6 Quick Exciting Road Trips From Madrid to Explore Central Spain
Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is a perfect starting point for a road trip adventure. With its central location, diverse landscapes, and rich cultural heritage, it offers an abundance of breathtaking destinations just a short drive away. Going on one of the road trips from Madrid is a must if you enjoy driving!
If you plan to come to Madrid for 2 or 3 days only, then you will hardly have enough time to see the sights of the capital itself. But if you are coming on a trip to Madrid for 5 days or longer, then you can create a more action-packed itinerary and see the surroundings after renting a car and going for a drive.
I offer you the top 6 of beautiful destinations where you can go on a day trip from Madrid by car.
Of course, there is always a chance to make them longer than day trips and stay overnight in one of the authentic hotels along the road (I mention some of them in the article) as these places have a high concentration of medieval sights and unique historical monuments that you may want to explore in depth.
Or simply combine them together and have one long road trip in Spain with a departure point from Madrid! And then if you get to the coast, use my other road trip itineraries and go on a drive between Valencia and Barcelona as well as Valencia to Malaga road trip, or simply plan one of many epic experiences in Spain!
Spain Road Trip Essentials
I want to share the top 4 resources I personally use for planning a road trip in Spain:
- Madrid Car Hire – lowest prices of car rentals among all aggregators and the cheapest company to insure your trip with
- Booking Accommodations – website with the biggest selection of hotels in Spain, including authentic guesthouses and B&Bs
- Safetywing Travel Insurance – my preferred insurance provider for single short and long-term trips
- Viator Top-rated Madrid day trip – if you don’t plan to rent a car but look for a unique place to visit near Madrid
Best Time to Go on Road Trips from Madrid
The best time to do a road trip from Madrid is during the spring and fall. During these seasons, the weather is mild and it allows you to truly enjoy every stop.
However, winter can make your trip toward the northern locations magical and make you feel like you are in a snowy fairy tale.
Summers are very hot and while driving is not a problem, getting out of the car and spending time outdoors can be a real challenge for some people when temperatures are high.
This blog post will explore the various destinations you can drive to and will help you plan the ultimate road trip experience from Madrid.
Where to Rent a Car for a Drive
For the biggest selection of cars and the most competitive rate in any season, I recommend you look for a car rental at Madrid Airport. Use an aggregator rather than booking directly from a rental company as it gives you protection in case something goes wrong.
Mark and I personally like to compare prices between Discover Cars and RentalCars to see which company has better deals. However, from our experience, we noticed that Discover Cars has much better offers, especially in the winter season in Madrid.
You can check their prices & see for yourself:
Where to Go on Road Trips from Madrid
So, here is the list of my favorite 6 wonderful destinations that you must visit from Madrid on driving holidays in central Spain:
- La Sierra de Madrid
In this article, you will find very useful information for my road trip options including things to see and wonderful cuisine to indulge in.
1.) Madrid to La Sierra de Madrid Road Trip
In order to get a change of pace, a road trip to La Sierra de Madrid is the perfect escape from the city’s fast-paced life.
La Sierra de Madrid is a stunning mountain range that offers a scenic drive and a chance to immerse yourself in Spain’s natural beauty. The drive from Madrid city center to La Sierra may vary based on the town you are heading to (since this mountain range surrounds the city), but basically, it can take from 50 minutes to 1 hour and a half.
Along the way, you can stop at traditional Spanish taverns to sample local cuisine, such as “lechazo” (roast lamb) and “cochinillo” (suckling pig). You can also visit local wineries and sample some of Spain’s best wines, such as La Cabrera and Venturada.
Highlights of Madrid to La Sierra de Madrid Drive
Once you reach La Sierra de Madrid, you can hike through its lush forests, go rock climbing, or simply relax and soak up the stunning scenery. The mountains offer panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. You can enjoy picnics and bird-watching in the peace and tranquility of the great outdoors.
For those interested in history, La Sierra de Madrid is home to the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, an impressive Renaissance-style palace and monastery built by King Philip II in the 16th century. The palace houses a museum and library, and the surrounding grounds are a popular spot for picnics and outdoor activities.
