November - December 2018 | April - May 2019
We’ve been to many different European countries, but a good road trip through Spain was still on our list. As we slowly move closer to home we also start to think about what our future will bring. We’ve always had the idea of starting a cozy bed and breakfast somewhere and in this road trip through Spain we want to see if we can find that extraordinary spot for our fantastic plans…
From Cancún we fly to Brussels with Tui Fly for only €149 per person. From Brussels we’ve booked two tickets with Ryan Air for only €25 each to the supposedly wonderful city Sevilla in the center of the Andalucian hills of Spain. The weather is fantastic for this time of year, no shorts just yet but definitely t-shirts weather!
With Alamo we’ve rented a car for 6 weeks which was much cheaper in Valencia and to bring it back in Sevilla than the other way around. So our plan: after a few days in Sevilla we will take the train to València, stay there for a few nights, pick up the car and drive slowly back to Sevilla. I say LETS DO THIS!
Our hopes are high and in only two days I will celebrate my birthday, so what better place to do that than stroll around in the capital city of tapas and wine, the most romantic city of Spain, Sevilla!
With Air Bnb we’ve made reservations for a small apartment in the center of the city. In Sevilla there are a few popular areas: the area between the Plaza de Toros where the traditional bull fights are being held and the impressive Catedral de Sevilla is called El Arenal, also the area around the Alameda de Hércules and just over the river in Triana, a less touristic part of town which is getting more popular since only a few years.
Our apartment ‘Duplex Arenal’ through Airbnb has everything we need and is located right in the middle of town. In a quiet street but surrounded by hundreds of little tapasbars and bodegas. Terrible… Even if you would stay a whole year you would not we able to eat in every restaurant in town. TAPA WALHALLA!
El Arenal is a very attractive part of the city, well maintained decorated buildings and lots of cozy little streets to get lost in.
Sevilla has a lot of attractive things to see, of course there are the known cathedrals, the bridge, the palace and the Plaza de España. Touristic must-sees. But there is so much more… visit the city park Jardines de Murillo and of course El Balcón de Rosina, the allegedly balcony of Romeo and Juliet. The Mercado de Triana, just over the bridge filled with tiny tapas bars, buy some nice snacks there and sit on the other side of the bridge on the waterside at the Muelle de la Sal amongst the locals to enjoy the sun.
During our five days in Sevilla we walk around different parts of the city center and enjoy the beautiful buildings and small streets. There is just so much to see…
We celebrate my birthday in a typical Andalucian bar with a guitarplaying caballero and people dancing the Flamengo. Only Spanish people around us. They sing me a birthday song until we’re all too drunk to do anything… Best birthday ever!
Train to València
The Spanish railways are quite well organized, comfortable and on time. We’ve downloaded the phone application of Renfe, the Spanish train company. On this app you can easily book your ticket and pay online with Paypal. If you make an account you can use the app to show your ticket, so no need for printing them.
We book two one way tickets from Sevilla Santa Justa, which is the train station closed to the city center, to València Nord, the end of this line and right in the middle of the center.
The tickets cost us € 22 each but differ each day and time. This is probably the cheapest you can find. Our train takes 7 hours but there are also trains that do it in 4 hours which are probably more expensive.
There are different options of class and strangely the better option is the cheapest in our case. After the purchase we receive an email and have to fill in some extra information in the app after which we can download our tickets.
The train station Sevilla Santa Justa is quite large and looks amazing. There are some shops for your last groceries but we are already provided with lunch and snacks. Although the train looks old we have a carriage with huge luxurious chairs and lots of space. Might as well because it’s a 7,5 hour ride from Sevilla to Valencia.
The scenery of our train trip is amazing! Green mountains which we definitely didn’t expect to see in Spain. We don’t mind the 7 hour trip at all because it’s all gorgeous.
Our first meet with Valencia was not very impressive. After visiting Sevilla our standard for Spanish cities was too high. We were expecting at least the same vibe. In València the streets are wider, the buildings are bigger and the prices are higher. Is this a city for exclusive shopping and dining? More suitable for a citytrip rather than coming here on a low budget? We must find out…
Our Airbnb apartment is right in the historic city center behind the beautiful old post office. It is a shared apartment with four private rooms a shared living room, a simple shared kitchen and a shared bathroom. We pay €90 for 3 nights which is more than enough.
