Madrid, Toledo, Haro, Logrono, Laguardia, Elciego
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departure.
Spain is a confluence of cultures that uniquely flow out of each region. Madrid boasts a contemporary and fast-paced atmosphere encased in a city of historic buildings. El Rioja is a region emblematic of vineyards and medieval towns spread throughout the countryside. This Madrid and La Rioja tour is custom-tailored to tell a tale of two cultures through tradition, food and wine. Visit elegant palaces and sip wine in a cellar with over 500 years of history. From paintings to cuisine, people to...
Knowing Where to Start
Madrid both encapsulates and separates itself from the remarkable cultures of Spain. The Spanish capital city has a firm grip on its historic routes, cultural identity, and gastronomical fingerprint. The Gran Via is lined with baroque facades of antique buildings. Plaza Mayor is encircled by on old palace with over 237 balconies looking inward on the square. Locals and visitors sit in the charming cafes and let the aromas of freshly baked pastries and steaming coffee engulf them. When you arrive at the airport, your private transfer is already waiting for you. The city bursts with regal and cultural fame.
The Golden Triangle of Art is comprised of three most important art museums in the city: the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums. The country’s heritage emanates from the opulence of the Royal Palace and the decadence of Michelin Star rated restaurants. The modern world meets the far-reaching historic architecture. The city moves to the fast pace of capital streets, but the people contain a charm of the countryside. While you find the cultures of the entire country settling in, Madrid is unique in its energy and is remarkably different. The longer you stay, the more you will understand that Spain is a single country but Madrid is a different world.
The city begins to bustle in the midmorning. The streets fill with energy and the Gran Via fills with people. After breakfast, your private guide will meet you at your hotel. He will take you through the charming and elegant neighborhoods that have given Madrid a historically celebrate image. Palacio de la Zarzuela, constructed in the late 17th century, is located on the outskirts of the city. The entire complex held the former King and Queen of Spain, while currently it is home to the National Heritage agency. The Museu del Prado, built in the 19th century, contains over 7,000 paintings. The long, well lit halls and open galleries provide you plenty of space to wander and plenty of art to explore.
Each displayed piece offers a better understanding of the sophisticated and complex souls of Spanish history, whether in the works of Spanish or European Masters. The structure is an 18th-century neoclassical palace that was once used by Napoleonic troops during the French occupation. Goya’s “El Dos de Mayo” brings the anti-French revolt to vivid life. The strokes of the brush and angles of the people capture a portrayal of life in motion. The eastern wing brings you back to modernity with a more contemporary building that opened in 2007. The quiet footsteps of the museum make the galleries feel more like a cathedral, making each composed image sacred.
Toledo is a medieval city that sits on a rocky outcrop bordered by the Tagus River. The cobblestone streets wind through the cityscape and the encompassing hillsides once inspired El Greco to capture the image in paint. Travel to the world heritage site by rail and arrive in a regional capital that has preserved artistic and cultural legacy. The cathedral towers over the central plaza. A small fountain sits in the square’s center and spouts water adding a gentle trickle to the air.
Muslims, Christians, and Jews coexisted building a ribbon of mosques, synagogues, and churches. The buildings remain, and the legendary heritage of those cultures has slowly returned. The streets take you back to the Middle Ages. The cobblestones are sturdy, and the brick buildings are tall. The aromas of frankincense and myrrh float out of the cathedral. Each corner feels like you have turned onto a hidden and archaic street. The cathedral towers rise over the entire city.
The Sinagoga del Transito, constructed in the 14th century, is now home the Museo Sefardi. The main prayer hall is an elaborate display of Mudejar decoration. The latticed windows create blissful geometric shapes in the light. The walls contain vibrant swirls of and delicate arches. The old Jewish quarter once held ten synagogues. Stroll through the exhibits of the Sephardic museum and find links to a rich culture of Spanish heritage. Costumes and ceremonial artifacts are displayed with rich formality.
