The Dreamiest Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

When we decided on Spain for our next trip and saw that we could book flights in to Barcelona and out of Madrid we got thinking that a Spanish road trip sounded pretty amazing! However we only had seven days to spare for the whole trip. And this seven days would need to include time in Barcelona (which you can read all about here) and Madrid (which you can read all about here.

That left us with three days to drive between the two and limited how many stops we could fit in. So I got to work researching all the best spots in between the two cities. Then narrowed it down to my absolute must sees, which resulted in this three day dreamy Barcelona to Madrid road trip itinerary.

If you are planning a trip to Spain and want to see both Barcelona and Madrid then incorporating a road trip in between the two is the perfect way to get an authentic feel for the vibrant country. You’ll get to see some amazing nature spots and explore some quirky little towns along the way.

For this trip Jason and I were lucky enough to have an extra travel buddy with us – our gorgeous friend and fellow Aussie Sara Nicole.

Trip Overview

Three Day Trip

Day One
Drive time: 7 hours
Starting point: Barcelona
Activities: Stop at Fuente de los Baños (thermal springs), Montanejos / Dinner in Alicante
Finishing point: Alicante

Day Two
Drive time: 5 hours
Starting point: Alicante
Activities: Breakfast and walk in Alicante / Stop at Laguna Salada (pink lake), Torrevieja
Finishing point: Nerja

Day Three
Drive time: 5 hours
Starting point: Nerja
Activities: Breakfast, walk and beach time in Nerja
Finishing point: Madrid

Four Day Extended Trip Suggestion

If you have an extra day for your Barcelona to Madrid road trip my suggestion for extending this trip would be:

Day One
Drive time: 4 hours
Starting point: Barcelona
Activities: Swim at Fuente de los Baños (thermal springs), Montanejos
Finishing point: Montanejos

Day Two
Drive time: 3 hours
Starting point: Montanejos
Activities: Breakfast in Montenejos / Stop in Calp and see the famous pink hotel / Beach time in Alicante
Finishing point: Alicante

Day Three
Drive time: 5 hours
Starting point: Alicante
Activities: Breakfast and walk in Alicante / Stop at Laguna Salada (pink lake), Torrevieja
Finishing point: Nerja

Day Four
Drive time: 5 hours
Starting point: Nerja
Activities: Breakfast, walk and beach time in Nerja
Finishing point: Madrid

When to go

Our early June timing for this trip was ideal. We had long, warm days but avoided the peak tourist season. Sunset was at around 9.30pm. Which was perfect because you could still see your final destination in the daylight even if you didn’t arrive until 6pm. We also got to see the flowers along the highways in full bloom, making our trip that little bit more magical. In saying this if you are traveling in mid July you might be lucky enough to see flamingos and endless fields of sunflowers – keep reading to find out where…

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Itinerary Map

To make this trip really easy for you to follow, I’ve put a Google map together with all the destinations, points of interest and driving directions. You can save the map to your desktop or phone simply by logging in to your Google account and clicking the star icon next to the map title below. To access the map at any time go to the Google Maps menu > Your Places > Maps and if saved correctly it will appear here for you. Or you can view and print the map here.

Day One: Barcelona to Alicante

Because this is the longest day of driving it’s a good idea to get an early start and leave at around 9am. Also make sure you have your swimmers, sunscreen and towels handy for the thermal springs later in the day. The first leg of the journey takes you along highways lined with fields of Valencia Orange trees. Then as you start heading in land towards the thermal springs in Montanejos (Fuente de los Banos) the roads wind over rolling hills and through small hillside villages.

It takes around 4 hours to get to Montanejos where the thermal springs are very easy to find. You just stick to the main road and just after the exit sign for Montanejos (a sign that says ‘Montanejos’ with a diagonal line through it to indicate you are leaving the town) you will see a sign saying ‘Fuente de Los Banos’. There is a free parking lot on the right-hand side of the road. A staircase leads from the carpark down to the springs where you will find bathroom facilities and a kiosk selling drinks and ice-creams. We spent about an hour swimming around, chilling out on the pebbly shore and eating ice-cream.

If you are planning on doing the four day extended trip this is the town I would recommend staying for your first night. It is a very cute, relaxing little village that we would have liked more time in to explore. However, if you are doing the three day trip the final destination for the day is Alicante. The next leg of the journey takes you back on to the highway and in to Alicante just in time for dinner and some well earned sangria.

I would recommend staying in the heart of town in the Santa Barbara area. This way you can easily walk to the centre of town. Once you’ve parked and settled in to your accommodation take a walk down Calle Muñoz where you will find an array of restaurants to choose from.

