Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Beautifully perched beneath the raw peaks of the Rif, Chefchaouen is one of the prettiest towns in Morocco, an artsy, blue-washed mountain village that feels like its own world. While tourism has definitely taken hold, the balance between ease and authenticity is just right. The old medina is a delight of Moroccan and Andalusian influence with red-tiled roofs, bright-blue buildings and narrow lanes converging on busy Plaza Uta El Hammam and its restored kasbah. Long known to backpackers for the easy availability of kif (cannabis), the town has rapidly gentrified and offers a range of quality accommodation, good food, lots to do and no hassles to speak of, making it a strong alternative to a hectic multicity tour. This is a great place to relax, explore and take day trips to the cool green hills.

5 ideas for a road trip around Spain

5 ideas for a road trip around Spain

5 ideas for a cool road trip around Spain

Planning a road trip to Spain? great idea! it is an excellent way to explore the country’s unique natural and cultural heritage as well as savor its delectable cuisine at every pit stop.

Garraf coast is a dangerous road between the cliffs over the sea with curves and extreme terrain in the south of Barcelona.Here are the best road trips through Spain © Artur Debat / Getty Images

On the road, you’ll be awestruck by medieval castles and ancient cities, charming seaside towns, towering mountain ranges and coastlines that stretch for miles. Spain’s little pueblos (villages) offer a great respite to recharge with traditional tapas (small plates) among warm locals. Get in gear with these five outstanding driving routes to inspire your Spanish road trip itinerary.

An double-tiered aqueduct running alongside a large city square
Ancient Segovia is just an hour’s drive from Madrid © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Castilla y León road trip

Great road trip for medieval-era castles and churches

Start – Madrid; end – Salamanca; distance – approx 165 miles/265km – allow 2 days

Walled medieval cities, fortified castles, Romanesque architecture, Gothic cathedrals and Unesco World Heritage cities — this central Spain road trip takes you across plateaus with the dramatic backdrop of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range and into some of Spain’s most outstanding historic towns in the Castilla and León region.

Departing from Madrid, the first stop just over an hour away is Segovia, famous for its magnificent Roman aqueduct, Gothic cathedral and the 12th-century Alcázar of Segovia castle. The next stop is the medieval-era walled town of Ávila, “the town of Stones and Saints”, known for having the most Gothic and Romanesque churches in Spain. Spend a day walking its cobblestone streets and visit the El Salvador Cathedral, San Vicente Basilica, and the Convent/ Museum of Saint Teresa, the town’s iconic saint. End your road trip in the charming university town of Salamanca, known as “La Cuidad de Oro” (“The Golden City”)  because its honey-colored sandstone walls glow with infinite golden hues in the late afternoon light.

A coastal fortress on a small peninsula with sea either side sparkling in the sunshine
Take the scenic drive from Tossa de Mar to Sant Feliu de Guíxols © VvoeVale / Getty Images

Costa Brava road trip

Best road trip for Catalonia’s art and history

Start – Barcelona; end – Cadaqués; distance – approx 153 miles/246km – allow 3-4 days

Spain is blessed with over 3000 miles of coastline, and one of the country’s most spectacular stretches is the Costa Brava along the Mediterranean on the northeastern coast. This drive will reward you with long, sunlit beaches, historic cities and picturesque fishing villages that inspired the region’s most famous artist, Salvador Dalí.

Start in Barcelona. For spectacular scenery, take the GI-682 road from Tossa de Mar to Sant Feliu de Guíxols, where there are designated viewpoints to stop at. Detour from the coastline for a pitstop at the ancient city of Girona. Visit the city’s iconic cathedral, featuring one of the widest Gothic naves in the world, and the archaeological treasures at Banys Àrabs (Arab Baths).

Art lovers will not want to miss the famous “Dalinian Triangle” formed by the municipalities of Figueres, Portlligat and Púbol, where you can immerse yourself in Salvador Dalí’s outlandish world in his former residences, now open to the public. The road trip ends at the quaint seaside town of Cadaqués on the bay of the Cap de Creus peninsula. This was a favorite summer playground of iconic artists and writers, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Daphne Guinness, Man Ray, Frederico Garcia Lorca, Amanda Lear, Walt Disney, Melina Mecouri and Marcel Duchamp, among many others.

Small groups of people sit on steps with city walls and a large cathedral in the background
End your tour of northern Spain in Santiago de Compostela © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

Northern Spain road trip

Best road trip along Spain’s Atlantic coast 

Start – San Sebastián; end – Santiago de Compostela; distance – approx 466 miles/750km – allow 6-7 days

Because the north of Spain sees more rainfall than the rest of the country, its landscape has some of the most verdant green spaces. You’ll be treated to a visual feast of lush hillsides, snow-capped mountain peaks and Atlantic Ocean views. This road trip will take you across four autonomous communities of Spain, departing from the Basque Country and crossing Cantabria, Asturias and ending in Galicia.

