Spain boasts a diverse culture, a passion for food and fiestas and a vibrant and breathtaking landscape peppered with olive groves, pine trees and pristine beaches. Each region offers visitors a wealth of attractions and picturesque routes that run through quaint fishing villages, modern Mediterranean cities and a wealth of natural parks. Embarking on a cross-country road trip to explore the many Spanish autonomous regions is made easy thanks to the vast network of roads and highways that travelers can navigate using Google Maps or their very own car GPS. The possibilities are endless in a large country like Spain where you can pick and choose from scenic coastal routes and exhilarating mountain terrain. From Basque Country to Madrid, the following list will satisfy avid roadtrippers who want to make the most out of their Spanish holiday.
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Madrid to Murcia
The journey from Madrid to Murcia is a feast for the eyes with miles upon miles of lush landscapes and evergreen oak trees. The 4-hour drive covers around 248 miles of diverse terrain including mountains and valleys in addition to small charming cities such as La Roda and Tarancon. Both cities are known for their historic center and their combination of renaissance and gothic architecture. The highway cuts through emerald green forests lined with pine trees and natural lakes. The Castilla La Mancha region is famous for its windmills, olive groves and local Manchego cheese that you can sample from any local deli before resuming your trip. You will also encounter the Cave of Montesinos along the way. The cave is synonymous with the famous Don Quixote novel and is surrounded by more than 900 acres of trees and shrubbery. Your road trip through this Spanish region will also take you to cities like Albacete where you can catch a break from driving and treat your taste buds to local meat delicacies and red wine. The charming town of Molina de Segura is only 6 miles from Murcia where you will be greeted by baroque architecture, vibrant flower gardens and a wealth of historic buildings.
Castellón to Valencia
The drive from the Province of Castellon to Valencia takes around one hour and twenty minutes. The journey will take you past fragrant orange and lemon groves with rugged mountains and quaint little hilltop towns scattered in between. You have a choice between driving inland and exploring the Sierra Calderona Natural Park or taking the other recommended route where the azure waters of the Mediterranean will keep you company as you coast down the CV highway. This region of eastern Spain is home to many seaside resorts where you can relax and unwind at the beach with a cool drink in your hand. Game of Thrones fans can stop by Peniscola and pay a visit to the Templar Castle that was featured on season 6 of the show. The city is home to cobbled streets and pearl white houses guarded by the ancient walls of the fortress. Natural parks and coastal towns such as Nules and Alboraya are also hallmarks of this region. Valencia is the icing on this Spanish cake with its abundance of museums and sandy beaches.
San Sebastián to Pamplona
Basque Country offers a unique blend of sights, sounds and flavors that you can explore by going on a road trip from San Sebastian to Pamplona. The main A-15 highway linking both cities offers spectacular views of the region which is famous for its culinary treasures and distinctive culture. Your journey begins in San Sebastian where you can spend three days basking under the Mediterranean sun, sampling cider and grilled fish and exploring the Bay of Biscay. The city is home to La Concha, one of the most picturesque urban beaches in Europe. You will also find a wide selection of Michelin Star restaurants to choose from and a marriage between romance and history in its charming Old Town. The one-hour drive will take you on a 50-mile journey filled with Instagram worthy views as you head inland towards Pamplona. The region is peppered with small towns and terracotta-roofed houses that resemble Lego bricks from afar. Your final destination is the capital of the Navarre region and home to a well-preserved military citadel and the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real. Pamplona was once beloved by Ernst Hemingway who made several trips to the city in order to attend the Festival of San Fermin. The city is also ideal for foodies who want to sample what this region has to offer in terms of culinary delights such as fried trout stuffed with ham and traditional lamb stew cooked with white wine.
