If you want to experience every aspect of Spanish culture, this 15-day excursion is for you. You'll enjoy a diverse array of activities that includes sightseeing in major cities, visiting local artisans in Madrid, going on wine tours in Andalusia, attending live flamenco performances, enjoying traditional tapas, and more. The best part is you'll close out the adventure in Barcelona, the beautiful capital of Catalonia.

Highlights

  • Visit Madrid's highlights, including the El Prado Museum and the Royal Palace
  • Enjoy a passionate evening of tapas and flamenco in Sevilla's Old Town
  • Visit an olive-oil estate in Andalusia
  • Tour the Alhambra, a 9th-century palace and fortress in Granada
  • Discover Barcelona's most famous neighborhoods on a bicycle tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Madrid Madrid
Day 2 Private City Tour - Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy Madrid
Day 3 Private Guided Art Walk and Artisan Tour Madrid
Day 4 Day Trip to Toledo Madrid
Day 5 Private Transfer from Madrid to Seville - Flamenco & Tapas Experience Seville
Day 6 Private City Tour of Seville Seville
Day 7 Olive Oil Tour of Andalusia Seville
Day 8 Day Trip to Córdoba - Private City Tour Seville
Day 9 Iberian Farm Experience - Sherry Wine Tour Seville
Day 10 Private Transfer to Ronda - Wine Tour Ronda
Day 11 Hiking Ronda - Transfer to Granada Granada
Day 12 Private Tour of the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens Granada
Day 13 Flight from Granada to Barcelona - Private Cycling Tour Barcelona
Day 14 Visit Park Güell & Sagrada Família Barcelona
Day 15 Depart Barcelona  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Madrid

Madrid's Fountain of Cibeles
Madrid's Fountain of Cibeles

Welcome to Spain!

Upon arrival at the nation's capital, you'll enjoy a private transfer to your hotel in the city center. Take some time to settle in before heading out to explore. You'll definitely want to see some of the highlights like the Puerta del Sol, one of the most historic and expansive plazas in the city. There's also Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles. Located in the city center it features a sculpture completed in 1782 and depicting Cybele, the Greek goddess of fertility, riding in a chariot pulled by lions.

Perhaps you could take in a show. Gran Vía is Madrid's answer to Broadway, and on it, you'll find plenty of theaters showcasing plays and musical productions. Needless to say, the options for culture in this city are vast, and you could also visit museums, art galleries, and live music venues if the mood strikes.

When night falls, be sure to indulge in Madrid's world-class culinary scene. If you want to dine amid history, head to Botín. No less than Ernest Hemingway described it in his seminal novel The Sun Also Rises as the best restaurant on earth. 

Day 2: Private City Tour - Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy

The Royal Palace, Madrid
The Royal Palace, Madrid

Enjoy a half-day tour of Madrid led an expert local guide today. Madrid has a long history, and today the city adorns itself with that history in its architecture, public spaces, and culture. An organized tour is ideal, and your guide will reveal insight into how different time periods influenced Madrid's neighborhoods and buildings, as well as point out the most interesting sights.

One area you'll visit that's awash in splendor is the Madrid de los Austrias. It was built in the 16th century during the reign of the Hapsburg Dynasty's first ruler, Charles I. Located in the city center, it's home to one of the grandest plazas in Spain, the Plaza Mayor, which was once the heart of Old Madrid.

Also here is the Royal Palace, which was the official home of the Spanish monarchs until 1931. You'll tour both the grounds and interior of this 3,418-room monument to opulence, entering the parade ground, the bedchambers of Charles III, several salons, the Royal Chapel, and the Hall of the Crown, which displays Charles I's crown, scepter, and throne.

Later you could visit El Retiro Park. This 308-acre expanse of verdure is the green lung of Madrid, abounding with sculptures, fountains, and a man-made lake perfect for taking a boat trip. There are also must-visit gardens here including the Jardín de Vivaces ("Garden of Vivacious Plants"), Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (inspired by the Andalusia region), and a garden home to over 4,000 roses. The best time to see these blooms from May through June. 

Day 3: Private Guided Art Walk and Artisan Tour

Typical Spanish bota bags on sale in Spain
Typical Spanish bota bags on sale in Spain

In the morning, accompanied by an expert guide, you'll visit the magnificent El Prado museum, which features one of the finest collections of European art in the world. This includes works by Velazquez, El Greco, and Goya. Your guide will lead you through some of these exhibits before leaving you to explore on your own. Should you choose, before parting ways your guide can recommend a good nearby restaurant or tapas bar.

