This 8-day self-drive itinerary takes you from Malaga to Cadiz through a gorgeous section of Spain's southern coast. Along the route, you'll explore Andalusia's White Villages (including Ronda, set on a spectacular gorge) as you head towards the Atlantic coast while discovering a range of landscapes, centuries of history and tradition, local producers, and exquisite cuisine—often with the help of a local guide.

Highlights

  • Dine on seafood while overlooking yachts in Marbella's famous marina 
  • Hike in the scenic countryside near Ronda for a healthy dose of exercise 
  • Visit local artisans and producers including wineries and sherry makers
  • Wander through charming streets and squares in Western Europe's oldest city
  • Stay in a selection of upscale country hotels for ultimate relaxation

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Malaga Malaga
Day 2 Drive to Marbella - Continue to Ronda Ronda
Day 3 Guided Tour & Winery Visit Ronda
Day 4 Morning Hike - Explore the White Villages Ronda
Day 5 Drive to Jerez, via the White Villages Jerez de la Frontera
Day 6 Explore Jerez: Dancing Horses & Sherry Tasting Jerez de la Frontera
Day 7 Day-Trip to Cádiz Jerez de la Frontera
Day 8 Return to Malaga - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Malaga

A view of Malaga from Gibralfaro Castle

Welcome to Malaga! Upon arrival at Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport, you'll be greeted by your driver who will transfer you to your hotel in the city center. Settle in your room and then get out to explore the city surroundings. You'll want to see the sites since you'll be leaving for Ronda the next day.

A good place to start is the historic Arab Alcazaba, a medieval fortress-palace built in the 11th century for governing Muslims. Set against the hillside of the mount of Gibralfaro, the area was constructed on the base of an even older landmark—a Roman theatre built in the 1st century. 

While in the area, you should also visit the magnificent Castillo de Gibralfaro, which sits nearby on a hill overlooking Malaga city and port. Dating back to the 10th century, the protective walkway around the ramparts affords the best views over Malaga. Between the two sites, you'll be able to stroll along pretty paths filled with pretty greenery and flowers like jasmine and bougainvillea, as well as orange and lemon trees. 

For dinner, sample the local cuisine of fish and seasonal vegetables, along with olives, almonds, grapes, raisins, and delicious baked goods. Check out the waterfront or the Old Town along Calle Marques de Larios, which offers some excellent restaurant options.  

Day 2: Drive to Marbella - Continue to Ronda

A bougainvillea-filled street in Marbella

This morning, you'll pick up your rental car in the city center and drive out of Malaga. Keep your camera close as you head down the Mediterranean coast to the luxurious waterfront town of Marbella, long renowned for its pleasant climate, gorgeous scenery, and wealthy residents. Take a stroll along the promenade and perhaps head down to the luxury marina of Puerto Banus, with its 'Golden Mile' of glamorous designer shops. Stop off for lunch in a seafront restaurant overlooking the sparkling blue sea filled with yachts for the ultimate pinch-me-now moment.

After lunch, continue your road-trip journey as you head inland, up and over the mountains, to your hotel in Ronda, the largest of the 'White Villages'. Upon arrival, drop off your luggage and settle into your room—your base for a few days—before venturing out to explore this small city overlooking spectacular views atop El Tajo gorge. 

Day 3: Guided Tour & Winery Visit

After a number of years in the making, Ronda now produces some excellent wines
Ronda is an up-and-coming wine region of Spain

After a hearty Andalusian breakfast, you'll have the day to explore Ronda at your own pace with an official local guide. As you've already seen, this mountaintop city is perched dramatically above a deep gorge, which separates the city’s new town from its old town, dating to Moorish rule. If you haven't done so yet, walk across Puente Nuevo, a stone bridge spanning the gorge with a lookout offering views. 

From here, you'll visit a spectacular bull-ring, largely considered to be one of the most important in Spain, as well as numerous buildings, churches, convents, and palaces in Ronda that are the product of a long and illustrious history that includes the Romans and Moors. For film buffs, Orson Welles ashes were also scattered here.

In the afternoon, you'll participate in a guided wine tour just outside of town where you'll learn how this wine producing region has taken off in the last 20 years. Of course, you'll also get to taste some of the winery's outstanding wines with a host to walk you through it.

You'll then make the short journey back to your hotel and indulge in a relaxing evening. Check out Ronda's dining options like Restaurant De Locos Tapas—an excellent spot in the Old Town melding modern Spanish tapas and international flavors. In addition to the fixed tapas menu, look for daily specials that showcase seasonal produce and the kitchen's creativity.

