Jewels of Andalucia & Madrid
The Passion, the Fire, and the Colors of España
DAY 1: Arrival day in Madrid
DAY 2: Cordoba and its Mezquita
DAY 3: Granada & exclusive olive oil experience
DAY 4: The Moorish palace, Alhambra
DAY 5: White villages of Andalucia, Ronda
DAY 6: Enjoy the beauty of Ronda
DAY 7: Sherry experience in Jerez de la Frontera
DAY 8: Sevilla with its amazing sites
DAY 9: Cooking class, Flamenco show
DAY 10: High speed train to Madrid
DAY 11: Private walking tour of Madrid
DAY 12: Departure Day. You may choose to extend your time with Audrey in Spain by adding a few days in Madrid, day trips to Avila, Segovia or several days in Barcelona, before or after the tour. For pricing contact Audrey.
**2024 SMALL GROUP TOUR**
- Relax in the care of your dedicated local tour leader
- Be immersed in Moorish-style opulence at the UNESCO world heritage site, the Alhambra
- Explore the heart of Andalusia, where palaces, cathedrals and quaint villages all have a story to tell
- Savor tasty regional cuisine & wine in authentic local restaurants
- Taste the olive oil pressed at a traditional mill
- Experience the Triana food market tour & paella cooking class in Seville
- Enjoy an intimate Flamenco Show in Granada
- See the charming "pueblos blancos" (white villages) of Andalucia
- Explore the Jewish Quarter and incredible Mezquita in Cordoba
PRICING: Check back in the fall of 2023 for pricing
Madrid, Granada, Ronda, Cordoba, Sevilla
Arrival & Departure Airport: Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD)
Experience the magic of Spain on this "best of southern Spain and Madrid 12 day small group tour itinerary". Spain provides some of the richest cultural heritage to be found anywhere in Europe from ancient Roman and Moorish influences to traditional Andalusian cuisine. It is an exotic and diverse country with an ancient history and heritage. Spain will dazzle you with architectural feats and artistic treats, enrich you with historic treasures and nourish you with sherry and tapas! From charismatic cities to sleepy villages dotted with white washed houses and olive groves, Spain never fails to open up travelers’ eyes, minds and hearts.
Andalusia is the land of olive groves and rolling hills of almond blossoms, flamenco dancers and gypsy songs, bullfighting and fiestas. This fascinating region offers the visitor an incredible medley of sights, sounds, tastes and scents. The enduring influence of the Islamic culture (which ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula until the 12th century) lends an eastern feel to the region’s architecture and gastronomy, while the Romani and north-African population add a distinctive quality to the people of Andalusia.
As your local host for the duration of your trip, I would like to take you straight to the soul of Spain by guiding you, not only to famous sites, but also to my favorite places off the beaten path where you can enjoy the rhythm of daily life. Whether you love culture, cuisine, family fun or a bit of everything, this hand-crafted tour offers you an unforgettable taste of Spain.
Suggested time to travel: April/May and Sept/Oct
It is very hot in Spain during the summer.
Day to day itinerary
This itinerary is subject to change
DAY 1: Arrival day into Madrid & high speed train to Cordoba
I will be waiting for you with our driver at baggage claim for our transfer to your hotel in Cordoba with a stop in Consuegra to visit the famed Don Quixote windmills and a special lunch of La Mancha specialties (included).
After checking-into your boutique hotel in the historical center of the city, you'll join your fellow travelers for an orientation walk of Cordoba to get acquainted with the city and the major sites.
The orientation tour will finish at a very traditional restaurant for your included welcome dinner, specializing in Jewish cuisine, located right in the heart of the Juderia (the Jewish quarter), which continues to bring the Sephardic tradition to the table.
Cordoba, former capital of the Muslim Caliphate of Al Andalus, one of Andalusia's eight provincial capitals, stands on the banks of the River Guadalquivir northeast of Seville. Cordoba is an unhurried city, known for its abundant courtyards (or patios as they are called locally), flowers dangling from balconies and narrow winding streets. The city was founded around 169 B.C. by the Roman praetor Claudius Marcelus and was the birthplace of Seneca. The city boomed under the Arabs and, on the arrival of the Caliphate, became the most civilized and sophisticated city in 10th-century Europe. During this century, Cordoba had nearly 1,000 mosques, 600 public baths and street lighting (700 years before either London or Paris). Cordoba´s sophistication attracted numerous intellectuals, scholars, poets, doctors and philosophers. Later, the city was conquered by the Christians and this equally important legacy can still be seen today.
