On this 11-day self-drive adventure you'll visit not only the most historic cities in Spain, bust some of the most beautiful countryside in the Andalusia region. From Madrid, you'll travel south into Andalusia and arrive at Seville, a city renowned for its Gothic cathedrals, Moorish palaces, and expansive plazas. You'll also visit other Andalusia gems like Córdoba, the famed white villages, and the mountaintop city of Ronda. 

Highlights

  • See Madrid's famous sights on a guided tour
  • Visit the historic city of Toledo, once the capital of Old Spain
  • Travel to Seville and visit the most historic landmarks in Andalusia
  • Stop at Ronda and the white villages of Andalusia
  • Tour of the Alhambra, Granada's 9th century Muslim fortress

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Madrid - Evening Tapas Tour Madrid
Day 2 Private City Tour - Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy Madrid
Day 3 Pick up Rental Car - Drive to Toledo - City Tour Toledo
Day 4 Drive From Toledo to Córdoba - Guided City Tour Córdoba
Day 5 Drive from Córdoba to Seville - Tapas Tour Seville
Day 6 Half-Day City Tour of Seville Seville
Day 7 Drive From Seville to Ronda - Stop in Arcos de la Frontera Ronda
Day 8 Drive from Ronda to Granada via the Caminito del Rey Granada
Day 9 Private Tour of the Alhambra - Ceramics Class Granada
Day 10 Drive from Granada to Málaga - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Madrid - Evening Tapas Tour

The Fountain of Cibeles, in Madrid
The Fountain of Cibeles, in 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. You'll definitely want to see some of the highlights like the Puerta del Sol, one of the most historic and expansive plazas in the city. There's also Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles. Located in the city center it features a sculpture completed in 1782 and depicting Cybele, the Greek goddess of fertility, riding in a chariot pulled by lions.

In the evening, you'll really dig into Madrid's culture on a food tour. A local expert guide will lead you 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 lit legends like Cervantes and Quevedo. Besides visiting some historic sights around here, you'll also stop on Calle Huertas for a bite at one of the many tapas bars that line the street.

Day 2: Private City Tour - Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy

The Royal Palace, Madrid
The Royal Palace, Madrid

Enjoy a half-day tour of Madrid led 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. An organized tour is ideal, and your guide will reveal insight into how different time periods influenced Madrid's neighborhoods and buildings, as well as point out the most interesting sights.

One area you'll visit that's awash in splendor 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. Located in the city center, it's home to one of the grandest plazas in Spain, the Plaza Mayor, which was once the heart of Old Madrid.

Also here is the Royal Palace, which was the official home of the Spanish monarchs until 1931. You'll tour both the grounds and interior of this 3,418-room monument to opulence, entering the parade ground, the bedchambers 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. This 308-acre expanse of verdure is the green lung of Madrid, abounding with sculptures, fountains, and a man-made lake perfect for taking 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 from May through June. 

Day 3: Pick up Rental Car - Drive to Toledo - City Tour

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 on the map is the city of Toledo, located about an hour south of Madrid. Upon arrival, you'll check-in to your hotel, which features a breathtaking view of Toledo's city center. In the afternoon, you'll meet a local guide for a walking tour of 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 monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, the former Roman palace Alcázar de Toledo, and the Moorish Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, which dates to the 12th century.

The tour 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 From Toledo to Córdoba - Guided City Tour

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, and upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel. The perfect antidote to all that driving is to get out and explore. There's quite a bit to see in this city, as it's a historical hodgepodge of Moorish, Gothic, and Jewish architecture. 

In the afternoon you'll embark on a guided walking tour. You'll visit many historic sights, including the breathtaking Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba), a pagan temple that was converted into the great mosque of the Ummayad caliphate. Later it was 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 from Córdoba to Seville - Tapas Tour

Plaza de España, in Seville
Plaza de España, in Seville

After breakfast, you'll hit the road again for a two-hour drive west from Córdoba to Andalusia's capital of Seville. You can 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. 

