the capital, it’s a salve. Toledo’s mix of old-world charm, literary heritage and multicultural influences makes it one of my favourite places in all of Spain. I highly recommend staying for at least one night.

Toledo is the first place where you can see, hear and smell the Middle Eastern/North African influence that becomes more and more pronounced the further south you travel. We had a wonderful introduction to Syrian and Turkish food in Toledo, which became our go-to cuisine for the remainder of our trip.


Where to stay in Toledo: Hotels with parking

  • Hotel Santa Isabel. A great budget choice at under $40 per night, this charming guesthouse is right in the heart of Toledo. Private balconies overlooking the town rooftops and a central courtyard are terribly quaint. Rooms are a bit boxy, but nicely finished and clean. Reserve parking in advance for 12 Euros per night.
  • Parador de Toledo. This is another great candidate for a little splurge. Set 4km from the centre of Toledo in a low-set historic building, rooms here are a bit more outdated than at other Paradors, but the outdoor pool and panoramic terrace are lovely. Parking is free.
A sea of red houses in Old Town Toledo.
Toledo.

Toledo is the spiritual home of Don Quixote, Spain’s literary legend. A great way to see the old town is by walking the Don Quixote Trail. Alternatively, let a Toledo local show you around on a private walking tour.

Fall in love with Syrian food at Posada El Cristo de la Luz, then down a sampler box of marzipan from Santo Tome (the signature sweets of Toledo).

If you want some respite, you can even visit a Spanish farm and have an Iberian pork tasting session outside of Toledo.

Three white windmills on top of a rocky outcrop.
La Mancha.

Consuegra, La Mancha

I’m a huge fan of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, but even if you’ve never read the book, a quick detour through Spain’s iconic La Mancha landscape, with its towering windmills and patchwork fields, is an absolute delight.

Leaving Toledo and driving east, aim to arrive in the small town of Consuegra in the early morning before the tour buses pull in at around 10am.

Stop at one of the provincial bakeries for a quick bite. You can then drive all the way to the top of the hill and explore the windmills on foot.

A waiter stands in the service widow of a horchata bar in Valencia.
Valencia.

Valencia

Spain’s third-largest city, Valencia has all the charm of Barcelona and all the amenities of Madrid with a laid back, beach-town feel. This is the Orange Blossom Coast, and the streets of Valencia are lined with citrus trees (which you must pick and sample – luckily our Airbnb came with a juicer!).

Valencia is also the traditional home of paella and Spain’s signature beverage, horchata. While we weren’t all that impressed with the City of Arts and Sciences, we loved cycling through the elongated Cabecera Park that runs through the heart of the city. (Perhaps we should have opted for the rooftop wine and tapas tour instead!) If you’re an outdoorsy type, you’ll adore Valencia.

Driving in Valencia is relatively easy compared to Barcelona or Madrid, so you can stay in the city centre without having to worry too much about traffic or navigating the roads.


Where to stay in Valencia: Hotels with parking

  • HQ Rooms Apartments San Vincente. Spacious and featuring all the mod-cons, this self-containted apartment sleeps up to 8 people and comes with a large private balcony. It’s 1.5km from the centre of the city, and there are bicycles available to rent for a small fee. Parking costs an extra 15 Euros.
  • Palacio de Rojas. 350m from Valencia’s Central Market, it doesn’t get much more inner-city than this. The canary yellow facade, the indoor-outdoor living spaces, the high ceilings and the heavy doors… This must be one of the most beautiful hotels in all of Spain. Seriously. Palacial apartments sleep up to 9 people and all feature a full kitchenette. Underground parking is available for an additional 15 Euros.

Things to do in Valencia

You’ll probably be quite content hiring a bicycle and exploring Valencia at your own pace. If you want a deeper look, try joining a private walking tour with a local.

For a hands-on activity, I highly recommend taking a paella cooking class and learning just why Valencia is the birthplace of Spain’s most famous dish. Head to the Plaça de Santa Caterina to try a glass or horchata (or two) at one of the open-air cafes. Horchateria Santa Catalina is my personal favourite.

