The 8 Best Day Trips From Malaga and Marbella

With so much to see in Malaga and Marbella, you could easily spend your entire vacation exploring these two iconic Costa del Sol cities. But if you have some time to spare, then I recommend planning a day trip to see other parts of the country.

Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or natural landscapes, Malaga and Marbella serve as good bases for exploring the many other wonderful sights and cities of Southern Spain.

What is the Best Day Trip from Malaga and Marbella?

If you’re interested in a city trip, then Córdoba, Seville, or Ronda are great options, as they are full of historical sites, cultural attractions, and Andalusian charm. But if you prefer to be out in nature, then you can spend the day hiking the Sierra Nevada National Park or lounging on the beaches in Nerja or Eestepona.

Still not sure which day trip destination is for you? I’ll be sharing a bit more about what you can see and do during your visit, along with a few other hidden gems that make great day trips in Southern Spain!

1. Córdoba

As one of the most beautiful and architecturally significant cities in Spain, Córdoba is a must-see during your trip through Andalusia. It was once a Roman settlement, but it flourished during the Islamic Golden Age to become the second-largest city in Europe in the 10th century.

You can still see examples of the city’s illustrious past everywhere you turn. Start with a visit to UNESCO-designated Mezquita, a Mosque-Cathedral famed for its two-tiered arched prayer hall.

Then, take a stroll through the Jewish Quarter. The winding labyrinth of narrow alleys and white-washed houses is the main tourist hot spot for a reason. Here, you’ll find cafe-lined plazas, gourmet restaurants, and boutique shops housed in some of the preserved architectural buildings from the Middle Ages.

One of the best times to visit Córdoba is in the middle of May during the Courtyard Festival, which is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. During this time, dozens of buildings open up their courtyards to the public so you can see how they are decorated with different Andalusian-style flowers, foliage, and fountains.

  • Distance from Malaga: 104 miles
  • Travel time by car from Malaga: 2 hours
  • Distance from Marbella: 135 miles
  • Travel time by car from Marbella: 2 hours 15 minutes

2. Seville

While I personally believe the capital of Andalusia deserves a couple of nights (or even weeks!), it’s still possible to visit on a day trip if you’re short on time.

Seville is one of the most enchanting cities in Spain. Its historic old center is dotted with architectural treasures, including three different UNESCO sites. They include the Alcázar of Seville, the General Archive of the Indies, and the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See (which happens to be the largest Gothic cathedral in the world).

But you don’t have to visit the main sights to get a feel for the culture. In addition to the numerous museums, shops, and tapas bars, Seville is also the birthplace of Flamenco, so I highly recommend catching a live performance if you get the chance.

  • Distance from Malaga: 130
  • Travel time by car from Malaga: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Distance from Marbella: 160 miles
  • Travel time by car from Marbella: 2 hours 45 minutes

3. Nerja

Located up on the northern end of the Costa del Sol sits the white-washed town of Nerja. Although the town dates back to the Roman era (you can still see the remains of a viaduct and aqueduct), it’s now a popular destination for tourists.

The distinctly Spanish-style center is from the 14th century. Take a few hours to wander through the streets, visiting the different shops, cafes, and restaurants. You’ll also find the scenic Balcony of Europe viewpoint, which overlooks the sea as well as the nearby beaches.

Speaking of beaches, there are several within a few minutes’ walking distance from town where you can sunbathe or swim, including Burriana, Carabeillo, and Carabeo.

One of my favorite parts about Nerja is the tapa culture. In most places, you’ll get a free tapa with every drink order!

  • Distance from Malaga: 35 miles
  • Travel time by car from Malaga: 50 minutes
  • Distance from Marbella: 75 miles
  • Travel time by car from Marbella: 1 hour 20 minutes

4. Gibraltar

Looking to escape from Spain for the day? Then, head down the coast to Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory located on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula. Over 40% of the territory is a designated nature reserve, so the city is a dazzling mix of craggy cliffs and beautiful blue waters.

Exploring the Rock of Gibraltar is a must while you’re here. You can take a bus or cable car to the summit, although more adventurous travelers can choose to walk up to the top (it takes roughly 2.5 hours). Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for the famous Barbary macaques, which also run wild in the nature reserve.

But if you prefer a more urban day trip, then you can spend the entire time in town. Main Street is filled with shops and boutiques, while the nearby Casemates Square has a variety of restaurants and cafes that showcase Gibraltar’s unique Mediterranean and British cuisine influences.

