Lisbon, Evora, Salamanca, Porto, Bilbao, San Sebastian, La Guardia, Barcelona, Douro Valley, Basque
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
This 18-day adventure from the old world to the next generation of gastronomy will explore the very best of six incredible culinary regions, including Lisbon, Douro Valley, Porto, Basque, La Rioja, and Catalonia. The handpicked restaurants are amongst the finest on the planet but this itinerary isn’t just lavish dining and wine tasting. You’ll uncover many angles through markets, farms, informal cafes, a pintxo crawl, and an undersea winery as you explore Europe’s great cities and landscapes....
Lisbon – A Market That Celebrates the Allure of Lisbon’s Food
Once you land in Portugal, you’ll start your luxury culinary tour at a unique, bustling food market. The first of its kind, TimeOut Lisbon brings together chefs and kitchens from across the city into one informal place, where you are served food on plastic trays. Among the kitchen stalls are a handful of Michelin stars – there is nowhere else in the world where you can taste the menus of three Michelin-starred chefs at the same sitting. From starter to the main course and then dessert, the guide will show you where to order because this isn’t a market where such stars are advertised. This market will also be a great introduction to the vibrancy of Lisbon, a lively insight to help overcome any jet lag.
Lisbon – Neighborhoods of the City and More Michelin Dining
On your first full day in Portugal, as you travel through Lisbon’s neighborhoods, you will build up a complex picture of the city’s soul. Belem is defined by architectural grandeur, like the finest examples of the Manueline style. Alfama is old-world and compact with a maze of colors and cobbles. Baixa is 18th-century glory, with broad boulevards and ornate squares. Then, Bairro Alto is the working-class suburb turned modern creative hub. But while they look very different, there’s a feeling to Lisbon that transcends each of the neighborhoods. Spend the full day on a relaxed city tour before an evening of double Michelin-starred dining from one of the chefs you were introduced to at the food market.
Evora – Vineyards and Traditions of Alentejo
The next day, you will escape onto the rural plains of Alentejo, where castles stand lonely and villages can appear abandoned. This is a region where time seems to have stood still as medieval walls encase the cities and the vineyards ripple on a soft breeze. Stop in Estremoz, a charming little town of pre-medieval relics and Roman ruins, then spend the afternoon at a vintage quinta to taste the region’s most celebrated wines while dining on the meat-rich cuisine of the region. With bellies full, you continue east to Evora, an exquisite old city and living World Heritage Site, where the alfresco cafe terraces are good places for a relaxed evening meal since you probably won’t be too hungry after the vineyard lunch.
Salamanca – Stunning Medieval Monuments and Dining in Spain
Today you will travel as a guide leads you across the evocative landscapes of Iberia. The first stop is Batalha, where an early Gothic monastery can make your hair stand on end. Next is Coimbra, the World Heritage university buildings are an insight into the flamboyance of the Middle Ages. Try a traditional Coimbra lunch of boiled pork with mushrooms before you cross the border and arrive in Salamanca around late afternoon. As the sun dips, the city’s sandstone buildings start to shine a rare golden color. Each street comes from another architectural era, and a walking tour of Salamanca will lead you through superb examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque design. The guide knows a superb tapas and wine bar for an evening of contemporary Spanish cuisine.
Day 5 - 6
Upper Douro Valley – The Best of a World Heritage Wine Valley
From Salamanca, you will follow the Douro River, which twists elegantly from central Spanish plains to Porto and the Atlantic Ocean. And it’s quite a journey. Vineyards are found along its entirety, and those on the Spanish side of the border produce internationally revered Ribero del Douro, a rounded Tempranillo, and Grenache blend. During your journey, you’ll stop for lunch at a vineyard, an extra treat on route to the World Heritage Upper Douro Valley. Once you cross the international frontier, you will be immersed in the tastes of Portugal’s premier wine region while you stay at an old wine estate that delights in tradition.
The next day in Upper Douro Valley will be flexible and the guide will discuss a full variety of tasting options. Local delicacies like smoked meats and creamy cheeses compliment the flavors of the wine. Winemakers discuss the vintages and lead you through the tastings, at boutique wineries and large internationally famous estates. While there will be a lot to taste, the rhythm of the villages encourages these two days to be slow and relaxed. Just take one glance at the vista and you can feel the tranquility of the land, as terraced vineyards flow down to the irrepressible river.
Porto – Private Wine Tasting and Palatial Tastes in Porto
This morning, you will travel into Porto in a timeless style, taking a boat down the Douro River. Not just any boat, though, but one of the old rabelos that previously transported grapes downriver to the port cellars. Enjoy a morning wine tasting before the idyllic cruise towards the city, with port tasting and snacks served on the boat. Eat lunch on the Porto waterfront, a return to seafood after the last few days in the interior. Then spend the afternoon exploring the cellars and port process in Vila Nova de Gaia, with a chance to taste a selection of past vintages. Dinner will be at your leisure and there are some excellent restaurants along the river.
Porto – Vintage Port Tasting and the Mosaics of History
Today’s relaxed morning will be a chance for you to explore at leisure. You’ll stay within a World Heritage Site and the streets are designed for discovering slowly with every little lane and turnoff etched with ceramic mosaics. This is a city dominated by art as the works are painted in blue on the side of buildings. It’s also a city that proudly presents a contrast to Lisbon that is smaller and more boutique in the way it does things. You’ll travel across the river for a vintage tasting at another of the port cellars before lunch at its Michelin-starred restaurant. In the afternoon, you’ll take a guided tour of the city’s major monuments, which provides a detailed insight into how Porto has developed over the centuries.
Bilbao – The Gastronomic Heart of Spain
The following day, you will fly to Bilbao via Madrid and indulge. The Basque Country is Spain’s culinary heart and you can smell the quality simply by walking down the streets. Exotic fragrances waft around and sublime bites cover the bars. Known as pintxos, these bites are different from tapas and distinctive to the region. The afternoon will be at your leisure before an evening of molecular dining at one of Bilbao’s legendary restaurants. You’ll quickly realize why the Basque region is the host of the 2018 World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, such is the innovative nature of the food.
Bilbao – Day Trip to the World’s First Undersea Winery and a Pintxo Crawl
Basque has always challenged tradition. While the region has its own heritage there is no sense of standing still. Just one example is Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, built just a mile from the cute cobbled lanes of a pre-medieval city center. The latest innovation is an undersea winery, a collaborative project with a legacy that is yet to be defined. Travel out to Plentzia and some of the people behind the project will lead your tour, which culminates with wine and pintxo tasting. Pintxos are the highlight of the evening as well, as a local guide will take you on a crawl through the bars. Take one or two from each bar and indulge in creamed sea urchin, stuffed crab, delicate slices of Iberico ham with fried quail egg and parmesan, and salmon croquettes with spicy avocado mayo.
San Sebastian – Basque Culinary Delights and a World Top 30 Restaurant
Bilbao’s glamorous sister city has been enticing luminaries for two centuries. Napoleon and his cronies were among the first to be enchanted, and there’s a feeling of grandeur on almost every street. On route to San Sebastian, you’ll stop at the Basque Culinary Center, where one of the center’s teachers will guide you through the finest farm produce including olive oils, hams, cheeses, cured sausages, and wine from a lesser-celebrated wine region. San Sebastian is a great city to explore without a guide. Wander the beachfront promenade, get lost in the old city center, and sip wine on alfresco terraces. Tonight you eat at a regular entrant in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, a legendary restaurant that brings together all the elements of creative fine dining.
San Sebastian – Coastal Dining and the Best of Basque
The following day, you discover that Basque gastronomy has many facets. The pintxos are now famous, as they are just one example of the chefs pushing boundaries since they don’t just create new dishes, they come up with entirely new styles. Today’s food focuses on the coast, and the cute town of Guetaria is perfect for feasting on the freshness of the Mediterranean. Dining here is best at lunchtime as the seafood is fresher at this time, brought in by the colorful boats and accompanied by crisp Basque white wines. You’ll visit a Txakoli winery on route back to San Sebastian, where a satisfied belly allows for a relaxed stroll through the city’s pintxo bars. Another great highlight of these bites is their versatility, and you can eat one or eat ten depending on how hungry you feel.
Day 13 - 14
La Rioja – Legendary Wine Country and Michelin Dining
La Rioja is the most famous and celebrated of the Spanish wine regions, a small region where they are so dedicated to red wine nothing ever seems to happen after midday. Relaxed and full of rural pleasures, this legendary wine region is filled with major international estates and tiny boutique wineries. Today’s journey will take you to both, but first, you’ll eat lunch in a Michelin-starred restaurant that hides in a tiny Rioja town. The restaurant is a superb place to taste food that is crafted to complement the local love for full-bodied Tempranillo and Grenache blends. Throughout the rest of the day, you will try a couple of wineries before settling into the iconic town of Laguardia. Beneath the ground, there’s a maze of cellars, and your guide has keys to open the subterranean world.
