Quite a few years ago, I spent a holiday in Rota in the province of Andalucia in Spain. While the town itself was rather small and there weren't that any things to do in Rota, it did make for a great base. Here are tips for 10 day trips from Rota.
10 fun day trips from Rota Spain
First of all, at only an hour away, a trip (or two!) to Sevilla is one of the absolutely essential things to do near Rota, Spain. Birthplace of the flamenco club, the opera heroine Carmen, and of course the Seville Orange, Sevilla is the sort of seductive city you could get lost in for many days on end.
If you’ve only got one day, however, you’ll need to prioritize. Sevilla is the capital city of Andalucia, and there is so much to see.
Fans of architecture generally love Sevilla. There are some amazing examples of Mudéjar architecture (buildings influenced by the mixing of European and North African styles) including the stunning Alcazar, the king’s royal palace.
Sevilla is also brimming with Gothic buildings, such as the spectacular Catedral de Sevilla (Europe’s 3rd largest cathedral, and the largest Gothic church in the world!), beside the Alcazar. The Sevilla belltower is called the Giralda and it’s a pretty amazing blend of Muslim and Renaissance architecture, right next to the Gothic cathedral. It’s the former minaret for the mosque that used to be stationed where the cathedral is.
As well as sight-seeing though, it’s a good idea to make time to meander through Sevilla’s narrow winding streets. Walk past artisanal shops, gushing fountains and extravagant plazas, all buzzing with life.
The Triana district has stunning hand-painted ceramics, the old town area of Barrio Santa Cruz is home to the medieval Jewish quarter, and Macarena (the neighborhood, not the extremely catchy song!) has some fantastic markets.
One of the oldest cities in Europe (dating back 3000 years), Cádiz is only just across the bay from Rota so dead easy to get to. It is the capital of the province of Cádiz. It’s got so much fascinating history, some of which you can read and learn information about at the Museum of Cádiz.
The sea is such an important part of life here, as it surrounds the city almost entirely. The seafood is to die for, with thriving fish markets, and the beaches are beautiful. Playa de la Caleta in the old town is a great spot to see the sunset from, but there are over 76 beaches in total so plenty to choose from if this one is overcrowded!
One of the best things about Cádiz is its relaxing, free and easy-going atmosphere. The pace of life here is calm and un-rushed, the residents being mostly liberal and tolerant. Every spring, the entire city throws an enormous party with the Carnaval de Cádiz. Costumes, music, face-paint, theatre and political commentary make this one of the most exciting festivals in Spain.
Ronda is one of the most spectacular locations – located up high on the top of the mountain sierra around 150 km / 92 miles by road from Rota. This historic town sits on either side of a striking El Tajo gorge through which the Guadalevín River treads its path, over 130 m / 430 ft below. Definitely one for the photo album.
Spanning both sides of the mountain gorge is the famous Puente Nuevo, the ‘new bridge’, built about 200 years ago. This is Ronda’s main feature and an impressive sight. A fun walk takes you down through the lush green valley to the river Guadalevín, where nature-lovers may spot lesser kestrels, crag martins and endemic Spanish fir trees.
The town’s main export (which may not go down quite as well with the nature-lovers) is bull-fighting, which was basically invented here at the end of the 18th century. You can explore the world-famous bullfighting museum and bullring, which is still used today.
Located on the southern coast of Spain, Gibraltar is a small peninsula that juts out into the Mediterranean. It’s a totally one-off place, with a unique cocktail of cultures that can be found nowhere else on the planet.
It’s not a part of Spain, but a British overseas territory – a visit to Gibraltar can feel like a trip to a seaside resort in the south of England, with its red telephone boxes and fish and chips. Or it would do, if it weren’t for its sweltering heat, Palladian architecture and wild Barbary macaques!
One of the most recognizable features of the landscape is the immense and overbearing Rock of Gibraltar that looms over the town at its base, and there’s a helpful lift to get you to the top. You can also take a tour of the rock or go dolphin watching in Gibraltar.
The people here speak both Spanish and English, and often swap languages mid-sentence!
Traveling here from Rota takes about 1 hour 40 by road, and of course, you’ll need your passport to leave the country and British currency.
5. Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
If you want something completely different, the stretch of southern Spain’s mountain range near Ronda is known as the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. It first became a biosphere reserve in 1977 and it still seems somewhat undiscovered.
You won’t find it teeming with tourists – in fact, the reserve is a total hidden gem. What you will find are tree-topped peaks, lush mountain streams, oak forests, dramatic gorges, and charming, authentic villages. And vultures.
There’s the deep Garganta Verde canyon with its network of cave complexes, including one cave with the largest bat population in Spain! The small village of Zahara is another must-see for its magical white buildings nestled on the side of the mountain, overlooking a stunning man-made lake.
It’s a wonderful park to visit if you’re planning a break in your itinerary from the town experience, and one of the best places for outdoor pursuits, from canyoning, hiking, kayaking to mountain biking and caving.
6. Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez is the closest city to Rota, accessible in around half an hour by car. Although it can get a bit touristy, it’s a quintessential Andalusian town with many unique selling points. For the most part, it’s famous for its sherry, horses, flamenco, shops, and motorcycles and you'll find many tours include or revolve around these things.
Sherry translates literally as ‘jerez’ in Spanish. It’s a fortified wine made from grapes that grow near the city, and you can book informative sherry tours at any of the many bodegas (wineries) which have brilliant reviews. These don’t tend to run in August however when the industry mostly closes down for a month.
This city is home to a particular breed of Spanish horses, and you can see these at shows at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. For motorcycling enthusiasts, there’s also an annual motorcycle Grand Prix at the world-famous Circuito de Jerez, where off-season Formula One races are also held.
Córdoba is at a little bit of a further distance than the rest of these destinations, at about 2 hours 45 from Rota, but still doable in a day trip if you don’t mind getting up early. Alternatively, consider staying a night. It’s a historic city that lies upstream on the same watercourse that runs through Seville.
It was once the largest city of Roman Spain, and the center of the western Islamic empire so it is bursting with history and unique architecture. Its crown jewel is an extraordinary building called La Mezquita, which is now one of Spain’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It also features hundreds of ‘arcos’ (arches) and these arcos are supported by columns of jasper, marble, onyx and granite.
Originally a huge mosque built over 1000 years ago, the building is now the city’s cathedral although Muslims have been lobbying the church to allow them to pray there for years. It is an impressive sight and alone is worth the trip to Córdoba.
Tarifa is at Spain’s most southern extremity, the last bit of land before Morocco on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s only a small town, but it has a chilled out, North African vibe. Most come here to enjoy themselves, and although it can get a bit busy in the summer, it’s an exciting spot for a day trip from Rota (about 1.5 hours drive down the coast).
Tarifa’s beaches are world-class. The fact it sits at the meeting point of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean means the coast has a one-off quality here. It’s a great spot for water sports with high surf, and the huge expanse of white sand is simply dreamy. You also could see dolphins, orcas and sometimes even sperm whales.
For a bit of history, check out the village of Bolonia which you can find nearby, where the Roman ruins of the 2000-year-old Baelo Claudia site stand testament to the region’s fascinating past.
Fuengirola is another small resort town on the Costa Del Sol, not far from Malaga, known for its gorgeous beaches and nightlife. It’s on the other side of the peninsula from Rota and takes about 2 and a half hours to get there by car.
A huge amount of recent development makes this town a fairly crowded tourist destination, and it’s hard to imagine that it used to be a humble fishing village. Today, visitors are pulled in by its seven kilometers (five miles) of sandy beach, great shopping facilities, good local food, and popular bars.
It has an interesting past, and one relic of this is the 10th century Sohail Castle. In ancient times, the town of Fuengirola was known as Suel, which later changed to Suhayl, hence the name of the castle. Today, you can see and visit the castle, which also hosts music concerts and performances.
Nowadays Marbella is known first and foremost as a flashy and fun tourist hotspot on the south coast of Spain. It’s full to bursting with glamorous clubs and restaurants, not to mention its luxury port and coastline.
However, as well as the sand, sea and nightlife, Marbella is a beautiful network of white lanes decked out with blooming flower-boxes, and has a hidden side that is well worth exploring. With the picturesque Sierra Blanca mountains as a backdrop, it is simply beautiful, especially out of season.
Marbella’s ancient walled historic town districts are almost exactly the same as they would have been back in the 16th century. A great area to wander through Castilian Renaissance plazas and past buildings with beautiful facades and fresco murals.
If you do want to embrace Marbella’s inner chic, make sure you get to the Golden Mile (although it’s actually four miles in total!). Here you can enjoy luxurious villas, five-star hotels, top restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
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Matthew Hirtes says
I would consider staying in Rota, Sofie, but Seville makes for a great sleepover too. Really enjoyed my time there recently. Wrote about it here:
Sofie Couwenbergh says
I definitely want to get back to Seville one day. Maybe even combine it with the south of Portugal.
Matthew Hirtes says
Sorry, forgot to include the link: https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/an-augmented-reality-stroll-in-seville-8457234.html
Sofie Couwenbergh says
Becky Padmore says
It looks like a great town to visit, cute lizard shot!
Sofie Couwenbergh says
It is, and thanks!
We saw lizards there all the time and as you can see they even managed to sneak in through a little crack in the door:-)
Jessica of HolaYessica says
I lived in Sevilla for a while and visited some of the quiet towns around it (but not Rota specifically). I’m much more a city girl, so I’m not sure I’d stay in a small town, although they are lovely to visit. If you didn’t stay in Sevilla long enough to eat some of its amazing tapas, you definitely have to go back to see more. The food is so good (and so cheap!) there.
Sofie Couwenbergh says
In definitely need to go back to Sevilla. I feel like I haven’t experienced it as I should’ve.
Might be something for a Spanish road trip.
Escape Hunter says
I’ve seen Sevilla and Cadiz from the air. Would love to return and thoroughly visit them and photograph the attractions.
I’d love to go back some time as well to take the time for both places.