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Road Trip Barcelona to Malaga or see Balearic Islands Instead? Advice please!

We'll be at a festival just south of Barcelona (in Calafell) in early September. After the festival, we're thinking of driving south from there, eventually ending up in Malaga.

From Malaga we'd fly to Morocco to see Fez and Marrakech (we have no interest in seeing Tangier or Casablanca, so we don't want to take the ferry from Malaga to Tangier). After being in Morocco for about a week to 10 days, we'll return to Spain for a few days (probably Madrid) and then go home to California. Total time for the trip will be about 30 days, including the 10 days in the Barcelona/Calafell area for the festival (so we have about 20ish days in Spain and Morocco).

Does this sound like a good plan? Are there sights to see on the eastern coast of Spain? Will the beaches be OK in mid to late September in that area? Rick Steves doesn't really cover Valencia or the east coast of Spain. We've been all over Spain in the past, but we've never explored the eastern coast of Spain or been to Malaga, Marbella, or Gibraltar. This will also be our first time in Morocco.

Another thought I had was to skip the road trip, but instead fly from Barcelona to the Balearic Islands and explore Mallorca and Ibiza for a week to 10 days, then fly back to Barcelona and on to Morocco. I have the same questions about beaches that time of year and worthwhile sights to see on those islands (we've never been there).

I appreciate any advice, thank you!

Posted by
6921 posts

September is perfect beach season.
Another option would be to mix & match: go (by train) from Barcelona to Valencia for 3 days, then Mallorca (skip Ibiza) for 1 week, then Morocco.
Otherwise, there are sights on the east coast of Spain.
From North to South:

  • Tarragona
  • Peñíscola
  • Valencia
  • The coast near Denia
  • Alicante (I don't love it but it is worth a few hours)
  • Elche
  • Cartagena
  • Cabo de Gata
  • La Alpujarra
  • Málaga

are all worth a look IMO (some for a few hours, some for a couple of days)

Posted by
1442 posts

September has perfect beach weather in Spain as the water will still be quite warm plus there is daylight until 20:30.
I like your plan to go to Ibiza and Mallorca because you can skip Barcelona’s busy BCN airport which has a two-hour check-in requirement and take the overnight ferries to Ibiza or Palma, Mallorca. There are several ferry companies that depart Barcelona about 10:30 pm and arrive in the Balaerics the next morning. You may want to reserve a cabin so you can sleep en route. Alternatively, you can fly to Ibiza or Mallorca in just over one hour from Barcelona. Ferries between Mallorca and Ibiza take about 3 hours.
***Here is the best part that brings this all together: On Fridays, Ryanair has a direct 2.5-hour flight from Palma, Mallorca to Marrakech in Morocco. This is fantastic because you don’t need to waste an entire day backtracking to Barcelona in order to get to Morocco! There are several daily direct 2-hour flights from Marrakech to Madrid and a handful of direct 1:40 flights each week from Fez to Madrid for your stay there before returning home. While Morocco now has high-speed Al Boraq trains using French TGV trains to get between several of its major cities, the high-speed line to Marrakech is still under construction. The train ride from Marrakech to Fez takes 6.5 hours. There also are 1-hour flights.
Check or for details on ferries. has flight details.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
416 posts

I like your plan, not least because it takes you through Valencia on your way to Málaga. Many other interesting coastal cities are also on the route. But if you really like beachy islands, the other Balearics idea might be preferable. Either way I think you're in for a treat.

By the way, that "High Rock-a-Billy" festival looks like a good time!