Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid!

26th Jun 2014
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 1/13 by Backpack ME
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 2/13 by Backpack ME
Casa Batlo in Barcelona
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 3/13 by Backpack ME
Clams In Malaga
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 4/13 by Backpack ME
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 5/13 by Backpack ME
"Gingerbread House" by Gaudi, in Barcelona
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 6/13 by Backpack ME
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 7/13 by Backpack ME
Christmas crowds in Madrid
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 8/13 by Backpack ME
La Sagrada Familia cathedal, Barcelona
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 9/13 by Backpack ME
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 10/13 by Backpack ME
Torrelinos Beach
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 11/13 by Backpack ME
City of Arts & Culture, Valencia
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 12/13 by Backpack ME
Rio Turia Park, Valencia
Photo of Road-trip in SPAIN: Barcelona, Andalucia & Madrid! 13/13 by Backpack ME

If you’re doing a road trip in Spain, there’s definitely a lot of things that you can do to save a bit of money. We started our trip in Barcelona and our itinerary looked as follows:

So lets start with what we learned on our road trip.

1. Take roads labelled A-7, A-5, etc. rather than roads labelled AP-7, AP-5, and so on.

Toll taxes in Spain are very high. On our first day, when we drove from Barcelona to Valencia, we ended up paying almost 30 Euros in tolls, that works out to almost 1 Euro per 10 kms! Very expensive!

This is because we took the AP7 almost all the way to Valencia. The AP stands for Autopista and that means that it is a toll road. The A stands for Autovia and these roads are free to use (and happen to be excellent as well!).

2. When choosing a place to stay, since you have a car – stay outside the city in a nearby town.

We looked for accommodation in most of the cities that we visited. However, most of the times there was no way that we could find a place for under 50 Euros. Add to that another nightmare – PARKING! Most Spanish cities do not have readily available parking spaces and this means that if you’re staying inside the city, prepare yourself for a world of pain.

In Valencia, we stayed at El Perellonet – a small seaside town 20kms outside of Valencia. Our hosts were Aurora and Paco who we found via – a pretty cool service that lets you put your extra space up for rent. The good thing about staying with them was the fact that we found parking easily and got to see another town that we would never have been to otherwise. In Granada we stayed at a small town called Albalote just 10 minutes outside Granada. Again, no parking problems and a wonderful stay. 

3. If you are renting a car, try renting over the phone.

We compared many car rental quotes from different companies (Hertz, Budget, Europcar, small local rental companies) and all of them had hidden charges. This rang especially true for the smaller companies since we wanted to rent the car in Barcelona and return it in Seville. They would want to charge a one-way-rental fee in excess of 60 Euros. Not acceptable.

So we finally decided to book at Hertz and they gave us an online quote of 120 Euros for an 8 day rental. For some reason, the online booking didn’t work so we decided to call them up.

Over the phone we got a pleasant surprise! The call center rep said that he would give us a special offer reserved only for Hertz Gold customers and would give us the car for 8 days for just 100 Euros, also the car would be upgraded to the next category! This was an amazing deal for us, naturally we took it.

Our Clio in Barcelona

So when you’re looking for a car, make sure you try giving these companies a call. You just might get lucky!

Our Clio was very comfortable and had enough space for all our stuff!

We also got an AUX cable so that we could listen to our own music along the way.

4. If you are taking the AVE, make sure you book online and take advantage of the best fares.

We went from Sevilla to Madrid by the high speed AVE. When you book with the AVE, make sure you do so online at – they usually have tickets that can run quite cheap on certain days and certain time slots. We got our ticket from Sevilla to Madrid for 58.30 EUR per person. It was a quick 2 hour ride from Seville to Madrid – very convenient.

5. Remember to take your time and take tons of pictures!

We took our time with driving. People sometimes forget that the journey is as important as the destination. The Spanish countryside is breathtaking and you should definitely pause to appreciate it. There are orchards, mountains, farms, clouds, people, and dazzling scenery! Make sure you take a minute now and then to stretch your legs and take in all the beauty around you.

Over all, Spain is a great place for road trips! You don’t get a chance to be bored while on the road – the ride is smooth as the roads are very good (even the freeways) and the ever-changing landscape is ALWAYS breathtaking. We saw mountains, green fields, orange tree plantations for Kms and Kms.

