The 10 best day trips from Málaga

Interested in the best day trips from Málaga? We visited many destinations near Málaga and can easily recommend to you the best places to go. Málaga is a wonderful city trip destination in the south of Spain, but it is also perfectly located to explore the rest of Andalusia. Located on the Spanish coast and in the heart of Andalusia, all the highlights of southern Spain can be reached within half an hour to a maximum of two hours driving from Málaga. From bucket list destinations like Seville and Córdoba to extraordinary sights and natural areas off the beaten track, you can visit them all on a day trip from Málaga in Spain!

Read more: the best tips for Andalusia.

Palacio de Viana in Cordoba

Where is Málaga and how to get around?

Málaga is located in the far south of Spain, in the heart of the Andalusia region. The city is located on the coast and combines lovely sandy beaches with a beautiful historic city center full of sights.

Málaga has its own international airport, making the city well connected with most European cities and further destinations. There are more international airports in Andalusia, like the one in Seville. But in our experience, it’s easier to find cheap flights to Málaga is one of the cheaper destinations to fly to. Tickets to Seville are usually quite pricey, but it is easy to find Málaga tickets with low-budget airlines.

This makes Málaga the best starting point for a road trip around Andalusia. If you don’t like hopping from one hotel to another and prefer to have one home base, Málaga should be your first choice. It has a central location in the heart of Andalusia with almost all well-known destinations in this Spanish region within a short drive.

Although the more famous destinations in southern Spain can be reached by public transport, we recommend you get a rental car in Málaga. Though you’ll probably be able to find a rental car on the spot, you can easily arrange one online in advance with the international airport as a convenient pick-up point. We did this ourselves and loved how we could start exploring Andalusia right away shortly after landing! A rental car will bring you much faster to the great Spanish destinations in this area than public transport. And with less travel time on your day trips, you’ll have more time to enjoy the highlights of Andalusia.

Seville Metropol Parasol

The 10 best day trips from Málaga

#1 Ronda (1.5 hours)

Although Ronda is not big at all, it is one of the most popular places to visit in Andalusia. It is a typical pueblo blance – a charming village with white-washed houses – but this one has a very special location. Ronda is located on a rocky plateau, or actually two plateaus that are separated by a deep gorge. Across that gorge is a monumental bridge which is one of the most iconic sights of southern Spain.

Although the town has few major attractions, it is a treat to wander through the old streets with white houses. There are many viewpoints for great views from the rock plateau over the area or along the canyon for the best view of the famous bridge. We can also highly recommend you to take the stairs down, as the best view of the Ronda bridge is from down in the gorge. You’ll clearly see how high and steep the edges of the rock plateau of Ronda are.

Ronda Andalusia

#2 The Via Verde de la Sierra (2 hours)

One of the best day trips from Málaga is a visit to the Via Verde de la Sierra. This is one of Spain’s many Via Verdes, which translated to ‘Green Roads’. They are old railway tracks that are no longer in use and have therefore been converted into walking and cycling paths. Not far from Málaga is one of the most beautiful of green roads, the Via Verde de la Sierra.

While the mountainous landscape in this part of Spain normally means steep climbs and sharp descents by bike, the Via Verde de la Sierra is mostly flat. Engineers built a flat railway with dozens of tunnels and viaducts, although a train has never run here. The entire route is 37 kilometers long and runs between the old Puerto Serrano and Olvera stations. Halfway is the small station Coripe. All stations have facilities like a (electric) bike rental, car park and restaurant. Besides those stations, there are no villages or towns along the Via Verde. It’s just you on your bike and the beautiful views of the mountains.

The highlight of the cycling route are mountain tunnels. During your trip, you will cross dozens of tunnels. The longer tunnels have lights that come on as soon as you enter the tunnel. Some are so long that you can’t see the end of it when entering the tunnel, but others are only a few meters. The longest tunnel at the Via Verde de la Sierra is a kilometer long!

It’s not possible to return rental bicycles at another station then were you picked them up. So you’ll have to cycle the same way bike, unfortunately. We therefore chose to ride only half of the Via Verde, so to the Coripe station. Coripe makes a wonderful place for a break with its large picnic area and the Chaparro de la Vega, a beautiful 700-year-old oak. This charming area is also used by campers to spend the night and so did we with our camper van. One of the largest viaduct and tunnel are at Coripe as well, so we highly recommend you to make it at least this far.

