Gaze in awe at the artistic feats of the Spanish masters in Madrid, and experience a different sort of mastery with a fiery flamenco performance in Seville. Get lost in the labyrinthine streets of the Albayzin in Granada, before crossing the river to visit the imposing Moorish fortress of the Alhambra. Unwind in a laidback fishing village in the Algarve, Portugal’s scenic south coast. Soak up the sun on a beach and enjoy a cocktail-coloured sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon and Porto are two of the most visited cities in Portugal, and for good reason. Explore a medieval fortress in the middle of cosmopolitan Lisbon and sweeten your day with a port tasting in, well, Porto
Tour Spain and Portugal’s pin-up attractions on this classic adventure. Soak up art and history in Madrid, be staggered by the grandeur of Alhambra Palace in Granada and take in the dramatic spectacle of a flamenco performance in Seville. Travel to Portugal to chill out in the Algarve, get footloose with Lisbon locals in the Bairro Alto and imbibe delectable port wine in Porto. Back in Spain, visit Santiago de Compostela and Salamanca en route to Barcelona – the epitome of all things stylish, cultural and fashionable – before continuing on to Pamplona, Longrono and the glorious beaches of San Sebastian.
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. After the meeting there is an option to head out for group dinner where you you will have a chance to get to know your fellow travellers better. please note dinner would be at your own cost. 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.
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.
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. 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 main 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 or head out for tapas in the town centre.
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.
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. 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, catch a local flamenco performance with the group (included). Charged with emotion and drama, this powerful, fiery show is a real highlight
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.
Most of today is free to enjoy Lagos and its surrounds. At some point during the day (depending on availability) you will enjoy included boat tour around Algarve’s rocky cliffs. Discover the caves and grottoes that have been eroded into the fabulous limestone coast. Tour leader will inform you about the exact time in advance so you can plan other activities around that. For the rest of the day, 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. Also, plenty of water sports are on offer in the summer. In addition, there are 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.
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).
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. Perhaps head out this morning on a tour to visit to the medieval citadel in the city centre of Lisbon. Discover 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.
Continue north on a local bus to Porto, the capital of the north that sits between a river and the Atlantic Ocean (approximately 4 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.
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.
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 Padrón peppers (Pimients del padron), and empanadas (Galician pies, filled with meat or seafood).