Spain and Portugal: (17 Days) October 14 - 30 2020
LAND ONLY: $5,760 Canadian/ per person (lunches & dinners NOT included)
Begins Wednesday October 14th in Madrid and finishes Friday October 30th in Barcelona. On our tour we only include a day each in the great cities of Madrid and Barcelona. If you wish to explore these cities more thoroughly, you can choose to arrive in Madrid a day or more before the tour starts and stay on in Barcelona for a day or more after the tour finishes
Limited to 16 travellers + Norman & Julie Bruce (there are 8 spaces available) Feb 24 2020
AIRFARE: Our flights specialist estimates the cost of the airfare to be approximately $1,400 Canadian departing Vancouver to Madrid (MAD) & returning from Barcelona (BCN.)PLEASE NOTE THIS IS AN ESTIMATE FROM VANCOUVER AND IS ONLY VALID AT JAN. 2020. You do NOT have to come to Vancouver to join this tour.
Spain: Exploring the Iberian Peninsula, we travel from Spain’s capital, Madrid, to Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, and on to Barcelona, the capital of Cataluna (Catalonia.) Hispania was a major part of the Roman Empire for many hundreds of years, leaving us ingenious engineering projects, grand public monuments and unbridled displays of private wealth. We visit several important Roman sites.
At fabled Santiago de Compostela we trace the stories of generations of pilgrims along one of the world’s most ancient routes – the Way of St James (known as the Camino de Santiago in Spanish.) For centuries people have arrived from all over the world, driven by various and often deeply personal motives, to undertake this unique journey to one of Christianity’s key pilgrimage sites – the shrine of St James.A rich and fertile province in Roman times, Andalucía was conquered in the early 8th century by Muslim armies from the Middle East and North Africa and was part of the Islamic world for more than 750 years. A rich and sophisticated Islamic civilisation, which brought together the talents of Arabs, Berbers and Iberian converts to Islam, blossomed here. Jewish culture also flourished here in communication with Jewish communities throughout the Islamic world.
Madrid, Toledo and Barcelona host art collections of international significance featuring works, especially but not exclusively, by Spanish masters ranging from El Greco and Goya to Picasso
Portugal has an old-fashioned charm, with medieval castles and picture-perfect villages scattered over flower-covered hillsides. Along its spectacular coastline there are dramatic cliffs, sand dunes and superlative beaches.
Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east, the countryside still reveals rarely-visited places that offer the feeling of discovery - a word one associated with Portugal due to its “Age of Discoveries” in the 15th and 16th centuries when so many Portuguese seafarers – such as Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Henry the Navigator – opened up the world for Europeans. Indeed, Lisbon became one of the most magnificent cities in the world and its proud history can be seen and felt everywhere.
We sample some of Spain and Portugal’s most famous wines and have a chance to try their delicious regional cuisines. We stay mainly in historic hotels that reflect the charm of the towns and cities we stay in. Although we visit a wide variety of places on this tour, wherever possible, we stay 2 or more nights in a town. In many towns this allows you to join us for both our morning and afternoon excursions or, if you wish, enjoy some free time for half the day. When we are not driving from one town to another and changing hotels, we are very flexible with how much sightseeing you can join us for
The Food in Spain and Portugal!
One of the great highlights of Spain and Portugal is their food. The different areas on our tour are famous for their own dishes. Many of these regional cuisines are served at cozy little restaurants that have a wonderful local atmosphere. However, many of these unique restaurants are too small to accommodate groups. On this tour we give you the freedom to choose your own special restaurants for lunches and dinners. Julie and Norman will make suggestions for restaurants close to our hotels. Each day of the tour we include breakfast at our hotels.
(UPDATED February 27 2020)
SPAIN & PORTUGAL DETAILED ITINERARY:
Wed Oct 14th Arrival in Madrid|
We arrive today in Madrid, Europe's highest capital city. The rest of the day is free for you to relax and/or explore this elegant city of tree-lined boulevards and lively squares with their decorative fountains. First of 2 nights in Madrid. Atriem Hotel or similar. No meals.