A great jump-off point is the gastronomic coastal city of San Sebastián, which has the greatest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants per square meter in Europe. It would be ideal to spend a day or two here to explore the city’s Parte Vieja (Old Quarter), and savor the endless array of pintxos (appetizers) tempting you at every turn.

Not too far away is the Basque islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which has become world-famous as the film location of Dragonstone in the Game of Thrones TV series. This breathtaking rocky precipice juts out into the Bay of Biscay, connected to the mainland by a long, winding stone staircase. A small chapel crowns the islet which has a bell at its facade — tradition calls for visitors to ring the bell three times and make a wish.

Stretch out your legs on the spectacular golden sand beach, Playa del Sardinero, in the port town and Cantabrian capital of Santander. The oceanfront Magdalena Palace was built in the early 1900s as a summer residence for the royal family.

There are dramatic views of the Picos de Europa mountain range as you drive onwards into the region of Asturias. Stop by Oviedo to explore the charming old town and try the traditional fabada asturiana bean stew. Finally, join pilgrims from all over the world in Santiago de Compostela, the final destination of the thousand-year-old pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James), where you could visit the Basilica of Santiago de Compostela, the reputed final resting place of St. James the Apostle.

A landscaped garden with fountains viewed through an arched terrace
Learn about Moorish Spain on a road trip through Andalucia © David Ionut / Shutterstock

Andalucia road trip

Best road trip for Spain’s Moorish past

Start – Malaga; end – Seville; distance – approx 293 miles/472km – allow 5 days

Andalucia in southern Spain is the only European region that has both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines, linked by the Strait of Gibraltar. A drive through this fascinating region takes you along the Costa del Sol.

Start in the sunlit coastal city of Malaga, and enjoy stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Head for the enchanting cities of Granada and Cordoba, legacies of the Muslim dynasties that once ruled Spain until the 15th century.

Granada is home to the Alhambra palace, the ancient fortress and citadel of the Nasrid Dynasty that showcases Moorish and Christian decorative styles. The same entrance ticket will get you into the nearby Palacio de Generalife, a summer palace for the ancient Nasrid sultans.

Córdoba is a captivating city that is home to the La Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (the Córdoba Mosque), the city’s shining jewel which alongside the Alhambra is one of the most emblematic monuments showcasing Islamic architecture. It was built over the remains of a 6th-century Visigothic cathedral by Abderramán, the Emir of Córdoba of the ruling Umayyad dynasty back in 786.

Stay a few days in the Andalusian capital of Seville to explore its idiosyncratic dreamscape composed of horse-drawn carriages, citrus trees, colossal Gothic cathedrals, Mudéjar (Moorish) architecture and flamenco tablaos (flamenco performances).

Two people sit on a rocky outcrop looking out to sea at an islet with the sun setting behind it
End your tour of Ibiza by catching the sunset over Es Vedrà © Annapurna Mellor / Lonely Planet

Ibiza road trip

Best road trip for coves and beaches

Start – Ibiza Town; end – Cala d’Hort; distance – approx 22 miles/35km – allow 1-2 days

Renting a car in Ibiza is the best way to explore the island’s stunning calas or coves, and will save time and expensive taxi fares. While Ibiza has a reputation as a 24/7 party destination, its timeless allure lies more in its natural attractions — rugged cliffs, turquoise-colored waters, and ancient archaeological sites.

Starting from Ibiza Town, drive over to Ses Salines beach at the southern tip of the island, just about 10 minutes away, to get a taste of glamorous beach life. It’s not uncommon to spot celebrities soaking up the sun or enjoying cocktails in one of the many beachside bars and restaurants.

A fascinating contrast awaits at Sa Caleta (Es Bol Nou), a more secluded beach tucked between rugged red cliffs. Take some time to hike up the ancient Phoenician civilization World Heritage site of Sa Caleta ruins, and pause for some fresh seafood at the cala’s restaurant, with its shady Mediterranean garden bar.

End your drive at Ibiza’s emblematic Cala d’Hort, featuring the mythical Es Vedrà island that rises 382m from the glittering Balearic waters. Everything from UFOs to the Virgin Mary have reportedly been seen on this island, giving it its legendary status. It’s a spellbinding sight at any time of the day, but viewing it for the first time at sunset is a transcendental experience.