After lunch, you'll experience a more personal side of Madrid's culture. This involves visits to the workshops of some of the city's most talented artisans to see firsthand their prowess and creativity. There are a variety of workshops you can visit, including a craftsman of handmade Spanish guitars, a tailor who creates bullfighters' costumes, a manufacturer of traditional wine bota-bags (wineskins made of leather or goatskin), handcrafters of traditional Spanish capes, and more.

Day 4: Day Trip to Toledo

Roof tops of Toledo
Roof tops of Toledo

A half-hour train ride south of Madrid lies Toledo, a historic city that was the capital of Spain in the 16th century. It enjoys a dramatic location atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo. This is where you'll be heading in the morning from Madrid.

In the Middle Ages, Toledo was known as the "City of the Three Cultures," a place where—legend has it—Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities peacefully coexisted. You can see remnants of this in the old Arab, Muslim, and Christian monuments that still stand. These include the 15th-century Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, the former Roman palace Alcázar de Toledo, and the Moorish Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, which dates to the 12th century.

Accompanied by an expert guide you'll visit these historic landmarks as well as others, including the grand 13th century Toledo Cathedral and the 12th century Church of Santo Tomé. Throughout it all, you'll tour the ancient streets of an incredible city that could aptly be described as an open-air museum. After all, it does enjoy UNESCO World Heritage Status. 

Toledo is also known for its steelwork. On a visit to the city's historic foundry, you'll see where ancient blacksmiths forged the famous swords made from Toledo steel. These were used by the Roman general Hannibal in the Punic Wars and by the Christian armies in the Middle Ages during the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims. These weapons are of incomparable quality, and you can appreciate the craftwork by viewing some of the swords at the foundry as well as learn about the forging process. 

This area is also famous for producing delicious marzipan, a confection made from almonds, sugar, eggs, and honey. You'll head to the outskirts of Toledo and visit a cigarral, which a manor estate that serves mostly for leisure. However, today you'll be able to participate in a workshop where, with the help of a master confectioner, you'll learn the history of traditional Toledan marzipan as well as how to confect this delicious treat. Needless to say, the workshop ends with you indulging in your sweet creations. 

Day 5: Train from Madrid to Seville - Flamenco & Tapas Experience

Flamenco dancers in Seville
Flamenco dancers in Seville

After breakfast, a driver will transfer you to Madrid's railway station, where you'll board a train bound for Seville. It's a three-hour journey and upon arrival, another driver will transfer you to your hotel here the capital of Spain's Andalusia region. After checking in you'll have plenty of time to unpack and unwind before your big night out.

Then it will be time. Either in a small group or private tour, you'll head to Seville's historic Old Town for an evening of delicious tapas and authentic flamenco, a musical style birthed right in Andalusia. 

But first the food. Your expert guide will lead you to two family-run taverns where he or she will recommend a wide selection of dishes and guide you through the meal to ensure you enjoy this traditional food like a local. Authentic tapas on offer include acorn-fed Iberian ham, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp in oil) and bacalao (salt cod). Of course, throughout the dinner, you'll pair the tapas with delicious local wines. 

Your guide will then switch topics from cuisine to music—flamenco, to be precise. You'll get a fascinating overview of this culturally distinct musical genre, from its origins to its current global renown. Then you'll experience the real thing as your guide leads you to the historic Santa Cruz neighborhood. Here you'll enter a 15th-century building that hosts the evening's dance performance. It's the perfect ambiance in which to experience the power, passion, and drama of real flamenco.

Day 6: Private City Tour of Seville

Aerial view of Seville and the Cathedral
Aerial view of Seville and the Cathedral

After breakfast, you'll head off with a local guide to explore this ancient hotbed of culture. 

You’ll visit the Seville Cathedral, a 15th-century Roman-Catholic church that's home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest gothic church in the world, and an awe-inspiring testament to pious grandiosity. You'll also see La Giralda, the cathedral's looming belltower. There's a noticeable stylistic difference between the two structures, as this 12th-century pillar was originally built as a minaret for the Great Mosque back when Andalusia was ruled by the Moors.

You'll then walk to the fashionable Santa Cruz neighborhood, which was once the Jewish Quarter in the city. It's a colorful and well-preserved part of the historic center, with many cafés and tapas bars—the perfect excuse to take a break and enjoy some small plates and local wine. You can also visit markets and local shops where artisans produce intricate silverwork and elegant garment embroidery. 

