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Regardless of where the rain in Spain may fall, Europe’s fourth-largest country offers some of the most thrilling drives on the continent. From the serrated summits of Catalonia’s coastal mountains to Andalucia’s picturesque white villages to the striking greenery of the north coast, each region packs its own unique surprises for anyone willing to get out of the towns and deviate from the highways. There’s a lot to pack into any Spain road trip. That’s why in this article we’ll take you through some of the country’s most scenic highlights, from north to south.

Don’t fancy an interrupted night’s sleep in your car? We didn’t think you did. That’s why with over 400 million annual visitors to HotelsCombined, we’ve also gathered some of the best places to stay during your four-wheeled adventure.

Northern Spain

1. Galicia — Costa da Morte

Natural rock arches on Cathedrals beach in low tide, Spain, destination for Spain road trip
Photo| Natural rock arches on Cathedrals Beach, Ribadeo| GETTYIMAGES – ANTON PETRUS
Faro de Playa Lago
Photo| Faro de Playa Lago, Coast of Death, Galicia| GETTYIMAGES – CARLOS FERNANDEZ

Galicia’s “Death Coast” takes its name from the numerous ships that were wrecked in this jagged, windswept region. This dramatic past adds to the dark beauty of the area’s imposing cliffs and surf-pounded beaches. Driving its full length takes less than two hours if you rush. But we strongly suggest giving yourself 4 or 5 days to slow down, explore, and dig into some of the freshest seafood in the country. Highlights include dune-backed beaches like Playa de Laxe and the eerie Cemetery of the English, hundreds of seaside stone stacks remembering the 172 sailors who drowned when their ship was dashed against the rocks in 1890.

Other Highlights:

  • Eat: Salpicón de marisco, a local seafood speciality containing local crabs and lobsters
  • Drink: Albariño, refreshing white with floral notes
  • Do: Praia de Soesto, a remarkable crescent-shaped beach with good surfing in winter

Casa De Turismo Rural Dugium

Casa De Turismo Rural Dugium, hotel to stay on for Spain road trip
Photo| Casa De Turismo Rural Dugium| Provided by BOOKING.COM

Casas rurales (literally “rural homes”) are the kind of country escape Spaniards dream about on their morning commute. If you’re curious as to why, spend an evening at this enchanting historic home in Finisterra. Set in beautifully landscaped gardens, the property looks over gentle hills and pastures. The interior, meanwhile, is traditional, the cosy living room centered around a large fireplace, the perfect environment for uncorking a bottle of albariño. Dugium can accommodate up to ten guests and is less than 5 minutes drive from the unspoilt sands of Praia Da Langosteira.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 236 – USD 295
Guest Rating: 9.0
Address: San Salvador, 40, 15154 Fisterra, C, Spain

Hotel Location

2. Cantabria and Asturias — Santander to Gijón

Photo| Calle del bonito pueblo de Carmona, Cantabria| GETTYIMAGES – LUISMIX
Cudillero, destination for spain road trip
Photo| Cudillero fishing village in Asturias| GETTYIMAGES – JAPATINO

Atlantic-leaning Cantabria and Asturias are everything you expected from your Spain road trip turned on its head. A shockingly green landscape of quiet farms and stone-wall villages stretching 360 kilometers across the north coast. Appreciate every aspect of this little-known heartland by following the Vía del Cantábrico (A-8), a winding coastal highway. Save time to stop in villages like Luarca, with its gorgeous fishing harbor and medieval walls.

