Two-Week Highlights of Basque & Catalonia Tour

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Total Trip:

14 Days
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Countries Visited:

Spain
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Places Visited:

Catalonia, Barcelona, Montjuic, Eixample, Ripolli, Figueres, Penedes, Sitges, Tarragona, Poblet, Burgos, Laguardia, La Rioja, Navarre, Pamplona, San Sebastian,

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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Atmospheric monasteries, pintxos food bars, ghoulish architecture and medieval fortresses are all abounding as Spain is overflowing with local experiences and living history especially in the Basque and Catalonia. No other regions are as authentic or inimitable, able to take you on a journey through sights, sounds, foods and the ambiance of bygone eras. Handcrafted to celebrate these enduring destinations, this two-week Spain tour is all about going local and beyond the typical sights.

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Day 1

Barcelona – Relaxing in Barri Gotic

Touch down in Barcelona, and almost immediately, you will be in the thick of its beauty. Roman lanes are punctuated by boutique stores and chic wine stores as cathedral spires stand above cobbled streets and tapas bars. Salty air comes in off the coast, past the huge statue of Columbus. Nothing is planned for today, so you can go for a stroll and make up your own first impressions. You may start down by the coast where the beaches are wide, and the atmosphere is indulgent, or through the city’s heart with La Rambla and Barri Gotic stuffed full of intriguing little sights. In the evening, you are spoiled for choice with literally hundreds of places to dine close to the hotel.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 2

Barcelona – Historic Barcelona Highlights and Beach Time

Highlights are scattered all across Barcelona, telling the story of Catalan culture and style. Stand by the 17th-century castle and gaze across the city, before delving into a mishmash of colorful streets and green parks. The walking tour takes you through parks, and small neighborhoods, where Catalan flags flutter proudly and cafe terrace culture is for all to see. Visit the harbor before exploring the old urban core with your guide, learning about 2,000 years of history. After the half-day Barcelona tour your afternoon is free, perhaps a time for you to hit the beach and relax on golden Mediterranean sands.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 3

Barcelona – The Best of the Modernista Movement

Catalonia’s Modernista style is an expression of the region’s creativity and inimitability. Take Palau de la Musica Catalonia as an example, a staggering work of sculpted figures and twisted lines, harmonious to behold yet lacking in symmetry, or La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s magnificent cathedral that has been over a century in construction. Then there is Eixample, a district of flamboyant houses where Gaudi and co practiced their trade, stuffed full of vibrant mosaics and unusual curves. By touring the Modernista movement, you will get a sense of the architecture, and you will also dive into traditional neighborhoods and understand how and why this style developed. End the private tour in Park Guell, where rocky trees twist into walkways, and a serpent looks over the city.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 4

Montserrat to Ripolli to Figueres – Choir Song and Monasteries

Euphony echoes through the walls of Montserrat Monastery, the sound of choir songs the same as it has been for centuries. Tones bounce through the walls, and the story is one of independence, of how the monastery and the Virgin of Montserrat broke from Rome in 1409. The monastery feels spiritual while the Montserrat mountain appears dramatic, providing you a vista that sometimes extends across most of the region. Stop for lunch in a small Catalan village before discovering the great Romanesque works in Monasterio de Santa Maria, a Ripolli landmark first built in 888. You will spend the night in Figueres, a charming little town that doesn’t see many tourists after dusk.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 5

Figueres – The Life and Times of Salvador Dali

Figueres is the birthplace of the art world’s great mustache, the legendary Salvador Dali. The museum he helped construct – Teatro-Museo Dali – is superlative, as flamboyant as the artist himself and as surreal as many of his paintings. It can get crowded here – it’s Spain’s second most visited museum – but from late-afternoon onwards you find Figueres to be a town of tradition and modern Catalan flair, mostly locals walking the streets and lounging on the cafe terraces. With a local guide, you will see the places that inspired Dali, as well as getting a good feel for small-town traditions. The evenings are very relaxed here and very different from the Barcelona energy, best spent on quiet outdoor terraces.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 6

Penedes to Sitges to Tarragona – Cava Wine and Coastal Charm

After two days north of Barcelona, you must travel back past the big city in order to go south. Vineyards carpet the slopes of Penedes, the wine region that produces Spanish Cava, a sparkling wine that luxuriates the palate. Taste different vintages after touring a winery, before a Penedes wine and lunch pairing is the most leisurely way to spend a Catalan afternoon. Traveling south, you can stop to enjoy the coast in Sitges before rolling into Tarragona, where the city’s Roman past looms large above the streets. Your hotel is beside the amphitheater, just across from a plaza of small restaurant terraces.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 7