Looking down over the huge Roman amphitheatre in Cartagena, Spain.
Cartagena.

Cartagena

Three hours’ drive down the coast from Valencia, Cartagena is another of Spain’s most underrated cities. We rolled into the sleepy historic centre in the early afternoon and were greeted by a medieval festival, the annual Mercado Medieval (how’s that for timing!).

Catagena’s Roman amphitheater is one of the best-preserved in all of Europe, and exploring the state-of-the-art museum was honestly one of the most enjoyable ‘historical’ experiences I had in Spain. It’s fascinating to see how the city has been built-up around the ruins.

Cartagena is small so you only need a day or two at the most. Get your bearings with a 3-hour group walking tour of the inner city, or immerse yourself in Cartagena’s Roman history with this thematic tour. The food scene here is great, so I also recommend doing a gourmet tapas tour.


Where to stay in Cartagena: Hotels with parking

  • NH Cartagena. Elegant rooms with a view of Cartagena port are the stand-out feature of this efficient hotel. It’s only 200m from the Roman Theatre but in a quiet corner of town, so you can still get a good night’s sleep. Reserve paid on-site parking at the time of booking.
A white building with colourful carpets hanging out the front.
The White Villages.

The Sierra Nevada: Lanjarón and the White Villages

Leaving Cartagena behind, you’ll next be driving the coast of Spain (at least a portion of it) and dipping inland to visit one of Spain’s most beautiful natural landscapes, the Sierra Nevada.

Once you hit the mountainous Las Alpujarras region, you’ll realise what a blessing your hire car truly is. Navigating the windy, steep, narrow roads around the white villages was nail-biting at times, but I can’t imagine trying to get around any other way.

Base yourself in Lanjarón, the area’s most populous village and home to a number of quirky accommodations, including the healing retreat/yurt we stayed in.

Once a hippie mecca and still famed for its spring water and olives, Lanjarón is a gateway to the smaller villages of Pampaneira, Bubio and Capileira. If you can brave the altitude, add Trevélez (Spain’s highest settlement) to your driving itinerary.

Some of the villages take a good few hours to get between, especially in inclement weather, so I recommend setting aside at least two days to explore the area, more if you intend on hiking between the villages.

A village of white buildings on a mountainside in Spain, with thick fog overhead.
The Sierra Nevada.

Where to stay in Sierra Nevada: Hotels with parking

  • Hotel Alcadima (Lanjarón). Homely suites at this quaint little hotel are excellent value for money. Indoor and outdoor pools, plus a kids’ play area, make it a great choice for families. The restaurant specialises in roast lamb with cinnamon. Need I say more? Parking costs an extra 10 Euros.
  • Airbnb Charming Yurt (Lanjarón). One of the coolest Airbnbs we’ve ever stayed at, this whimsical yurt is set in an olive grove at the foot of the mountains. It’s absolutely magical, and the Israeli hosts are very kind and welcoming. Free parking is plentiful. (Sign up with this link for a $55 AUD discount off your booking if it’s your first time using Airbnb).
  • Parador de Nerja (Nerja). Another town, another Parador! This one is a bit different because it’s set inside a modern building on a cliff top overlooking the ocean. An elevator ferries guests down to the nearby beach (how cool!). Private parking is available for an additional charge. Note that it’s a 60-minute drive to Lanjarón.
The Alhambra at night, emerging from a forest of green trees against an inky blue sky.
The Alhambra, Granada, Spain.

Granada

Granada boats a quixotic mix of Spanish and Moorish cultures. The Alhambra is an architectural triumph – if it’s not on your itinerary, you’re doing Spain wrong!

You need to buy tickets to the Alhambra and Generalife Palace and Gardens a day or two ahead of your visit (or a week in advance if you’re travelling in summer). The easiest way to do that is by booking online through Get Your Guide.

On the day of your visit, make sure you leave early to account for the time it takes to access the complex (which includes a long, beautiful walk through the forest if you’re using public transport).