Keep in mind that if you’re coming from Malaga or Marbella, you will need to bring your passport (or an identity card if you’re an EU national).

  • Distance from Malaga: 85 miles
  • Travel time by car from Malaga: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Distance from Marbella: 50 miles
  • Travel time by car from Marbella: 1 hour 10 minutes

5. Sierra Nevada National Park

With rugged mountains, winding rivers, and lush forests, the Sierra Nevada National Park is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s home to the highest peaks in the country, including the 11,424-foot snow-peaked Mulhacén.

If you’re here during winter, you can take advantage of the excellent skiing and snowboarding slopes at the Sierra Nevada Ski Station, which is usually open from November all the way until May. But in the warmer months, the Sierra Nevada National Park is a wonderful place to go hiking, rock climbing, or canyoning.

There are also over 40 different Spanish villages dotted throughout the park. Visit Capileira for stunning panoramic views, Pampaneira for beautiful Moorish architecture, or Lanjarón for the spas and natural springs.

  • Distance from Malaga: 105 miles
  • Travel time by car from Malaga: 2 hours
  • Distance from Marbella: 130 miles
  • Travel time by car from Marbella: 2 hours 30 minutes

6. Ronda 

Perched atop a towering plateau, Ronda is a charming town that I consider to be one of the most picturesque in Spain! It’s a quintessential Andalusian village characterized by cobblestone alleys and white-washed houses, but it also has the benefit of having jaw-dropping views over the Tajo Canyon and surrounding countryside, especially from the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge).

Besides the natural landscapes, Ronda has tons of historic sights that are also worth visiting. Wander through the 13th-century Arab Baths, enjoy the peaceful gardens at Palacio de Mondragón, or check out the mesmerizing Gothic and Renaissance-style building in Plaza Duquesa de Parcent.

You can also visit the Plaza de Toros bullring. I’m not a big fan of bullfighting (even though it still plays a vital role in Spanish culture), but you can tour the ring during non-event times.

  • Distance from Malaga: 60 miles
  • Travel time by car from Malaga: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Distance from Marbella: 40 miles
  • Travel time by car from Marbella: 1 hour 10 minutes

7. Estepona 

Estepona is one of my favorite beach towns on the Costa del Sol. It’s far less touristy than the other towns closer to Malaga (like Torremolinos and Fuengirola), so it’s managed to retain its Spanish-style charm.

The old part of town is beautiful, with winding streets, cafe-lined squares, and white-washed buildings adorned with flower pots. However, the most popular attraction in Estepona is the Orchidarium, which contains more than 1,300 species of orchids (more than any other garden in Europe).

Of course, people also come here for the beach! La Rada Beach runs parallel to the main part of town and has been awarded an EU blue flag distinction for its excellent swimming conditions.

But even if you’re not here to swim, you can still enjoy the water views with a leisurely walk along the Paseo Marítimo, the scenic waterfront promenade lined with restaurants, shops, and cafes.

  • Distance from Malaga: 55 miles
  • Travel time by car from Malaga: 1 hour
  • Distance from Marbella: 20 miles
  • Travel time by car from Marbella: 30 minutes

8. El Caminito del Rey

If you’re looking for a thrill-seeking adventure, then visit El Caminito del Rey – the world’s most dangerous walkway! This 100-year-old pathway clings to the steep sides of a narrow gorge in El Chorro in Spain and was initially used by powerplant workers to commute from one plant to another.

However, it soon became a popular tourist attraction due to its breathtaking views and exhilarating hiking experience. Unfortunately, it was not very well maintained (sections had collapsed, and there were very few safety rails), and several people died trekking the walkway.

For this reason, El Caminito del Rey was closed for nearly 15 years to be restored. It reopened in 2015 with handrails, wooden boardwalks, and a skywalk glass floor, and hikers are now required to wear helmets.

As someone who’s scared of heights, I don’t think I’ll ever be adventurous enough to trek the El Camininito del Rey! But if you’re up for the challenge, you can rest assured that the entire walking is now very sturdy and extremely safe.

  • Distance from Malaga: 40 miles
  • Travel time by car from Malaga: 1 hour
  • Distance from Marbella: 45 miles
  • Travel time by car from Marbella: 1 hour 15 minutes

As you can see, there’s much more to Southern Spain than sun-soaked beaches and resort towns. From picturesque white-washed villages to jaw-dropping mountainscapes, there’s a wealth of must-see destinations to explore while you’re here. So make sure to plan an extra day or two for your itinerary because you are definitely going to want to book a day trip while you’re staying in Malaga or Marbella!