Spain & Portugal: A kaleidoscope of cultures and traditions
DAY 1: Arrival in Madrid
DAY 2: Madrid, Royal Palace and tapas crawl with Audrey
DAY 3: Toledo, Granada
DAY 4: Granada and the Moorish palace, Alhambra
DAY 5: White village of Andalucia, Ronda
DAY 6: Sevilla and the 3rd largest cathedral in the world
DAY 7: Quaint Evora, wine experience in Alentejo
DAY 8: Magical Sintra, Seaside Cascais
DAY 9: The 7 hills of Lisbon
DAY 10: Departure Day. You may choose to extend your time with us in Portugal by visiting Porto and the Douro Valley.
- 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
- Experience the Triana food market tour & paella cooking class in Seville
- Enjoy an intimate Flamenco Show in Granada
- Admire the picturesque white village of Ronda, perched on dramatic cliff tops
- See the whimsical architecture and sprawling vistas of Sintra, a UNESCO world heritage site
- Spend time in the Roman town of Évora, one of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns
- Explore Lisbon overlooking the Tagus River, with its alleyways winding between colorful, centuries-old buildings
PRICING: from $4,590USD per person (double occupancy)
The price varies according to the number of guests on tour, type of accommodation and activities chosen, because of minimum fixed costs that need to be covered. With this tiered pricing structure we are generally able to offer slightly lower pricing if there are a higher number of guests on the trip.
Madrid, Toledo, Granada, Ronda, Sevilla, Evora, Lisbon, Cascais, Sintra
Experience the wild, beautiful and contradictory lands on the Iberian peninsula. From Roman relics and Muslim palaces, Baroque cathedrals and daring modern city centers, Portugal and Spain boast a dazzling blend of civilization, culture and color. This 11-day tour is a treasure chest of cultural jewels that stretch across a wide palette.
Arrival Airport: Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD)
Departure Airport: Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS)
(Best times April/May and Sept/Oct)
**FOR PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY**
This private tour is all about the colorful life of Spain and Portugal! Spain and Portugal provide some of the richest cultural heritage to be found anywhere in Europe. Spain 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. The Andalusia region is an excellent example of a unique blend of Roman, Arab and Catholic inspired influences.
Once the world’s richest and most powerful empire, Portugal is now the vibrant home to powerhouse wine regions, incredible art museums and excellent surfing. In Lisbon, there’s nothing quite like losing yourself while wandering through the Bairro Alto with a belly full of the freshest seafood and local wine, as images of medieval charm and blue painted tiles swirl in your head, only to turn a corner and catch a glimpse of the glimmering sea.
I would like to take you straight to the soul of Spain and Portugal 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, private tours are hand-crafted to your unique style for an unforgettable experience of Spain and Portugal.
Day by Day Itinerary
A travel experience like no other
This sample itinerary was handcrafted by Audrey, a local expert, to inspire your next trip. It is ready to be customized to suit your interests, tastes and budget so you can connect with local cultures and experience authentic travel on your own terms and departing whenever you choose.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL MADRID
Arrival Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport
Private transfers will be organized based on flights and the number of guests for each transfer.
Madrid, Spain’s capital, is a city so full of life and culture that it’s hard to do it justice in a few paragraphs. This big European city has its fair share of hustle and bustle, but that doesn't mean it skimps on providing visitors with an authentic Spanish experience. The Prado Museum features works by some of Spain's most famed artists, including Velázquez and Goya. The Palacio Real (Royal Palace) is open to the public and the El Rastro flea market or the upscale shops in Salamanca provide hours of shopping. But if you're drained from a long day of sightseeing, you might want to rest at an open-air cafe, especially the ones that skirt Plaza Mayor. Once your energy is restored, enjoy sampling some choice specialties at a tapas bar before hitting the club.
