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An Iberian Adventure: Vacationing in Spain and Portugal

Experience centuries of history and culture on an unforgettable guided vacation.

"Hanging houses" in Cuenca, Spain.

Have you ever wanted to travel to sunny Spain and Portugal? Is the Iberian Peninsula calling your name? This guided trip might be your chance! Get ready for an unforgettable journey through centuries of history and unique experiences as you connect with the culture of these two amazing countries.

Historic Beginnings

On the first day, you will arrive at the Spanish capital of Madrid. Embrace la buena vida and soak up the vibrant city atmosphere before joining your fellow travelers and Travel Director for a welcome reception and orientation.

Your vacation begins as you arrive to the fiery Spanish capital of Madrid. Embrace la buena vida and soak up the vibrant city atmosphere before joining your fellow travelers and Travel Director for some welcome drinks and hors d’oeuvres  before an orientation of Madrid’s iconic sights.

Next, you will travel to Cuenca and see the last of the dramatic “hanging houses,” built right on the edge of dizzying drops and ledges.

As you continue to continue to Valencia, you’ll see the 15th-century Towers of Serrano and Quart. Long ago, these historic sets of towers were part of the ancient wall that once surrounded the entire city. You’ll also see the City of Arts and Sciences, an urban recreation center for culture and science designed by renowned architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava. With free time this evening, make sure you leave some room to indulge in the local flavors and an optional paella experience.

Next, travel through the sierra of Spain before arriving in Guadix to view the troglodyte cave dwellings. In this town, where most people live underground, homes are carved into the rock and earth, blending effortlessly into the surrounding ochre landscape. You’ll marvel at how generations of Guadix locals have carved cozy abodes into their rocky surroundings.

Highlights of Spain & Portugal

Discover hanging houses in Cuenca, delicious paella and the warmth of the Mediterranean sun on this trip. Connect with locals as you saddle up for a visit to a stud farm, hear a tale of unrequited love and savor a home-cooked lunch with Tiago and Vera in their Alentejo home.

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Afterward, travel through the jagged Mora Pass to Granada, the last stronghold of the Moors in Europe. Then you can sample the hearty flavors of Andalusia during a special meal at a local restaurant and take in the spectacular views

In Granada, a local guide will take you through the footsteps of Spain’s last emirs during a visit to Alhambra, a sprawling medieval complex with amazing palaces, gardens and fountains. The architecture of the Alhambra is said to be inspired by the descriptions of paradise seen in Islamic poetry from the time. Immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere in quiet courtyards, explore its colossal, ancient walls and admire the ornate stone carvings.

After experiencing the Alhambra, travel from Granada to the city of Córdoba. Join a local guide as you visit the Cathedral of Córdoba, the former mosque of the caliphs and a jewel of Hispano-Islamic art that features striking arches and Byzantine mosaics.

Slow Down in Seville

Enjoy a three-night stay in the capital of southern Spain’s Andalusia region, Seville.

Seville takes center stage as you explore the sights such as the Giralda Bell Tower with a local guide, and visit Maria Luisa Park, the centerpiece of the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition (similar to a world’s fair). The park was built in a Moorish style and boasts a half-mile of fountains, ponds, pavilions and lush plantings. After the park, you’ll be able to walk through the imposing Plaza de España, whose complex is comprised of a huge semicircle complete with moats and bridges. In the evening, take the opportunity to experience the twirling of colorful skirts and rhythmic clapping of castanets at a fiery flamenco performance.

The next day you’ll indulge in aromatic flavors of Jerez as you dive into culture and into the centuries-old tradition of Spanish sherry production. You’ll visit the only place in the world where sherry is made, learn how this spirit is produced and sample the traditional beverage. After Jerez, visit Cadiz and tread in the footsteps of Columbus, who used this historic port city as his launchpad to the New World. Stroll the leafy boulevards and quiet plazas and view the exotic plants and trees, rumored to have been brought by Columbus upon his return.

spain and portugal

Lighthouse Farol de Santa Marta in Cascais, Portugal.

Passport to Portugal

Next, journey from Spain to the sun-kissed shores of southern Portugal’s Algarve, a retreat for sun-worshippers with spectacular natural landscapes. Enjoy the delicious flavors of piri piri chicken and grilled sardines against the picture-perfect backdrop of the Atlantic, and relax on the beautiful, golden beaches.

In the morning, you’ll trade in the beach for the mountains. Travel north to the Serra da Arrábida mountains and the golden landscapes of the Alentejo. There, you’ll connect with locals Tiago and Vera at their Stud Ranch, where they have reared Lusitano horses since the 18th century. You’ll have the chance to see the horses perform at the riding school, followed by historic tales of Tiago’s ancestors’ involvement in a royal unrequited love story and a traditional home-cooked lunch.

After lunch arrive in the seafaring Portuguese capital of Lisbon, and join a local guide for a sightseeing tour of the spectacular 16th-century Hieronymite Monastery, a masterpiece of architecture in the Gothic and Renaissance styles. Conclude your sightseeing as you see Belém Tower, built as a tribute to explorer Vasco da Gama. During a free evening, you can search for delicious local foods or perhaps catch the melancholic tunes of the fado.

Your next day in Lisbon is completely up to you as you connect with the Portuguese capital. Relax at a sidewalk cafe with a creamy pasteis de nata and venture to the Castle of São Jorge and admire the sea of pastel colors that clad Lisbon’s seven hills. Consider joining an optional excursion with your Travel Director to the historic towns of Cascais and Sintra.

Return to Spain

After your free day, follow the road taken by pilgrims over the last 100 years to the Shrine at Fátima, a site of celebrated religious miracles. Say goodbye to Portugal as you travel to the historic Spanish city of Salamanca. Take an orientation tour of the beautiful city, with golden-hued facades and ancient university heritage, including the 18th-century Plaza Mayor.

See the walled city of Ávila, the town of stones and saints, so named for its vast collection of Romanesque and Gothic churches. Arrive in the clifftop city of Toledo, where you’ll visit the Church of Santo Tomé, home to one of El Greco’s most famous paintings, “The Burial of Count Orgaz”. Explore on foot as you take guided walk through its streets and see the former Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca. Later, you’ll get a chance to witness local craftsmen at work creating inlaid steel the traditional way as they have since 500 B.C. Afterward, return to the city where your trip began: Madrid.

It’s Not Over Yet!

In the morning, join your guide for a sightseeing tour of Madrid, where you’ll see the Royal Palace and the monument to Miguel de Cervantes, the author of “Don Quixote.” Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city however you’d like. Perhaps admire the world’s finest collection of Spanish art at the Prado Museum, indulge in some last-minute shopping on Gran Vía or consider a visit to the medieval UNESCO-listed city of Segovia. Celebrate the end of your journey through the Iberian Peninsula and toast your new friends at your farewell dinner.

Though you might be saying “adios,” your memories of Spain and Portugal will be with you forever.

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