Thurs Oct 15
Madrid and Toledo
Today we take a guided tour of Madrid, the city of Velázquez and Goya. The Museo del Prado alone makes Madrid one of the great art centres of Europe. Here we admire the works of the great Spanish painters – including El Greco, Murillo, Velázquez, Goya and Picasso. However, the prodigious collecting of the Habsburgs and Bourbons and their subjects has resulted in a surprising range of artistic riches. There is a large number of outstanding paintings by Titian and Rubens, for example, and the Prado has by far the largest collection of Hieronymus Bosch paintings in the world. We also visit the Reina Sofía Gallery to see Picasso’s Guernica, his condemnation of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s. Our city tour includes the Cibeles Fountain and views of the Royal Palace, the official residence of the Spanish royal family.
This afternoon we drive south to the ancient capital of Spain, Toledo, which sits on a cliff top above the Tagus River and is home to the nation's principal cathedral. We visit the Church of Santo Tomé, home to El Greco's most famous painting, 'The Burial of the Count of Orgaz', and visit the former synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca, the oldest one still standing in Europe. Here we start to learn about the influential Moorish and Jewish cultures. In the Middle Ages Toledo was famed for the production of “Damascene” steel work, particularly swords. We see some of today’s intricate inlaid gold jewellery and craftwork, which comes from that tradition.
Second of 2 nights in Madrid. Atriem Hotel or similar. Breakfast.
Fri Oct 16th
Madrid – Segovia – Zamora
Driving north from Madrid, we enter the autonomous region of Castile and León. These former rival kingdoms, having united under one crown in the 11th century, established themselves as the heart of Spain and exerted great influence over language, religion and culture far across mediaeval Europe. Innumerable castles were built here, as this was the principal battleground of the “Reconquista” – the 500-year war of attrition against the Moors which eventually reclaimed all of Spain for Christendom.
Our first stop is Ávila, a fortress town which retains its entire circuit of 11th century walls complete with battlements and 88 turrets. We also admire the fine sculptures on the 12th century Basilica of San Vicente.
Our next stop is Segovia, where the Roman aqueduct straddles the town and is one of the biggest in Europe. In ancient times it delivered drinking water across its impressive 160 arches to the people of Segovia. The whole of Segovia’s city centre was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. On our guided walking tour we see some of the city's medieval and Moorish architecture, including the outstanding Romanesque exteriors of San Martín, San Millán and San Esteban and the circular Templar church of La Vera Cruz.
We also see the restored Alcázar (castle), dramatically perched at the prow of the hill, which was an influence for Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle. Overnight in Zamora. NH Zamora Palacio del Duero Hotel or similar. Breakfast.
Sat Oct 17th
Zamora – Santiago de Compostela
On the Roman road that connected Astorga to Mérida, Zamora rose to importance during the “Reconquista” as a bastion on the Duero front. Our orientation tour includes views of the Byzantine-influenced cathedral and the Church of Mary Magdalene.
Driving into the northwest corner of Spain, we enter Galicia province which has long waterways stretching inland from the Atlantic that are said to be the marks left by God's hand when he washed himself after creating the world.
This afternoon we reach legendary Santiago de Compostela, near where a Galician shepherd claimed to have discovered the tomb of the apostle St James in 813. These remains, which came to be buried in the cathedral, were subsequently adopted as a major focal point by the early Christian monarchs of Asturias, León and Castille. Politics and religion became deeply interwoven as a pilgrimage route to Santiago – a destination to vie with Jerusalem and Rome – was harnessed to promote a sense of Christian unity in the struggle against the Muslim caliphate of Andalucia.
The route became one of the cornerstones of European medieval Christian culture.
Overnight in Santiago de Compostela. Eurostars Araguaney Hotel or similar. Breakfast.
Sun Oct 18th
Santiago de Compostela – Porto
The morning we endeavour to gain a deeper insight into why so many people are drawn to this very special place. On our guided walking tour we visit the vast Cathedral – one of the most impressive of all Romanesque churches – with its shrine of St James and outstanding treasuries, where pilgrims have brought gifts over the centuries. We explore the university quarter, the Praza da Inmaculada, the Monasterio de San Martino Pinario and the narrow picturesque streets of the old quarter.
