Discover the wonders of Barcelona, Lisbon’s energetic atmosphere, the medieval charms of Coimbra and the hidden back streets of Porto during explorations with your knowledgeable local leaders.. See the enchanting Alhambra Palace in Granada by night with an expert guide. Avoid the crowds as you receive special insight into the complex’s fascinating history.. Visit fabulous local wineries during a tasting tour in the picturesque Douro Valley, stopping off for a lunch made with regional delights.. Taste the best of Spanish cuisine when you tour the markets of Barcelona, sample olive oil at a family-run farm in Andalucia and try delicious marzipan in Toledo.
Get swept up in the colours, tastes and sounds of two of Europe’s most beloved countries on an 18-day Premium journey through Spain and Portugal. See flamenco in Seville, taste paella in Valencia, feel the history of the Alhambra in Granada and uncover the hidden corners of Cordoba. Discover the birthplace of port and the treasures of the Douro Valley, take a step back in time at the ancient university of Coimbra, learn the secrets of Porto’s backstreets and get to the heart of glorious Lisbon. Travel with passionate local leaders eager to share the magic of their homelands.
Beinvenido – welcome to Spain! Your adventure begins in Barcelona, a city overflowing with iconic architecture and superb cuisine. You will be collected from the airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel, where you will meet your leader and small group for a 7pm welcome meeting. If you arrive early, you may like to visit Sagrada Familia, one of Gaudi's masterpieces and a wonderful icon of the city, or venture into the narrow medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter. Barcelona is known for a diverse and creative food scene utilising the freshest market ingredients. Tonight you’ll head to a wonderful local restaurant away from the tourist trail and taste some of the city’s best dishes. Perhaps try some la bombas, tasty potato croquettes, or esqueixada, a salad made with salted cod.
Barcelona / Valencia
It's all about food this morning, so loosen that belt and venture forth to the morning markets with your leader who will have the best tips on all things food related. They'll talk you through both traditional Iberian foods and the new trends, then have you tasting some of the most delicious things on the planet: three types of olives, pickled garlic, lomo Iberico de Belotta, manchego cheese and olive oil. Enjoy some time out for lunch then bid farewell to Barcelona and travel to Valencia, your base for the next two nights. Spain’s third largest city, Valencia has a unique cultural identity and a wonderful old town centre that dates back 2000 years. On arrival, you’re free to explore the city and discover the harmonious mix of Roman, Muslim and Christian influences in its buildings, monuments and magnificent gardens.
Albufera Lake / Valencia
Start the day with a short drive south of Valencia to discover Albufera Lake, an important ecological site of the region. The lake is surrounded by beach, dunes, lagoons, wetlands and Mediterranean forest, and is home to six small islands. You will visit the island of El Palmar and discover its typical ‘barraca’ houses. Travel by boat to the middle of the lake and learn about the important agricultural crop of the area, namely the local rice. Finish off with an included lunch of the most famous Valencian dish – paella. The rest of the day is yours to explore Valencia. You may like to visit the city's major landmark – the City of Arts and Science, a large and futuristic museum complex designed by Calatrava. Or perhaps head out to a local cafe to enjoy the treats that Valencia has to offer – from horchata to artisan chocolates, the city is a gastronomical heaven.
Elche / Granada
Depart Valencia and travel to Granada. Along the way you will travel through the distinctive countryside of the region and pass through Elche, capital of the region of Bajo Vinalopó. The historic quarter of Elche preserves part of its Muslim past and Baroque splendour. Walk around palm tree grove, one of the largest and the only one in Europe. Your leader will explain how the grove was established by the Phoenicians and expanded by the Arabs in the 8th and 9th centuries. The palmeral consists of several parts spreading across downtown. Then it's on to the city of Granada, one of the jewels of Andalucia.
This morning you will get acquainted with Granada during an orientation walk with your leader. Learn the fascinating history of the city and discover Islamic architecture and Arab influences at every turn. Enjoy some time for your own explorations of the city – perhaps head to a local teahouse to sample some Moorish pastries. The evening will be spent exploring Granada’s impressive Alhambra Palace, the former home to Granada’s Nasrid emirs and one of the world’s great architectural masterpieces. Dating back to the 11th century, Alhambra represents Muslim art in its final European stages. First, meet with an expert local guide and tour the palace’s perfectly manicured gardens. Take a break and enjoy dinner at a nearby restaurant, then return to the palace for an evening tour with your local guide – by now the crowds have dispersed and you will be free to explore the site in all its glory. Your guide will bring history to life and provide expert insight as you explore the dominating red fortress towers, opulent palace décor and a multitude of architectural styles. With ancient defensive walls, turrets and fountains set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains, touring this magnificent site by night is an experience that will stick with you.
