Spain Tours & Vacations
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Spain is a country that beats to a different rhythm, that veritably exudes passion and charm. The allure of the country runs deep, in the dazzling flourishes of the classical guitar, the tap of the flamenco dancer’s castanets, the church bells that ring religiously every hour. Discover its beguiling Moorish past, its seductive Gypsy soul, and the modern vitality of its Catholic faith. Time and again, Spain’s diverse heritage and history guarantee a fascinating journey of discovery.
Once the most powerful country in the world, Spain basks in the glory of its past. The legendary Moorish kingdom of Andalusia was a beacon of civilization during the Middle Ages, and the Habsburg dynasty that ruled Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries built an empire that extended across Europe to the Americas, Africa and Asia – ensuring that Spanish would become the world’s second most spoken native language. Today, Spain’s old superpower status and superlative wealth live on in its spectacular historic buildings and monuments – and in the vast quantities of gold that still decorate its churches.
After the Golden Age of the 17th century, Spain began a slow political decline and more recently has struggled economically. However, the country’s glorious historic legacy makes for an endlessly intriguing visit. With its magnificent monuments, beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, and sophisticated social life, Spain enchants millions of visitors every year. Many travelers can’t get enough and keep coming back.
From cosmopolitan Barcelona to romantic Andalusia, Spain is filled with attractions that offer a veritable feast for the senses. In every city, you’ll find buildings that amaze and inspire: from the immense Gothic cathedral of Seville to the glorious Baroque buildings of Madrid, and Barcelona’s breathtaking Sagrada Familia basilica – an epic 130-year building project that is finally nearing completion.
The culinary culture is as rich as it is regionally varied: from exotic tapas and rich red wines, to lively food festivals, long lunches, and – of course – afternoon siestas. To truly experience Spain, you must adapt to its rhythm and way of life. Adjust to the later meal times and take advantage of the nightlife. Learn about the religious festivals and join the locals at the piazzas. Sunbathe at the beaches and save time for museum visits. Be adventurous and sample the local cuisine, from tangy cold gazpacho soups to whole roast suckling pig. Watching a bullfight is a possibility, while chatting with the locals is mandatory – and will always make your trip more memorable.
They say you haven’t been to Spain until you’ve been to Andalusia. Straddling the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, this mountainous southern region is the original home of flamenco dancing, and is renowned for its delectable tapas and glorious weather. With the sunshine comes a slower pace of life; siestas are still very much de rigueur here. Must-see sights include the breathtaking Alhambra Palace in Granada, the 8th century Grand Mosque of Cordoba, and the awe-inspiring Cathedral of Seville. Those who appreciate traditional equestrian shows and dressage will want to visit Jerez de la Frontera – also famous for its fine sherry and brandy production. For more off-the-beaten-track excursions, travel through the tranquil Sierra Nevada Mountains and stop at the picturesque whitewashed villages of Las Alpujarras.
Straddling the Pyrenees Mountains along the French border, the Basque country is a fiercely independent region with a unique culture and language – and reputedly more chefs than anywhere else in Spain. Less crowded and touristy than other regions, this rugged country has a wild beauty all its own. Highlights include San Sebastian with its lively seaside ambience and fabulous restaurants, Bilboa with its incredible Guggenheim modern art museum, and Pamplona, where the annual San Fermin Festival (held each July 6-14) features the exhilarating ‘Running of the Bulls’.
Barcelona & Catalonia
Hugging the golden coastline of the Costa Brava, the region of Catalonia sparkles in the Mediterranean sunshine. Beautiful sandy beaches, serene blue seas, and lush green countryside provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxing vacation. Culture also flourishes in this distinct region, with its own language and cuisine. The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city with world-class museums, topnotch restaurants, and dazzling architecture. Barcelona’s enchanting Gothic Quarter is a labyrinth of narrow streets – some dating back to Roman times – with medieval palaces, churches and placas (squares) inviting you to sit and absorb the ancient ambience. In striking contrast, the more modern sections of the city are distinguished by grand boulevards and the wildly expressive architecture of Antoni Gaudi.