This afternoon we drive into Portugal from the north. This evening you might like to enjoy your dinner in the Foz district with its beautiful wide waterfront avenue and well-designed garden, Jardim do Passeio Alegre.First of 2 nights in Porto. Grand Hotel or similar. Breakfast.
Mon Oct 19th
Porto + Wine Valley Cruise
This morning we explore the capital of northern Portugal and the country’s second largest city, Porto (Oporto.) Here winding lanes tumble down the hillsides through the medieval Ribeira Quarter to the Cais de Gaia city port and the Douro River, which is spanned by remarkable bridges. We visit the 14th century Gothic and Baroque Sao Francisco Church, one of the most fabulously opulent in all of Europe – so much so that its gold-clad interior became an embarrassment to the Franciscans and their vows of poverty! We also visit the Stock Exchange Palace with its splendid Arabian Hall inspired by Granada's Alhambra.
Porto is synonymous with the port wine trade and this afternoon you might like to join us on our (included) cruise up the Douro River Valley (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), where the banks rise steeply into the surrounding hills clothed with terraced vineyards, patches of woodland and little villages. Until recently this was one of the remotest valleys in western Europe and remains remarkably unspoilt because it is so difficult to access. This is the oldest wine region in the world and so we stop amongst this stunning scenery to taste local wines, especially port.
If you don’t wish to join our included cruise up the Duoro Valley, you can enjoy a relaxing free afternoon exploring more of charming Porto. Second of 2 nights in Porto. Grand Hotel or similar. Breakfast.
Tues Oct 20th
Porto – Atlantic Coast – Lisbon Driving south down the wide-open
Atlantic coast we stop in Figueira de la Foz, to admire the country's largest sandy beach – which stretches for more than 3km (2 miles) – and the Casino, which dates from 1886.
Further south we stop in Nazare, Portugal's most picturesque fishing village. Hopefully, we will be able to see local people wearing their traditional costumes. We see the lighthouse, the sea fort of Sao Miguel Arcanjo and enjoy the views over the beaches of the beautiful Bay of Nazaré on what is called the “Silver Coast.” International surfers compete here in one of the world’s largest competitions because here one finds the biggest surfable waves in the world. Legendary surfer Rodrigo Koxa holds the world record for surfing an 88-foot-high wave here in 2017!
We drive inland to Alcobaca for a photo stop at the Abbey of Santa Maria, Portugal’s largest church, which was founded in 1153 to commemorate a victory over the Moors: it was finally completed in 1223. The monastery here, which dates to 1178, was the first completely Gothic structure built in Portugal and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We see the tombs of royalty and hear about one of Portugal’s most endearing love stories.
We continue to Obidos, Portugal’s finest walled town, which is built over ancient Roman ruins. We walk through the narrow cobbled medieval streets, among the traditional painted houses, and see the imposing medieval castle - which once guarded the whole region. The town is called “the wedding present city” because it was presented to the Queen of Portugal on her wedding day – a tradition that began with Queen Urraca in 1214 and continued until the 19th century. You also have a chance to taste the local liquor - "Ginjinha de Obidos." First of 3 nights in Lisbon. Hotel Altis Avenida or similar. Breakfast.
Wed Oct 21st
Lisbon City Tour
We start our guided city tour at the 50-metre-high Monument to the Discoverers, inaugurated in 1960 to celebration the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry “the Navigator.” The Belem Tower was built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour. It is the symbol of Lisbon and of the Age of Discovery, when Portugal was Europe’s leading maritime power. Jeronimo’s Monastery was built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s voyage to Japan and to give thanks for its success. The richly-decorated Coaches Museum houses many magnificent gold coaches. We continue to the Tile Museum (Museu do Azulejo), located in a lavish old convent, which illustrates the long history of the wonderful ceramic tiled art we see all over the country, but especially in Lisbon. Second of 3 nights in Lisbon. Hotel Altis Avenida or similar. Breakfast.
