Driving to Spain turned out to be an adventure of a lifetime. Who knew we are going to love our Southern Spain itinerary so much, that we would end up moving to Spain for a while?
We decided that the best driving route to Spain will be through the South. We knew in order to cross over to Portugal we are going to stop in Spain for at least 3 nights. We stopped in Salou, Puerto de Mazarrón and Seville, before hitting the Algarve in Portugal.
The mighty Spanish Road
There are many things to know before visiting Spain. For example, before driving to Spain, you need to do a bit of safety research. Ensure your car is in great condition and will have no issues driving for long hours. The motorways in Spain are well maintained which makes the journey quite pleasant. For the most duration of our trip, the roads were pretty empty, which meant we can drive without having to continuously overtake lorries or other slow cars. Spain is hot, sunny and certain parts during our Southern Spain itinerary made us think of the Death Valley in the US. I guess now you know where we are planning our next road trip.
The best part of our journey was when we drove right next to the Sierra Nevada, a beautiful National Park in Spain and home to Mulhacén, a peak which reaches 3489 m height.
As you get closer to cities, you will notice that roads become busier sometimes even a little congested. Once you pass them, you are back on those empty roads which are perfect for the road trip.
We made our way to Spain from Nimes, France, and decided not to stop in Barcelona since we’ve already been there before, but to stop in Salou, close to Tarragona. This was an over 6-hour journey including all the stops, so as you can appreciate, we got pretty tired by the end. As we arrived off season, we found a really nice 4* hotel in Salou with dinner and breakfast included in the price. We decided to stay in Hotel San Francisco, which has a great pool, large bedroom, easy access to the beach and the greatest staff I’ve ever come across. If you have a bit of extra time, visit Mijas Pueblo. It's a cute and charming white village on the Costa del Sol.
How I killed a tyre in Spain
Tired from the road, we missed our street so I had to do a loop around the hotel. Although I managed to drive so well all the way from Hungary, I guess after one week of being on the road, I got too hazed and hit the kerb with a vengeance. It was one of those moments when all I had to do was park the car and be done for the day. Instead, I somehow hit one of those knife-sharp kerbs, as big as half my wheel. The result? A destroyed tyred.
Now, normally, I wouldn’t panic much about things like this, but given that we were on a strict deadline and needed to hit the road the second morning at 8 AM, I got a bit agitated.
We went to the hotel and talked to the receptionist, then to the man at the bar until eventually, with my broken Spanish and their incredible patience, we managed to arrange for a mechanic to come to pick us up. The man was a real character, proper funny. He took us to the garage, changed the tyre and away we were. Once back to the hotel, we were incredibly knackered and I was properly terrified of parking anywhere near the kerb. I’m surprised I didn’t get a ticket.
At least now I know what to do if my car breaks down in Spain… talk to someone about it, because Google won’t show you many options that’s for sure. In relatively remote places of Spain, I can assure you that yellow pages or word to mouth are still the way to go, and not many advertise their business online. Without the nice people in the hotel, I reckon we would have been doomed.
Salou To Puerto de Mazarrón
From Salou, our Spain road trip continued to Murcia. We stopped for one night in Puerto de Mazarrón because we wanted to enjoy a nice evening walk by the beach. The drive was over 6 hours with all the stops. The roads were the same, great condition, super quiet for most of the drive.
Puerto de Mazarrón was a quiet little town. Very basic, very simple and clean. We liked the food there and we enjoyed our walk on the beach, which is essentially why we wanted to sleep there for one night. So from that perspective, mission accomplished.
The highlights of the drive? We couldn’t have done it without our air con. Although our Spain road trip happened just at the end of March, we could still feel the high temperatures. I assume when you are used to the UK weather, it’s impossible to not (happily) moan about the heat in Spain.
Puerto de Mazarrón to Seville
The next morning we made our way from Puerto de Mazarrón to Seville. The drive itself took about 6 hours with a couple of stops. The most impressive part of the drive was when we hit the National Park of Sierra Nevada, and drove close to Granada. Shame we didn’t stop in Granada on this occasion, but having seen how beautiful it looks like, we can’t wait to drive back and explore it. With so many things to do in Andalucia, it's only natural we were so excited to be there!
From Granada onwards, the drive was mainly on flat, arid lands. We stopped along the way in a completely out of ordinary place, which seemed like a small settlement truly in the middle of nowhere. We wanted to buy paracetamol so we exited the motorway towards the village. It was like one of those amazing movies when you get off the car and you feel like you landed on an extraterrestrial planet. We loved the local shop though, it had so many amazing fruits and cheap snacks. So we stacked up for the road.
Once we finally got to Seville, we couldn’t be happier. We were super tired from the road and we knew that it was our final night before reaching the final destination: Vilamoura. Funny story, though, once we got to walk around Seville for the evening, we honestly fell in love with the city. We had such amazing food (read tonnes of tapas), friendly people, great photo opportunities. We could see ourselves living in Seville for a while.
It’s funny how now we moved to Seville for a year, due to the great experience we had during our Spain road trip.
Spain Road Trip Planner
For a Southern Spain itinerary, we would recommend spending less time driving and more time seeing.
If we could do it again (and we will) here are the points we would recommend adding to your map:
2 nights in Barcelona
Barcelona if you’ve never been before. Spend two nights in Barcelona and explore the old city. Barcelona was not our favourite city to visit and probably we would not rush to go back, but we are aware that most our friends love it, so we understand the appeal.
Book Your Accommodation in Barcelona
- Luxury Ohla Barcelona (5* hotel)
- Hotel Cantón (1* hotel)
- SmartRoom Barcelona
- Budget Rocket Hostels Gracia
- Budget Kabul Party Hostel Barcelona
2 nights in Valencia
Valencia (2 nights) because they say this city has it all. Valencia is a traditional Spanish city with a great beach. Valencia is also great for parties if that’s your aim.
Book Your Accommodation in Valencia
1 night in Alicante
Alicante for one night just to enjoy the beach breeze. Many tourists come to Alicante to have their summer holiday. I would avoid it during busy periods as prices skyrocket.
Book Your Accommodation in Alicante
1 night in Almeria
Almeria (1 night) is a lovely city in Andalusia. You can hike in Almeria, check out the Alcazaba and enjoy the central market in the morning.
Book Your Accommodation in Almeria
2+ nights in Granada
Granada (2+ nights) is definitely a must. Remember to reserve your tickets for Alhambra online way in advance. Make take a short hike in the mountains and explore this beautiful city. For photographers, Granada really is a dream.
Book Your Accommodation in Granada
2 nights in Malaga
Malaga (2 nights) because of its old medieval town, museums, good beaches, parks andRomann remains as well as Arab palaces. Plenty to do here.
Book Your Accommodation in Malaga
2+ nights Seville
Seville (2+ nights) is such amazing city for food, culture and parks. We loved it so much that we moved here for a while, so of course we are going to recommend it. In fact, a quick search and you will find that Seville tends to be one of the best cities in the whole of Spain. It’s not just us, everyone loves it.
Book Your Accommodation in Seville
Optional 1 night
Optional: Gibraltar or Cadiz. Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory, dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar. You can trail on the rock for fantastic views or settle for a nice afternoon tea, British style.
Cadiz, on the other hand, is an ancient port city where you can relax on the beach, enjoy a stroll in the market and visit museums and cathedrals.