Architectural Marvels and Treasured Icons of Spain & Portugal Tour

A 12 day trip to Portugal & Spain 
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From rugged castles and grand palaces to whitewashed homes and soaring church spires, the architecture of Spain and Portugal symbolize the distinctive cultures and remarkable histories during your customizable tour of the Iberian Peninsula. Olive groves overtake the rolling hills as the Mediterranean Sea shimmers along the Andalusian shores and the Atlantic Ocean brushes against the golden beaches of a former fishing village. Moorish arches add large design to intimate details while mosaic motifs grace elegant walkways. From monasteries to mosques, flamenco to Fado, you will experience how culture and architecture intertwine in Portugal and Spain. 

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Madrid, Granada, Torremolinos, Seville, Segovia, El Escorial, Cordoba, Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Madrid – Arrive at the Marvels of Madrid for an Introductory Tour

Madrid moves with the rush of a capital city, and you will feel the elegance and grandeur in the air. Trees shade the walkways along the main boulevard of Gran Via as Beaux-Arts architecture frames the boutique windows, each displaying elegant clothing or glistening jewelry. Your flight will land at Madrid Barajas International Airport, where your private transfer will greet you upon your arrival. The city bustles around you with the shimmering filigree of Baroque architecture and the passionate spirit that emanates from the Madrilenos, the locals of the city. The aroma of traditional Spanish cuisine drifts out a popular tapas bar framed by a medieval streetscape and elegant church spires.

The city embraces its past, lives for the present, and works for a bright future, as embodied in the preservation of the Basilica de San Francisco el Grande. The church provides a stunning introduction to the art and architecture that best represent the beauty of Spain. The edifice decorates one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city with Baroque features and a stunning dome that reaches the height of nearly 185 feet tall with a diameter of more than 108 feet. When standing beneath the elaborate frescoes that adorn the dome you are swept up into the vibrant colors lifelike images of cherubs and angels. The light pours through the stained glass and adds layers of iridescent stories told by the artistry of the church. The Chapel of San Bernardino has a central fresco painted by Spanish master artist Francisco Goya.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour

Day 2: Madrid – Relish a Full Day Tour of the Royal Palace and Prado Museum

The morning light will wash over the arches of the arcade and the hidden niches of the Plaza Mayor. 17th-century palaces encircle the beautiful plaza as cafes set out their tables and chairs across the cobblestones, filling the arcade and the air with the aroma of Spanish tortillas and decadent hot chocolate with cinnamon-sugar churros. Your guide will greet you at your hotel after breakfast and escort you to the treasured forecourt of the Royal Palace, one of the largest royal residences in the world, encompassing nearly 1.5 million square feet. The structure was built in the 18th-century on the foundations of the former Alcazar, with close to 3,000 rooms and intent on rivaling Versailles in France. Statues of the Gothic kings border the walkway in Plaza de Oriente, a beautiful park that connects the palace to the Teatro Real.

You will enter into the palace on the ground floor to find the splendor of the Grand Staircase, a masterpiece of grand design that was crafted out of a single block of marble. Two lions flank the landing beneath the frescoes that cover the ceiling. The golden filigree and border shine in the natural light that pours through the upper circular windows. Four cartouches represent the four elements, used to connect the monarchy with the legend of an ancient line. After exploring the palace, your guide will lead you to the remarkable Prado Museum, which displays 2,300 works of art over 100 rooms.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Madrid – Discover the Baroque in El Escorial and the Ancient Segovia

In the morning, the Madrilenos make their way to El Retiro Gardens to enjoy the 350 acres of manicured greenery, elegant statues, tranquil ponds, and blossoming roses. Those in the city jog, walk or cycle along the paths that lead to the mist caused by the spouting fountain from the Cristal Palace. Your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby and escort you to the El Escorial. The historical residence of King of Spain features a monastery, basilica, university, and royal palace at the foot of Mount Abantos. The complex began in the mid-16th century and took more than 20 years to complete. The thick and tall spires of the basilica replicate the mountain peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama.

The interior of the church retains a hint of frankincense and myrrh bringing a subtle spice to the serene ambiance. The flat vaulting runs over the choir stalls, flanked by the 16th-century white Carrara marble statue that depicts the crucifixion. An impressive painting of El Greco represents the grace of the facility, falling short of the painter’s desire to garnish the entire complex with frescoes from floor to ceiling. You will continue to the town of Segovia and discover the impressive aqueduct that runs through the middle of the town. The Roman engineered structure was erected in the 2nd century AD with 170 total arches that reach heights of 95 feet. The cobbled lanes hold charming shops that fill the air with the scent of chocolate and marzipan.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Granada – Visit Medieval Toledo before Traveling to Captivating Granada

Follow in the footsteps of the famous artist El Greco after breakfast, leaving the grand streets of Madrid behind for the preserved medieval ambiance of Toledo. The city rises above its medieval walls along the banks of the Tagus River as the water rushes beneath the 13th-century Moorish Bridge and lead to the 18th-century Baroque gateway. You will find the aromas of marzipan and saffron drifting out of confectionaries and hidden tavernas as cheese made from sheep’s milk fill the display cases of butcher shops and dairy windows. The city embodies the peaceful coexistence between Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities featured in the mosques decorated with horseshoe arches and Sephardic synagogues in a city built over Visigoth foundations.