On the road, you’ll be awestruck by medieval castles and ancient cities, charming seaside towns, towering mountain ranges and coastlines that stretch for miles. Spain’s little pueblos (villages) offer a great respite to recharge with traditional tapas (small plates) among warm locals. Get in gear with these five outstanding driving routes to inspire your Spanish road trip itinerary.

Ancient Segovia is just an hour’s drive from Madrid © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Castilla y León road trip

Great road trip for medieval-era castles and churches

Start – Madrid; end – Salamanca; distance – approx 165 miles/265km – allow 2 days

Walled medieval cities, fortified castles, Romanesque architecture, Gothic cathedrals and Unesco World Heritage cities — this central Spain road trip takes you across plateaus with the dramatic backdrop of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range and into some of Spain’s most outstanding historic towns in the Castilla and León region.

Departing from Madrid, the first stop just over an hour away is Segovia, famous for its magnificent Roman aqueduct, Gothic cathedral and the 12th-century Alcázar of Segovia castle. The next stop is the medieval-era walled town of Ávila, “the town of Stones and Saints”, known for having the most Gothic and Romanesque churches in Spain. Spend a day walking its cobblestone streets and visit the El Salvador Cathedral, San Vicente Basilica, and the Convent/ Museum of Saint Teresa, the town’s iconic saint. End your road trip in the charming university town of Salamanca, known as “La Cuidad de Oro” (“The Golden City”)  because its honey-colored sandstone walls glow with infinite golden hues in the late afternoon light.

Take the scenic drive from Tossa de Mar to Sant Feliu de Guíxols © VvoeVale / Getty Images

Costa Brava road trip

Best road trip for Catalonia’s art and history

Start – Barcelona; end – Cadaqués; distance – approx 153 miles/246km – allow 3-4 days

Spain is blessed with over 3000 miles of coastline, and one of the country’s most spectacular stretches is the Costa Brava along the Mediterranean on the northeastern coast. This drive will reward you with long, sunlit beaches, historic cities and picturesque fishing villages that inspired the region’s most famous artist, Salvador Dalí. 

Start in Barcelona. For spectacular scenery, take the GI-682 road from Tossa de Mar to Sant Feliu de Guíxols, where there are designated viewpoints to stop at. Detour from the coastline for a pitstop at the ancient city of Girona. Visit the city’s iconic cathedral, featuring one of the widest Gothic naves in the world, and the archaeological treasures at Banys Àrabs (Arab Baths).

Art lovers will not want to miss the famous “Dalinian Triangle” formed by the municipalities of Figueres, Portlligat and Púbol, where you can immerse yourself in Salvador Dalí’s outlandish world in his former residences, now open to the public. The road trip ends at the quaint seaside town of Cadaqués on the bay of the Cap de Creus peninsula. This was a favorite summer playground of iconic artists and writers, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Daphne Guinness, Man Ray, Frederico Garcia Lorca, Amanda Lear, Walt Disney, Melina Mecouri and Marcel Duchamp, among many others. 

End your tour of northern Spain in Santiago de Compostela © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

Northern Spain road trip

Best road trip along Spain’s Atlantic coast 

Start – San Sebastián; end – Santiago de Compostela; distance – approx 466 miles/750km – allow 6-7 days

Because the north of Spain sees more rainfall than the rest of the country, its landscape has some of the most verdant green spaces. You’ll be treated to a visual feast of lush hillsides, snow-capped mountain peaks and Atlantic Ocean views. This road trip will take you across four autonomous communities of Spain, departing from the Basque Country and crossing Cantabria, Asturias and ending in Galicia. 

A great jump-off point is the gastronomic coastal city of San Sebastián, which has the greatest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants per square meter in Europe. It would be ideal to spend a day or two here to explore the city’s Parte Vieja (Old Quarter), and savor the endless array of pintxos (appetizers) tempting you at every turn. 

Not too far away is the Basque islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which has become world-famous as the film location of Dragonstone in the Game of Thrones TV series. This breathtaking rocky precipice juts out into the Bay of Biscay, connected to the mainland by a long, winding stone staircase. A small chapel crowns the islet which has a bell at its facade — tradition calls for visitors to ring the bell three times and make a wish.

Stretch out your legs on the spectacular golden sand beach, Playa del Sardinero, in the port town and Cantabrian capital of Santander. The oceanfront Magdalena Palace was built in the early 1900s as a summer residence for the royal family. 

There are dramatic views of the Picos de Europa mountain range as you drive onwards into the region of Asturias. Stop by Oviedo to explore the charming old town and try the traditional fabada asturiana bean stew. Finally, join pilgrims from all over the world in Santiago de Compostela, the final destination of the thousand-year-old pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James), where you could visit the Basilica of Santiago de Compostela, the reputed final resting place of St. James the Apostle.

