Ever dreamt of seeing mountains ranges, pristine beaches, and vast cultural riches of Moorish, Jewish, and Catholic inspired architectures in one place? Then going to Andalusia Spain-Portugal roadtrip is the best way to make these dreams come true. Andalusia is a region in the South of Spain that is considered the warmest place in Europe. This region faces the Mediterannean sea in the South East and is close to the Atlantic Ocean in the West (on the way to Portugal). Going to Andalusia Spain-Portugal by roadtrip is very easy. While driving you can enjoy beautiful views of the coast on one side and of the mountain on the other side. In addition to the wonderful roadtrip experience that this region has to offer, Andalusia is famous for cultural and historical heritages. These include for example the flamenco dances, bull fighting, tapas, and famous histories.
If you are planning to go on a vacation, it would be best to take enough time since you will surely get captivated with the place. For instance, we had met an American woman in our hotel in Granada, who only planned to stay for two months but ended up living in Granada for more than half a year! Her heart was captured by the lifestyle and relaxness of the region. My family and I can understand her because we also want to stay longer, but unfortunately we have to go back to Wageningen, Netherlands, which is by the way also a very nice place in Europe. (Interested for more info about Wageningen, see my blog Why Wageningen Netherlands is special?).
Car rental for Andalusia Spain-Portugal roadtrip
If you fly from any part of the world going to South of Spain or Portugal, doing a roadtrip is the best way to experience this region. Renting a car in Andalusia Spain or in Portugal is easy and allows you to explore the beautiful coastal road of these two countries. You will notice that renting a car in Spain and in Portugal is cheaper as compared to renting a car in other European countries such as in France, Belgium, Germany, or Netherlands. Requirements are also less strict and are as follow: (1) Atleast one year (other European countries require two!) of driving experience; and (2) Having a credit card. If you are less than 21 years old, you have to pay a little bit more than a relatively older driver. There are many international car companies that offer car rental such as Hertz, Dollar, Alamo, and Europcar to name a few. Of course it is also possible to rent via local car rental providers, just clarify the rental prices in order to avoid unnecessary surprises in the end. There is also a possibility to pick-up the rented car in one city and drop it off to another city, with extra charge. This is what we did during our trip since we have a different point of arrival and departure. During our roadtrip, we rented via Dollar car rental (also part of Hertz). We read some reviews of this rental company before booking our rental car. Many previous customers received unrequested car upgrade from Dollar car rental, which is convenient if you travel as family with luggage. But at the same time, it is inconvenient if you bring the car inside the city, due to narrow roads and little parking space. As expected, we also received an upgrade of our rented car, which was nice since the car was extremely fuel efficient.
Once you get your rented car, congratulations! Time to experience this beautiful region. A warning though, it could be challenging to drive inside the cities. Rotonda’s have two to three lanes with traffic lights inside the rotonda, and often there are many cars driving around. Parking inside the city is also very challenging therefore, it is best to park on a remote area of the main city to avoid traffic, to enjoy more free spaces, and to park freely! Driving outside the city gives a different experience and beautiful view. The rural and coastal road has less traffic. You will pass by desert, coastal, and mountainous regions. Just a perfect sight for a roadtrip!
Andalusia Spain-Portugal roadtrip route
Below you’ll find a sample itinerary for your Andalusia Spain-Portugal roadtrip vacation. This route is from East to West (Granada Spain to Lagos or Albufeira Portugal), but it is also possible to do the trip the other way around (Lagos or Albufeira Portugal to Granada Spain), which we did during our vacation.
1. Granada Spain
Granada is a beautiful city in the South of Spain. It was once the central power of mix Islam and Jewish, two cultures living in harmony together, bringing Granada into the heights of its glory. This changed during the 15th century when Granada subsided to Catholic power under the rule of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela. Within the city you will find many architectures with the mix of Islamic, Jewish, and Catholic symbols. Of course, Granada boasts the magical Alhambra Palace – a very popular place among tourists. Alhambra Palace is listed in UNESCO World heritage sites, in addition to Albayzin (Moorish neighborhoods) and Generalife (a villa or summer palace of Sultans overlooking the Alhambra Palace) of Granada. If you want to know more about Granada, read my blog Granada Spain: Experience Grandeur.
2. Malaga Spain
Malaga is located in the Southwest of Granada, around one hour and 30 minutes drive by car. It is a very populous place in Andalusia, second to Seville. Malaga is very rich in history since it is considered as one of the oldest cities of Europe. The Phoenician civilization founded the place in 770 BC. Just like the other main cities of Andalusia, Malaga is rich in Moorish and Catholic architectures, cultural festivals such as Holy week, tapas, live flamenco shows, and cultural foods such as espetos and seafoods. Malaga also has beautiful beaches since this city is situated in front of the Costa del Sol beach facing the Mediterranean sea. Antequerra, which is at the crossroads of Malaga and Cordoba, and Seville and Granada, is known as the Heart of Andalucia and is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage sites.
3. Cordoba Spain
Cordoba is located on top of Malaga and is around two hours drive by car. This province (and a city) is also considered one of the oldest settlements of civilizations on earth. Cordoba was on the height of its glory after the Moorish (or Islamic conquest). Around 300 mosques and numerous palaces and public places were built rivalling the splendors of Constantinople, Damascus, and Baghdad. Among these four places, Cordoba best survived the test of time. The oldest Roman bridge can be found in Cordoba along the Guadalquivir river, which has the main port in Seville. Cordoba has also been rich with Islamic history since this province has been under the rules of caliphates, emirates, and sultans. Similar to Granada, this place also fell in the hand of Christians through the Kingdom of Castille, Spain in 1236. The UNESCO World heritage sites of Cordoba include the Mezquita and its historic centre.
4. Seville Spain
Seville Spain is located in the east side of Cordoba, which is less than two hours drive by car Seville is also a city that you should not miss when in Andalusia Spain. Similar to the first three cities (Granada, Malaga, and Cordoba), many of the architectures in Sevilla are also considered as UNESCO World Heritage sites. They are the Cathedral, Alcazar, and Archivio de Indias. Seville is rich in Moorish influences, Spanish cultures of tapas and flamenco dances, and various kid friendly places. For more information about Seville Spain, see my blog Sevilla Spain: Enjoy winter holidays.
5. Faro Portugal
Faro Portugal is a city on the west of Seville Spain. Going to Faro Portugal from Sevilla Spain is 2 hours drive by car. It is also possible to go by bus since there is a direct bus on a daily basis between the two cities. The architectures of Faro, though may not be as spectacular as the ones in Sevilla, still offer many interesting histories. Faro is closed to beautiful beaches and offers many beach activities such as snorkeling, island hopping, and boat touring which make a stay for family, group of friends, or couples more enjoyable. For more information about Faro Portugal, refer to my blog Faro Portugal: Spend winter holidays.
6. Albufeira Portugal
Albufeira is in the further west of Faro, Portugal. It takes around 30 minutes to reach this place by car, or less than an hour by train. This place is very popular among tourists especially the young ones. There are many bars, hotels, and restaurants in front of its open and wide beaches. The views from both city and beaches offer spectacular sights of rock formations and architectures built on top of these rocks.