Day 1 - Madrid
Welcome to Madrid, Spain. The sassy central capital is known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks, but it also pulsates with energy, and is without doubt a vibrant city. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at either 6 or 7pm, depending on common area availability. Please double check with reception to confirm the time and place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance, passport details and next of kin contact number at this meeting, so please have these on hand. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). As there's limited time for sightseeing in Madrid, we recommend arriving a few days early to explore. Perhaps while away the hours along the Paseo del Arte, or Art Walk, for an expansive history of Western art. Start with the Museo del Prado, then discover modern Spanish masters, including Picasso and Dali, in the Museo Reina Sofia. Finish at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which displays eight centuries of European painting. After the welcome meeting, perhaps get into the mind of a Madrileño with some tapas and Rioja.
Day 2 - Granada
Take a bus to Granada today (approximately 5 hours). Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Granada is packed with Moorish architecture, great tapas bars and natural beauty. Take a walk around the old Arab quarter of the Albaicin, a labyrinth of crooked alleys, fountains, plazas and whitewashed houses, or the 'Alcaiceria' (old silk market area) and observe the craftworks on sale that include ceramics, marquetry and leather goods. If you're feeling energetic, climb the steep streets up to the Mirador de San Nicolas for sunset views over the famous Alhambra. If you have time, perhaps check out the historic Renaissance Catedral and Capilla Real, or watch the world go by as you indulge in some tapas at a bar. Granada is the kind of city to leave your guidebook behind and trust your intuition. Discovering the narrow streets of Albaicin and the white-walled house garden of Realejo quarter may lead your adventurous spirit to find something that you have long been looking for. In the evening, perhaps head to one of the small flamenco taverns around the city.
Day 3 - Granada
Today make a visit to Granada's impressive Alhambra Palace. An entrance ticket is included in the trip and grants you the visit of Nasrid Palace and the Gardens. Audio guides in multiple languages are available on the day for EUR 4. The Alhambra was first built by the Moors as a fortress during the Muslim rule of Spain. A walk through the compound's luxurious rooms and gardens gives you an idea of the decadent lifestyle of the Moorish kings. The Alhambra is made up of three parts: the Alcazaba, the 11th-century Muslim wing which features spectacular views from its towers; the Palacio Nazaries, the centre of the complex; and Generalife, the summer palace of the sultans. This evening, unearth the restaurants in the tangled streets of the Albaicin and dine with the best views of the Alhambra.
Note: If you would like to take an in-depth guided tour of the Alhambra or enter the gardens and palace at night time, we strongly recommend you book tickets in advance. You can reserve these online at alhambra-tickets.es. To collect your tickets you will need to present the credit card that was used to make the booking. A maximum of 10 tickets may be bought for the same day on the same card. Please book any tickets for your second day in Granada only. The included ticket is usually booked for the morning but that depends on availability. Entrance to Nasrid Palace is booked for particular time (please enquire 3 weeks before your departure if you would like to know the time). Apart from that, you are free to spend as much time within the whole complex and gardens as you wish.
Day 4 - Seville
Travel approximately 2.5 hours by bus and train to the vibrant city of Seville. If the legends are to be believed, Seville was founded by Hercules and its origins are linked with the Tartessian civilisation. To the Romans it was Hispalis, to the Moorsm Isbiliya. After the Christian reconquest, it became thought of as the portal to the 'New World', and is today the capital of Andalucia and the largest city in southern Spain. Known for its important monuments and fascinating history, Seville is universally famous for being a joyous town. Sevillians are well known for their wit and sparkle, and the city itself is striking for its vitality and flamboyance – the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro. Seville is also famous for its oranges, tapas and flamenco, all three of which are ingrained in the fabric of the city and its proud people. As the rest of the day is free for you to explore, why not go and experience it all in person. Barrio Santa Cruz, with its multicultural history, is a great place to start. This shaded warren was designed in medieval times to provide refuge from the great Andalusian heat. Or maybe spend your evening San Jacinto, the bustling main street of the Triana quarter, and discover the interesting and adventurous food on offer.