Some of the towns worth visiting in La Sierra are Rascafria, Buitrago de Lozoya, Manzanares El Real, and Chinchon.
Buitrago de Lozoya, for example, is particularly a special town as it is surrounded by water and ancient authentic walls built by the Moors in the 11th century. There is also an ancient castle in the Mudéjar style embodying several architectural styles at once: Gothic, Renaissance, and Moorish style.
When in Chinchon, pay a visit to Bodega del Nero winery with generous tastings and tapas. There you can try the famous wines mentioned above. Make a reservation through their website online or through Instagram.
2.) Madrid to Toledo Road Trip
To explore Spain’s rich history and culture, a day trip to Toledo from Madrid is a must.
Toledo is a medieval city located just 70 km from Madrid, the former capital of the country, and one of the most distinctive cities in Spain. There you can see examples of the architectural style of different eras: Romanesque, Gothic, Late Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque, learn about its rich cultural heritage, and fascinating history.
During your visit to Toledo, delight yourself with some local dishes such as Perdiz Estofada (Stewed Partridge) and Carcamusa (beef or pork stew).
Highlights of Madrid to Toledo Day Trip by Car
The drive from Madrid to Toledo takes you through rolling hills and authentic local countryside life. It offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. As you approach Toledo, you’ll be greeted by the city’s ancient walls. These have protected its residents for centuries.
Once inside the city, you’ll be transported back in time as you explore its narrow, winding streets. Admire its stunning architecture, and discover its rich cultural heritage.
Toledo is famous for its beautiful churches. The Cathedral of Toledo and the Church of San Tomé house some of Spain’s most valuable works of art. The city is also home to the Alcázar of Toledo. This medieval castle offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
For history lovers, Toledo is a treasure trove. The city was once a melting pot of cultures, and its rich history is evident in its architecture and monuments, including the Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca and the Church of San Roman.
Just before or after the visit to Toledo, I also highly recommend you not to miss Barrancas de Burujón nature reserve. It is only a short detour from Toledo where Martian-like mountains are located right next to the reservoir.
3.) Madrid to Valencia Road Trip
Embarking on a road trip from Madrid to Valencia is an excellent way to explore the diverse landscapes and cultural landmarks of this area.
The journey spans a distance of approximately 350 kilometers. And there are so many must-stops along the route that you don’t want to miss. Just some of them are Aranjuez, Cuenca, Albacete, and others.
If budget allows and you are ready to take it slowly, stop for a night in the elegant Parador de Alarcon set in an 8th-century castle. With this stay, you’ll spend a night in a real castle and have time to explore the historical village it is located in.
Of course, you must try the authentic Valencian Paella (rabbit and vegetable paella) once in Valencia city. Also, try some other kinds of rice like senyoret (with peeled seafood) or a banda (a very thin layer of rice with seafood).
Highlights of Madrid to Valencia Drive
As you make your way toward Valencia, build your road trip itinerary in that way where you visit first Aranjuez and then Cuenca.
Aranjuez: A UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its Royal Palace and luxurious gardens with magnificent landscapes, fountains, and sculptures. The palace project (which was a residence of the monarchs) began as a Spanish response in the 17th century to the French Versailles. So it is truly impressive.
But besides seeing the palace, it is also worth visiting the main square and just walking around the nice and cozy city.
Cuenca: a small charming ancient city, perched atop a dramatic gorge. It boasts a rich history that is reflected in its Gothic architecture and cobblestone streets.
Albufera Natural Park: Located just south of Valencia, the Albufera Natural Park is a beautiful natural reserve that offers visitors a peaceful respite from the bustling city. Take a boat tour of the park’s lagoon or enjoy a picnic on the sandy shores.
Benicassim: Known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant music scene, Benicassim is a popular destination for young travelers. If you happen to be traveling in the summer, be sure to attend the Benicassim Festival. This is a four-day music event that attracts thousands of visitors each year.
La Tomatina in Buñol: If you’re lucky enough to be traveling in August, make a stop in the town of Buñol to experience La Tomatina. A world-known event where the main ingredient is a tomato-throwing festival.