DAY 2: Cordoba
Following breakfast, meet your expert local Cordoba guide at your hotel and spend the morning exploring the city that was the great Moorish capital of Al Andalus. A walk around the old Jewish quarter gives the sensation that little has changed since the 10th century. You have pre-booked tickets to visit the Mosque-Cathedral or Mezquita which is without doubt one of the most famous constructions in all of Andalusia and is one of the largest mosques in the Islamic world. The original Mosque was built between 786 and 788 by Abd ar-Rahman, but over the centuries, many additions and extensions have been made. Following the Christian conquest, it was consecrated as a Cathedral in 1236. The Mezquita of Cordoba is one of the most emblematic monuments in Europe, and a unique example of the interplay of Christian and Muslim cultures in Spain.
Visit the Synagogue built in 1314, a beautiful Mudejar building nearly perfectly preserved and the only synagogue in Spain from that time not to have been turned into a Christian building. See Almodovar gate or ‘Gate of the Jews’ as it is known locally and the monument to the great Jewish doctor and philosopher, Maimonides. Also see beautiful courtyard patios for which Cordoba is so famous.
After lunch, I recommend a walk to the Roman bridge across the Guadalquivir river. You may wish to visit the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos (Fortress of the Christian Monarchs) a Mudejar palace from 14th century with a beautiful Moorish garden complex and the Viana Palace.
DAY 3: Granada & exclusive olive oil experience
Enjoy a leisurely morning before we continue East today to the unforgettable city of Granada, which was the last strong hold of the Moorish empire in southern Spain until it fell to the Catholic kings in 1492. Granada (Gáranata) was once the grandest city in Spain! Set at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it is the most visited of all Andalusian cities.
On the way, we will stop in the small town of Montilla for an exclusive experience. Learn about the different types of olives and the region’s olive oil, Spain’s “liquid gold”, ending the tour with an olive oil tasting and some light tapas. This area produces olive oil of such high quality it has gained its own Denominacion de Origen (DO) a designation that indicates the product’s unique geographic origins, production process and quality.
Spain is the largest producer of Olive Oil in the world and 80% of Spanish total production is in Andalusia. The production of olive oil in Spain dates back almost 6,000 years ago with the settlement of Phoenician and Greeks. Ever since then, olive oil has continued to be an integral base of most Spanish cuisine. Similarly, Spanish wine has been elevated to the status of one of the best wines in the world for its wide variety of grapes and exquisite taste.
In the evening, after you checked in to your boutique hotel located in the heart of the city, join your local host, for a short orientation walk around the ancient Albayzín neighborhood, the old Moorish quarter that has hardly changed since the 15th century, to end up at the famous viewpoints overlooking the incredible Alhambra, Plaza San Nicolas.The Albayzín is Granada’s oldest Arab district, situated on the hill across from the Alhambra. In the 13th century it was a prosperous district with a slew of palaces and villas. Later, it became a maze of narrow streets and squares combined with a multitude of whitewashed houses.
Relax during dinner at an included "Carmen" (a traditional Granada house with a large garden of vines and fruit trees) with stunning views of the Alhambra in the Albayzín.
DAY 4: Granada & the Alhambra
Today, following breakfast, meet your expert guide for a private guided visit of the Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens, with pre-booked tickets included.
This complex of palaces, a UNESCO world heritage site, built around courtyards of flowering trees, pools and fountains is often hailed as the most exciting, sensual and romantic of all European monuments. It’s beauty shows the brilliance and spirit of the Moorish culture in Andalusia at a time when the rest of Europe was only just beginning to emerge from the Dark Ages. You will also tour the Generalife - the summer palace and gardens of the Sultans. It is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens. It is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens. Prepare to be wowed by the water features and courtyards.
More than just a palace, it is an entire walled city within the city. There are royal apartments, forts, gardens, pavilions, barracks, and sumptuous gardens that offered protection from the summer heat. With a local expert, we will explore the Nasrid Palaces, the most spectacular Islamic buildings in Europe, dating from the 13th century and filled with Arabic inscriptions and geometrical patterns, perfectly proportioned rooms and chambers, and peaceful courtyards.
The Alhambra began modestly as a fort around 889 CE. It gradually fell into ruins and was transformed in the 11th century by the Moorish sultan of Granada into a palace. Moorish poets described it as “a pearl set in emeralds.” It later became a royal residence of the Nasrid dynasty but was eventually abandoned after the Christian re-conquest. Finally, it was “rediscovered” in the 19th century and restorations began. Today, it is one of the world’s most significant examples of Islamic art and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Next, we will explore the adjacent Generalife, the summer palace and private retreat of the sultans. This was where they escaped official court life and its burdens, to relax and reflect amid exceptional man-made beauty.