Bilbao to Guernica
The 31-mile journey from Bilboa to Guernica is short but sweet with plenty of villages and sights to capture with your camera along the way. Your trip to Basque Country is not complete without visiting the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa where famous works by renowned artists are on display all year round. Going on a leisurely boat ride down the Nervion River before embarking on your road trip is highly recommended. The BI-631 highway offers you the best scenic drive in this northern region where you will encounter fishing villages like Bermeo where slender houses painted in pastel shades of yellow and blue overlook the Atlantic Ocean. Surfing enthusiasts can drop by the town of Mundaka where they can catch the best waves in all of Europe, especially in autumn. This route takes you further inland away from the deep blue waters of the Atlantic and into the arms of mountains topped with emerald beech trees. Your final destination is none other than Guernica, a small town with a dark and tragic history. This region was bombed beyond recognition during the Spanish civil war and is now home to an ethnographic museum where visitors can learn more about the culture and history of this region.
The Silver Route
This route goes all the way back to the Roman Empire and runs from Seville in the south all the way to Gijon in the north. The original Roman road still exists and can be easily spotted from the A-66 that allows you to drive past four autonomous regions and take in the spectacular mountain views around you. The 495-mile journey takes around seven hours to complete by car. The Silver Route used to be one of the most ancient and vital trade routes with an abundance of precious metals and livestock that turned the area into an economical and cultural hub filled with cities, bridges and forts. The ruins of Italica are not to be missed. The ancient town is home to a well-preserved Roman amphitheater where an episode of Game of Thrones was filmed for season seven. This route will also take you through what is known as Hispanic Rome or Merida. This small city is rich in Roman monuments and a has Moorish fortress as well as The Temple of Diana where you will find a combination of frescoes and mosaics that offer a glimpse into the diverse history of this western region. The route branches towards Placensia where you will find an array of tapas bars to choose from and an old town that is calm and easy to explore. Castile and Leon is another region that you will encounter along the way. Cities like Salamanca offer another glimpse into the past with sandstone monuments and a UNESCO World Heritage historic center. The region is also peppered with medieval castles and beautiful cathedrals.
Coast of Death
It may sound macabre and foreboding, but Costa de la Muerte is considered one of the most breathtaking routes in northern Spain. The route extends from Cape Finisterre on the west coast of Galicia to the little port town of Camarinas and beyond. This 53-mile ride takes around an hour and fifteen minutes to complete and offers adventurous roadtrippers a chance to experience the winding roads that are unique to this region. Many ships used to crash and sink below the turbulent waters of the Atlantic Ocean due to the infamous jagged rocks found in this area. The coast earned its dark reputation and equally terrifying name due to mother nature but also due to the many robbers who used to lure cargo ships into their trap, killing their sailors and looting their treasures in the process. Driving all the way from Santiago de Compostela to A Coruna is the best way to explore this route.
This journey will take you through the rural parts of Galicia where pine forests and stone houses are aplenty. You will also encounter many lighthouses that were especially built to guide ships to safety and prevent them from ending up at the bottom of the ocean. There are many well preserved lighthouses that you can stop by and visit during your trip, especially the ones located in Finisterre. The historic city of A Coruna is home to the Tower of Hercules in addition to many other attractions that you can spend the whole day exploring.
Madrid to Segovia
The journey from Madrid to Segovia via the A-6 highway offers the best combination of nature and historic sites that are packed into a one-hour drive. This route cuts through suburban areas lined with almond and cherry trees that blossom into a rainbow of vibrant colors during spring. The grand palace and cathedral complex of San Lorenzo de El Escorial is hard to miss. The complex is nestled in the emerald green mountains of central Spain and is famous for its Renaissance architecture and its barrel-vaulted library that houses more than 40,000 books. This scenic route also includes a drive further up the mountain where you will encounter Avila. The city is known for its well-preserved medieval walls that guard its Romanesque and gothic churches and palaces. To fully experience the chill atmosphere, you can spend the night at the Parador de Gredos. The rustic hotel is ideal for those who wish to hike around the area and explore more of the Sierra de Gredos mountain range before resuming their trip in the morning.