If traveling at any other time of the year, perhaps just outside the winter season in this part of Spain, then you can also stop at the Turche Cave with a beautiful waterfall and lake where to swim on hot days.
4.) Madrid to Salamanca Road Trip
A road trip from Madrid to Salamanca is the best way to explore the quaint countryside of Spain and discover some of the country’s historic landmarks. The journey spans a distance of approximately 220 kilometers. It can take close to 2 hours to get there. However, you get to visit some beautiful sites along the way.
As far as food, do not leave Salamanca without trying the Hornazo de Salamanca (patty filled with Spanish ham and other cured meats along with a boiled egg), the Jamon de Guijuelo (Ham cured in Salamanca), and the Patatas meneas (potatoes with spices).
And if you go on this drive through Segovia (which I highly recommend doing!), then in this city try the roasted Cochinillo (Pork) or Lechazo (lamb).
Highlights of Madrid to Salamanca Road Trip
It is one of the most interesting shortest road trips from Madrid which you can easily turn into a multi-day drive as the number of places to visit is huge. Here are the top cities to add to your route:
Ávila: Located just over an hour’s drive from Madrid as a midpoint between Madrid and Salamanca. This historic city is a must-see stop as it is famous for its impressive defensive medieval walls, which stretch over two kilometers with 87 towers and nine gates. It is among the best-preserved in Europe. The wall encircles the historic center, outside of which there are seven Romanesque churches.
Segovia: As you continue on your journey towards Salamanca, make a stop in Segovia and visit the iconic Roman aqueduct 728 meters long. It dates back to the 1st century AD. Also, explore the magnificent Alcázar, a stunning castle that offers breathtaking views of the city which was the residence of the kings of Spain.
La Granja de San Ildefonso: It is just a short drive from Segovia. The royal palace and gardens of La Granja de San Ildefonso are another must-see. The palace is famous for its ornate Baroque architecture and lovely fountains. And the gardens offer a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the road.
Salamanca: The last stop on this drive is the city of Salamanca which cannot be missed. It is famous for having the oldest University of Spain built in the 13th century which is also one of the four oldest universities in Europe. Seeing it and touring around is a number one activity.
Another thing is to walk along the streets of Salamanca’s old town as it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main attraction there are Plaza Mayor from the 18th century in the radical baroque style.
During your stay in Salamanca, you could surely take a quick drive to Portugal. A road trip from Madrid to Lisbon through Salamanca is a wonderful way to see two countries without spending too much time on driving and seeing some eminent highlights.
You could be in the neighboring country in an hour and as you go there, you have to stop in Ciudad Rodrigo. It’s known for its Old Town, 12th-century city walls, and many other medieval constructions.
5.) Madrid to Zaragoza Route
On this road trip from Madrid to Zaragoza, you will explore the beauty and history of central Spain. The distance of this trip is approximately 320 kilometers, but with so many places to stop at, you may want to take it slow and enjoy the ride.
Some of the most authentic dishes you should try in Zaragoza is the Ternasco de Aragon. This dish is usually made roasted and it refers to a very young lamb. Another great option is the Huevos al Salmorrejo, these are eggs made with green asparagus, garlic, and parsley.
On your stop in Guadalajara, you should try wild boar stew, hare, or deer. As you can imagine, this region is well known for hunting, so there is a huge variety of meats. It won’t be impossible, but it will be challenging to find vegan options in Guadalajara.
Highlights of Madrid to Zaragoza Scenic Drive
Guadalajara: As you make your way out of Madrid, the historic city of Guadalajara is a great first stop. Be sure to visit the 15th-century Palace of the Infantado, the city’s stunning Gothic cathedral, and the Teatro Buero Vallejo, a modern theater with a striking design.
Siguenza: A small ancient city with unique architecture and old as ages historical monuments. Make a quick stop there and visit two main attractions – the ancient castle and the cathedral.
The Castle was built by the Arabs in the 12th century as a defensive structure, but after the Reconquista, on the initiative of Cardinal Mendoza, it was converted into a residence for bishops. The cathedral, designed by French architects, is a building of different styles as the building process lasted over a few centuries.