Where to stay: Granada hotels with parking

  • Eurostars Catedral. The exception location 70m from Granada Cathedral is only topped by the traditional coffered wooden ceilings inside some of the suites. Rooms are otherwise modern and luxurious with more subtle nods to the building’s history sprinkled throughout. Parking costs an extra 22 Euros per day.
  • Anacapri. This 18th-century house turned boutique hotel wears its heart (and its history) on its sleeve. The inner courtyard is outstanding, and rooms are very comfortable. It’s even closer to the cathedral and just 20 minutes’ walk from the Alhambra, right next to the start of the pathway. No reservation is required for the off-site parking (an extra 20 Euros per day).
  • Alhambra Palace. Just shy of the city walls to Granada’s iconic UNESCO attraction, this hillside hotel has spectacular views, Moorish-inspired decor, and of course, quick access to the Alhambra. Secure parking is off-site and costs 22 Euros.
© Emily Lush 2015

Things to do in Granada

After the once-in-a-lifetime experience of The Alhambra, everything else pales in comparison! However, Granada has a lot more to offer, which is why I suggest staying an extra night (or even longer, if you can).

Discover the city’s most charming neighbourhoods, Albaicín and Sacromonte, on foot with a walking tour. Watch a traditional flamenco performance inside Albaycin, and treat yourself to an authentic Arabian hammam bath!

There is a secret sunset spot in the hills above Granada where you can watch the warm light bathe the entire Alhambra complex before someone flicks the switch and it lights up like a beacon on the hill. Don’t miss it!

Red and white archways inside the mosque cathedral in Cordoba, Spain.
The Mezquita, Cordoba.

Córdoba

From The Alhambra to Códoba’s Mezquita, a fascinating mosque-cum-church that is home to a set of much-photographed candy cane archways. Córdoba is an archetypal Andalusian city (my favourite in the region) and has many other offerings, including a pleasant waterfront and some incredible vegetarian restaurants.

Every year, Córdoba hosts the Patio Festival, which showcases the amazing indoor gardens that are a traditional part of every home here. Make sure you peek inside a few doorways as you’re wandering the town’s lanes. This is also a good place to catch a Flamenco/equestrian show – our pick is the Royal Stables of Córdoba.

A pretty street corner with the name 'Judios' on one of the buildings.
Cordoba.

Where to stay: Córdoba hotels with parking

  • Hotel Boutique Patio del Posadero. This intriguing little hotel features bespoke rooms and a beautiful patio (as is the style in Cordoba). The outdoor swimming pool and terrace lounge are perfect for summer. Reserved parking costs extra.
  • Hotel Cordoba Center. A bit further from the mosque, this ultra modern hotel sits on the city’s Golden Block next to the AVE Train Station. The 7th floor pool and Jacuzzi are particularly noteworthy, but it lacks the charm of some other Cordoba hotels. Non-reserved parking is located on site.
  • Parador de Cordoba. It’s almost your last chance to stay in a Parador! Cordoba’s is a fine choice – another renovated summer palace, it’s located north of the centre and boasts a massive pool plus sprawling gardens (the grounds, Los Naranjos, are where the first palms brought to Europe were planted.) Rooms are extremely spacious and well-appointed. Parking is free.
Five painted tiles on a white wall.
Cordoba.

Things to do in Córdoba

Join the official Mezquita tour (price includes entry) and see this incredible UNESCO mosque-cathedral up close. In the summer, cycle the waterfront on a bicycle tour, or visit 7 of Cordoba’s most impressive patio gardens and learn about the history of the city’s courtyard tradition.

If you have an extra day, venture outside the city to see the impressive Azahara Medina.

A leafy city on a riverbank.
Seville, Spain.

Seville

An entire day can easily be spent inside Seville’s Alcazar complex, another incredible palace – this time in the Andalucian style – that mirrors The Alhambra in its layout and design. GoT fans will recognise the Alcazar as the setting for the Water Gardens of Dorne.

Seville is a sun-bathed walking city, and the Plaza de Espana, Barrio Santa Cruz and Parque de Maria Luisa are all worth a wander.

I found Seville a lot grungier than other places in Spain. The streets are filled with cool vintage stores and hip cafes, and the city has a great vibe.