Learn about Moorish Spain on a road trip through Andalucia © David Ionut / Shutterstock

Andalucia road trip

Best road trip for Spain’s Moorish past

Start – Malaga; end – Seville; distance – approx 293 miles/472km – allow 5 days

Andalucia in southern Spain is the only European region that has both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines, linked by the Strait of Gibraltar. A drive through this fascinating region takes you along the Costa del Sol.

Start in the sunlit coastal city of Malaga, and enjoy stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Head for the enchanting cities of Granada and Cordoba, legacies of the Muslim dynasties that once ruled Spain until the 15th century.

Granada is home to the Alhambra palace, the ancient fortress and citadel of the Nasrid Dynasty that showcases Moorish and Christian decorative styles. The same entrance ticket will get you into the nearby Palacio de Generalife, a summer palace for the ancient Nasrid sultans. 

Córdoba is a captivating city that is home to the La Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (the Córdoba Mosque), the city’s shining jewel which alongside the Alhambra is one of the most emblematic monuments showcasing Islamic architecture. It was built over the remains of a 6th-century Visigothic cathedral by Abderramán, the Emir of Córdoba of the ruling Umayyad dynasty back in 786.   

Stay a few days in the Andalusian capital of Seville to explore its idiosyncratic dreamscape composed of horse-drawn carriages, citrus trees, colossal Gothic cathedrals, Mudéjar (Moorish) architecture and flamenco tablaos (flamenco performances). 

End your tour of Ibiza by catching the sunset over Es Vedrà © Annapurna Mellor / Lonely Planet

Ibiza road trip

Best road trip for coves and beaches

Start – Ibiza Town; end – Cala d’Hort; distance – approx 22 miles/35km – allow 1-2 days

Renting a car in Ibiza is the best way to explore the island’s stunning calas or coves, and will save time and expensive taxi fares. While Ibiza has a reputation as a 24/7 party destination, its timeless allure lies more in its natural attractions — rugged cliffs, turquoise-colored waters, and ancient archaeological sites.

Starting from Ibiza Town, drive over to Ses Salines beach at the southern tip of the island, just about 10 minutes away, to get a taste of glamorous beach life. It’s not uncommon to spot celebrities soaking up the sun or enjoying cocktails in one of the many beachside bars and restaurants. 

A fascinating contrast awaits at Sa Caleta (Es Bol Nou), a more secluded beach tucked between rugged red cliffs. Take some time to hike up the ancient Phoenician civilization World Heritage site of Sa Caleta ruins, and pause for some fresh seafood at the cala’s restaurant, with its shady Mediterranean garden bar. 

End your drive at Ibiza’s emblematic Cala d’Hort, featuring the mythical Es Vedrà island that rises 382m from the glittering Balearic waters. Everything from UFOs to the Virgin Mary have reportedly been seen on this island, giving it its legendary status. It’s a spellbinding sight at any time of the day, but viewing it for the first time at sunset is a transcendental experience.

 

Thanks to writer Natalia Diaz @ Lonely Planet

EL BAÑUELO

The ritual of physical and spiritual cleansing. One of the best-preserved public Arab baths of the Peninsula.

 

The Hammam al-Yawza or Baño del Nogal has been known by the diminutive Bañuelo since the end of the 19th century, due to being smaller than the royal baths of the Alhambra.

Traditionally, it has been dated to the 11th century, that is to the Zirid period. For L. Torres Balbás, the construction of the Bañuelo was within a second construction period of the Zirid dynasty, corresponding to the reigns of Badis and Abd Allah (1038-1090), characterized by the use of the concrete walls.

However, for other researchers, the Bañuelo was built in the 12th century, as the construction technique used, with concrete walls and brick forming buttresses and reinforcements on the openings date back to that century, despite studies being focused on Murcia. For L. Seco de Lucena Paredes, the Bañuelo was built in the period of Zirid King Badis and integrated at the eastern extreme of the Qawraya military quarter, within the walls of the al-Qasaba al-Qadima or Old Alcazaba.

Subsequently, in the reign of Badis, the Bab al-Difaf was built, which would link with the rest of the wall of the Qawraya, which was outside the walls of the Old Alcazaba. From that point of the 11th century, the eastern part of the Madina of Granada began to grow on the right bank of the Darro, leading the Ajsaris quarter to emerge.

This new hub was surrounded by a wall which ran from the north tower of the Bab al-Difaf along the river to the east on the Cuesta de la Victoria, ascending north, forming a right angle, connecting with the Bab al-Bunud, the Puerta de los Estandartes.