Tarragona – Immersed in the Roman History

Tarragona is one of Spain’s oldest cities and the remains have been well-preserved. Walk across the amphitheater until you reach its top steps, where Mediterranean views greet you in all their shimmering blue. Explore a Roman tower to find sculptures and columns rescued from the city’s archaeological sites, and then jump forward 1,200 years to a Cathedral constructed on the soft stony remains of a Roman temple. In contrast to Figueres, Tarragona is a bustling little place. The people watching is superb and there’s no better way to spend an evening than by watching the city roll by, especially when locals are out on the paseos, or walks.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 8

Poblet to Barcelona to Burgos – Off the Beaten Track in Medieval Burgos

There is a mid-afternoon flight to Burgos, and on route back to Barcelona you can stop in Poblet, where there’s yet another exquisite monastery with yet more panoramas and history. Then in Burgos, it’s all change as thick medieval stone dominates the city’s core, much of its sun-scorched sandstone. Sculptures line vernacular buildings, and the twin smells of coffee and wine drift along cobbled streets. The city’s cathedral is mind-blowing, an enormous structure from a time when Burgos was as powerful as any other city in the world. Shards of light come in through arched windows, illuminating a cavernous space as imperious as it is artistic. During an evening in Burgos’s old center, you will wonder why such a pretty place is so devoid of tourists, the streets singing with Spanish voices as traditional dishes like morcilla de Burgos fill cafe tables.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 9

Laguardia to Pamplona – Rioja Wine Cellars and Navarre Fortresses

Before reaching Basque, you will hop through two other regions. La Rioja is famously indulgent, where it is said that the locals survive on a diet of red wine. Cellars reach far underground, musty places packed with barrels and bottles, their smells memorable for years to come. Rather than tasting with a view, it will be tasting in a rustic underground space, Tempranillo wines sloshing around as you discuss the role of wine in La Rioja’s history. Laguardia has the greatest concentration of cellars, and there’s an entire maze of corridors connecting them, something you’ll get a glimpse at during the stop.

Passing through vineyards, you will head on to Navarre, the historical kingdom that is still covered in castles. Navarre was powerful in the early medieval era, and an abundance of fortresses suggests the region’s military might. Many of these now stand in an evocative state of ruin, intact enough to understand their former glory, crumbled enough to appreciate their age. Visit two fortresses on route to a night in Pamplona, which has one of the world’s largest medieval city cores. Amid this ancient stone comes a lively modern atmosphere; street musicians, pintxo bars, theatrical performances on the cobbles and plenty of plazas to find.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 10

San Sebastian – Gourmet San Sebastian

Ah, San Sebastian, the Basque coastal enclave where time moves slowly and elegance is the order of the day. Glamorous townhouses reach up above a beautiful golden beach as elaborate sculptures and painted doors surround the main cobbled square. There are church spires and broad boulevards, the smell of salty sea air and rusting contemporary sculptures. And then there is the food. Spend half the day touring San Sebastian with your guide, then jump into pintxo culture. This style of food originates here as small gourmet bites line up along the bar, a little like tapas but daintier and more gourmet such as foie gras with honey and pecans, or creamed sea urchin topped with cured ham. Hop between the bars with a guide, trying one or two pintxos in each, experiencing San Sebastian’s lively local culture.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 11

San Sebastian – Day Trip to Saint Jean de Luz and Hondarribia

Enchanting fishing towns dot the coast north, their whitewashed facades dappled with bright red window shutters and sporadic green stripes. You can smell the sea and smell the seafood. Saint Jean de Luz is across the border in Basque France, a quiet morning stop that continues your tour’s laid-back atmosphere. Walk the promenade to the local food market, where the smells and sounds intoxicate with their authenticity. Then in Hondarribia, you can jump into the seafood in a tiny town that is packed with Michelin stars and World Top 50 Restaurants.  It will be amazing just how much good food there is here. Stuffed and satisfied you return to San Sebastian, where the beach faces westwards for sunset views, and pintxos also turn out to be perfect for a light evening meal.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 12

Bilbao – The Best of Three Cities In One

Bilbao takes you on a journey through three Basque eras. Get lost along the cobbles of the old town, looking around at 13th-century sculptures while wondering how the sounds echo around corners. This is the origins of Basque, a tightly-knit neighborhood where the language and signs are not in Spanish, and the stores you see are mostly generations-old butchers and bakers. Next, it’s Bilbao from the turn of the 19th century, apartment blocks along the river and industrial-esque market spaces. These then turn down broad tree-lined boulevards, where artistic flourishes are the vernacular norm. Your guide will help you to understand this period in Spanish history when Guernica took place, and Basque culture could have been lost from the world.

