MADRID – Do you dread long queues at the airport? Afraid your airline gets involved in a strike? Or do you think the tickets for a flight to your Spanish destination are too expensive at the moment? If you travel with more people, driving by car to your holiday address in Spain can be a good option if you live in Europe and the UK.
Of course, that takes a lot of time. From the north of Europa you have to reserve at least two days and one overnight stay for this. But more days and overnight stays is recommended as it can be part of a unique holiday experience. According to Google maps, it takes around 15.5 hours to travel from London to Barcelona. Depending on which route you take, from London to Madrid is a little further, with between 17.5 and 18.5 hours. For a continuation to the south, you have to add at least 5 hours here. Another reason to go by a car is that you have your transport already organised. You don´t need to rent a car for a lot of money.
We think the biggest advantage of travelling by car is that you can explore Spain along the way. So if you have the time, plan some nice overnight stays along your route. Spain has many cities with stunning, monumental city centres. Think for example of Salamanca, Cuenca, Cáceres, Mérida, Segovia or Toledo.
If you think you have earned some comfort after such a long drive, then choose an overnight stay in a Parador hotel. These Spanish state hotels are all located in monumental buildings or unique locations. Their restaurants often serve regional dishes with local ingredients. This way you get completely in your holiday mood and you can continue your journey rested.
If you want something simpler, drive into a nice village and choose the local guest house. They are most of the times very clean and the village bar is also part of it so that you can have breakfast and dinner among the locals for next to nothing.
ROUTES TO THE SPANISH EAST AND SOUTH COAST
Via the Route du Soleil
Who does not know it, the Autoroute du Soleil in France, the A6 from Paris via Lyon to Marseille. From Calais, you drive the A16 via Abbeville and Amiens to Paris. From there you take the A6 to Dijon/Beaune and follow it to Lyon. From Lyon, take the A7 to Orange and then the A9 to Montpellier. From there you drive on to Perpignan where you cross the border into Spain.
From Paris to the South via Bourges
To avoid the crowds on the Autoroute du Soleil, you can also drive directly south via Paris by taking the A10 towards Orléans. In Orleáns, take the A71 to Bourges and Clermont-Ferrand. There you drive on the A75 to Béziers and on to Perpignan on the Spanish border.
Via Paris and Toulouse
Another route that is about the same time as the other two routes is the one via Toulouse. As with route 2, at Paris take the A10 towards Orleáns. There you take the A71 to Vierzon and Bourges. In Vierzon, take the A20 to Limoges and Toulouse. In Toulouse, you choose the A61 via Narbonne to Perpignan.
Bonus route 1 through the Pyrenees
Do you want to get into a holiday mood and enjoy beautiful landscapes? Then enter Spain via the Pyrenees. From Toulouse, choose the A64 to Montrejeaux and there the N125 to the Spanish Les. You will immediately arrive in a beautiful holiday area for outdoor enthusiasts near Viella: the Val d’Aran. From here you drive further into Catalonia. Assume that you will see beautiful things along the way, but that you will be on the road for a few hours longer.
ROUTE TO WESTERN SPAIN VIA BORDEAUX
You can also take the routes through France described above for Madrid or other destinations in Spain further south. You are just on the road longer. However, if you want to save time, choose the western route through France. From Calais drive via the A28 to Le Mans. Follow the same road to Tour. There take the A10 to Bordeaux. Past Bordeaux you take the A63 to cross the border into Spain past Biarritz at Irun.
If you like good food, stick around in San Sebastián, a beautiful city known for the international film festival and its pintxos. Culinary works of art on a sandwich with a stick in it. Stroll through the old town and grab a bite at any bar that looks inviting to you.
Bonus route 2 through the Pyrenees
If you want something more than just a speeding highway, choose this – much slower – route through the Pyrenees. You take the Paris-Bordeaux route and at Bordeaux, you take the A62 and A65 towards Pau. From Pau, you come to the N134 which leads beautifully through the mountains and over mountain passes. You enter Spain at Candanchú (a well-known winter sports area). Take your time and of course make sure you drive there in daylight: spectacular. A little further on you can admire the impressive ghost station of Canfranc with a painful past.
Bonus route 3 through the Pyrenees
Another beautiful route through the mountains goes From Bordeaux, take the D918 to San Piéd de Port and from there the D933 to Roncesvalles in Spain, the most famous departure point for the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. There you choose the N135 to Pamplona. A fun city to visit and much more than just the bull runs for which the city is world famous. If you want to go to Madrid, choose the A12 to the nice tapas town of Logroño.