In any case, the Hammam al-Yawza was built very close to a series of buildings associated with the Zirid period, as is the case of the Bab al-Difaf. Its location on an important public road and next to a door is characteristic of Andalusian baths, as well as being a rather populated area, and next to this bath, there may even have been a series of shops which opened onto Calle Bañuelo, demonstrating the urban importance of this area.

According to M. Gómez-Moreno González, who confused the Bab al-Difaf with the qantarat al-qadi Ibn Tawba (Puente del Cadí), next to the missing north buttress of the Bab al-Difaf there was another door, which was known in the Modern Age as the Puerta de Guadix Baja. According to the same writer, the Bañuelo was also known as the Baño de la Puerta de Guadix in modern times.

Tariq ibn Ziyad

Tariq ibn Ziyad

Tariq ibn Ziyad was a Muslim general who led the Islamic conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711-718 A.D. He is considered to be one of the most important military commanders in Iberian history. Under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I he led a large army from the north coast of Morocco, consolidating his troops at a large hill now known as Gibraltar. The name “Gibraltar” is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Tāriq (جبل طارق), meaning “mountain of Tariq” named after him.

Most medieval historians give little or no information about Tariq’s origins or nationality. Ibn ‘Abd al-Hakam, Ibn al-Athir, Al-Tabari and Ibn Khaldun[2] do not say anything, and have been followed in this by modern works such as the Encyclopedia of Islam and Cambridge History of Islam. There are three different accounts given by a few Arabic histories which all seem to date from between 400 and 500 years after Tariq’s time.

Most historians, Arab and Spanish, seem to agree that he was a slave of the emir of Ifriqiya (North Africa), Musa bin Nusayr, who gave him his freedom and appointed him a general in his army. But his descendants centuries later denied he had ever been Musa’s slave. The earliest reference to him seems to be in the Mozarab Chronicle, written in Latin in 754, which although written within living memory of the conquest of Spain, refers to him erroneously as Taric Abuzara.

Musa bin Nusayr appointed Tariq governor of Tangiers after its conquest in 710-711,[13] but an unconquered Visigothic outpost remained nearby at Ceuta, a stronghold commanded by a nobleman named Julian.

After Roderic came to power in Spain, Julian had, as was the custom, sent his daughter to the court of the Visigothic king to receive an education. It is said that Roderic raped her, and that Julian was so incensed he resolved to have the Arabs bring down the Visigothic kingdom. Accordingly he entered into a treaty with Tariq (Musa having returned to Qayrawan) to secretly convey the Muslim army across the Straits of Gibraltar, as he owned a number of merchant ships and had his own forts on the Spanish mainland.

About April 29 711, the army of Tariq, composed of recent converts to Islam, was landed at Gibraltar by Julian.[14](the name Gibraltar is derived from the Arabic name Jabal at Tariq, which means mountain of Tariq).

Tariq’s army contained about 7000 men, and Musa is said to have sent an additional 5000 reinforcements.[15] Roderic, to meet the threat, assembled an army said to number 100,000.[16] Most of the army was commanded by, and loyal to, the sons of Wittiza, whom Roderic had brutally deposed.[17] Tariq won a decisive victory when the Visigothic king, Roderic, was defeated and killed on July 19 at the Battle of Guadalete.

On the advice of Julian, Tariq split his army into various divisions which went on to capture Cordoba, Granada and other places, while he remained at the head of the division which captured Toledo and Guadalajara. Tariq was de facto governor of Hispania until the arrival of Musa a year later.

Both Tariq and Musa were simultaneously ordered back to Damascus by the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I in 714, where they spent the rest of their lives.[18]

In the many Arabic histories written about the conquest of Spain, there is a definite division of opinion regarding the relationship between Tariq and Musa bin Nusayr. Some relate episodes of anger and envy on the part of Musa, that his freedman had conquered an entire country. Others do not mention, or play down, any such bad blood.

The most extreme episode is in the earliest Arabic history, that of Ibn Abd al-Hakam (9th century). He stated that Musa was so angry with Tariq that he imprisoned him, and was going to execute him, were it not for the intervention of Mugith ar-Rumi, a freedman of the caliph Al-Walid I. It was for this reason that the caliph recalled Tariq and Musa.[19] And in the Akhbār majmūa (11th century) it states that after Musa arrived in Spain and met up with Tariq, Tariq dismounted from his horse as a sign of respect, but Musa struck him on the head with his horsewhip.[20]

On the other hand, another early historian al-Baladhuri (9th century) merely states that Musa wrote Tariq a “severe letter” and that the two were later reconciled.[21]