Bienvenido a España! The golden shores of Barcelona kickstart your exhilarating visit to Spain and Portugal. Check in to your hotel, then take some time to recharge siesta-style before meeting your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a glimpse of what lies ahead. There's boundless energy to Barcelona and you'll want to soak it all up on your first evening in the capital of Catalonia.
Gear up for an exciting morning of sightseeing in Barcelona, joining your Local Specialist who knows all the best spots in town. Capture the sights and sounds of La Rambla, Plaça de Catalunya and the ornate La Sagrada Família as you tour the city, ascending to Montjuïc for sublime views. Spend the rest of your day exploring on your own. Head to the Gothic Quarter or seek out the fanciful façades of Spanish Art Nouveau architect Antoni Gaudí, whose plentiful works of art and architecture lend a fairy-tale feel to Barcelona's skyline. You may consider joining an Optional Experience to Montserrat with its hidden monastery, home to the revered La Moreneta. Grab your front-row seat, on an Optional Experience, to watch the famous Dancing Fountains followed by a delightful Catalonian feast with drinks.
Today we'll skirt along the Costa Daurada, a gleaming strip of the Mediterranean coastline, travelling past expansive orange groves to Peñíscola. You'll see its imposing 13th-century Templar Castle, famed as the dramatic backdrop for the Hollywood classic El Cid. Then continue to Valencia, catching a glimpse of the iconic highlights of this bustling modern metropolis on your orientation tour with your Travel Director. View the Town Hall, the Towers of Serrano and Quart and the impressive Cathedral. Next, leave the present behind and admire the futuristic 'City of Arts and Sciences', a cultural complex built into the Turia riverbed.
Today we journey to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada where you'll find a hidden underground world of cave houses. The trogloditas of Guadix live in these ancient man-made dwellings, skilfully carved centuries ago. The only clue to their existence is the white chimneys that rise up from the hills and front doors etched into the rockface. You'll have the chance to capture this curiosity on camera then continue your scenic travels across the Mora Pass to Granada, the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain.
Embrace the laid-back spirit of your Spanish hosts and enjoy a slow start to the day on your Mediterranean tour. Spend your free morning exploring Granada and its Moorish influences on your own. There's even time for a quick tea break at a traditional tetería or you may choose to join an Optional Experience to the Albaicín Quarter, one of the oldest centres of Islamic culture in the city. Later, we head to the golden beaches of the Costa del Sol. Set your watch to siesta time or don your sandals and sunglasses for a leisurely stroll to soak up the fresh sea air. Consider joining an Optional Experience this evening to the hilltop village of Mijas offering stunning views of the coast followed by a delicious Mediterranean meal.
Explore a slice of Britain when you cross the border into Gibraltar, the much-contested gateway to the Mediterranean Sea. Maybe join an Optional Experience to get up close to the Barbary apes and visit the cave of St. Michael at the Rock of Gibraltar, the Roman and Greeks' former pillar of the "known world". Next, we return to Spain, travelling north through the Andalusian countryside to sizzling Seville. After dinner at your hotel tonight, you might consider an Optional Experience to see the whirling skirts and fiery passion of a flamenco show. This foot-tapping extravaganza is not to be missed.
A Local Specialist is on hand today to reveal Seville's special allure and, standing amidst the pavilions and fountains of Maria Luisa Park, you'll hear all about the elaborate Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 which put this sleepy Spanish city on the global map. See the world's largest Gothic Cathedral and its Giralda Bell Tower, then consider joining an Optional Experience to the Alcázar, built by a Christian king who loved Mudéjar architecture. This lavish palace complex has witnessed key moments in Spanish history and welcomed great Spanish kings and queens over the centuries. Spend some time this afternoon exploring the city's Old Quarter your way and celebrate sunset in Seville in style, sampling the traditional tapas on an optional evening in Old Seville.
The highlights of your Spain and Portugal value tour just keep on rolling and for now it's adiós Sevilla and a warm olá to Portugal, as we journey through the golden and green plains of the Alentejo to Lisbon. Pastel and azulejo-clad façades line the Portuguese capital's narrow streets which ramble across and over its seven hills from St. George Castle to the Tagus River. You'll be drawn to the city's vibrant nightlife in the Bairro Alto and beyond, so head out with new friends for a night on the town or join your Travel Director for a poignant Optional Experience including a traditional meal accompanied by the melancholic sounds of fado.
Visit the banks of the Tagus River this morning, joining a Local Specialist for a guided sightseeing tour which will take you past the iconic Hieronymite Monastery and Belém Tower, built in the 16th century to defend the city. Later, you'll want to hop on one of the city's signature trams to explore the city's hilly bairros or find a corner café to sample some of the local pastries - pasteis de nata anyone? You could choose to leave the city limits behind this afternoon and visit the beach playgrounds of Estoril and Cascais, as well as Sintra, on an Optional Experience of the iconic Golden Triangle - the choice is yours.
Rub shoulders with visiting travellers who have made the journey to the Catholic pilgrimage centre of Fátima. It was here in 1917 that the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three shepherd children. Today this humble village has been transformed into a place celebrating a religious miracle. There's time to explore the Basilica and Sanctuary before venturing east and crossing the Spanish border bound for Salamanca where your Travel Director will provide an orientation. Spend the evening your way amidst the historic monuments and honey-hued façades for which this ancient university town is famous.
We leave Salamanca behind, with Madrid firmly in our sights. Our scenic drive takes us through the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains before arriving in the Spanish capital. With a Local Specialist at your side, you'll embark on a sightseeing tour to view the Cibeles Fountain, Gran Vía and Paseo de la Castellana. Admire views of the Royal Palace and Retiro Park, originally created as a retreat for the Royal Family. The evening is yours to discover why the Madrileños adore their nightlife, so resist the urge to set an early curfew and perhaps join an optional dinner and discovery in downtown Madrid.
There's every excuse to rise with the Madrileños and enjoy a leisurely start to your morning. You'll have a full free day to explore the city your way and discover the legacy of 'Madrid's Best Mayor', which installed Madrid as one of the most gracious capitals across Europe. King Charles III's desire to 'beautify' Madrid can be seen around every turn, from the Puerto de Alcalá to the treasures displayed in the Prado Museum, which you could choose to visit today. Alternatively, you could take an opportunity to join an Optional Experience to the medieval city of Toledo, the country's famous sword-making centre. This evening, you'll celebrate with your fellow travellers as your enchanting journey through the Iberian Peninsula comes to a close.
Keep that Spanish gusto in your step as you prepare to close the curtain on your epic Mediterranean journey through Spain and Portugal. It's time to say a final hasta la vista to your fellow travellers and your Travel Director. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.