You’ll also visit the Royal Chapel, “Capilla Real”, commissioned by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand as their final resting place. They selected Granada because it was where the Reconquista, the military campaign of nearly 800 years to defeat the Moors, ended. It was built next to the Cathedral of Granada in an Isabelline Gothic style.
Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
DAY 5: Ronda
Your private driver and guide will meet you at your hotel after breakfast and transfer you safely, in a little over 2 hours, to your centrally located hotel in Ronda.
Ronda is one of the most spectacularly located towns in Andalusia, and sits on a massive rocky outcropping. It is also one of the gateways to the Pueblos Blancos (White Villages). The Puente Nuevo or New Bridge, an impressive 18th century construction over the steep El Tajo Gorge (nearly 100 m deep) joins old Ronda with new Ronda.
This fairytale setting dating back to Roman times, has attracted the likes of Ernest Hemingway, who based “For Whom the Bell Tolls” on this city, as well as Orson Wells, whose ashes are buried on a bull farm just outside of town. The interior of Andalucía is responsible for many of the memorable images we have of Spain. Ronda is considered the spiritual home of bullfighting, having one of the country’s oldest bullrings. Other highlights include the old town with its lovely old palaces, of which the Mondragon Palace (now a museum) stands out.
After you have checked in to your hotel, your host will take you on a relaxing orientation walk, exploring the old town which Hemingway called the most romantic in Spain.
DAY 6: Sunday - Ronda
Today, after breakfast, you'll meet your expert local Ronda guide. Discover firsthand the beauty of Ronda on this private walking tour. Explore the city's most iconic monuments and sights and one of Spain's oldest bullfighting rings.
This afternoon is at your leisure to relax and enjoy Ronda.
DAY 7: White Villages, Jerez de la Frontera, Seville
Today, we’ll take the road less traveled as your private driver and guide meet you at the hotel after breakfast and transfer you safely to Seville and your centrally located boutique hotel, with a few wonderful stops along the way.
“Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos”: the beauty of the Sierra de Grazalema region is unmatched in Spain. Its combination of dramatic mountain scenery and splendid whitewashed villages makes you half expect to see medieval Berber farmers and Christian knights. Andalucía contains scores more white towns, all similar in their outward appearance, but each, on closer inspection, hiding distinctly different cultures and personalities.
Discover, on our first stop, Setenil de las Bodegas, one of Andalucia’s most charming and unique white towns. It’s an extraordinary sight where many of the town’s homes are built underneath huge rock overhangs. About 3,000 people live here, some in the ancient caves where it’s believed the first residents arrived 12,000 years ago during the Stone Age, then through to Roman times. However, when the Islamic Moors arrived 1,300 years ago, they built a modern fortified town with a castle and also took advantage of the cool caves and areas under the rock to store goods.
In Jerez de la Frontera, the hub of sherry wine production. Made from the Palomino grape, sherish, the Arabic term for sherry, follows just behind Flamenco and bullfighting in popularity for southern Spaniards. Authentic sherry is gaining popularity again, especially amongst lovers of fine wine. Sherry offers an incredible range of styles from the driest to the sweetest of wines. They are also great wines for matching with food, not just as aperitifs. Visit a small family-run bodega for a tour including a detailed explanation of the unique sherry-ageing process. You will taste their exceptionally fine Sherries drawn directly from the cask – not a usual occurrence!
Then we make our way to the city of Seville, the capital of Andalusia situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River. Seville is the most cosmopolitan of its neighbors, and a storied city that has been Andalusia's seat of power and glory for nearly 1000 years.
Known as Hispalis in Roman times, Seville was taken by the Moors in 712 and remained a Muslim capital until the 13thcentury. Between 1503 and 1718 Seville had a monopoly as the only trading port between Spain and the Americas, becoming extravagantly wealthy and spawning a Golden Age of arts and literature. Seville is one of Europe’s sunniest cities – hence the orange trees growing everywhere. The combination of Moorish, Mudejar, Renaissance and Baroque architecture through the city center’s compact maze of narrow streets really is a sensory overload by day or by night. The entire city comes to a standstill for the Feria and Easter week as the city celebrates tradition and community. For the rest of the year, it’s a perfect place to unwind, explore and of course, eat! You’ll find the same influences you see in the architecture has also trickled through to the food. Don’t be surprised to see film crews around. The Games of Thrones series has been filmed here recently and the city is attracting a lot of attention from a new fan base.
