The Grand Tour of Andalucia

Blue skies, crowded beaches, flamenco and olive trees

The south of Spain.


Most people associate this region with blue skies, crowded beaches, flamenco and olive trees…

However, that is not how we wish to see it, as it is our goal to stay clear of the tourist traps.

We want something else: a Grand Tour of Andalucía boasting some of the best roads we have ever ridden. Famous roads, small roads, straight roads, smooth roads, flowing roads, trail roads, mountain roads, and beach roads…

We are doing this tour with a R1200GS, rented via Toro Adventure in Coin, just outside Malaga, and we have to return the bike at the same spot. Since we’re pretty busy with work these days we need to cover the distance in about 5 days. The trip as we have planned it is around 1800 km. 5 days is pretty ok. It leaves us time for riding, filming and making pictures.

At least if the weather plays our way. And that’s a little bit of an issue. We’re in the week of Semana Santa (holy week); April hasn’t started yet and the weather this spring is not what we’re used to.

It’s Andalucía I hear you say, what’s the problem? We know Andalucía from the sun, the beaches, the heat… Well that’s one thing most people know, but do they also know that a big part of Andalucía flirts with 1000m altitude, that the mountains of Grazalema are the area where it rains the most in southern Spain, and that the Sierra Nevada is over 3400m and has eternal snow?

Meaning that our choice of end of March in what is considered to be a wet year may not have been the smartest. Weather forecast for the whole week is rain, clouds, and not very warm. We have known better Marches…

While we pack the bike we notice the brand new tyres and we feel we really made the wrong timing for this one…

Deserted roads

Still, the sun is present and when we leave Coin and head west we scan the horizon and the fluffy clouds sharply in contrast with the blue sky and the green spring fields give us hope.

After El Burgo, direction of Ronda, we start to think that basically this week isn’t such a bad choice… Too cold for many tourists and all the locals queuing up to see the local Easter processions.

The roads are empty, our pace is fluid. The road between Zahara and Grazalema is deserted too. And that is a good sign.

It’s one of the most famous roads in Andalucía and on busy days thousands of tourist - in cheap rental cars without power - struggle up the hill spontaneously parking in the most impossible places to take pictures.

Yes we said we would avoid tourist traps, but some roads you just have to do…     

We arrive in Arcos de la Frontera around 17:30. When we’re at the roundabout of the road leading into the centre of the old town we’re stopped by the Guardia Civil.

The centre is closed, Easter procession  starting at 19:00. I argue that my hotel is all the way to the top. Why can I not drive as far as possible and then go by foot.

I have luggage, cameras, and gear… My foreign Spanish doesn’t help in the discussion. By foot they say.

So that’s how I end up dripping from sweat at the door of the Parador having wished the entire catholic church and their traditions to the darkest ends of the world. Religion is not what we believe in…

Roads, nature, some humans, art and animals are the gods of my polytheism. Shuffling up the hills carrying religious statues while whispering prayers, we just don’t understand.

A lot of tourists and locals love these traditions and therefore they are alive.

From Arcos we choose direction of Seville, but we like to avoid that city, true, it’s beautiful, but Semana Santa, our patience and Seville are not a good combination so we head into the direction of Huelva.

The rain persists; the original plan to pass by Palos de la Frontera, the place from which Colombus sailed to discover America, and Isla Cristina, almost in Portugal, is abandoned and before Huelva we point to the north.

Valverde del Camino and further up, Jabugo, a name that may sound familiar to many, because of the ‘Jamon’. There’s a few famous area’s for the Spanish Jamon, but Jabugo is probably one of the most particular ones, and even if  a famous brand of Guijuelo - Salamanca - has the claims the tagline ‘El Mejor Jamon del Mundoe, Jabugo claims to have the original ‘Iberic porc’.

Well, what can we say, ‘Probably the best beer in the World’ is probably also not the best….

We overnight in Alajar, a small village tucked away in the valley towards Aracena. The HU8105 leading there is a fantastic winding road flanked by cork oaks under which the pigs run freely.