Day 4: Morning Hike - Explore the White Villages

Looking up the gorge that splits Ronda down the middle

Photographers rejoice—today is your chance to get into nature, and what better way to start than by taking a hike through the stunning countryside near Ronda. There are a number of excellent hiking and walking routes to choose from, though a good place to start is hiking to the bottom of the El Tajo Gorge for views of the Río Guadalevín. Whichever route you choose, you can either hike on your own (equipped with a good map) or sign up for a private guide who will share local knowledge and history. Adventurous types can also choose to sign up for canyoning, rock climbing, and kayaking, to name a few alternatives. 

After a morning soaking up the fresh air, it's time for a rewarding lunch at a local restaurant or tapas bar in one of the nearby local villages. Consider stopping by Setenil de las Bodegas, just a short drive away, where you can see the whitewashed houses built into the surrounding cliff. Alternatively, dip your feet into the refreshing waters of Cueva del Gato and then drive to the village of Montejaque before returning to Ronda to enjoy your final evening in this magnificent place.

Day 5: Drive to Jerez, via the White Villages

Stop for lunch in the village of Grazalema and visit local artisans

After breakfast, it's time to depart Ronda to begin the scenic drive to Grazalema. Located in the heart of the Sierra of the same name, check out the various peaks towering over this captivating and picturesque White Village. In town, you'll find a wealth of artisan producers and shops of local goods including leather, cork, cheese, and honey. Take some time to explore the streets and even try some of these products before stopping for lunch in a nearby restaurant.

In the afternoon, for those who have energy, the mountainous countryside outside of Grazalema has a number of fantastic, easily-accessible trails and footpaths surrounded by native trees including forests of holm oak, cork oak, and pinsapo, with plenty of great views and fresh mountain air.

After stretching your legs, continue the drive to a peaceful country estate near the capital of the Cadiz province, Jerez de la Frontera. Upon arrival, settle into your hotel room and enjoy a relaxed evening in rural luxury.

Day 6: Explore Jerez: Dancing Horses & Wine Tasting

Cathedral in Jerez de la Frontera

This morning, you'll make the short drive into Jerez de la Frontera for a special visit to see the dancing horses of the Royal Equestrian Academy, an important institution that the city is famous for. You'll also be able to explore the academy grounds set in a 19th-century palace as well as the saddlery, training areas, carriage museum, and academy museum for a full morning's entertainment. 

After lunch, you'll visit a local sherry bodega (winery) where you'll tour the beautiful old buildings and gain insight into the process of the wine's creation and what makes it unique. For novices, sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes, which are grown outside of Jerez de la Frontera. After fermentation is complete, the wines are fortified with an additional spirit (also made of grapes) in order to increase their final alcohol content.

Day 7: Day-Trip to Cádiz

The Bay of Cadiz

After breakfast, you'll drive off towards the ancient city of Cadiz, about an hour away, where you'll meet your private guide who will take you on a special tour of this fascinating coastal city, which juts out into the Atlantic ocean, surrounded by water on all sides. 

Cadiz is said to be the oldest city in Western Europe, and it has been invaded and inhabited by an enormous number of western civilizations. There are more than 100 watchtowers, including the iconic Torre Tavira, which was traditionally used for spotting ships, as well as the domed, 18th-century Cadiz Cathedral, featuring baroque and neoclassical elements. Your guide will show you the best attractions while sharing anecdotes about the city's past and present.

After the tour, you will be taken to at a great local restaurant for lunch followed by free time to explore on your own. In addition to Cadiz's port history, the city offers plenty of charming colonial architecture, which reminds many of Cuba for its colors and antiquity. At the end of the day-trip, drive back to your hotel near Jerez de la Frontera where you'll have time to relax and enjoy your final evening.

Day 8: Return to Malaga - Depart Spain

A sunrise drive to Malaga

It's time to say goodbye to the Andalusian coast as you make the drive back to Málaga! If you have time before your flight home (or onward journey), you can spend a few of hours wandering around Malaga's historic core, perhaps stopping to watch passersby from a café or visiting Pablo Picasso's former home. When you're ready, head to the airport to drop off your rental before boarding your flight.

Map

Map of Ultimate Andalusian Road Trip - 8 Days
Map of Ultimate Andalusian Road Trip - 8 Days