Malaga is an excellent destination for those looking to escape cold weather and step into the sun. However, after staying in this city for a while, you may be ready to take a day trip! Here’s the good news: Malaga’s location makes it an easy drive to many of Andalusia’s top destinations. In less than two hours, you could be standing in front of the famous Alhambra. On the other hand, maybe you’d rather experience Spain’s adorable white towns. With so many options, it may be hard to choose, especially if you’re short on time. So, let’s break it down! Here are the best options for day trips from Malaga, Spain. We’ll start with some of the closer options, ending with a day trip from Malaga to Morocco.
A trip to Frigiliana will have you questioning: am I in Spain or Greece? Plus, this white-washed village is only about a 50-minute drive from Malaga. If you only have time to see one of Andalusia’s white towns, I’d highly recommend this one. In fact, the Spanish Tourism Authority voted Frigiliana the “prettiest village in Andalusia”. As this town sits on a hill, you’ll arrive at the newer, lower section of Frigiliana. To see the Moorish neighborhood (the older section), you’ll have to climb a few stairs! With this in mind, I’d urge you to pack comfortable walking shoes. Furthermore, it’s important to note that you cannot make your way to the upper neighborhood by car (or if you can, you probably don’t want to try). Since Frigiliana is such a small town, it should only take a few hours to wander, buy souvenirs, and grab some lunch. Additionally, if you have extra time, consider stopping by Nerja on your way back to Malaga.
Nerja is considered the crowning jewel of Spain’s Costa del Sol due to its popularity as a beach escape for European families. To experience the best beaches in the area, head to Playa de Burriana, Playa de Maro, or La Caleta de Maro. Although the coast is a big draw, this town also has another considerable tourist attraction: the Caves of Nerja. The Cueva de Nerja is a series of enormous limestone caverns that you can visit and explore. I recommend paying a few extra euros to go on a guided tour! Afterward, check out the Balcón de Europa at sunset. This balcony is situated on top of a rocky promontory next to the coast, making it the ideal spot in Nerja for panoramic views. Although this beach town is quite small, there are plenty of things to do in Nerja. If you only have a day, spend it at the beach. Another great idea is to pair Nerja with Frigiliana for a day trip!
Córdoba is my favorite day trip from Malaga, as I think it’s often overlooked as a tourist destination. The fastest way to reach Córdoba is by high-speed train, which will take about 50 minutes. Interestingly enough, driving this distance will take about twice the amount of time. Once there, the main attractions you’ll want to see are the Mezquita (pictured above) and the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. If you arrive early enough, entrance to the Mezquita is free from 8:30-9:30 every morning, Monday-Saturday. Afterward, head to the Jewish Quarter to see one of Córdoba’s prettiest streets, Calleja de las Flores, before making your way to the Alcázar. If you happen to be in Spain during May, you won’t want to miss Córdoba’s Patio Festival. During the first two weeks of the month, the city’s residents decorate their homes with an eye-catching amount of flowers for this competition.
A day trip from Malaga to Granada might be the most popular option among tourists. This acclaim is because of one fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site: The Alhambra! Originally a small fortress, the Alhambra eventually became the site of the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. These monarchs conquered Granada in 1492 as part of the Reconquista. Surprisingly, instead of knocking down the Alhambra, they chose to convert it into a Renaissance palace. In later years, the Alhambra was neglected and fell into disrepair. However, upon its re-discovery by scholars in the 19th century, the palace was restored to much of its former glory. In the present, it is one of the most visited attractions in Spain. If the Alhambra is at the top of your list, make sure to book a day trip with entrance tickets included! It’s often difficult to buy tickets to this attraction at the last minute.
You may have heard of Gibraltar before, most likely because of its adorable monkey population! Although no one can say for sure how Barbary macaques came to live in this area, they certainly are a massive attraction for tourists. Especially if you’ll be traveling with family, Gibraltar is an excellent option for a day trip from Malaga. With activities like riding the cable car to the top of the rock, exploring a cave, and seeing these monkeys all over, kids will particularly enjoy Gibraltar. Driving or taking a bus from Malaga to Gibraltar on your own can be quite complicated. Therefore, the easiest option is to book a day trip with a tour company. Be aware when traveling to Gibraltar that you are leaving the country and will need your passport. The only exceptions are EU nationals, which will only need a valid national identity card.
