Last updated on February 10th, 2024
Going on a road trip in Malaga was my favorite thing to do when Mark and I were spending one of the winters there. We would often rent a car at the airport for a week or just a few days and go on a little adventure in the region and beyond.
Thanks to this we got to visit so many beautiful places in Malaga that I didn’t know existed and I can now tell with confidence that we discovered this region in full. And after all those explorations, I would love to share my favorite locations in the area that are easily accessible by car.
You can drive to them on a day trip from Malaga or add them all to your big Andalucia road trip in this way having a nice itinerary that covers the most famous and lesser-known spots in both coastal and inland areas of the big Malaga region.
Before you go, I recommend you rent a car from Record Go or Centauro as they have excellent service and prices (not so much in other cities, but in Malaga they are the best!). But more on cheap car hire in my guide to renting a car in Malaga airport.
If you plan to go driving in Malaga for the first time, remember that driving is easy. There is occasional traffic along the coast in both directions but adjusting to it is not a problem.
Traveling to Malaga for the First Time?
If yes, below are some of my top travel tips, tours, and hotels just for first-time visitors!
Top Tours & Activities in Malaga
- Introduction to Malaga Historic Center – free tour (!)
- Flamenco Show in Malaga – must-do for first-timers (!)
- Malaga Tapas Tour – essential for foodies!
- Tour of the White Towns – to get to know Andalucia’s Moorish past
Where to Base Yourself in Malaga When Road Tripping
- Vincci Seleccion – right by the historic Old Center in Malaga city but across the road from a neighborhood with lots of parking spaces
- The Residence by the Beach – if you want to include a quick beach stay while on a road trip
- Hotel Soho Boutique Palace – authentic old palace with Moorish furniture, design, and fittings in the most romantic city in the Malaga region!
Other Things You Need When Planning a Road Trip in Andalusia
Map of Places to Visit on a Malaga Road Trip
Malaga Road Trip Ideas – Places to Visit When You Plan to Have a Car
Velez-Malaga – Avocados, Beaches & Rich Moorish Past
When I think about all our trips in Malaga by car, the first place that comes to mind is Velez-Malaga, a historic town on the Costa del Sol only 40 km away from Malaga city center. It left a really vivid impression in my memory thanks to its vast fields of avocados, agricultural plains, and its Alcazaba that reflects the town’s Moorish past.
Velez-Malaga is a true hidden gem of the Malaga region that most people skip on their travels not knowing that it is home to the historic center with a Moorish fortress with panoramic views and Andalusian Gothic-Mudejar architecture.
This town was founded in the 10th century and from those distant times, the Fortress (Fortaleza de Vélez-Malaga) and remnants of the fortress wall have been preserved. So once you visit you can immerse in the era of Andalusia’s Arab past when it was one of the most important settlements during Arab rule.
In the old town, stop by the information center to get a map and a few tips on how to follow the historic route, and don’t miss architectural treasures such as the Palace of the Marquises of Beniel and the churches of San Juan Bautista and Santa Maria la Mayor.
But my favorite part is the olive groves, fruit farms, and vineyards since Velez-Malaga is situated amidst an abundance of these agricultural treasures. You can even visit an avocado and mango farm in the area to learn about the growth and distribution of these fruits.
Nerja – Beautiful Beach Town
Nerja is a small touristy town on the Costa del Sol coast with beaches stretching for several kilometers along the coast.
The main reason to include it in a Malaga road trip itinerary is to put your feet in the water on one of its beaches (or just take in the scenery of beaches if visiting this part of Spain in winter), enjoy the views from the “Balcony of Europe,” visit Nerja Caves (for their stalactite and stalagmite formations and archaeological discoveries dating back to the Upper Paleolithic period), beautiful beaches like Burriana Beach, charming old town.
Balcony of Europe is basically a scenic promenade with views of the coastline and mountains. It is situated on a rocky outcrop that extends into the sea, providing space for strolls to appreciate the beauty of the coastal landscape.
Although the main attraction of Nerja is its caves, the entrance to which was accidentally discovered by local boys in the 1950s. The cave truly makes a strong impression with some of its chambers reaching incredible sizes, and stalactites with various rock formations making you feel as if you are on another planet.
Torrox – Lesser-Known White Town With The Best Climate in Spain
Among all the ‘white’ towns and villages I visited in Spain, Torrox turned out to be my favorite due to its mixture of whitewashed homes and intriguing ancient Mudéjar-style buildings from the Moorish era built on different levels.
Torrox has lower and upper parts where the lower one stretches along the beach (with nice fish restaurants and lovely long embankment) and the upper one (or old one) with white houses hiding some cool local bars in between the homes. You can make a stop here when traveling in Malaga by car along the coast.
Torrox is worth visiting not just for white homes, but also for its mild climate (especially when in Malaga in summer) for its unique archaeological site El Faro de Torrox (that features excavations with significant historical value, including structures dating back to the 1st-4th centuries AD), an old sugar factory named San Rafael, the Church of San Roque, the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (or Our Lady of the Snows), Muslim-era buildings (Arab house, Inquisition tower), watchtowers, and the La Granja aqueduct.
