Costa del Sol Itinerary – 7 Days in Andalusia Off the Beaten Path

Parque Natural Cabo de Gata
Parque Natural Cabo de Gata, Image by Oliver via Flickr

The Iberian peninsula has long been a dreamlike destination. Andalusia, in particular, has a lot to offer in terms of architecture, food and activities. Some people come here for wine, and others are attracted by the fusion between Arab and European cultures. But sometimes you’re just looking for an adventure on one of Europe’s most beautiful coastlines.

This itinerary is best suited for people having access to a car. I always give as much information to those using public transport. However, considering the journey is entirely off the beaten track, it might be harder to reach certain places. This itinerary covers a big part of the South coast of Spain in a mere 7 days, from the Málaga on the Costa del Sol to Almería. It was custom-made with outdoor lovers and adventure seekers in mind. If you stick with it, expect to travel about 800 km in one week.

key takeaways

  • Start in Málaga and go east: This itinerary takes you through 7 days in Southern Spain, starting from Malaga and ending in Almeria.
  • Best for adventure-seekers: It is best suited for people looking for an active holiday on the Mediterranean coast and includes activities like kayaking and canyoning. It’s even possible to go on a hot air balloon excursion.
  • You’ll see the best of the best: You’ll get to visit famous landmarks like the Alhambra in Granada and the Alcazaba in Malaga.

Overview of 7 days in Southern Spain

Map of a 7 days itinerary in Southern Spain

Best time to visit the Costa del Sol

The south coast of Spain is best visited from March through October. If possible, try to aim for the shoulder season to avoid the heat and crowds

Day 1 – Málaga

Your trip begins in Málaga. If you have to know one thing about the city, it is Spain’s heart. The tropical town has one of the best nightlife in the country, and it’s known for its fantastic wine, food, and beaches. If you have some friends in the city, go ahead and come back with us tomorrow. Today is a free day in Málaga, and I guess you don’t need an itinerary to party. For those staying with us, we will use Málaga as a gateway to the Costa del Sol and its nature so you can prepare for a week full of adventures.

Start your first day in Andalusia by heading to the best sight in the city: the Alcazaba. The palatial fortification sits next to the Castle of Gibralfaro, and both can be visited in about 3 hours. It perfectly starts the trip by giving you a taste of the old times.

When you’re done with Moorish architecture, resist heading to Playa Malagueta for lunch and a lazy afternoon by the beach. (After all, there will be plenty of better beaches during the trip.) Instead, spend the afternoon visiting the Jardín Botánico Histórico La Concepción.

What and where to eat in Málaga

  • Breakfast : The obvious choice is to have Churros con Chocolate. Otherwise, grab un mitad (a half-and-half coffee) and un pitufo (a small sandwich made with a tiny loaf of bread)
  • Dinner: Finish your evening at the legendary tapas bar El Pimpi. It might be crowded and touristy, but it’s famous for a reason. It still has the purest essence of Málaga.
Alcazaba in Malaga
Alcazaba, Image by Kristoffer Trolle via Flickr
Jardín Botánico Histórico La Concepción
Jardín Botánico Histórico La Concepción, Image by Daniel Capilla via Wikimedia Commons

Day 2 – Málaga, Marbella

Grab your towel, your best outfit and your sunglasses; Today, we’re going to Marbella! One thing is sure, this costal city lying 60 km west of Málaga, brims with Old School Chic. Classy, trendy, and frequented by the young crowds, you’ll have a blast in the sun-drenched town.

Wander throught the Old Town of Marbella or go walk along the Marina of Puerto Banus. They say on a clear day you could even see the rock of Gibraltar from here.  Go sunbath on the Playa de la Bajadilla or on the Playa de Nueva Andalucía. Marbella is better enjoyed with no clear plan in mind.

Once you have had enough of all this wealth, go back to Málaga and finish the day by visiting the Cathedral of Málaga. (Head to the top for a remarkable view of the city.) For those wanting to strecht their legs, We Bike Málaga does bike tours of the city. (Although tours usually start at 10h30 and 15h00, you can contact We Bike Málaga to arrange another start time.) Before anything else, enjoy your last night en Málaga because we’re leaving tomorrow morning.

Get to Marbella from Málaga

Marbella on a 7 day itinerary of the costa del sol
Marbella, Image by Eevi Alanissi via Flickr
Kayaking around the cliffs of Maro on a 7 days itinerary from Malaga
Cliffs of Maro-Cerro Gordo, Image by Carlos Dario Perez via Flickr

Day 3 – Nerja

Leave Málaga behind and begin the day by going to Nerja. The city, which can be reached by traveling 55 km up the coast, is known for its beautiful coastline and prehistoric caves. First, we’re going to visit the Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo (the cliffs of Maro-Cerro Gordo). This natural park is home to some of the Costa del Sol’s best beaches. You’re going to see the famous waterfall of Nerja from below and with a kayak! Educare Aventura offers a great 2,5 hours trip that will let you enjoy wild beaches and sea coves in the best way. Therefore, head to the meeting point in Playa Burriana.

If you’re not a fan of water sports, the Nerja Caves are another big attraction in the city. It is supposed to hold within the world’s most enormous stalactite. Playa de la Calahonda is also considered a great beach in Nerja to spend the afternoon in.

Afterwards, go to Balcón de Europa to have a panoramic view of the Mediterranean and head to Granada to spend the night in this magic city.