ONCE IN SPAIN, THEN WHAT?
From Pamplona/Logrono to Madrid
If you want a nice inland route from Logroño, take the N111 to Soria and from there the A15 to Alcolea del Pinar. Do you have time? Before you reach Alcolea, visit the beautiful medieval town of Medinaceli with a fully standing Roman arch. Here you take the A2 via Guadalajara to Madrid. Or take the A11 to San Esteban de Gormaz and the N110 to Cerezo de Arriba where you take the A1 to Madrid.
From Pamplona, the fastest route to Madrid is by taking the A12 at Logroño to Burgos and then the A1 to Madrid.
From Pamplona to the Spanish east coast
Do you want to go from Pamplona to the east coast? Then take the AP15 towards Zaragoza and Logroño, then at Tuleda the A68 towards Zaragoza. From there the AP2 to Barcelona or the A23 to Sagunto much further south to continue to the coasts of southeastern and southern Spain via Valencia, Alicante, Murcia and Almería.
Via Madrid to southern Spain
If you want to go to southern Spain, the route via Madrid is the fastest, but perhaps also the most boring in terms of landscape and places you pass along the way. It is nice to visit the landscape of Don Quixote near Manzanares and Tomelloso with the famous windmills that he mistook for monsters. Or visit one of the world heritage cities around Madrid such as Cuenca, Toledo, Salamanca and Segovia.
Entering Spain at San Sebastián, take the A8 until Elgoibar. There you take the AP1 and follow it past Vitoria, the beautiful capital of the Basque Country, and Burgos to Madrid. There you drive further south on the A4 until you reach Andalucia on the E902 to Jaén and from there the A44 to Granada and Motril choose destinations in the middle and east of Andalucia (Costa Tropical or the Costa de Almería) or from Granada de A92 to Málaga and the Costa del Sol.
If you want to go to Seville or the west coast of Andalusia (Costa de la Luz), it is best to keep following the A4 at Bailén via Córdoba to Seville. To continue from there to your final destination.
To southern Spain via the Ruta de la Plata
The Ruta de la Plata is a nice alternative to driving south through the west of Spain. At Burgos take the A62 and drive through Valladolid past the historically important Tordesillas; it was here in 1494 that the treaty was concluded dividing the non-European world between Castile and the Kingdom of Portugal, which organised the first voyages of discovery.
Then continue to the beautiful university city of Salamanca. The extremely photogenic and very cosy old town here is a World Heritage Site, and for good reason! Especially the bustling Plaza Mayor is a must-see in the evening.
From Salamanca, you continue on the A66 through the beautiful and vast landscapes of Extremadura via Plasencia, Cáceres and Mérida (both World Heritage cities) to the stately and monumental Seville. You may consider taking a detour to Trujillo. A special castle town where a walk from the main square to the castle above will certainly impress you.
To southern Spain via the Mediterranean coast
Entering Spain at Perpignan you can follow practically the entire A7 which runs along the Mediterranean coast to Algeciras in the extreme southwest of Spain. Along the way, you will pass the beautiful Costa Brava with its rugged coves and picturesque coastal towns. The cities of Girona, Barcelona, Tarragona and Valencia are all unique and worth a visit.
More to the south you pass the evocative skyline of Benidorm and the pleasant port city of Alicante. You can also visit beautiful places on Costa Blanca, such as Altea, Moraira or Jávea. You then continue on the same road to the south via Murcia and Lorca.
Just past the palm city of Elche, you can opt for the toll road AP7, which leads closer to the coast along, among other things, the salt lakes of Torrevieja. Via the port city of Cartagena with well-preserved Roman remains, this road then leads you to Almería on the southeastern coast of Andalucia. Do you like volcanic landscapes and quiet bays with impressive cliffs and crystal clear water? Then visit the Cabo de Gata nature reserve.
Tolls in Spain Since last year, many toll roads have become free.
Tolls can be paid in cash in euros, often with a bank card (Maestrologo) and almost everywhere with a major credit card (Mastercard or Visa). Most toll gates will read your pass without contact, but keep in mind that this is not the case everywhere if your magnetic strip does not work properly. Always make sure you have cash on hand in case paying with a debit card is not possible.
In Spain, fixed speed checks and section checks are generally announced along the side of the road. The UK government website has listed information about driving abroad. The maximum permitted blood alcohol level is 0.5 per mille. For drivers who have had a driving license for less than two years, the maximum permitted alcohol content is 0.3 per mille.