Ashray & Zara @ Backpack ME

Our Barcelona stay could have also been called “How We Met Gaudi”. We spent a big chunk of our time visiting Gaudi’s marvels, like La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. La Sagrada Familia & Park Guell For his time (and even now-a-days!) Gaudi was an architect which such a distinct style. His work is truly fascinating! La Sagrada Familia is a cathedral but could have been a set out of The Lord of the Rings. Majestic! Park Guell, on the other hand, is like Hansel & Gretel’s story in real life. This man did not like straight lines – all his buildings are curvy, intricate, just like out of story books! Apparently, he took his inspiration from Nature and as in Nature there are no straight lines, life and art should resemble exactly that.
Photo of Barcelona, Spain by Backpack ME
Valencia is a very pretty city. Horrible traffic (traffic lights every 200m!) and no parking (like many other cities in Spain). But apart from that, it is really well taken care of. Apparently, back in the day, a river used to cross the city from one end to the other. Due to regular floods, the people of the city diverted the river. Now, the space that was once the river bank is occupied by a park that extends for about 14Km. You can go from one end of the city to the other pretty much by walking or cycling along this park. There are even municipal bikes available for rental all around but for those you need to have a city card. The other thing that stands out in Valencia is the “City of Arts and Culture” which is a futuristic looking complex that includes an IMAX cinema, a museum of science, an auditorium for different events and an aquarium.
Photo of Valencia, Spain by Backpack ME
Most of the sights of historical and touristic interest in the South of Spain are connected with the Moor occupation of this lands, centuries ago. Our main interest in Granada was the Alhambra, which apparently is one of the most visited monuments in the entire country. This was, once upon a time, a village where the dominating Moors used to live and that was later taken on by the Christian rulers. The Alhambra is indeed a very charming place, being well maintained considering the high number of visitors it has each day. Something that does stand out in the Alhambra is the use of water. Water is present in the whole area, in form of decorative fountains or water canals that were meant to take the liquid to the whole village. Not only to the palaces where rulers used to live, but to everyone.
Photo of Granada, Spain by Backpack ME
We visited Malaga very briefly, mainly to enjoy a “fishy” meal by the beach. Like people tend to do in Europe when their pockets are tight, we went to a beach destination… but in the middle of December! Who cares about high season! The beach can also feel great on winter days. According to some, Torremolinos is the place that “used to be” but no longer is. But allow us to disagree. Although the majority of the people in town were old couples in search of a ray of sun (we could tell most of them were from Northern Europe) Torrremolinos is still a place that is “in” for the simple fact that it is a very pleasant sea-side town. You can easily fill your time taking walks, dipping your toes in the Mediterranean (but not much more than the toes this time of year!) and eating the typical fritura malagena, which is a traditional local dish consisting of assorted fried fresh fish.
Photo of Torremolinos, Spain by Backpack ME
If I had a postcard printing business I would probably take a lot of images in Cordoba. This city doesn’t have the Alhambra of Granada (it does have a very big alcazar with Arabic baths and all) or a cathedral as big as the one in Sevilla. But Cordoba can rely on the magic of its cobblestone roads (where it is very common to see tourists passing by in horse carts) to keep visitors satisfied. We walked around the historical area, including the patio of the cathedral, joyfully colored by orange trees full of fruit, and the Juderia, which was once upon a time the neighborhood where Jews used to live.
Photo of Córdoba, Spain by Backpack ME
If it is true that Andalucia is a beautiful region, it is also true that most big cities have somehow similar historic sights, with particular focus on a main cathedral and an alcazar (sort of palace built by the Moors and later on taken over by the Christian rulers). Sevilla was no exception. I guess as it was the last place we visited in Andalucia it did suffer from our overload of history in the previous days. But don’t let this turn you off if you plan on traveling to Southern Spain. Sevilla is well worth a visit! Not only to see its historical buildings, but also to experience its culture, in the form of Sevillanas and Flamenco music (which we didn’t get to experience live this time) or food & drinks. You can tell that people in Andalucia are generally happy folks and, being Spanish, they sure like to party! The streets are always full of people (and they say there is a big crisis going on? We couldn’t tell!) and more than once we came across folks that would start singing and clapping out of the blue.
Photo of Seville, Spain by Backpack ME
Being the capital of Spain, Madrid has a lot to offer. We didn't really spend that much time there, though, as we were flying off to Cancun soon. We signed up for a free walking tour of the main historic/touristic sights, but never woke up for it – it’s like we were living the Caribbean pace of life already! Later on, we ended up visiting the same places included in the tour, but on our own. Madrid was absolutely packed with families flooding the Christmas markets and shopping areas. Then again… where is that so-called crisis everyone is talking about?!
Photo of Madrid, Spain by Backpack ME