After completing the half-day tour, you can return to your hotel and relax or continue to explore the town. Not surprisingly, Seville's gastronomic scene is incredible. Know that locals love to compliment an evening of tapas with a nightcap at a favorite watering hole. 

Day 7: Olive Oil Tour of Andalusia

Olives on the tree
Olives on the tree

In the morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you outside the city to a special locale in the countryside.

One of Spain's most popular exports is its high-quality olive oil, and today you'll witness the production process firsthand on an exclusive tour of an Andalusian olive oil estate. This estate has quite the history, as it was right here back in the 17th-century that Christopher Columbus' son Hernando began exporting olive oil to the New World. 

You'll tour the old manufacturing center and view the 16th-century olive-oil presses. You'll also visit the estate's working presses, which use modern methods to produce the olive oil they export today. The excursion ends with a tasting of olive oils from the estate, allowing you to put your newfound knowledge of this tasty ingredient to good use.

Day 8: Day Trip to Córdoba - Private City Tour

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for a two-hour road-trip east to Córdoba. On a guided tour of the city center, you'll visit all the amazing sites. These include the breathtaking Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba), a pagan temple that was converted into the great mosque of the Ummayad caliphate and later transformed into a Catholic church.

In addition, you'll visit the Alcázar de los Reyes, a palace built in the 14th century. This is where Christopher Columbus met with the Catholic monarchs and was granted approval for his voyage west in search of the Indies. The terraced gardens, fish ponds, flower beds, and orange trees here make for great photo opportunities. You'll also have the option to meander around the winding and narrow streets of the historic Jewish Quarter.

Day 9: Iberian Farm Experience - Sherry Wine Tour

Come see where prized Iberian pigs roam free
Come see where prized Iberian pigs roam free

Spain is renowned for its succulent Iberian hams. Today you'll travel by private car about 1.5 hours to the town of Jabulgo. It's on the grassy meadows here that the best Iberian pigs are bred. However, this area is more than a breeding ground; it represents a sanctuary where these animals can run wild and feed on their preferred sustenance: acorns. In fact, to be designated as an authentic Iberian ham, all pigs need to be 100% acorn-fed. 

To begin the tour you'll arrive at a family-run pig farm. Accompanied by an expert host, you'll tour the meadows and see for yourself these purebred animals roaming free among the oak trees. You'll also explore the farm's facilities, such as an old meat-drying patio. Capping the tour is a delicious experience in which a professional "cutter” offers a demonstration on how to cut a perfectly thin slice off the Iberian ham. Then it will be time to enjoy a tasting of this buttery cured meat. 

Your driver will then transfer you to Jerez de la Frontera. "Jerez" literally translates to "sherry," which is another popular export from Andalusia. It's in this hotbed of sherry and brandy production that you'll embark on a private tour in a 4x4 vehicle of the area's vineyards. Along the way, your hosts will teach you about the history of Andalusian sherry, and you'll also visit the family-run farms, meet the folks who produce this fine product, and enjoy tastings of various sherries.

The experience ends in town with a traditional lunch in a local tabanaco (tavern). You'll then transfer back to Seville.

Day 10: Private Transfer to Ronda - Wine Tour

Ronda
Ronda

In the morning, a driver will meet you for your journey from Seville south to Ronda, an ancient city dating back to the 6th century when it was first settled by the Celts. It's a storybook locale carved out of a mountain and situated over a deep gorge, and one of the most unique and dramatic cities in the country. 

Ronda and its surrounding region are also known for producing great wines. Today, you'll enjoy a private visit to a boutique winery whose cellars are located in the ancient chapel of a former monastery. You'll enjoy an informative tour by an oenologist who will reveal the time-tested methods and traditions of the winemaking process here, as well as discuss the types of wines they produce. The tour ends with a tasting of the various wines. 

After the winery, you will head into Ronda to do some sightseeing. The city itself has a well preserved historic center with an impressive Plaza de Toros (bullring) that's a physical representation of its bullfighting heritage. Most ideally, though, there are spectacular views of the gorge from many points in the city.

Day 11: Hiking Ronda - Transfer to Granada

One last hike near Ronda
One last hike near Ronda

After breakfast, you'll head to the outskirts of Ronda for a bit of hiking around the stunning countryside. There are many such routes outside of the city that pass through the green valley below. These are mostly easy day hikes, many of which can be completed in as little as an hour or two.

