Do you plan your vacation to Cadiz Province to travel around the region or take day trips to the white cities in Southern Spain? I have the ultimate road trip itinerary with things to see and do and draw up the perfect tour of Andalucia for you.
On my first trip to the south of Spain, I founds some of the best places to visit in Andalucia. But I mainly focused on the bigger cities of Malaga, Seville, Cordoba and Granada. For my 2nd southern Spain road trip, I wanted to explore more of the Cadiz province and the Cadiz white villages. I explored a lot during my tour of Andalucia and got off the beaten track to see some of the most charming white cities in southern Spain in the hearth of Cadiz province. The white villages on the Costa de la Luz and in the National Park Sierra de Grazalema are remote and maintain their charming appearance despite modern urbanization. Join me on my tour of Andalucia and be inspired to visit the white cities in southern Spain during your Cadiz holidays. Add the Cadiz province to your southern Spain road trip itinerary and read about all the points of interest in Andalucia.
Jaw Dropping Tour of Andalucia
Andalusia has many amazing points of interest. Discover historic Malaga, marble at the splendor of Seville and dive in the history of the Alhambra in Granada. There are so many places to visit in Andalusia, that one trip is just not enough. On my first road trip through southern Spain I covered a lot of ground and drove from Malaga, via Ronda, to Seville, on wards to Cordoba and Granada. It was a tour of Andalusia with the main highlights the most important cities of southern Spain. For my 2nd southern Spain road trip I choose the Cadiz province and wanted to see as much as possible of this smaller part of Andalusia.
What I’ll cover on my tour of Andalucia in Cadiz Province
- Where is Cadiz Province?
- Cadiz Holidays
- Things to do in Cadiz Spain
- Jerez de la Frontera
- Costa de la Luz Spain
- White Villages of Spain
- National Park de Sierra Grazalema Cadiz
- 8 Day Cadiz Road Trip Tour of Andalucia
- Practical Tips to explore Cadiz Province
This is a long article and we cover a lot of ground. Interested but don’t have time now? Save for later!
Cadiz province is part of Andalusia and is located in the most south western part of southern Spain. It covers the coast line from Estepona on wards to Gibraltar. Then continues to the most southern part of Spain and mainland Europe: historical Tarifa. When you continue west on the Costa de la Luz (the coast of the wind) you pass numerous interesting white cities in southern Spain.
At the most western tip of Cadiz province, you’ll find the capital of the region: Cádiz. The oldest settlement of mainland Europe and oozing with historical features and points of interest. Holidays in Cadiz are very popular because of the broad beaches and the many interesting day trips from Cadiz. Towards the north, you’ll find another one of the interesting cities of southern Spain: Jerez de la Frontera. The sherry wine capital and part of the sherry triangle in Cadiz province. Once you reach the National Park de Doñana, you have reached the end of Cadiz province.
As you can see, these is plenty to explore on your Cadiz holidays. The Cadiz province is an excellent base for your beach holiday in southern Spain but is also offers plenty of cultural outings and is home to the natural parks of Sierra de Grazalema and Los Alcornocales National Park. Together with a variety of white villages, the heart of Cadiz province is perfect to find the rural side of southern Spain during your holidays in Cadiz.
Whether you decide to spend your Cadiz holidays in Cadiz province or only in the city of Cadiz, there are plenty of things to do in Cadiz. Cadiz is a must visit when you visit the region.
Not only is its location truly amazing, with almost entirely surrounded by water, the city has so much history, it is a miracle how they fitted all that on that tiny patch of land!
Cadiz things to do
- Visit the Cadiz Cathedral and marvel at its grandeur.
- Climb the bell tower of the Cathedral and enjoy the amazing views of the city of Cadiz and the water surrounding it.
- Find the Roman Theater hiding underneath the houses
- Walk over water towards the bastion and take in the strategic position of the piece of defense.
- Enjoy one of Cadiz wonderful beaches.
- Take a relaxing stroll at the Genoves Park and take in all the greenery
I had a hard time to decide if I should stay in Cadiz or Jerez de la Frontera. In the end, I decided to base myself in Jerez de la Frontera for 3 days and take a day trip to Cadiz. I didn’t regret this decision.
Jerez de la Frontera is the heart of the sherry triangle and has many gastronomic features that you just have to taste. But I also enjoyed its history and relaxed and calm pace. When Seville and Granada are bigger cities in southern Spain, Jerez de la Frontera feels more like an over-sized town.
