Despite being a compact city, Granada is packed with historical sites, multicultural neighborhoods, and vibrant cafes and tapas bars. And while it’s one of Andalusia’s most visited cities, it’s not the only place worth visiting during your trip to southern Spain.
Taking a day trip outside of Granada will open your eyes to a new world of experiences. From glitzy Mediterranean beaches to sleepy hilltop villages that date back thousands of years, you’ll be spoiled for choice regarding where to go.
What is the Best Day Trip from Granada?
If you want to stay close to the city, you can visit the mountains (Sierra Nevada National Park), the beach (Motril), or pretty hilltop villages (Montefrío). But if you’re willing to venture a bit further out, you’ll be able to visit some bigger cities or cultural sites, like Malaga, Cordoba, and Ronda.
But of course, that’s just a tiny sampling of what southern Spain has to offer! I’ve organized this list based on distance from Granada, so you can easily plan your day trip depending on your availability.
However, it’s important to note that many of these destinations are not easily reached by public transportation. And even if you do find a bus route leaving from Granada, it will almost inevitably take longer than if you were to drive by car. If renting a car is not an option, then I recommend booking a tour, so you can spend less time traveling and more time enjoying your day trip.
Under 1 Hour
If you want to escape the bustle of Granada, then you’ll love the serene surroundings of the Lecrin Valley. And although it’s only a 45-minute drive from the city, the valley feels like a different world with rolling hills, fruit orchard groves, and a dramatic backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The area has plenty of nature trails if you want to explore the valley on foot. Part of the long-distance GR-7 footpath meanders through here before continuing its way up north to Andorra and France.
Along the way, you’ll see local Spanish villages, flowing rivers, and fields of almond, olive, and citrus groves.
To experience a bit of culture, you can make a stopover at one of the villages for lunch. Albuñuelas, Chite, Dúrcal, and Melegís are particularly popular with tourists thanks to their stunning valley views and welcoming locals.
Because it’s only an hour away from Granada, the town of Nerja is a popular day trip for locals and tourists alike.
It has all the typical features you can expect for a resort town – a historic city center, sandy beaches, and plenty of swimming, boating, and snorkeling opportunities, especially at Playa de Burriana.
But Nerja also has many unique attractions that draw in visitors from around Spain. One of the most popular sites is the Nerja Caverns, an underground cave system housing the largest stalactite in the world.
The caves also contain some of the oldest cave paintings from humans, although they are unfortunately not accessible to the public.
Other notable sights in Nerja include the Church of El Salvador, the 19th-century aqueduct, and the Balcón de Europa. This viewpoint provides the perfect vantage over the Mediterranean during sunrise, sunset, or any time of day, for that matter!
Sierra Nevada National Park
As the largest national park in Spain and the third largest in Europe, the Sierra Nevada National Park is a must-see destination at any time of the year.
With rapid rivers, rocky canyons, and glacial lakes, the park is the perfect backdrop for a day of outdoor adventure.
In the summer, you can go hiking, rock climbing, cycling, canyoning, or even trail running. Many like to summit Veleta mountain, which offers views into Northern Africa on a clear, sunny day.
And considering the park is home to the five highest peaks in all of Spain, skiing here is very popular in the winter.
Spend the day at the Sierra Nevada Ski Station to take advantage of the 70+ miles of skiable slopes. The ski season is surprisingly long and lasts from November to May, giving you plenty of opportunities to visit Europe’s most southern ski resort.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more stunning view than the one gazing over Montefrío. A village of white-washed houses sits quietly at the base of a rocky pinnacle topped by a magnificent Moorish fortress.
With a surrounding landscape of sparse forest of brushwood and oak trees, it’s easy to see why Montefrío was awarded as having one of the best views by National Geographic.
The castle, which is now the Iglesia de la Villa church, boasts an even great view over the land. However, be prepared for a steep walk – up to the castle and to the lookout point in the tower.
The town itself is quaint and a great place to see local Spaniards going about their day. Otherwise, there aren’t too many attractions to keep you occupied for longer than a few hours. But seeing that it’s only an hour away from Granada, Montefrío is a fascinating day trip if you have half a day to kill.
Granada Global Geopark
There’s so much more to Spain than beaches, mountains, and cities. In fact, Spain has deserts too, and its southernmost desert is located right in the province of Granada.
The Granada Global Geopark has been shaped by over half a million years of erosion, which has created a striking landscape of caves, canyons, and badland valleys.
Of course, the geopark is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts who come here to hike, cycle, or ride horseback. But the area is also a paleontological goldmine full of 2.5 million-year-old fossils and other prehistoric finds.
From the city of Granada, you can reach the beginning of the geopark in Baza in just under an hour.
However, guided tours are recommended to learn more about the archeological and geological features of the park.
A quick 45-minute car ride whisks you down south to the largest town on the Costa Tropical – Motril.
It’s relatively off the main tourist track, making it a great place to visit if you want to see a charming and authentic Spanish village.
Main sights include the Mudejar Collegiate Church of Motril (which was built over a mosque), the Baroque Town Hall, and the Moorish Casa de la Palma sugar mill.