Other Highlights:

  • Eat: Cordero al estaca, Cantabrian whole lamb spit roasted over a wood fire
  • Drink: Asturian cider is a boozy, uncarbonated variant, famous for the spectacular way bartenders pour it from a height
  • Do: Llanes, a charming village known for its castle and sleepy seaside atmosphere

Hotel Príncipe de Asturias

Hotel Príncipe de Asturias, hotel to stay for spain road trip
Photo| Hotel Principe de Asturias| Provided by BOOKING.COM

Located in the laid-back neighborhood of La Arena, Hotel Príncipe de Asturias is directly opposite Gijon’s seafront promenade and the lively Playa de San Lorenzo. The Superior Sea Room offers some of the best views of the water with floor-to-ceiling windows. Settle in with a complimentary tea or coffee service. If you’re feeling a little fatigued from the drive, you’ll also be glad to learn that there’s a whirlpool tub in the bathroom.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 92 – USD 310
Guest Rating: 8.0
Address: Manso, 2, 33203 Gijón, Asturias, Spain

Hotel Location

3. The Basque Country, La Rioja, and Navarra — Bilbao to Pamplona

Path to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Basque Country, Spain, destination for spain road trip
Photo| Path to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe| GETTYIMAGES – ANTON PETRUS
Vineyards in autumn in La Rioja, Spain.
Photo| Vineyards in autumn in La Rioja| GETTYIMAGES – I. LIZARRAGA

Wining and dining at the top of your list? This is the route you should be tracking on your Spain road trip. In a country known for its skills in the kitchen, the Basque Country is a real frontrunner, boasting more Michelin Star restaurants than anywhere else in Spain. Begin your tasty tour in San Sebastian, home of the pincho, before a double does of urban energy and striking architecture in Bilbao. From there, switch inland, and follow the River Ebro deep into wine country. You’ll want to stop when you reach boozy Eltziego, home to the Frank Gehry-designed  Marques de Riscal Winery. Finish with a few days lazily touring through vine-strewn La Rioja before finishing in Pamplona, with its marvelous medieval heritage.

Other Highlights:

  • Eat: Bacalao al pil pil, cod, garlic, and dried chili oil, served with a deliciously delicate sauce
  • Drink: Ochoa, a delicate rosé made from blended Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha grapes. Alternatively, kalimotxo — red wine and Coke. We’re not pulling your leg.
  • Do: Café Iruña, the Pamplona locale where Ernest Hemmingway is rumoured to have written The Sun Also Rises

Meliá Bilbao

Meliá Bilbao, hotel to stay for a spain road trip
Photo| Melia Bilbao| Provided by BOOKING.COM

Located in Bilbao’s most architecturally stimulating neighborhoods, it’s no surprise that this Meliá hotel is a building to marvel at. It kind of needs to be — the Guggenheim, Música Euskalduna, and the Congress Palace all surround it. Still, expect more than just good looks. Melía offers some extremely tasteful suites, with wide floor-to-ceiling windows and views over the estuary of Bilbao. The heated balcony pool is an even lovelier spot to look out over the city, and there’s a full-service spa.

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 122 – USD 384
Guest Rating: 8.0
Address: Lehendakari Leizaola, 29, 48001 Bilbao, Biscay, Spain

Hotel Location

Eastern Spain

4. Catalonia — Montserrat

Monserrat Monastery, destination for spain road trip
Photo| Monserrat Monastery near Barcelona| GETTYIMAGES – MAJAIVA
Christian cross from Montserrat Mountain viewpoint at sunset
Photo| Sunset Montserrat Monastery Catalonia Christian Cross| GETTYIMAGES – MLENNY

You certainly don’t have to look hard to see the resemblance between Montserrat and a handsaw — which is what its name means in Catalan. This striking mountain is an essential part of any adrenaline junkie’s Spain road trip. Why? It is traversed by a tightly zig-zagging road (the BP-1121), which traverses via a series of hairpins and jaw-dropping drop-offs. Previous high-riders describe driving this stunning route as like living in a car commercial. Be sure to stop off at the Monestir de Montserrat, a colossal 12th-century Benedictine monastery that almost hangs off a cliff, with stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

  • Eat: Crema catalana, a pudding like dessert similar to creme brulée
  • Drink: Vermouth, specifically the pours at Barcelona’s Quimet i Quimet
  • Do: Ride the funicular to the summit of the mountain, accessible from Plaza de España metro station

Hotel Barceló Sants

Hotel Barceló Sants, hotel to stay for spain road trip
Photo| Hotel Barcelo Sants| Provided by ICE PORTAL