We returned our rental car in Seville and got around the city very easily using public transport. I recommend you do the same.


Where to stay in Seville: Hotels with parking

  • Hotel Las Casas de la Judería. If it’s atmosphere you want, look no further. This charming hotel is set with 27 traditional houses (yes, it’s big), all connected by courtyards and internal passageways. Traditional decor including antique furniture and French windows is straight from the history books, while the rooftop pool brings the property up to date. Some of the rooms are just spectacular – I couldn’t imagine a better way to end your Spain road trip than with a few nights here. The location in the old Jewish Quarter means there’s lots to be explored nearby, including the cathedral, which is just a 7-minute walk away. Off-site parking costs 24 Euros.
  • Melia Sevilla. Modern, minimal and a complete contrast to the previous property, this hotel is centrally positioned off Plaza España. Twin hot tubs and a hamman round-out the ample services. Public parking near the hotel costs 24 Euro. Staff can help you coordinate, but I recommend you return your hire car before you check in.
  • Hotel Rey Alfonso X. This trendy hotel features a summer pool that overlooks Seville’s oldest church. Business-like rooms are smart if not a little soulless. On-site parking costs extra (enquire at the time of booking).
A colourful shopfront in Seville, Spain.
Seville

Things to do in Seville

The Alcazar should be top of your list for things to do in Seville. This skip-the-line ticket includes a guided tour.

Marvel at Seville’s Cathedral and Giralda Tower, watch a flamenco show at Museo del Baile Flamenco (the birthplace of this Intangible Heritage icon), and walk through the gorgeous Santa Cruz Jewish Quarter (don’t forget your camera!).

If you want to get even further off the beaten path in Seville, I highly recommend this alternative market and walking tour.

Seville is a great place for a Spanish cooking class. This one shows you how to prep several popular Seville-style tapas, and inclues bottomless sangria.

A close-up of a painted ornament in Seville, Spain.
Plaza Espana, Seville, Spain. ©Lunamarina via Canva.com

Recommended day trips from Seville


Spain road trip map


Useful tips for driving in Spain

Here are a few pointers to make your Spain road trip as smooth as possible.

Things to remember when renting a car in Spain

Obtain an International Driving Permit before you leave home. Most rental car companies require an IDP by law (you also have to carry your regular driver’s license).

Book your rental car well ahead of time, especially if you want an automatic transmission as they are in short supply. We could only find a few automatic cars available in Barcelona, and they were more expensive than manual. I highly recommend using Discover Cars to compare rental prices and reserve your car in advance.

Choose the smallest car possible. In between the narrow village streets and tight street parking spaces, you’ll want to go with the smallest car you feel comfortable with. Driving around Spain in a small car (a Hyundai or a Corolla, for example) is perfectly safe provided you stick to the highways and don’t go off-road.

Bring your own GPS (with maps for Spain and Portugal pre-loaded) to avoid the GPS rental fee. Alternatively, use your phone to navigate with Google Maps or Maps.Me – it works just fine, provided you have the map pre-downloaded for offline use or you have a Spanish sim card with plenty of data.

General driving tips & Spain road rules

Plan your route to avoid toll roads. Some tolls are very expensive – up to 20 Euros – but we managed to avoid most of these by taking indirect roads and alternate highways.

Avoid driving in the bigger cities, especially Madrid. Pick up and drop off your hire car from an office in the outer suburbs or the airport to avoid inner-city congestion.

Note the blood alcohol limit. If you plan on visiting any wineries while you’re driving across Spain, remember that the blood alcohol limit in Spain is 0.05% (or 0.01% if you’ve had your license for 24 months or less).

A tall tree with no leaves. Two white road signs at the bottom point in opposite directions towards small Spanish towns.
On the road in Spain. Decisions, decisions!

Tips for parking in Spain

Look for ‘Blue Zones’. If you’re visiting cities and towns for the day and need a place to leave your car away from your accommodation, you’ll need to get a grasp on how the street parking works in Spain. Blue Zones (portions of curb marked with a blue line) designate paid parking spots. Wherever you see Blue Zones, you’ll see a meter or automatic machine nearby where you need to register your car. Take the ticket and display it prominently on the dash, with the date and times face-up.

