A road trip is the best way to see the most historical sites in Spain. This 11-day self-drive adventure begins with city tours in Madrid, and then you'll hop in your car and head south to Toledo, once the capital of the nation in the Middle Ages. You'll continue to Andalusia and marvel at the region's Moorish alcázars and royal palaces while also stopping in historic cities like Córdoba.


  • See Madrid's famous sights on a guided walk
  • 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 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, Guided City Experience Córdoba
Day 5 Drive to Seville, Tapas Walk Seville
Day 6 Half-Day City Exploration of Seville Seville
Day 7 Drive to Ronda via Arcos de la Frontera Ronda
Day 8 Drive to Granada via the Caminito del Rey Granada
Day 9 Private Excursion to the Alhambra, Ceramics Class Granada
Day 10 Drive to Málaga Málaga
Day 11 Depart Spain  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Madrid, Evening Tapas Experience

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 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 sights around here, 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 tour both the grounds and interior of this 3,418-room monument to opulence, 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. This 308-acre (125 ha) 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 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. Your first stop is the city of Toledo, located about an hour south of Madrid. After checking into your hotel, you'll meet a local guide for a walk through 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 excursion 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 stroll 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, Guided City Experience

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. Then, in the afternoon, you'll embark on a guided walk. You'll visit many historical sites, including the breathtaking Mezquita (the 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.

Plan your trip to Spain
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Drive to Seville, Tapas Walk

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, 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 excursion, you'll head to Seville's historic Old Town for 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 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 Exploration 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, 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, 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 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, stroll through the Santa Cruz neighborhood, once the Jewish Quarter. It's a colorful and well-preserved part of the historic center, with many options for cafés and tapas bars.

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

Day 7: Drive to Ronda via 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. 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 where you can enjoy sweeping vistas of the Andalusian countryside below.

After the walk, 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 to yourself.

Day 8: Drive 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 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.

Next, 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 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, you'll start hiking and enjoy incredible views down the gorge to the river. 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. You'll have the rest of the day to relax and recharge.

Day 9: Private Excursion to the Alhambra, Ceramics Class

The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada
The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada

When the Moors ruled the region, 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. You'll meet an expert guide for a private excursion in the morning.

This 9th-century imposing Muslim fortress was built atop a hill overlooking Granada. 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. You'll walk through its grand halls and stroll the Generalife Gardens, filled with colorful flowers and fountains that offer panoramic views of the city.

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 to Málaga

The beaches of Málaga
The cathedral 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 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 and take some time to settle into your accommodation. Then you'll want to head out and explore. The first order of business should be to sample Málaga's delectable cuisine. You'll find plenty of great tapas 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 11: Depart Spain

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!

More Great Spain Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Spain? Check out these other road trips in Spain, explore different ways to spend 11 days on the road in Spain, or discover the best time to visit Spain.


Map of Ultimate Southern Spain Road Trip: Madrid to Andalusia - 11 days
Map of Ultimate Southern Spain Road Trip: Madrid to Andalusia - 11 days