Sleek and modern, this hotel’s location above Barcelona’s high speed rail station (AVE) makes it a great base. Don’t worry about noise though — the rooms are very quiet. Direct access to two metro lines add to the convenience, but the hotel isn’t just functional. The rooms are beautiful and uncluttered, with clean lines and much more natural light than you’ll get in older buildings downtown. Fancy a drink? Orbital Bar is a great spot for a craft cocktail. Barcelo Sants also offers buffet-style dining.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 111 – USD 290
Guest Rating: 8.0
Address: Lehendakari Leizaola, 29, 48001 Bilbao, Biscay, Spain

Hotel Location

5. Catalonia — Ruta Enoturística del Priorat

Priorat Wine Region, Spain, destination for spain road trip
Photo| La Figuera village, Priorat| GETTYIMAGES – TIM E. WHITE
Escaladei Monastery, Priorat, Spain
Photo| Escaladei Monastery, Priorat| GETTYIMAGES – TIM E. WHITE

Priorat is one of only two regions in Spain to qualify for DOCa, the highest category in Spanish wine regulations. In other words: glug glug. This most palatable leg of your Spain road trip will be most memorable for its powerful reds, often with notes of cherry and licorice. On days you’re not tasting, you’ll be sailing past pine forests, medieval villages, and scrabbly coastal mountains. Best of all, the sun-dappled beaches of Tarragona’s Mediterranean coast are just around the corner once you’re all wined out.

  • Eat: Coca de Recapte, a flat bruschetta laiden with tomato, tuna, sardines, and roasted peppers
  • Drink: Mistela, a sweet but strong alcohol made using freshly crushed grapes
  • Do: PortAventura, arguably Spain’s most popular theme park with over 50 attractions

Mercure Atenea Aventura

Mercure Atenea Aventura, hotel to stay for Spain road trip
Photo| Mercure Atenea Aventura| Provided LEONARDO

An ideal starting point for your Spain road trip, Mercure Atenea Aventura has easy access to two Barcelona airports. It’s located just outside Tarragona, so you won’t have to travel far to reach a number of beaches. You’ll have more to do nearby than if you stay in Priorat itself. Accommodation wise, expect a cleanly decorated beach hotel setup. Soaking tubs and city or garden views are some of the extras afforded if you opt for a Privilege room. This hotel also has indoor and outdoor pools, onsite dining, and a spa.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 62 – USD 335
Guest Rating: 8.0
Address: Avda Ramon D’Olzina 52, 43480 Vila-seca, Catalonia, Spain

Hotel Location

Central Spain

6. Extremadura and Castilla y León — Ruta de la Plata

Plaza (square) Mayor, destination for spain road trip
Photo| Plaza Mayor, Castilla y Leon| GETTYIMAGES – MAREMAGNUM
Plaza Mayor of Trujillo
Photo| Plaza Mayor of Trujillo, Caceres| GETTYIMAGES – DOMINGO LEIVA

Spain’s answer to “Route 66” runs an epic 800 kilometers from Seville to the Atlantic port city of Cantabria. It’s also your best route into the country’s lesser-known interior. In particular, the historic heartlands of Extremadura deserve a good chunk of your time. Start this section of your Spain road trip in Mérida, famous for its impressive Roman theater. Heading north along with reservoirs, hills, and valleys, the highway leads you to Cáceres, a magnificent medieval city that featured prominently in Game of Thrones. The Estremeñan countryside remains remarkably pretty as you continue onto the alpine village of Bejar. Press on further still, and you’ll reach the splendid sandstone town of Salamanca — which like Mérida and Cáceres is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Eat: Torta del Casar, a tangy local cheese often served whole with crackers so you can dip straight into the wheel
  • Drink: Vino de pitarra, a natural wine with an intense full-bodied flavor
  • Do: Plasencia, a breathtaking Renaissance town

Hotel Hospes Palacio de Arenales & Spa Cáceres

Hotel Hospes Palacio de Arenales & Spa Cáceres, hotel to stay for spain road trip
Photo| Hotel Hospes Palacio de Arenales & Spa Caceres| Provided by ICE PORTAL

Few tourists make it to Cáceres. Even fewer turn off the 5th roundabout heading west on highway N-521 out of the city. Those that do though, find themselves at a magnificent 17th-century manor, tastefully refurbished as a luxury escape in splendid isolation. Decorated in a contemporary style, with a warm-hued interior, the owners have nonetheless preserved many of its early modern features. In one room that used to be a chapel, you’ll find an original fresco, while the rounded stone ceilings give rooms historic character.