Yellow lines designate disable parking spots. You’ll need a displayed permit to park here. Other coloured zones vary from city to city but usually indicate Resident Zones. If you’re not registered to a nearby address, you obviously can’t park here.

Park during siesta hours. Depending on the city, metered parking is sometimes free between 2pm and 4pm Monday to Friday and after 2pm on Saturdays. If you want to save a buck, try finding a car park during siesta hours.


What to pack for your Spain road trip

A few of my favourite must-pack essentials to make your road trip around Spain comfortable, safe and hassle-free.

Handy gadgets

Travel adapters. If you carry a universal adapter, you’ll never get caught out with the wrong plug. This portable travel plug works in more than 150 countries (including Spain and the rest of the EU) and features 4 USB ports for charging multiple phones/iPads at once.

USB phone charger. Don’t let your phone run flat while you’re in the car. You can plug your regular charging cable directly into this Anker USB car charger. It works with most phones and iPads.

Car mount phone holder. Using a phone while driving is illegal in Spain. If you plan on using your phone to navigate around, you’ll need to use a mobile phone mount. This travel-friendly phone holder fits any phone or phone case, and has a 360-degree rotating cradle.

Lightweight cooler bag. An insulated bag to keep your drinks and road trip snacks cool is especially useful in summer. This simple family-size cool bag packs down into a neat, flat little bundle that you can easily squeeze into your suitcase.

Wine Wings. Whether you’re road tripping or not, these handy non-leak wine bottle protectors are one of my favourite travel items for Europe. Essential if you want to bring a few bottles of Spanish vino home with you!

Eco travel essentials

Refillable water bottle. It’s crucial to stay hydrated in Spain, especially in the warmer months. Tap water in most cities and towns is potable. As you drive through the mountains around the Sierra Nevada you’ll see fresh-water springs by the side of the road where you can fill up your water bottle (this was one of my favourite things about road tripping in Spain!). I highly recommend S’Well insulated bottles because they look good, stay cool for up to 12 hours, and they don’t sweat.

Reusable coffee cup. You’ll probably be drinking a lot of coffee in Spain. It’s always a good idea to bring a reusable cup that you can take with you in the car. This gorgeous gold barista-friendly travel mug is vacuum sealed (zero chance of a spill!) and will allow you to cut down on plastic and paper waste.

What to wear in Spain

Good walking shoes. Even if you’re on a Spain road trip, you’re still going to be spending a lot of time pounding the pavement (and cobblestone streets!). Comfortable walking shoes are absolutely essential. To cut down on luggage, we carry ‘stylish’ walking shoes in Europe that we can also wear out at night.

Sunglasses. Some highways in Spain are quite exposed – I guarantee you’ll be reaching for your sunglasses on the first day. Bring your favourite pair of polarized lenses, or pick up a pair of foldable travel sunglasses.

Loose, comfortable clothing. There’s nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable in the car. Pack a pair of travel leggings or yoga pants plus a few comfy t-shirts for longer driving days. A comfy travel cardigan like this one is a must-pack for winter in Spain.

Essential reading

A copy of Lonely Planet Spain. This essential guidebook for Spain is the perfect Spain road trip companion. As well as planning and logistics, it includes useful Spanish phrases and detailed information about Spain’s top tourist sites.

A copy of Back Roads Spain. This little book is a bit light on practical information, but it does contain some beautiful photos. Great inspiration for getting off the beaten track in Spain.

Spain paper map. Good for peace of mind if your sat nav fails you. Even if you don’t use it for navigating, you can still plot out your route and hold onto the map for a nice souvenir! This map is current for this year and covers both Spain and Portugal.


I hope you’ll agree that this is one of the best routes through Spain by car for first-time visitors who want to pack a lot in.

Are you planning a self drive Spain itinerary for your next road trip? Leave your questions in the comments!


Self drive Spain itinerary: Pin it!

40 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Alana says:

    Hey Emily,
    Love your travel blog. I was just wondering about the language barrier? My partner and I only speak English. Was it hard to communicate with people? Thanks!

