Welcome to the fiery Spanish capital that is Madrid. Delve deep into the soul of a city that marches to the tune of the tapas, before meeting up with your fellow travellers and Travel Director for a memorable Welcome Reception and orientation drive to see some of the city's most iconic sights.
Journey over the pine-clad Guadarrama Mountains to Burgos, the historic capital of Castile, where we will visit the tomb of El Cid, a national hero and the protagonist of the most significant medieval Spanish epic poem - El Cantar de Mio Cid. We cross the Ebro River and the Cantabrian Cordillera Mountains, travelling to the coast and the sophisticated capital of the Cantabrian region, Santander.
We depart Santander and travel to Bilbao to view the striking Guggenheim Museum, built from titanium, glass and limestone and designed by renowned Canadian-American architect, Frank Gehry. Continuing to San Sebastián, the gourmet capital of Spain, we see the beautiful Bahia de La Concha beach during our orientation drive. Our overnight stay is in the vibrant city of Pamplona, famous for its Running of the Bulls fiesta. Follow in the footsteps of Hemingway and enjoy a drink at Café Iruña, ramble along the brilliantly lit city ramparts or delight in the local pintxos before enjoying dinner at your hotel this evening.
Our journey continues through the Ebro Valley to Zaragoza where we'll view the Basilica of El Pilar and Cathedral of La Seo. Arrive in Barcelona, soak up the charm of a city that professes two great loves - Gaudí and football. Enjoy panoramic views of a city, which dates back to Roman times, from atop Montjuïc, then spend the rest of the day at leisure. Amble through the Gothic Quarter's labyrinthine lanes, indulge in the aromas and flavours of La Boqueria and discover the best crema Catalana in town.
The whimsical fantasy world of Gaudí is on display this morning as we embark on a sightseeing tour to see the inspiring, but as yet unfinished, La Sagrada Família in the company of a Local Specialist. We'll see Las Ramblas and Plaça de Catalunya, which lies at the heart of Barcelona, before paying tribute to Christopher Columbus at the monument that bears his name. Consider joining an Optional Experience to the mountain-top monastery of Montserrat to see the shrine of the Black Madonna, the patron saint of Catalonia.
The sweet scent of oranges accompanies us on our journey along the Costa Dorada south to fortified Peñíscola, where we'll see the ancient castle used in the film 'El Cid'. Continuing through fertile huertas, we arrive in sunny Valencia where we will stay the night. Our orientation of this cultural city includes views of the town hall, the bullring, the Towers of Serrano and Quart, and the cathedral, which is said to house one of the Holy Chalices of the World. Witness the modern verve of Valencia and view the City of Arts and Sciences, a large-scale urban recreation centre for culture and science, designed by Santiago Calatrava, before spending the rest of the evening at leisure.
Journey via the dramatic Mora Pass to the city of Granada where we meet our Local Specialist for a sightseeing tour of the spectacular UNESCO-listed Alhambra. Its golden façades and extraordinary Moorish architecture reflect centuries of multi-cultural history, which you will have a rare opportunity to explore as you wander through its palaces and exotic water gardens. Check in to your hotel later, where we will dine tonight.
Set your watch to Spanish time and enjoy a leisurely morning on your terms, or consider taking an Optional Experience to explore the medieval Moorish Quarter of Granada - Albaicín - with its narrow winding lanes, churches, minarets and palaces. We leave Granada behind for the sun-kissed shores of the Costa del Sol, where we'll spend the next two nights. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy. Stroll along the beachside promenade, relax at one of the nearby beach cafes or visit the picture-perfect whitewashed Andalusian village of Mijas - the choice is yours.
Another day in paradise for you to kick back, worship the Spanish sunshine and taste la buena vida. Enjoy fresh seafood in Torremolinos, relax on the bleached beaches and soak up the Mediterranean atmosphere or consider an Optional Experience to the effervescent Andalusian capital of Málaga to explore centuries of history.
A scenic drive takes you past the millionaire's resort of Marbella and on to La Linea. Cross to the Rock of Gibraltar, for free time to explore or consider joining an Optional Experience to St. Michael's Cave to see the Barbary Macaques (Rock Apes). This afternoon, continue through the Andalusian countryside past Jerez - famous for its sherry production - to Seville. Tonight, we Connect With Locals over dinner at a Be My Guest experience with the Morillo family at their olive oil estate.** See Trip Notes
Join your Local Specialist this morning for a tour of Seville's leafy avenues. See the iconic Giralda Bell Tower and visit the Seville Cathedral, the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. Stroll through Maria Luisa Park, with its tiled fountains, pavilions, palms and orange trees, and walk through the imposing Plaza de España. Explore the Jewish history of Spain in Seville's former Jewish Quarter, where a wall separated the Jewish community from the rest of the city during medieval times. Tonight, consider soaking up the fiery flamenco atmosphere in the city that made this passionate dance famous.
We journey to Córdoba to meet a Local Specialist for a visit to the astounding Mosque of the Caliphs, a jewel of Hispano-Islamic art featuring striking arches and Byzantine mosaics. Then visit the remains of the 14th-century Mudéjar-style synagogue in the old Jewish neighbourhood, before spending the rest of the day at leisure admiring the city's extraordinary Moorish architecture and heritage. This evening we dine at our hotel.
We leave Andalucía and cross Don Quijote's La Mancha region, famous for its windmills, wines and cheese. Your Local Specialist takes you on a walking tour of Toledo where you'll Dive Into Culture as you explore this ancient hilltop city. Visit the Church of Santo Tomé, home to El Greco's masterpiece - 'The Burial of the Count of Orgaz', and the synagogue, the oldest one still standing in Europe. This evening we arrive in feisty Madrid, where we'll spend the next two nights.
The grand plazas of Madrid take centre stage today as we join our Local Specialist for a sightseeing tour of Spain's capital city. See Gran Vía and the Cibeles Fountain before we Dive Into Culture and visit the world-famous Prado Museum, featuring one of the world's finest collections of European art, including masterpieces by Velazquez. Spend the rest of the day at leisure exploring the city. Visit the Royal Palace with its spectacular Goya artworks, relax in the leafy Buen Retiro Park or enjoy the flavours and aromas of jamon in the Market of San Miguel. This evening, join your Travel Director and fellow travellers for an unforgettable Farewell Dinner to celebrate an epic adventure through Spain.
Our journey together has come to an end. For now it's a fond adiós to Spain and newfound friends.