Day 5 - Seville
Today is a free day to discover Seville. Checking out the world's largest Gothic cathedral is a must. You can also the climb the cathedral's adjoining Moorish tower, known as La Giralda. While you might have to line up, it's well worth it for the views over the city. Visit the magnificent Alcazar, a complex of palaces used by Moorish and Christian rulers through the ages, and now gaining international fame as a shooting location for ‘Game of Thrones’. Wander through the fragrant gardens and examine the Moorish and Mudejar architecture. If you feel like an injection of culture, explore Seville's Museum of Fine Arts or the Archaeological Museum, or head to the Real Maestranza Bullring for insight into the Spanish tradition of bull fighting. As Seville is the tapas capital of Spain, be sure to sample some of the tasty morsels on offer in one of the city's many tapas bars. In the evening, perhaps seek out a local flamenco performance, a dramatic collision of music, dance, passion and emotion.
Day 6 - Algarve
Today board a bus and cross the border into Portugal. Travel through fertile plain landscapes of orange orchards, olive groves and maize fields to the Algarve, Portugal's stunning southern coast, where your destination is the seaside town of Lagos (approximately 5 hours). Set on the banks of the Rio Bensafrim, Lagos is gifted with a temperate Mediterranean climate, a bounty of beaches and a rich heritage. On arrival, you might like to take an optional boat trip out on the water, perhaps appreciating the jagged, weathered rockface of Pinta da Piedade, full of grottoes, caves, arches and towers. If you prefer to stay on land, wandering around Lagos’s old town enclosed within 16th century walls, on pretty cobbled streets and picturesque plazas and churches, is definitely a good thing to do. In the evening, why not head to feast on freshly caught fish at a restaurant or cafe overlooking the water and behold a golden sky at sunset, before throwing yourself into Lagos' pumping nightlife.
Day 7 - Algarve
Most of today is free to enjoy Lagos and its surrounds. Perhaps pack a book and towel and head to the beach. The vast sands of Meia Praia stretch for over four kilometres, and it is peppered with beach bars, cafes and sun lounges. Plenty of water sports are on offer in the summer – you could hire a kayak and explore the caves and grottoes that have been eroded into the fabulous limestone coast. There are also numerous boat trip options, focusing on birdwatching, fishing, or even spotting the Algarve dolphins. Praia do Porto de Mos and Camilo Beach are also good options, lovely water and sands surrounded by great rock formations. Take a stroll through the quaint alleys of central Lagos, or head down to the waterfront to watch the boats come in. Just ask your leader for any tips if you’re unsure. In the middle of the day, join the group for an included picnic on the beach. Evening is again free for you to enjoy as you please.
Day 8 - Lisbon
Today head north by public bus to Lisbon (approximately 4 hours). As one of Europe's most pleasant and affordable capital cities, Lisbon combines the best elements of Portuguese life, offering fantastic architecture, a multicultural population, delicious seafood and non-stop nightlife. On arrival to the city, head out on an orientation walk of Lisbon to find your feet. There are some great modern and ancient art museums to check out, such as the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the National Museum of Contemporary Art or the National Coach Museum. Your afternoon and evening is then free, so perhaps head to the grand Naval Museum for an insight into the history of Portuguese navigation. You can roam through the charming narrow streets of local neighbourhoods and see local life play out. Maybe simply sit back in one of many outdoors restaurants and cafes – watching the life go by is definitely one of the best ways to relax in Lisbon. As the sun goes down, some of Lisbon's best nightlife centres on the neighbourhood of Bairro Alto, where you can enjoy an emotional fado performance (traditional Portuguese music).