After soaking up the vibrant culture of Barcelona, the charming seaside villages and pristine sandy beaches of the Costa Brava offer an altogether more tranquil pace beside the sparkling Mediterranean. The historic city of Girona has a Dali Museum that is worth a visit if you appreciate modern art, while gourmands will delight in the legendary cuisine of El Cellar de Can Roca.
Costa del Sol
A famous tourist destination in southern Spain, the sunny Costa del Sol is a beach lover’s paradise. The picture-postcard village of Marbella is a dreamy upscale seaside resort, while the town of Malaga offers historic monuments, vibrant seaside culture, and a not-to-be-missed Picasso museum.
Spain’s capital offers an evocative taste of the country’s heritage as a global empire, with elegant Baroque buildings, grand plazas, and monumental fountains lending the city a regal ambience. With its bustling energy and incomparable nightlife, Madrid exemplifies Spain’s unique standing as a meeting-place of the old and new worlds. The city’s world-class museums include the Prado, with Europe’s finest masterpieces of Spanish art, and the Reina Sofia Museum, with its incredible collection of over 20,000 works of contemporary art.
A veritable open-air museum of ancient architecture, Toledo is a designated UNESCO World Heritage City. This mystifying place transports visitors to another, more peaceful era, when Christians, Jews and Muslims lived here together in harmony. Still surrounded by its medieval walls, the ‘city of the three cultures’ boasts incredible ancient churches, palaces, synagogues and mosques. There is also an amazing cathedral with El Greco masterpieces and an impressive Alcazar, the old Moorish palace.
Situated in a dramatic natural setting along the El Tajo Gorge, Ronda is a beautiful historic city in the province of Malaga. Around the city are the remains of prehistoric settlements and rock paintings dating to the Neolithic era – the last part of the Stone Age. Ronda is also renowned as the birthplace of bullfighting, and tourists can watch this traditional sport performed in Spain’s oldest bullring.
- Soak up the medieval ambience of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, reveling in the evocative atmosphere of ancient Roman temples, 14th century churches, and medieval buildings where Catalan counts and monarchs held court for 500 years. The ancient streets are a shoppers’ paradise, with everything from big-brand stores to bustling markets and dusty old antique shops.
- Take a guided tour of the stunning, instantly recognizable architecture of Barcelona’s most famous son, Antoni Gaudi. The fantastic and surreal world of Post-Modern architecture has its pinnacle in the towering Sagrada Familia basilica – Gaudi’s visionary masterpiece, which is due to be completed in 2026.
- Spend time visiting the charming medieval towns, fishing villages, castles and vineyards that stretch along the Costa Brava near Barcelona. This sunny coastal region has become very popular with discerning Barcelonians, and has a rich spread of fine restaurants and boutique hotels overlooking the Mediterranean.
- While on the east coast, be sure to savor the Valencian and Catalonian varieties of paella – the legendary slow-cooked rice dish served with chicken or seafood. Adventurous gourmands will be drawn to the famous ‘black paella’, made with rice stained with squid or octopus ink.
- Take an artistic pilgrimage to the birthplace of Pablo Picasso in Malaga, where the Buena Vista Palace in the city’s historic heart has become the Museo Picasso Malaga – housing an exceptional collection of 285 works by one of the world’s most influential artists.
- Andalusia, and particularly Malaga and Seville, have some of the tastiest tapas in all of Spain, and a tour of their charming cafes and tapas bars will show you a new side of these historic cities – and undoubtedly make you a few local friends into the bargain!
- Succumb to the haunting spirit of authentic flamenco at a traditional tablao flamenco, where the lively dances are often accompanied by delicious food and wine. Some of the better known clubs, such as Madrid’s Corral de la Moreria and Tablao Cordobes in Barcelona, feature some of the finest flamenco dancers in the world.
