Prepare for a memorable road trip through southern Spain, emphasizing many of the nation's highlights. The adventure begins with city tours of Madrid before hitting the road south, stopping in La Mancha and Córdoba before reaching Seville, the capital of the Andalusia region. You'll visit historic Moorish and medieval landmarks, tour authentic tapas bars, and even hike along the side of a gorge near Ronda.


  • See the most famous sites of Madrid on a guided walk
  • Visit Toledo, a historic city that was once the capital of Old Spain
  • Go on a wine excursion in La Mancha
  • Tour Seville and enjoy local tapas
  • Enjoy a guided visit to the Alhambra, the Moorish fortress of Granada

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Madrid, Evening Tapas Experience Madrid
Day 2 Private City Walk, Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy Madrid
Day 3 Pick up Rental Car & Drive to Toledo, City Walk Toledo
Day 4 Drive to Córdoba & Explore the City Córdoba
Day 5 Drive to Seville, Tapas Walk Seville
Day 6 Half-Day City Excursion in Seville Seville
Day 7 Day Trip to Jerez for Sherry Tasting & Dancing Horses Seville
Day 8 Drive to Ronda via Arcos de la Frontera Ronda
Day 9 Drive to Granada, Hike the Caminito del Rey Granada
Day 10 Private Visit to the Alhambra & Generalife Gardens Granada
Day 11 Day Trip to the Andalusian Countryside, Tapas Cooking Class Granada
Day 12 Drive to Málaga Málaga
Day 13 Depart Málaga  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Madrid, Evening Tapas Experience

The Fountain of Cibeles, in Madrid
The Fountain of Cibeles, Madrid

Welcome to Spain! Upon arrival at the nation's capital, you'll enjoy a private transfer to your hotel in the city center. Take some time to settle in before heading out to explore highlights like the Puerta del Sol, one of the city's most historic and expansive plazas. There's also Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles, with an 18th-century sculpture depicting Cybele, the Greek goddess of fertility, riding in a chariot pulled by lions.

In the evening, you'll dig into Madrid's culture on a two-hour walking excursion that stops at some great tapas bars. On this tour, you'll visit Barrio Las Letras, which is known as the "literary quarter." This historic neighborhood in the city center was once home to Spanish literary legends like Cervantes and Quevedo. Besides visiting some historical sites, you'll also stop at Calle Huertas for a bite at one of the many tapas bars that line the street.

Day 2: Private City Walk, Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy

The Royal Palace, Madrid
The Royal Palace, Madrid

Enjoy a half-day walk in Madrid led by an expert local guide today. Madrid has a long history, and today the city adorns itself with that history in its architecture, public spaces, and culture. One area you'll visit is the Madrid de los Austrias. It was built in the 16th century during the reign of the Hapsburg Dynasty's first ruler, Charles I, and is home to one of the grandest plazas in Spain, the Plaza Mayor, which was once the heart of Old Madrid.

You'll also visit the Royal Palace, the official home of the Spanish monarchs until 1931. You'll explore both the grounds and interior of this 3,418-room monument, entering the parade ground, the chambers of Charles III, several salons, the Royal Chapel, and the Hall of the Crown, which displays Charles I's crown, scepter, and throne.

Later you could visit El Retiro Park, the green lung of Madrid, abounding with sculptures, fountains, and an artificial lake perfect for a boat trip. There are also must-visit gardens here, including the Jardín de Vivaces ("Garden of Vivacious Plants"), Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (inspired by the Andalusia region), and a garden home to over 4,000 roses. The best time to see these blooms is from May through June. 

Day 3: Pick up Rental Car & Drive to Toledo, City Walk

Toledo and its iconic Alcázar
Toledo and its iconic Alcázar

In the morning, you'll pick up your rental car and embark on your grand road trip through Spain. The first stop is the city of Toledo, located about an hour south of Madrid. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel, which features a breathtaking view of Toledo's city center. In the afternoon, you'll meet a local guide for a walk in this historic city, which enjoys a dramatic location atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo.

In the 16th century, Toledo was the capital of Spain. Back then, it was known as the "City of the Three Cultures," a place where—legend has it—Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities peacefully coexisted. You can see remnants of this in the old Arab, Muslim, and Christian monuments that still stand. These include the 15th-century San Juan de los Reyes Monastery, the former Roman palace Alcázar de Toledo, and the Moorish Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, which dates to the 12th century.

The walk includes stops at these historic landmarks as well as others, including the grand 13th-century Toledo Cathedral and the 12th-century Church of Santo Tomé. Throughout it all, you'll tour the ancient streets of an incredible city that could aptly be described as an open-air museum. After all, Toledo does enjoy UNESCO World Heritage status. 

