Has anyone done this drive? Best places to see along the way (limited time)? What's the drive like...my husband is worried due to the unknown? Is it mountain roads, highways, country roads? We are from the United States. TIA
I did it many years ago. It's highways. Highways are highways, pretty similar in most countries. Not particularly scenic, and doesn't really provide you any benefit. If I had to do it over, I'd either fly or take the train (or combine that with a rental car at the Gibraltar end). Spain is a bigger country than most Americans appear to expect. Driving this route would waste a couple days that would be much better spent elsewhere.
Now, it's true that having a car in some corners of Spain is handy (the white hill towns, for example) but most of the things the average tourist wants to see in Spain are best connected via train. Connecting Barcelona (which isn't really so much in Spain anyway) to Spain's southwest (Gibraltar or anything near it), I don't think driving is the way to go. Unless you have more time than you know what to do with (in which case, you should probably figure out better ways to spend your time there). Just my opinion.
It's about 700 miles from Barcelona to Gibraltar. Spain's a much larger place than many realize.
You could fly to Malaga from Barcelona for very little on Vueling, rent a car and drive the last 83 miles to Gibraltar.
We have found the popular coastal Spanish towns to be very congested--a sea of high rise condos.
Is it mountain roads, highways, country roads?
It's all of those and more! Consider you are driving from the extreme north, all the way down to very extreme south, of one of the largest countries in Europe, please please please consider flying from Barcelona to Sevilla or Malaga, then rent a car to drive to Gibraltar, that will save you a lot of headache and $$$.
PS: I'm not sure what you find so appealing in Gibraltar that warrants such an exhausting cross-country drive ;-)
I've spent 4-1/2 months in Spain since 2016 (and additional time long in the past), and I haven't bothered with Gibraltar yet. That's not to say Gibraltar isn't worth seeing at all, but it's a very curious destination to pair with Barcelona. Have you already been to Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Seville, Cordoba, and Granada? That's just the beginning of a list of the places in Spain (aside from Barcelona) that I'm confident most visitors would rank higher than Gibraltar.
ViaMichelin estimates the Barcelona-Gibraltar driving time at over 11-1/2 hours by the fastest of 3 suggested routes. That's with no stops, no traffic delays, no looking for parking, no getting lost.
You can cover the distance to Malaga by train in as little as 6 hours, picnicking and relaxing along the way. The drive from Malaga to Gibraltar is estimated at 1 hr. 45 min.
Flying to Malaga and renting a car at the airport would seem to be the fastest option.
I've done that route (more or less) on separate trips, but never as a single journey.
You can do it mostly on motorways - I think it's too much for one day, so you'd need an overnight stop along the way. Depending on the route, the cities of Murcia or Albacete would be about half way.
However, since you'll spend a lot of time on easy but fairly dull motorway driving, I'm not sure a two-day trip is worth the effort compared to flying or using the railway.
On the other hand, if "limited time" means you have, say, four nights available, then its definitely worth considering, with a chance to visit some delightful places not on everyone's tourist route. Although, you might find it more restful to use public transport for the first leg south and the final leg west, driving for the central portion as you cut cross-country from Valencia region to the colony.
How long do you have?
To me, Gibraltar is worth maybe 3 hours. Unless there’s a compelling reason to go on this trip, I’d save it for another trip and spend the time you would have spent getting there visiting someplace closer to Barcelona. Out of curiosity, are you returning to Barcelona or leaving from a location in southern Spain?
Thank you everyone! We are going to Barcelona and on to Seville and then to Portugal. We were interested in taking a ferry from Gibraltar to Tangier, Morocco, which is the only reason for heading to Gibraltar. Your comments have all been helpful. Thank you!
There is no ferry from "Gibraltar". There are ferries from some towns not too far from there. But they take you to the absolute worst possible bits of Morocco, which for many of us would be a hugely disappointing waste of time. There's soooo much more and better things to see and do in Spain. More importantly: There's sooooooo much more and better things and places to be, see and do in Morocco. Your choice seems very unwise to me (and I actually did enjoy Gibraltar - still, I'd never do what you're asking about).
Do yourself a favor. Either carve off another 2-3 days from your trip if you can, then fly to Marrakech or Fes and see the Morocco that's worth doing. Flying is dirt cheap, it's easy, and most of all, you'll see the good stuff, rather than the Tijuana of North Africa (ie Tangier). If you can't find another 2-3 days, then skip the ferry ride, come back when you can give Morocco more than a few hours (it's an amazing destination and is worth at least a few days) and spend what time you do have on any of the things in Spain that you would blow past otherwise.
Just my 2 eurocents - but I've been to Gibraltar, Morocco and much of Spain (all more than once), and I did the drive you are asking about.
You've mentioned Seville. What about Cordoba and--at least assuming you can get Alhambra tickets--Granada? Those two cities are leagues ahead of Tangier and easier to fit into you itinerary.
Are you thinking of renting a car in Spain and dropping it off in Portugal? That will incur a very large (hundreds of euros) international drop-fee.