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Alana!

      You have nothing to worry about – English is widely spoken, even in small towns. For extra peace of mind, you could download Google Translate’s Spain module to use offline when you’re travelling.

      I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  2. Maro says:

    Oh & We are planning to spend 2 days in Madrid and 2 in barcelona , which leaves us with 5 days for driving and moving around from madrid , throughout these Andalusian cities and reacb to barcelona. At what point do u think a train would be more convenient? Thanks again Emily 🙂

  3. Maro says:

    Wow your post was so helpful and informative! We are planning a 9-day trip to Spain. We will arrive in madrid and depart from barcelona. Starting in madrid , driving south (rent Car) to Toledo , Cordoba , Seville , Granada. We are not sure if we should continue driving from Granada towards Valencia then off to barcelona for the last 2 days. OR skip Valnecia all together, drop the car in granada and take a train to Barcelona. Do you habe any advice as to the best way to accommodate this itinerary? (In terms of making use of the beautiful towns and scenary, but not waste too much time on tje road!) thanks a lot , your input is appreciated.

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Marco, sorry for the late reply. I really enjoyed Valencia – don’t skip it! You can easily do the whole route by car and drop off your rental in Barcelona.

      Enjoy Spain!

  4. John tyner says:

    Hi Emily!
    This is great! Thanks for putting so much effort !! What was you guys process for mapping the road and avoiding the tolls?

    John

      1. John Luke Tyner says:

        Great thank you! We have been traveling Europe for a little over a month now and going to finish the trip with a 10 day drive from Seville to Barcelona stopping a lot along the way! Will definitely use your post to help!

  5. Jess says:

    Hi Emily – thanks for this super helpful feature ! Just wondering what car hire company you used and if you have any recommendations on type of car
    Thanks 🙂

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Jess! Thanks so much for reading. I’m glad you found the itinerary helpful.

      We were advised to go through Sixt—but unfortunately they didn’t have an automatic car available for our dates. We used Hertz in the end. We rented a regular sedan—we didn’t go off road at all, so it was fine. Even in the Sierra Nevada, you won’t need a 4WD as long as you’re sticking to the path.

      I hope this helps!
      Emily

  6. Thomas Roger says:

    Wonderful!road trip advice for Spain. Would you suggest me how much total cost to travel so that I would manage my budget accordingly. I would be grateful.

  7. Namrata says:

    Hi Emily!

    I love your blog, I am traveling to Spain early May and currently preparing itinerary for a 16 day road trip. I will be travelling with my husband, we love to explore culture, local food and love nature and seneic places. As we will be little tight on schedule, we want to plan properly so that we can cover the most in 16 days. Please help me with your suggestions on the itinerary, we were planning to spend 5 days in San Sebastian + Bilbao. I am having second thoughts after reading your blog. We will fly in at Barcelona and fly out from Madrid. Below is the itinerary, let me know your thoughts

    Night 1 : Barcelona – we will fly in late so not planing anything
    Day 1 : Roam around Barcelona
    Day 2: Leave for San Sebastein – stop over at Pamplona – night at San Sebstein
    Day 3: Explore San sebastein
    Day 4 : Leave for Bilbao, night at Bilbao
    Day 5 – Day 6 : Explore Bilbao and nearby. Is this too much for Bilbao? I found POIs that appeared seneic.. I am unsure if 3 nights is way too much for Bilbao
    Day 7 : Leave for Leon and stay there for a night
    Day 8 : Plan to spend 5 days in south to cover Seville, Gibraltar, Granda and fly out from Madrid

    We are not very keen on Barcelona and Madrid. After reading your blog I am tempted to add Cordoba and Lanjaron to our plan..

    I will be glad if you can help me here .. 🙂

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Namrata! Thanks so much for your message. Your trip sounds wonderful!

      I personally thought Bilbao and SS were overrated—I much preferred Cordoba, and Lanjaron was absolutely beautiful. If you like scenery, you will love Lanjaron. I am less of a foodie so you will probably appreciate San Sebastian more than I did! I would spend less time in Bilbao, but that would just be my personal preference. I really encourage you to check out Cordoba—it was definitely a highlight of Spain for me.

