Immerse yourself in the spirit of Spain over 12 days travelling from Barcelona in the northeast to Seville in the southwest. Delve deep into the country’s Roman and Moorish heritages, exploring the lands of the ancient kingdoms of Aragon, Castile and Al-Andalus as you journey back in time to the medieval mix of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths. Visit some of the world’s most dazzling palaces and awe-inspiring churches, synagogues and mosques, admire the works of great artists and behold magnificent monuments that have withstood the ravages of time. This tour will imbue you with the true spirit of the fascinating and multicultural country that is Spain.
Churros: Spain’s guilty pleasure breakfast consists of deep-fried dough sticks dipped in thick hot chocolate
Pharaoh’s sunset: Madrid’s Temple of Debod is an original ancient Egyptian temple, which boasts stunning sunsets
Top tea: Visit a traditional tetería in Granada’s Albaicin and sip tea in surroundings straight out of north Africa
Barcelona: Spend a day exploring the Gothic glory of the old town and another discovering the mesmerising modernist heritage bequeathed by architect Antoni Gaudi
Zaragoza: Discover the beautiful Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar before heading to the village of Fuendetodos to visit the birthplace of Goya and the museum dedicated to his etchings
Madrid: Visit Europe’s largest palace and the Reina Sofia Museum, where Picasso’s harrowing Guernica is among the masterpieces on display
Toledo: The spirit of El Greco lives on in the ancient streets of this beautiful city with visits to the cathedral, historic churches and the medieval synagogue
Cordoba: Discover the magnificent Great Mosque and wander through the old town and the former Jewish district
Granada: Be dazzled by the jewel in Andalusia’s crown with a visit to the amazing Alhambra palace and Generalife gardens as well as a stroll through the ancient Albaicin district
Seville: Explore the elegant capital of Andalusia, visiting the world-famous Plaza de España, the former royal palace and cathedral as well as strolling through old Jewish quarter
Meet and greet service at Barcelona El Prat Airport and transfer to your hotel in the Catalan capital. You will be given your room key and the rest of the day is free at leisure. Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, boasting an incredible architectural heritage ranging medieval Gothic to turn-of-the-century modernist. The city also has a number of sandy beaches, which are ideal for escaping from the hustle and bustle of the centre.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before exploring at your own pace Barcelona’s well-preserved Gothic Quarter and other historic districts such as La Ribera and El Raval. Stroll through narrow cobbled streets and alleys, which open up to picturesque plazas with café terraces and secluded churches. Admire Santa Eulalia Cathedral and the churches of Santa Maria del Mar and Santa Maria del Pi, three outstanding examples of Catalan Gothic architecture, and behold the medieval majesty of the former royal palace at the Plaça del Rei. Continue to the elegant Plaça Reial and wander along the waterfront to the Drassanes, the former shipyard from medieval times, which is now a maritime museum. Stroll along the bustling Ramblas to the colourful Boqueria market to see Barcelona residents at their most carefree.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a panoramic city tour following the footsteps of modernist maestro Antoni Gaudi and taking in attractions and monuments outside of the Gothic Quarter. Perhaps visit Park Güell in the northwestern suburbs of the city, and see what Gaudi’s vision of an ideal ‘garden city’ was. The park remains unfinished but enough was built to captivate the imagination, with myriad mosaics made from irregular and broken pieces of tiles. Enjoy the views over Barcelona and the Mediterranean before continuing to the city centre to discover two of Gaudi’s most iconic creations. The Casa Mila, popularly known as la Pedrera (the Quarry), is an apartment complex with an undulating façade and roof dotted with twisted chimney stacks and skylights. Gaudi’s greatest masterpiece is the still unfinished Sagrada Familia basilica, with designs which stretched the realms of the imagination and have made it the iconic symbol of the city. The basilica has three fascinating façades, one of which – the elaborate Nativity façade – was more or less completed before Gaudi died, and only recently was the roof of the nave finished.
Take to the road after breakfast at the hotel, heading south along the coast to Tarragona, which was one of the Roman capitals of Spain, when it was known as Tarraco. Today, the city’s Roman ruins have earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Tour to the old town and explore the remains of the old city walls, which date from the third century, and other significant Roman monuments such as the Forum, the circus and the amphitheatre, which is almost on the shores of the Mediterranean. Continue to Zaragoza for check-in.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before exploring Zaragoza, where an important Roman heritage is also evident in the old town. Ancient walls and the ruins of an amphitheatre are among the relics that testify to its importance as the Roman colony of Caesaraugusta. An even more evident legacy is that of the Moors, who in their four centuries of domination left an indelible architectural influence, which has earned the city’s Mudejar monuments the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, which is one of the most important churches in Spain as well as one of the most beautiful. Its broad baroque façade dominates a vast plaza while the rear faces the River Ebro. The interior is richly decorated with an elaborate Renaissance altarpiece and ceiling frescos by Francisco Goya among others. Take to the road to the tiny village of Fuendetodos, an hour’s drive south of Zaragoza, to learn more about the great master himself. Visit the 18th century house in which Goya was born and raised as well as the museum dedicated to his enigmatic etchings. Continue to Madrid for check-in.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a panoramic tour of the Spanish capital. See all the main sights and attractions driving through famous locations like the Paseo de la Castellana, the Plaza de los Cibeles and the Gran Via, and visit the Royal Palace, which is Europe’s largest, and the Reina Sofia Museum of modern and contemporary art. The Royal Palace has more than 3,000 rooms and the appearance of those seen during the guided tour is an eclectic mix, ranging from cluttered Victorian to exotic oriental décors – much depended on the whim of the reigning monarch. Works of art by great masters such as Caravaggio, Velazquez and Goya adorn the walls while pieces of period furniture grace every room. The lavishness and opulence of the interiors stand in contrast with the sober baroque and neo-classical exterior, which faces the Almudena Cathedral and overlooks the Campo del Moro gardens. The Reina Sofia Museum boasts one of the greatest collections of modern art in the world. Admire works by mainly Spanish greats such as Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso, whose vast and haunting Guernica is complemented by an exhibition of other works and resources, which help put the iconic painting in context.