A day trip to Marbella provides a quick and easy option to see another area of the Costa del Sol. Often considered a more expensive destination, Marbella offers stunning beaches, upscale shopping, golf, and bustling nightlife. Plus, Marbella maintains its beach town charm with a quaint Old Town area. Here, you’ll find many tapas bars, coffee shops, and boutiques among the flower-lined streets. Plaza de los Naranjos is particularly emblematic of this area of town, where you can often find live music and locals hanging out. One of the best things to do in Marbella is to hit the beaches on the “Golden Mile“. This strip of coast stretches out over 3 miles and is a popular spot for vacationers. For a possible celebrity sighting, head to Puerto Banús. This marina at the end of the Golden Mile has become the perfect place to find anything upscale. Don’t be surprised by the number of yachts and high-end cars in this area! Looking for accommodations? Check out this guide on where to stay in Marbella.
7. MIJAS PUEBLO
Although Mijas Pueblo is quite small, I mention it right after Marbella because you could do both in one trip! Mijas is a white-washed Andalusian village that sits perched on a hillside. For this reason, the drive up is stunning, with the white houses popping out amongst all the green. The actual Mijas Pueblo section represents the historical center. To see some of the best views the town has to offer, head to the Parque La Muralla. From this park, you’ll be able to see the countryside as well as the Mediterranean in the distance. So, don’t forget your camera! If you’d like to sit and people watch, you’ll enjoy the Plaza de la Constitución. Then, for a great lunch spot with a spectacular view, you won’t want to miss El Compas restaurant on Avenida de Compas.
If you’re hoping to see the most storybook-like villages in Spain, you won’t want to miss Ronda. This mountaintop town is located above the El Tajo Gorge, with the famous Puente Nuevo separating Ronda into two sections. With all of the dramatic views one can find in Ronda, it’s no surprise that artists and writers alike have flocked to this village for inspiration. In fact, Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles both spent various summer seasons as residents in Ronda. You can even find the Paseo de Ernest Hemingway, a small path that offers a panoramic view of the landscape surrounding this town. Ronda makes an ideal destination for a day trip from Malaga as it’s possible to make the 1.5-hour drive and visit some other famous Spanish villages nearby on the same trip. For example, Ronda is only 30 minutes from Setenil de las Bodegas, 45 minutes from Zahara de la Sierra, and just over an hour from Arcos de la Frontera. For this reason, you may want to look into a guided tour that would cover multiple towns in the area.
9. CAMINITO DEL REY
El Caminito del Rey, meaning “The King’s Little Path”, is known as the world’s most dangerous walkway. It was closed for four years of renovations and repairs and recently re-opened in 2015. Nowadays, this is a much safer hike, with wooden boardwalks and glass-floored lookouts along the pathway. The Caminito del Rey, although only a little over an hour from Malaga, is nothing like the beach towns of Costa del Sol. This experience is much more geared towards the adventure traveler! The full length of the path is 4.8 miles (7.7 km). However, the most famous stretch, including the boardwalks and Hoyo Valley, is only 1.8 miles (2.9 km). With this in mind, most travelers can partake in this activity. If anything, those who experience vertigo may want to avoid the Caminito del Rey. Furthermore, young children are not allowed to walk the trail (children under the age of 8). If you’re interested in hiking this pathway but would feel better doing so with a trained guide or in a group, check out the options for tours below.
Antequera makes for a great offbeat destination and day trip from Malaga. Due to its proximity to the four most popular cities in Southern Spain (Malaga, Granada, Seville, Córdoba), Antequera is frequently called “the heart of Andalusia”. It’s precisely what you’d imagine one of Spain’s white villages to be: easygoing, tranquil, and picturesque. Take your time as you wander the streets of Antequera because you’re sure to find plenty of photo spots! Besides just being plain adorable, this city is also chock full of history! Visit the Alcazaba of Antequera to discover the city’s Moorish past, and do the climb up the Torre del Homenaje for an incredible view. To truly understand just how deep this city’s history runs, you’ll have to travel to the Northern outskirts of Antequera. There, you’ll find the Dólmen de Menga and the Dólmen de Viera, Bronze Age earth-covered burial mounds that date back to the 3rd millennium BC. As far as how to get to Antequera from Malaga, there are multiple options: by car, bus, train, or on a guided tour. Driving on your own is the quickest option, with the journey taking less than an hour. By comparison, the bus will take about one hour and ten minutes.