      I hope this helps! Have a wonderful time in Spain!

  8. Irene says:

    Wow! What a nice roadtrip, Emily. You did covered a large area of Spain and included areas that many travellers overlook.
    If you ever decide to do another Spanish roadtrip, I would recommend including Extremadura in your trip. It is the most unknown of all Spanish regions, totally overlooked by most foreign tourist, yet a fascinating area full of history, Unesco sites, the best ‘jamón’, castles, vast open spaces and empty roads.
    Cheers,
    Irene

  9. Richard Reyes says:

    We’re planning a 3-week trip to Spain this summer probably starting in early June. We are thinking of “winging it”. Flying into Barcelona, renting a car and just driving with an itinerary similar to yours. Do you think winging will be OK? We don’t want to plan staying in any one place for a specific number of days. If we come across a place we like we want to be able to stay there for as long as we want without affecting any reservations that otherwise would have been had. Do you think booking AirBnB’s on the fly will be an issue? With respect to car rentals, are we able to rent in Barcelona and return in Malaga for example? Thank you for posting your article. It’s a great help.

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks very much for your comment! Your trip sounds great. I wish we had more flexibility with our itinerary as there are spots we would have spent less time (Bilbao) and places where we would have loved to stay longer (Valencia, Granada).

      I haven’t travelled in Spain during summer, but I would guess that things are a tad busier! With Airbnb, you should always be able to find something, even at short notice. The only restrictions will be your budget and the availability of car parking. We were on a tight budget, which is why we preferred to book in advance and secure rooms at a lower price. I have booked Airbnbs on the fly in other countries before without any issue—so it’s definitely possible. You may have to compromise on price and location, though.

      We rented our car in Barcelona and dropped it off in Seville. There was no issue. We just had to pay a small premium for returning it in a different city, as is standard with most rental places around the world. So you shouldn’t have any problem with returning the car in Malaga.

      I hope you have a wonderful trip! Please do let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.

  10. Kathryn Vichta says:

    Oh I keep rereading your report and seeing more each time. Thank you so much! We are going to Spain from 21st Sept until 17th Oct and driving three weeks of that. We’ve been to the major cities before (Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Granada) so we are concentrating on smaller places, Jerez, Cordoba, Toledo, Salamanca, Zaragoza (where we’ll catch the annual festival!) etc. Still a little concerned about parking though. How did you manage?
    We also love apartments so we can visit the local markets and cook some of our meals at home so we’d love you to share your advice about really good airbnb’s.
    We have one in Jerez so far – haven’t got very far as you can see – and have fortunately found a hotel in Zaragoza with free parking during the festival. We’d really appreciate any other advice along the way. Here’s the general order: start Jerez, check out the white villages from there, Cordoba, Ubeda, Toledo, Salamanca, Burgos, Zaragoza… then somewhere in between and end at Barcelona airport to fly home. Lots of other little places to check out close to these towns but I think they will be our main stops (think…). Would LOVE your comments.

  11. Redouane says:

    Hey Emily,
    I plan to make the same road trip you have done in Spain with my wife in January. In which month you did yours ? I am not sure if the weather January is not very convenient for such trip !?

    thank you so much in advance

    BR
    Redouane

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Redouane! Thanks for your comment. That’s very exciting – I hope you love it as much as we did!

      We did our road trip in November. I’ve never been to Western Europe in January, but I can’t imagine the weather would be too drastically different. We prefer the cooler weather, which is why we chose that month. Everything was a touch cheaper as well given that it’s shoulder season.

      I hope this helps with your planning! Enjoy!

  12. Aabida Khan says:

    Hi there! Thanks for a great blog! This is what I love – discovering places off the beaten track. We are doing a 5 week trip with 3 kids taking our own car by ferry in July! The only thing I have planned as yet is that we arrive in Santander….! Would welcome air bnb recommendations but will touch base wth you as I get planning to see what you recommend. Have noted your recommendation for Córdoba. X

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Thanks Aabida! Your trip sounds great. Please do get in touch if you want specific recommendations for Airbnb – we stayed at some great places.