This evening, enjoy an included tapas tour with an English speaking guide: tapas are one of Spain’s biggest cultural exports to the rest of the world. When people around the globe think of Spanish cuisine, these little treats are right up there with paella and sangria. But not all tapas are created equal, and the concept itself can mean many different things. The Spanish capital is without a doubt one of the best places to experience traditional tapas firsthand. But when choosing where to go, the options can be overwhelming. Madrid has nearly 15,000 restaurants and bars—one for every 211 inhabitants! Let Audrey introduce you to some of the best little places that are hard to find on your own.
DAY 2: MADRID
This morning enjoy a private walking tour of Madrid. Our tour includes, the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) with its 2,000 rooms and its NeoClassical style that rivals Versailles. We’ll also stop in to the Palace Armory, where you’ll be able to see centuries of battle armor and tools, the Cathedral and finish at the Plaza Mayor.
After your morning tour you will have the balance of the day to explore other Madrid sites like: the world-renowned Prado, Reina Sofia to see Picasso's Guernica, or the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. You might enjoy strolling through the Mercado de San Fernando or taking a walk through the spectacular city park, Retiro Park.
Dinner tonight is 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 recommendations and would be happy to make reservations for you.
DAY 3: TOLEDO, GRANADA
After breakfast today, board your mini bus with your tour manager for your first discovery of the day, Toledo. With your private guided tour you will visit the Cathedral, Santo Tomé church and La Blanca Synagogue.
Toledo is one of the Spanish cities with the greatest wealth of monuments. Known as the “city of the three cultures” because Christians, Arabs and Jews lived together there for centuries, Toledo preserves an artistic and cultural legacy in the form of churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues. This great diversity of artistic styles makes the old quarter of the capital of Castile - La Mancha a real open-air museum, now declared a World Heritage Site.
You then continue South to the unforgettable city of Granada, which was the last strong hold of the Moorish empire in southern Spain until it finally fell to the Catholic kings in 1492. Granada (Gáranata) was once the grandest city in Spain! Nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it is the most visited of all Andalusian cities.
Upon arrival into the city, we will check into our centrally located hotel and freshen up.
DAY 4: GRANADA
This morning is dedicated to the magnificent Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is a breath taking Moorish palace and fortress perched on top of a steep hill adjacent to the city center. The Alhambra feels like it comes straight from ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’, rising from the woods against the mountainous backdrop. A true tribute to the beauty of the North African architecture in Andalusia, the Alhambra contains a huge network of beautiful rooms, patios and gardens. The palace is close to architectural perfection, perhaps also the most refined example of Islamic art anywhere in the world and not to mention the most enduring symbol of 800 years of Moorish rule known as Al-Andalus. From afar, the red towers of the fortress dominate the Granada skyline, set against a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada’s snow-capped peaks.
Entrance times may vary.
Following the visit of the Alhambra and Generalife, your local guide will take you to visit the Capilla Real, the Gothic mausoleum and burial site of Ferdinand and Isabel. The chapel has important collections of art from Spanish and Italian painters including Botticelli and Perugino.
The rest of the day is at leisure with an opportunity for great shopping at the Albycin, where you will feel like you are in a Moroccan souk. Other options are hiking up to the Sacramonte area to enjoy their winding streets and beautiful views from St. Nicholas overlook, or you can go to the Hammam. These tranquil baths are beautifully designed with Arabian decor featuring candle-lit walkways, vaulted ceilings, marble benches and atmospheric chambers.
DAY 5: RONDA, SEVILLA
Enroute from Granada to Seville, we’ll make our way to Ronda where you can enjoy an orientation walk with your tour manager exploring this beautiful town, including the dramatic gorge and the bull ring. Wind around the whitewashed streets for great pictures of ornate churches, balconied buildings and fringed parks that represent the mixed Islamic and Christian style that characterizes Andalusia.
Historically, Andalusians chose to live in fortified hilltop towns and villages called Pueblos Blancos (white villages) to escape preying bandits. These white towns are whitewashed in the Moorish tradition and today are functioning agricultural towns that will give you insight to Andalusia´s colorful past. The romantic town of Ronda, the largest of the White Villages, is the oldest town in Spain, having been established in the 9th Century BC!
