My one week road trip itinerary for Andalusia
I don’t think I have ever received as many questions about any of my itineraries, as I did when I traveled Andalusia! Which is not so strange of course: Andalusia is a pretty magical place! The dry terracotta-colored landscapes with striking white villages feel like a different universe. And when I wandered around the palaces with Moorish architecture, I had to pinch myself to double check I wasn’t dreaming.
Surprisingly there are quite a lot of things to do in Andalusia and a week is actually a bit too short. A week and a half would have been perfect, and if you also want to relax for a few days I would even stretch it to two weeks. Because part of my trip was arranged for me, I wasn’t able to plan everything myself. After I got my psycho control issues out of the way, it was actually pretty fun, since we went to places that I otherwise wouldn’t have gone to. Sadly we didn’t visit Granada: the Alhambra was already sold out for the dates that we were in town, and I would rather come back a second time to really explore the city.
So instead we spent five days travelling and two days relaxing at the pool. Exactly what I needed after five days of sightseeing! This was my itinerary for seven days in Andalusia!
Renting a car in Malaga
We arrived in Malaga, one of the busiest and most popular places of Andalusia. And on top of that, it is also the most important airport of the region. This was the beginning of our trip and also the place where we picked up the rental car.
I would say that a rental car is essential for Andalusia. This way you can get to the most beautiful little villages, abandoned hotels and you have the freedom to go wherever you want to go. I went to Andalusia on invitation by Sunny Cars. They challenged me to explore the backlands instead of the coast. Challenge accepted: I am not much of a beach girl, anyway! I am happiest when I get to explore the mountains and nature! So this was no problem at all.
I do have to say: I always find hiring rental cars a tad bit intimidating. I always get palpitations when I need to decide on which insurance I really need, and which are totally unnecessary. The best part of Sunny Cars is that their cars are always all-inclusive. This way you are fully insured, which makes driving so much more relaxed. It is all included in the price, so you don’t have to listen to awkward sales pitches from the rental company. And you don’t have to think about what the chances are that the wheels or windshield might break. Even when you go for all-inclusive, Sunny Cars is still the cheapest car rental service around. Since the company works with external partners, they are not always located at the airport itself, but about 5 or 10 minutes further down the road. You will be transported from the airport to Sunny Cars with a shuttle bus. You can choose whether you want to get the car directly at the airport or just outside of the airport.
We got to try the Sunny Cars Express service, which means that you will be given priority. You board the shuttle bus, and they take you to the rental company where you will get your rental car within a couple of minutes. We could skip the line at the counter desk because of the Express Service. It wasn’t too busy in May, but I can imagine that this could save you a whole lot of time in July.
This was my very first time I rented a car from Sunny Cars, and I have to say that I was very pleased. I think that next time I will rent a car with them again. Do mind that the express service isn’t available at every location, but it ís valid in Málaga :-).
Day 1: El Torcal Antequera
We stepped out of the plane, jumped into our rental car and drove to Antequera. Since we woke up at four in the morning, and it was already half past one in the midday, we had to get ourselves some lunch. Antequera is the perfect place for that, it’s a cute medieval city. We sat at one of the local cafes near the Moorish castle, and decided to eat tapas. After that it was time to lose those calories again by hiking :-). (Just joking: I couldn’t care less about calories.)
Nature park El Torcal de Antequera feels like you are on a different planet, or that perhaps you accidentally walked on stage of some sci-fi movie. This Nature park stands out because of the limestone rocks that have been shaped by erosion throughout the years. El Torcal is located about an hour drive north of Malaga, which makes it the perfect first stop on your trip. The region is a designated natural park since 1978, and is valued for its amazing flora and fauna. The park is also known for its animals, especially the mountain goats. There is a big chance that you will be able to see them from a distance. We wandered on our own over a walking trail and suddenly saw a mountain goat only a three meters in front of us. It clearly didn’t expect us. So cool! I don’t know which of us was more surprised though: me or the goat. We ended up hiking through the park for about two hours, using the yellow route.
If hiking is not your thing, you could choose to see more of Antequera, or to maybe even stay in Malaga. I haven’t seen anything of the city itself on this itinerary, but friends of mine who went there said that the city is really pretty.
Day 2: Driving around + Ronda
Start the day with an amazing drive through the nature of Andalusia. Marvel at the winding mountain trails with amazing views, spot some goats along the side of the road, and melt at the sight of the charming white villages that the province is famous for. Take about an hour or four to drive around the area between Ronda and Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja Nature Park, and make sure to stop at places such as Gaucín, Cortes de las Frontera and Smurf city Júzcar (yes, this village is known for its Smurfs). After lunch you will go to Ronda. You can easily spent a whole day here, but you will have to make sacrifices!
Ronda is known for its dramatic bridge: the Puente Nuevo. The 18th-century stone bridge connects to the one part of the town to the other part, over a canyon of 120 meters deep. I stood with shaking knees at the edge. Can you remember my fear of heights? But the view really was stunning. In addition, I found the city of Ronda itself to be surprisingly fun. There were cozy town squares with terraces everywhere, with loads of beautiful buildings to admire. We only had two hours in Ronda before going to hotel (which was the nicest hotel ever, by the way – see the list below), but if you only have one night, I would recommend you to stay in Ronda itself.
