Where to go on your next vacation is often a topic of discussion among friends and family. For those needing a fresh idea, we have some amazing routes and travel advice for a road trip through Spain’s Andalusia region. The travel blogger Oliver Bock went through the southern region of Spain documenting his journey exclusively for Sixt. Follow him during some of his 16 stops throughout Andalusia.
Driving long-distance through a country is a great way to meet a variety of people, while letting you set your own pace and travel to your choice of destinations. Andalusia in southern Spain is larger than Switzerland and is the intersection of Africa and Europe, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The natural landscape is incomparable: the highest mountain of the Iberian Peninsula, the Sierra Nevada, the Strait of Gibraltar, volcanic regions like the Tavernas Desert, and sandy beaches are all found in Andalusia. Oliver’s journey took him via Toledo to Seville, onto the southern point of Cádiz and from there via Malaga, Granada and Alicante up to Valencia. During his journey of about 995 miles Oliver was driving the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, a sporty A200d.
Oliver Bock is a Hamburg-based travel photographer and social media influencer. He started the local Instagram community @IgersHamburg and organizes InstaWalks and meetups in Hamburg. Born in 1973, his biggest passions are traveling and photography. With the rise of Instagram in recent years, Bock became increasingly interested in photography.
Stop 1: The White House(s) of Andalusia
We begin north of Andalusia in central Spain. Oliver’s route took him via the A-42 through Toledo to Cordoba where he took the first photo of his trip (below). Those white houses you see are all over Cordoba. The composition includes the area’s colorful windows and doors as well as the clear Spanish sky, together creating an ideal picture. Cordoba is known mainly for its Mosque-Cathedral (or Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba) dating back to the era of Moorish Spain. The Catholic cathedral covers about 247,570 square feet, making it one of the world’s largest. It is also a UNESCO world cultural heritage sight. The Puente Romano (Roman bridge), built with 16 arches, is also an important structure-a truly majestic sight comparable to the Charles Bridge in Prague. In addition to these two points of interest you should also make sure to check out all the small alleys around the old town, filled with beautiful white houses and colorful walls. With the A-Class Oliver could cover much of the city in comfort and style, but he also found it worthwhile to park it at times, simply to dive into the narrow alleyways and explore Cordoba.
Here are the top 10 sights to see before continuing toward Seville:
- Palacio de la Merced
- Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos
- Patios de Cordoba
- Calleja de las Flores
- Santa Marina de Aguas Santas Church
- Cristo de los Faroles
- Los Patios del Alcazar Viejo
- Cairuan Street
- Patio de los Naranjos
- Puerta del Almodovar
Stop 2: A Hiking and Biking Break
After Cordoba, Oliver took a detour on the way to Seville. He went all the way into the Sierra Norte Nature Park, a perfect place for hiking and cycling. The more than 683-square-mile nature reserve is in the west of the Sierra Morena and is only 28 miles away from the Andalusian capital, Seville. Crossing the dam on the SE-179 near Pantano El Pintad turned out to be the perfect setting for a photo. The Sierra Norte is filled with rivers sourced from the ancient group of mountains. Hikers will find a series of trails through forests as well as other hikes through Mediterranean vegetation. It is the only place on earth with limestone karst formations that have given the Sierra Norte admission into the European Geoparks Network.
Those who love the outdoors could spend days hiking here, and certainly some do. Much of the park’s most beautiful areas are better accessible with a rental car. We recommend switching off the radio during these sections and instead listening to the sound of nature. Driving through the park on routes like the A-450 is a dream. Although the smaller roads are not perfect for driving, this was no problem for Oliver’s rental.
Stop 3: Onto the Home of Flamenco
After a break from city life in the mountains, the next stop on Oliver’s journey was Seville, the capital of the southern Spanish region of Andalusia and the cradle of flamenco dance. Oliver took this photo of the Metropol Parasol at sunset. Be warned, long queues at sunrise and sunset are guaranteed at this sightseeing stop, but it’s truly a beautiful view of Seville. The Metropol Parasol is a breathtaking wooden structure within the city’s old town. It’s 492 feet long, 230 feet wide and 85 feet high. The construction, completed in 2011 and designed by German architect Jürgen Mayer, consists of six umbrella-shaped structures. Parking nearby was no problem and for 3€ you can walk around the building.
Here are the top 10 sights to see in Seville before continuing to Cádiz:
- Santa María de la Sede
- Basilica de Jesús del Gran Poder
- Iglesia de la Magdalena
- Iglesia de San Antonio Abad
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Las Duenas
- Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza
- Plaza del Triunfo
- Plaza de las Cruces
- Torre del Oro
In the suburbs of Seville, Oliver had time to take a photo of his Sixt rental car in an unusual location. Perfect morning light provided this awesome shot taken in a skateboarding halfpipe located in the former world exhibition grounds near the Olympic Stadium.
Stop 4: To the Beach!