Settled by the Phoenicians around the 7th century BC, later conquered by the Muslims and finally settling under Spanish rule, Ronda has had a long and varied history marked by war, trade, and geographic wonder. Ronda is also the birthplace of modern bullfighting. Perched high in the Serranía de Ronda mountains, the old town offers dramatic views over the Rio Guadalevín. The ancient part of Ronda is separated from the new by a vertigo-inducing 328-foot river gash called El Canon del Tajo.
Then, after some wine-tasting in the countryside, we make our way to the city of Seville, the capital of Andalusia.
DAY 6: SEVILLA
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.
Explore the vibrant city of Seville with your expert local guide. Highlights include a stroll through the Jewish quarter and the impressive cathedral of Saint Mary, which is the burial site of Christopher Columbus and 3rd largest in the world. Built atop the Almohad Mosque, the cathedral preserved two parts of the mosque: the Moorish entrance court Patio de los Naranjos; and the Giralda, a minaret converted into a bell tower.
We will also take in the Alcazar de Sevilla, the oldest royal palace in Europe.
The original nucleus of the Alcázar, that you will visit today, was constructed by the Moors in the 10th century as a fortified governor’s palace and is still in use today as a residence for the Spanish royal family. It is a spectacular complex of palaces, courtyards and gardens from various periods and in complementing architectural styles – all in all a dazzling trip back in time.
With a flair for drama, its own traditional dance and flamboyant modern architecture, Seville displays Spain’s most noticeable local pride. Nowhere is as quintessentially Spanish as Seville, a city of capricious moods and soulful secrets which has played a pivotal role in the evolution of flamenco, bullfighting, baroque art and Mudejar architecture.
Included Flamenco show: take in the passion and seduction of the art-form known as Flamenco at your included show. Flamenco is an art form that was born, and thrives, here in Spain. Spaniards start dancing when they can barely walk, and they dance every day. The stomping of the feet, the twirling of the body, and the drama of the music are simply part of their culture
DAY 7: EVORA, LISBON
This morning, we will set out for Lisbon with a stop in the town of Évora, capital of Portugal's south-central Alentejo region and a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the city's historic center stands the ancient Roman Temple of Évora (also called the Temple of Diana).
One of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns, Évora is an enchanting place to delve into the past. Inside the 14th-century walls, Évora’s narrow, winding lanes lead to striking architectural works: an elaborate medieval cathedral and cloisters; the cinematic columns of the Templo Romano (near the intriguing Roman baths) and a picturesque town square, once the site of some rather gruesome episodes of the Inquisition. Aside from its historic and aesthetic virtues, Évora is also a lively university town.
After visiting the sites with your tour manager you will also have a little time to shop for amazing cork products before continuing onto Lisbon.
This evening enjoy an included Fado show: Fado music is a form of Portuguese singing that is often associated with pubs, cafés, and restaurants. This musical genre officially originated in Portugal around the 1820's, though it is thought to have much earlier origins. Fado is known for how expressive and profoundly melancholic it is. In Fado music, the musician will sing about the hard realities of daily life, balancing both resignation and hopefulness that a resolution to its torments can still occur. It can be described by using the Portuguese word “saudade,” which means “longing” and stands for a feeling of loss.
DAY 8: SINTRA, CASCAIS
This morning, we leave the bustle of the city and meet the most stunning places around Lisbon on your private guided tour of Sintra and Cascais.
With its rippling mountains, dewy forests thick with ferns and lichen, exotic gardens and glittering palaces, Sintra is like a page torn from a fairy tale. In addition to its UNESCO World Heritage–listed center, Sintra-Vila is dotted with pastel-hued manors folded into luxuriant hills that roll down to the blue Atlantic. Leaving Lisbon’s western suburbs and climbing into Sintra feels like crossing over into another world. This town is in a green mountainscape of palaces, country estates, parks and a medieval castle. In the center sits the Palace of Sintra, which was a residence for the Portuguese royalty.