Thurs Oct 22nd
Lisbon Area Sightseeing
We set off for the Serra de Sintra, a small range of granite hills to the northwest of Lisbon which form the westernmost point of continental Europe – jutting out into the Atlantic. The whole town of Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is surrounded by hills dotted with extravagant villas and fairytale palaces, overlooked by an 8th century Moorish Castle. We visit the National Palace with its two gigantic conical chimneys. This afternoon we visit one of Europe’s most fantastic palaces, Pena Palace. Surrounding the palace is a wonderful garden, filled with exotic trees and plants from former Portuguese colonies. We also visit 2 of Lisbon’s favourite getaways. Estoril, is a fashionable playground which has Europe’s largest casino, some of Europe’s finest golf courses, an automobile racetrack that has held Formula One Grand Prix races, and some attractive sandy beaches. Cascais was a popular resort favoured by kings and European nobility in the 19th century.
Returning to Lisbon, you might like to go for dinner at a restaurant with Fado music in the famed Alfama district.
If you don’t wish to join our included excursion to Sintra, Estoril and Cascais you can enjoy a relaxing free day exploring more of Lisbon. Third of 3 nights in Lisbon. Hotel Altis Avenida or similar. Breakfast.
Fri Oct 23rd
Lisbon – Seville
Today we travel east through Portugal's picturesque rural landscapes of the Alentejo – Where the majority of the country's cork oak trees grow and are used to make corks for wine bottles – and cross into Spain. We journey through the area of Huelva, renowned for its Jabugo ham, before arriving in legendary Andalucía – which takes its name from the Arabic term for the entire Iberian Peninsula, al-Andalus. The Arab Umayyad dynasty were rulers of Islamic Spain from the middle of the 8th to the 11th century. First of 2 nights in Seville. Hotel Dona Maria or similar. Breakfast.
Sat Oct 24th
In Andalucia around the first Millennium the Renaissance had already begun, as the Moors and their protected Christian and Jewish subjects tested out revolutionary new ideas. This was a Golden Age of architectural, scientific and philosophical experimentation. Here the Jewish philosopher-doctor Maimonides brought forth new interpretations of Jewish law amid the luxury and unrivalled power of the Caliphs.
On our tour of Seville's leafy avenues we see the iconic Giralda Bell Tower and visit Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in the world and the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. We stroll through Maria Luisa Park – with its tiled fountains, pavilions, palms and orange trees – and walk through the imposing Plaza de España. We explore the Jewish history of Spain in Seville's former Jewish Quarter, where a wall separated the Jewish community from the rest of the city during medieval times.
This evening you might like to discover the passion, rhythm and magic of Andalusian flamenco dancing while you enjoy your dinner. Second of 2 nights in Seville. Hotel Dona Maria or similar. Breakfast.
Sun Oct 25th
Seville – Córdoba
After a short drive through the Andalusian countryside we reach Córdoba, which was the capital of Moorish Andalucia and the largest city in Europe – a market for all the luxuries of East and West and the scene of Europe’s most splendid court until its fall to the Christians in 1236. The astounding Umayyad Great Mosque or Mezquita was one of the largest in the Islamic world. Some academics consider it to be the greatest building of medieval Europe, with its endless forest of carved columns and capitals from Mesopotamia and the classical world, striking arches and Byzantine mosaics. Into this supremely harmonious mosque the conquering Christians inserted a 16th century cathedral at its heart. We also visit the medieval Alcázar (built on earlier architectural remains and with good Roman mosaics), the Baños del Alcázar Califal (Caliphal Baths) and the old Jewish quarter, including the 14th century synagogue. Overnight in Cordoba. Eurostars Azahar Hotel or similar. Breakfast.
