Insider’s tips to make the most of your road trip in Southern Spain

Insider’s tips to make the most of your road trip in Southern Spain

Southern Spain is an incredible region for a road trip but with so much to see and do, how do you choose your itinerary? To make it a little easier, we’ve asked local Spanish bloggers to share their favourite things to eat, see and do in each region. De nada!

  1. Southern Spain: Valencia
  2. Southern Spain: Andalusia

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1. Southern Spain: Valencia

By Paula

Hi travellers! I’m Paula. I’m spontaneous, a dreamer and a passionate slow traveller. You can see more of adventures and recommendations on my blog Nos vamos de rutica.

Southern Spain - Travel tips in Valencia - By Paula

Paula

I’m from Elche, a Valencian city with the largest palm grove in Europe, with over 70,000 date palms. Located beside the Mediterranean sea, Valencia has some of the best weather in the peninsula. Temperatures are always very mild with an average temperature of 22 degrees celsius or higher all year round. It can be very hot in summer from June to August with average temperatures reaching 29 degrees celsius.

Southern Spain - Magical beach in Alicante @that_traveling_manMagical beach in Alicante @that_traveling_man

Valencia is famous for its beaches and some of the best to visit include El Saler Beach and La Devesa Beach for snorkelling, paddle boarding, coast steering, diving and sailing.

If you want to explore your adventurous side there are a huge number of trekking paths, some with routes through small villages where you should definitely stop to try our delicious food and traditional desserts. I recommend the Albufera Rice Trail, which takes you from the village of El Palmar, through L’Albufera natural park with wildlife and scenery.

Regional food

The number one reason why you should come to Valencia is for our food. Our traditional recipes are prepared with loads of love. Fresh vegetables, meat and fish always dressed with our “secret” ingredient: olive oil. We usually eat five times a day (we really love our food). This includes breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack and dinner.

Traditional paella @PaulaYou better be hungry for this traditional paella! @Paula

Valencia is the best place in the world to eat paella (no other region can compete). Anything you try outside of this region will be a simple imitation. So this needs to be on your must-do list.

Horchata is the most popular drink in our region. It’s a non-alcoholic drink made of a weed-like tuber called chufas. We usually drink it granizado, an version whipped with ice. Drink it like a local by dipping into it with fartons, long sweet baked pastries made of milk, sugar, oil, flour, eggs and glazed sugar. Delicious!

We also have many food festivals involving food. These are the ones you definitely shouldn’t miss out on:

Las Fallas in Valencia @PaulaDon’t miss Las Fallas if you visit Valencia @Paula

– Las Fallas from 15 to 19 of March. (Valencia)
– Las Hogueras de San Juan from 20 to 24 of June (Alicante)
– El Misterio de Elche from 14 to 15 of August, (Elche)
– La Tomatina celebrated on the last Wednesday of August (Buñol)
– La Magdalena starts on the third Saturday of Lent (February, March or April) Depending on the year (Catellón)
– Moros y Cristianos from 21 to 24 of April (Alcoy)
– La Cordà de Paterna is held on the last Sunday of August (Paterna)

We love to celebrate everything with fireworks. I highly recommend la “Nit de L’Albà” on the night of 13th of August in Elche and “La Nit del Foc” on March 18th, Valencia.

Languages

We speak two different languages: Spanish and Valencian, and sometimes you will see signs in both.

My favourite spots in Valencia

Santa Barbara Castle, Alicante @scarpalessandraStunning view from the Santa Barbara Castle, Alicante @scarpalessandra

Alicante, in Costa Blanca has so much to offer, whether you’re looking to relax or for adventure. Santa Barbara castle has some of the most beautiful views over the city and over the Mediterranean sea. Get lost in the El barrio neighbourhood and enjoy El tardeo (to party after you eat) in Castaños Street. Salud!