After Seville he went toward the Atlantic Ocean coast and Cádiz. The route led almost directly south and Oliver needed about an hour and a half on the P-4 to get there. On the beach of Cádiz you can watch a gorgeous sunrise, as his photo shows. Our rental car is not only a top-quality model but also made the perfect subject for Oliver’s photo. The photo was taken early in the morning while the city was still sleeping. Cádiz is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe. It lies on a narrow spit of land and has about 110,000 inhabitants. You can see Cádiz is a port city through and through with more than a hundred watchtowers serving as a lookout for ships. Everything in Cádiz is just a bit more authentic, raw and original than other European cities. The best way to experience the quaintness of the city is to walk through the Torreon de las Puertas de Tierra, which separates the New Town from the Old Town. Pure magic.
Here are the top 10 sights to see in Cádiz before driving to Grazalema:
- Yacimiento Arqueologico Gadir
- Park Genoves
- Teatro Romano
- Torre Tavira
- Gran Teatro Falla
- Puerta de Tierra
- Castillo de San Sebastian
- Casa-Palacio Moreno de Mora
- Hospital de Mujeres
- Oratorio de La Santa Cueva
Stop 5: A Change in Architecture and Scenery
From Cádiz Oliver’s tour took him to Grazalema, which belongs to the Pueblos Blancos (white villages) of Andalusia. These villages are known by their iconic whitewashed houses, a style found in North Africa, and the narrow, winding alleys. There is even a route called Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos that leads through a series of these small towns and villages across a mountainous landscape. Grazalema is located in the northeast of the province of Cádiz at the foot of the Sierra del Pinar mountains. Our rental car proved to have great handling even on wet roads. Oliver had some tempramental weather while driving through the winding roads near Grazalema, creating a powerful picture. The photo spot is located just above Grazalema at his campsite.
Spontaneous stops are always part of any great road trip. It’s always a good idea to get out of the car, take in the land, and embrace the serenity, if only for a moment. The photo below featuring an incredible view with clear blue sky was taken somewhere between Malaga and Granada. Oliver stopped at the side of the road briefly for a view of the surrounding villages. He left the rental car to cool down under the shade of a large tree.
Stop 6: Nearing the Home Stretch
Granada marked the last leg of the journey, with more than half of his route covered. The view of the city and its white houses from the Alhambra in Granada was a highlight of the journey, a beautiful sight even under a gray sky. Moments like these, when you stop and just look, can be peaceful and remind you of some of the most important things in life. The Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex, is a must-see in Granada. However, everyone else knows this too, so be prepared for crowds. To visit the Nasrid Palaces (a must) it is important to book a ticket in advance for a certain time slot; spontaneously visiting is not advised.
Here are the top 10 sights to see before continuing on toward Valencia:
- Palast Karl V
- Hammam Al Andalus Granada
- Carrera del Darro
- Paseo de los Tristes
- Puerta de Elvira
- Iglesia del Sagrario
- Carmen de los Martires
- Plaza de San Nicolas
Stop 7: Veering off Andalusia’s Beaten Path
Oliver’s journey took him from Granada on the E-15 towards Murcia. Shortly before that he made a detour to Barrancos de Gebas. The Barrancos, a series of rock formations sometimes called badlands, are located somewhere in the empty west of Murcia, and are not a typical destination. A fabulous view of turquoise water amidst breathtaking rock formations awaits any visitor. The Barrancos are a nature reserve ideal for hiking and offers wonderful views. Since it is a bit off the beaten track, the best way to reach it is by rental car. The road is not the best, but the Mercedes A-Class mastered the tour effortlessly.
Stops 8 and 9: The End Game
Now there were only two stops left on the journey: Alicante and Valencia. Alicante, a port city located at the foot of the castle Santa Bárbara, lies in the middle of the Costa Blanca. Directly on the Mediterranean Sea, the climate covers this spot of land with sunshine almost all year round. It is simply sublime to stand in the warm sea and watch the mountains rise directly behind the beach.
It’s not just the sky that’s captivating: The Explanada de España Promenade consists of 6.5 million mosaic tiles. From here Oliver went directly to Valencia, just two hours away and the crowning conclusion of the 994-mile tour.
The people from Middle Eastern countries brought rice to Valencia and laid the foundation for the worldwide symbol of Spanish cuisine: paella. Valencia can be as exquisite as Barcelona and is even cheaper. The city is the greenest in the country and features 2,000 years of history and a mythical sacred treasure in Santa Maria Cathedral. Don’t miss the Turia Gardens, which goes from east to west through the whole of Valencia.
Oliver’s road trip took him through nearly all of the important cities across Andalusia. It included some truly spectacular landscapes that he would otherwise never have seen without a rental car. In March the climate was still mild and the traffic flowed well. The mixture of city sights and nature reserves ensured that there was never a dull moment and that there was no shortage of places to drive to.
For a hike we recommend:
- Comfortable hiking shoes
- A rain poncho
- A light cap
- Hiking pants
- A water bottle
Our Spotify playlist for this road trip: