Highlights of Spain & Portugal Tour 2019-2020

A 12 day trip to Portugal & Spain 
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From the fountains of the Alhambra to the tomb of Vasco da Gama, the shimmering salons of the Spanish Royal Palace to the gilded beaches of the Portuguese coastline, your customizable tour immerses you in culture, history, and beauty for an unforgettable highlights tour of Spain and Portugal. Vintage trolleys ascend the cobbled hills of Lisbon. Medieval walls defend the whitewashed homes of Avila. Moorish archways and former synagogues hide within the narrow lanes of preserved antique neighborhoods, embodying the wealth of history and heritage for you to experience across Spain and Portugal.  

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General Information

Photos
Benagil Cathedral at beautiful coast of Algarve, Portugal.
Seville, Spain's most idolized architectural destinations.
Algarve coast, Portugal.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Madrid, Valencia, Cuenca, Guadix, Granada, Seville, Cordoba, Salamanca, Toledo, Avila, Algarve, Lisbon, Fatima

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departure.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Madrid – Highlighting a Capital Welcome

Madrid embodies the former pageantry and magnificence of the Spanish Empire. The streets brim with energy, moving along grand boulevards lined with shading trees. Art museums provide insight into the aesthetic of Spanish culture spanning nearly a millennium, representing the Golden Age of the country by guiding visitors’ eyes to the splendor of the 18th-century Royal Palace. Your flight lands at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport, where your private transfer greets you upon your arrival. Your hotel overlooks the verdant grasses and blossoming flowers of El Retiro Park. The windows looking into the lobby are reminiscent of a cathedral. Your guide greets you in the lobby for an introductory exploration of the city, beginning with the nearby walkways of El Retiro.

The park belonged to the Spanish monarchy and encompasses 350 acres. Regal statues line the edges of the Paseo de la Argentina. The herbaceous and sweet aroma of roses and grass swirl through the air. You continue to Montana Park where your guide points out the Temple of Debod reflecting in the gentle waters of the surrounding pond. Egypt gifted the temple to Spain in the 1960s and was originally erected in the 4th century BC along the Nile Valley. The park crowns the summit of a hill, offering a marvelous panorama of Madrid day and night. In the evening, a soft gold light bathes the ancient stone, reminiscent of the colorful lights in the distance washing over the royal palace.

What’s Included: airport transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 2: Madrid – A View from Above

In the morning, the aroma of fresh coffee and pastries stuffed with cream and dusted with sugar emanate from the historic grounds of the oldest coffee house in Madrid. After breakfast, your private transfer greets you in the lobby and escorts you southeast towards Valencia, a city famous for its architecture, and dedication to the arts and sciences. The scenic drive takes you along rolling hills and verdant plains. You stop en route at the town of Cuenca, located on the summit of steep precipice positioned more than 3,100 feet above sea level. Houses shimmering with bright colors touch the edge of the dramatic precipice.

Cobblestones pave the narrow lanes winding between the tall homes adorned with wooden balconies. The hanging houses were originally constructed in the 14th century and look as though they emerge directly from the rock face. The breeze blows over the San Pablo footbridge, rustling your hair as you enjoy the best view of the distinct wooden balconies and theatrical position. The interior of the hanging houses contains a mix of clean lines in expressions of abstract art, contrasting the historic exterior of the cityscape, featuring the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art.

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

Day 3: Granada – In and Out of the Caves

The seaside ambiance of Valencia adds to the relaxed pace. Palm trees fringe the plazas, and the blue-tiled domes of the churches glisten in the returning sunlight. The city retains its connection to historical culture embodied in the 15th-century Silk Exchange and 18th-century palace set amongst the contemporary architecture of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, an exhibition center dedicated to the arts and sciences. The scent of coffee and pastries fills the morning air, drifting away from the neo-baroque interior of a popular local cafe. You make your way towards the historic city of Granada, reaching a series of troglodyte caves at Guadix. The mixture of dry brush and Mediterranean flora spreads across the plains until reaching the rugged summits framing the town.

