Spain: a Coastline Adventure

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Spain is home to some of the best beaches in Europe, incredible architecture, and a passionate culture specializing in textiles and culinary arts. 

While it’s possible to travel Spain by train or bus, we recommend renting a car and taking a road trip along the coast for a truly authentic Spanish experience. Having your own wheels will give you an unrivalled freedom, allowing you to travel off-the-beaten-path and at your own pace. The following itinerary will take you through the highlights of coastal Spain and along some tourist-free hidden gems, as well. Before setting off, be sure to check visa requirements, arrange your car rental, book your hotel rooms, and make reservations to key tourist stops along the way.

Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Begin your Mediterranean adventure in Barcelona. 

The beautiful capital of Catalan is one of the most visited destinations in Spain, for a reason. Don’t let the crowds put you off spending at least two days here. Barcelona is home to some of the most spectacular art, architecture, and culture in all of Spain. 

Barcelona . From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

While the city boasts many worthwhile attractions, you won’t want to miss the following: 

Las Ramblas & the Gothic Quarter 
Some have called this the “heart of Barcelona.” The two streets and the wide promenade between them have become one of the top attractions here. This is where you’ll see talented street performers, face painters, and musicians at work, and will be able to do a bit of souvenir shopping. In the adjoining Gothic Quarter, you’ll get your first look at the incredible architecture of the Old Town. While there, take a wander through the Barcelona Cathedral.

Street performers, Las Ramblas, Barcelona. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Tip: The Barcelona Cathedral is one of a few cathedrals around the city that has been largely ignored by tourism, despite its fine gothic architecture. Escape the crowds here!

Casa Milà 
Located on the Passeig de Gràcia, Casa Milà is one of Gaudi’s projects. You’d be missing out if you didn’t see some of the famous architect’s work while here. Take in the view of the city from the apartment building’s rooftop. 

Casa Mila, Barcelona. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

La Sagrada Familia 
Considered to be one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world, it is also one of the most touristed. Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds. 

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Montjuïc 
If you have the time, take a stroll in the late afternoon to the foot of the Montjuïc Park. Climb the hill to for an incredible view of the city as dusk falls and the lights below glitter to life. The sight is well worth the climb. 

Montjuic, Barcelona. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Six Secrets 
See if you can find the 6 secrets of Barcelona

Eat Well
One foodie’s tips for eating in Barcelona.

Travel tips: Barcelona is an easy place to fly into, being such a popular tourist destination. Spend two or three days exploring here. Arrange to pick up a vehicle the morning you leave Barcelona. Don’t bother renting it earlier for use around the city - the public transit systems are easier and more efficient to use.

Drive from Barcelona to Valencia via Montserrat - 265 miles

Pick up your set of wheels for the adventure ahead, pack your road trip necessities into the car (snacks, luggage, road maps, and a trusty Spanish-English dictionary), and get ready to hit the road! This will be one of the longest days of your trip, so be sure to eat a decent breakfast. 

Drive inland to the Montserrat Monastery 
Spain is famous for its religious history. To this day, pilgrims still walk hundreds of miles through Western Europe to worship in Spain’s monasteries. The Montserrat Monastery is a piece of this historical legacy, and is still very much alive today. Home to Benedictine Monks, the peaceful stone building is perched between two mountain peaks, with great views of the valley below. It is also home to a few highly prized relics, a key to understanding Spanish culture and history. 

Montserrat Monastery. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Tip: As this location exists in a mountain setting, expect to do a good deal of uphill walking. There is train access from the lower parking lot to the monastery itself for travellers with accessibility concerns. 

Continue on to Valencia.

This section is somewhat long, but can be done in 3 and a half hours via the AP-7 (note: this is a toll road). Although there are towns along the route, the majority of them are quiet Spanish towns with little to see or do. However, you can expect to see lovely views of the coast as you drive, and have the option of stopping in Tarragona for lunch. This city is fairly old, and like all ancient Spanish cities, steeped in culture and history. Walk around, tour a tiny museum or two, wander the shops near the town center, and pick from a large number of restaurants. Food options here will range from budget-friendly to expensive. 

Arrive in Valencia. Settle into your hotel, leaving your car in one of the relatively inexpensive underground car lots nearby. Enjoy dinner and relax after your long day. 

Valencia

Valencia has happily escaped the attentions of tourism. After your visit in Barcelona, it will feel quiet by comparison. You will be alone, free to explore. 