No royal medieval residence is in a better state of preservation in Portugal. Royalty lived here on and off from the 1400s to the 1700s, and each successive occupant added a bit of their own personality.
The day continues onto Cascais, a delightful Portuguese fishing town situated on a beautiful coastline. This coastal resort lies just outside of Lisbon, yet this pleasant town is a world away from the commotion of the bustling capital and has retained the charm of its fishing past with its daily catch still being auctioned and the colorful boats bobbing in the harbor. Home to stunning sun-soaked beaches, such as the surfer's destination Guincho beach, and picturesque ocean views, Cascais is truly a spectacular holiday destination full of heritage and history.
DAY 9: LISBON
Often overlooked for its popular European cousins, Lisbon specializes in lulling tourists into its laid-back charm. Perched atop seven hills, overlooking the Tagus River, its alleyways wind between colorful, centuries-old buildings. Fanciful St. George's Castle peeks out to the skyline, lending an Old World-mystery to the burgeoning cosmopolitan city. And despite the modern sleek buildings that are slowly rising throughout the city, village life holds strong. But there's more to Lisbon than lazing about in coffee shops nibbling pastéis de nata (custard tarts) all day, from exploring the various neighborhoods to taking in the view from the Santa Justa elevator, Lisbon's coastal capital is rich with opportunity.
This morning, enjoy a walking tour of Lisbon with your local expert guide followed by a Portuguese tart-making class.
“Lisbon, more than anywhere in Portugal, has an international feel. You’ll find restaurants serving food from former colonies like Mozambique, Brazil and Angola right next to those serving traditional Portuguese dishes”.
DAY 10: DEPARTURE DAY
Private transfers to the airport for your international flights. On this day you may choose to extend your time with us in Portugal by visiting Porto and the Douro Valley.
- Unwind for 10 nights at charming, locally owned boutique style accommodations that offer Spanish and Portuguese hospitality, comfort and local character (standard rooms with daily breakfast included):
- 2 night in Madrid
- 2 nights in Granada
- 2 nights in Seville
- 1 night in Evora
- 3 nights in Lisbon
- Private guided tours with local expert guides and skip the line entrance tickets:
- Madrid, the Royal Palace
- Toledo, Cathedral, Santo Tome Church and La Blanca Sinagogue
- Granada, Alhambra, Generalife and Royal Chapel
- Sevilla, Cathedral and Royal Alcazar
- Evora, Chapel of Bones
- Sintra, National Palace
- Enjoy hand-picked experiences:
- Taste the local wines of Ronda and Alentejo
- Take a cooking class on the famous Portuguese custard tarts
- Experience the sensuous magic of a Flamenco show and soul-stirring Fado
- Peruse a local market followed by a private cooking lesson where you learn to make Salmorejo and Paella
- Sample Spanish wines on a private tour of the world’s largest vineyard.
- Taste the diverse flavors of “tapas” in the south and “pintxos” in the North
- Private transfers (pick up and drop off) at Venice Marco Polo airport
- Private transportation throughout the itinerary
- The services of your host, Audrey, fluent in Spanish and English
- Gain insider access to the Spanish and Portuguese way of life
- Enjoy leisure time to choose your own optional experiences
- Sample regional cuisine at carefully selected restaurants with local wines
- Rest assured that we will never guide you into a tourist trap shopping experience or surprise you with hidden fees.
- 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 recommendations and would be happy to make reservations for you.
What's 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 (highly 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
Extend your trip
DAY 1: On to Porto
This morning we'll be transferred to the train station to take the 2.5 hour train to Porto.
Our 5-star hotel is in one of the most prestigious areas of Porto, the Ribeira historic district. The rooms are created out of old houses, with varying sizes, with an atmosphere that is at once vintage and contemporary, luxurious and romantic.
After your orientation, you'll have the afternoon to enjoy the city.