Getting to Nerja from Málaga

  • Drive from Málaga to Nerja: 45 minutes
  • Bus: 1 hour (Operated by Alsa)
  • Luggage Storage: You can leave your luggage at the Luggage Storage run by Transfer People.

Getting to Granada from Nerja

  • Drive from Nerja to Granada: 1 hour
  • Bus: 2 hours (Operated by Alsa)
Balcón de Europa in Nerja
Balcón de Europa, Image by lavieenrose05 via Flickr
Geoparque de Granada on a 7 days itinerary from Malaga
Geoparque de Granada, Image by PhotoLanda via Flickr
Map of a 1 week itinerary in Southern Spain

1-week Itinerary Summary

Don’t feel like reading anymore? Go back to a simple map summarizing this 7 days off the beaten path in Andalusia.

Day 4 – Granada

It’s not realistic to go to Andalusia without a trip to Granada. This city, nicknamed La Gran Sultana, is home to the most visited site in the country: the Alhambra. However, we’re going to experience Granada differently, that is, from the air. The company Glovento Sur offers hot air balloon tours of Granada and of the Granada Geopark in Guadix. Those tours are available in private or group format. (Hot Air Balloon tours of Granada are only operated in the winter and spring – from November to April – because of its high altitude and the weather conditions required.)

If you want to visit the Alhambra, you’ll need to book tickets, preferably months in advance and you should know that the visit takes about 3 hours. (If the tickets happen to be sold out, there are other options: see my post on Seville here.) You can also go to the Mirador San Nicolás for the best view of the palace.

Enjoy a Flamenco show at Jardines de Zoraya or Casa del Arte Flamenco in the evening.

Day 5 – Rio Verde, Sierra Nevada

Day 5 is Adrenaline day, and the plan is to go canyoning down the Rio Verde. (For the uninitiated, canyoning is going down a river by walking, swimming, jumping, and abseiling.) Doing it on your own would be honestly dangerous. However, it is usually safe with a guide in a country like Spain, which has had canyoning professionals for a long time.

Several companies offer barranquismo experiences (Option 1Option 2Option 3.) All you have to do is leave Granada for the day and reach Otivar. The distance between the two cities isn’t well served by public transit. The only reasonable way to get to Otivar without a car would be by taxi.

For those without a car or those afraid of jumping cliffs, Nevada Guides offers a Sierra Nevada 4WD Safari Tour. You’ll be picked up in Granada and taken up in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. The whole takes 6-7 hours and includes lunch! You’ll have the chance to encounter some wildlife and enjoy the spectacular landscape.

After your adrenaline-filled day, go back to Granada for your last night there. There are no breaks on this trip; tomorrow, you’re going to Almería.

Getting to Otivar from Granada

  • Drive to Otivar: 1 hour, one way
Southern Spain Itinerary - 7 Days in southern spain Off the Beaten Path
Granada, Image by sk via Flickr
Otivar on a 7 days itinerary from Malaga
Otivar, Image by Lucas Gutiérrez Jiménez via Flickr

Day 6 – Almería

Almería is well off the beaten path (as of now), but that doesn’t mean you’ll have nothing to do. Begin by exploring the fortress of the Alcazaba before making a quick stop to admire the Catedral de la Encarnación on your way to Playa del Zapillo, a lovely beach by the city center.

In the afternoon, if you’re interested in visiting the Tabernas desert, known for being a popular filming location since the 1950s, go on a horseback riding tour with Malcaminos in Tabernas.

End the day with a tapas at Casa Puga, a tapas place that has been there since 1870!

Getting to Almería from Granada

  • Drive to Almería: 1 hour 40 min
  • Bus: 2 hours (Operated by Alsa)
  • Drive to Tabernas: 23 min, one way

Day 7 – Almería, Cabo de Gata

Your last day is going to be spectacular! Today, you’re exploring the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata-Níjar. This natural park couldn’t NOT be included in this trip; its rugged beaches and pristine waters are among my favorite parts of this itinerary. The protected area is dotted with small towns and is more accessible by car.  

My pick of great beaches includes Playa de Los GenovesesPlaya de Mónsul, and Playa de Los Muertos. The Faro de Cabo de Gata stands at the peninsula’s tip and offers fantastic coastal views and excellent pictures. If you want to avoid walking and driving all day, take a break with El Cabo a Fondo, which offers affordable 90 min private boat tours.

At last, go back to Almería to enjoy your last evening in Spain.

Getting to Cabo de Gata from Almería

  • Drive to Cabo de Gata: 17 min, one way
  • Bus: 1 hour (Operated by Alsa. Go to Almería’s Estación Intermodal and take the bus to San Miguel de Cabo de Gata)
Alcazaba of Almería on a 7 days itinerary from Malaga
Alcazaba of Almería, Image by Jebulon via Wikimedia Commons
Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata-Níjar
Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata-Níjar, Image by Andara Rutas via Flickr

In summary

Map of a 7 days itinerary in Southern Spain

Want to explore more of Málaga?

Costa del Sol Itinerary - 7 Days in Andalusia Off the Beaten Path 7 days in southern spain
VisitWake up inSleep in
Day 1MálagaMálagaMálaga
Day 2MarbellaMálagaMálaga
Day 3NejraMálagaGranada
Day 4GranadaGranadaGranada
Day 5OtivarGranadaGranada
Day 6Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata-NíjarGranadaAlmería
Day 7AlmeríaAlmeríaAlmería