Due to its abundance of natural beauty and historic cities, Spain's southern Andalusia region is perfect for a road trip. This nine-day self-drive adventure begins in Madrid and stops in Toledo, one of Spain's most well-preserved medieval cities. In Andalusia, you'll visit cities like Córdoba and the capital of Seville for tapas tours and visits to Moorish landmarks. 


  • See Madrid's famous sites 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
  • 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 & Explore the City Córdoba
Day 5 Drive to Seville, Tapas Experience Seville
Day 6 Half-Day City Excursion in Seville Seville
Day 7 Drive to Granada, Hike the Caminito del Rey Granada
Day 8 Private Visit to the Alhambra, Ceramics Class Granada
Day 9 Drive to Málaga & Depart  

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 its 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 historic sites 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 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 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 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 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 outing 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. 

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

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, and upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel. Then, enjoy a guided walk, visiting historic sites like the Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba), a pagan temple that was converted into the great mosque of the Ummayad caliphate. Later, it 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 Experience

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. Feel free to stop along the way to snap photos at historic sites 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, head to Seville's historic Old Town for a night 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. Typical 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. 

Day 6: Half-Day City Excursion in Seville

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, 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. 

After completing the half-day excursion, you can return to your hotel and relax or continue exploring 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: Drive to Granada, Hike the Caminito del Rey

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

After breakfast in Seville, you'll drive 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 Pueblos Blancos (White Villages), ancient hilltop towns famous for their whitewashed buildings. Your destination is Granada, located about three hours east of Seville.

Along the way, stop 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 meters). After putting on your safety equipment, start the hike and enjoy the incredible views down the gorge to the river. This one-way trail typically takes about 3-4 hours to complete. 

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

Day 8: Private Visit to the Alhambra, Ceramics Class

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. In the 14th century, it was rebuilt 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, fountains, and panoramic views.

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 9: Drive to Málaga & Depart

The city 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. Depending on your flight schedule, you can take a self-guided walk of the city and visit famous sites like the Picasso Museum in the historic center. It's devoted to the cubist master, who was born in Málaga.

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


Map of Ultimate Southern Spain Road Trip: Madrid to Andalusia - 9 days
Map of Ultimate Southern Spain Road Trip: Madrid to Andalusia - 9 days