- Spain is renowned for her breathtaking festivals, and it’s always worth trying to synchronize your trip with one of these elaborate spectacles. During ‘Holy Week’ at Easter, many of the larger towns come alive with grand musical processions of statues and exotic floats – often borne aloft by dramatically dressed cofradias(religious brotherhoods).
- Although bullfighting is off the agenda for most conscientious travelers, Spain’s most famous ‘Running of the Bulls’ continues to draw thousands of visitors to the narrow cobblestone streets of Pamplona each morning during the second week of July. This chaotic event usually lasts just three minutes – but the parties that follow it go on all day and night!
- The ancient city of Toledo, where Arab and Jewish traditions come together, is renowned for its delicious baked goods and marzipan sweets. While touring the city’s beautiful old palaces and churches, you may find an ancient convent selling melt-in-your-mouth cookies and confectionery made by the cloistered nuns.
- Among a multitude of Spanish locations for an incurably romantic dinner, few can match the exquisite carmen restaurants of Granada – where the candlelit terraces overlook the enchanting hilltop fortress of the 14th century palace of Alhambra.
- Most of the cities of Andalusia have a beautifully renovated, ancient hammam (Arabian bathhouse), where you can unwind in a luxuriously appointed hot pool, sipping traditional teas or pampering yourself with an aromatherapy massage.
- Some of Europe’s most serene and spectacular hiking country is to be found in the Alpujarras Mountains, a region of secluded green valleys, flower-strewn hillsides, and ancient whitewashed villages scattered beneath the snowcaps of the Sierra Nevada.
Spain is blessed with an ideal Mediterranean climate throughout most of the country. Barcelona and the region of Catalonia in the northeast enjoy especially mild weather. Southern Spain is naturally the sunniest part of the country, and the Costa del Sol is a sun-worshipper’s dream destination.
Late spring, summer and early fall are the best times to take a beach vacation in Spain. August is the most crowded time at Spain’s vacation resorts, where many Europeans take their summer holidays. The Basque country offers less touristy and off-the-beaten-path destinations, although this lush region has the most rainfall – and visitors can expect rain even during the summer.
When planning a trip, it’s wise to consider the Spanish holidays, as many sites are closed during religious holidays. However, Spain’s lively festivals are often a highlight of a Spanish vacation, and it’s always worth asking your travel agent to check the festival schedules for the villages and cities you’re planning to visit. As well as the better known festivals of Holy Week, you may want to catch the Festival of the Balconies in Cordoba in May, or the Saint James Pilgrims’ Festival in Santiago de Compostela in July.
Spain has a wide variety of tourist accommodation, from small boutique hotels to luxurious five-star resorts. Visitors can choose from brand-name hotels like the Sheraton or charming family-run bed & breakfasts. Spain also offers a unique type of luxury hotel called paradores, which are located within historic properties such as palaces, castles, convents and monasteries. These monuments have been converted into classy hotels with all modern amenities – while preserving the authentic character and heritage of their original buildings. Many paradores are located in historic areas of a city or in parklands and nature reserves.
Zicasso's network of Spain travel agents and specialists are considered to be among the industry's top 10%, and have been personally vetted through a detailed screening process for their level of knowledge, expertise and reputation. Based on the positive feedback of Zicasso's clients and the endorsements of our top travel specialists, a highly selective group of accommodations have been recognized with Zicasso's Top Travel Specialist's Choice Award, which can often be found on the hotels' websites.
Balcon de Cordoba
Immerse yourself in Cordoba’s rich and dramatic history at this luxurious boutique hotel located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage City. Hotel Balcon de Cordoba is a beautifully refurbished 17th-century building only a few steps away from the dazzling Mezquita. Just like the city, the ten-room hotel is a melting pot of Castilian, Islamic, and Flemish influences. The fountains are made of Roman-age columns, the courtyards are paved with chino cordobés, and the beds are fitted with European linens. Thick stone walls and delicate latticework seclude you from the bustling city. Winding corridors and private courtyards create an intimate environment. Go in search of the hotel’s collection of more than 100 archeological pieces, scattered throughout the building. Take in the unbeatable view of the city and the mountains from your private balcony or the rooftop terrace. Guests will be enchanted by Hotel Balcon de Cordoba’s Old World charm and outstanding location.
