- A privately guided tour of Madrid’s Prado Museum
- An evening Tapas exploration with a Barcelona host
- A tour of the Rioja area including lunch at a vineyard
- Participating in a Basque Cooking Class
Day 1 Depart USA
This evening we board our overnight flight to Madrid to begin our exploration of central and northern Spain.
Day 2 Welcome to Madrid
We arrive in Madrid and complete immigration procedures. Upon leaving customs, we are met by our driver and given an overview of Madrid’s scenic attractions including famous squares such as Plaza de Espana, de Oriente, Plaza Mayor Puerta del Sol and Plaza Castilla and well known avenues like Castellana and Gran Via. We will then be taken to our deluxe, centrally located hotel where we can rest or begin our exploration of Spain’s capitol city. Dinner, this evening, is at the hotel’s well regarded restaurant.
Day 3 The Royal Palace and the Prado Museum
Today our morning will be focused on the Royal Palace and the Prado Museum. The Royal Palace is the largest in Europe and was built by Philip V in the 18th Century. The building itself is an architectural treasure but inside is a rare and diverse collection of ceramics, tapestry and clocks. After the palace we visit the Prado, one of the most important art galleries in the world. Here are the Spanish masters including Goya, Velasquez, El Greco and Ribera. They are joined by Raphael, Rubens and Titian among others. This afternoon is left open to allow you some time for personal sightseeing or some shopping. Your guide can tell you the best shopping streets. This evening we will take you on a gastronomic exploration of Madrid as we visit three different establishments in old Madrid to partake of various pairings of wine and food.
Day 4 A Walking Tour of Toledo
After breakfast we head south to Toledo which is the most visited town in Spain. More a museum than a town, this former Castilian capitol perches high on a granite hill overlooking the Tagus River. While in Toledo we will visit the Moorish bridge, an early synagogue, the gothic cathedral and the church of Santo Tome where you can see El Greco’s masterpiece “The burial of Lord Orgaz”. After lunch we will visit the Damascene craftsmen who embed precious stones in to metal to create spectacular jewelry. This evening is free to allow you to try one of Madrid’s numerous restaurants.
Day 5 A Train to the City of Gaudi
This morning we will head to Spain’s most exciting and cosmopolitan city, Barcelona, site of the 1992 Olympic Games. The warm climate, the stunning and innovative architecture and the people themselves make this a great place to explore. Our driver will pick us up from our Madrid hotel and take us to the station where 1st Class seats have been reserved. While we head to the Mediterranean coast we enjoy lunch with wine before arriving in Barcelona. Upon arrival our host will meet us and take us to lunch followed by an orientation tour of the city including Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece La Sagrada Famila, the Olympic stadium and Montjuic which is the location of our hotel. After arriving at the hotel we have the chance to relax on the terrace enjoying the stunning views of the city and out to the Mediterranean.
Day 6 A Private Tour of the Gothic Quarter and La Rambla
After breakfast our host will meet us to take us on a walking tour of the medieval part of the city called the Gothic Quarter. First we will walk down one of Barcelona’s most famous streets known as La Rambla. Here we will see top quality stores, fine hotels and street vendors selling pets, chickens, flowers and other interesting items. Leaving La Rambla we enter the quaint and twisting streets of the Gothic Quarter home to residents, shops and fine restaurants. In the central part of the Quarter is the Cathedral built in the 13th Century which we will visit. We will also visit the Picasso Museum with many of the works created during his extended residency in the city. We will top off our visit at one of the area’s better restaurants where a fine meal awaits. After an extended lunch you are free to continue an exploration of the Quarter or La Rambla before returning on your own to our hotel.
Day 7 Historical Villages of the Pyrenees
Nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains just north of Barcelona are numerous and charming medieval villages with their stone houses and cafes built directly into the mountainside. After a short drive from Barcelona we begin our adventure by exploring a village’s winding cobblestone streets and buildings dating back more than 500 years. We’ll take a walk through the wooded trails and be rewarded with streams, rivers, waterfalls and spectacular views of forested valleys. A leisurely a la carte lunch with wine in a traditional Catalan restaurant provides the perfect highlight to our day in the mountains before we return to the city.
Day 8 A walking tour of Zaragoza on the way to Rioja
This morning our driver and guide will be waiting to take us into the region of Aragon where we visit the town of Zaragoza. Upon arrival we commence a walking tour focused on the Baroque architecture that abounds here including the Basilica of Nuestra Senore del Pilar and the churches of Santa Isabel, San Felipe and San Carlos Borromeo. After the tour we have the opportunity to have some lunch before continuing our drive to the Rioja region and our hotel which was originally built as a hospital in the 12th Century but now is a luxurious hotel.