Via Verde de la Sierra
Via Verde de la Sierra

#3 Granada and the Alhambra palace (1.5 hours)

Granada’s many sights make this historic city one of the highlights of southern Andalusia. The city is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada and is full of tourist attractions with always those snow-capped mountain peaks in the background.

Read more: 10 best things to do in Granada.

The palace complex of Alhambra is one of the most famous and most visited historical monuments in the world. The Alhambra is best known for its Moorish architecture with beautiful arches, chapels and gardens. The murals and mosaics in the palace complex are very impressive. Alhambra is one of the best-preserved Moorish monuments in the world and a must-visit in southern Spain.

But the old town is also packed with other sights and interesting neighborhoods. You shouldn’t miss the Granada cathedral. It was constructed on the site of an old mosque that was used during Moorish times. The mosque was demolished and replaced by a Christian building, when the Catholics conquered the city. Although the result is one of the largest cathedrals in Spain, the construction was never completely finished. In the original design, the cathedral was supposed to have two impressive towers. There is now only one tower and another half-finished one. The enormous building does not really come into its own in the crowded El Centro, where it’s almost completely surrounded by buildings. Make sure to walk around the cathedral to admire all sides.

We also highly recommend visiting the Albaicin and Sacromonte districts. Albaicin is located on a hill and is the oldest part of Granada. It is a beautiful and picturesque neighborhood that is best explored by simply wandering through the maze of narrow streets. This area is on the UNESCO World Heritage List for a reason! The steep streets are paved with river stones, colorful plants grow along the walls and in the squares are filled with playing children and local music. Albaicin also offers the best views of the Alhambra, as the palace is located on the hill next to the Albaicin hill.

The gipsy district Sacromonte is located next to Albaicin, more further away from the old town of Granada. It is famous for its unique cave houses. The gipsies built their homes in caves and created cave houses. Some caves even have been transformed into bars or a supermarket. Sacromonte is known for its nightlife with its flamenco shows and cave bars. The district is home to the most flamenco schools and shows, which is one of the best attractions of Granada.

#4 The pueblos blancos of Andalusia (1-2 hours)

Andalusia is known for its picturesque white-washed villages – called pueblos blancos in Spanish – and visiting one or two should definitely be on your Spanish bucket list. Many of them have become popular tourist attractions because of their photogenic and charming cityscape and several of those are close to Málaga. We visited dozens of those iconic pueblo blancos and highly recommend visiting a few on a day trip from Málaga.

One of the more off the beaten track, but equally charming villages is Montejaque. The pueblo blanco is located on the edge of the Sierra de Grazalema nature reserve and has a beautiful location in the mountains. Only few tourists visit the village, so you can still enjoy the authentic Spanish village life. On Thursdays there is a small market, on weekends the terraces are full of locals and every street has a cozy atmosphere. This picturesque village is nestled in the mountains, so be sure to visit the two viewpoints for the most beautiful views of Montejaque!

Near Montejaqua are also the two white-washed villages Zahara de la Sierra and Grazalema, both located in the Sierra de Grazalema nature reserve. Zahara de la Sierra is situated on a hilltop right next to a bright blue reservoir. At the top is the old castle that dates back to the time of the Moors. At the feet of the hill is the white village with its charming squares and photogenic streets. It is often called one of the most beautiful villages in Spain and you’ll immediately understand that when wandering the historic streets. Grazalema is located near Zahara, in the heart of the national park and surrounded by rugged nature and mountains. Grazalema offers beautiful views over the surrounding nature and mountains, but the village itself is absolutely worth a visit. There are no specific must-see sights. Grazalema, like most pueblos blancos in Andalusia, is all about picturesque streets, squares, vistas, whitewashed houses and historic buildings.

Another highlight is Setenil de las Bodegas, one of the more popular villages in southern Spain. This village has the typical white-washed houses, historic atmosphere and picturesque streets. But it also has a unique and stunning location! In the mountainous environment, which is sweltering in the summer, the residents of Setenil came up with the perfect solution: houses in and against the mountain walls. They created a unique cave house village, located in a gorge between two mountainsides. Setenil de las Bodegas still has many of those cave houses and mountainside houses, making this one of the more unique pueblo blancos to visit on a day trip from Málaga.

