Sustainable Travel in Spain: 5 Beautiful Cities to Visit from Malaga by Train

With the darkest days of the pandemic finally behind us, and travel picking up again, there has never been a better time to start paying attention to how we travel.

Sustainable travel in Spain has been a conscious effort on the side of the government. So they have introduced an implementation program that will allow tourism to blossom while addressing the social and environmental impact it has on the country.

Especially in places like Costa del Sol in Southern Spain, the influx of tourists in the summer months is something that every city is struggling with. Sustainable travel practices have to be applied if this trend is set to continue in the coming years.

Even if you’ve not been looking specifically into sustainable travel until now, it’s a good time to start paying attention to the impact your decisions have on the local community and the environment. 

There are a number of ways you can approach this topic, and for most people the easiest one would be choosing a green way to travel. Flying into the destination is sometimes unavoidable, but there are ways you can limit your carbon footprint while you’re there.

I have unexpectedly become an expert on sustainable travel, at least in one sense – without driving a car. 

As I live in a relatively big city, everything is walking distance and I did not need to own a car even to do extended trips and holidays around Southern Spain. I walk almost everywhere and explore every major city in this part of the country using trains or buses. 

In this article, I will share some of the perks of alternative travel options. These will be favored by those who simply don’t like driving, but also those who want to explore the country in a more environmentally friendly way. 

Sustainable Travel in Spain – Traveling without a car

castillo gibralfaro malaga spain

If you’re planning to explore Spain without a car, you have to be strategic in choosing your primary destination. If you’re visiting Southern Spain, you’re most likely flying into Malaga international airport. This city is a perfect choice as your travel base. 

Malaga has a huge train station with train connections as far as Madrid, and a well established network of local and long distance buses. From the airport, you can take the local train that will get you close to the city within 15 minutes. From the Malaga Centro station, you are only about a 10 minutes walk to the old town.

In most of the Andalusian cities you will find plenty of options for renting bikes to explore the city, and some already offer the use of rental electric scooters. 

The Train Network in Spain

The national train operator Renfe has a widespread network of connections through the country. 

From Malaga, they also run a high speed train service to Madrid. It reaches an impressive speed of over 300 km/h, which gets you to Madrid in around 2 hours.

I have been traveling with Renfe trains for over 3 years now, and it’s my first choice for getting from point A to point B. The trains are modern, run very frequently and are very affordable. 

For all connections, you can book your tickets online, and if you do so a bit in advance of your travel date. Since ticket prices fluctuate depending on demand and season, this also saves you money. When you’re booking online, you can also secure a seat reservation and purchase any extras you need for traveling. 

The long distance trains have all the perks you would expect on a modern train network. A restaurant carriage, electric plugs for your phone or computer, Wi-Fi and even offer on board entertainment like movies and radio (the latter was available on the high speed trains only as far as I know). 

Traveling by train is super easy, and you can plan all the travel connections and details ahead, before you leave your country.

In this article, I wanted to introduce you to some of the most popular train routes available from Malaga. 

Sustainable Travel in Spain: Easy Train Destinations from Malaga

Malaga to Granada

alhambra granada

Marvel at the Moorish work of art called the Alhambra, with its lush Generalife gardens offering stunning views of the countryside. Granada is a wonderful place for a day trip, but it truly deserves at least two or three days to really experience everything it has to offer. Traditional Teterias, beautiful Baroque churches, old Monasteries, the old Albaicin and Sacromonte district and much more.

How do you get from Malaga to Granada? The fastest train connection to Gradana takes only 1 hour and 45 minutes, with a quick change at Antequera station. Tickets start at around 12 euros one way per person, but you can also upgrade to first class. The trains are departing from Malaga Maria Zambrano train station.

Malaga to Seville

real alcazar seville

Seville is the capital of the autonomous region of Andalusia, and the most beautiful city I’ve visited so far. The crowning glory of the city is the Royal Alcazar, which is one of the oldest royal family residences in Europe, together with the famous Cathedral and the Giralda tower next to it. The cathedral is said to be home to the remains of Christopher Columbus. 

If you want to venture out to Seville from Malaga, it’s super easy. There is a direct train from Malaga Maria Zambrano with 8 to 10 connections per day. Tickets start from 20 euros one way. The journey takes between 2 and 3 hours, depending on which connection you take (direct connection).

Malaga to Córdoba

cathedral cordoba spain

The beautiful Córdoba is known for the Mezquita Cathedral. It is a beautiful Islamic mosque converted into a cathedral in the 13th century. The contrast of these two religious influences is something that makes this place really special, together with the sheer size of the building. 

If you would like to marvel at the beauty of this cathedral, and visit some of the other beautiful locations in the city, like the Alcázar de los Reyes Christianos, you can take a train to Córdoba from Malaga Maria Zambrano Station. 

The train connection is only 1 hour long, but you have to change at Antequera station right after Malaga. Tickets start around 20 euros one way. 

Malaga to Ronda

ronda andalusia spain

Ronda is another hot spot on any sustainable travel Southern Spain itinerary. While there are bus connections available, the train is much more convenient and doesn’t involve suffering through those mountainous serpentine roads.

Ronda’s crowning glory is the ancient Puente Nuevo bridge. It connects the two parts of the city divided by the El Tajo gorge. A place loved by Ernest Hemigway and many other writers, it’s bound to inspire you too! 

To get to Ronda, you will have to get a connecting train to Antequera and change from there to a train to Ronda. The total travel time depends on how long you will wait in Antequera, but it should be around 2 hours. The tickets start from 15 euros one way, a bargain! 

Malaga to Benalmadena

benalmadena castillo colomares

The final destination I will recommend for sustainable travel in Spain is the lesser known coastal resort of Benalmadena, popular with British and Northern Europe expats. Benalmadena boasts beautiful beaches, lots of hotels and plenty to do and see. You will find the famous Columbus castle monument just up in the hills. You can take a stroll through a traditional Pueblo Blanco (white town) of Benalmadena Pueblo and explore the award-winning marina. Or take a stroll between butterflies at the local Butterfly Park.

Benalmadena is only a short 30-minute train ride from Malaga. It is connected with the local commuter train number C-1 called cercanias, which rund between Malaga Centro and Fuengirola. If you would like to extend the trip, the Bioparc in Fuengirola is well worth seeing. The trains run every 20 minutes, and the tickets are just a few euros each way.

There you have it, five amazing destinations in Southern Spain you can visit without renting a car. This will make sustainable travel in Spain super easy.

I hope you make the most out of your trip with my suggestions above. Let me know in comments which city you’re planning to visit! 


Lucia is a Slovak expat living in Southern Spain. On her blog Viva La Vita she shares her discoveries about beautiful locations, hidden gems and authentic experiences from Costa del Sol and beyond.

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