Day 4: Drive to Córdoba & Explore the City

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba

In the morning, you'll embark on a three-hour drive south from Toledo to Córdoba. After checking into your hotel, you'll explore the city's historical hodgepodge of Moorish, Gothic, and Jewish architecture with a professional guide. You'll visit many historical sights, including the breathtaking Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba), a pagan temple that was converted into the great mosque of the Ummayad caliphate and later transformed into a Catholic church.

You'll also meander around the winding streets of the Jewish Quarter. Within this historic neighborhood is the Córdoba Synagogue, which dates to 1315. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, the building served different functions. At one time or another, it was a hospital, a chapel, and a nursery school. In addition, you'll visit the Alcázar de los Reyes, a palace built in the 14th century. This is where Christopher Columbus met with the Catholic monarchs and was granted approval for his voyage west in search of the Indies. The terraced gardens, fish ponds, flower beds, and orange trees here make for great photo opportunities.

Day 5: Drive to Seville, Tapas Walk

Plaza de España, in Seville
Plaza de España, Seville

After breakfast, you'll hit the road again for a two-hour drive west from Córdoba to Andalusia's capital, Seville. Feel free to stop along the way to snap photos at historic sights like the medieval Castle of Almodóvar del Río or the village of Palma del Rio. Upon arrival in Seville, you'll check into your hotel in the city center.

Then, in the evening, it's time to eat. Head to Seville's historic Old Town for an evening of delicious tapas. You'll meet an expert guide who will lead you to two family-run taverns and recommend a wide selection of dishes, ensuring you enjoy the experience like a local. Authentic tapas in Seville include acorn-fed Iberian ham, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp in oil), and bacalao (salt cod). Of course, throughout the dinner, you'll pair the tapas with delicious local wines. 

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Day 6: Half-Day City Excursion in Seville

The Seville Cathedral is the largest gothic church in the world
The riverfront in Seville

After breakfast, you'll head off with a local guide to explore Seville. Start with the Seville Cathedral, a 15th-century Roman-Catholic church that's home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. You'll also see La Giralda, which is the cathedral's looming bell tower. There's a noticeable stylistic difference between the two structures, as this 12th-century pillar was originally built as a minaret for the Great Mosque back when the Moors ruled Andalusia.

Then, visit the Alcázar of Seville. This royal palace was commissioned for King Peter of Castile in the 14th century and was built over the site of a former Muslim fortress. It features well-manicured gardens, and the building is one of the nation's finest examples of Mudéjar architecture. Next, walk to the fashionable Santa Cruz neighborhood, once the Jewish Quarter in the city. It's a colorful and well-preserved part of the historic center, with many options for cafés and tapas bars, plus crafts markets and local shops selling artisan products.

After completing the half-day excursion, you can return to your hotel and relax or continue to explore the town. If you decide to head out for the evening, do like the locals and complement tapas with a nightcap at a favorite watering hole.

Day 7: Day Trip to Jerez for Sherry Tasting & Dancing Horses

sherry tasting
Enjoy tasting sherry in Jerez de la Frontera

This morning, you'll make the short drive to the Moorish town of Jerez de la Frontera, famous for sherry wine production. It's also home to the Royal Equestrian Academy, one of the premier riding schools in the country. The horse-racing culture in this region runs deep and dates back to the earliest days of Muslim rule in Spain.

Jerez's historic Old Town is centered around the dominating Alcázar, an 11th-century Moorish fortress. Here you'll meet an expert guide and embark on a walk featuring the town highlights. You'll also visit a local sherry bodega (winery) for a tasting. Sample several types of local sherry, all paired with delicious tapas. As a bonus, the bodega keeps a collection of original Picasso artwork on hand that you can admire.

Then you'll see the equine culture of Jerez in action when you sit down for a live Andalusian horse performance. The show, "How Andalusian Horses Dance," features prized horses performing various types of dressage: classic, carriage, vaquera, etc. The show represents how countryside horsemanship has risen over the millennia to become an art form.

Day 8: Drive to Ronda via Arcos de la Frontera

Ronda, Spain
Ronda, Spain

After breakfast in Seville, enjoy a road trip through some of Andalusia's most enchanting locales. Take in the views as you drive by olive groves, rolling meadows, cork forests, mountains, and the region's famous Pueblos Blancos (White Villages), ancient hilltop towns famous for their whitewashed buildings.