Things to do in Jerez de la Frontera
- When you’re in the sherry capital of the sherry wine region you have to taste some (or all) of the sherry wines. You can take a bodega tour or explore some of the local tabernas where they have the best sherry wines on tap.
- Explore the history of Jerez de la Frontera and visit the Alcázar of Jerez de la Frontera. You can also join a walking tour of the city where you try to unravel the mystery of the right pronunciation of Jerez and Sherry.
- Go see a flamenco show. There are (paid) shows but some tabernas have free shows with your dinner.
- Check out a famous Jerez de la Frontera attraction: the Spanish riding school. They have shows a few times a week and regular practice runs.
When you’re on a southern Spain road trip, you want to take your car for a spin and explore the country side. And the Costa de la Luz is perfect for this. The sea on one side, the countryside on the other, connected by empty roads leading to far flung mysterious white villages and golden sandy beaches.
The Costa de la Luz is the stretch of land of Cadiz province right by the sea. From Tarifa, at the head of the Straight of Gibraltar towards the city of Cadiz, this windswept stretch of land honors its name. Although the beaches are golden and broad, the wind is ever present. Maybe not the perfect sunbathers paradise but perfect for kite surfing, wind surfing and other extreme water sports activities that involve wind and tricks.
I loved my drive along the Costa de la Luz in the south of Spain because of the true hidden gems that dot the coast. I drove past Gibraltar up to Tarifa and on wards to Cadiz via the coast.
Tarifa is at the tip of Europe. This cities is the most southern part of mainland Spain. On clear days, you can see the coast of Africa from Tarifa and the city is all about trade, immigration and defense works.
The highly frequented Straight of Gibraltar is a busy marine trade route and Tarifa is at the tip of it. In ancient times, this is where the Romans traded and expanded their reach into Africa. Although the tides are tricky, it is the shortest route to Africa.
If you want to visit cute little cities in southern Spain, then Tarifa is a must see on your southern Spain itinerary.
Things to See in Tarifa, Cadiz Province
- Climb the castle of Tarifa, also known as the Castle of Guzman the Great. I paid € 4,00 to enter the castle.
- Wander the streets of Tarifa
- Take the ferry to Morocco or Ceuta
- Have lunch in the old town
Bolonia is no more than a speck on the map. You need to take a bus from Tarifa or Cadiz to get there, but once there, you can enjoy the long stretches of golden sand and the ocean. The wind is powerful here, so a perfect spot for adventure water sports.
As you might know by now, I am not the adventure type, nor the sports type, but I am super excited about history and Roman Ruins. And Bolonia has a true magnificent gem in Roman history. Just a few minutes from the centre, you’ll find the ruins of Claudia Baelo.
Read more: My visit to the Roman ruins of Claudia Baelo
A modern museum tells you all about the history in Roman times, but the excavation sight is the true show stopper. The view from Claudia Baelo are amazing but the ruins are laid out really well and the restoration works carried out carefully. If you love history like me, these ruins are a mandatory stop on your southern Spain road trip.
And guess what, for EU Citizens it is free, others pay €1,50. Read more about what to see and do at Claudia Baelo.
The name makes you curious doesn’t it? After visiting Bolonia and Claudia Baelo, I continued along the Costa de la Luz towards Zahara de los Atunes. That sounds like Sahara and something to do with tuna, right? Right indeed! Zahara de los Atunes is famous for its tuna salting trade and the small town lays right on the coast. I stopped for lunch on this day tour of Andalucia and walked around the town for a bit. If you have more time, a visit to the Castle of Zahara de los Atunes is interesting.
After my lunch, it was time to leave the coast and the Costa de la Luz behind me. I turned inland and passed the stunning looking village Sidonia but I didn’t have time to explore it further. I wanted to see more of the white villages of Cadiz in the heart of Cadiz province.
Another true hidden gem, tucked away in the hills, is Vejer de la Frontera. The old town on the border. I passed in on my tour of Andalucia and because of a sports event all roads were blocked and I did not get to visit this stunning located village not far from Cadiz. If you have more time, definitely one of the most amazing white villages of Cadiz to visit.
The white villages of Spain are typical and iconic of the heart of the Iberian peninsula. Usually perched on a hill top, the white washed houses beckon you to come closer from miles away. Usually, the white villages of Spain have a long history, originated in the volatile history of the Moors against the Christian royals. The white villages flourished while defending the borders and the land surrounding them.
