It was time to head south and so we loaded the Mini with our backpacks, cheese, an old paper map and set off on our adventure through the countryside of Southern Spain.
Day 1: Merida
We arrived in the afternoon after taking our time to stop off at the little towns along the way, and to stock up our cheese and wine supply.
Merida is a historic little town bursting with Spanish colonial charm.
Main attractions include, The Aqueducts, the Roman Ruins in the old Amphitheatre, and the Puente Romano which crosses the Guadiana River is the world’s oldest standing bridge from ancient times.
Near the town square and cathedral is a wonderful collection of tasty tapas bars—some of which date back to the early 1800’s. It’s a lot of fun getting lost in the super narrow streets while trying to walk back and forth across the neighborhood.
After exploring Merida we continued onto Seville, a 2hr drive South to the region’s capital city and main ‘hub’ outside of Madrid.
We had heard really good things about Seville and even flirted with the idea of living there for a year, so we were really excited to spend a few days there getting to know the city.
For all its important monuments and fascinating history, Seville is universally famous for being a joyous town. While the people of Seville are known for their happy and friendly natures, the city itself is striking for its vitality and impressive architecture.
The main attractions bringing over 5 million visitors per year to Seville is the Plaza de Espana, Alcazar, Maria Luisa Park and the cathedral.
Although if you ask me, the real treasures are found by walking the cobblestone streets and getting lost in cafes and tapas bars along the bustling streets.
One thing Seville is particularly good at is food – there is a good selection along the Calle Mateos Gago and along the streets north of the Cathedral with a range of local cured meats and other dishes on the menu.
We were chatting with some friendly locals in Seville and they insisted we add Ronda to our list of the best things to see in Andalucia.
What I love about road trips is that your plans change, so our loose itinerary wasn’t difficult to shuffle around. And so off we went on a detoured, in search of what sounded like the oldest bridge in all of Spain.
The drive through the Sierra Nevada National Park is beautiful as you cross over mountain tops and green valleys and through small towns.
After steadily taking our time to stop for picnics and photos through the mountain range, we were in a bit of a panic to make it to Ronda in time before the sunset!.
The sun had disappeared well behind the beautiful mountains that had guided us along the way to Ronda.
We decided to splurge on a two story penthouse suite for the night where we sat and ate more cheese and french fries while looking out over the famous bridge.
We stayed at the Parador de Ronda Hotel, which had great views of the bridge at night and the breakfast was excellent!
The next day we explored the bridge from the top, sides and underneath! We even hiked the surrounding hillside to get some great drone footage before continuing on our way.
The one day adventure was enough to see the main attractions of Ronda, the bridge was impressive and worth the detour.
We decided to travel to Southern Spain in the off season to avoid the tourist floods, the heat and the higher prices throughout Europe. So the coastline didn’t appeal to us too much as it was pretty cold.
We did spend a day driving through the coast and stopping off at little towns along the way….
We were surprised to stumble upon Gibraltar.
This British owned territory is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, a 426m-high limestone ridge.
First settled by the Moors in the Middle Ages and later ruled by Spain, the outpost was ceded to the British in 1713 and remains in their possession.
“Historical & Fascinating!”
Literally driving over the International Runway and having our passports stamped by the very proper English men at the border were all unexpected, but we had no troubles getting in.
If you’re visiting during the warmer months I would suggest you spend more time exploring the gorgeous coastline and hidden beaches of Costa del Sol.
Day 5: Granada
One of the top tourist attractions in Europe is found in Southern Spain’s Andalusia region is Granada, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
With close proximity to Morocco, there are strong Arabian influences and a gypsy vibe in the marketplaces. We spent a day here checking out the top attractions that Granada has to offer.
The Alhambra is the most visited monument in Spain and is of indescribable beauty. It is both a palace and a fortress surrounded by walls and was the residence of the Nasrid sultans between the 13th and 15th centuries.
You need to keep in mind that visiting times are divided into two periods: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
From the outside the Alhambra is equally impressive, and you can see great views and a stunning sunset from the mirador San Nicolas. There are also stall vendors, drinks and local art performers at the mirador which makes for a fun afternoon as the sun sets.
To anyone visiting Granada the Hammam Al Andalus baths are a must see attraction! I was so lucky to stumble upon a pamphlet about these beautiful ancient Arabian baths that I had no idea even existed.
Upon walking into the reception I was greeted with a hot sweet tea and a relaxed atmosphere before making my way down to the baths.
There are three different pools, one freezing cold, another warm and the third is hot. There are also turkish steam rooms and sweet tea scattered on the poolside for you to drink.
The Food scene in Granada is excellent and a nice change from Tapas. There is a little corner bar called Pinot Noir just off the main street.
After eating nothing much else besides paella, cheese and ham for the last week; we were so happy to find delicious sushi and seafood!
This place is a must for your visit to Spain! In fact it’s so good that as a traveler and sushi lover, this place is one of my worldly favorites.
Day 6: Córdoba
It was an important Roman city and a major Islamic center in the Middle Ages. It’s best known for La Mezquita, an immense mosque dating from 784 A.D.
What we loved about Cordoba were the valencia trees that line the roadside. They’re everywhere, and they bring a nice touch to the old buildings and walkways.
The Roman Bridge is beautiful in the afternoon as the sun is going down, however best time to see it without tourist is early morning before the crowds roll in.
The Puerta del Puente is an impressive gateway arch that stands at at one side of the bridge and at the other is the Calahorra Tower.
The historic centre is a great place to walk around and soak up the vibes of a Spanish town; drink coffee, eat and enjoy the views.
As genuinely Andalucían as it gets, and outside the tourist track. A land of mountains and olives, of Renaissance architecture and free tapas, the province of Jaén in eastern Andalucía will pleasantly surprise you if you, even if you are just passing through like we were.
In fact, the province of Jaén accounts for half of Andalucía’s olive oil production, a third of Spain’s, and a tenth of the entire world!
Every square inch of land outside the cities and natural parks is covered in unending, pointillist rows of olive groves. This makes for a really pretty drive when you’re traveling through the countryside on a road trip.
Getting to Jaen is within an hour’s drive north of Granada, 1.5 hours from Córdoba, and 3.5 hours from Madrid. After Jaén we returned to Madrid to spend a week seeing the sights and attractions of the city.
You can find more information about what to do and see in Madrid here.