The terrain turns to ochre along the hills with the snowcapped peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the distance. Inhabitants of the Andalusian region have built their homes into the terrain since the Moors occupied Spain more than a millennium ago, preferring the natural protection from the summer heat. The whitewashed walls of the exterior homes lead into living spaces filled with modern amenities and comforts, contrasting the rustic image of the façade. The rooms have a refreshing temperature with the clay protecting the locals from the changing weather. You continue through the winding roads, circumventing the Sierra Nevada to reach the labyrinthine city of Granada.

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

Day 4: Seville – Inside the Fortress Walls

The medieval streets of Granada meander around the soaring precipice at the heart of the city, atop which stands the marvelous feature of the Alhambra. The aroma of simmering potatoes, onions, and paprika emanate from the local tavernas as chefs create traditional Spanish omelets for breakfast. Your guide greets you in the hotel lobby, eager to lead you through the relics of the Moorish past, taking you through the narrow cobbled streets ascending the former Arabic neighborhood decorated with whitewashed walls and elegant blossoming carnations. The stones of the 13th-century Alhambra fortress shimmer gold against the backdrop of snowcapped peaks.

The complex stood as the heart of the Nasrid Dynasty for 250 years, consisting of four groups of buildings and precious manicured gardens. The oldest gallery contains decorative tiles and polished marble floors, adding to the luster of the room once used as the public court and audience chamber. Latticed arches frame the doorways behind an elegant trickling fountain. The aroma of orange zest emanates from the trees in the garden. You reach the marbled patio known as the Court of Lions, due to the resplendent fountain at the heart of the courtyard. Ochre latticework and 124 pillars frame the open space, surrounding the 12 marble lions that once spouted water upon the hour. 

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

Day 5: Seville – The Importance of Footsteps

The zesty aroma of orange citrus is ever-present along the streets of Seville. The trees shade plazas and grow in historical courtyards. Your guide greets you after breakfast, ready to lead you on an encompassing tour of the treasures of the medieval city, first leading you through the narrow avenues of the former Jewish Quarter set beside the cathedral. Bright red and blue door frames burst from the surrounding whitewashed walls. Flower boxes adorn the upper windows of the tall homes. You pass historic, small churches that were once synagogues dating back to the 12th century.

The streets open to the plaza crowned by the gothic façade of the Cathedral. The tower was once a minaret and continues to stand 305 feet above the cobblestone streets. The patio leading into the cathedral nave contains rows of orange trees, providing the name Patio of Orange Trees. The sunlight glints through the 75 stained glass windows crafted between the 16th and 19th centuries. In the evening, locals fill the small, historical tavernas, sipping glasses of red wine and enjoying the rich flavors of small plates known as tapas.

You make your way to a celebrated flamenco show to witness the art and culture of the city. Poetic lyrics occasionally accompany the dance moves, with women stepping strong and quick, creating the rhythm of the music. The guitar strums the strings. A percussionist claps his hands as the dancer keeps pace. The dancer wears a tiered dress that sashays with her steps. The percussion makes your heart quicken, following along with the quickening movement on stage. The dancer stops; the music ends, driving you to applause.  

What’s Included: breakfast, accommodation

Day 6: Algarve – Majesty Over the Border 

The morning light filters through the half-domed windows of the Museum of Fine Arts, allowing the natural light to wash over the works of El Greco and Velazquez. The aroma of garlic and potatoes drifts out of the doors of Rinconcillo, a tavern first opened in the late 17th century. Bottles of apple sherry decorate the back of the bar with full legs of Iberian ham embodying the importance of the ingredients and flavors in the region. After breakfast, your private transfer escorts you along the scenic road over the border and into Portugal.

The coastal area was once the point from which the Portuguese set out on their epic bouts of discovery in the 15th century. Gold sand stretches along the coastline until rising into gilded cliffs. The Atlantic shimmers with shades of indigo and sapphire, accompanied by the intoxicating aroma of the saltwater. Cork trees grow along the interior besides hillsides blanketed in flowers. Medieval villages stand beneath dramatic castles enhancing the charms of the Algarve.

Before heading to the beach to dig your toes in the hot sand, you make your way to Cabo de São Vicente, the westernmost point of the European continent. The barren headland once represented the last piece of home that sailors saw before venturing into the unknown. A red lighthouse adorns the plateau. The windswept grasses fade to the sheer drop into the cobalt water. A 17th-century fortress continues to stand in ruins less than a mile from the lighthouse, connecting the plateau to the water below.

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

Day 7: Lisbon – In the Tradition of Portugal

Fishing boats return to the village of Santa Luzia from the open water of the Atlantic. The vessels weigh anchor and sway in the gentle current of the water. Fishermen carry nets filled with octopuses to market, with restaurateurs eager to cook the ingredient for which the town is famous. You make your way to the capital of Portugal by private transfer, taking to the 16th-century grounds of the Jerónimos Monastery in the celebrated suburb of Belém. The stonework incorporates the images of the sea, such as twisted ropes, amongst the blend of gothic and renaissance elements, funded by the success of international voyages. You enter along the south portal to find a statue along the central pillar representing Henry the Navigator.

Various sculptures support the intricate web of vaulted ceilings arching over the three aisles of the monastic church. Your guide points out the tombs of Portuguese royalty and famous figures in history, including the final resting place of Vasco de Gama. You can see the figure of the Tower of Belém rising out of the banks of the Tagus River. In the evening, you make your way to a performance of the national music known as Fado, considered Portuguese Blues. The dining room fills with the aroma of simmering onion and fresh fish. The guitar strings echo through the gallery. A woman’s voice rises above the guitar with beautiful, strained lyrics speaking of the sea.

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

Day 8: Lisbon – Leisure in Lisbon

The historic trolleys traverse the cobbled hillsides of Lisbon. The sunlight washes over the monument to Portugal’s Golden Age of Discovery near the mouth of the river. The figures of Magellan and da Gama look out to the sea along a statue shaped like a ship. The day is yours to discover and enjoy the marvels in and around Lisbon at your preferred pace. Take to the historic neighborhood of Alfama or traverse the streets to view the tiled décor known as azulejos. If you choose to travel outside of the city, you can make your way to Sintra, a town nestled into the rugged rocks and verdant woods of the Serra de Sintra Mountains.

The dramatic landscape provides the perfect setting for fairytale castles, lavish palaces, and preserved medieval streets. Old Town brims with the aroma of fresh pastries blending with the scent of sunbaked stone. Charming shops provide elegant window displays against outdoor tables of quiet cafes. The National Palace has a pair of conical chimneys reminiscent of two thin beehives. The complex is the oldest surviving palace in the country and dates back to the 13th century. The Great Hall once held receptions and banquets beneath the 27 wood panels along the ceiling adorned with painted images of swans. The graceful birds wear gilded collars accentuating their posture and the colorful azulejo panels along the walls.   

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 9: Salamanca – Road Back to Spain

In the morning, light washes over the ramparts of the São Jorge Castle. The towers and walls draw your eyes over the red-tiled roofs of the city’s historic Arab quarter. You leave Lisbon behind after breakfast to travel along the scenic road towards Salamanca, Spain. Before reaching the border, you stop in Fatima, a once unassuming village that gained notoriety in 1917 after three peasant children saw a vision of Mary. Two large basilicas stand opposite one another along a boulevard more than half a mile long. The historical vision and grand architecture draw more than four million people to the town a year.