There are many different white villages in Spain and the cities of southern Spain cannot be missed on your itinerary through the region.
Famous and iconic are the Malaga white villages or pueblos blancos de Malaga. Sometimes these cities in southern Spain are growing rapidly and only a small part remains white and untouched. Others are so small it takes just a 1-minute stroll to pass them.
The absolute favorite and most famous one is the white village of Ronda in Malaga province. With its iconic bridge spanning the cliffs between old Ronda and even older Ronda, this white village is the one must see destination when you tour Malaga province to find the white villages of Spain.
Read more: Where to find the best views of Ronda Spain?
But for this trip, I wanted to focus on the Cadiz white villages. Also called “pueblos blancos”, the white villages of Cadiz are landlocked and therefor have a different look and cuisine than other white villages in Spain. Most of the Cadiz white villages are built on the ancient border, defending the surrounding lands against the Moors or the Christian royals. You can find predominantly Christian white villages that always remained in the hands of the Christian royals but also white villages with a typical Moorish history. I tried to visit as many as possible to get a feel of the differences and similarities. It made for a perfect white cities of southern Spain road trip itinerary!
Most popular day trip from Jerez de la Frontera, Arcos de la Frontera deserves some extra time. As the name indicated, Arcos was located right at the border. Perched high on a hill top, it gives you sweeping views across the lands surrounding Arcos and the cute little town demands you to slow down.
I drove up to Arcos from Jerez and the views from the road where already breath taking. One long cliff with white houses hanging on the edge for dear life. The main church and bell tower were the only buildings in dark brown stone as they were older and serve a public function.
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Things to do in Arcos de la Frontera
Arcos de la Frontera is not big. You can walk around town (be aware, the most interesting sights are located up hill) and visit the church in the heart of the old town. The views from the terrace of the Mirador de la Peña are amazing. You can continue towards the bell tower and San Pedro church. If you walk further, you’ll have amazing views across the newer Acros de la Frontera and the Guadalete river and basin of Arcos de la Frontera.
I had one of my best meals of my southern Spain itinerary in Arcos de la Frontera. The tiny street side restaurant ‘Bar le Carcel’ had some amazing dishes on the menu and I can recommend to stay for lunch or dinner.
After Arcos de la Frontera, I definitely wanted to see more small cities in southern Spain and decided to add more white villages to my tour of Andalucia. Olvera was next on my list. Located further north in Cadiz province, this was a predominantly Christian village on the frontier during the war with the Moorish and the city has a few typical sights. You can visit the Moorish wall and the Castle of Olvera gives you sweeping views across the olive tree lined lands surrounding Olvera. But I must say, the thing that makes Olvera one of the must sees in Cadiz province, it is location.
Driving towards Olvera, you can see the layout of the city and the castle from afar. I think my jaw dropped a tiny little bit when I first laid eyes on Olvera. Even from the other white villages in Cadiz province, like Zahara de la Sierra, you can see Olvera.
Owh Sentenil de las Bodegas. A truly curious like white village in Andalusia. I was amazed by her history but I also got trapped in a very nerve wrecking situation, so that might cloud my judgement a little bit.
After Olvera, I continued towards Setenil de las Bodegas. This is one of the white cities of southern Spain famous for her cave houses. That is correct, houses part of caves or cave houses is what makes Sentenil a unique stop on your southern Spain itinerary.
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Follow a route around town to see the most interesting rock over-hangings and old houses, climb to the viewpoint to see the castle and whatever you do, do not try to drive into town and get your tiny car stuck in the famous rock overhang with all the tourist pouring out at bars, snapping pictures during lunch on Sunday. Ugh!
Southern Spain Road Trip through National Park de Sierra Grazalema Cadiz
Although the above mentioned villages of Cadiz province are famous and true points of interest in Andalusia, I found that the real heart of Cadiz province can be found in the National Park de Sierra Grazamela. The what!? Ok, I know it is a mouth full but I spent three days of my southern Spain road trip cruising around the National Park and it is truly amazing. So if you plan your Cadiz holidays and want to explore more of the province inland, than the next part is for you!
The Sierra de la Grazalema National Park is an Unesco Biosphere reserve since the mid ’70s. The park covers over 50,000 ha of nature. You can discover the limestone rock peaks, small little villages, caves and an abundance of wildlife and plant life. I didn’t go on any of the hikes in the National Park, but if you want more information on that, you can find it here.
I did enjoy and appreciate the history and the views of the villages and I had an amazing road trip through the National Park Sierra de la Grazalema. Read more below.