Dar Hajra & El Tejar
Two uniquely beautiful mountaintop villas perched above the peaceful Montecorto village, about 20 minutes from historic Ronda. Both properties have private pools, modern features, and stunning views of the mountain ranges. Couples will enjoy Dar Hajra’s bright open floor plan and award-winning interior design inspired by the mountainous terrain. El Tejar’s four en-suite bedrooms and terraced garden of orange, olive, and almond trees are best suited for families. The villas are only a short drive from some of Spain's finest hiking trails so you can spend your days trekking through stunning valleys and across spectacular hillsides. During your stay, you can also meander down to the village for a bite and drink while you mingle with the friendly locals. On your way home, pick up some fresh bread, fish, fruits, and vegetables to cook in your villa’s kitchen. Both villas have daily housekeeping by a charming Spanish maid, who can also prepare delicious, locally sourced meals for you. The houses are available for a minimum of five days during the low season and a week during the high season, beginning on Saturdays, so you'll have plenty of time to explore beautiful Andalusia. Dar Hajra & El Tejar are wonderful destinations for anyone who dreams of a private getaway in the tranquil countryside.
Hotel la Fuente de la Higuera
At this family-run hotel, the details are what make your experience extraordinary. Hotel la Fuente de la Higuera is a centuries-old mill within an olive grove that has been tastefully furnished with international artwork and decor. The 11 airy rooms overlook a lush, manicured garden of jasmine and magnolia, orange, and lemon trees. At the centerpiece of the garden is a beautiful pool flanked by two palm trees, which frame the stunning view of the valleys and mountains. Downtown Ronda is only ten minutes away; you can visit museums or the dramatic gorge, El Tajo. Then dine on locally sourced cuisine on the hotel’s terrace under the stars. And don’t forget to check out the music collection of a few hundred CDs that range from rock to jazz to flamenco to blues. With their 27-person staff and a capacity for 24 guests in the high season, La Fuente de la Higuera will anticipate your every need.
Hotel Los Castanos
Hotel Los Castanos is a charming boutique hotel that prides itself on its location in an undiscovered part of Andalusia. Cartajima, population 100, is a quiet town 20 minutes south of Ronda. The owners, a friendly couple, have carefully blended luxury with traditional style to create a magical and relaxing atmosphere. Choose from one of the six cozy rooms. Each comes with a sketchpad and a private balcony that overlooks the mountain or the town square. Painting, writing, and photography classes are occasionally offered--a perfect vacation for creatives. Take time to explore the six neighboring villages, which are all connected by walking paths. Juzcar, a unique blue village, is only 2.5 miles south of Cartajima. End your day with a three-course meal in the hotel’s private dining room then relax on the rooftop terrace with a bottle of local wine and a stunning view of the pueblo blanco tucked into the mountainside. Hotel Los Castanos offers guests an enchanting escape from their busy lives.
Vejer de la Frontera
Once a 17th-century manor house, Hotel V… is a beautifully restored, 12 bedroom, boutique hotel, nestled in the southernmost Pueblo Blanco of Spain. The property blends contemporary with elegance, as the plush beds, heated floors, and hotel spa are accented by antique Portuguese furniture. During the day, take advantage of the hilltop town’s abundance of activities. Visiting Roman ruins, sunbathing on the beach, horseback riding, and hunting are only a few of your options. Spend your evenings sipping chilled cava while relaxing on Hotel V…’s rooftop where you will enjoy the panoramic view of the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean and the distant Moroccan coastline. It is the perfect hotel for people seeking a peaceful and comfortable retreat in a central location.