Day 9 - Lisbon
Today is a free day to further discover Lisbon, which is located on the banks of the Tagus (Tejo) River and is truly one of Europe’s great cities. Much of Lisbon’s character and charm lies in its beautiful renovated buildings, grand boulevards and impressive castles and churches. Head out this morning on an included visit to the medieval citadel in the city centre of Lisbon. Visit the medieval citadel of Sao Jorge Castle, which dates back to Moorish times and sits on the highest point of the Old Town. Look down on a city swarming with endless angular white houses and buildings with distinct red terracotta rooftops. From the citadel, this makes a contrasting panorama when viewed against the deep blue of the sky and ocean. With the rest of your free time today, perhaps catch a tram or hire a bike and cycle along the water to the historic neighbourhood of Belem. Make sure you try a sumptuous custard tart at the famous Casa Pasteis de Belem. Relax at a cafe in hilly Alfama, or check out the fascinating street art spread throughout the city.
Day 10 - Porto
Continue north on a local bus to Porto, the capital of the north that sits between a river and the Atlantic Ocean (approximately 3.5 hours). Stretching along the banks of the River Douro, Porto is one of Portugal's most romantic cities. Known for majestic bridges, medieval riverside district with its cobbled streets, merchants’ houses and cafes, Porto is also well known for one more thing; surprise surprise – Porto is the birthplace of the fortified wine, port. Indulge in an included group tasting of some famous tawny and ruby ports at one of the many wine houses across the river. Most of the grapes are grown and harvested in the nearby Douro Valley. If sampling the best from the region piques curiosity, why not learn more about the history of wine and port making at the Museu do Vinho later on in the afternoon. Alternatively, spend the evening soaking up the atmosphere of this coastal city in numerous cafes and restaurants that Porto has to offer.
Day 11 - Porto
Today is a free day to explore Porto. The city's World Heritage-listed Ribeira district is packed with twisting alleys, staircases, and baroque churches, and is great to explore on foot. São Francisco church is known for its lavish interior with ornate gilded carvings. The palatial 19th-century Palácio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors. For a sensational view of the whole town head to the Torre dos Clerigos (Clerigos Tower). Head down Allies Avenue to see the French-inspired buildings, then make a turn for Bolhão Market. This is the city’s most famed market, bursting with fresh produce and other goodies. Up in the cathedral area you’ll find the oldest neighbourhood in Porto and a place where you’ll see its true soul. Boat cruises along the Rio Douro operate several times a day, offering insight into the history of Porto's six famous bridges. A cruise is also a great chance to snap some great photos of the colourful tiled houses lined up along the riverbank. For dinner, make sure you try the country’s most famous sandwich – the francesinha – then head to Galerias Paris Street for nightlife.
Day 12 - Santiago de Compostela
Today board a bus bound for Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain (approximately 3 hours). The capital of Galicia became a symbol of the Spanish Christians' struggle against Islam, and is famous as the culmination point for pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago. Soak up the religious energy in the cathedral where St James, one of the 12 Apostles, is purportedly buried. The cathedral was consecrated in 1211 and is the central point within the medieval walls of the old town, standing majestically on the Plaza del Obradoiro with its towers soaring above the town. Elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas, full of pilgrims and locals spending their day in this atmospheric place. Perhaps join them in one of the cafes, sitting back and listening to many of the street artists performing on the streets of the old town. Visit the cathedral and do as pilgrims do – circle the main altar admiring the greatness of the place. Tonight, maybe and explore the streets close to the cathedral for Galician specialties. Perhaps try peppers of Padrón, and empanadas (Galician pies, filled with meat or seafood).