Wandering the streets provides an immersive, artistic perspective.  The Synagogue del Transito features Moorish architectural style and embellishments, including floral motifs and intricate geometric shapes. The architectural splendors of the Hospital de Santa Cruz feature the 16th-century Plateresque façade, focusing on the intricate work of goldsmiths to create crests, vases, and plates along the balustrades and archways. The galleries display fine and decorative artwork crafted by students of the School of Toledo during the 16th and 17th centuries. Your guide will lead you to one of El Greco’s many works featured in Toledo, The Assumption of the Virgin. The mature coloring and model display a quiet sense of majesty as Mary ascends to the heavens.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Granada – Revel in the Prestige of the Alhambra and Enjoy a Tapas Tour

The shops in the morning display the shimmering mosaics crafted from wood, known as marquetry. The Moors brought the typical decorative pieces with them after conquering Spain. The varnish continues to catch the light beneath the shady trees of the city. After breakfast, your guide will lead you to the top of Sabikah Hill, where the Alhambra palace continues to watch over the city. In the winter, snow often caps the peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the south while in the summer, the ridges glow emerald against the foreground of the labyrinthine cobbled streets. The palace was erected in the 13th century over a 9th-century fortress, and the Puerta de las Armas acted as the main entrance to the Alhambra under the Moorish rule, which leads directly into the courtyard.

A bridge connected the gateway to the exterior walls but collapsed in the 17th century. The central palace complex retains its sense of grace and beauty in the preserved décor. A small fountain trickles in the Patio del Cuarto Dorado while the gate leading to the palace shines with glazed tiles, stucco decoration, and elegantly carved wood. The walls, ceilings, and walkways have intricate details that shape a harmonious and impressive atmosphere. In the Patio de los Leones, you will find an entire plaza paved with marble that shines beneath the Andalusian sun, framed by 124 slender marble columns.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Torremolinos – Travel the Streets of Cordoba before Coastal Torremolinos

The features of Moorish Spain continue to shape the culture and the cityscapes around the country, most prominently in the cities and towns of Andalusia. At breakfast, you will find the aroma of cortado, equal parts coffee and milk, filling the dining room. Your private transfer will greet you at your hotel and escort you to Cordoba en route to Torremolinos. The city blossomed with art, architecture, and literature in the 10th century, modeling itself as the Islamic capital of Spain embodied in the sophisticated and artistic structure of the Mezquita. Historical wine bars line the narrow cobbled lanes of the Jewish Quarter while the whitewashed walls of the former Muslim Quarter shimmer beneath the bright sunlight of Southern Spain.

The city fills with the aroma of orange trees with visions of vibrant carnations and azaleas that blossom in the flower boxes along the windowsills. The Mezquita retains its title as a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and serene setting. Construction began on the edifice in the 8th century and ended in the 16th century with the return of the Catholic monarchs to Spain. You will discover the source of the orange scent after entering into the Patio of Oranges where palm and cypress trees help to shade the grounds. A fountain once used for ablutions trickles at the heart of the courtyard as the marvels of the mosque reveal themselves all at once as you enter the gallery to discover more than 850 columns that support the red and white striped archways.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Seville – Explore the El Tajo Gorge and Serene Ronda en route to Seville

The Mediterranean waters splash against the golden sand beaches along the neighborhood of La Carihuela. Restaurants place tables and chairs along the promenade for patrons to enjoy the sea breeze with a view of the water. The scent of freshly brewed coffee blends with the aroma of the sea and your private transfer will escort you from your hotel to the town of Ronda, located atop the plateau that overlooks the Tajo Gorge. The spectacular setting culminates at the New Bridge, which was built in the 18th century across a nearly 20-foot-long gap in the gorge. The thick archways stand over 320 feet tall to connect to the bottom of the ravine.

The Old Moorish Tower adorns the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor and combines a sense of medieval Europe with the bustling ambiance of a Moroccan medina. The domes of the church retain their Moorish integrity while surrounded by the Gothic and Plateresque chapels. The cedar choir divided the church by offering seats to the aristocracy in the front. You can see the Arabic inscriptions in the archway at the entrance, connoting the former mihrab that marked the direction of Mecca. Plaza de Toros commemorates the second oldest bullfighting ring in Spain, featured in Ernest Hemingway’s novel, Death in the Afternoon. The 18th-century edifice contains a stunning ring of more than 216 feet in diameter encircled by arcaded galleries.  

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Seville – Traverse the Splendors of Seville Including Dinner and Flamenco

Seville radiates warmth and energy as horse-drawn carriages roll through the heart of the old streets. The horses’ hooves echo against the stone facades before they find shade beneath the quiet trees. The scent of oranges fills the open air as hidden lanes lead to marvelous views of the rushing waters of the Guadalquivir River. The whitewashed walls of the Jewish Quarter shine against the colorful doorways and the 12th-century Giralda Tower soar more than 300 feet above Plaza del Triunfo. The plaza also acts as the entryway to the impressive Alcazar. The 14th-century fortress maintains Moorish elements but was built a century after the Spanish Reconquest.