Some highlights of hiking around this bucolic landscape include passing by local farms and olive groves as well as hiking up ridges for more incredible views of Ronda and the valley. You might even pass by limestone caves and old hermitages that date back hundreds of years. As an added bonus you'll see beautiful displays of wildflowers and almond blossoms along the trails. Capping the experience will be a picnic lunch featuring seasonal produce. 

Afterward, your driver will pick you up for the two-hour drive east to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the city of Granada. This is one of the most historic and beautiful cities in the south. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and have some time to relax and unwind.

Day 12: Private Tour of the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens

The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada
The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada

Granada was once the last bastion of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) when it was ruled by the moors. You can see examples of this history in the form of Granada's most famous landmark, the Alhambra, which receives more than two million visitors annually. In the morning, you'll meet an expert guide for a private tour. 

This imposing Muslim fortress was built atop a hill overlooking Granada and dates to the 9th century. It was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Nasrid Dynasty and served as a Moorish palace until 1492 when after the Christian reconquest it became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and on a tour, you'll walk through its grand halls and stroll the Generalife Gardens, which are filled with colorful flowers and fountains and offer panoramic views of the city down below.

After the tour, You'll have free time to enjoy Grenada on your own. You can walk around the labyrinthine streets of the Albayzin and Sacromonte quarters, the well-preserved historic neighborhoods of the city. In areas such as these, you can visit the Granada Cathedral, Royal Church, Alcaicería (old silk market), and Madraza (medieval Koranic school).

Day 13: Flight from Granada to Barcelona - Private Cycling Tour

Welcome to Barcelona
Welcome to Barcelona

In the morning, a driver will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the airport, where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight to Barcelona. Upon arrival, you'll take another private transfer to your hotel. After checking in and unpacking, it will be time to head out and explore this jewel in the crown of Catalonia.

However, you won't be doing so on foot—you'll be touring this popular city by bicycle as you ride through its most famous area: the medieval Gothic Quarter and its trendy El Born neighborhood. After meeting your guide and hopping on the bike, you'll then be underway. As your guide leads you on a three-hour tour, he or she will point out the rich history of these neighborhoods as you pass Roman ruins, the grand Plaça Reial, and the gothic Barcelona Cathedral, which dates to the 13th century. 

But the tour doesn't end here. You'll cycle from the Gothic Quarter through Ciutadella Park, one of the largest green spaces in the city, and all the way to Barceloneta Beach. This is the main urban beach in the city, and it's always a hub of activity, lined as it is with cafés, restaurants, beach, bars, and discos. Riding along the promenade fronting the water is the perfect way to cap your cycling tour of Barcelona's most famous areas.

Day 14: Visit Park Güell & Sagrada Família

The gothic-modernist marvel that is the Sagrada Familia
The gothic-modernist marvel that is the Sagrada Familia

After breakfast at the hotel, you'll meet a local guide who will whisk you away in a chauffeured vehicle for a half-day tour. The destinations are two of the most impressive works by the legendary Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí: Park Güell and the Sagrada Família.

First, you'll visit Park Güell. Located atop Carmel Hill in north Barcelona, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fine example of Gaudí's boundary-pushing modernist style. The park takes up 42 acres and you'll be able to marvel at every building as you stroll the walkways and gardens. There are also incredible views at many points in Park Güell that look out over the city.

Next up is the Sagrada Família, the iconic Roman Catholic basilica with an impressive mix of gothic, Catalan-modernism, and Art Nouveau architectural styles. Despite construction on the church beginning in 1882, it's still technically under construction and was only consecrated in 2010. Upon arrival, the guide will reveal insight into the Sagrada Familia's fascinating history, and you'll glean even more info as you explore the interior. 

Around lunchtime, you will part ways with your guide. On your own, you can visit Ciutadella Park. Open since 1881, this green lung of Barcelona takes up 70 acres and features sculptures, lakes, gardens, playgrounds, and the Barcelona Zoo. You could easily spend the remainder of the afternoon here and not run out of things to do and see.

Day 15: Depart Barcelona

Goodbye, Barcelona!
Goodbye, Barcelona!

It's time to say farewell to Barcelona. Depending on the time of your flight or train reservation, squeeze in one more walk through the city, perhaps picking up some last-minute souvenirs. At the designated time you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the airport or train station for your departure onwards. Have a good trip!

Map

Map of Best of Spain Highlights Tour: Barcelona, Madrid, & Seville - 15 Days
Map of Best of Spain Highlights Tour: Barcelona, Madrid, & Seville - 15 Days