Although the location is perfect, the shared apartment isn’t very clean, and quite noisy.
The typical dishes in València are Pinchos, a small slice of bread topped with different products and tastes that turn it into a beautiful and delicious culinary surprise. València is also the mother of Paella, the famous yellow colored rice dish with fruits from the sea.
So besides shopping and dining, what do you do?
The historic center of Valencia has some awesome buildings to visit, so we start our walk at the old post office and opposite of the square the town hall. Both super interesting the see inside and don’t forget to check the view from the town hall balcony 😉
Our next point of interest is the placa de Santa Catarina with its beautiful church and La Lonja de la Seda. The area around the Valencia opera house Palau les Arts and the Science Museum is impressive. A series of fancy architectural highlights that really make your walk around the city complete. Not only can you not have enough ohs and ahws to cover the views, keep your camera ready because every angle seems to have a different shape.
Walk towards the Russafa area, where you will find heaps of authenticity, nice little coffee bars and terraces in any street corner. Fantastic old buildings and the food is much cheaper too!
Here we spot only the Spanish enjoying their sunny Saturday, taking time to catch up with family and friends in the warm November sun.
Much more to do at the docks and beach area. Unfortunately our time here is up… who’d have thought we would have such a great time in València! We must come back…
Picking up our rental car
We have rented a car with Alamo.nl about two weeks ago. As said, renting a car in Valencia was much cheaper than renting it in Sevilla. The one way fee with Alamo.nl is only €25 but the difference between the two rental options was €210!
Eventually we pay €14.45 per day for a small A-category car in a period of 26 days. Renting a car off season can be very cheap in Spain, for about €3 a day you can drive around in a small car.
We’ve looked at other cheaper options too, other companies, but although their prices are lower the experiences of previous customers don’t get us too excited…
The one way fee with Alamo is very low and we’ve rented with Alamo before so our choice was made. We pick up our car from València airport, which is also much cheaper in our case. You can easily get there by metro for a few Euros.
The southern part of the Valènciana Region is quite green and hilly. Our first stop is the atmospheric town of Xátiva. Little streets with old buildings and lots of restaurants. Best part, no tourists…
Xátiva is build on a hill right next to an old castle. The walk from town up to the castle is about an hour and very much worth it!
In the area around this town there are nice hikes to waterfalls and ancient Arcs, there are the caves of Cova Negra and a nature reserve L’Assut de Bellus.
From Xátiva we drive through the beautiful hills of this area. The winding roads are very popular with cyclists so we need to focus. Ah well, we’ll just take it easy… so much time… tranquilo!
Gandia and Oliva
Gorgeous white beaches in Playa de Gandia and town next door Palma de Oliva. Both Gandia and Oliva are located a few kilometers from the beach and although they aren’t the most attractive with their high buildings they offer lots of restaurants and bars. Lots to do with a bit less atmosphere. But those beaches… Phoah!
Those who visit Spain are probably interested in the traditional white villages. Although this is no must see for us, Altea is our first white village and does not disappoint.
Altea it’s located next to the huge city of Benidorm, but fortunately Altea is not too touristic off season and has a nice vibe. There are some of the nicest beaches in this area too!
This beautiful colorful beachtown unfortunately is not as traditional as we’d wish. Even in winter it’s quite touristic and the restaurants are focussed on tourists and spoiled immigrants from northern Europe.
BUT, the beach is great and the 360 degree view from that beach is even better. So with some wine and bread from the supermarket we make our own perfect beach picnic.
In the hills between Alicante and Valencia there are many nice villages to visit. Too many! Benimantell, Polop, all fantastic! We’ve found a beautiful house in Tarbena we would like to visit. Tarbena is a mountain village with stunning views all around. The next town is about half an hour drive via a winding road with exceptional views.
The house we are interested in is a bit over budget but if this is really as fantastic as we expect it to be, we will definitely consider. As we thought, the house and its views meet our every expectation, but unfortunately the town isn’t that spectacular. There are no people on the street and only one cafetaria like bar. No, we would like something more lively. We will continue our search.
This hilly area has a comfortable micro-climate so both summer and winter are soft. We will keep this area in mind!
Another house we would like to see is an old guesthouse or Casa Rural as they would call it here.
Relleu is located in the hills with panoramic views all over the place. The house we are visiting looks really well and the town is a bit more lively than Tarbena. Hmmm, could be interesting!
