Our Andalucia Road Trip: Pueblos Blancos, Hiking & Secluded Beaches

The most passionate part of the southern paradise called Spain hides many secret gems. The best way to discover the most beautiful corners of Andalusia is by car! Follow the itinerary of the little Andalucia road trip we took in February 2020 and prepare for your crazy flamenco adventure! 

Andalusian countryside: from article about Andalucia roadtrip by wesolotravel

There’s never a shortage of ideas for any Andalusian road trip! If you are still surfing the waters of the crazy internet in search of some tips for your upcoming ‘Anda hols’ (a.k.a Andalusian Holidays) get inspired by a little 4-day road trip made by me & my family which happened in February 2020.

I’ll reveal the biggest secrets of where me, my bro and his wife hung out in Southern Spain. Check out the places we visited, what car we rented, where we stayed, where we parked and the things we planned to see but didn’t have time to make them happen. (These might be useful for those who have more time to travel around Andalusia than we did).

(I may also mention that we travelled through Andalusia just before the big Costa Del Sol Corona outbreak. Although we all seem to be pretty healthy two weeks from the point when the trip started, I’ll give you an update soon…It is a 2 weeks after this statement and I’m still healthy!).

A beach between Punta Paloma and Bolonia, Tarifa, Andalusia,

A secluded beach between Punta Paloma and Bolonia. February weather in Andalusia can start feeling like hot spring!

List of Contents:

What’s the Best Time for an ‘Andalucia Road Trip’?

One of the reasons why Andalusia is so popular is definitely the year-round sun of this region. Well okay, you got me here! No, the sun doesn’t shine for every one of those 365 days a year here. There are the hot, humid and sunny months (May – October) and those ‘still warm but humid and you never know when it’ll rain’ days (October – May). But, you can be lucky enough to get a great sunny holiday in Andalusia also after bikini season has ended in October.

Just as I got lucky during my mum’s visit in December when we were sweating in our winter jackets in Malaga, we got lucky with my brother and his wife’s visit (let’s just call them ‘my dears’ from now on) in February. The sun shone every day, while the temperature stayed between 17 and 23(!) degrees. The only thing which was a little bit less than perfect was a very strong wind and mist which caused worsening visibility during the first days of our trip. But it was rain and cold darkness in the rest of the Europe so we’re not complaining here!

Beautiful sunset in rural Andalusia taken near to Istan

This beautiful sunset was taken near a white village called Istan. Even though it can be warm during the day in February, the evenings and nights are chilly.

To answer the question When is the best time to visit Andalusia for a road trip’ I will just say: that depends what you want to see and do. If you fancy exploring secluded or popular beaches, taking surfing lessons or kayaking waters, or possibly camping, then go to Anda during the hot & humid season (May – October). If you plan on hiking, visiting charming Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) and nature exploring, go in Autumn, Winter or during spring and pray you get lucky with the weather. Summer is just too hot and uncomfortable for hiking or all-day nature trips. 

Where to Stay on your Andalusia Road Trip?

You have two main options over here. You can decide to find one base to stay at, from where you start out every day and where you’ll come back after your day-trip. The other option is to stay in hotels, airbnbs, or couchsurfing on the go. This would mean that you visit a place, stay overnight, then travel to another place and spend the night there.

We chose the first option mostly because I live in Andalusia and have spare space for friendly wanderers. Because of this we all saved some nice money (definitely 180 – 250 each) which we invested in petrol and food. I’ll briefly summarize all pros and cons of the both options.

Gorgeous landscapes Sierra Grazalema

Breathtaking landscapes of Sierra Grazalema

One Base & Day Trips

PROS: you have one stable place to come back to, save time on looking for multiple sleeping options, no check-in / check-out times, no boring packing and unpacking all the time, and a source of food to come back to.

CONS: more time in the car, more petrol, more fumes.

Travel & ‘Sleepover’ Trips

PROS: exploring new hotels, hostels, airbnbs; less time in the car = saved time; could be more ecological (depends where you stay and how you treat the places you stay at), etc.

CONS: stress due to constant moving, your trip is influenced by check-in and check-out times; you can’t really do proper food shopping, etc.

There is also a third and cheaper option – which is sleeping in the car or caravan, or going camping. This could work as well but bear in mind that only in summer and you’d have to look for places to take care of your hygiene (lakes, sea, camp areas). Sounds romantic!

Nature of Sierra Blanca in Andalucia

Hiking in Sierra Blanca

Our Andalusian Road Trip Itinerary

Here it is, the promised inspiration for your Andalusia road trip! My dear family couldn’t come for a longer time so we had basically just 4 full days to spend on the road and explore the natural beauties of Andalusia. However, all of those days were very intense, and made up of many stops at many amazing places. Get inspired!

A view from Mirador de Juanar

A misty view from Mirador de Juanar, Sierra Blanca

DAY 1: Hiking in Sierra Blanca and The White Village of Istán

Sierra Blanca is a mountain range located just above the popular resort of Marbella and below the bigger woodland and mountain nature park of Sierra de la Nieves. Sierra Blanca is surrounded by the white villages of Ojen and Istán and offers nice and easy hiking trails with  several ‘Miradores’ – (viewpoints) – from which to take in the scenery.