Mon Oct 26th
Córdoba – Granada
Driving further east, but still within Andalucia, we reach Granada. The fall of Córdoba to the Castilians in1236 was accompanied by Christian advances in Portugal to the west and Valencia in the east, rapidly reducing Muslim power to the small southern kingdom of Granada – which endured until is capture by the armies of the “Most Catholic Kings”, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492. During the intervening two and a half centuries this mountain kingdom welcomed Muslim refugees from all over the peninsula who transformed it into a flourishing land of verdant gardens, famed for its silk production. The luxurious 13th century Arab palaces of the Alhambra stand high above the city, characterised by golden façades, intense decoration of flamboyant carved plaster, colourful mosaic tiles, and richly inlaid wood. Along with the Great Mosque of Cordoba, these UNESCO-listed buildings are often considered to be the greatest expression of Islamic art in Spain – with a succession of intimate courtyards. Adjacent are the 16th century Palace of Charles V and the Generalife – the summer palace of the sultans, with its gardens and fountains, which was once linked to the other palaces by a covered walkway across the ravine.
We walk via the Corral del Carbón, the evocative 14th century caravanserai and silk market and madrasa, founded in 1349 by the Nasrid monarch Yusuf I. This afternoon we explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Albaycín, the maze of narrow streets and Moorish splendour in the oldest quarter of the city, including El Bañuelo (the Arab baths.)
Overnight in Granada. Melia Granada Hotel or similar. Breakfast
Tues Oct 27th
Granada – Mediterranean Coast
This morning we drive via the Mora Pass to Guadix in the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains where we see the whitewashed, semi-underground houses dug into the ochre-coloured cliffs of the surrounding area. We then cut south to the Mediterranean coast which, in the ancient world, was always a prized possession. However, it wasn’t until this part of Spain was absorbed into the Roman Empire that its economic potential was fully realised with mines producing lead, silver, copper and iron and the land and sea producing grain, vines, olive oil and the all-important fish sauce. We drive along this coast to Valencia, the country's third-largest city. Overnight in Valencia. Vincci Mercat Hotel or similar. Breakfast.
Wed Oct 28th
Valencia – Peñíscola – Barcelona
Vibrant and modern, Valencia still retains much of its past, going back to its Roman foundation 2,000 years ago. The Moors held this area, known as “the Levante”, for 400 years – from when we see the Almohad Arab walls and shimmering Valencian tiles. The 12th century Christian settlement has many Baroque splendours. We feel the weight of Borgia rule and the Naples connection. Valencia’s food markets are some of the most vibrant in the world. The iconic dish "Paella" originated here and the Iberians were pressing wine in this region 5,000 years ago. Our tour of this cultural city includes views of the town hall, the bull ring, the Towers of Serrano and Quart, and the medieval cathedral, which houses what is said to be one of the Holy Chalices of the World. The Gothic silk market is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We head north along the coast through the Levante region and stop at Peñíscola to view the ancient castle of the 'Spanish Pope', built by the Knights Templar and used in the movie, 'El Cid'. We continue along the Costa Dorada via the Roman funerary monument of the ‘Tower of the Scipios’ and the honorific Arch of Bera, dedicated to the Emperor Augustus, to Barcelona with its whimsical Gaudí architecture. First of 2 nights in Barcelona. Onix Liceo Hotel or similar. Breakfast.
Thurs Oct 29th
This morning we explore Spain’s second-largest city and the capital of would-be-independent Catalonia. We see Gaudí’s inspiring but unfinished La Sagrada Família church, which is one of the best-known buildings in the world. We explore the Plaça de Catalunya at the heart of Barcelona and walk down the leafy pedestrianised Rambla street in the footsteps of George Orwell in his ‘Homage to Catalonia’ as far as the Christopher Columbus Monument. We meander through the beautiful medieval cobbled streets and blind alleys of the Barri Gòtic, perhaps Europe’s best-preserved Gothic quarter. Here we can also see the remnants of Roman walls, tombs and temples where Barcelona was born.
This afternoon you might like to join our included excursion to the mountaintop Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat, Catalonia’s spiritual home, with its breathtaking views and spectacular scenery. Here we see the shrine of the Black Madonna, the patron saint of Catalonia - affectionately known as 'La Moreneta.' The gallery here contains works by El Greco, Caravaggio, Dalí and Picasso. We return to Barcelona via Gaudí’s crypt at the Colonia Güell, arguably his greatest work, set amongst pine trees.