The small town of Zahara de la Sierra is located on the edge of the water resevoir of Zahara and El Gator. This gives the white village a stunning backdrop. I walked the streets the the higher located old town and managed to find a spot for lunch with one of the best views of Andalusia. The white houses with red tiled roofs, the turquoise lake glistening in the afternoon sun and wait, is that Olvera in the distance? I cannot get over the amazing views from Zahara de la Sierra. Check the pictures below!
Grazalema is one of the most stunning white cities in southern Spain. I passed the village two times and it was equally breath taking from both sides. Grazalema is edges between two mountain peeks and as the road leads you upwards through the town, the views at eye level change continuously. I absolutely adored this cute little town. For the villages in the Sierra de la Grazalema national park, the views of the towns and the views from towns are what makes them worth a visit.
I drove for 3 days in the National Park and I think I covered all the roads connecting the little villages with each other. Most spectacular is the route from Grazalema to Zahara de la Sierra. If you follow this direction, you descend towards the water basin which makes for a stunning backdrop.
Leave Grazalema towards Benamahoma on the A-372 and turn right at the CA-9104 road. This road will bring you in 16 km (9 miles) to Zahara de la Sierra. The road is full of hairpins and twisting turns and you need to stop at least a dozen times to enjoy the view, spot the birds of prey, take selfies with your rental car and just enjoy the beauty of the national park. Many hikes of the national park have their start points on this road trip route, so don’t be surprised when it is busy.
On this southern Spain road trip in national park de Sierra de la Grazalema, you’ll find plenty of parking places and car parks, so there is no need to park along the road or damage nature. A must stop is at the Mirador Puerto de las Palomas where you’ll almost have a 180 degrees view of the surrounding area. Past this point, the descend towards Zahara de la Sierra starts. This gives you amazing views of the road below and the water basin.
After a couple of hairpins, you’ll reach the Mirador Puerto los Acebuches which makes for a perfect spot for a picnic. Not too far out, the start of the Gargante Verde hike is located. But be aware, you need a permit to hike here, more on that below.
Other Andalusia Points of Interest
Not all places are as jaw dropping at the above mentioned route trip through the national park, but they might still be worth your time.
During my southern Spain road trip, I based myself in El Bosque for 2 nights. This town is also mentioned as the white villages of Spain, but I didn’t see that. I mainly chose El Bosque for its central location and easy accessibility and accommodation was much more affordable in El Bosque then anywhere else in the National Park. Chances are that you’ll visit El Bosque, as the local tourism office is situated here and you need to get your permit to hike in the national park. More about the permits for hiking in national park Sierra de la Grazalema, here.
But I booked a great local agriturismo. I had a wonderful room, breakfast was included and the place cooked up a storm during lunch and dinner, so I didn’t eat anywhere else. If you want to find out more about the casa rural, click here. So in short, there is not much to see or do in El Bosque, but it makes for a great affordable base to explore the national park in the heart of Cadiz province.
Now, Ubrique on the other hand was well worth my time. And if you like old ancient towns and a bit of Roman history, then you might like it too. Ubrique is famous for its leather making industry and a visit to Ubrique can be a great shopping trip. You can walk the ramparts of the old town, visit the leather museum or visit the Roman remains of Ocuri.
The white village of Ubrique is located on the edge of two national parks, the Sierra de la Grazalema and the Los Alcornocales national park. This makes it great starting point for more hiking and to enjoy nature.
Another spectacular road trip route: Drive from Ubrique on the A-374 via Benaocaz to Grazalema.
The Best White Cities in Southern Spain Road Trip Itinerary
If you have one week for your Cadiz holidays and want to explore more than just beaches, then the above cities in southern Spain give you a pretty good idea what you can see and do in this region.
8 day Cadiz Road Trip Tour of Andalucia
As I gave quite some information about all the points of interest in Andalusia, you might be eager to start planning your southern Spain road trip and tour of Andalucia. You maybe wonder what I did and in what order and how you can do it too. Here is my 8 day tour of Andalucia in Cadiz province:
- Day 1: Arrive at Malaga airport and pick up the rental car. Drive to the hotel and sleep.
- Day 2: Drive towards Gibraltar (possible side trip if you have more time) and visit Tarifa. I continued to Bolonia and the Roman ruins of Claudia Baelo. I had lunch in Zahara de los Atunes by the sea before I continued to Jerez. You can also drive to Cadiz to end the day there.
