If you are in Spain over a long weekend or a significant holiday, expect to see a huge exodus from the large towns and cities as the locals make the trip back to their ancestral villages in the mountains and along the coast. It’s a time for fresh air, elaborate family meals and spending quality time with relations and old friends. If you’d like to experience this too, why not embark on one of our suggested Short Roadtrips in Spain and discover rural life in Spain’s charming villages.
Short Roadtrips in Spain to Charming Villages & Towns
We’ve planned seven distinct itineraries for you that begin in the cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, Santander and Bilbao and bring you to dozens of places where slow food dominates the menu and quality of life is taken for granted. Almost all of the villages and towns we recommend are members of a network called The Most Beautiful Villages in the World – of which there are currently 68 member villages in Spain and all are perfect for Short Roadtrips in Spain.
Short Roadtrips in Spain #1 The Pyrenees
Spending time in Barcelona but want to take a few days off the beaten track? Pick up a hire-car and head NW to the province of Huesca in the Pyrenees. Aim to arrive in Alquézar for lunch (2.5 hrs drive from Barcelona), and spend the night in Aínsa (an hour from Alquezar). The next morning drive 2 hrs to Ansó for lunch and spend the night 90 mins away in SOS del Rey Católico in Zaragoza. Drive back to Barcelona (400km away) or spend a night in nearby Pamplona or Zaragoza before heading back to the Catalan capital. (If this sounds like the right trip for you – why not check out our handy guides on what to see in Gaudi’s Barcelona, plus our guide to Zaragoza’s mudejar architecture?)
Short Roadtrips in Spain #2 The Mediterranean
Want to experience life near Spain’s Mediterranean coastline? Fly into Valencia and drive 1 hour north to Vilafamés, (which is right beside Benicassim famous for its international music festival). Spend the night one hour north, in Peñíscola on the coast. The next day, make a day-trip inland to Morella which is 80 mins away. Spend a second might in Peniscola and drive the 2 hours back to Valencia on the third day. (Before you travel, read our guide to Valencia’s famous paella and where to enjoy it here).
Short Roadtrips in Spain #3 Andalusia Calling
Visiting Seville? Hire a car and drive the 1hr40mins to Grazalema for lunch and spend the afternoon and night in nearby Ronda. The next day drive 2 hours to Frigiliana for lunch. Spend the afternoon and evening in nearby Nerja – at the parador overlooking the coast. On Day Three, drive 1hr20mins to Capileira, the first of three villages (the other two are Pampaneira and Bubion) which are right beside each other in the Sierra Nevada. Spend the night in Granada (90 mins away) at the wonderful parador – and visit the Alhambra the following morning. When you’re ready to leave, it’s just 3 hrs to Seville or 90 mins to Malaga’s many museums. (Can’t decide? Read our guide to Must See Andalusia and tips for visiting the Alhambra.)
Short Roadtrips in Spain #4 West of Madrid towards Portugal
Spending time in Madrid city but want to see the countryside too? Head NW to Castile Leon – the region with the highest density of charming villages in Spain. We have a real soft spot for the university city of Salamanca and but we also recommend visiting some of the province’s outstanding villages such as Miranda del Castanar, Mogarraz and La Alberca, (which are just 20 km apart – although these roads are country roads). The next day explore Ledesma (75 mins drive from La Alberca) or go straight to Salamanca city (60 mins from La Alberca) or head for Ciudad Rodrigo (40 mins) and its charming castle and parador before crossing into Portugal. (Read our guide to the Centro Region of Portugal and Portugal’s first parador (just 80 mins from Ciudad Rodrigo!)
Short Roadtrips in Spain #5 South of Madrid towards Extremadura
Charming Chinchon is less than an hour’s drive from Madrid and perfect for a Sunday drive and lazy lunch. If you wish to see more in Castilla La Mancha, drive south for 2 hours to Almagro and Villanueva de los Infantes. If you’re enjoying being behind the wheel – after an overnight in Almagro, carry on to Extremadura (2 hrs 30) and enjoy the stunning town of Guadelupe and Trujillo which are just one hour apart. Head back to Madrid from Trujillo which is a little over 2 hours drive. For more, read our guides to Extremadura, to Madrid City and more day trips from Madrid.
Short Roadtrips in Spain #6 Green Spain
Fly or get the train or ferry to Santander – the capital of Cantabria and drive to Santillana del Mar and check into the charming Parador at Santillana del Mar. Spend a day exploring the caves and cave art in nearby Altamira and Puente Viesgo. Drive to the charming Lierganes (30 mins from Santillana) for a walk over the Roman bridge and the obligatory chocolate con churros. The next day, drive one hour inland to Barcena Mayor and enjoy a lunch of wild boar stew. Work it off with a walk in the nearby country trails. The next day head west to Asturias and explore Lastres – 70 mins from Santillana. Have a break in Comillas to see the Capricho de Gaudi and in San Vicente de la Barquera to enjoy the views of the Picos de Europa from the beach. (For more background reading, check out our guide to Cantabria’s impressive cave art, plus our many other posts on Cantabria and Asturias.)
Short Roadtrips in Spain #7 The Rioja Wineries
Fly into Bilbao in the Basque Country (or drive over from Cantabria) and head for the walled town of Laguardia (90 mins from Bilbao). Enjoy the day visiting two nearby wineries such as Marques de Riscal and Ysios – as well as one of the traditional wineries underneath Laguardia such as El Fabulista. The next day drive 25 mins to Briones to experience the wonderful winery museum (part of our post on Wineries with Art). After a wonderful meal in the town, head on 20 mins to Sajazarra. Return to Bilbao (60 mins) or drive over to San Sebastian – just 2 hours from Sajazarra. (For more, read our expert guide to Laguardia and the Rioja Alavesa region, our award-winning guide to the Rioja region, and our guides to the cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian).
Want more advice and tips before embarking on any of these short roadtrips in Spain? Check out our 50 Tips to Driving in Spain & Portugal, our guide to Driving the Camino de Santiago, and our previous guide with a whopping 12 Roadtrips in Spain. If you don’t drive, check out the benefits of hiring a private driver in Spain, and read up about Travelling by High-Speed Train in Spain.