      Enjoy!

  13. Alissa Rumsey says:

    Hi Emily, I’m traveling in southern Spain at the end of July and have booked a rental car. I’m concerned about parking in Granada and Cordoba (Granada especially as I’ll be there for a few nights. Any parking recommendations? Thank you!

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Alissa!

      Thanks so much for your comment. Your trip sounds wonderful!

      We stayed at Airbnb apartments with private parking in both Granada and Cordoba. From memory, Cordoba was a bit tricky because the streets there are quite narrow so I would definitely check with your accommodation in advance.

      Granada, however, had plenty of street parking. We parked and took public transport to/from town and the Alhambra. I dug up the link to the Airbnb apartment we rented – there was a lot of street parking in this part of town: https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/726540

      Best of luck with the rest of your planning! Please let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.

  14. Peter Fox says:

    Hello Emily
    I’m thinking of travelling to Spain in May 2017. Thanks for all your information. I like your intinery and will probably follow some of your guides. Did you book your airbnb before you commenced your trip and further did you do it online? Any tips or websites would help? Thanks for any help. Peter

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Peter! Thanks for reading.

      Yes, we booked all our Airbnb accommodation online before we started the drive. Some places were excellent – others weren’t so good. If you go to Cordoba (which you absolutely should), please stay with Maria and Xavier. They are probably the best hosts we’ve ever had, and their place is incredible: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/929791

      We also stayed in one Paradore, which I highly recommend!

      Have fun planning your trip and please let me know if there’s anything else I can help with!

      1. Tom says:

        Hi Emily
        We tried to contact these people on the AirBNB link and it says no longer available. do you know what happened ? Is there a way to contact then direct?

        1. Emily Lush says:

          Hi Tom, which listing was it? I’ve recommended a few. If it’s not available, they may have taken the listing down. I don’t have direct contacts but if you let me know which one you were after, I can tell you the area and you can try searching for other properties nearby.

  15. IrinaKler says:

    Oh my God! Spain is my dream. Soon I’ll visit this country. I’m really grateful for all this information. Unfortunately, I can’t be there all 21 days to explore everything you’ve write. But it’s an awesome purpose to return as soon as possible again. Thanks for sharing

  16. Julie says:

    Lovely photos. I stumbled upon your blog while researching itineraries for my next trip to Spain. My boyfriend is a huge fan of road trips and would very much like to drive down the coast, starting Barcelona and ending in Lisbon. I was just wondering whether or not you felt there was a significance cost difference between renting a car and taking local trains. Can you share your main reasons for choosing to drive through Spain? Also, I guess you were able to leave the car in a different city from where you began? Thanks 🙂

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Julie!

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m a huge fan of both trains and road trips – but I felt that having a car would be better for us because we wanted to check out some of the smaller towns and travel at our own pace. Spain is a perfect place to drive since the roads are very well kept and safe, and hiring a car was within our budget. I definitely recommend it!

      Have an awesome trip,
      Emily

  17. Cindy says:

    What a whirlwind trip to Spain. I’ve been to Madrid/Toledo/Segovia and Sevilla a couple of times. My husband and I are heading to Barcelona then Girona and small towns along the coast. I’m hoping to rent a car outside of Barcelona but am having a difficult time finding a reputable car rental company. Do you remember which one you used and were you happy with it? I’ve come across many complaints/scams.

    Toledo is my favorite so far. Can you recommend any towns similar (southeastern Spain)? Thank you.

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Cindy, thanks so much for your comment!

      A friend recommended Sixt – they have good rates and are reliable. But we had a bit of trouble finding a car at Sixt, because neither of us have a manual license (it’s difficult and more expensive to get an auto). So if you need auto, book ahead of time online. We went with Hertz in the end, and they were fantastic. We took our own GPS but the car had a built-in system as well.

      As for towns in the southeast, Cordoba was my personal favourite. Don’t miss it! I would also recommend spending a night in Cartagena. There is plenty to do in Valencia – it’s a little bigger, but also lovely – and of course Granada.

      Happy travels!

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