Then when you are here, particularly in the late evening hours, make a stop at Bar Las Niñas where they serve local tapas (quite cheap) and very good tinta de verano drink.
Since Torrox is very close to Nerja, you can visit it together on the same road trip from Malaga or when driving to Granada or Almeria.
Embalse de la Viñuela – Beautiful Reservoir
Embalse de la Viñuela or as locals simply call it La Viñuela Reservoir is an artificial reservoir (one of the largest reservoirs in Andalusia) surrounded by scenic landscapes whose shores offer opportunities for recreational activities such as picnicking, walking, fishing, bird watching, and just relaxing in a place with beautiful views.
My favorite place on the lake is B Bou Hotel & Spa which we visited a couple of times when living in Malaga. It is a rural hotel with a cute peaceful restaurant, swimming pool hidden between palm trees, spa, and just one big pretty territory.
You can book a room and stay there for a full relaxing holiday or come in just as an outside guest on a day pass to use the spa or dine in the restaurant while enjoying the atmosphere.
The surrounding area is also known for its olive groves, vineyards, and traditional Andalusian villages, with a car there will be a lot to check out!
If you combine all the places that I mentioned above together, you can have a very dynamic Malaga road trip for 3 days or so.
Colomares Monument & Stupa Budista
The first place I want to suggest is located very close to Malaga city, so you can go there by car just on a day trip or when having a longer road trip in Andalusia.
The Colomares Monument is a historical monument in Benalmadena built between 1987 and 1994 by Dr. Esteban Martin to honor Christopher Columbus and commemorate the discovery of America. It is really a small attraction but something unique to look at if you are on a road trip from Malaga to Marbella or even when on a bigger drive from Malaga to Cadiz.
The monument is a mix of architectural styles, including Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic elements with a castle-like structure with a large dome, towers, and sculptures. Its exact location is here on the hilly side between Benalmadena and Fuengirola.
The next site is The Stupa Budista or Stupa of Enlightenment, the largest Buddhist stupa in Europe that stands as a symbol of peace, harmony, and spirituality. It features traditional Buddhist architecture and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Both of these sites are simple but impressive monuments offering a peaceful retreat with panoramic views of the area. They both contribute to the cultural and architectural diversity of the region. If you have a car, they are interesting places to look at!
Churros & You – Off the Beaten Track Churros Cafe in Benalmadena
And then if you happen to be visiting these two monuments (before you even get to them), make a stop in an old churreria cafe ‘Churros & You’ where you can try incredibly delish churros with their in-house made chocolate.
They have two types of churros -Madrid-style and Andalusia-style- as well as other traditional Spanish dishes. But to make sure you get to try them it is best to stop here in the morning before siesta or in the evening after around 18:00.
Mijas – the Closest to Malaga White Village
It is not just a typical Andalusian village with whitewashed buildings and cobbled streets.
Mijas is special in that way that it is dominated by the ruins of an Arab Palace and has a strong influence of Moorish Rule. This is why there are countless elements of Moorish architecture, such as arched doorways, courtyards with fountains, and intricate tilework.
You can drive here from Malaga to see picture-perfect houses, walk the winding streets adorned with flowers, and take advantage of one unique attraction such as sightseeing in the village in traditional donkey taxis that provide a nostalgic way to explore the village’s past.
Also, one distinctive feature – Mijas is built on the hill which is why it has impressive views of the Mediterranean coastline and the surrounding mountains. There are several viewpoints, with the Mirador de la Muralla being the most popular one.
I visited Mijas on a few occasions but the most memorable one was in the evening before the sunset. So if you have a chance, make a stop here in the evening too.
Marbella – Fancy Resort Town
Marbella is probably the most popular resort town on the Costa del Sol with the most expensive houses on sale and for rent. It is known for its luxurious lifestyle, upscale amenities, and beautiful Mediterranean beaches.
While it may be not to everyone’s liking, visiting Marbella still should be on a must-do list in Malaga, so you can form your own opinion about this town.
It offers a good mix of historical charm and a vibrant cultural scene with diverse architectural mix. The Old Town showcases traditional Andalusian homes with whitewashed buildings, narrow streets, and Moorish influences.
But there is also Puerto Banus, the luxurious marina with modern and international architecture with upscale amenities that attract owners of high-end yachts and celebrities. It reminds a bit of one of the Marines in Dubai.
Come to Marbella just to walk around, go to the beach boardwalk, spend time on one of its beaches and Old Town, or just go shopping or fine dining. It can be a nice town where to stop for a night when going on a road trip from Malaga to Gibraltar.
Anantara Villa Padierna Palace & Resort in Marbella
If you are on a road trip from Malaga to Cadiz or to Gibraltar, Anantara Palace makes a nice mid-route stop where to pause for a couple of hours to have coffee with in-house made sweets or a glass of alcohol-free wine with artisanal salty nuts and chips (or anything else to your liking), and just relax in an elegant and aesthetically luxurious place, even if you don’t intend to stay there.