- Day 3: I took a day trip to Cadiz by train from Jerez. I spent the whole day explore Cadiz.
- Day 4: I explored Jerez and took a sherry tasting tour in the heart of the sherry triangle.
- Day 5: Walking tour of Jerez and long lunch. Afterwards, I drove to Arcos de la Frontera and spent the rest of the day and night there.
- Day 6: Drive towards El Bosque or Ubrique, continue to explore to Grazalema.
- Day 7: Take the amazing road trip between Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra. You can continue towards Olvera and go south to Setenil de las Bodegas too.
- Day 8: Drive towards Ronda, the most famous white village of Spain and end your tour of Andalucia towards Malaga or continue to explore more.
As you can see, I did quite a lot in a short time. If you have more time, you can spend more time exploring Cadiz and Jerez or spend the whole day in the white cities of southern Spain. But if you;re short on time, pick fewer destinations and make your tour of Andalucia shorter. If you arrive in Jerez, you can flip the itinerary.
To make the best of the Cadiz part of your tour of Andalucia, I give you some more practical tips.
You can fly to Jerez Airport, called La Parra Airport (XRY) from numerous destinations in Europe and overseas. The airport is located 8 km (5 miles) from Jerez de la Frontera and you can either pick up a rental car, take the bus or take the train to Jerez and Cadiz city.
If you’re already in Spain or your intercontinental flight arrives in Madrid, you can reach Cadiz by train. In 4,5 hours, you can travel direct by high-speed train from Madrid to Cadiz. Calculate 7 to 8 hours for the train from Barcelona to Cadiz (via Madrid). For more routes and timetables, check the website of the Spanish railways.
If you’re only interested in visiting the main cities of southern Spain in Cadiz province, then you can easily get around by bus or train. Cadiz, Jerez and Seville are well connected with Malaga and the rest of southern Spain like Cordoba and Granada. However, as you can read from the above, I really recommend to visit the small white cities of southern Spain in Cadiz province.
Although you can join a tour group to visit Arcos de la Frontera on a day trip or take an expensive private tour of Andalucia province, I really recommend to rent a car if you can. Driving is easy and you can stay overnight when all the tour groups go home and have the small little village to yourself.
As it is always easier to copy something than to make it up yourself, I’ll list the places I’ve stayed on my southern Spain itinerary. I left good ratings for all hotels and pensions and I’d book them again in a heart beat. You can click the name to see prices and availability for your southern Spain road trip.
Estepona– Diana Park: I started my tour of Andalucia from Malaga airport and wanted to drive towards Cadiz province and Gibraltar. Estepona was in the middle and I booked 1 night at Diana Park. The place has a pool and the bed was really comfy. I wanted to cancel my southern Spain road trip and stay there!
Jerez de la Frontera: I decided to base myself in Jerez and take a day trip to Cadiz by train. I wanted a home in Spain and decided to book an apartment. This place blew me away. Fully fitted kitchen, great lounge area and that absolute cute old southern Spanish feel. I loved it here. See if you can book Multi Apartamentos La Kasbah too.
Arcos de la Frontera– Pension San Marcos: If you wish to stay overnight in Arcos de la Frontera, the tiny pension (and bar/restaurant) where I stayed is located in the very heart of Arcos. The room was small, but the bed was great and especially the price was perfect for my budget. See if you feel the same by checking here.
El Bosque Cadiz– base yourself in the heart of Cadiz province. From El Bosque, you can easily reach Arcos de la Frontera, Ubrique and driving to Grazalema and Sierra de la Zahara makes for a stunning road trip. I stayed at Hotel Enrique Calvillo, a so called casa rural. This place has guestrooms and a restaurant / tapas bar and garden on sight. The place gets really busy with Spanish day trippers and weekend visits but it adds to the vibe and ambiance. Check for rate and availability here.
Ultimate tour of Andalucia
Wow, you made it to the bottom of the post! Well done! You must be really interested to discover Cadiz province and the cities of southern Spain. I hope my tour of Andalucia is an inspiration and you can get some tips and ideas from it! Let me know if I missed something in the comment section below!
- I am aware I use Andalusia and Andalucia throughout this post. Apparently, for SEO purpose these terms are different and I don’t want to miss out on your finding me.
- I travelled around the Cadiz province on my own and paid for everything myself. I was not sponsored and all my opinions and experiences are my own. This post does contain affiliate links. If you decide to book a service via one of my links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.