Medinaceli: Located about halfway between Madrid and Zaragoza, the charming village of Medinaceli, forged by different cultures, is a must-see stop on your road trip. Its medieval architecture, including a Roman arch unique for its triple arches and a castle, are a testament to its rich history.
Monasterio de Piedra: Just a short drive from Zaragoza, the Monasterio de Piedra is another breathtaking stop on your road trip. The monastery is surrounded by stunning natural scenery, including a series of waterfalls and caves that are open to visitors. They vaguely reminded me of Plitvice waterfalls in Croatia and Göynük Canyon waterfalls near Antalya in southern Turkey.
Zaragoza: The capital of Aragon with the heritage of the Roman era and Moorish past is the last stop on this road trip from Madrid. At first glance, it may seem boring.
Nevertheless, Zaragoza is among the interesting historical and cultural places in Spain. Its magnificent Mudejar temples coexist together with spectacular modern buildings and its cathedral is considered one of the most beautiful in the country.
And if at this point you’d love to stay in a unique location, then Monasterio de Piedra can be an excellent choice. Set in a 12th-century monastery, it is a truly idiosyncratic hotel where to relax and de-stress.
6.) Madrid to Valladolid Road Trip
Here is the last for now Madrid road trip which is a great pick if you look to explore more charming towns and cities of central Spain. Madrid to Valladolid route is only 200 kilometers long but it is full of pretty and important sites.
There are quite a few stops to make and foods to try. Yet, get your appetite ready for Valladolid, as food options there are endless. Do not leave the city without trying first the garlic soup, the Tudela de Duero white asparagus, and the roast lamb.
Highlights of Madrid to Valladolid Drive
San Ildefonso: A must-visit stop on this road trip from Madrid for anyone who wants to see the luxurious royal residence of the 18th century. La Granja Palace, a highlight of San Ildefonso, is a clear testament to the wealth and grandeur of the Spanish monarchy of the 18th century which led the world’s largest power with colonies around the world.
The palace is characterized by luxury and rich decoration. In addition to the magnificent architecture, the adjacent park area will certainly impress. On 146 hectares there are green gardens, 26 beautiful fountains, a French-style labyrinth, and a huge pond.
Segovia: If you don’t stop in Segovia on a road trip to Salamanca (or on any other day trip from Madrid), then don’t miss it on this drive.
Besides the city’s iconic Roman aqueduct, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is also an impressive cathedral, Alcázar castle, the Jewish quarter, pretty central Plaza Mayor square with its 15th-century buildings, and more.
Coca: Located about halfway between Segovia and Valladolid and a bit away from the main road. But the charming town of Coca is a true hidden gem in central Spain. It has this splendid 15th-century castle, which features a mix of Gothic and Mudéjar architecture and is a popular attraction. There are also a few very nice cheap restaurants with good food.
Medina del Campo: It is just a short drive from Coca. The town of Medina del Campo is another point of interest worth a stop. It is famous for its medieval castle, which was the site of the marriage of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in 1469.
Valladolid: In the Middle Ages, Valladolid served as the residence of the Spanish and Castilian monarchs. It became known for the fact that the author of Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra lived and worked there.
The main attractions of Valladolid are the 16th-century Cathedral, the National Sculpture Museum, and the Cervantes House.
More Inspiration for Travels Around Spain
- Is Madrid worth visiting? – honest answers to direct questions
- What Valencia in winter is like – weather, pros & cons of visiting, and things to do
- Renting a car in Valencia – tips for finding the cheapest rental
- What to pack & wear in Spain – my detailed step-by-step guide to all seasons
- Hiring a car and driving in Spain – what it’s like
- Barcelona travel tips – things to know before you go
- Most beautiful towns & cities along the Bay of Biscay – exploring northern Spain
So this is it, my list of road trips from Madrid for now. I will be exploring more of Spain during the next few months and will add more road trips to this list once I check them out.
In conclusion, what you have to remember is that all the day trips from Madrid by car allow you to visit local and rural Spain. There is history, festivals, and of course delicious food to enjoy at each of the stops. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to explore the best that central Spain has to offer!