The coast is a mile outside town if you want to enjoy a beach day. Playa Calahonda, Carchuna, and Granada are all blue flag beaches with crystal blue waters and wide stretches of sandy beach.
And if you’re feeling hungry, many seaside restaurants have direct access to fresh, daily caught seafood thanks to the nearby Motril fishing port.
There’s also a daily fish auction that takes place at the port warehouse (which is a fun and fascinating thing to watch even if you’re not buying).
Alhama de Granada
Not all day trips have to be focused on sightseeing. If you’d rather spend your time disconnecting from the stresses of life, then treat yourself to a spa day at Alhama de Granada.
This area has been popular since Roman times thanks to its location near the therapeutic hot springs.
There is a free hot spring pool along the Rio Alhama, although it’s rather small and can get quickly crowded on weekends.
A better option is to book an afternoon at the nearby Balneario Alhama De Granada hotel. They have a full-blown spa with indoor and outdoor pools where you can enjoy the soothing and healing waters of the springs.
Although Granada is in the mountains, you can still reach the coast in just under 50 minutes. I highly recommend visiting Salobreña, a scenic village right on the coast of the Alboran Sea.
Here, you’ll find five different beaches where you can spend your day sunbathing, swimming, or even windsurfing! The most popular beach is La Guardia, which features half a mile of sandy shores and a beachside promenade for walking and cycling.
Further inland, you’ll find the historic center of Salobreña. This town has been inhabited for over 6,000 years, so there are many ancient and medieval attractions to discover.
Your first stop should be the Castle of Salobreña, which was historically used as a royal palace and a prison. The view from atop the main tower boasts panoramic views of the Mediterranean coastline.
Before heading home, take a short stroll through the white-washed village. Grab a coffee or lunch at one of the family-run cafes before turning back to Grenada for the evening.
Under 2 Hours
While Spain is known for its coastal beaches, it also has its fair share of pretty lakes, including Iznajar Lake.
With nearly 20 miles of pristine shoreline, this artificial reservoir is the largest of its kind in Andalusia. As such, it’s a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts who come here for fishing, boating, or even birdwatching.
On a warm day, the beaches are teeming with happy sunbathers. Playa de Valdearenas on the central north shore is a great place to set up camp for the day, as it has beach bars, cafes, and boat rental facilities.
It’s also not too far from the town of Iznajar, a classic pueblo blanco village with a few fascinating sites of its own, like the dramatic Castillo de Iznájar.
Getting there is a short but steep walk through the winding alleys of the village, although you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of the lake and surrounding olive groves from the lookout point.
Malaga is the perfect day trip for city dwellers and beachgoers. Considered to be the gateway to the Costa del Sol, Malaga is a seaside town dominated by century-old landmarks that shed light on its expansive 2,800-year-old past.
From the 1st-century BCE Roman theater to the 11th-century Alcazaba of Malaga, the historic part of the city has a wealth of attractions to discover.
Malaga is also famous for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
Not only can you see a collection of his paintings, drawings, and sculptures at the Museo Picasso Málaga, but you can also visit his childhood home, Casa Natal, at Plaza de la Merced.
After exploring the old town, it’s time to relax and unwind at one of Malaga’s sun-soaked beaches. Malagueta Beach is within walking distance from town and is an excellent stop for a swim, a game of beach volleyball, or a happy drink by the sea.
As one of the most upscale resort towns on the Costa del Sol, Marbella is an excellent destination for those wanting to live in the lap of luxury for the day. The quant harbor is backed with luxury yachts, while their affluent visitors flock to the streets for shopping and Michelin-star dining.
But you don’t have to be one of the rich and famous to enjoy your time here. The coast is dotted with a number of fantastic beaches (namely Playa de la Bajadilla and Playa de Fontanilla), where you cool off from the midday heat.
And while most of the city has been modernized for tourism, the city center has retained its charm thanks to the colorful houses, little squares, and umbrella-clad cafes.
Getting to Marbella takes only 2 hours by car. Taking the bus is an hour longer and requires you to transfer in Malaga.
If you’re eager to explore another Andalusian city, then make sure to add Cordoba to your itinerary. It’s just 2 hours away from Granada by car or by train.
The historic center was once home to over 300 mosques, although only a few of these grand Moorish buildings remain. The most famous is the Great Mosque of Córdoba, which is now the Mezquita-Catedral after it was converted during the Christian Reconquista.
If that doesn’t take your breath away, then the Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos definitely will.
While the interior of the fortress has lost its grandeur over the years, the surrounding gardens are truly impressive. There are citrus groves, palm forests, manicured hedges, and beautiful blue pools that give you the feeling of being in a tropical oasis.
With white-washed buildings and a dramatic cliffside location overlooking the El Tajo gorge, Ronda is one of the most impressive villages in southern Spain.
And while many people come for the stunning scenery (the Puente Nuevo bridge that sits in the chasm of the gorge is an architectural masterpiece), others come for the history.