Hotel 3 Cabos
A chic getaway in the rural north, Hotel 3 Cabos prides itself on providing guests with personable experiences. The six stylish rooms blend modern and classic styles with contemporary furniture accented by cozy beds, wooden beams, and stone walls. Floor to ceiling windows in the lounge overlooks rolling hills and the jagged coastline. When visiting in winter, borrow a book from the library to read by the crackling fire. In the summer lounge under the sun or go for a walk through the fields. Be sure to visit the nearby fishing village and the pristine nature preserve. Then, enjoy a decadent dinner in the open lounge area while you watch the sunset. You’ll dine on seafood from the Cantabric Sea, vegetables from the organic garden, and cheese from local producers. Before you leave, purchase some homemade cider and jam so you’ll always have a part of Hotel 3 Cabos. This century-old farmhouse will immerse you in Western Asturias’ impeccable landscape.
Exciting adventure and intriguing history await guests at this 12-room rural retreat, 30 minutes east of Bilbao. According to legend, Hotel Urune was an 18th-century farmhouse built by Antonio Etxebarria, a noteworthy Basque architect. The house sheltered inhabitants from tumultuous periods in Spanish history before the hotel’s owner purchased the property and remodeled it by hand. Today, modern furnishings accentuate the exposed stone walls and wood beam ceilings, creating a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. The bath products made by local artisans, the modifications to improve handicap accessibility, and the wind turbines that produce energy reflect the hotel’s commitment to social and environmental sustainability. Unwind with a glass of wine by the wood-burning fire or on the deck, surrounded by the towering mountains. You’ll never forget your experience at Hotel Urune, where the owner and staff embrace their Basque history and pristine location.
San Millan de la Cogolla
Hosteria San Millan
History comes to life at Hosteria San Millan. This 25-room hotel is located in San Millan de Yuso, an 11th-century monastery where Augustinian monks continue to live and worship. The mountainside town is both the literal birthplace of St. Emilianus, for which the village is named and the figurative birthplace of modern Spanish, the second most commonly spoken language in the world. Take a tour of San Millan de Suso, a 6th-century monastery where the Castilian and Euskara languages were written for the very first time. Afterward, the hotel’s accommodating staff can help you schedule a round of golf, organize a wine tasting tour, or find the best hiking trails. When you return, enjoy a gourmet meal paired with La Rioja wine in the dining room. End your day relaxing in your beautiful room, decorated with antique furniture, with views of the cobblestone courtyard and the surrounding mountains. Only 30 minutes from Logrono, you won’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity to stay in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hotel Rural Torre de Uriz
Hotel Rural Torre de Uriz is a captivating destination for nature lovers, history buffs, and adventure seekers. It’s a chic, six-bedroom hotel within a Medieval tower in the rural village of Uriz. During your stay, explore the town’s Gothic architecture, which dates back to 1785. Visit the first stop in Spain along El Camino de Santiago at Roncesvalles’ collegiate church, only a few miles north of Uriz. Take a stroll through the historic Irati Forest and go bird watching at the stunning Lumbier and Arbayun canyons. End your day relaxing by the hotel’s fireplace and dining on their seasonal home-style fare. Hotel Rural Torre de Uriz will make you feel like a nobleman while you enjoy the simplicity of rural Spain.
Hotel Cuatre Finques
Comfort and relaxation are your only priority at this six-bedroom rural retreat. Cuatre Finques sits among two private acres of olive groves, almond trees, and vineyards on the edge of Jalon--a small winemaking city along Costa Brava. Breakfast is served on your private terrace. Then take a stroll into town or a hike through the Bernia Mountains. Upon your return, day beds by the pool, rocking chairs in the orchard, and canopy beds in the garden beckon you to an afternoon nap under the sun. In the evenings, sip on a drink at the bar while the staff prepares homemade paella and the band plays live music. Both couples and groups are welcome to this calming oasis where professional service meets beautiful design.
