Spain offers visitors a multitude of must-see destinations including vibrant cities, pristine beaches, and delicious food. With so much to see & experience, deciding what to do on your next road trip can be daunting. That’s why we’ve created this road trip itinerary to help you Drive to Discover the best places to visit in Spain! This itinerary features our 7 favorite UNESCO World Heritage sites from across the country and is perfect for bucket list travelers or history buffs. We also offer 4 other road trip itineraries in Spain.
With this guide you will begin your 894-mile journey at Barajas Airport in Spain’s capital city of Madrid and travel through central & southern Spain, checking off 7 must-see UNESCO World Heritage site from your bucket list! Remember to pack accordingly as temperatures in this area of Spain is known for extremes.
Read on to Drive to Discover the best places to visit in Spain!
1. Alcala University
Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain
After picking up your rental car at the Barajas airport, drive just 24 minutes northeast of Madrid to find the city of Alcala de Henares, home to Alcala University. This was the first city in the world to be designed and built as a university town and served as a model that was replicated across Europe and in the US. The site was granted UNESCO site status for its impressive architecture and cultural importance which includes significant contributions to the Spanish languages.
Next Stop: 1 hour & 24 minute
2. The Hanging Houses of Cuenca
Cuenca is situated high a top a mountainside, with cliffs that overlook the Huecar River. The ancient buildings were meticulously constructed in harmony with the natural landscape, creating an architectural style that is both stunning and culturally unique.
The “hanging houses” or casas colgadas are a famous feature in the Castillo quarter which includes a number of mansions and large baroque churches. As the name implies, these structures are hanging over the sides of the cliffs producing some awe-inspiring views. Visitors can access this section of the city via a narrow suspension foot-bridge.
Next Stop: 1 hour & 45 minutes
3. Historic City of Toledo
Known as a veritable “museum-city”, visitors to the historic city of Toledo will find 2 millenniums worth of history dating back well into ancient Roman times. With architectural structures representing three major religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and works of art from countless famed artist, Toledo offers a window into the history of multiple ancient cultures in one destination.
Travelers with limited time could always start their journey here and rent a car in Toledo to discover the remaining destinations on their return to Madrid.
Next Stop: 3 hours & 19 minutes
4. Historic Center of Cordoba
Having been occupied by all sorts of cultures over the centuries, Cordoba’s architecture offers visitors a diverse mix of artistic styles. The city has 300 mosques including The Great Mosque (La Mezquita) dating from 784 A.D.. The towering interior has not been replicated anywhere in the world making it an ever-impressive structure.
Next Stop: 1 hour & 36 minutes
5. Cathedral, Alcazar and Archivo de Indias
Seville is home to three UNESCO sites. The first is the spectacular and massive Alcazar compound which is undoubtedly one of the most stunning places to visit in Spain. Visitors exploring the interior will discover lush gardens, gorgeous reflecting pools, and ornately decorated structures. The second site is the cathedral which is the largest Gothic building in Europe and houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The third site is the Archivo de Indias which house treasured documents from Spain’s explorations into the Americas.
Aside from these UNESCO sites, the city is famous for flamenco dancing as well as bull fighting. Travelers could always opt to rent a car in Seville to spend even more time discovering the ancient charm of the city.
Next Stop: 2 hours
6. Archaeological Ensemble of Merida
This ensemble is one of the most extensive and best-preserved examples of Roman architecture boasting a Roman amphitheater, a large circus, towering aqueducts, an impressive bridge over the Guadiana river along with many other structures. Visitors will be astonished to find ancient dams that still function as a true testament to Roman architecture.
Next Stop: 1 hour & 30 minutes
7. Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe
The Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe was built surrounding the shrine to Santa Maria de Guadalupe. Local legend states that the Virgin Mary appeared to a boy in the mountains and told him a statue of her was hidden high in the hillside. The boy fetched the bishop who uncovered a 2-foot sculpture that had been hidden for centuries and is one of Spain’s three black Madonnas. The monastery was granted UNESCO status for its ensemble of religious architecture. The dramatic mountain landscape surrounding the Monastery make it a spectacular last stop on your Drive to Discover journey.
Next Stop: 2 hours & 45 minutes back to Madrid Airport
Looking for additional road trip itineraries for Spain? Check out our other Drive to Discover guides where we explore the best cultural activities in Catalonia, the tastiest culinary experiences in Northern Spain, and the most breathtaking locations in southern Spain.
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Explore the Best Places to Visit in Spain with Auto Europe
Discover the best places to visit in Spain with a car rental from Auto Europe. After 60 years in the industry, we have amassed an extensive list of travel tips and be sure to check out our other Spain road trips. Whether you need car rentals, luxury or economy, incredible hotel accommodations, or international airfare, Auto Europe has got you covered, with everything you need to enjoy the perfect vacation abroad. Give us a call, toll-free at 1-888-223-5555 to speak to one of our helpful reservations agents, and prepare for the trip of a lifetime.