Day - 1
Location: Madrid - Welcome to Madrid, the sassy Spanish capital is known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at either 6 or 7 pm, depending on common area availability. As there's limited time for sightseeing in Madrid, booking a few extra days isn't a bad idea. After the welcome meeting, perhaps get into the mind of a Madrileno with some tapas and Rioja with your fellow travellers.
Day - 2
Location: 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 Cathedral 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.
Day - 3
Location: Granada - Today's itinerary is kept free so you can visit Granada’s impressive Alhambra Palace (optional). Discover this 11th-century marvel and its dominating red fortress towers, palace decor, architectural styles, and magnificent gardens. It's all set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains. With fountains, impeccably maintained hedges and pools, centuries-old defensive walls, turrets, and views overlooking Granada, this renowned palace will not disappoint. Make sure you allow enough time as 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. After your visit ask your leader to take you deeper into Granada’s Moorish Albaicin quarter and to the area of traditional tea houses. The view from this area across to the Alhambra Palace is not to be missed. Tonight, perhaps meet up again with the group for dinner.
Day - 4
Location: 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. 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
Location: 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. 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
Day - 6
Location: Algarve / Lagos - 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 want to take a walk around town. 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
Location: Algarve / Lagos - Most of today is free to enjoy Lagos and its surrounds. At some point during the day (depending on availability) you will enjoy an included boat tour around Algarve’s rocky cliffs. Explore the jagged, weathered rockface of Pinta da Piedade, full of arches, towers, grottoes and caves that have been eroded into this fabulous limestone coast. Your 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.
Day - 8
Location: 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
Location: 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. 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.
Day - 10
Location: Porto - 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.
Day - 11
Location: 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. Sao 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
Location: 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
Location: 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 Amenal village where the 18-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 4-6 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. Once back in Santiago the rest of the day is free for you to explore. 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 in town, maybe wander down the streets of Rua do Franco and Rua da Raina to try some tapas.
Day - 14
Location: 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. 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 basilica 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 your adventure.
Day - 15
Location: Barcelona - Barcelona and its barrios (neighbourhoods) are all yours to explore today at your own pace. Perhaps take a visit to Montjuic or have a spot of shopping in Eixample. Otherwise, pull up a towel and laze on Barceloneta beach. Later this afternoon, meet up with your group again for a briefing of the next stage of your adventure. Afterwards, you might like to get acquainted with a self-guided tapas crawl around town – your group leader will know of some good places to go.
Day - 16
Location: Pamplona - Leave Barcelona behind and travel by train to Pamplona, the heartland of the Basque country (approximately 4.5 hours). Upon 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. 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
Location: San Sebastian - Today, take a bus to the stunning seaside city of San Sebastian – a jewel of the Basque country and a place obsessed with food (approximately 1 hour). With its family friendly beaches and vibrant old city, San Sebastian is a fantastic place to stroll along the promenade, shop, or just to soak up the sun. When you arrive, get an overview of the most central beach, La Concha, with an included cable car journey 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? Otherwise, head to Playa de Gros and watch the surfers riding the waves of Biscay Bay. This evening make sure you hit the neighbourhood's streets and dig into the region's specialties.
Day - 18
Location: San Sebastian - You’ll have a full day to explore San Sebastian, giving you plenty of time to catch the 1-hour local bus to Bilbao, if you’d like. If you do decide to venture to Bilbao, the world-famous and architecturally sublime Guggenheim Museum is a must visit. If you have enough time in the afternoon, the San Telmo Museum displays history, art and photography of the Basque country. In the evening, it might be a good idea to enjoy another night of delicious food. San Sebastian is home to some of the world’s best restaurants, most experimental chefs and a distinct food culture, so be sure to get your fix tonight.
Day - 19
Location: Logrono - Take the short journey by public bus to the prized vineyards of the Rioja wine region and Logrono (approximately 2 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, head out on an included 'txikiteo' of pintxos: a Basque-style tapas crawl that will fill your senses (and stomach) with the unique tastes of the region. Don’t forget to wash them down with a signature fizzy white wine, known as a txakoli. The tapas bars right around the medieval Old Town compete to get your business which means incredibly high standards, so be ready to eat well.
Day - 20
Location: Logrono - Logrono is central to Spain’s wine industry, 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 visit to enjoy sampling wines made from the indigenous grapes of La Rioja, Garnacha, Tempranillo, Viura and Malvasia at a local bodega. Visit the wine museum (season depending) to learn more about this region's famous tipple. If the weather is on your side, stroll through enchanting vineyards and learn what goes on behind the scenes.
Day - 21
Location: Madrid - Journey on the bus or train to Madrid this morning, which should take between 4 and 5 hours. On arrival, after checking in your hotel, set off for an orientation walk with your group leader. There is plenty to do and see in Madrid and you’ll have time to explore at your own pace. 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. If you're lucky enough for your trip to fall on match day, you could don a white t-shirt and head to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to watch the mighty Real Madrid.
Day - 22
Location: Madrid - With no activities planned for the final day, 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 an extra couple of days to see all you can in the city. We’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).