Our Impression of Sierra Blanca, Miradores and Istán

Just wicked! The journey is the destination as they say! The way up the Sierra Blanca was a wonderful experience in itself. The views you get from the car just leave you speechless. The curvy, rocky road offers you some awesome views down to the ‘world below’ – the city of Marbella, surrounding countryside and the never-ending greenery all around.

Beautiful views taken from El Coto de Istan

Beautiful views taken from El Coto de Istan

The nature at Sierra Blanca is stunning and the combination of olive fields and pine trees in the forests of the area are perfect food for your soul. Total peace and tranquility!

Points of interest of Sierra Blanca & Istán

Sierra Blanca: Mirador de Ojén 1; Mirador de Ojén 2; Hotel El Refugio del Juanar for coffee, food & possibly parking (ask nicely at the reception); Sendero Cruz de Juanar, Olivar de Juanar, Mirador de Juanar, Cruz del Juanar.

From here you can also climb up to La Concha or pop in to the white village of Ojén.  After we finished our short hike in the Sierra Blanca area, we drove to Istan where we took a nice tapas lunch and explored every corner of this beautiful pueblo blanco.

Istán: Nacimiento Del Rio Molinos, Tiro Al Plato, El Coto de Istan, Mirador Los Jarales, Mirador del Peñón.

The streets of pueblo blanco, Istan

The streets of pueblo blanco, Istán

DAY 2: A Quick Jump to Gibraltar, the UK Neighbour of Andalusia

Gibraltar is one of the UK’s sovereign overseas territories so if you feel like visiting another country and seeing slightly different fauna, flora and colonial architecture you should definitely give it a go. We visited this place mostly because I live in the only neighbouring town of Gibraltar, which is La Linea de la Concepcion.

I live literally just 10 minutes from the border between Spain and Gibraltar so it was a must-see of our trip from the very beginning. We didn’t take our car to Gibraltar so it wasn’t really a road trip but you can drive there from your Andalusian base and park either in La Linea or at any paid parking spot in Gibraltar. Just to let you know, if you plan to drive up the Rock and park there you need to have a car registered in Gibraltar.

Stunning sunset taken from the northern part of the Upper Rock, Gibraltar

Stunning sunset taken from the northern part of the Upper Rock, Gibraltar

Our impression of ‘Tour de Gibraltar’

As I’ve worked in Gibraltar for 4 years, I know the place quite well. I didn’t have to spend much time thinking where to take my lovely visitors. They both loved the Botanic Gardens and the cutest animals on Earth: the lemurs which were saved from smugglers and placed in the Alameda Wildlife park.

My brother was particularly amazed by the hike up the Mediterranean Steps (so called Med Steps) and by the military bases on the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. The weather was pretty misty and annoyingly windy (mainly at Europa point) but it got beautifully sunny later and we managed to see a pretty gorgeous sunset from the Upper Rock too. My sister-in-law was constantly bothered by the cheeky monkeys, but she loved the Rock as well.

The Mosque and the Upper rock, taken from Europa Point

The King Fahd bin Abdulaziz al-Saud Mosque and the Upper rock, taken from Europa Point

Points of interest: Walk through the Main Street; Botanical Gardens; Alameda Wildlife park; Europa point and the Mosque; Climb up the Mediterranean Steps; the Rock of Gibraltar and its points (Pillars of Hercules, O’Hara’s Battery, Windsor Suspension Bridge etc.). Don’t worry though, I’ll prepare a separate article all about Gibraltar!

Amazing view from Mediterranean steps in Gibraltar

The view from Mediterranean steps is just spectacular!

 

DAY 3: Sierra de Grazalema, Ronda, Zahara de la Sierra

It is hard to say which day was my favourite because each of them was remarkable, full of new adventures and funny stories. But if you asked me to choose without providing you the boring answer above, then I’d have to go for our Grazalema day.

Sierra de Grazalema is one of the big nature parks of Andalusia. There are uncountable things to see on its 52 hectares of land – from mountain ranges, caves, green valleys populated by cows and sheep, to lakes, rivers and rural white villages.

Zahara de la Sierra, a view from Castillo

Amazing view of Zahara-El Gastor taken from Castillo de Zahara.

Once again, the journey itself was filled with spectacular green landscapes looking like they came from a fairy-tale. On our way to the first point on our itinerary – Ronda – we stopped at several viewpoints (Miradores) to enjoy the peace of the infinite panoramas before us.

After having a coffee in one of the most popular towns in the whole of Andalusia (see here for what to do in Ronda) we headed up to Zahara de la Sierra, a small white town perched on the top of a mountain overlooking the scenic azure lake called Zahara-El Gastor.

Puente nuevo in Ronda

Ronda 🙂

Our impression of Zahara de la Sierra & Grazalema

Man, this place is unreal! I felt like I was in a postcard, I couldn’t believe all the beauty my eyes were drinking in! Even though you may choose different things to see in Andalusia you can’t skip this one!