Even if you aren’t staying the night, do stay for dinner. Restaurante Las Corchuelas is a memorable place to familiarize yourself with the finer points of Extremeñan cooking. We’re talking local beef with truffle sauce, or succulent slow roasted Iberican pork cheek. Dawdle after dinner on the cloistered terrace with a gin and tonic or chocolate ice cream with deliciously tart raspberry coulis.

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 111 – USD 343
Guest Rating: 8.0
Address: Contrada 521 Km 52, 100, 10005 Cáceres, Cáceres, Spain

Hotel Location

7. Castilla la Mancha — Ruta de Los Molinos

Windmills of La Mancha, Spain, destination for spain road trip
Photo| Windmills of La Mancha| GETTYIMAGES – APEXPHOTOS
Sunflower field with ancient village at background
Photo| Sunflower field with ancient village, Soria Province| GETTYIMAGES – FCAFOTODIGITAL

If you’re considering a Spain road trip (and we assume by this point in the article, that’s likely the case) it’s a given you’re going to want to chase some windmills. Specifically, we mean those enchanting whitewashed structures that were immortalized in Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote. Speeding south out of Madrid, this breathtaking drive across Spain’s arid central plains first takes you past the historic Toledo. From there, continue to the castle town of Orgaz, then Mora with its endless sea of dusty red olive groves. Catch the sunset at Cerro Calderico ridge, lined with 12 mills that have survived since the time of Cervantes.

  • Eat: What would La Mancha be without Manchego cheese? La Leyenda is one particularly flavorful variety to look out for
  • Drink: Mistela, a sweet fortified wine served as a digestif
  • Do: Tembleque, a well-preserved village known for its distinctive central square

El Patio de los Jazmines

El Patio de los Jazmines, hotel to stay for spain road trip
Photo| El Patio de los Jazmines| Provided by BOOKING.COM

El Patio de los Jazmines is a historic hotel with a novel twist. Housed in a 19th-century residence, it has all the charm of a traditional whitewashed Manchego home. Inside, the decor is whimsical. Pastel accents, floral illustrations, and wall mounted crockery give the rooms a cheerful playfulness. In particular, we love the main suite, with its vaulted ceiling and stand-alone bathtub. The swimming pool, which sits into the building’s private courtyard, is an equally pretty spot. Follow the stairs up to the second-floor terrace, and you’ll also be treated to an intimate view of the surrounding area, including some of Castilla la Mancha’s famous windmills.

Star Rating: 5*
Price: USD 86 – USD 231
Guest Rating: 9.0
Address: Calle Hermanos Quintero 17, 45700 Consuegra, Toledo, Spain

Hotel Location

Southern Spain

8. Andalucia — Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos

Olvera, Sierra de Grazalema, Cadiz Andalusia Spain
Photo| Olvera, Sierra de Grazalema| GETTYIMAGES – MARIUS ROMAN
Setenil de las Bodegas is a spectacular village embedded in the rocks in the Sierra de Cadiz, destination for spain road trip
Photo| Setenil de las Bodegas village embedded in the rocks in the Sierra de Cadiz| GETTYIMAGES – JAPATINO

Looking to take your Spain road trip off the beaten track? This stunningly pretty drive-through Spain’s striking southwest takes you under the tourist radar and through a series of breathtakingly pretty villages, known for their brilliant white facades. Loop around forested hills and through raisin and lemon orchards, stopping in sleepy settlements like lakeside Bornos. Wander past flower-laden balconies in Grazalema or stop for a stroll in Setenil de Las Bodegas, a peculiar village where the houses are dug into the mountainside.