The largest palm tree grove in Elche @PaulaThe largest palm tree grove is in Elche @Paula

Elche is a Unesco World Heritage site for its palm tree grove. Unesco also recognises its cultural treasures including Misteri d’ Elx, a traditional religious play and The Pusol School Museum, for its protection of Elche culture. A traditional meal in Elche is arroz y costra (rice with egg on top cooked in the oven) and dates with bacon and almonds.

Pink building in Calpe @chu_morrThis blue and pink building in Calpe will make you want to take the stairs!! @chu_morr

Calpe is a coastal city where you can enjoy fresh seafood. There is also an amazing trail that goes beside a cliff and ends on the top of the Peñón de Ifach with an unbelievable view of the coast line. Not to mention the stunning architecture. Don’t miss architect Ricardo Bofill’s fantastical building, inspired by a fort and featuring blue and pink staircases.

Altea is an authentic Mediterranean town nestled in a hill next to the sea. Picture this: white houses, blue doors and windows… It’s the perfect location to take thousands of pictures. Altea also has amazing restaurants where you can taste modern Mediterranean cuisine. Fish, squid and see food are top choices.

Beautiful view, Tabarca @PaulaBeautiful view, Tabarca @Paula

Ontinyent offers much more than travellers usually expect. Its natural spaces, food, culture and historic places make it a must visit in the centre of Valencia. In the capital of Vall d’Albaida try la butifarra (onion sausage), rice dishes and cured meat products.

Natural pools of Pou Clar @raquelgm31

Impossible not to swim in one the natural pools of Pou Clar @raquelgm31

Natural spots: Try snorkelling in Tabarca island, visiting Font Roja Natural Park and hiking Aitana mountain for nature based activities.

Historical places: If history is your thing that visit Guadalest Castle, set in a small village. If you love castles you can visit many along the route between Elda and Villena.

Sagunto preserves many monuments and archaeological ruins in the old town. This historic city has been declared a property of cultural interest. If you want to explore this old town you should visit the Roman theatre, the castle and Sagunto’s main square. The cherry on top is cake stuffed with vegetables, tuna and egg, paella and pastisets de boniato (sweet potato cakes). These are the most typical dishes in Sagunto.

Gandia is the party city (yess). In summer it’s full of visitors looking for some relaxing days on its dreamy beaches and a little bit of fun at night. There are so many bars, pubs and restaurants with plenty of food options and great cocktails for a very cheap price. Sold!

Natural park of Albufera @arthr_lndrTry a boat tour to explore the natural park of Albufera @arthr_lndr

Natural park of Albufera @caethekleinstylingWanna take a dip? @caethekleinstyling

Natural spots: Boat tour in La Albufera, canyoning in Hoces de Cabriel and exploring El Pou Clar (Ontynient).

Historical places: Valencia Cathedral, La Lonja in Valencia and Xativa’s Castle.

Castellón de la Plana: Morella is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Spain. This city has some outstanding monuments such as Santa Maria’s Church or the castle, which was declared an artistic-historical monument along with its defensive walls.

Castle of Morella? @PaulaReady to explore Castle of Morella? @Paula

Morella is a classic foodie city in the countryside where meat plays an important role. You should try their traditional croquetas morellanas, grilled lamb chops and The Collà which is a homemade sweet junket. Yummy!

Vilafamés is a lovely medieval town crowned with a castle and beautiful surroundings. It is a perfect place to relax and immerse yourself in rich history and culture.

There are plenty of other historic buildings such as Sala Quatre Cantons, The Abbey House or the Town Hall. If there is one thing you shouldn’t miss it’s “The massive rock” which stands with a 34° inclination. If you are brave enough, place yourself under the huge stone, ask for three wishes and one of them might be fulfilled.

Cherry on top: Vilafamés’s cuisine is exquisite and well prepared. Traditional dishes are la olla (meat and potato soup), grilled lamb with aioli (sauce made of garlic and olive oil) and almond pastries.

Peniscola @ireikerA house entirely made of shells??! @ireiker

Peñiscola is one of the most popular cities in the Valencian Community. Well known now because some scenes were filmed there for Game of Thrones.
Even though it is mostly a holiday town, you’ll get impressed by its Templar castle, which rises above the sea. Let yourself be seduced by walking through city walls, getting lost in their narrow streets and buying a souvenir in one of the little shops around the old town.