Aracena, Campofrio, La Dehesa, Nerva. Wonderful riding roads taking us past the open mine pits of RioTinto.

The colours of the earth show the rainbow and more. Not ecological, but beautiful.

We recommend everyone who travels to Andalucía to discover the area of Aracena, just be warned that the average height here is 1000m and that temperatures in spring and autumn can be very different than those on the coast.

In order to avoid Seville we make a loop over the north and although we know several great places just in the north of the city we decide to sleep in Carmona; The Parador of Carmona overlooks the green (in spring) fields and on a good day you should be able to see for miles and miles over the flat horizon

So we head back North as flat is beautiful, but not what we’re looking for. We want corners and that’s what we get on the A4323 north of Cantillana till El Pedroso, and we continue the same pace from there on the A432 to Alanis and hop into the Parque National Sierra Norte.

The A447 suddenly breaks your pace. Our opinion changes from, yeah, a challenge, to wtf… 1000 corners on a bumpy destroyed road full of gravel, not good to keep our pace… but in the end it’s part of the adventure, so we stop moaning and enter Penarroya.

Industrial ruins rise on the skyline and a bit of research in the past learns the less healthy history of these villages. As we lost a lot of time on the road through the Sierra Norte we choose for the N432 direct to Cordoba, but after a while we get bored and decide to turn of again to Villaviclosa De Cordoba. The grin on our face getting larger with every km of the A3075

A night in Cordoba is obligatory we think. There’s a lot to see. Really. If you have time stay even 2 nights.

Cordoba has Roman origins, witness the Puente Romana and then dive into the Islamic history and the Mezquita before getting lost in the small streets of the old centre.

After Cordoba we again choose to up the pace and via the national 432 road south east, but the village of Zuheros up in the mountains attracts our attention and we stop for a long break on the mirador de la Atalaya. Wonderful.

We continue again over smaller roads and the endless view of lined up olive trees becomes time really imposing for the first time. Till Priego de Cordoba we don’t see anything else. Olive trees and Olive trees.

Never realised there were as many. Water however is scares. Maybe they should think about that when planting the next field… just a thought…

We turn back up north and also there is nothing but olive trees. We decide it’s time for something different and head to the Sierra Magina. Wonderful.

And at the same time we are immediately remembered that Andalucía is not only sunshine and olive trees.

Snow still persists on the tops and from certain points on the road you get a glimpse of the Sierra Nevada where the snow is clearly even more present.

We overnight in Ubeda and head to Granad, via the most marvellous roads between Quesada and Pozo Alcon and further south to the Embalse de Negratin.

Where we stop. The lake brings back plenty of memories. It’s one of the most beautiful places we know in Andalucía and with the water again on a healthy level it’s more beautiful than before. Just watch the colour of the water. Pure magic.

Due to a sudden change in our planning we’re urgently awaited in Granada and have to leave out eastern Andalucía. The Sierra Nevada we climb, but the nicest road we know to the top is still closed, due to the snow.

We turn around and as far as we can see there’s Andalucía, our playground of the past eight days. Andalucía is so much more than all the well-known clichés. It’s a motorcyclist’s paradise.

There are wonderful roads to be ridden and there is so much to see: green hills, fast bends, empty beaches, fluffy clouds, cosy villages, rocky deserts, turquoise lakes, snowy mountains, and of course…plenty of olive trees.

Download our trips

You’ll find the trip here:
The Grand Tour (1'648km).

We do however propose a 2nd Grand Tour of Andalucía and it’s more complete. You should be able to do this one in one week, but of course more time will allow you to enjoy even more. Avoid August and even July is pretty hot. So plan your trip for next autumn or spring!

The full Grand Tour (3'009km).


Bonus: The MOVIE!

Want to see more? Here is our short movie about our adventure in Andalucia!



Where next?

Explore the best roads around and plan your next trip based on those roads.


Written by Peter-Jan Willems.
Motorcycle-Diaries founder.


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