You might also love to visit the atypical blue village of Júzcar. It was once a pueblo blanco, but it no longer has those white-washed buildings. This village turned blue to create the film set for The Smurfs movie! All buildings were painted in some shade of blue. When the movie was finished, the residents kept the blue color, as it turned out to attract more visitors than the white-washed look the village had before. You can still visit Juzcar and wander around a bizarre streetscape with houses, churches, restaurants and shops in all shades of blue.

A last recommendation is the picturesque pueblo blanco Ojén, near the coastal town of Marbella. It is not very well known with tourists, though Spanish people know it from anise liqueur, aguardiente. As it is still one of the more off-the-beaten-track destinations, Ojén has a more authentic atmosphere than other villages might have. Ojén is located in the mountains north of Marbella and is a somewhat cooler destination in the Costa del Sol. Nearby you can also enjoy lovely hikes in the Refugio de Juanar which we can highly recommend. Especially the short hike to a mountain top for a phenomenal view over Marbella and the coast.

Viewpoint Montejaque Andalusia

#5 Seville (2.5 hours)

Seville is one of the most popular places in Andalusia and it is also our personal favorite in the south of Spain. The city combines a wonderful climate – with pleasant temperatures even in winter – with a beautiful historic city center. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its maze of streets, ancient city walls, flamenco theatres, arches, churches, squares, monuments and palaces.

A city usually has its sight concentrated around a cathedral, central square or castle, but Seville is different. There is not just small section with historic buildings. The splendor of Seville seems to never stop! The city has one of the largest historical centers in the world and there is so much to see and admire. From the Visigoths to the Romans to the Islamic Moors to the Christian monarchs, they all left their mark and created one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The Islamic Moors in particular have enriched Seville into the monumental city it still is today. The architecture of the Moors from North Africa was unprecedentedly refined, developed and large-scale.

One of the famous highlights of Seville is Real Alcazar de Seville, the royal palace with its lush gardens and beautiful Moorish architecture. Right next to it is the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede. It is one of the largest churches in the world – only St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London are bigger. The cathedral was once built as a mosque and the famous Giralda Tower will probably remind you of an Islamic minaret. You can climb this tower for the best view of the city.

Other great things to do in Seville on this day trip are the 160-meter-wide Plaza de España with its beautiful architecture and mosaics, the lively Jewish quarter and the modern architecture of the Metropol Parasol with beautiful views from the roof. Make sure you start your day trip as early as possible to be able to spend as much time in the city as possible because Seville can keep you entertained for many hours or even days.

Plaza de Espana in Seville

#6 The Caminito Del Rey (1 hour)

A special highlight in Andalusia is the Caminito del Rey, about half an hour’s drive from Málaga. This unique mountain walk along steep cliffs offers you spectacular views during a short hike of 7.5 kilometers that is suitable for almost every age and condition.

The route is a hundred years old and was once built between two hydroelectric power stations. When the path was no longer used, it fell into disrepair and the path continued to crumble along the cliffs. What remained was one of the most dangerous hikes in the world. It was forbidden to go here, but that didn’t stop the real daredevils, resulting in a number of deaths. The path has now been restored and is open to the public. It is now 100% safe to do this walk and we highly recommend to go here on a day trip from Málaga.

road trip southern spain | caminito del rey andalusia

#7 Cordoba (2 hours)

Córdoba is another bucket list destination you can easily visit from Málaga on a day trip. Córdoba is famous for its beautiful architecture, unique mosque-cathedral and charming historic center. The cities of Andalusia are known for their unique architecture combining Moorish and Christian influences. And Córdoba is no exception. Or perhaps this city is the best example!

The most famous tourist attraction in the city is the Mezquita, a unique mix between mosque and church. Towering over the city skyline, the tower of the Mezquita makes sure you won’t miss this highlight during your visit. If you walk into the Mezquita itself, a beautiful spectacle awaits you. You can see the famous columns with their red and white arches as far as you can see! On the edges are Christian chapels, but the largest Christian addition to the old Moorish mosque is the cathedral in the heart of the colonnaded forest.