DAY 8: Tuesday - Seville
After breakfast, your expert local Seville guide will meet you at your hotel to show you Seville’s Barrio Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter), Sevilla's oldest neighborhood. You’ll see the cathedral that houses the remains of Christopher Columbus. Standing on the site of a great mosque, the structure features mudejar, gothic, renaissance, baroque and neo-classical styles, as well as the old minaret of the Arab mosque. Make sure to climb the ramps to the Giralda, 343-ft bell tower, that offers outstanding views over the city. Construction of the cathedral lasted more than 100 years, paid for partly by gold and silver from the New World. One altar is made entirely of Mexican silver.
You'll also visit the Alcazar, the site of the marriage between Carlos V and Isabel of Portugal in 1526. This UNESCO listed World Heritage Site incorporates architectural and artistic influences from its beginnings as a Moorish fort into the Middle Ages and on through the Renaissance and Baroque eras to the 19th century. Still used by the royal family, it is the oldest royal palace in Europe and one of the most beautiful with its striking Mudéjar (Moorish influenced) design and ornamentation.
Flamenco Show included: Tonight you are in for a special treat as we'll take in a traditional Flamenco Show. Flamenco is a traditional Andalusian art form of enigmatic origins. While it is generally accepted that flamenco made its appearance as a recognizable art form in the 18th century, music and dance have been part of popular culture for untold ages with influences from the nearly eight centuries of Moorish rule as well as Roma (gypsy) culture. We will learn about different styles of flamenco that share three classic elements: cante (song), toque (guitar), and baile (dance), then enjoy a performance.
DAY 9: Seville
More and more people are learning that Spain is a top culinary destination —not just the home of the famous paella, Spanish omelette and gazpacho. Spain now boasts some of the world’s best and most renowned chefs and restaurants, along with a great variety of styles.
Today, you'll enjoy a fun included Cooking Class and discover the delights of Spanish & Andalusian cuisine. This small group activity includes a visit to the Triana Food Market, where you will learn about locally grown products and participate in the selection of some ingredients that will be used later in the class. You will also meet some of the vendors, who have been there for generations. During the class, guests have the chance to get involved in the preparation of a 4 course menu, directed by an English speaking professionally trained chef. Classes are designed for both novice and experienced cooks who will be able to learn and develop new techniques and skills.
After the class, dine on what has been cooked, accompanied by wine. The activity takes roughly 4 hours (including eating time).
Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure for personal exploration or perhaps even a siesta! There is so much to see in Seville, and your local host can certainly help you with what you could visit on your own! We do recommend a visit to Plaza España, set amidst the wonderful gardens of Maria Luisa Park. Built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exhibition (World’s Fair) it is an impressive example of Renaissance Revival style architecture.
DAY 10: Madrid
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the Seville train station to take the high speed train to Madrid. Your private driver will meet you on arrival and transfer you to your centrally located Madrid hotel.
The remainder of the day is at leisure. Your pre-booked entrance ticket to the Prado Museum could be used this afternoon if you wish or tomorrow.
Madrid stands at the very center of Spain –geographically, culturally and politically. Madrid not only offers the culture and good times of a sophisticated, modern city but it also retains the charm and elegance of its early years. The power and glory of Madrid is reflected in its parks, plazas, boulevards and in the pride and panache of today’s Madrilenos.
Among the splendid attractions of Madrid are the Prado Museum, home to masterworks of Goya, Velazquez and El Greco; the 19th century Villahermosa Palace now the Thyssen-Bornemizsa Museum; the Reina Sofia Art Centre showcasing more than 300 modern works by Dali, Miro and Picasso among others; the 18th century Royal Palace on the lovely Plaza de Oriente; the bustling Puerta del Sol with its many shops, restaurants and tapas bars; Rastro Market on Sundays one of the oldest outdoor markets in Europe; and Retiro Park for strolling while admiring local artists and buskers.
This evening, enjoy an included tapas tour with our local guide: You’ll take part in a guided small group tapas tour with all food and drinks included. It’s a great way to experience Madrid’s most interesting and authentic bars and restaurants without the research or guesswork. Your guide will recommend the wines and other drinks to try and will order specialty tapas at each bar or tavern. Your guide will talk about the history of tapas, the types of tapas served in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain and will also give you a history of the neighborhood you are visiting as well.
DAY 11: Madrid
After breakfast, you’ll be met at your hotel by your expert local Madrid guide who will take you on a private tour of the historic city center. You’ll enjoy visiting such places such as the Plaza del Sol, Plaza Mayor as well as the Mercado San Miguel (one of Madrid’s famous food markets) Plaza de la Villa, Plaza del Oriente and the Royal Palace (entrance tickets included).