Day 13 - Santiago de Compostela
Today you'll have the opportunity to join pilgrims on the last stretch of the Santiago de Compostela route. Take an early bus to O Amenal village where the 15 kilometre walk begins. The trek will take you through the villages, fields and rivers of Galicia. In Lavacolla village you'll cross the river where medieval pilgrims traditionally bathed in the river to purify themselves before arriving in the holy city. From here, ascend again to the Monte do Gozo (‘Mount of Joy’), so called for the feeling when pilgrims would catch their first sight of the towers of Compostela Cathedral. Embrace the atmosphere up here on the mount, alongside some walkers who may have trekked over 800 kilometres to be here. The entire walk takes approximately 4 hours to complete. It is important that you wear comfortable footwear and bring a rain coat, as weather in this region of Spain can be unpredictable, even during the summer months. For those not wanting to do in the walk, there are plenty of things to keep you entertained in town for the day. Santiago de Compostela is a World Heritage site, an open-air museum that holds many delights within its walls – the lively squares, the market and the University buildings are must sees. For you final night, maybe wander down the streets of Rúa do Franco and Rúa da Raíña to try tapas.
Day 14 - Barcelona
Today take a short flight from Santiago de Compostela to Barcelona. The city’s quirky character and fabulous Catalan cuisine mixes seamlessly with a groundbreaking art scene, Gothic architecture, superb dining and a non-stop nightlife, making it a city you won't soon forget. Enjoy a free afternoon to wander the labyrinthine streets of the old Gothic Quarter or navigate your way through the throngs of tourists along La Rambla, Barcelona's famous tree-lined boulevard. Grab a fresh juice at the colourful La Boqueria market while you're there. You can take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for panoramic views of the city. Perhaps pay a visit to the Picasso Museum or the Museum of City History to brush up on your local knowledge. A visit to Gaudi's masterpiece, the modern cathedral of La Sagrada Familia, is a must, even if it's just to see the outside. Gaudi was the master of the unique Catalan Modernista architecture for which Barcelona is famous, and his work is dotted all over the city. In the evening, why not head to the funky neighbourhood of El Born for some tapas crawl with the group, and toast to the last night of your adventure.
Please note: We recommend you book the entrance tickets to all main attractions in Barcelona in advance to avoid queuing or the disappointment of all the tickets being sold out.
Day 15 - Barcelona
Today is free for you to enjoy as you please. Set out to discover Barcelona in more detail.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Day 16 - Pamplona
Leave Barcelona behind and travel by train to Pamplona, the heartland of the Basque country (approximately 4.5 hours). On arrival into Pamplona, head out on an orientation walk and get acquainted with this well-preserved fortified medieval town. Pamplona, named after its founder, Pompey the Great, has served for centuries as both a military stronghold and an important point on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. It’s also world famous as the home of the annual San Fermin, a weeklong festival that features the running of the bulls. Interestingly, the festival became most well known in the English-speaking world after the publication of Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’. Meander down winding alleys and step inside ornate buildings like Pamplona's Gothic cathedral, one of the most important religious structures in Spain. The city has also recently opened a museum of modern art designed by a prize-winning architect, inspired by the cultural renaissance achieved by Bilbao and its Guggenheim. Your evening is then free to do as you wish – the quality of pintxos (Basque tapas) is incredible, so be sure to tuck into some tasty morsels.
Day 17 - Logrono
After breakfast this morning, take the short journey by public bus to the prized vineyards of La Rioja wine region and Logrono (approximately 1.5 hours). The town sits on the banks of the Ebro River and is the capital of Spain’s most renowned wine region. The city is rich in history and traditions, preserved since the Middle Ages. It also boasts one of the most distinguished culinary traditions in the county, home to some of the best tapas bars in the whole of Spain, all crammed into its small medieval centre. After checking in to your accommodation for tonight, the rest of the day is free to explore. Stroll the streets of this favourite stop for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela, a handsome city of medieval fortifications, where much work is being done to restore it to its full glory. This evening, a great idea is to explore the Old Quarter, wandering down Calla del Laurel and feasting at the 60 or so taperias (tapas bars) that line the way. This is the perfect opportunity to sample the regional delicacies – snack on each bar’s individual speciality, maybe grilled chorizo or wild mushrooms, and wash them down with a glass of the region’s famous red.
