The ultimate family road trip through Spain: coast, city, and country

Guest post written by Katie Belle.

Road trips and relaxation may seem like an oxymoron when travelling with kids. But, in fact, our two were so caught up with the sense of adventure, there wasn’t even one cry of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’. From the arid hills of Andalusia to the ultra-safe waters of La Manga, and vibrant Valencia to the mild green province of Girona, our brood covered just over 1200km. But not once did the journey seem laborious. Here’s a road map of our itinerary, easily duplicated!

Spain road trip

Day 1-2: Andalusia

Malaga is the perfect starting point for a Spanish road trip as the airport offers plenty of international connections and has a range of car rental companies on site. All the hot spots of the Costa del Sol are within easy striking distance.

We head off for a little r and r in the rolling Andalusian hills. The villages of the Axarquia region are without doubt some of the most picturesque in all of Spain and our first stop is a sugarcube-esque villa just outside Comares. Our little ones are happy splashing about in the pool, which overlooks mile upon mile of orange groves and farmland. But, we do venture out to drive further up the Montes de Málaga foothills until we reach Comares itself.

Spain road trip

Sitting atop a cliff some 725 metres above sea level, it’s not for those with a fear of heights. But the views are nothing short of spectacular, stretching down to Lake Vinuela and beyond. We hire donkeys for the children and follow the walking route of ceramic footprints which guide you around the narrow village streets.

But, no visit to the Costa del Sol would be complete without sampling some of this region’s bustling beachlife, so we’re soon back on the open road, heading down to the Mediterranean coastline to Nerja. It’s often referred to as the jewel of the Costa del Sol, and we can see why. The promenade is lined with cafés and restaurants, with musicians and mime artists keeping families, taking early evening strolls, entertained.

Day 3: La Manga

From Nerja, it’s a straightforward journey along the A7, which skirts the coastline, to our next destination, La Manga. After a week with only parental company, our kids are longing for other children to play with, so this is the perfect stop-off.

With a myriad of swimming pools to choose from, we opt for the complex at Los Molinos (the windmill), where the toddler pool is safe enough for our little boy and the bigger pool is challenging enough for our elder daughter. There are restaurants a plenty in the resort, but our favourite is the tapas bar in Bellaluz Square, where our daughter discovers a penchant for Spanish meatballs.

spain road trip

My last night is spent horse riding with my daughter on a trek from the on-site stables at La Manga through fields and down to the beach. We can’t ride on the beach in the summer season, but you can in winter so we’re determined to come back. We meet up with my other half and our youngest for a meal at La Canela, in a laid-back setting next to the riding centre. As dusk fell, the candles were lit and our prawns with garlic sauce, accompanied by a chilled bottle of white wine arrived. The children were able to run around beside the stables in safety. It truly was a magical evening.

Day 4: Valencia

Our shortest visit during our road trip to Spain was to Valencia, Spain’s third largest city. But, while it was short, it was certainly sweet, with impressive family friendly attractions. The Bioparc Valencia is the best zoo any of us have ever visited, with enclosures which faithfully recreate African habitats but allow visitors to get as close as can be to the animals. We walk within touching distance of the Madagascan lemurs – although there is a park warden there to make sure you don’t – before lunching in full view of the zoo’s resident giraffes.

The city’s Aquarium, the L’Oceanográfic, is no less impressive – on a par only with Cape Town’s Two Oceans. The biggest aquarium in Europe, it is home to 500 species from the world’s main marine ecosystems, with a dolphinarium containing a staggering 24 million litres of water.

Day 5: Girona

From city to country, our road trip is almost at an end, as we’re dropping our hire car off in Girona airport. But we’ve just time to squeeze in a few days at one of the country retreats surrounding Girona’s centre. With a grown-up vibe, there’s also a playground and mini-farm to keep our little ones happy. And, we can think of no better end to our journey as we enjoy Catalan specialities overlooking the swimming pool and the farmland beyond as the sun sets on our Spanish road trip.

Image credit:  Bart & Co and elyob

Guest author Katie, a food and travel blogger from the UK, took her family on a road trip through Spain last year and is currently planning this year’s adventure. You can connect with her on twitter @delightsomeblog.