  • Eat: Grazamela is known for its terrific goats cheese, served throughout the village
  • Drink: Sherry — the Jerez kind. A standout local producer is Luis Caballero, S. A.
  • Do: Vejer de la Frontera, a hilltop village with strong Moorish heritage and fantastic countryside views

Hotel Fuerte Grazalema

Hotel Fuerte Grazalema, hotel to stay for spain road trip
Photo| Hotel Fuerte Grazalema| Provided by BOOKING.COM

Each of Andalucia’s White Villages have its own charm, but Grazalema stands out for the sheer diversity on its doorstep. Just up the valley from the village center is this excellent ecoresort, positioned near the trailheads of 20 hiking trails and promising mountain views from each bedroom. Expect a modern setup, with colorful contemporary rooms laid out horizontally in a villa-like layout. Looking to lounge about for an afternoon? Fronting the hotel is a spacious outdoor pool deck with jacuzzi, offering gorgeous views of the valley. Hotel Fuerte Grazalema has family-friendly onsite dining. Consider using a day of your time here to divert from your itinerary — the striking mountaintop city of Ronda is just a 20 minute drive away.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 112 – USD 280
Guest Rating: 9.0
Address: Baldío de los Alamillos Carretera A-372, Km. 53, 11610 Grazalema, Andalusia, Spain

Hotel Location

9. Andalucia — Ruta de la Alpujarra de Granada

buildings in Granada
Photo| Granada, Spain| GETTYIMAGES – KIM GROSZ – EYEEM
Montefrio's famous sight, destination for spain road trip
Photo| Montefrio, province of Granada| GETTYIMAGES – JUANA MARI MOYA

A particularly romantic country drive, the Ruta is a great way to explore Andalucia’s southeast. Begin in Granada, crowned by its 9th-century Moorish palace and steeped in flamenco. Heading south, you switch east at Lanjaron and begin a slow and scenic wind through stucco settlements and rugged hill-country. Give yourself time to explore traditional villages like Bubión and Pampaneira — often lauded as Spain’s prettiest village. Near Soportújar, you’ll find O Sel Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat, open to the public from 5 to 7.30 p.m. in summer and 3.30 to 6 p.m. in winter.

  • Eat: Plato alpujarreño, a hearty platter of sausage, rich-tasting morcilla, and fried potatoes
  • Drink: Rum, a product of Granada’s historic connection to the Arab world
  • Do: Continue your Spain road trip to Cabo de Gata, a magnificent coastal reserve

Hospedería del Zenete

Hospedería del Zenete, hotel to stay for spain road trip
Photo| Hospederia del Zenete| Provided by BOOKING.COM

This palatial 4-star hotel has an important role in the surrounding region, having been the residence of the Marquis of Zenete. First built in the 15th century, many of its medieval characteristics remain apparent in the present-day structure. We love the suites, which feature princess beds and distinctive barestone walls.

Star Rating: 4*
Price: USD 85 – USD 141
Guest Rating: 8.0
Address: Carretera De La Ragua, 1, 18512 La Calahorra, Andalusia, Spain

Hotel Location

Not Sure Where to Start Your Spain Road Trip?

A street in Alpujarra, Granada
Photo| Street of Pampaneira, a village of the Alpujarra| GETTYIMAEGS – JUANA MARI MOYA

We won’t lie: deciding where to start your Spain road trip is a tough call to make. With such diverse scenery, culture, and history spread across 16,000 kilometers of highway, you can’t have all your paella and eat it. A minimum of two weeks will give you sufficient time to drive the Ruta de la Plata and explore the highlights along Spain’s northern or southern coasts. However, if you’re limited to less than that, we suggest choosing just one of the scenic drives above so you don’t have to to rush through your itinerary. After all, you want your Spain road trip to be about the journey, not the destination.

Where would you like us to explore in our next road trip article? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author

Sebastian Morgan I’m a blogger, history buff, and serious over packer, currently based in Taiwan. Eats, drinks, and destinations are my thing. When I’m not writing about those, I’m either hitting up the local hot springs or slurping down a bowl of sesame noodles. I hope to one day do both at the same time.

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