Visa and Passport Requirements
Most non-European Union nationals require a tourist visa only if they wish to remain in the country for more than 90 days. If you plan to stay longer than 90 days, you will need to submit a short-stay visa application at a Spanish Consulate before your visit. If you want to work during your stay, you may need to obtain a work permit.
There are no health precautions for visiting Spain. The Center for Disease Control recommends that you are current on routine vaccines before your trip, including flu shots, polio, varicella (chickenpox), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), and the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine. Prepare to bring along any medications you’ll need packed in your purse or carry-own bag. Before your trip, you may consider travel health insurance to cover the costs of any medical emergency, and check to see if your health insurance plan will cover any medical costs incurred while traveling overseas.
Spain is a very safe country and most overseas visitors never encounter any issues. You should take the same precautions that you would traveling anywhere. You may feel more at ease walking around at night in Spain than in the United States. Even families with little ones stay out late into the evening. In busy cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga, you should watch out for pickpockets. Pay special attention when you are in crowded urban areas such as a metro car or train station. Keep your passport and cash in your hotel safe or money belt. It is advisable to bring copies of credit card information in case of theft, and to purchase travel insurance to cover lost baggage.
Another precaution: watch out for Gypsy children begging for money. They may have been sent by their parents to distract you while your wallet is snatched. To avoid being duped, be aware of your surroundings and be wary of strangers who approach you for no reason. Unfortunately, car break-ins are commonplace in many Spanish cities. If you’re driving a rental car, do not leave valuables in your car. If you must leave luggage in the car, be sure to keep it in the trunk.
Most cities in Spain have a laid-back and convivial atmosphere, and Spaniards are generally very friendly and outgoing. The Spanish culture puts a high value on family and community. You’ll notice the rich social life, especially in the plazas, where locals congregate to chit-chat and people watch. Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city with generally open-minded locals. Madrid is a commercial center that buzzes with activity, yet the Madrilenos still have time to regularly gather with friends and colleagues over tapas and partake in the city’s legendary nightlife. In the smaller towns and in Andalusia, the way of life is more traditional, with daily siestas and lively festivals throughout the year.
To make the most of your visit, ask your travel agent for a schedule of festivals and try to visit a city during an interesting festival. For example, early May is the ideal time to see Cordoba, during the ‘Fiesta de los Patios’, when residents compete for the “most beautiful patio” award. Also consider if there are any religious or national holidays during your visit, as some sites may be closed during these periods. Another thing to keep in mind is that many museums are closed on Mondays and public transportation runs less frequently on Sundays.
For many tourists, the biggest difficulty is adjusting to Spanish meal times. Lunch is served around 1pm to 4pm and dinner is often as late as 9pm or 10pm. Only the most touristy restaurants (which are often not recommended) serve meals at American/British hours. If you want to experience the authentic culture without sacrificing your usual eating hours, try the tapas bars. These casual wine bars serve drinks accompanied by small plates of savory appetizers, called tapas, which will tide you over between lunch and dinner. Tapas bars are also great places to meet the locals and practice your Spanish.
Zicasso offers an array of carefully crafted custom Spain tours and vacations. All tours can be put together to suit specific preferences and requirements or can be completely tailor-made around particular destinations and specific interests that are meaningful to you.
With Zicasso’s custom Spain tours, travelers have the flexibility and convenience of self-planned independent travel and a pre-packaged group tour. You will travel independently, but your trip will be perfectly put together by our travel specialists to ensure hassle-free logistics, perfect lodging selections, and authentic experiences designed with you in mind.
So whether you wish to self-drive to tour Spain’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites or immerse yourself in Andalucia’s song and dance, fill out a Trip Request to tell us about your dream vacation. We’ll then match you with 2 – 3 Spain travel specialists who will work with you to craft the perfect vacation you’ve been dreaming about.