Tonight, we enjoy an included port tasting and dinner. The city is proud of its heritage and port production is still the heartbeat of modern life. All of the major port producers continue to age their wines within the vast cellars of the district.
DAY 2: A Day in Porto
We spend our morning on a walking tour of Porto. Ribeira is one of the oldest districts in Porto dating back to the Middle Ages. Situated on the northern bank of the Douro River, this area is characterized by narrow, winding streets and crammed with restaurants and cafes all housed in the traditional architecture. From the Ribeira District, we’ll head to the iconic Ponte Luis I Bridge that spans the Douro River; connecting Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. This feat of engineering has stood since 1886 and the wrought-iron work resembles the detail used in the Eiffel tower. The quaint, baroque Clérigos Church and Tower is situated on the highest point of the old city and, after climbing the 250 steps of the tower, visitors are rewarded with fantastic 360 degree panoramic views of the city and Vila Nova de Gaia.
The rest of the day and evening is at your leisure.
DAY 3: Full-Day Excursion to the Douro Valley
Just an hour and a half away from Porto, you can find the Douro Valley, one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. Stunning landscapes of green and golden slopes covered with vineyards, wine estates spreading along the riverbanks and the birthplace of the well-known port wine. We’ll spend a relaxing day as we travel along the banks of the Douro River, enjoy an included gourmet Michelin star lunch on the river, and, if you are traveling with us in September, participate in stomping the grapes.
We'll be back in Porto at the end of the day for dinner at your leisure.
DAY 4: Back to Lisbon
Today, we travel from Porto to Lisbon via train. We'll spend our last evening with an included cruise on the River Tagus and enjoy our included dinner.
How it works
Here is how it works
- Schedule a consultation call with Audrey to discuss your dreams of traveling to Spain and Portugal!
- Some things we’ll discuss: Your interests and the interests of your traveling companions, your desires for the trip, and your ages and energy levels. Have you traveled to Spain or Portugal before? If so, which countries did you visit? What would make your trip perfect, or what do you envision as your ideal day while on vacation?
- Audrey will start with this itinerary, but this is a custom trip, so we can also incorporate ideas that are specific to your group. You might say, “Yes, let’s go for it!” or you might want to discuss a few things, tweak some items, or compare different options. At the end of this phase, you will know the unique itinerary for your group.
- Each person in your small group pays a deposit, with final payment due 90 days before travel.
- Audrey and her team will book everything for you, help you prepare for your time in Italy, and take great care of you and your companions during your stay in Europe.
- You’ll be given a customized, day-by-day itinerary that's unique to your group with all the details you'll need. It's essentially a personalized guide book — with only the information that's relevant to you.
- All you have to do is sit back, and enjoy your fabulous travels! Let Audrey and her team personally take care of you while you are in Europe!
Prepare for Your Trip
European travel in general involves a lot of walking, much more than we are used to in the US. Most of our tours include city walking tours, visits to hilltop towns and villages, and meandering through cobbled streets. Keeping active and incorporating long walks into your busy schedule in the weeks before your departure will make your vacation much more rewarding.
- Don’t Overpack: A challenge even for some experienced travelers! Wash or dry clean some clothes during your travel. Some hotels and villas we choose offer laundry and dry-cleaning services and towns and cities have laundro-mats. Most also provide hair dryers. Toiletries and cosmetics can also be purchased at your destinations. Please contact us if you need some assistance.
- It is your responsibility to obtain the required documents to travel to Europe. Please verify with your own country's travel laws and government agencies. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after your return date.
The first day on tour is your arrival day into the city in which we meet. So, you would be flying the day before from the United States or Canada if you are not taking the option of spending a few days on location prior to start of your tour.
The purchase of TRAVEL INSURANCE is strongly recommended to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. A Protection Plan can include coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption, emergency medical and emergency evacuation/repatriation, trip delay, baggage delay and more.
To discuss the details and customization options, click below to schedule a call with Audrey!
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