Points of Interest in Grazalema and Surrounding Area

Ronda, Sierra de Zahara and other white villages you’ll pass through or around like Cortes de la Frontera, Benaojan, Montejaque, Acros de la Frontera on the west, etc… We didn’t have enough time to go to Grazalema itself but there are sheep and goat cheese tastings so go make a visit if you love some ‘quesito’. There are also 25 different hiking trails in Sierra de Grazalema. You can check out this article to see the best ones.

Zahara de la Sierra

DAY 4: Hiking at the Beaches of Tarifa

This was the last full day we had for our daily road trips. It was a very important and special day as well because I turned one year wiser and prettier (Or not!).

Those who follow my WeSoloTravel posts know that my very fave beach of Andalusia is Punta Paloma Beach, located in the Parque Natural Del Estrecho, right after the popular surfer beach paradises of Valdevaqueros and Lances.

Valdevaqueros beach in Tarifa

Valdevaqueros beach in Tarifa

We followed a hiking trail published on Wikiloc to Cerro de Bartolo, or at least we thought we followed it! Probably just because we decided to start the trek on the land and finish it with a walk on the beach (rather than the other way round) we reached just El Chaparral! In the end it didn’t really matter because El Chaparral gives you some stunning views as well. Just check the pictures below. It was a pure view paradise!

We also got a bit lost and wandered into the military zone where we ignorantly took a lunch break and then carried on deeper inside this prohibited area! We met a few soldiers who told us ‘the big news’ about invading their zone but they let us to leave the complex through their road instead of taking the longer way around. Such nice guys these soldiers!

Countryside of Tarifa, Andalusia

The countryside of Tarifa is just romantic!

Our Impression of The Hike

Beautiful, splendid, funny and refreshing! The aroma of the pine trees, the smell of the donkeys begging you for food and the incredible surprise when you finally reach the secluded beaches of Tarifa is just a once-in-a-lifetime experience! The area between Punta Paloma and Bolonia is astonishing! On our drive back to Linea we stopped to get some ice-cream at the cafeteria next to a viewpoint called Mirador del Estrecho.

Points of Interest of the Area

Valdevaqueros, El Chaparral, Pinar del Chaparral, Playa de Bolonia, all small beaches of the area, Punta Paloma, Valdevaqueros, Duna de Valdevaqueros, there is also a lovely canyon to check on the hike but I can’t find if it has any name.

The view from El Chaparral

The view from El Chaparral

Things we Planned to See but the Time Didn’t Allow

Africa: If you ever come down to Andalusia you should take a ferry, sailing boat or even a helicopter to check out the hot continent of Africa! We skipped it on this trip because as a person who has been to Morocco before I know that one day wouldn’t be enough to explore all the most important places, and the port of Tangier itself is not the loveliest city ever!

Nerja, Maro & Frigliana: These three were just a bit too far away from our la Linea base, although the area around Nerja is amazing! There are very good-looking beaches, bays, coasts and hiking areas, not to mention fine restaurants with stunning views over the Mediterranean sea.

Sierra de la Nieves: We planned to take at least one hike here, but in the end we headed to Sierra Blanca which is very close to the area of Nieves, so I guess we got a feel for the place anyway!

 

Secluded beach in Tarifa

A gorgeous secluded beach between Punta Paloma and Bolonia beach

Car Rental in Andalusia – Malaga Airport

My dears rented a car at Malagacar.com and everything went perfectly smoothly. After they landed they just popped into the office, showed their passports and picked up the keys. They told me it took really just a few minutes.

The rental costs were 134 euros for 6 days, and the petrol for the whole road trip was 90 euros. Their Slovakian driving licences were perfectly valid as per the Driving Licence in EU law. If you own a non-European driving licence you’ll have to do some research about your country because there might be restrictions.

Views from El Chaparral, hiking area in Tarifa

If you look closer you can see Africa! Taken in El Chaparral, Tarifa

Where Did We Park? 

We parked the rental car in La Linea de la Concepcion, where I am currently based, at the Plaza de la Constitucion parking to be more precise. I booked the place in advance through this parking app called Parclic.

We paid €52 for 5 nights. Later I realized it was a bit pricier than a regular weekly parking payment at this place (I was told it would be around €40). I booked it in advance mostly because of the safety aspect. You don’t want to come to a parking lot after travelling for 12 hours and realize there is not a single space left. Also, it was super easy with the app, a quick reservation, you get a QR code and they have also a hotline so all good in the end.

During our daily road trips we improvised a lot and were really lucky with finding free parking spots. The only paid parking was in Ronda. We parked for free in Sierra de la Nieves, Istan, Zahara de la Sierra and other nature spots. It was pretty easy, we just googled parking before our arrival or basically relied on our guts and luck!

Andalusian nature in Grazalema

Andalusian nature will steal your heart

Adios Muchachos!

I hope that my little Andalucia road trip itinerary helped you to make the big decision. There are way too many stunning places worth visiting in Andalusia. You just need to choose the path to go: historical cities, white villages, beaches, nature parks, hikes, resorts, etc. Or you can select the top option from each category and make your own itinerary! Luckily for those who need more inspiration I wrote an article about places to visit in Andalusia where you can check even more hot spots of Anda! Have fun guys!

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