The thing is – Anantara Villa Padierna Palace is a 5-star hotel with a beautiful large territory with gardens and pools, and terraced landscapes that create a Mediterranean ambiance. Its facilities are open not just to those who made a reservation but also to outside guests.
This property was inspired by Italian design principles which is why there are a lot of intricate mosaic patterns in architecture together with incorporation of statues, sculptures, fountains, and Italian art collection displayed throughout the property. In one word – visiting here is a treat for those who appreciate aesthetics!
Depending on the date and season, several cultural events happen here throughout the year like jazz or classical music concerts, various lectures, workshops, etc.
Ronda – Dramatic Cliffside Town
Ronda is a one-of-a-kind white town in Spain that should be on every list of those who visit Malaga. It sits on the edge of a deep gorge and is dotted with a few picturesque bridges over that gorge that connect two sides of town.
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Ronda is very unique in every sense and there is only one place like it in the world which is Constantine city in Algeria. But you won’t find anywhere else scenic landscapes like there, so do not miss a chance to come to Ronda by car from Malaga, especially considering how close to each other they are located.
Apart from its stunning views, Ronda has an interesting history with a mix of Moorish and Christian influences, which are reflected in the architecture and local traditions.
The famous Puente Nuevo bridge and old landmarks like the Arab Baths show how important Ronda is architecturally. Many museums and Old Town, show how rich Ronda is culturally. It is also known as a place where modern bullfighting started and where some of the finest wines come from, so you can get so much from a trip there!
LA Organic Olive Oil Farm
When you have a car and road trip through the Malaga region, another place to visit with Ronda is this awesome olive oil farm (of course if you love different tastings and knowledgeable lectures). It is located near the eastern side of the city (where you enter Ronda from Malaga) which can be the first place where to stop on a road trip.
Ronda area is known for olive oil production and has many olive oil farms, but in my experience, LA Organic Farm has just a very interesting presentation and a very detailed tour. Mark and I also loved their buns served together with olive oil, they were so good (see on photos)!
If you are interested in a tour, you need to make arrangements in advance (at least a couple of days before a trip) and you can do it by calling the farm directly or on their website. Here is the page where you can do it.
But even if you miss a tour, just come to the farm anyway! There is a chance to follow the self-guided route just by looking at the plants and trees, reading a couple of info boards, and in the end, tasting olive oil on your own in the store. And then if you like it (we did!), purchase their high-quality, fresh olive oil to take home.
Caminito del Rey – Thrilling Cliffside Walkway
The Caminito del Rey, which translates as “King’s Little Pathway”, is a famous and exhilarating walkway that runs along the steep walls of the Gaitanes Gorge. From the pathway, views that open up are fantastic and scary at the same time due to the path’s elevated location along steep cliffs connected with narrow pathways and hanging bridges.
The height and exposure to the gorge below, combined with the historical reputation of being a perilous route, can contribute to a sense of fear or unease for certain people.
So if you like thrilling experiences with challenging hikes, Caminito del Rey is a must-visit site on a drive from Malaga. But if you are afraid of heights and walking on suspension bridges then it is better to skip this place at all. Whenever you go, do not forget to have proper shoes and clothing for this place.
Here are guided tours to Caminito del Rey if you prefer that more
Juzcar – Blue Village
Another great place to add to the Malaga road trip itinerary, if you would like to visit a unique Andalusian village with whimsical surroundings.
Juzcar is a small village that is beautiful and quirky thanks to its blue houses. All homes and buildings there were painted in 2011 by Sony Pictures as part of a promotional campaign for the movie “The Smurfs.” Since then residents decided to keep the blue color after the campaign ended due to the increased tourism it brought to the village.
The main attraction in Juzcar is the unique sight of the blue-painted houses as there is not much else to do in the village. The appeal lies primarily in its distinctive appearance rather than a wide range of activities. But you can also explore the charming streets, take photographs of the blue surroundings, and stop for a drink in one of the local cafes.
I wouldn’t plan a trip there just for the village alone but if you are visiting Ronda and driving back to the Malaga coast, Juzcar can be a nice stop (especially if you are making a loop).
If you decide to travel to all the places on this list when visiting the region, you can easily fit them all in 7 days Malaga road trip, so take your time and enjoy the drive!
More Ideas for Where to Go From Malaga by Car
- Cordoba – home to the best floral patios and beautiful Mezquita marvel
- From Malaga to Valencia – big road trip with many stops to make
- Madrid – when it is worth visiting & how much time to spend there
- Coastal Towns in Northern Spain – beautiful towns to add to your itinerary
More Road Trips to Take in Spain
- Road Trips From Madrid – to explore central Spain
- Valencia to Barcelona – interesting drive with many sightseeing opportunities
- Barcelona to Andorra by Car – scenic route you didn’t know about
- Road Trip Through Northern Spain – best places to visit & things to do
- Fun Road Trips in Tenerife – ideas for where to go & what to see
- Best Drives in Gran Canaria – scenic road trips to take on this island
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