The road to Madrid is paved with more splendid sites and towns such as Salamanca. This charming little town is in the Jerte Valley where you will be greeted by a sea of cherry trees as well as the third oldest university in Europe. Salamanca is famous for its pedestrian friendly city center and a Hogwarts like atmosphere. There are a wealth of museums to choose from including a museum dedicated to porcelain dolls as well as a great motor museum that caters to avid automobile fans. Your journey comes to an end is none other than Segovia. This World Heritage city is home to 15th century mansions and the stunning Alcazar Castle.
Almería to Mojácar
The 78-mile road trip from Almeria to the southeast town of Mojacar involves a detour with a wild west twist. This journey is far from a long one but still encompasses a wide range of landscapes including pristine beaches and a desert region unlike any other. The Tabernas Desert feels almost out of place in a country that is rich in green spaces and elegant gardens. This arid region covers an area of around 174 miles just north of Almeria and offers travelers a slice of Hollywood just a car ride away from the Mediterranean. This lonely European desert is one of a kind and a coveted location for shooting movies of all genres including spaghetti westerns and fantasy shows like Game of Thrones. There are around 14 western villages dedicated to shooting movies and shows in the area. Movie buffs will be interested to know that the Tabernas Desert was featured in movies like Indiana Jones and Lawrence of Arabia. This road trip will also lead you to the village of Sorbas where you can feast your eyes on unique Andalusian monuments and ghost villages that date back to the 1950s. The Almeria Province is also home to your final destination where you can enjoy a beachside cocktail with a view of the hilltop town and its whitewashed houses in the background.
Priorat Wine Route
This route is ideal for wine connoisseurs and fans of Spanish wine in general. The mountain centric road trip revolves around the region of Priorat where premium wines are on offer. Southern Cataluña is the place to be in terms of winemaking. The region is known for its heavily slanted hillsides, so grape picking is no easy feat. The flavorsome wines that are produced in this region are worth the visit alone. The premium red wine of Priorat is expensive and highly regarded as one of the best wines on the market. This rugged region is now home to more than 5000 acres of vineyards and an ocean of wineries to choose from. Scala Dei is one of many wineries where you can treat your taste buds to the region’s famed red wine. Each winery offers visitors a chance to tour its vineyards and learn more about the booming business of winemaking. The ancient village of Siurana is also worth a visit in between all that wine tasting. This sleepy hilltop village is a favorite amongst hikers, rock climbers and fans of quaint camping areas. Priorat is 2 hours away from Barcelona, making it an ideal day trip destination for wine lovers who happen to be staying in the cosmopolitan capital.
Barcelona to Costa Brava
The journey from Barcelona to Costa Brava takes around 1 hour and 42 minutes by car and covers a distance of around 90 miles that are filled with sun kissed villages and lush valleys. The warm blue waters of the Mediterranean will keep you company as you venture past breathtaking scenery and medieval towns like Girona. This gem of a town is reminiscent of the captivating Tuscan towns of Italy and offers a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of cities like Barcelona. This Catalonian town has one of the best-preserved Jewish Quarters in Europe and is also home to the Eiffel bridge that towers over the Onya River. You can catch the best panoramic views by walking on top of the 14th century walls that circle the eastern border of old town where you can pose for pictures and soak up the mediaeval atmosphere. Girona was also featured in Game of Thrones during season six and was used as the setting for the fictional city of Braavos. Once you finish touring Girona by foot, you can hop into your rental and drive towards the beach side town of Cadeques. This destination has a bohemian vibe and is home to the Dali House Museum where you can take a guided tour of his studio and learn more about his art and personal life through a series of personal photographs and surreal art installations. You can end your day trip with a sunset visit to the local lighthouse followed by dinner at the nearby restaurant with the sound of gentle waves and Spanish music gently playing in the background.
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- The Ultimate Road Trip in Spain: Your Stop-by-Stop Guide – Madrid Food Tour
- Four classic road trips in Spain and Portugal – The Guardian