This is a region that has always sought to be innovative and, for those who know Spain, the obvious choice for Peggy Guggenheim to install her museum. The contours of the Guggenheim Museum are as memorable as the galleries, yet it’s not the only post-modern slash of architecture. Along the river, you find others, symbols of a city that has always moved into the next era. With a full day in Bilbao, you get three distinct experiences and then a fourth: the dining. For many critics, Basque is the world’s premier culinary region, rooted in tradition yet made famous by its creativity and attention to detail. You have reservations at one of Bilbao’s most celebrated spots, where the tasting menu effortlessly crosses all three eras.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 13

Bilbao – Day Trip to Guernica and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Continue yesterday’s narrative in Guernica, the Peace Museum helping you understand what happened along with the context to early 20th-century Spain. Head to Mundaka for a walk through a riverside town, and then grab a coffee in the old port at Bermeo. Today’s main destination is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Fortress-like walls form a winding path along the cliffs, with hundreds of steps taking you to a towering pinnacle. Here stands a church, cut off from the world, buffeted by the quiet harmony of waves. There is space here and near silence, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe as if you’ve reached the edge of the world. It’s one of the Basque region’s most important and popular highlights, but that doesn’t mean it’s that busy – far fewer people come here than Catalonia. After a day trip, there’s a quiet evening to enjoy in Bilbao, either in one of the pintxo bars or in a fine dining restaurant.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 14

Bilbao – Departure

After two weeks in Spain you will depart from Bilbao’s International airport, taking so many memories of sounds and smells back home with you.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Uncover three evocative eras during a two-night stay in Bilbao, from an early medieval core to a Guggenheim-like future
  • Discover Barcelona with a local guide, from the Modernistas to the Gothic quarter
  • Get off the beaten track with a day in UNESCO World Heritage-listed Burgos
  • Listen to the choir sing as you explore ancient monasteries in Montserrat and Poblet
  • Dive into the wine cellars of La Rioja, particularly in Laguardia, and taste the best Cava of Penedes
  • Escape to the coast with a day trip to Basque fishing villages
  • Explore the life and times of Salvador Dali with two nights in his hometown of Figueres
  • Stroll along a historical stone wall to the dramatic San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
  • Enjoy plenty of time on the beach, in Barcelona, Tarragona and San Sebastian
  • Indulge in the food, especially in the Basque region
  • Spend a day in Navarre, surrounded by medieval walls and thick stone fortresses
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Detailed Description

A visit to Spain engages all of your senses, and for many travelers, it’s the aromas that are remembered most. Musty in a Navarre fortress or Laguardia wine cellar, indulgent in Bilbao and San Sebastian pintxos bars, salty and fresh along the coast, you will be totally immersed in every destination. Others reminisce about the sounds as choir songs ring through the Montserrat Monastery, strange echoes are heard in the Guggenheim, and the strangely euphonic silence of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe stay with you. Of course, visitors also remember the sights many years on, from Barcelona’s Modernista architecture to the medieval allure of places like Burgos and Pamplona. You will also be taken in by the tastes, especially all over the Basque, known to many as the world’s greatest culinary region.

Spain presents a multi-sensory vacation experience, and no two regions celebrate this more than Catalonia and Basque. Although these regions have many well-known destinations – Barcelona is one of the world’s most visited cities – but it is rare that visitors really explore them in depth. So while it is busy in the Salvador Dali Museum or Barri Gotic, these two regions have remained wonderfully authentic elsewhere. As you may already know, both have a fervent separatist movement, seeing themselves as independent rather than part of Spain. Whatever the political situation, there’s no doubt that culturally, Basque and Catalonia are absolutely distinct from ideas of Spanish culture. Experiencing the contrasts is integral to the experience.

This handcrafted tour will take you on an immersive journey through Catalonia and Basque, with roughly a week in each region. Three days in Barcelona eases you into all the inimitability, Gaudi and the Modernistas just one side to the city. Travel next to spiritual Montserrat and Ripolli before two nights in Figueres, the birthplace of the mustachioed hero Salvador Dali. Days six and seven are spent south of Barcelona as you explore the Penedes wine region, lounge on the Sitges beaches, and find Roman history in Tarragona. Then head back through Poblet, where there’s another fabulous monastery to discover.

From Barcelona, you will fly to Burgos, a complete medieval city that misses almost all tourist itineraries. From here, there is a lovely overland route towards San Sebastian, your private guide taking you to La Rioja and a night in Pamplona, before you indulge on the Basque coast. San Sebastian has been wowing visitors since Napoleon fell in love with it, and there is stunning food along with great beaches and an elegant atmosphere. Take a day trip to the fishing towns of Hondarribia and Saint Jean de Luz, in French Basque, before your final two nights are spent in Bilbao. This delightful city has three eras to explore, and you will also get to spend a day at Basque’s two most important destinations of Guernica and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Consider learning more about our travelers’ best Spain travel experiences by reading their Spain travel reviews.

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Starting Price

$3355 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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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.

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