The Strength of Dedication
Madrid continues to move at its own pace and beat. Gran Via fills with crowds and the elegant edifices of the Plaza Mayor soon fade behind the horizon. You arrive at the entrance of the Royal Sea of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The complex was constructed in the 16th century to be both a monastery and a palace. Large towers stand at each corner, and the sharp, severe lines of the complex are reflected in the pools below the façade. The complex looks like it could encompass an entire city. Spanish and Italian artists of 16th and 17th-century fame, including El Greco and Giordano, decorated the interior. The Royal Library takes you into a dream state.
Decadent wooden bookcases line the walls of the lower and upper floors. An ornate globe sits in the room’s center. The ceilings are painted lavishly bright with baroque images. It is a library of movies and dreams, combining a coveted artistic integrity with the equally desired pursuit of knowledge. The only known copy of a 12th-century Syrian autobiography was discovered in the stacks in the 19th century. The gardens provide an earthy and refreshing verdant aroma. The hedges are trimmed into a collection of geometric shapes. Trees cover the low-lying hills beyond the grounds.
Your luxury vacation continues in La Rioja, known for its wine; Haro is known for its quiet streets, relaxed pace, and proximity to the vineyards along the foothills and valleys of the region. The town is 1,572 feet above sea level and sits near the mouth of Ebro River. The church bells peel in the midmorning, and the octagonal dome tower of the Basilica of our Lady de la Vega rises over much of the cityscape.
After breakfast, your private transfer meets you at your hotel and escorts you to the famous vineyards and wineries. Dinastia Vivanco is the largest wine museum in the world and was constructed in late 1990s. The aroma of pressed wine and antique wood travels through the six galleries. 8,000 years of history are displayed in the form of barrels and wine presses. Each utensil has contributed to the evolution of wine making and the culture of wine drinking peoples. The mountains are picturesque, and the vineyard spreads across the landscape.
Your private guide takes you along the valley to a variety of wineries to taste the sensational varietals and the distinctive characteristics the landscape provides. Duck inside a cellar in Briones. Centuries of winemaking surround you. The cool, damp climate of the cellar has provided a perfect space to store wine. As you sample the selection of wines you notice the atmosphere enhancing individual flavors. The complexity of the earthy tannins and soft body are inspiring. The wine culture of the region is embracing.
Good to Be Guided
The sun climbs over the mountains and casts light on the cobbled streets. The antique buildings are bathed in sunlight. The main square fills with people. The subtle aromas of coffee and pastries wrap around town. Your escort meets you after breakfast and takes you into the countryside around Haro. Contemporary uniqueness and bold classicists separate the wineries. CVNE stands for Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España and is a winery with centuries of knowledge and distinction. Your vintner is exceptionally knowledgeable about the local varietals and the history of the winery. The vineyard is steeped in tradition. You follow your guide through the various steps of wine making, from the vines to the barrels, and finally to the tasting.
The intense cherry color of the Gran Reserva is alluring. The scent of berries and black currant is sensual, mixed with spices from the aging barrels. In 2013, the Cune Gran Reserva won Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year. Your guide takes you through the tasting notes, one by one, letting you find the flavors and encouraging you to look at the layers of the wine that make it strong and appreciated. Arrive in the soft spoken and dignified town of Logrono and find quaint narrow streets and hidden corners. The aromas of pintxos, small tapas plates, drift out of 80 small pintxo bars off of Calle Laurel. The indulgent atmosphere is comforting, and the jovial laughter that echoes through the streets is infectious.
On the Footsteps of Pioneers
The Cantabrian Mountains watch over the sloping foothills and sprawling valley. The rocky outcrops shimmer dark limestone in the sunlight against the carpeting greenery. Logrono feels sleepy in the morning light. The church bells peel, and the town slowly fills with energy. People move at their own pace, differing from that of Madrid. Your private guide meets you at your hotel, and you make your way through the landscape once again. La Rioja province contains an assembly of medieval towns, perfectly preserved and continuously inhabited.