This is arguably one of Spain’s most beautiful old cities. In particular, be sure to visit the Old Town. Give yourself plenty of time to wander the narrow maze of streets. Don’t be afraid to get lost in the Old Town while exploring. The locals are very friendly, and happy to help you find your way. Keep an eye out for the city’s most beautiful cathedral, creatively named the Valencia Cathedral. Unlike the very visible Barcelona Cathedral, this building is hidden by the Old Town buildings surrounding it. The cathedral claims to hold the true Holy Grail (any Indiana Jones fans out there?) and also offers a climb to its highest tower, from which you can see the city and harbour from above. 

Valencia. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

After finding the cathedral, visit the market, one of the oldest in the country, and stock up on picnic supplies. Then head over to the beautiful Jardín del Turia to enjoy your personalized lunch. 

Finally, visit the not-to-be-missed Oceanografic. We left this for later in the day on purpose - visit early in the morning and you’ll find yourself waiting in a long line. The Oceanographic is one of the best-maintained, largest, and most diverse marine parks in the world, complete with large shark tanks, fish tunnels, dolphin shows, and more. Tickets can be expensive, but worth it. Closing time varies from 6pm in the winter to 12am in the summer. 

Oceanografic. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Valencia to Granada - 327 miles

Take a relaxing drive through some of Spain’s most incredible scenery. You’ll be passing through the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, but don’t worry - the road is surprisingly easy and quick to traverse. Just sit back and enjoy the scenery. When you eventually arrive in Granada, park your car in another underground lot and relax for the evening. 

Granada. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Granada

Plan to spend at least two days here. Granada is home to a few major attractions, the biggest being the Alhambra. Be sure to purchase your tickets to this Moorish palace complex before ever arriving in Spain. This is one of Spain’s most popular attractions, and tickets have a tendency to sell out quickly. Expect to spend the better part of a day on this attraction alone. 

Alhambra, Granada. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

For a taste of local food in the evening, head to Calle Navas, a street lined with family-owned restaurants. On your second day, tour the Granada Cathedral, unique from the others you’ve seen thus far in that this cathedral is based off of Southern Spanish architecture instead of Gothic architecture. Finally, walk through the Albayzín, an ancient Granada quarter. If you’re looking to do some shopping, this is the place to go. Expect to find everything from unusual metalwork and crafts to traditional Moorish clothing for sale. 

Granada Cathedral. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Granada to Malaga to Benahavis - 135 miles

Take one day to do this trip. As you drive from Granada to Malaga, you’ll notice the weather grow milder as you return to the sea. Stop in Malaga for a walk. There are two forts in this town, one of which is considered to be the best-preserved Moorish fort in Spain, the Alcazaba. The city is also full of unbelievably good restaurants, so be sure to enjoy lunch while you’re here. 

Alhambra, Granada. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

After lunch, drive on to Benahavis, getting off the toll road and taking the free A-7. This road is slower, but takes drivers on a beautiful winding tour of the coastline. In addition, it twists past several small coastal towns - stop and explore at your leisure. 

Benahavis. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Finally, arrive in Benahavis. Only a 10 minute drive from the beach, Benahavis is just far enough from the coast to allow you to enjoy the feel of a coastal Spanish city without being surrounded by high rise resorts. This town is very peaceful and quiet, its main attraction being its culinary prowess. This is a lovely place to spend a few quiet days relaxing, detoxing, and eating the best food you’ve ever tasted.
 
Benahavis. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Photo: Wikimedia Commons: Tyk

Exploring the Costa del Sol

This one day loop will take you through the best of the Costa del Sol. This is the itinerary: Benahavis > Nerja > Marbella > Puerto Banus > Benahavis. 

Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Hop in your car and take the 10 minute drive down to the water. Then, drive along the coast, making your way past Malaga to the town of Nerja. This town dates back to pre-Roman times, and is home to a network of caves discovered in 1959. The caves were one of the biggest scientific and historical discoveries of the time, as they’re home to some Neanderthal remains, cave paintings, and prehistoric remains. Many of these can still be found throughout the cave network. The town itself is very cute. Enjoy a snack here and take a few more pictures of the coast. 

Spain: A Coastline Adventure

Next, travel back down the coast to Marbella. This town is a fabulous place to stroll, explore, and have some lunch. Home to a great number of resorts and tourist hotels, the town is famous for its beaches and scenery. If the weather permits, go for a quick swim after lunch. 