Depart the capital after breakfast at the hotel, heading north towards San Lorenzo de El Escorial some 60km away. This pretty and prosperous town is the location of one of Spain’s most important Renaissance monuments, the magnificent monastery of El Escorial, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex also served as the royal palace of Philip II and he is among the two dozen monarchs whose final resting place is the Pantheon of Kings. Other attractions explored in the guided tour of El Escorial include the Hall of Battles, where large frescoes depict important Spanish military triumphs, the lavish library with frescoed ceilings and the breathtakingly beautiful basilica. Continue to Toledo and check-in at hotel with the rest of the day free at leisure.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a guided tour of one of Spain’s most historic cities, where the past comes alive at every corner. Modern Toledo is a living museum that evokes the mix of Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultures of medieval Castile. Wander through immaculately preserved ancient streets dominated by the stunning cathedral and the legendary Alcazar overlooking the River Tagus. The old town boasts buildings from almost all periods of Spanish history: Moorish, Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance, Habsburg and baroque. Visit the cathedral and admire the Gothic vaulting and the elaborate altarpiece. Appreciate, too, the numerous works of art such as frescoes, stained glass, altarpieces and paintings by artists such as El Greco, Caravaggio, Van Dyck, Rubens and Goya. Continue to Santo Tome Church – where El Greco’s epic canvas The Burial of the Count of Orgaz is displayed – and the former synagogue now known as Santa María la Blanca, whose interior is one of the best-preserved examples of Mudejar architecture in Castile. Take to the road for Cordoba in Andalusia, checking in at hotel on arrival.
Discover Cordoba after breakfast at the hotel with a guided tour of the old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cordoba was the capital of the Moorish caliphate of Al-Andalus during the height of its powers and glory, and nowhere is this wealth more evident than in the magnificent Great Mosque, which is now the Catholic cathedral. Wander through the colonnaded prayer halls, which are decorated with hundreds of marble columns joined by two-tone arches. Admire the mihrab and the side chapels, with their eclectic mix of arabesque and baroque styles. Stroll through the Patio of the Orange Trees, an oasis of peace cooled by the shade of 100 trees, and admire the arabesque decorations of exterior doorways. Continue the city tour by exploring the old town’s whitewashed patios and narrow alleys bedecked with plants and flowers while strolling towards the former Jewish Quarter and visiting the former synagogue. Continue to Granada for check-in at the hotel.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before exploring the historic city of Granada and its greatest treasure, the Alhambra palace, the seat of the last Moorish emirs in Spain. For more than a thousand years, this ‘pearl set in emeralds’ has stood atop Sabika hill overlooking the city, gaining in importance during the Nasrid dynasty, which turned the original castle into the palace of today. The royal complex and gardens were built to be 'heaven on earth', with cool patios, fountains and intricate carvings. Marvel at the rooms such as the Court of the Myrtles and the Hall of the Ambassadors, which are decorated in elaborate honeycomb arabesque plasterwork. Admire, too, the Court of Lions, which medieval Islamic poets described as the physical realisation of paradise. Stroll over to the Generalife Palace and its lush gardens, where the Nasrid emirs retreated during the summer heat, and hear the soothing sound of the water running in channels. Cross the verdant ravine of the River Darro to the Moorish-era Albaicin quarter. Narrow cobblestone alleys of tightly packed whitewashed houses snake their way upwards to the various vantage points offering breathtaking views of the Alhambra nestled under the Sierra Nevada. Continue to Seville for check-in at the hotel.
Explore Seville after breakfast at the hotel. The guided tour of the Andalusian capital includes visits to some of the city’s top attractions such as the Royal Alcazar palace and the cathedral – both UNESCO World Heritage Sites – as well as Santa Cruz, its most picturesque inner city neighbourhood. The Royal Alcazar traces its origins to the 10th century, when it became the palace of a Moorish caliph. Over the centuries, it has been expanded with a series of stunning halls, pavilions, patios and gardens in a variety of styles from Moorish and Mudejar to Gothic, Renaissance and baroque. Admire the elaborate arabesque carvings, the ornate tilework and the fine tapestries and paintings decorating the walls. Behold the brilliance of the inner domes of the Hall of Ambassadors and the Patio of Dolls, and wander the tranquil landscaped gardens. Continue to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, whose glorious Giralda belfry is Seville’s most iconic symbol. The cathedral began life as a mosque in the 12th century and has since grown to become the third-largest church in the world. Discover the 80 chapels and more than 700 works of religious art, see the amazing gilded altarpiece – which took 80 years to make – and stroll through the peaceful Patio of the Orange Trees. Next, explore secluded Santa Cruz, the former Jewish quarter and today the most traditional neighbourhood in the old town. It is a warren of whitewashed lanes, alleys, archways and patios, each with a historical tale to tell. Head over to the magical Maria Luisa Park to discover its two impressive squares, Plaza de España, with its beautiful tiles, elaborate redbrick towers, bridges and canals, and Plaza de America, which is flanked by a number of magnificent neo-Gothic and neo-Mudejar palaces.
Transfer to the airport in Seville for your departure flight. Breakfast included.