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Barcelona to Madrid Roadtrip

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Montanejos, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Fuente de Los Banos

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Fuente de Los Banos

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Fuente de Los Banos

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Fuente de Los Banos

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Fuente de Los Banos

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Fuente de Los Banos

Madrid to Barcelona Road Trip

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Apartment Muralla Roja Calp

Day Two: Alicante to Nerja

Day Two: Alicante to Nerja

After a long drive on the previous day we had a slow morning wandering the streets through the Barrio Santa Cruz neighbourhood. We found a simple but delicious breakfast of toastada, crepes and coffee at Borgonesse. After breakfast, we strolled along La Rambla de Mendez Nunez. Which is a pretty mosaic walkway lined with palm trees along the marina, the perfect way to stretch your legs before getting back in the car.  For today’s trip make sure you have a couple of large bottles of water, baby wipes, swimmers and towels handy for the pink salt lake. There are no shower facilities at the lake and you get very VERY salty if you swim hence the water and baby wipes.

A one hour drive from Alicante the pink salt lake officially known as ‘Laguna Salada’ in Torrevieja was the highlight of the trip for me. The lake Is a national park and not set up for tourists, so don’t expect to find a parking lot, toilets or showers here. This is a blessing in disguise though because it means that there will only be a handful of other people there – if any. We found a car park on a quiet street in the surrounding neighbourhood, right on the shore of the lake.

One of only a hand full of pink lakes in the world the Laguna Salada’s hue is caused by algae which synthesizes the salty water. A word of warning though these algae combined with the high levels of salt can result in a strong odour – however when we were there it smelt fine! And if you happen to visit in mid-July you may be lucky to see the lake full of flamingos!

Schedule in a free day spa treatment while you are there. Start by exfoliating with the white sand on the shore and under the water and then dig a little deeper to find the black mud that makes an amazing face and body mask. Leaving the mud on for 30 minutes is said to do wonders for your skin. Then take a relaxing dip in the lake, which is so salty that it has the same floating phenomenon as the dead sea. Do be careful though as the salt can really sting if you have any cuts.

Once you’ve washed away all that salt it’s back in the car and to the next stop Nerja. Traveling along the highway again today you’ll see an abundance of pink and white flowers, fields of olive trees and glimpses of the coastline. It takes about four hours to get from Laguna Salada to Nerja, where you should arrive in time for an afternoon walk and dinner. The best street to head for dinner in this small but lively coastal town is Calle Puerta del Mar. Here you will find plenty of restaurants with street and rooftop seating to choose from. If you are in the mood for a night out Plaza Tutti Frutti is the place to be.

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Alicante, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Alicante, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Alicante, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Alicante, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Alicante, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Laguna Salada, Torrevieja, Spain (Pink Salt Lake)

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Laguna Salada, Torrevieja, Spain (Pink Salt Lake)

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Laguna Salada, Torrevieja, Spain (Pink Salt Lake)

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Laguna Salada, Torrevieja, Spain (Pink Salt Lake)

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Laguna Salada, Torrevieja, Spain (Pink Salt Lake)

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Laguna Salada, Torrevieja, Spain (Pink Salt Lake)

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Laguna Salada, Torrevieja, Spain (Pink Salt Lake)

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Day Three: Nerja to Madrid

 Day Three: Nerja to Madri

Start day three taking in the views over the Balcón de Europa (Balcony of Europe). Formerly a fortress designed to keep out pirates. The rocky cliff is now the focal point of the town with stunning views up and down the coast line. Then spend a couple of hours getting in some lazy beach time. We were tipped that Playa de Calahonda was one of the best beaches so that is where we chose. However there are quite a few to choose from within walking distance of the town centre.

As you make the 5 hour journey to Madrid, you’ll be treated to more stunning landscapes . If you feel like you want to add in a stop along the way you could try the one and a half hour detour through Anadalusia in hope of catching the sunflower fields in bloom. From what I researched they bloom in July but there isn’t really much information about it. We decided to skip the detour because we were there in early June and weren’t sure we’d see any flowers.

The drive in to Madrid city is a little hectic so if you are more comfortable with dropping the hire car off on the outskirts of the city and catching a taxi to your accommodation I would recommend it.

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain - The Balcony of Europe

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip - Nerja, Spain

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip


Before I get in to the nitty gritty of planning this Barcelona to Madrid road trip I thought I’d share my trip highlights video with you. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be the first to see the newest Jayde Archives videos!


Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip Basics and Costs

As fun and beautiful as this road trip was it did require some research and planning so that everything went smoothly! To save you some time I’ve put together all of my Barcelona to Madrid road trip basics below.

Barcelona to Madrid Road Trip

License

To drive in Spain you must be over 18 and have an international driving license unless you hold a license from a member state of the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (never heard of Liechtenstein… check it out here). If you require an International driving license you will need to organise this at home before you leave.