But Córdoba is not just about the mosque-cathedral. Its historical centre is big enough to entertain you for days. The maze of ancient streets, the picturesque alleys, beautiful monuments and photogenic vistas will make you want to bring out your camera every few seconds. The old town is extremely beautiful and picture-perfect.

The most beautiful sights in Córdoba are the old castle Alcazar with its extensive gardens, the Jewish quarter with narrow streets, the monumental Roman bridge and the fairytale Palacio de Viana. The city is also known for its patios, the inner courtyards of the old Córdoba houses. There is even an annual festival that revolves around these typical courtyards of Córdoba’s residential houses. You can visit many of these patios during the festival, but luckily some of them are also opened the rest of the year. You can find those patios in Calle de San Basilio at numbers 17, 20 and 44.

Alcazar Cordoba

#8 The Castillo Monumento Colomares (40 minutes)

This fairytale castle is a somewhat odd tourist attraction. The castle is located on the Costa del Sol with sea views, not far from Málaga. Or castle? It’s more of a fantasy building. Or a monument.

It was built between 1987 and 1994 in honor of the famous explorer Columbus. The eccentric owner built the castle all by himself and incorporated all kinds of references to Columbus and his discovery of America in the strange building. All kinds of architectural styles are reflected in the castle. There are stained glass windows, a pagoda, the bow of a ship, fairytale towers and Gothic decorations. The Castillo Monumento Colomares is therefore an extremely odd and out of place, but also beautiful creation.

The entrance is only € 2.50. The castle is not particularly large and you cannot visit it from the inside, so a short visit should be enough to enjoy this attraction. It is less than half an hour’s drive from Málaga.

#9 El Torcal de Antequera (1 hour)

Less than an hour north of Málaga is one of the most beautiful pieces of nature in Andalusia. The Natural Park El Torcal de Antequera combines beautiful mountains with special rock formations. You can enjoy beautiful walks and several hiking routes have been set out through the park.

The unique limestone formations make El Torcal a special mountain area. You can simply visit the two viewpoints – they are also accessible for wheelchairs and prams – near the visitor center. But we recommend you to make one of the three hikes in the park. The green route is 1.5 kilometers long, the yellow route is 3 kilometers and the orange route is 3.6 kilometers. The orange one is a linear route, so you will have to walk back the same distance.

We would recommend the yellow route which took us about 2 hours though the route is only 3 kilometers. The short hike involves a lot of scrambling over rocks and passing narrow gorges, though we wouldn’t say this hike is hard. We probably mainly took this long because of the many stops to take in the beautiful views and observe the Spanish ibex from up close. This short hike is definitely one of the highlights of Andalusia and we highly recommend it for a day trip from Málaga.

El Torcal de Antequera

#10 Nerja and Frigiliana (50 minutes)

Nerja and Frigiliana are beautiful towns on the Costa del Sol, which you can visit on a day trip from Málaga. The towns are close to each other and with only a 50-minute drive from Málaga, both are definitely worth visiting as a day trip.

Nerja is located east of Málaga on the Spanish coast. It is a touristy destinations with a few charming streets, but above all a lot of shops and tourists. The main attraction of Nerja is the Balcon de Europa viewpoint. From there you have beautiful views over the mountains, beaches and sea around Nerja. This viewpoint is a popular spot in Nerja, but we didn’t find it particularly spectacular. We especially liked wandering through the cozy streets and the many sunny terraces. Also highly recommended is the special aqueduct Acueducte de Aguila, which is located just outside the city. The 40-meter high aqueduct was built more than a hundred years ago to transport water to the old sugar factory and is still a sight to behold.

Frigiliana is a small and charming mountain village, just 10 kilometers north of Nerja in the mountains. It is one of the typical pueblos blancos of the Andalusia region and is often called the most beautiful village in Spain. The town is located at an altitude of 400 meters and has beautiful white streets. The pebbles on the streets, the pots with colorful plants along the facades and the white houses make the village a beautiful picture. We loved strolling through Frigiliana and looking up the viewpoints for a beautiful view over the white mountain village. Make sure your camera is fully charged, because Frigiliana is very photogenic and every street corner is worth a picture.

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