Although the hotel looks good and has a nice decoration, a lot of maintenance needs to be done because it has been out of service since 8 years. The hotel has 6 double rooms with a private bathroom and a larger apartment with terrace on the top floor. There is a small inside pool that needs a lot of work and a courtyard. The price has lowered 400 thousand Euros in the last 6 years, so even though the price is very attractive and all the permits are there, we wonder why it hasn’t been sold.
This is all very tempting, but after thorough consideration we decide that we would want a house with a garden and cherish our urges in gardening. No problem, we see this as a proces.
Alacant / Alicante
Alicante is huge. It has a very small historic center with some fantastically preserved tall stately buildings from the 19th century. The city is entirely surrounded by ugly skyscrapers. There is a nice harbor and a boulevard and of course the beach.
Vélez Blanco and Huescar
Between Murcia and Almeria, a bit land inwards there are a few authentic villages where no tourists ever come. So to speak. The towns that lie on an altitude of over a 1000 meters have a great look, small streets, nice classic buildings and that traditional vibe. It is really worth it to spend some time exploring these and many other villages like them!
After driving over a boring country road for an hour we reach Huéscar. The scenery isn’t incredibly attractive, only bold limestone mountains and hills surrounding us like a dessert. But now, we drive into a green oasis. Trees, a nice park, gardens filled with plants… this village is getting more interesting by the minute.
The Plastic Coast
Unfortunately not every part of Spain is nice to see… along the coast East and West of Almería there are so many plastic covered orchards and greenhouses it is visible from space! So our choice from Almería towards Malaga is ‘over’ the Sierra Nevada!
From Granada we move back towards the coast with spectacular views over the snow covered mountains.
Nerja is a great town on the coast with everything we need. Ten years ago this town was only a small fisherman’s village but has developed itself into the popular holiday destination it is today.
We check in at Hostal Boutique Plaza Cantarero, a small hotel, very close to the beach, it has a huge decorated rooftop terrace with nice views over the city. Nerja is quite touristic but it isn’t hard to find the little authentic gems if you wander off from the main street.
Unfortunately the house prices in this area are incredibly high, but otherwise we could definitely live here!
The most popular of Spains traditional white villages must be Frigiliana. It takes some practice to pronounce the name, but once you got it, it’s all smooth and easy, just like the town itself. Easy living, the Spanish way. Unfortunately it looks a bit too perfect with its mandatory white houses and clean streets, too many selfie taking tourists all year round and even the flower baskets look like they are right from a commercial. This said, we do like Frigiliana, small white streets with steps going to places only the locals know. The views over the valley and the sea are absolutely breathtaking.
Torrox and Competa
As we drive from Frigiliana through the mountains towards Competa we are amazed by the views. Competa looks fantastic and we can see online that the houses there are much cheaper. We park our car and walk around through the town. Nobody here… hmm… it’s absolutely dead, and it is only 11:00.
On the main square next to the church we find a few restaurants with terraces. There are many loud beer drinking kids that obviously havent seen their bed since yesterday. A few other screaming guys with noisy cars roar their engines while hanging around the main square. We decide to move on… maybe we judge too quickly, but if this is a regular weekend thing, we wouldn’t want to live here.
From Competa there is only one road to Torrox, from a distance we can see the white village surrounded by ugly apartment buildings and holiday villages. WHY?
Prejudged we enter the unattractive town and walk around the small streets. Again, nobody here… and all we can see is ‘for sale’, ‘for sale’. Nope, this was probably a great town once… but now it’s ugly and dead. Moving on.
Of course we are skipping a lot of towns, there are so many but I’ve decided only to tell about the towns that are really worth while. So, just south from Malaga you can find the small village of Benalmadena. It is a few kilometers from the beach and has a small traditional center. Little streets and steps. The best part of this town is that it is located against a hill so the higher in town you go, the more spectacular the views. We’ve found an Airbnb with an amazing rooftop terrace. During our stay in december the temperatures rise to a good 30 degrees. phew this is not what we expected here in winter! The terrace is too hot but on the beach life is good…
We wake up very early to see the breathtaking sunrise and feel privileged once again.
Just a bit more land inwards of Benalmadena lies Mijas, another perfect looking white village ready to get photographed from all angles.