The stunning Royal Palace is the largest in Europe by floor area, with 3,418 rooms covering 1,450,000 square feet (135,000 square meters). It is no longer the royal family's home, but continues to be the site of official ceremonies and state occasions. Built in the 18th Century on the site of the old Alcázar fortress, it was inspired by Bernini’s sketches for the Louvre in Paris with courtyards, galleries and a parade ground. Particularly notable are the Royal Armory, the Hall of Mirrors, masterpieces by Caravaggio, El Greco, de Flandes, Goya, Madrazo, Morales, Rubens, Sorolla, Velázquez, and many more.
This afternoon, in your time at leisure, you can choose to visit other wonderful sites in Mardrid like, for example, the world-famous Prado Museum. The superb royal collection was assembled by Hapsburg and Bourbon Spanish monarchs from the 16th to early 19th centuries. The museum opened to the public in 1819 and has collected thousands of paintings since as well as sculptures, prints and drawings. Among the masterpieces are works by Bosch, Dürer, El Greco, Goya, Mantegna, Raphael, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto, Van Eyck, Velázquez, and many more. Nine new galleries have been added since 1950. The Prado has become a prized destination for art lovers.
Meet back with the group in the lobby to go to a local restaurant for our last included delicious "farewell" dinner together!
DAY 12: Departure day
After breakfast, you’ll be collected at your hotel by a private driver who will transfer you to Madrid International Airport for your departure.
Pre and post tour options available for Barcelona, Avila, Segovia or El Escorial. Please check with Audrey regarding pricing.
- Private transportation while on tour (air conditioned vans or luxury mini buses)-mineral water on vehicle at all times
- Transfers from and to the airport in Madrid
- Train tickets between Sevilla and Madrid
- Relax in the care of your host, Audrey
- Unwind for 11 nights in hand-picked, heart of the cities, accommodations:
- 2 nights in Cordoba
- 2 nights in Granada
- 2 night in Ronda
- 3 nights in Sevilla
- 2 nights in Madrid
- Meals included: daily breakfast, 3 dinners (welcome, Granada, farewell) and 1 tapas tour
- Private walking tours with local expert English speaking tour guides in Madrid, Granada, Ronda, Cordoba, Sevilla
- Skip the lines with prepaid entrance fees to:
- Royal Palace in Madrid
- Mezquita in Cordoba
- Cathedral and Alcazar in Seville
- Alhambra in Granada with Generalife
- Royal Tombs in Granada
- Plaza de Toros in Ronda
- Free time for you to choose your own optional experiences
- Gratuities for drivers and restaurant staff at included meals (additional gratuities can be given at the sole discretion of each individual traveler).
- Country specific information packet before departure
- Hand-picked experiences:
- taste local wines and sherries in traditional bodegas
- enjoy an exquisite lunch on your private visit of an olive oil mill
- watch a soul stirring-Flamenco show
- peruse a local market followed by a private cooking lesson where you learn to make salmorejo and paella
- discover the art of eating tapas
- Discover Spain's cuisine: Our hand-crafted itinerary includes wonderful experiences with local cuisine as you enjoy a variety of included dinners (as indicated on the itinerary) at authentic Spanish restaurants.
- Taxes & Fees: Local VAT taxes and government fees, City Tax, gas, highway tolls, city access licenses and permits, parking fees.
NOTE: In the grand European traditions, I believe that dinner is a celebration of good food and wine, a celebration of culture and a celebration of family and friendship. Hosting this celebration is one of the joys of being a tour manager. I guide you to your favorite dish … or help you choose something you’ve never tried before. I choose the perfect wines and throw in some local delicacies to broaden your palate and surprise you a bit. When we are at a cooking lesson or a wine tasting, rest assured that you'll go home with new knowledge that will increase your appetite for more. On every tour, I have included dinners as a group as well as nights on your own. Of course, you are always invited to join me at my favorite places or as I explore new and interesting restaurant finds. I also have a lot of recommendations and would be happy to make reservations for you.
Audrey's Gold Standard
I've personally tried, tasted and tested every single experience, ensuring quality and authenticity. If it doesn’t meet my personal stamp of approval, it won’t be on your tour!
What is not included
- Passport fees, visa fees, immunization costs, entry clearing fees (when applicable)
- Optional enhancements like room upgrades
- Additional sightseeing, activities and experiences outside of your itinerary
- Early check-in or late check-out from hotels
- Personal charges such as laundry, phone calls, SIM cards or room service
- Lunches, dinners and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), unless specified in the itinerary
- Travel insurance (strongly recommended)
- Your international and domestic airfare
- Porterage: Please note that you'll need to carry your own luggage up and down stairs at hotels and across cobblestone