A large region in southern Spain, Andalusia isn't just steeped in fascinating history, it’s also a delight to explore by car. To whet your appetite for the breathtaking scenery, we take a look at the most spectacular roads through one of the most beautiful parts of Europe.
- Bert Heinzlmeier
- Alexander Zimmermann
Mountain roads and rugged crags: the MA 5403 and MA 448 from Ardales to El Chorro
Surely there isn’t a climber in Europe who hasn’t heard of El Chorro: located in the heart of Andalusia about an hour from Malaga, the mountains and rock formations here have an almost surreal feel to them and are a mecca for anyone who prefers to scale mountains on a vertical line rather than wend their way up hairpin turns. The region has been immensely popular with hikers for years because of its wooden walkway perched high above a gaping, 330-foot-deep chasm. The Caminito del Rey, a climbing route through El Chorro that measures nearly two miles in length, offers a unique hiking experience - and it requires a cool head for heights. But the name El Chorro also conjures up images of the mountain roads that wind ever upward through the rugged crags like a fine pattern, sometimes widening out then getting narrower again, unveiling new secrets to drivers around every curve.
If you have the willpower, resist the temptation to stop on the road’s sometimes barely existent edge to take out your camera. Otherwise, the drive might prove never-ending, as the peaks of El Chorro seem to become more overwhelming and spectacular with each passing mile. And the vista is no less impressive once you’ve left the last bend behind with a final burst of speed and reached the summit. From there you can gaze out over the steering wheel at nothing but the perfect blue of the Andalusian sky, followed soon after by the expanses of the plains to the east.
More donkeys than cars: the A 7075 and MA 424 from Puerto de la Torre to Villanueva de la Concepción
“It’s really busy here today,” remarks one of the locals as he rakes the garden of his small cottage by the side of the road. By “really busy” he probably means there will be four cars coming the other way in the next 10 miles rather than the usual two! The A 7075 is a small connecting road that runs parallel to the AP 46 and AP 45 highways as it heads inland from Malaga, and on some days it seems as if there are more donkeys on it than cars. And that is meant quite literally. Solitary houses appear at irregular intervals along the way – here a small finca ("ranch"), there a majestic Mediterranean-style villa. And there is the occasional donkey in the garden, too. Rolling hills, gentle curves along the road, accompanied at all times by the view across a small riverbed to the olive groves spread across the opposite side of the valley – that’s what makes the A 7075 a real gem.
The name El Chorro also conjures up images of the mountain roads that wind ever upward through the rugged crags like a fine pattern, sometimes widening out, then getting narrower again, unveiling new secrets to drivers around every curve.
Deserted coastal road: the N 340 near Acantilados de Maro
Just a few miles from the highway that was built 35 years ago to reduce the traffic in the coastal region, the old N 340 coastal road winds along the Costa del Sol. Hardly used these days, the road offers a drive that is almost like a journey back in time. The primitiveness of the old tunnels hollowed into the rock lies in stark contrast to the tunnel systems of modern highways with their fluorescent lighting, huge turbines and green emergency exit signs. On the N 340, you can leave the bustle of the inner cities of Malaga or Almeria far behind and simply follow the sweeping lines of the coast – with craggy cliffs on one side and the Mediterranean sea on the other.
Sweeping, serpentine curves: the A 366 from Ronda to El Burgo
Los pueblos blancos – the white villages – are one of Andalusia’s most impressive sights, both when viewed up close while strolling through their narrow, crooked streets and when seen from a distance. They are aptly named, with their whitewashed houses standing out from the surrounding rocky landscape in spectacular fashion. With a population of over 35,000, Ronda is one of the largest of the white villages (or towns, in this case) and is particularly famous for its 18th century Puente Nuevo ("new bridge") that links the town’s old and new districts. Travelers driving from Ronda to El Burgo on the road that connects the two, the A 366, are treated to stunning views of the pueblos blancos, sweeping bends and long straightaways through the plains that eventually give way to the mountains around El Burgo.
Never far from the ocean: the AL 4200 from Los Escullos to Cabo de Gata
Once the endless expanses of greenhouses stretching as far as the horizon along the coast between Malaga and Motril have been left behind, the scenery changes over the last few miles of the journey along the AL 4200 to the Cabo de Gata nature reserve, an area to the east of Almeria covering more than 80,000 acres. What makes the drive so delightful is the ocean panorama glimpsed behind the crests of the low hills, before briefly disappearing again behind the next bend. With its mixture of wide curves and mountain-hugging corners, the route keeps the driver enthralled while the passenger admires the views. The road also takes in some of Andalusia’s most spectacular beaches. Playa de Mónsul and Playa el Playazo, for instance, are just a few miles apart and offer travelers the perfect opportunity to stretch their legs with a stroll along the white sands or take a dip in the sea. The best time to venture on this leg of the trip is the evening – no matter whether you’re watching from the car or the beach, the ocean sunsets are simply breathtaking.