If you don’t wish to join our included afternoon excursion to the Monastery of Montserrat, you can enjoy some relaxing free time exploring more of vibrant Barcelona. The Museum of the History of Barcelona contains part of Roman Barcino with its streets, sewers, laundries and wine- and fish-sauce-making factories. For modern art lovers the Picasso Museum ranks second only to Paris for the size and quality of its collection. Second of 2 nights in Barcelona. Onix Liceo Hotel or similar. Breakfast.
Fri Oct 30th
Barcelona – Home
Today we fly home, arriving the same day. Breakfast if not leaving too early.
On our tour we only include a day each in the great cities of Madrid and Barcelona. If you wish to explore these cities more thoroughly, you can choose to arrive in Madrid a day or more before the tour starts and stay on in Barcelona for a day or more after the tour finishes.
- Accommodation mainly in good 3-Star hotels. All our hotels have en-suite bathrooms and heating.
- Land transport by our own coach.
- Sightseeing and entrance fees as mentioned in the itinerary.
- Tipping for Driver & Guides
- Breakfast daily.
- Guiding by Royal Heights tour leaders Julie and Norman Bruce with assistance of our expert Spanish and Portuguese local guides in each area.
- Visa fees. Canadian passport holders do NOT require visas for Spain and Portugal. Your passport must be valid for 3 months beyond the date you leave the Schengen Area (i.e. until at least Jan 30th 2021, if you are returning to Canada straight after finishing our tour.)
- Lunches and dinners.
- We do NOT include porterage. Porters MAY be available to help you with your suitcase and you should be prepared to tip them if you use their services. Please only bring one piece of luggage per person and make sure your luggage has wheels so you can move your own luggage when necessary.
- Trip Cancellation / Interruption and Medical Insurance. We offer insurance coverage with Manulife Insurance. Please contact us for a quote.
- Single Supplement charge, if requested ($1,360 Canadian)
- Personal Expenses such as souvenirs, laundry, drinks not included at meals
- Arrival & departure transfers. We can arrange individual or group transfers when you have confirmed the arrival & departure times of your flights. Please contact us for a quote.
Our flight specialist suggests flights from Vancouver with Air France into Madrid (MAD) via Paris (CDG) & returning from Barcelona (BCN) with Air France via Paris (CDG.) You do NOT have to come to Vancouver to join this tour. You are welcome to book your own flights or we can put you in touch with our flights specialist who can book flights for you from any city. Please let us know.
Our published price is based on 2 people sharing a room. If you wish to be guaranteed a single room, there is a Single Supplement charge of $1,360 Canadian. Those people traveling alone but wishing to share will be informed 3 months prior to departure if a roommate is not currently available. At that point you will be invoiced for the Single Supplement. If a roommate subsequently joins the tour, your single supplement will be refunded with the final documentation.
The land portion of the tour must be booked directly with Royal Heights Tours. You can secure your place on the tour with a $400 per person non-refundable deposit. We take payment by cheque, Visa or Mastercard for the $400 /person deposit. Your invoice for your Land tour will be e-mailed to you at the beginning of July 2020. Payment will be due by August 14 2020. Price quoted is for FINAL PAYMENT by cheque. Should you wish to pay the outstanding amount for the LAND tour by credit card there will be an administration fee of 2.5% on the outstanding amount.
- Our office staff are not medically qualified to advise you on which immunizations you require. Please consult your local travel health clinic
- Please make sure your luggage has wheels so you can move it easily.
- This tour is not suitable if you need walking assistance in the form of walking sticks or canes. You must be in reasonably good shape to enjoy this tour – there is a lot of walking and exploring through the back streets of old historic towns where our bus cannot enter. We spend a lot of our time exploring by walking over cobbled streets and around archaeological sites. Please ensure you wear comfortable walking shoes as some of our walking tours can take up to 3 hours.
Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.