In the evening, either in a small group or private tour, you'll 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 to ensure you enjoy the experience like a local. Authentic tapas on offer 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. 

Day 6: Half-Day City Tour of Seville

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

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 belltower. 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 Andalusia was ruled by the Moors.

Then, travel back to the era of the Christan conquest when you 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 itself is one of the finest examples of Mudéjar architecture in the nation. 

After stopping at the Alcázar, you'll walk to the fashionable Santa Cruz neighborhood, which was 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. You can also visit crafts markets and local shops where seasoned artisans produce intricate silverwork and elegant garment embroidery. 

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

Day 7: Drive From Seville to Ronda - Stop in Arcos de la Frontera

Ronda, Spain
Ronda, Spain

After breakfast in Seville, you'll embark on a road trip through some of Andalusia's most enchanting locales. Take in the views as you drive through olive groves, rolling meadows, cork forests, and around mountains, passing the region's famous "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. It's a two-hour drive south from Seville to Ronda, but you'll stop along the way in Arcos de la Frontera, one of the white villages. On a tour with an expert guide, you'll meander the narrow cobbled streets, marveling at the Moorish towers and castles rising up between the white buildings. Also, there are many points in town in which you can enjoy sweeping vistas of the Andalusian countryside below.

After the walking tour, you'll stop at a local restaurant for a traditional Andalusian lunch paired with local wines. You'll then continue on to Ronda arriving in the afternoon. After checking in to your hotel you'll have the rest of the day free.

Day 8: Drive from Ronda to Granada via the Caminito del Rey

This is a safe experience with spectacular views
This is a safe experience with spectacular views

After breakfast, you'll meet your guide and set off on a tour of the town. 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 make stops at numerous buildings, churches, convents, and palaces that belong to a long and illustrious Roman and Moorish history.

Once the tour ends, you'll hop in the car set off to the city of Granada, located about two hours east of Ronda. However, you'll stop along the way for some adrenaline-pumping hiking at the 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 meters). 

You'll arrive at the northern entrance and put on your safety equipment. Then it's time to head off along the trail. As you hike you'll be treated to incredible views down the gorge to the river winding through the valley below. This one-way trail typically takes about 3-4 hours to complete. 

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

Day 9: Private Tour of the Alhambra - Ceramics Class

The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada
The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada

Granada was once the last bastion of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) when it was ruled by the moors. 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 tour. 

This imposing Muslim fortress was built atop a hill overlooking Granada and dates to the 9th century. It was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Nasrid Dynasty and served as a Moorish palace until 1492 when after the Christian reconquest it became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and on a tour, you'll walk through its grand halls and stroll the Generalife Gardens, which are filled with colorful flowers and fountains and offer panoramic views of the city down below.

Later in the afternoon, you'll participate in a private ceramic tile-painting class with a professional artist. Granada is renowned for the quality of its ceramics, a long tradition that dates back to Moorish times. Your teacher is an accomplished local artist who will present you with a selection of designs and guide your technique as you create them yourself on the tiles. At the end of the class, you'll glaze the tiles before firing them in a special kiln.

Day 10: Drive from Granada to Málaga - Departure

The beaches of Málaga
The beaches of Málaga

After a leisurely breakfast, you'll get in the car and drive 1.5 hours from Granada to Málaga. This port city has gone through quite the rejuvenation over the last few years and is quickly becoming a hotbed of culture, style, and art. Depending on your flight schedule, you can take a self-guided tour of the city and visit famous sights like the Picasso Museum, located in the historic center. It's devoted to the cubists master, who was born in Málaga.

At the designated time you will transfer to the airport or rail station, drop off your rental car, and depart. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Ultimate Southern Spain Road Trip: Madrid to Andalusia - 10 days
Map of Ultimate Southern Spain Road Trip: Madrid to Andalusia - 10 days