Day 3 + 4: Seville
Seville was pretty much the main reason for me wanting to go to Andalusia. A city that looks like a Game of Thrones decor, full of impressive Catholic and Moorish architecture and churches: yes, daddy! The more I can feel like I am wandering through a fairy tale, the better.
The center of Seville is surprisingly small, which is pleasurable during the summer heat. Everything was within a twenty minutes walking distance of each other. Two days is enough to to see everything you will want to see in Seville. In due time I’ll write a travel guide about this city of course, but what you really shouldn’t miss: the Plaza de España, the cathedral and the Real Alcazar in Seville. Stay somewhere in the center of the city so you can easily get everywhere. You really won’t regret a visit to Seville: it was one of the most gorgeous cities I have ever been. And if you decide to skip this amazing city I will have a word with you :-).
Day 5: Day trip cordoba
Cordoba is about an hour’s drive away from Seville. This is perfect for a day trip, which we did. Cordoba is really underappreciated, but this city is really just like an outdoor monument, so beautiful! The main attraction was the Mezquita Mosque, but the center itself is also very nice. It is full of winding streets and nice restaurants with green courtyards. The castle gardens of Alcazar de los Reyes Christiano are also worth a visit. They are a nice break from summer heat. Altogether, Cordoba is not a big city, so you can easily take it all in in just one day. So don’t skip it!
Day 6 + 7: chill or Granada
Then… we actually wanted to go to Granada. The Alhambra (a medieval Moorish palace) has been on top of my bucket list, but what I didn’t know was that the palace would be completely sold out during high season (so make sure you buy your tickets on time!). After an hour of sulking like a child, we decided to spend the next two days just relaxing at the pool. I’d rather return to Granada to really explore the city, than to explore the city for two days while not being able to see what I came for.
So we booked a simple seaside hotel with pool, and was finally able to truly relax. It had been a year since I have had a real vacation. When traveling, I am always busy exploring and, in addition, I am always working in the morning and evening to keep my company running. At home, I don’t actually take the whole weekend off, so I thought a nice weekend at the pool would do me good. And gosh, it really was amazing.
So the choice is yours: You can spend the last two days exploring Granada, or relax a bit at the pool. Both choices are great. Down below I share with you which hotels I stayed at.
Hotels in Andalusia
Hotel in Marbella
For a beautiful boutique hotel overlooking Morocco (!!), I truly recommend My Villa Alexandra Marbella. This is like a little paradise on earth, with a beautiful walled courtyard and swimming pool, a great front garden from where you can see Gibraltar and Morocco (with clear weather), and an interior that design lovers will be very pleased with. Our compact room was comfortable, private and it even had Dutch television. One of my favorite aspects was breakfast: it was freshly prepared and there was something new every day. The food just kept coming. A stylish hide-out in a tourist area. You can also dine at Asador Tehuelche Grill Argentino, where you can enjoy fantastic steaks with amazing views. The wine was also of very high quality.
Hotel in Ronda
Are you ready to see the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed in? Yes? Okay, let’s go: Finca La Donaira is a luxury eco resort about half an hour outside of Ronda. From the village of El Gastor, the team takes you to the farm / eco resort, where you enter true paradise. The complex has horses, flower gardens, a nature pool, a spa… you name it. In the evening, amazing food will be prepared for you, and from your room you will have an amazing view overlooking the valley. Did I already mention that the interior literally walked straight out of a design magazine? I have made it my life goal to come back here because it is really relaxing. My only tip: stay longer that just one night, otherwise you will regret it!.
A budget friendly and comfortable hotel with an amazing roof terrace: Hotel Baco. It is centrally located, which means that you can get to all the attractions in no time. The only thing I missed was a pool. I thought it wouldn’t really be necessary since I would only stay in Seville for a short while, but since it is so hot during summer it is really nice to have have a pool near. That is why I would stay at Casas de la Juderia next time. This is a gorgeous luxurious hotel that is affordable ánd has a rooftop pool. It is also really fun to try and spot all the rooftop pools from a viewpoint, haha!
Hotel in Malaga
I love intimate, stylish and affordable designer hotels. But for our last two days we just wanted something big and impersonal. Just walking anonymously between the masses of people, instead of trying to show your best side in smaller hotels where you have direct contact with the owners (which I normally love, but this time I just didn’t want to do anything :-)). That is why we chose the Sunset Beach club Hotel in Benalmadena, a four-star hotel with apartments that are designed for mass tourism. But where I expected it to be bad: it was not. It was actually very comfortable. We ate delicious food, relaxed at the pool, and the beds were amazing. It was clean, quiet, and thank god, it was not full of drunk tourists. There were a lot of English families with small children. The hotel is a bit impersonal, but it has all the comforts you need, and that was great for those last two days of relaxing. After being revitalized (and being burned like a lobster) we went back home. Source photo (I chilled so much that I even forgot to take my own pictures – oops).
Don’t forget to bring to Andalusia:
Did you ever take a road trip through Andalusia? What were your favorite spots?
Ps. What do you guys think about my photo’s? I practiced my photography skills and I am very happy how they turned out! :-)
Pps: Wondering whether you should go to Spain in wintertime? Um, yes you should.