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Driving Through Spain

Avoid the jams – driving routes through Spain

Avoid the jams – driving routes through Spain

Whether you’re heading due south for beaches or stopping along the way in some of Spain’s picturesque inland regions, charting a traffic-free course through Spain can take some doing. But don’t worry – our driving expert Simon Heptinstall knows all the best routes!


The quick route

Driving from your ferry in Bilbao, the south may seem like a long way off - but don’t worry, Spain’s motorways are now among the best in Europe. It’s easy to cover big distances quickly and there are plenty of interesting towns and scenic diversions if you feel like slowing down and sampling local colour on the way.


Bilbao to Madrid

The A-68 and A-1 toll motorways to Burgos will cost around £15 but are the quickest route, taking around four hours to cover the 230 miles. Then follow the M50 motorway ring road carefully as it whisks you round the east side of Madrid without having to battle the Spanish capital’s notorious traffic.


Madrid to the south

The A-4 takes you right down through the heart of Castile to the big motorway junction at Bailen. Stay on the A-4 here for Cordoba, Seville, Cadiz, the Costa de la Luz and the Algarve; or take the A-44 down to Granada, Malaga and Costa del Sol.


Diversions to the east and west coasts

To reach the south eastern coast, the Costa Blanca, Murcia and Valencia, you can drive down to Madrid and simply leave the M50 earlier on the A-3. The more direct A-68/A-23 route via Zaragoza however may be quicker, it depends on your final destination.

Drivers heading further west - to Lisbon and southern Portugal - can leave the A-1 at Burgos and for the A-62 via Valladolid and Salamanca.


Jambuster tips

Drive around Madrid, not through it. But even then, the M30, 40 and 50 around Madrid are like our M25 - they can get very busy at peak times. Instead, use the R2, R3, R4, and R5 around the city. They are toll-motorways which have far less traffic. Tolls may put locals off but because the distances are small, prices are fairly insignificant.


Avoid the tolls

The normal route from Bilbao to Malaga via Madrid is almost all motorway but many of those miles are free. The total toll fee would only be just over £19 - not bad for 585 miles.

It is possible to follow a pretty similar route without any tolls using smaller, toll-free A and B roads. These include the winding A-625 and old N1 trunk road between Bilbao and Burgos. They’ll save you money - but not time. And don’t think this is the scenic route - following lorries along the A625 hugging the banks of the river Nervion is not half as spectacular as the modern A68’s sweep through the Sierra de Gorbea mountains.


Scenic routes

Spanish A and B roads tend to have the heaviest traffic as local drivers are put off by the motorway’s tolls. I recommend either the paying motorways for speed…. or the really small roads for interest:

Drive south from Bilbao to Burgo via the pretty BU550 and village of Ona for example. Nearer Madrid take a detour to the west taking in historic city of Segovia and Philip II’s huge palace at El Escorial. The little CL601 is a particularly attractive route to Segovia. To the south of Madrid you could divert to take in the ancient capital of Toledo. Further south, depending on your destination, leave the motorway at Jaen and switch to the tiny C3221 to Alcala la Real. It’s windy, hilly and slow but the N432 down to Granada could make a memorable finale to your journey.


Need some handy tips for avoiding the jams in France? Read Simon’s jam-busting guide to driving through France, or read our other ideas for driving holidays.