With some of the best roads in Europe criss-crossing the breathtaking countryside in every direction, a road trip in Spain is a no-brainer. The only challenge with all this choice is deciding where to go and where best to stop along the way.
Make your Spain road trip a journey through Catalonia
Barcelona may be the vibrant capital of Catalonia, but many of the region’s other attractions can be found further north along the coast toward the French border.
Basing yourself out of Girona and renting a hire car in Spain is a great way to explore its hidden treasures.
The whitewashed medieval town of Cadaqués lies just over an hour to the north. Steeped in history, strolling its cobbled streets and medieval buildings is a great way to spend a morning on your road trip in Spain. The views from the Santa Maria church are particularly memorable.
Another easy day trip from Girona takes you to Besalu, the best-preserved medieval town in Catalonia. Pull over for a quick stop on road C-66 near Serinyá and explore the secret prehistoric painted caves that hardly anyone knows are here.
Then, if you’ve got time on your hands, why not take the smaller roads south from Girona and work your way along the Costa Brava. The turquoise bay of Begur is just one of a number of pretty little fishing villages where you can stop and indulge in a leisurely lunch.
A road trip in Spain in the footsteps of the Moors
The melting pot cities of southern Spain have long been a meeting of the ways for travellers from far afield, and the heavy influences of historic Arab occupation are visible still to this day.
Where better to start than the magnificent city of Granada where the red fortress of the Alhambra stands out against the backdrop of the mountains. Leaving the obvious aside, little known pearls like the tranquil oasis of the Carmen de los Martires gardens are an unexpected delight.
Leaving Granada, the N-432 is the slower but more scenic route to take up to Cordoba, meandering across the stark mountain plateau. It’s worth spending the night in the city so you’ll have the whole day to explore its sprawling streets and the iconic Mosque-Cathedral with its rich mix of Catholic and Moorish styles.
Back on the road, the well-kept highways of northern Andalusia tend to be quite empty, so the drive from Cordoba to Seville should be a steady cruise on a smooth surface, the stuff of road trip heaven! And as the temperature rises in the late afternoon, you can break your journey with an ice cream at La Abuela’s ice cream shop in the hamlet of Éjica.
From here on out, it’s a relaxing drive to the city of Flamenco to round off a road trip in Spain with a generous helping of North African spice.
A road trip in Spain’s Basque lands, from the mountains to the sea
Even up in the mountainous Basque regions, the country’s excellent modern road network holds true, which means a road trip in Spain’s Basque country need not be beyond your reach.
Start your trip in the enchanting seaside town of San Sebastian and enjoy a couple of rounds of pinchos – Basque tapas – at Borda Berri, one of the freshest of the many high-quality restaurants here.
Next, take your hire car out on the open road, aiming east until you hit the French border where you’ll pick up the wide N-121-A. With no sharp bends, this road makes for a gorgeous drive through the leafy mountains of the Aiako-Harria National Park.
You could head straight down to Pamplona, but with easy driving like this, why not take a detour to the Baztan Valley where the green peaks are broken only by idyllic villages of white stone houses spilling over with flowers.
Go as far as the witches’ caves at Zugarramurdi – with a stop for a cool drink and hearty sandwich at the rustic Txokoto bar in Elizondo – before retracing your steps for the final leg to Pamplona.
In less than an hour and a half you’ll find yourself in the historic city, surrounded by medieval walls. Parking is readily available in Pamplona so getting around won’t pose a problem, unless you arrive in festival season of course, when the streets belong to the bulls.
A Spain road trip with a difference in Gran Canaria
It would take an island like Lanzarote to come up with a road trip in Spain that’s almost quite literally like nothing else on Earth.
The alien landscapes of the island’s Timanfaya National Park are so extraordinary that they have often been likened to driving on the moon.
Just a 15-minute drive from the high-end beach resort of Playa Blanca – perfect for breakfast with a sea view – takes you into the rugged landscape where the road weaves its way through the blackened rocks.
Aim to arrive early for the best driving conditions and clear roads to the top, where well-organised stewards ensure that parking is painless. There’s also a small restaurant where kebabs roasting on sizzling volcanic rocks are a cute gimmick if nothing else.
Leaving the park, the island is your oyster. It’s diminutive size means that in 50 minutes you could be exploring the eerie volcanic caves at Cueva de los Verdes, right at the other end of the island. Or dive and snorkel in the colourful reefs off pretty Puerto del Carmen only 20 minutes away by car.
A road trip in Spain’s heartland: Destination Madrid
If there were ever a place to see the real Spain, the spiritual heartland of the Castilla y Leon region has to be it. However, you’re not going to find it on the side of a motorway; a road trip in Spain’s backcountry is the only way to go.
Starting out in Salamanca places you within easy striking distance by road of some of Castile’s invisible gems. Take the SA-210, a narrow but reasonably straight road out towards the Sierra de Francia where the views get wider with every mile.
Make a stop at the tiny village of La Alberca for a glimpse of Spain as it used to be; half-timber buildings, cobbled streets and tons of charm. Stock up on snacks for the road at the traditional Despensa del Solano corner shop.
Nearby Mogarraz and San Martín del Castañar are two more quaint villages that are worth a look, before you turn towards the imposing towers of ancient Avila and its dramatic city walls, the ideal place to stop and stretch your legs.
From Avila, drive west and skirt the picturesque fringes of the Cuenca Alta del Manzanares National Park until you reach Madrid, the modern face of Spain and the ultimate end to a classic road trip.