As one of the oldest towns in the country, Ronda has been inhabited by Celts, Romans, and Moors, and the mix of cultures can be easily seen walking through the historic center. The romantic atmosphere of the Ronda made it a popular destination with artists and writers, most famously Orson Welles, Alexander Dumas, and Ernest Hemingway.
It is also here where you’ll find Spain’s first bullfighting ring, which dates back to 1785. While actual bullfights only happen here occasionally, the ring is open to the public every day for tours.
Caminito Del Rey
If you’re looking for a thrill-seeking way to spend your time in Spain, then a walk along the Caminito Del Rey is sure to get your heart racing.
Here you can walk along the vertically steep walls of the Guadalhorce River gorge, which offers unforgettable views of the surrounding valley.
Although it was once considered to be the “World’s Most Dangerous Walkway”, extensive renovations have made it relatively safe for visitors (even kids over the age of 8 are allowed to walk it). But the fact that you’re walking on a wooden boardwalk over 1,300 feet in the air can still be a frightening experience if you’re afraid of heights.
The entire trail is 4.8 miles long and will take approximately 2 to 3 hours. Beside the 1.8-mile section along the cliffs, the rest of the trail is through a wooded forest.
Hikers can take the 2-hour drive from Granada themselves or join a tour group that offers transportation and a guide.
Over 2 Hours
While Seville is a city that deserves a few days, it’s still possible to visit from Granada on a day trip (although expect the ride to be 2.5 to 3.5 hours long).
The capital of Andalusia is a breathtaking collection of UNESCO sites, world-renowned museums, and lush Mediterranean gardens.
Walking around the winding cobblestone streets is an experience on its own, as you’ll encounter charming tapas bars, vibrant public squares, and lively flamenco bars around every corner.
Seville is known for its rousing mix of Mudéjar and Gothic landmarks, including the Royal Alcázars of Seville and the Cathedral of Saint Mary.
You can also visit the awe-inspiring Plaza de España, which with Baroque, Renaissance, and Moorish architecture, looks centuries old, although it was only built in the 1900s.
The region of Murcia is one of the most overlooked destinations in Spain, which is hard to believe considering the sheer number of historic sights inside the city center.
Castles, cathedrals, monasteries, and palaces – the entire city feels like a museum.
However, there are quite a few “real” museums to visit as well, including the Salzillo Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Murcia.
When it comes to outdoor sports, Murcia is blessed the have the Segura River and two mountain ranges nearby.
Hiking, cycling, paragliding, and rafting are just a few exhilarating activities you can do during your visit.
Unlike many other destinations on this list, Murcia is well connected to Granada via the ALSA bus line. It’s a direct journey that will only take you a little more than 3 hours each way.
The maritime spirit is still alive and well in Cadiz. Situated on a narrow sliver of land almost completely surrounded by sea, Cadiz has a seafaring past that dates back to 1,000 BCE when it was used a trading post for travelers.
It was also home to the Spanish treasure fleet and the starting point for two of Christopher Columbus’ voyages.
However, many of Cadiz’s most prominent sites lie inland from the water. Numerous churches, museums, and historic house are hidden on the compact streets of the city center (which is one of the most densely populated cities in Europe).
Larger monuments include the Cadiz Roman Theater, the Cadiz Cathedral, and the Tavira Tower.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Cadiz from Granada is by car. Taking the bus requires multiple transfers and can take upwards of six hours.
With a history that dates back more than two millennia, Cartagena is a visual representation of Spain’s multicultural past.
You’ll find an amphitheater from the Roman empire, which is one of the largest of its kind outside of Italy.
There’s the Concepción Castle, a medieval fortress from the 13th century that looms over the sea. And don’t be surprised if you see a handful of art nouveau buildings in town either, which were built during Cartagena’s economic mining boom in the 1900s.
And although Cartagena was handed over from one regime to another, it has always remained a prominent naval city.
It’s been the center of the Spanish Navy’s Maritime Department of the Mediterranean since the 18th century, which houses the country’s largest and oldest naval base.
Located on a small peninsula on Spain’s southern coast is a place that is actually not even part of the country. Gibraltar is a British territory and a melting pot of Spanish, British, and Moroccan cultures.
You’re just as likely to see a Moorish church as you are an English pub or fish and chip shop.
The focal point of Gibraltar’s landscape is the Rock, which stands nearly 1,400 feet over the city clustered at its base.
Take a cable car to the top to the nature reserve, which is inhabited by around 200 Barbary Macaques (who will happily take your phones, sunglasses, or other valuables if you’re not careful).
After admiring the views of the Costa de Sol and North Africa, head into St. Michaels Cave to see thousand-year-old stalactites and stalagmites.
While you could easily spend the whole day exploring the nature reserve, save a few hours to explore the town below.
Popular attractions include the Gibraltar Botanical Garden, the Great Siege Tunnels, the Moorish Castle, and the Gibraltar National Museum.
Big cities, local villages, sandy beaches, rocky mountains – you name it, Spain has it. For thousands of years, this land has attracted travelers, conquerors, and rulers due to its picture-perfect setting and rich cultural heritage.
And by taking a day trip, you’ll get to see first-hand the allure and charm of this wonderful country.