Farewell Granada and head for Seville this morning. Today you will learn more about the importance of olive oil production in the Andalucia region by visiting an oil farm on your way to Seville. Let the passionate owner of the family-run business walk you through the process of olive oil production, and taste some different variations of the final result yourself, along with some cheese Iberian ham and wine. Continue on to Seville. The largest city in southern Spain, Seville is famous for its cultural vitality and dazzling architecture. On arrival, check in to your feature stay accommodation, a gorgeous family-run boutique hotel. Converted from an 18th-century mansion, the hotel celebrates its roots with its elegant décor and antique furnishings. Personal touches are everywhere, from incredibly friendly service to hand painted details in the rooms and the owner’s great-grandmother’s shawl hanging in reception. Not to mention, the hotel boasts an unbeatable location on the Alameda de Hercules, lined with cafes, restaurants and music venues. This evening, perhaps head out to explore the lively neighbourhood on your doorstep.
This morning, meet with a local guide who’s an expert on all things Seville and get to know the city during a walking tour. Explore narrow streets, hidden squares filled with orange trees and flower-adorned patios as your guide provides local insight into the history of the city and how it’s enjoyed today. Visit the Alcazar of Seville, a grand royal palace, and uncover its secrets with your guide. Known as one of the most beautiful in Europe, the Spanish royal family still to this day use the Alcazar as their residence in Seville. The rest of the afternoon is yours for further discoveries - you may wish to take an optional visit to the Giralda Tower and the famous Seville Cathedral, one of Europe’s largest cathedrals and home to Christopher Columbus’ elevated tomb. This evening, join your group for a live flamenco show – a traditional Spanish style of dance with roots in Seville. This colourful, lively and rousing performance will certainly be one to remember.
Today you will journey to the city of Cordoba, where Muslim, Jewish and Christian influences are present in the architecture, culture and cuisine. Cordoba is also home to the Mezquita – a rare site which has served as both a mosque and a cathedral throughout the centuries. Today a cathedral stands within the centre of this amazing mosque – an interesting example of the interplay of Christian and Muslim cultures in Spain. Discover this supreme example of Islamic architecture on a comprehensive guided tour with your leader which continues outside of the Mezquita and explores the charming quarters and hidden corners of Cordoba. The city is bursting with traditional tapas bars – this evening be sure to ask your leader for tips on the best place to grab a bite to eat.
Travel from Cordoba to Madrid by high-speed train. Upon arrival in Madrid, settle into your hotel before heading out on a walk through the Old Quarter of Spain’s capital with your leader. Uncover the history of the city as your leader points out significant buildings, monuments and architecture. The rest of the day is free for further explorations. If you're feeling artsy, while away the hours on the Art Walk, which offers an expansive history of Western art. Start with the Museo del Prado, home to one of the world's finest collections of European art from the 12th to the 19th century. Discover modern Spanish masters, including Picasso and Dali, in the Museo Reina Sofia's 20th-century collection. Finish at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which displays eight centuries of European painting. Take a break in the Real Jardin Botanico, a garden wonderland dating from the 18th century.
Toledo / Madrid
Travel to the city of Toledo this morning. The unique old town of this city sits on a high craggy rock and is encircled by the Tagus River. As a former capital of Spain, Toledo has immense historic significance and holds many architectural treasures. Examples of buildings from most architectural periods in Spain’s history can be seen here, from the Gothic to the Baroque. Today you’ll experience Toledo’s culture in the form of a marzipan tasting. While a few countries compete for the rights, the Spanish argue that marzipan was invented in Toledo. Either way, the sweet treat made from almond meal, honey and sugar has been produced in this city for generations, and is undoubtably some of the world’s best. Find out how it’s made, its significance to Toledo, and taste some yourself. Return to Madrid for a free afternoon – you may like to check out the Royal Palace, or stroll around the Parque del Retiro. This evening, get together with your group for dinner at a fantastic local restaurant.
Today you will leave Spain and catch a flight to Lisbon, Portugal’s joyful capital city. You will be picked up from the airport and taken to your centrally located hotel. There will be a meeting at the hotel at 6pm this evening to welcome any new travellers joining you for the next part of your journey. After the meeting, join your leader and small group for a welcome dinner at one of Lisbon’s magnificent restaurants. Going out to eat is one of Portugal’s great pleasures, and tonight your leader will introduce you to traditional Portuguese recipes and a local culinary scene that’s exploding with regional flavour.
Lisbon is one of Europe’s great cities. Much of Lisbon’s character lies in its beautiful renovated buildings, grand boulevards and impressive castles and churches. Visit one of the most symbolic buildings in the city, Lisbon Cathedral. Hear how the cathedral was built on the site of an old mosque in 1150 by Lisbon’s first bishop, Gilbert of Hastings. Next your leader will take you to the fantastic medieval citadel of Sao Jorge Castle and share stories of its history. Although much of the original castle has been destroyed, some sections of walls and 18 different towers remain today. Look down on a city swarming with endless angular white houses and buildings with distinct red terracotta rooftops. The afternoon is free to make further discoveries of Lisbon – perhaps roam through the delightful narrow streets of distinct local neighbourhoods, visit Belem Tower, or the spectacular Monastery of the Jeronimos.