On the next day, you meet one of the region’s most celebrated chefs and join him in collecting seasonal ingredients from the gardens. He will be a real character and very insightful on how the contrasting flavors mix with Rioja wine. Like the day before, an afternoon or evening of wine tasting in La Rioja can take many forms. Try out the vineyards or take a stroll through streets dominated by wine bars. More than 20 wines are available by the glass in the wine bars, which will allow you to piece together a wide range of vineyards on a couple of vibrant cobbled streets.
Barcelona – An Evening of Architectural Discovery
After two weeks of travel, the train journey to Barcelona will be an opportunity to catch your breath and reflect on the culinary experiences. You’ll arrive in the late afternoon and head out on an architectural tour, with the setting sun changing the appearance of many iconic buildings. La Sagrada Familia rises hypnotically, Gaudi’s houses line old tree-lined avenues, and Roman remains mix with statues from across the centuries. The evening will be at your leisure and the guide can recommend a number of good Catalan restaurants to try, all within walking distance of your hotel.
Barcelona – Full Day Exploring the Catalonian Wine Regions
This morning you will visit Penedes, which is a feast for the senses, a landscape of endless vineyards soaking up the soft Mediterranean breeze. The vines absorb most of the moisture they require from the air to create delicate and fresh white wines that are renowned around the world. France has Champagne and Spain has Cava, a sparkling wine that’s only produced in this superb wine region. In the afternoon, you’ll travel further west to Priorat, the legendary red wine region favored by connoisseurs. The wines here are complex and old-world, small production reservas that you won’t find in any supermarket aisle. It’s an extra two hours on the road to go there and back, but for red wine lovers, the region is on par with La Rioja. This day will include various bodegas and plenty of opportunities to taste wine with the winemakers.
Barcelona – The World’s Number 2 Restaurant Brings the Culinary Adventure to a Close
Today will deliberately be free so that you can plan your discovery in Barcelona. Stroll the Gothic streets, go shopping for souvenirs, wander up to the castle, or spend a few hours on the beach. To complete this exclusive journey through the tastes of Spain and Portugal, you will have dinner reservations at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, currently number two on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, although it has been at number one before. Don’t check the menu before you go. Just turn up and expect to be wildly inspired.
Barcelona – Departure
Enjoy a morning at leisure before a private transfer to the airport and your international departure.
- Dine at some of the world’s finest restaurants, from Michelin dining on vineyards to the number two on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list
- Arouse all the senses in four world-famous wine regions, including Portugal’s Upper Douro, Spain’s La Rioja, Catalonia’s Penedes region, and in much newer Alentejo
- Explore the culinary scene from all the different angles, including food markets, organic farms, cultivated tasting sessions, and a pintxo (Basque-style tapas) crawl in Bilbao
- Escape into the surreal countryside and embrace the rural atmosphere of both countries as Alentejo is wild and beautiful while the Douro Valley and La Rioja define rural pleasure
- Uncover the next generation of gastronomy with a visit to the world’s first underwater winery in Plentzia and the molecular brilliance of Basque restaurants
- Immerse yourself in World Heritage cities, where the harmony of the architecture creates a feeling of a distant time and space
The cuisines of Spain and Portugal are a diverse and tasty reflection of the unique regions. These two countries are a jigsaw puzzle of regions, each with their own traditions and creativity. This 17-day itinerary will take you on a journey through the best of the regions to embrace the old-world recipes and the new age of cooking. These are the regions where Iberia’s finest restaurants are located, including many that have had a defining influence on worldwide fine dining. However, the experience will not just be about dining at hard-to-reserve-a-table restaurants. You’ll travel to destinations that celebrate the gastronomic sphere of possibility such as an underwater winery, Michelin dining at a food market, tasting at vintage farms, and hopping between pintxo bars in Bilbao.
You will begin in Lisbon and the Tagus River, which provide classic interpretations of Portuguese food and dishes that are familiar to you. Then, travel to the Upper Douro, which tastes different as it is heavy on pork and game meats, food that expertly accompanies the world’s first World Heritage wine region. Porto may be on the Douro but its fine cuisine has been crafted with the ubiquitous port in mind. After Portugal, you go on to Basque, Spain’s culinary capital that showcases a baffling diversity of flavors and experience. Finally, La Rioja is the legendary Spanish wine destination and precedes an intimate look at Catalan food.
Every day on the itinerary will feature a culinary element. It may be a restaurant reservation, a guided tasting, something unusual, or something famous. Along the way, you’ll discover some of Europe’s great cities, from the colors of Lisbon to baroque Porto, palatial San Sebastian to artisanal Barcelona. Rural landscapes add plenty of further charm, as the route leads you across open plains to golden sandstone cities and the villages from the past. Read some of our travelers’ reviews for Spain to discover new experiences to add to your own tour.
$3,955 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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