Enter through the Lion’s Gate to stroll between the towering fortifying walls. An elegant courtyard greets you with the aroma of manicured bushes and blossoming azaleas as 14th-century arabesque work and 52 marble columns embellish the opulent Moorish arches. A tapestry in the Audience Hall represents the shields of Spanish admirals in the 16th century set beneath the intricate wood carvings that decorate the ceiling. Orange trees and colorful roses blossom in the traditional Andalusian style gardens. You can hear the fountains that bubble throughout the complex and add to a sense of an oasis getaway to the luxurious galleries. In the evening, the sounds of flamenco will move you during a professional performance that blends the traditional dance with the movements, providing context to culture and visual expression with the music.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Lisbon – Visit a Working Horse Farm in Portugal’s Alentejo Region

The aroma of orange cream and chocolate cakes emanates from a nearby café where locals sip frothy cappuccinos and local favorites while the community engages in the offered drawing classes and poetry readings. Your private transfer will greet you at your hotel after breakfast and lead you away from Seville. The Andalusian countryside rolls with lush hills that lead to textured mountains as cypress and orange trees dot the landscape. You will cross into Portugal in the southern region of Alentejo, which is famous for cork oaks and olive trees, golden sunlight and historical castles.

Wild horses continue to roam the meadows beneath the oak trees and chirping birds as you arrive at an old horse farm that encompasses nearly 1,500 acres. The 19th-century manor features a beautiful balcony that overlooks the estate as peacocks roam near the stables. The horses rustle around the new stables with the whitewashed walls of the Old Stables shining against the shading trees. The sunlight filters into the riding facilities through the 15 stalls and on a soft, sandy surface. Your guide will introduce you to the different types of horses raised on the estate, demonstrating the discipline of both horse and rider during classical dressage.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Lisbon – Enjoy a Guided Lisbon Tour to View Jeronimos Monastery

The morning light will wash over the creative cobblestone designs that decorate the Avenida da Liberdade. The maritime theme connects pedestrians to the rich history of exploration, crowned by the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, a 20th-century monument built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. Life-size statues employ the spirit of dominant figures in Portuguese history, from Vasco de Gama to Ferdinand Magellan. Your guide will greet you at your hotel after breakfast eager to lead you through the remarkable history that stretches over the hills and narrow lanes of Lisbon. The breeze will carry the aroma of both freshwater from the Tagus River and waters of the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Whitewashed homes of the former Muslim quarter shine beneath the golden ramparts of Saint Jorge Castle.

You will make your way to Jeronimos Monastery to explore the 16th-century complex built with the treasures brought by the Age of Discovery. Maritime motifs adorn the entirety of the structure, from images of twisted ropes to armillary spheres that highlight the mixture of Gothic and Renaissance styles. The Church of Santa Maria de Belem contains the tombs of King Manuel I and his wife. Marble elephants stand beneath the paintings flanking the silver tabernacle. The monastery also holds the tomb of Vasco de Gama, an explorer forever connected to the trailblazing sea routes to India in the late 15th century. In the evening, you can take in the sounds of the city with a Fado performance, celebrated as Portugal’s national music.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 11: Lisbon – Wander through the Palaces of Sintra and See Coastal Cascais

Portas do Sol provides and looks over the medieval streets of Lisbon with views of the orange-tiled roofs of the Alfama Quarter and the soft-toned façade of the Decorative Arts Museum. The decorative tile façade of the National Pantheon shimmers with Baroque imagery brightened with blue and yellow hues. Your guide will escort you out of Lisbon for a day spent in the mystical hills around Sintra. Storybook palaces rise beside opulent villages along the foundations of Roman settlements as lush vegetation frames hilltop palaces and provide a measure of majesty and mystery.

The National Palace was once home to Prince Henry the Navigator. Onion domes fill the sky, and Moorish keyhole archways adorn the gates as the crenelated towers shine with pink and lemon hues against the rustling trees. Two conical chimneys reach heights of nearly 110 feet as the interior preserves antique Portuguese furniture and trompe l’oeil murals. Continue to the seaside to relax in the town of Cascais, a former fishing village favored by European aristocracy. The sea air drifts over the mosaic tiles along Camoes Square, the main plaza of town as windsurfers take to the turquoise waters, and sunbathers bask in the light along the golden sands of Guincho Beach.   

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 12: Lisbon – Depart for Home

In 16th-century, the fortress of Belem Tower was built to protect the city along the mouth of the Targus River. The waterway shifted over the centuries, but the tower continues to decorate the skyline with Manueline architecture known for flamboyant Gothic representations of the sea. The crenelated walls offer fabulous views of sailboats and fishing boats as they glide along the river bound for the ocean. Visitors often discover the hidden image of a rhinoceros along the tower statues and Moorish style turrets that surround the lower terrace. The morning fills with the aromas of homemade cakes, decadent chocolate, and dark roast coffee and after one last morning to enjoy it, your private transfer will greet you at your hotel after breakfast and escort you to Lisbon Portela Airport for your flight home.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$2,635
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.