Your destination is Ronda, a historic city located atop a gorge in the Málaga province. Along the way, stop in Arcos de la Frontera, one of the aforementioned white villages. With an expert guide, you'll meander the narrow cobbled streets, marveling at the Moorish towers and castles that rise up between the white buildings. Even better, there are many points in town where you can enjoy sweeping vistas of the Andalusian countryside below.

After the walk, stop at a local restaurant for a traditional Andalusian lunch paired with local wines. You'll then continue to Ronda, arriving in the afternoon. After checking in to your hotel, enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure.

Day 9: Drive to Granada, Hike the Caminito del Rey

This is a safe experience with spectacular views
Hiking the Caminito del Rey is a safe experience with spectacular views

After breakfast, you'll meet your guide and set off on a walk through Ronda. The excursion includes a visit to the spectacular Bullring of the Royal Cavalry of Ronda, largely considered one of the most important in Spain. You'll also stop at numerous buildings, churches, convents, and palaces belonging to a long and illustrious Roman and Moorish history.

Then, hop in the car and set off to the city of Granada, located about two hours east of Ronda. Stop along the way for an adrenaline-pumping hike at the infamous Caminito del Rey—a stunning network of walkways built along a deep gorge carved out by the Guadalhorce River. At times, the gorge reaches harrowing depths of 2,297 feet (700 m). After putting on your safety equipment, set off and enjoy the incredible views down into the gorge. This one-way trail typically takes about three to four hours to complete.

Afterward, you'll continue the rest of the way to Granada, where you'll check into your hotel and have the rest of the day to relax and recharge.

Day 10: Private Visit to the Alhambra & Generalife Gardens

The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada
The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada

When the Moors ruled it, Granada was the last bastion of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain). You can see examples of this history in the form of Granada's most famous landmark, the Alhambra, which receives more than two million visitors annually. In the morning, you'll meet an expert guide for a private visit.

This imposing 9th-century Muslim fortress was built atop a hill overlooking Granada. The Nasrid Dynasty was rebuilt in the 14th century, serving as a Moorish palace until 1492. After the Christian reconquest, it became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy walking through its grand halls and stroll the Generalife Gardens, filled with colorful flowers, fountains, and panoramic city views.

After the visit, you'll have free time to enjoy Granada on your own. You can walk around the labyrinthine streets of the Albayzin and Sacromonte quarters, the well-preserved historic neighborhoods of the city. In areas such as these, you can visit the Granada Cathedral, Royal Church, Alcaicería (old silk market), and Madraza (medieval Koranic school).

Day 11: Day Trip to Andalusian Countryside, Tapas Cooking Class

Rural Andalusia
Rural Andalusia

Today you'll drive half an hour from Granada to the Lecrin Valley in rural Andalusia. Situated at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Lecrin Vallery enjoys a gentle microclimate ideal for growing citrus fruits, almonds, and olives. On a half-day excursion, you'll explore this delightful countryside with a British couple who live in a farmhouse surrounded by orange groves and stunning views over the valley. 

At lunchtime, head to the farmhouse for a traditional country lunch of homemade tapas. Upon arrival, you'll enjoy a specially prepared tasting menu of regional dishes accompanied by a selection of wines from Granada Province. After lunch, you can rest in the farm's garden or stroll through the olive and orange groves before you return to Granada.

Day 12: Drive to Málaga

Plaza views from atop the cathedral in Málaga

After a leisurely breakfast, you'll get in the car and drive 1.5 hours from Granada to Málaga. This port city has been rejuvenated over the last few years and is quickly becoming a hotbed of culture, style, and art. Speaking of which, art buffs will be interested to know that Málaga is the birthplace of perhaps the greatest artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso. You can see exhibits dedicated to the cubist master at the Picasso Museum, located in the historic center.

Upon arrival in Málaga, you'll check into your hotel. Take some time to settle into your accommodation, head out and explore. Perhaps the first order of business should be to sample Málaga's delectable cuisine. You'll find plenty of great tapas bars and restaurants in the neighborhoods near the waterfront and along Calle Marques de Larios. You'll also notice certain common ingredients used in the cuisine of Málaga, which include olives, almonds, grapes, and raisins.

Day 13: Depart Málaga

Goodbye, Malaga!
Goodbye, Málaga!

It's time to say farewell! Depending on the time of your flight or train reservation, squeeze in one more walk through the streets of Málaga, perhaps picking up some last-minute souvenirs. At the designated time, you'll be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the airport or rail station for your departure. Safe travels!

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Map of Ultimate Southern Spain Road Trip: Madrid to Andalusia - 13 days
Map of Ultimate Southern Spain Road Trip: Madrid to Andalusia - 13 days