Sweet food in Valencia @PaulaMake sure to try one of these cuties @Paula

Traditional food in Peñiscola is related to the sea. So popular dishes you must try are suquet de peix (fish stew), all i pebre de rape (monkfish cooked with garlic and pepper) and rice with seafood. If you want something sweet try flaons de Peñiscola (cottage cheese and almond cake) or pastissets de carabassa (pumpkin pulp with cottage cheese and little bit of honey).

Historical places: Chivert castle, Onda Castle and the historic town of Segorbe.

Natural spots: Peñagolosa, the highest mountain in Castellón and Sierra de Irta has a route where you´ll get great views of the Mediterranean sea.

2. Southern Spain: Andalusia

By Jose

I’m Jose Lop and I was born in Malaga, a beautiful city in Andalusia. I have lived in Córdoba, Cádiz and Huelva in various stages of my life, so I know Andalusia like the back of my hand. I am currently dedicating my time to travelling and reporting it in El Viaje me hizo a mí, my travel blog. I believe that a trip without emotions is a decaffeinated trip.

Andalusia @jose@Jose

Andalusia is a region with rich history and a unique character that you’ll see in its citizens. Due to its good climate and fortuitous position it has been conquered by many people, each one leaving a cultural stamp on the region. Romans turned Andalusia into another province of its Empire and gave it the name of Betica, as it sat along the Betis River, now the Guadalquivir River. Islamic culture also has great influence on poetry, architecture and art.

@timezonemingle alhambraAlhambra, Granada @timezonemingle

The last bastion of the Arab caliphate, the kingdom of Granada, fell in 1492 at the hands of the Catholic Monarchs, the same year that Columbus left for America from the Andalusian port of Palos de la Frontera. Thanks to its more than 2,800 hours of sunshine per year and the richness of its landscapes and people, Andalusia is currently one of the most visited regions in the world.

In Andalusia you will find almost everything you can see in Spain. It is one of the few places in the world where you can go skiing in the morning and then catch some rays and take a dip in the sea in the afternoon. It is only 90 kilometres or from Sierra Nevada to the beaches of Motril.

Flamenco

Andalusia is known for flamenco, and it appears on the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. There is some controversy about the origin of this art, since some attribute it to the gypsy communities who came to the peninsula from India in the fifteenth century, whereas others believe that its origin dates back to the Arabs for its resemblance to some Islamic songs.

I think you need to attend a flamenco event or festival to make the most of your visit in Andalusia. I highly recommend the famous Sacromonte Caves in Granada.

Food

When I think of Andalusian cuisine, the first thing I think of is olive oil. We use it in everything like good gazpacho or salmorejo. Nowhere else in the world do they grow more olive trees or produce as many extra virgin olive oil as in Andalusia.

Other dishes that you need to try are migas, a bread based dish, and patatas a lo pobre, ‘poor man’s potatoes’, Iberian ham and fried fish, found in freidurías (small fish shops). Do not forget to try fried fish in a beach bar.

Salmojero @desidesign31
Delicious Salmojero @desidesign31

You need to try tapas in each area, which are often offered for free with just a drink. The most typical area to go for tapas is Granada, although you can find them throughout the region.

My favourite places in Andalusia

If you are going to visit Andalusia you should start by getting to know some of its most important cities. Granada, Seville, Cordoba and Malaga are some of the most beautiful cities in Spain and have plenty of places to discover. In addition to the cities, the beaches are must-sees, especially if you go during the summer months.

Seville: Seville is the capital of the region. I recommend walking around the Giralda, the huge gothic belltower and visiting the Reales Alcázares, an extraordinary royal palace built by the Moorish rulers who occupied the peninsula.

Then you can take a walk along the banks of the Guadalquivir River and go to Plaza España, one of my favourite places, not only in Andalusia but around the world. I usually cross to the other side of the river and eat some tapas in the neighbourhood of Triana.