Marbella. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

After enjoying your lunch in Marbella, it’s time to get a taste of the glitz and glamour of the Costa del Sol. Drive to Puerto Banus, a very short drive away. This is where multi-millionaires from around the world come to kick back and relax. In the bay, you’ll see incredibly luxurious yachts at anchor, while sleek supercars gracefully purr along the Spanish cobblestone streets. It’s fun to look, but don’t stay long. Restaurants, shops, and parking are all overpriced here due to town’s wealthy visitors. Park just outside of town and walk in to take a look, then spend the afternoon at the nearby beach, the best in the area. You’re just ten minutes away from Benahavis, so return to your hotel whenever you feel like it. You’ve now had a real taste of the Costa del Sol: beaches, culture, history, and glamour. 

Puerto Banus. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Benahavis to Seville - 211 miles

It’s time to leave the quaint town of Benahavis and its surrounding sights behind and head on to Seville to finish off your coastal Spanish road trip. On your way to Seville, be sure to stop by the historic city of Cadiz. Although you’ve likely never heard of the place, it happens to be the oldest city in Europe, built in a pre-Roman era. Like most Spanish cities, Cadiz boasts a charming Old Town and cathedral, with a more modern atmosphere around the edges. But unlike the cities you’ve visited thus far, Cadiz has been largely ignored by tourism. You’ll be able to really experience off-the-beaten-track Spain in this city, and won’t have to worry about crowds or tourist traps. 

Cadiz. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Cadiz. From Spain: A Coastline Adventure

Walk out towards the Santa Catalina Castle. While you won’t be able to actually enter the castle, the walk will take you along the ocean. You’ll see spectacular views of the city, and will have the opportunity to swim in a local favourite seaside spot. This may be your last chance to swim off the coast of Spain, so be sure to soak in the experience! 

After your swim, drive the last hour to the city of Seville, the last stop on your road trip. Once here, enjoy a relaxing dinner and do a little night exploration around the city center. Stop by the spacious Plaza de España to see the fountains lit up at night and buy an ice cream. 

Seville. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Seville is a large city with a number of famous attractions, but we highly recommend that you limit yourself to seeing a few and simply spending time walking the city. If you must tour, go see the Alcazar. Seville’s most popular attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this Royal Palace was once a fort and is architecturally unique. One of the oldest European Royal Palaces still in use, it is resplendent with elaborate courtyards, detailed tiled bathhouses, and extravagant rooms. The entry price is low, considering the worth of the attraction: just EUR 9.50 general admission, free for children under 16. You’ll want to give yourself a good deal of time to tour this building thoroughly. 

Alcazar. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Finally, the Seville Cathedral is likely the most opulent cathedral you’ll see during your time in Spain and is worth a visit. Something most don’t know about the cathedral: its main tower, called the Giralda, is a converted Mosque Minaret. The interior of the cathedral is the very definition of the word extravagance. 

Seville Cathedral. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Your road trip is now at an end! Spend your last day or two wandering Seville, doing last minute souvenir shopping, and touring some of Seville’s most fabulous restaurants before turning in your rental car and heading to the airport. 

Spain: a Coastline Adventure

This road trip beautifully incorporates everything travellers love most about the Spanish Coast, the Costa del Sol. You will have sampled some of the best food in the world; been swimming in the fairytale blue waters of the Mediterranean; explored exquisite palaces, castles, and monasteries; and fully immersed yourself in the art, history, and culture of one of the oldest civilizations in Europe. Take home pictures to show your friends and family, and check some of Spain’s famous cured meats in your luggage as souvenirs to share, if the customs officers in your country allow it! Don’t be surprised if you’re already planning your next visit to the beautiful Spanish Coast. 

Beachside food. From Spain: a Coastline Adventure

Learn more: 
http://www.visitcostadelsol.com/
http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/spain/photos/sun-soaked-costa-del-sol
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/andalucia/costa-del-sol

 

 

 

 

About Hannah Miller: I’m a twenty year old girl, with a serious case of wanderlust. Over the past few years I’ve traveled to over twenty-four countries, on six different continents, using bikes, buses, trains, planes, and of course, my own two feet. Wherever I go, a video camera and three instruments follow. I’m trying to change the world, one step at a time. By the end of my life I want to have visited every country in the world, and do it all through travel writing. I currently write for a few different travel sites; but this one is meant for my own personal thoughts and experiences. In my opinion, there’s no better school than the big world around us, and no better way to learn about the planet I live on than to see it myself! My greatest fear: to reach the end of my days only to be filled with regret for the adventures I never had. Find me at http://www.edventuregirl.com/

 

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