The alluring port city of Malaga makes a great base for an Andalusian holiday, with its sun-kissed beaches and historic old town. Yet once you’ve explored the Alcazaba, checked out the Picasso Museum and admired the views from Gibralfaro Castle, it’s time to discover what lies beyond the city boundaries.
Malaga enjoys an enviable position on Spain’s southern coast, with dozens of other worthy destinations at your fingertips. Within just a short time you could be strolling the cobbled streets of Seville, visiting the Alhambra in Granada or swimming off the beaches of Nerja on a day trip from Malaga.
Tips for your day trip from Malaga
There are trains and buses if you prefer to travel by public transport, but self-driving can be fun if you want to make the most of your day trip from Malaga. You’ll also have more independence and flexibility if you drive, which can make the experience a whole lot more relaxing.
Rental firms like delpaso car hire can set you up with a vehicle – it’s always a good idea to book in advance for the best deals. Consider if you want a car for your whole trip, or just the days when you’re travelling out of the city, and always do a bit of research into parking to save wasting time scouting about on arrival at your destination.
If you’re planning on visiting key attractions in other cities, it can be wise to reserve tickets ahead to ensure entry. Places with daily visitor caps can sell out during peak periods and you don’t want to travel all that way only to be disappointed.
So, if you decide to use Malaga as a base for exploring the wider region, here are some recommendations for day trips that offer everything from historic sights to dreamy coastline.
Driving time from Malaga: 1.5 hours
Granada is one of the most iconic cities in Andalucia, thanks to its imposing Alhambra Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage site keeps watch over the old town, and has stood here for centuries, through times of war and peace. You can explore the palace and gardens, admiring the Moorish architecture and landscaped grounds which have changed little over the years.
The city sits in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountains, giving it a picture-postcard backdrop, especially when the peaks are snow-capped. Narrow streets wind through the historic heart of Granada in the Albayzin, and you’ll encounter cave houses and evocative flamenco shows in the gypsy quarter that really bring the place to life.
During your day trip from Malaga, make time to see the cathedral, which has long dominated the skyline, and hike up to the Plaza de San Nicolas for some of the best views of the Alhambra. Don’t forget your camera!
Driving time from Malaga: 2 hours 15 minutes
If you’re looking for history and culture, Seville is the place to go. The architecture here is amongst the most intricate in all of Spain, and the orange trees that line the streets and squares give the city an intoxicating fragrance.
The first thing you should do is head to the Gothic cathedral and climb the Giralda Tower – the panoramas are incredible and it’ll help you get your city bearings. Then it’s time to explore the Real Alcazar de Sevilla, which is the ancient royal palace and home to carvings and tilework fit for a king. There’s a lot of Moorish influence here, so if you’re a fan of Morocco, you’ll love seeking out the similarities in design.
Finish your day with tapas and a bit of flamenco at one of the many establishments in the old town. Even better, stay the night to savor the experience of the real Seville.
Driving time from Malaga: 1.5 hours
Often overshadowed by the likes of Seville and Granada, Ronda is one of the most spectacularly situated towns in all of Spain and is a popular day trip from Malaga. The dramatic El Tejo gorge separates the old and new parts of town, with a photogenic bridge connecting the two in breathtaking fashion. There’s a tiny museum in the middle of the bridge that’s worth visiting – it was once used as a prison during the Spanish Civil War!
While exploring Ronda, don’t miss the beautiful terraced Jardines de Cuenca which boast great views of the Puente Nuevo (the bridge!). The historical 18th-century Plaza del Toros is worth a visit too, with its long heritage and eye-catching architecture.
Ronda is a great place for just wandering along the charming streets, taking in local life and capturing the moments on camera. If you want to explore a little further, take a scenic hike along the bottom of the gorge and see the town from a different angle.
Driving time from Malaga: 45 minutes
The seaside town of Nerja is famed for its sandy beaches, and attracts visitors from across the world, especially in the winter. Yet it never feels as crowded as other coastal resorts on the Costa del Sol or cities like Barcelona, and it’s a place where locals hang out just as much as tourists.
There are the mysterious Nerja Caves to explore and fresh seafood to try, as well as spending time soaking up the sun on the sandy shores. Most people make a bee-line for the beach, but do allow time to head up to the Balcony of Europe – overlooks don’t get much more picturesque than this!
For active adventurers there’s also snorkeling and hiking to enjoy, with a climb to the top of El Cielo rewarding you with some of the best coastal panoramas. If you’re driving, make a detour to see the Eagle Aqueduct just outside of town. It dates to the 1800s and is still in use today.
Driving time from Malaga: 1 hour 45 minutes
Sitting on the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory with an intriguing blend of influences from many cultures including the Moors, the Spanish and of course the Brits. It makes for a great day trip from Malaga.
The Rock of Gibraltar is the most famous sight, and on a clear day you can see across the ocean to Africa. If you’re in good shape, you’ll enjoy walking up to the top of the rock, but if you prefer a more leisurely ascent, there’s a cable car that does the job nicely. Just watch out for the resident Barbary macaques as you wander – they can bit a bit pesky, especially if you’re carrying food!
You can also visit Europa Point, which is the most southerly spot on the peninsula. There’s a lighthouse, mosque and an old chapel that will satisfy the history buffs, while the views will keep everyone else happy.