The neoclassical façade of the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima contains a central spire reaching a height of nearly 215 feet. Colonnades overlook the plaza with a monument standing above a natural spring. The interior contains 15 altars, each dedicated to a mystery of the rosary. The smaller Chapel of Apparitions was erected over the site of the children’s vision. The spiritual atmosphere of the town is undeniable, emanating from the passion of the pilgrims and the marvels of architecture used to commemorate the occasion. You continue into Spain and reach the majestic city of Salamanca. Gold sandstone shimmers in the fading daylight. The features of Plaza Mayor were crafted in the 18th century and retain a sense of grace and grandeur through baroque facades and busts featured around the cobbled square.

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

Day 10: Madrid – In the Glory of Past Walls  

Today your guide leads you to the perfectly preserved medieval town of Avila, known for the ancient ramparts guarding the Romanesque churches and Renaissance palaces. The Old World charm drifts through the cobbled lanes, enrapturing visitors with a mixture of Moorish and Christian features. Builders broke ground on the cathedral at the end of the 11th century, completing the gigantic complex in the 13th century to combine Romanesque and Gothic styles. Red and white granite stonework add bursts of color to the interior galleries amongst the flickering stained glass windows featured along the transepts.

The homes contain vibrant red-tiled roofs amongst the verdant trees, contrasting the golden hues of the 11th-century walls. The ramparts wrap around the entirety of the town, reaching a length of nearly 3,890 feet, with an average height of nearly 40 feet. Continue to the enchanting city of Toledo, which was once known as the city of Three Cultures, due to the peaceful and collaborative peoples of Jewish, Islamic, and Christian faiths. The waters of the Tajo River rush beneath the arched stone bridges and historic church spires.

The steep, rugged walls of the gorge add to the distinct landscape out of which the city rises. Famous Spanish artist El Greco captured the beauty of the city from across the gorge, an image from which the city has not strayed. The Moorish fortress known as the Alcazar lets its presence be known atop the summit, erected over the ruins of a Roman fortress and renovated in later centuries by Christian Kings.   

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

Day 11: Madrid – In Royal Company

The Spanish flag waves in the morning breeze above the neoclassical façade of the Prado Museum. The collection rivals the Louvre in Paris, showcasing more than 5,000 paintings spanning eight centuries over 100 different rooms. Students and artists enjoy a quiet morning in a book-lined café, where the herbaceous aroma of tea settles beneath the refreshing, decadent scent of roasted coffee beans. Your guide greets you at the hotel after breakfast and leads you on an in-depth tour of Spain’s capital city, beginning at the Royal Palace. The remarkable grounds expand to nearly 1.5 million square feet, encompassing more than 3,400 rooms.

The complex was erected over the remains of the 9th-century Arab fortress and contains exuberant embellishments of preserved porcelain, furniture, and silverware, along with the complete collection of the Stradivarius string quintet. Your guide leads you through 50 of the open rooms, starting in the breathtaking main stairway. The impressive display of imperial power shimmers in the natural light pouring through the upper windows. In the Gasparini Room, you notice the walls shimmering and flowing with embroidered silks draped beneath the gorgeous stucco ceiling. Whether in the salons or the halls, the palace embodies the opulence of Spain’s past.

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

Day 12: Madrid – Remembering the Highlights

At breakfast, you indulge in a refreshing cup of fresh-brewed coffee, enjoying the sounds of sizzling potatoes and onions included in a Spanish omelet. You can’t help but think back to the wonderment of the previous afternoon in the charming town of Segovia, which forms a gorgeous backdrop to the ancient Roman aqueduct running through the heart of the main plaza. The structure was erected in 50 AD and maintains 167 arches reaching heights of nearly 92 feet. The cobbled lanes fill with the aroma of chocolate and marzipan. In Madrid, the doors to a local cafe open to writers and poets eager to spend time in the shadows of the city’s creative past. Your private transfer greets you at the hotel and escorts you to Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport for your flight home.

What’s Included: breakfast, airport transfer 

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.