Alhambra, Granada @paradisecollectorAlhambra, Granada @paradisecollector

Granada: In Granada my favourite place is the Alhambra, another spectacular Moorish palace. The Arab influence can also clearly be seen on the streets of Albaicín and Sacromonte. You will find narrow and steep streets with views of the Alhambra. Sacromonte is also where the passionate art of flamenco was born.

Sacromonte, Granada @milesjeffersonSacromonte is a must see in Granada @milesjefferson

Sacromonte @explorewithtorrSacromonte @explorewithtorr

Don’t miss the beer and tapas bars that are all over the city. With each beer, they give you another dish. Three dishes and you’ll be full!

Málaga: Malaga is my home and it is fair to say that in recent years it has changed for the better. It has many museums and cultural activities including the Malaga Film Festival, which takes place every year at the Cervantes Theatre.

Pedregalejo @e.ytcMake sure to stop in Pedregalejo @e.ytc

For lunch I recommend you go to Pedregalejo beach to try some sardines or grilled squid. Afterwards go to a bakery and ask for some borrachuelos, a typical sweet of the city.

Córdoba: I love to walk through the streets of the Jewish quarter to the mosque. Don’t miss the street of the handkerchief and admire the colourful geraniums, one of the most typical flowers of Andalusia. Very close to the mosque is Bar Santos where they make the largest Spanish omelettes in the city. Although if you want to taste real Cordovan food its specialities are salmorejo and oxtail.

Beaches: In Andalusia there are almost a thousand kilometres of coastline and it is home to some of the best beaches on the peninsula. You can swim in both the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea. In the area of ​​the Costa del Sol there are some touristy beaches with many amenities but I prefer  quieter beaches such as Cabo de Gata, the cliffs of Maro near Nerja, Cádiz and Huelva.

Cabo de Gata @laniitaramosAndalusia has some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain like in Cabo de Gata @laniitaramos

These three coastal areas contain virgin beaches where you can enjoy the climate of Andalusia with tranquillity. As there are no other amenities on these beaches, you should take water with you and everything you need for the time you are there.

The white villages of Cádiz: Not everything in Andalusia is about sun and beach. The White Villages of Cádiz are a group of inland villages that you should visit. I love the Ubrique area, a place where leather products are manufactured for the best brands in the world. Also don’t miss Setenil de las Bodegas, a town literally built between rocks and the northern towns of Grazalema, and Villaluenga del Rosario.

Setenil De las Bodegas @eastwestquestDon’t miss the cute little white village of Setenil De las Bodegas @eastwestquest

To visit the White Villages you’ll need at least two or three days and it’s best to rent a car. The food of the interior is different from that of the coast such as rich stews and Retinto beef, a typical variety of the area.

Gruta de las Maravillas @manuel_7abrilIs this place real?@manuel_7abril

Huelva Mountains: The Huelva Mountains encompass beautiful villages such as Aracena, in which the famous Gruta de las Maravillas stands out. A visit to this cave takes about an hour and a guide will explain everything about its geology.

In Almonaster la Real, the Islamic legacy has been preserved like no other village in the area. It’s mosque is one of the only rural mosques conserved in Spain. This area is also where the best Iberian hams from Spain are produced.

What are you waiting for?!

Which regions of Spain do you want to explore? If you have any other tips, feel free to leave us a comment 👇

Want more inspiration for Spain? Check out these articles:

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About The Author

Dorothée Gomez

I'm Dorothée, French, German, Spanish & Polish (yess crazy family round 1). Senior Social Media & Content Executive and #HostelworldInsider at Hostelworld. I grew up in Germany before moving to France. My parents are both multicultural, so we are speaking different languages at home. I guess that's also why I'm obsessed with travel, foreign languages and other cultures. ✈ Favourite place on earth: New York City. 🏠 Favourite hostel: LemonRock Hostel, Granada, Spain. Follow my adventures on Instagram @dorotheegmz

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