Spain is a wonderful country full of sunny beaches, a sweeping countryside, stunning architecture, and delicious food and drink. The best way to see a lot of what the country has to offer is to take a road trip through the country. Spanish roads are in great shape, and really, what says summer more than a road trip with friends or family?
The thing is, planning your itinerary can be a challenge since the size of Spain is a bit deceptive—in fact, if you were to drive end to end across Spain, it would only take you about nine hours! But each region of this country has its own special flavor, so you should plan your itinerary to see as much as you can in the amount of time that you have.
Spain’s a big place, but if you’re feeling a bit lost, don’t worry—learn a few common phrases and you’ll be fine. You’ll find that locals are very friendly, and most cities will have a tourist information office that can help you out. If you’re a bit hesitant about asking for directions, that’s fine too. Even if your car doesn’t come equipped with a GPS, you can grab an app for your smartphone that will help you find your way around. Just be sure to also get a VPN on your smartphone to make sure your personal information stays secure!
Basque Country to Galicia
In the northern part of the country, you have the Basque country, home to the Basque people, who many people believe lived on the Iberian Peninsula before the Latinate Spanish people arrived. The main cities in this region are Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Vitoria, but you’ll find little gems of towns (such as Oñati) all throughout this part of the country.
From here, head west towards the coast and you’ll pass through more little towns and beautiful landscapes to eventually end up in the region of Galicia. Here, make sure to see Pontevedra, Vigo, Santiago de Compostela, and A Coruña.
Head along Spain’s eastern coast and you have the chance to see three different regions—Catalonia, Valencia, and Murcia. Start in well-known Barcelona, a city that has a couple centuries’ worth of history to explore as well as great beaches and fun shopping. Next, drive to Tarragona and see Tarraco’s UNESCO World Heritage site Roman ruins. Pass through Valencia and Alicante to eventually end up at Cartagena, which combines everything else you’ve seen in this region, from centuries-old archaeological sites to medieval fortresses to beaches. If you have a little extra time, add in Girona before you hit Barcelona—it’s a little bit further north, but it’s a favourite city of Spaniards and will show you the full range of differences between these regions.
This region, which stretches across the southern part of Spain, is unlike any other place in the country. It’s a crossroads of Spanish and Moorish culture, and as such, you’ll find plenty of interesting buildings interspersed with traditional markets and port cities. Start in Málaga, and check out Seville, Córdoba, Granada, Almería, and the Sierra Nevada mountains. This will show you the best of the beaches, cities, and mountain-scapes that the region has to offer. Make sure to try some traditional gazpacho and fried fish!
Of course, it would be amiss to skip the capital city of Madrid in a visit to Spain. There’s plenty to keep you occupied in Madrid for the duration of your stay, but if you’re looking to travel around some, it’s easy to combine a trip to Madrid with a trip around Castilla y Leon. This region is known for is medieval architecture, from castles to cathedrals and more. Obviously you’ll find plenty of history in Madrid, but head to Segovia and Salamanca for a more rustic city feel—Salamanca actually has some of the most beautiful Renaissance architecture in all of Europe!
Of course, you could spend years in Spain and not see it all—even if you hit all the spots in this list, you’d probably find yourself wishing you had more time to explore! This magical country has many different regional cultures, and no matter what your travel interests are, there’s something for you! Drive around and check out the differences in foods, flavours, and fiestas, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time.