The village of Elciego sits against the backdrop of craggy mountains. The light colored houses and red-tiled roofs create a picturesque contrast. The hills are draped in vineyards. The scents of saccharine grapes and rich earth swirl through the air. The town dates back to the 11th century and is typical of villages in the province. When you walk around the cobblestone streets, it feels like every local is a wine enthusiast, explaining the different grapes, flavors, and bodies of the regionally produced varietals.
Each person has his or her favorite wine and no one shares the same preference with another. The town also houses the unique Marqués de Riscal Winery and Hotel. The titanium frame twists and turns, gleaming ribbons of pink and gold against its natural silver hue. It resembles an artistic interpretation of a local wine bottle. The breeze is refreshing and cool. The daylight provides unparalleled panoramas of the landscape. The charming history of the village is quiet against the encircling beauty.
Logrono slowly rises after the light reaches over the nearby mountains. The streets fill with footsteps echoing off of the medieval buildings. The bell towers of the Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Redonda rise over the cityscape. The Gothic edifice was consecrated as a cathedral in the 16th century. Its dual bell towers frame the half dome portico. The structure shines alabaster in the sunlight. You have the choice of transferring to the northern city of Bilbao or returning to Madrid for your flight home. You have witnessed and experienced two different worlds contained in the same country. A deep connection to the past and an optimistic of the future unifies the two disparate cultures. Your time in Madrid and La Rioja may have ended, but there is always much more of Spain to discover.
- Discover the vast cultural differences between Madrid and the northern villages of La Rioja Province
- Visit the exceptional landmarks, from historical buildings to celebrated museums, of Madrid
- Explore Toledo, and entire medieval city distinguished by UNESCO as a Cultural Heritage Site
- Witness the world’s largest building at El Escorial, a stunning 16th-century edifice
- Travel the La Rioja wine trail on guided visits to the local wineries
- Stumble upon hidden restaurants and cafes in a distinctive food-centric medieval village
- Stroll through the world’s largest wine museum
Sip a fresh coffee as you sit in an open café surrounded by the façade of an old palace. Wander down a street known to have over 80 separate small restaurants, each offering unique and local cuisine. On this 8-day Madrid and Rioja tour you will experience two cultures through tradition, food and wine. Start your luxury Spain vacation in the capital, a city filled with fascinating heritage. The Royal Palace is alluring and the old quarter embodies the history of the entire country. Spend the first day on a privately guided tour of the city’s most exciting monuments. Visit Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace. Spend time wandering through your preferred art museum of the golden triangle. Journey to Toledo for the day and enjoy a guided tour of the medieval city. Toledo is an amalgamation of cultural history, collecting distinctive art and containing legacies of palaces, fortresses, mosques, synagogues, and churches.
En route to Haro, you will stop at El Escorial, the largest building in the entire world. The complex is a combined palace and monastery that dates back to the 16th century. The opulent interior contrasts the sharp façade. Spend time enjoying Haro, a sleepy medieval town considered to be at the heart of the La Rioja wine region. Visit the largest wine museum compiled to date at Dinastia Vivanco. Learn about the history of wine cultivation and the importance of grape varietals and diverse landscape. Enjoy your private guided tour of the wineries and surrounding villages.
Each vineyard explains another aspect of wine production and offers fabulous samples of the regional wines that reinforce information with flavorful facts. Explore the broad regions of the countryside, the quiet charm of persistent medieval villages, and the exceptional cuisine along Calle Laurel, one of the most celebrated gastronomical streets in the country. Follow the footsteps of vintner pioneers and enjoy the stunning landscape around Elciego and Laguardia. If you don’t love wine at the start of your visit to La Rioja, you will certainly delight in its history and passionate followers. You have your preference of transferring to Bilbao or returning to Madrid for your flight home. You have experienced just the tip of Spanish culture and can always continue the exploration.
$1,915 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
- Some or all activities and tours
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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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