Most people will agree that Seville is the principal city you can’t miss on a trip to Southern Spain. On your visit, the most important attractions to see (in my opinion) are the Alcázar of Seville, the Seville Cathedral, the Plaza de España, and Casa de Pilatos. It is possible to see all of these spots in one day, but you’ll have to be tactical about it! For example, try to buy tickets ahead of time for the Alcázar and the Cathedral, since these tend to be very busy during high season. If the particular date you’d like to visit the Alcázar is already sold out, you can buy tickets at the gate. To do this, I’d recommend arriving in Seville bright and early! Although Seville is 100% worth a visit, I’ve put it lower on the list of day trips from Malaga for two reasons: it’s farther in the distance than the other destinations I’ve mentioned up to this point, and I genuinely believe that Seville deserves more than one day. Nonetheless, if you only have one day to spend in the city, there are plenty of options for guided day trips from Malaga! I’d highly recommend this tour from Malaga to Seville via high-speed train.
Tarifa isn’t just your average beach town! In fact, it’s got one of the most beautiful beaches in Andalusia (Playa de los Lances), a Moorish castle, and an adorable Old Town, where you can eat your fill of tapas. Many tourists use Tarifa as a stop on their way to Tangier, due to its location on the Costa de la Luz, just across from Morocco. Nonetheless, it has enough on its own to be worth a visit too. Although it isn’t exactly a “touristy” spot, Tarifa is a great place to spend time on the beach and not feel like you have to see anything in particular. However, if you’re a fan of wildlife, you’ll love the whale and dolphin-watching excursions that many tour companies offer in the area. Moreover, Tarifa is a premier destination for wind sports, making it the perfect place to learn to windsurf.
I’m following Tavira with another favorite beach town: Cádiz! Although most tourists often skip over Cádiz and head straight to Seville, I think this ancient port city is an excellent place for a day trip from Malaga. The perfect blend of historical and coastal, Cádiz offers attractions such as Torre Tavira, Mercado Central, Parque Genovés, the Catedral de Cádiz, and the Museum of Cádiz. If you’re interested in spending some time at the beach, you’ll want to head to Playa de la Victoria or Playa la Caleta. If not, I recommend parking by the Plaza de San Antonio and taking your time to peruse the city. Afterward, do the climb to the top of Torre Tavira for one of the best panoramic views of Cádiz. At the tower, you can also see a demonstration of the “camera obscura” in use. If you’d like to see the Cádiz Cathedral, but not necessarily pay to enter, I’d recommend stopping for lunch at the Plaza de la Catedral. This plaza sits directly in front of the cathedral and has many options as far as tapas restaurants. After exploring a bit more of Cádiz, end the day with the best ice cream in the city, at Heladería Pazza Mina.
14. JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA
When you think of Jerez de la Frontera, frequently just called “Jerez”, two main things should come to mind: horses and sherry! Sounds like a pretty awesome town, am I right? Due to the popularity of the sherry produced here, the main activity is to go on a winery tour. One of the most highly recommended options is to go to Bodega Diez Merito, a family-run winery with over a century of experience making sherry. Here, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of boozy tours, ranging from tasting, tapas, vors, tours of the bodega and vineyard, and sherry cooking. Click here to plan your visit! Another top attraction in Jerez is the Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre and its famous show, “How the Andalusian Horses Dance”. In this spectacle, you’ll witness riders demonstrate their prowess in horsemanship, all while dressed in 18th-century styled costumes.
While visiting southern Spain, you might not realize how close you are to the continent of Africa. If you’ve paid attention to much of the history of Andalusia, you’ll be able to gather the extreme influence Africa has had on the culture of this general region due to its proximity. In fact, from destinations like Tarifa, Morocco is just a ferry ride away! Although it would be quite a whirlwind of a day, it is 100% possible to take a day trip from Malaga to Morocco. Nonetheless, with such limited time, you’ll only be able to see the city of Tangier in one day. If this is truly on your bucket list, why not check off “set foot in Africa”? To make it easy, check out the options of day trips to Morocco below.
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