Day 9 Exploring Rioja Alta
Today we devote ourselves to the exploration and enjoyment of the Rioja Region. One of the most important wine growing areas of Europe, its reputation is well in excess of its physical area. If viewed from the air, the area looks like a large bowl, a depression surrounded by mountains. The mountains protect the area from the elements which gives the area its own micro-climate that is conducive to the growing of grapes. Divided by the river Ebro the area is divided in two with Rioja Alta which has a great amount of rainfall and a mild climate and Rioja Baja which is hotter and more arid. We will focus on the Rioja Area particularly the village of Haro where we will taste several vintages and enjoy lunch at a vineyard. We then return to our hotel.
Day 10 Burgos and the Coast at Santillana Del Mar
After breakfast we leave our hotel and head for the town of Burgos. Here we stop for a walking tour with a local guide. We will visit the Plaza Mayor, the Cathedral and the Monastery de Las Huelgas founded in 1187 by King Alfonso VIII and where he is buried. Inside is a special museum displaying royal clothing from the 12th through the 15th centuries. We then drive to the delightful coastal village of Santillana del Mar where we have chance to explore its cobbled streets and quaint squares before dinner.
Day 11 The Picos de Europa and Santander
Close to our hotel are areas of natural scenic beauty exemplified by the rugged mountain scenery of the Picos de Europa as they frame the Cantabrian coast. Here we will find the Altamira Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Basilica at Covadonga. We will head to coastal beach towns stopping at the belle époque beach resort of Santander for a walking tour of its mansions before taking time for lunch. After lunch we return to our own coastal town where we have the opportunity to sit in one of the squares perhaps enjoying some Sangria before dinner?
Day 12 Bilbao, the Guggenheim and San Sebastian
Today we head to the Basque city of Bilbao where we take a privately guided tour of the stunningly modern Guggenheim Museum which has redefined Bilbao as a cultural capital. After a break for lunch we head for the resort town of San Sebastian where we have a chance to relax before enjoying dinner at a restaurant specializing in Basque cuisine.
Day 13 Introduction to Basque Wine and Cooking
We will start our day with a drive to the town of Getaria which, along with its neighboring towns of Zarautz and Aia are the only ones authorized to use the wine denomination of Getariako Txakolina. Txakoli (Cha-Ko-Lee) is a wine known only in the Basque region and is a light but tasty white wine with some carbonation that occurs naturally. We will visit the vineyards and sample the various vintages before returning to San Sebastian. After some time for relaxation we head out to a restaurant where we have a private cooking course in Basque cuisine which we help prepare and eat along with the suitable wines.
Day 14 Pamplona and the Flamenco
Every 7th of July, the residents of Pamplona begin the celebration of the festival of San Fermin. This would have stayed a quiet if somewhat unorthodox celebration were it not for Ernest Hemingway immortalizing the “running of the bulls” in a magazine article and later in a novel. It has grown into a monumental event but since for most of the times we visit the bulls are locked away, we continue on to Madrid where we have the opportunity to get in some last minute shopping, On this, our last night in Spain we go to one of the finest Flamenco establishments in the city for a fine meal, good wine and excellent Flamenco.
Day 15 Return to USA
After breakfast our driver will be waiting to take us to the airport for our return flight to the US.
Available Year Round
Private Escorted Tour - Madrid, Barcelona, Rioja and Basque Coast ULIB01 Location and other villas and tours nearby
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Tour Location / Places Visiteds
Madrid, Barcelona, Rioja, Santillana del Mer, San Sebastian
Additional Pricing Information
- 1st Class rail travel as indicated on the itinerary
- Superior Rooms at the properties indicated in the accommodations area (We reserve the right to substitute a property of equal quality in advance of departure should the designated hotel be unavailable)
- Private Transfers to and from the airport or rail station at destination
- All meals as indicated on the itinerary by B=Breakfast, L=Lunch and D=Dinner
- Private guides for city explorations and private driver/guide while traveling.
- Entrance fees to all museums, attractions and other venues as indicated on the daily itinerary
- Baggage handling at all hotels
- All applicable taxes and service fees
Services Not Included
- International airfare (round-trip from hometown departure gateway to destination)
- Beverages with included meals (unless otherwise indicated on itinerary page)
- Any meals not indicated on the Itinerary page
- Items of a personal nature e.g. minibar, film, postcards etc.
- Gratuities to Guides and Driver/Guides (we provide suggested guidelines for your selected destination in your pre-departure material)
- Any passport or visa fees or government departure taxes (It is the traveler’s responsibility to secure the latest information regarding passports and visa requirements)
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