As soon as we began researching where to go on our family roadtrip, it was the Spanish White Towns of Andalucia which jumped out to us. Both Mr A and I have explored quite a bit of Spain, from our minimoon in San Sabastian to holidays in Barcelona, Madrid, Granada and Seville. However, what appealed to us about the Spanish White Towns was the chance to see a different side of the country and a slower-paced way of life. This area of Andalucia is renowned for its beautiful beaches, a passionate flamenco scene, amazing food and, of course, the picture-perfect white painted buildings nestled into the hilltops.
After flying into Gibraltar the first stop on our roadtrip was actually Tarifa. Although not actually one of the Spanish White Towns, it’s a great place to spend a couple of nights if you’re looking for a laidback start to your trip. We stayed in a yurt just outside the town and it was the perfect place to relax and unwind for a few days.
A roadtrip thorugh the Spanish White Towns – Day 1 – 4 – Cadiz (with visits to Vejer de la Frontera and Jerez de la Frontera)
One of our main priorities on this trip was to keep the driving distances short. This was because we weren’t sure how our recently walking toddler would feel about having her new found freedom restricted! The brilliant thing about the Spanish White Towns is that it’s really easy to break up journeys by stopping off at gorgeous little villages along the way.
On our way to Cadiz we visited Vejer de la Frontera (45 minutes from Tarifa.) As soon as we rounded the corner and got our first view of the town I couldn’t wait to explore. It’s a labyrinth of paved sloping streets, lined by whitewashed houses with bright orange-tiled roofs. Every alleyway and backstreet calls out to be explored.
Added to this, it’s location on a rocky hilltop means the views are stunning. To fully appreciate them you should walk around the old city walls. The town also has a castle and a number of churches and convents. As always, my little adventurer was drawn to the water. So her favourite spot was the Plaza de Espana which has a ceramic fountain featuring four frogs.
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to food options in Vejer de la Frontera. From high-end resturants with lovely terraces, to tiny tavernas hidden in the twisted backstreets. We opted for a set menu at a local restaurant. The food was good and cheap and the owner was so grumpy he was like a caricature!
From Vejer de la Frontera it’s just another 45 minutes to Cadiz. We stayed in the Old Town (within the city walls) as this is where most of the main attractions are. We also paid a little extra for an Airbnb apartment with a terrace, which was one of the best decisions of our trip. It meant that after putting our little adventurer to bed we could relax and eat tapas outside. So we were still able to experience a tiny bit of the city’s nightlife – albeit from afar!
Cádiz is considered to be the oldest continually inhabited settlement in Europe. A great way to see the city is with one of the free tours on offer. I always take a tour for an overview of a place and to get good restaurant recommendations from a local! We took one with Cadizfornia Tours and loved it. Our guide introduced us to Cadiz’s distinctive neighbourhoods and showed us places that would be easy to miss, like the local market and Flower Square.
We also visited Cadiz Cathedral, the Roman Theatre and Santa Cruz (the old cathedral). Cadiz has a number of museums, including the Museum of Cadiz, which includes sections on archeological finds and fine arts. The Tavira Tower, an 18th century watchtower, is also popular as it offers a bird’s eye view of the city.
But for me, what I loved most about Cadiz was just walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. It has a really laidback vibe and I loved the architecture in the Campo del Sur neighbourhood. It really reminded me of photos I’ve seen from Cuba and according to our guide, some of the architecture of Havana was copied from Cadiz, so it all makes sense!
One thing I’d recommend is to get out early to explore the city. As once the cruise ships dock (several arrive into port most days), it gets very busy in the narrow streets. It was at that time of the day that we usually headed to the parks or one of its beautiful beaches.
Cadiz is one of those places that has everything. If you’re a history buff, it has museums. A sun-woshipper? There’s the beaches. A foodie? You’ll be spoilt for choice. We had nowhere near enough time to visit all of the restaurants we wanted to!
Four days was a great way to get an overview of the city, but we’ll definitely be back to explore more.
Flamenco in Jerez de la Frontera
Cadiz’s location also means that it’s great to use as a base for day trips. During one of our days in Cádiz we drove half an hour to Jerez de la Frontera. The town is famous for its flamenco dancing and there are lots of different shows on. Most of them take place in the evening, but there is a lunchtime one which we went to see with the little adventurer. It’s free entry if you want to stand and watch, or if you’re willing to purchase food and drinks you can book a table.
The show was an hour long and was a brilliant insight into the passion and the skill of flamenco. Like that time we took a Tango lesson in Argentina, it made us appreciate the dedication required for the dance.
Day 5-6 – Ronda (with a visit to Grazalema)
From Cádiz, make sure you check out Ronda. It’s the largest of the Spanish White Towns and is an hour and 50 minutes away. On the way we stopped off in Grazalema for lunch. This village is surrounded by the national park of Sierra de Grazalema and is so beautiful. It was actually one of our favourite places of the trip. The views were spectacular and there was a bike race finishing in the village when we arrived, so there was a great atmosphere.
Ronda is famous for the Puente Nuevo – a bridge which spans a huge gorge over the Río Guadalevín. It separates the old and new towns and is an architectural phenomenon.
One tip I have is to get there early to get your photos, as it gets very busy later in the day. Don’t forget to head down into the valley below to get some good shots.
It’s also worth noting that Ronda is hot! By the time the afternoon arrived we were longing for some shade.
Day 7 – Gibraltar
From Ronda we began our journey back to Gibraltar, where we were catching our flight home from. We based ourselves in La Línea de la Concepcíon for the night, which is just north of the Spanish-Gibraltar border. This gave us a chance to have a wander around the city and spend the evening on the beach. It seems as though most of the inhabitants had the same idea. As we were leaving at 6pm, more and more people were arriving.
The next day we walked across the border into Gibraltar. This feels very strange as you go through passport control, before walking across the airport’s landing strip!
As you cross into Gibraltar the huge rock it is famous for towers above you. There’s lots of ways to experience the rock, you can take a cable car, hop in a minibus, take a taxi or walk. At the top there are a number of different activities you can do, as well as taking in the view. And, of course, there are the famous monkeys to coo over/avoid, depending on your preference.
As this was the last day of our trip and our little adventurer was quite tired. We ditched our plans for a busy day of sight-seeing and after a quick look around we headed over to Camp Bay. The small beach is on the south western end of Gibraltar and includes two outdoor pools. It also has a very popular beach bar, and as soon as we saw the food we realised why!
All in all it was the perfect end to our trip and a reminder that sometimes when you’re travelling as a family you have to adapt your plans.
If you’d like to read more about the pros and cons of travelling with a toddler, check out this post and here’s five things to think about when planning your baby’s first trip.
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