Day 18 - Logrono
Logrono has a central importance to the wine industry in Spain, and their tradition of winemaking dates back to the first Phoenician settlers back in the 11th century BC. The city is not only surrounded by vines, but has always treated wine with great respect. It is hard to imagine, but in 1635 the traffic of metal-wheeled carriages was forbidden in Old Town by law, as it was feared that vibration caused would disturb the wines resting in cellars below. Today you’ll head out on an included winery tour to enjoy a day of grazing on delicious local produce – all grown or made within a few kilometres of town – sampling wine and basking in the sunshine. Visit the wine museum (July to September) to learn more about this region's famous tipple. When the museum is closed, your group leader will take you on a visit to a local winery. If the weather’s on your side, stroll through enchanting vineyards and learn what goes on behind the scenes of a winery. In the evening, head out on an included tapas crawl around the town, with the sheer concentration of tapas bars in the medieval old town leading to intense competition and incredibly high standards.
Day 19 - San Sebastian
Today take a bus from Logrono (approximately 2 hours) to stunning seaside San Sebastian, jewel of the Basque country and a city obsessed with food. With its family friendly beaches and vibrant old city, San Sebastian is a fantastic place to stroll along the promenade, shop, consume pintxos, or just to soak up the sun. When you arrive, get an overview of the most central beach, La Concha, with a cable car (included) to Monte Igueldo. Then, why not wander around the Parte Vieja (Old Town), a mix of alleyways wedged between the bay and the Urumea River. Or head to Playa de Gros and watch the surfers riding the waves of Biscay Bay. This is the home of some of the world’s best restaurants, most experimental chefs and a distinct food culture all its own. This evening why not hit the neighbourhood streets for a txikiteo of pinxtos, a Basque-style tapas crawl that will fill the senses – and stomach – with the unique tastes of the region. Don’t forget to wash them down with txakoli, a slightly fizzy white wine that’s the region’s signature drop.
Day 20 - San Sebastian
You have a full day to explore San Sebastian today, which also gives you plenty of time to take a trip along the winding coast to the nearby small fishing village of Getaria, or catch the one-hour local bus to Bilbao. If you do decide to venture to Bilbao, then spend some free time visiting Frank Gehry’s iconic sweeping metal building and the artistic treasures housed inside and out. The skyline here has changed rapidly since the arrival of the Guggenheim, this industrial city now boasting over 40 landmarks for architecture and design enthusiasts. If you have enough time in the afternoon, the San Telmo Museum displays history, art and photography of the Basque country. In San Sebastian, discover the beaches, shops and charismatic streets, then in the evening, it might be a good idea to enjoy one more night of tapas (there is never enough of tapas!) that range from the traditional to the experimental, seeking out some of the nectarous local cider. Or, if you’re feeling really indulgent, treat yourself to one of the local restaurants that’s in the top 20 in the world and their Michelin-starred chefs.
Day 21 - Madrid
Journey on the bus to Madrid this morning, (approximately 6 hours), a city overflowing with world-class art galleries, atmospheric city squares, and heaving nightclubs and bars. The sassy central capital is known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks, but it also pulsates with energy, and is without doubt a vibrant city. On arrival, after checking in your hotel, the group will set off for an orientation walk. There is plenty to do and see in Madrid, so instead, you may choose to go out and discover on your own. The Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) gives a great panoramic perspective of western art history. Perhaps wander through the pristine gardens of Real Jardin Botanico and then delve deeper into the art of the city at Museo Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Sports fans, if you're lucky enough for your trip to fall on match day, you can don a white t-shirt and head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to watch the mighty Real Madrid. At night, head out to Chueca, Plaza Dos de Mayo or Plaza Santa Ana, where the pulse of the city will lead you from bar to bar on a final night out that you’re sure to remember.
Day 22 - Madrid
Your 'Classic Spain and Portugal' adventure ends this morning. There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. As there's limited time for sightseeing in Madrid, it's recommended that you make arrangements to stay few extra nights to see the highlights of the city. Our reservations team can help with booking accommodation (subject to availability).
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
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