Cost
Costs for international licences vary widely from country to country but to give you a rough idea:

  • Australia – AUD39
  • US – USD20
  • UK – GBP5.50
Car Hire

You must be 21 or over to hire a car in Spain. There are plenty of options with the major rental companies (Hertz and Europcar) as well as alternative companies (Sixt, Enterprise Rent a Car etc.) operating across Spain. We chose to use Hertz as we have a membership with them and found the pricing very reasonable compared to other countries we have rented cars in.

Our pick up and drop off went smoothly with Hertz, however the busy city streets in Barcelona and Madrid can be a little confusing and stressful. So, if you get overwhelmed driving in big cities you may want to consider picking up and dropping off outside of the city centre and catching a taxi to and from.

Cost
Depending on the company and car class you choose pricing is around EUR70-100 per day plus fuel (see below).

Fuel

Filling up
Petrol stations were very easy to access from the highways and were quite frequent in most places. Some were self-service and others were assisted. So, if nobody comes along to help you just assume it is DIY.  There are several payment systems used throughout Spain:

  • Cashier pre-pay: If you find the pump isn’t working then you may need to go in to the station and give them money for your pump number before you fill up. Once you’ve filled up you can go back for your change if you have any.
  • Card pre-pay: We didn’t have to do this one, but you just need to swipe your card, enter your pin and then fill up at the pump.
  • Post-pay: Fill up and then go into the station to pay.

Types of Fuel
If your car takes petrol/gas there are two grades to choose from:

  • 95 Octane Gasolina/Sin Plomo (green pump handle)
  • 98 Octane Gasolina/Sin Plomo (green pump handle)

If you car takes diesel:

  • Gasoleo A (black handle) – Don’t confuse this with Gasoleo B, which is for agricultural use

Cost
As a rough guide fuel cost us EUR150 for this Barcelona to Madrid road trip. Of course this will change depending on fuel rates at the time of your trip, the type of car you have and the exact route you take.

Road Rules

The road rules in Spain are straightforward and similar to most other EU countries.

Roundabouts

Generally roundabouts were fine, the only exception was in the cities where we had to navigate through three/four lane roundabouts. There didn’t seem to be any particular system to it, but if there was it wasn’t very obvious! The easiest way to do it is to just stay in the outside lane, but if you end up on one of the inside lanes you just have to keep going around until you have a clear path to get out. Easy.

Speed Limits

Speed signs are the same as most other EU countries, with limits on highways peaking at 120kph, but most often being 110kph. Tunnels are generally 80kph, but not many people stuck to this! Most importantly speed cameras are well sign posted so it’s hard to miss them.

Tolls

We found the toll system in Spain a breeze. There was always the option to pay with cash or card and we never had a problem with our card payment going through. In saying this I would still recommend you carry cash on you just in case.

Also keep in mind that some toll stations give you a ticket and do not require payment. Then at the next toll station you reach you will need to insert the ticket you were given and it will calculate how much you need to pay.

Cost
Tolls for the entire trip cost us around EUR100.

Pitt Stops

The highway petrol stations were great for stops along the way. They had good toilet facilities and a decent selection of lunch food and snacks. Just make sure you have coins handy as you do need to pay for some toilets.

Parking

Parking in Spain can be a little complicated. So it’s a good idea to have some idea of your parking situation at all your overnight stops in advance. If you are staying in a hotel you may be able to organise parking with them. Or if you are staying in Airbnb’s you can ask your host in advance about the options nearby. For one of our stops we had a free parking lot near our accommodation which was very easy, for another we had to find street parking. For streets where parking is forbidden you will see one of the following:

  • A sign saying ‘estacionamiento prohibido’, sometimes accompanied by a sign with a blue background and a red line through it
  • A sign with a large ‘E’ (for estacionamiento) with a diagonal line through it
  • Yellow, red or white kerb or road markings
  • Blue and white curb stone indicates that you can stop briefly, but cannot park

If there is are no signs or curb markings and other people are parked along the street then it should be ok. Again I think your best bet is to get advice from your accommodation in advance.

Having not being before we were unsure what to expect with driving in Spain. However, we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the roads, tolls and petrol stations along the way.

Have you done a Barcelona to Madrid road trip before? If so I’d love to hear any extra tips you have below!

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4 Comments

    • Jayde Reply

      Aww thank you so much Jessica! I am really enjoying making my vlogs and promise there will be more! x

  1. This post is lovely!! Thanks for the tips for the pink lake!!! 🙂 Keep up the good work!!

    ~kaman

    • Jayde Reply

      Thank you so much Kaman. I’m am so happy you enjoyed this post. The pink lake was defiantly the highlight of the trip for me. But it was all so beautiful! Even the highways were so pretty with all the flowers! If you end up visiting the pink lake I’d love to hear about it! x

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