Unfortunately we are not the only ones to see the beauty of this village beautiful. The hundreds, maybe thousands of tourists visiting Mijas daily see it too. Selfies are made and hotels are expensive. The atmosphere is absent but we cannot debate the spectacular views over the valley and the ocean.
Alhaurin del Torre / A. del Grande
From Mijas we drive further into the mountains towards a few towns that may not be white but here you can still find that warm Spanish culture and some amazing historic architecture. Together with Coín, Alhaurin del Torre and Alhaurin del Grande are authentic and interesting towns to visit.
Along the coastline south of Marbella there is the town of Estepona. It might not be the most authentic town but it’s is located right on a nice beach, it has some great little streets, no high buildings and lots of restaurants and shops. Eventhough we know there are a lot of English that live here at night the bars are filled with Spanish locals. We like it here!
Now here’s something that we’ve been longing to see. Ronda is an ancient village that has been build on the top of a hill, breathtaking views guaranteed! The town is divided by a large chasm and both sides are connected by a fantastic bridge the Puenta Nuevo. The town has a lot of great restaurants and bars and is good for a few days.
Although it doesn’t feel that way, tourists come here all year round. Busses filled with tourists stop here for an hour for some sightseeing but most people stay around the bridge. We decide to view the bridge from another side and walk to the small path Calle de los Molinos and wait at the lower viewpoint for the sun to set. Ahhwwwwwwesome!
Because of its altitude apparently Ronda can be an oven in the summer and freezing in the winter, but boy, we could definitely live here!
Zahara de la Sierra
From Ronda we drive further into the mountains and pass some fantastic traditional villages, especially Zahara de la Sierra has a great vibe.
Located next to a lake, a beautiful white village with breathtaking panoramic views. For us it’s just a bit too far away from everything but we could see ourselves live here.
Arcos de la Frontera
We pass more and more beauty, this part of Spain is absolutely recommended! Next stop Arcos, we’ve heard so much good stuff about this place so we’ve booked a room for three nights.
Big mistake because at arrival we have an immediate Torrox flashback and after two days we still don’t understand what the fuss is all about. This white city is not well maintained and lacks atmosphere. Or at least, we just cannot find it. Our host lets us shorten our stay so after two days we move on.
The only thing that’s very very very okay is our view over the valley from our balcony…
Our last stop before going back to our beloved Sevilla, is Cadiz. Cadiz is a village build on an island that is now connected to the mainland. It is an important harbor for import and export from and to northern Africa and has a nice Moroccan vibe. Great little restaurants and a nice waterfront. The ancient Moorish architecture is good for a day or two.
Final stop: back in Sevilla
After seeing so much of Spain, being back in Sevilla feels exactly as expected… FANTASTIC! This time we have booked an Airbnb in Triana, the center city area just across the river. Our host is the lead violinist at the Sevilla Symphonic Orchestra and we are invited to his performance on Christmas eve.
Life is excellent in Sevilla, but we keep in mind that spending christmas here in our t-shirt is not how it is supposed to be. It is quite warm here for this time of year, or maybe that’s the change of climate… Singing Christmas carols with some great new Spanish friends while it’s 24 degrees outside, perfect closure to our road trip through this awesome country.
The south east coast of Spain has a warm Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters.
Land inwards the temperatures are influenced by the altitudes and the cold mountains nearby. Cold, snowy and even freezing winters and often very hot dry summers up to 48 degrees.
The north west of Spain is known for its cold and wet climate. Rough and green nature make up for this of course.
There are many small micro climate areas with just the right angle for a nice breeze in summer and protected from the worst cold wind. These are probably the most attractive areas to live whole year round so also the most popular. Every benefit has its disadvantages…
In these 40 days in Spain we’ve spend:
- Transportation: € 753,95
- Accommodations: € 1093,80
- Food and drinks: € 1087,91
- Entrance fees: € 0
- Other: € 0
That brings us to a daily budget of: € 73,40 for two persons excluding international flights. This said I would like to state that we have only slept in hotels and apartments and we definitely did not mind our budget.
Here are some examples of products and prices in Euro:
- Whole wheat bread in bakery: € 2.25
- Coffee latte on terrace: € 1.25
- Glas of excellent red wine: € 1.50
- Glas of beer in bar: € 1.50
- Bottle of wine in supermarket: € 4.00
- Tapas or pinxchos in restaurant: € 2.00
- Petrol per liter: € 1.30