Spend three active weeks exploring the best of Spain and Italy, from historic cities to its soaring mountains. Your trip begins in Spain's Catalonia region with tapas tours in Barcelona and nature hikes in the Pyrenees. After some scenic tours involving wine and olive oil production, you'll hop over to Venice to see the sights and enjoy romantic gondola rides. Finish the adventure in the far north by trekking in the Dolomites and soaking in hot springs at Lake Garda.


  • Enjoy tasty guided food tours in Venice and Barcelona
  • Embark on epic hikes in the Pyrenees and Dolomites
  • Visit castles and palaces in historic cities like Trento
  • Tour the fair city of Verona, immortalized in "Romeo & Juliet"
  • Relax in the hot springs of Lake Garda and take wine tours

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Barcelona (Spain), Tapas Tour Barcelona
Day 2 Gaudí Architecture Walk Barcelona
Day 3 Catalonia Wine & Olive Oil Tour Barcelona
Day 4 Transfer to the Pyrenees via Montserrat Pyrenees
Day 5 Hike Tossal de l'Àliga Mountain Pyrenees
Day 6 Transfer to Sort, Pyrenees Summit Hike Pyrenees
Day 7 Transfer to Arties, Mushroom Foraging Pyrenees
Day 8 Hike Vall D'Aran Pyrenees
Day 9 Monte Perdido National Park Hike Pyrenees
Day 10 Transfer to Barcelona via Ainsa Barcelona
Day 11 Fly to Venice (Italy), Food Tour Venice
Day 12 Best of Venice Tour, Gondola Ride Venice
Day 13 Day Trip to Verona, City Tour Venice
Day 14 Transfer to Trento, Self-Guided Tour Trento
Day 15 Transfer to the Dolomites, Trekking Day 1 Dolomites
Day 16 Dolomites Trekking Day 2 Dolomites
Day 17 Dolomites Trekking Day 3, Transfer to Lake Garda Dolomites
Day 18 Desenzano & Sirmione Tour Lake Garda
Day 19 Lake Garda Spa Day Lake Garda
Day 20 Day Trip to Valpolicella & Wine Tasting Lake Garda
Day 21 Transfer to Milan, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Barcelona (Spain), Tapas Tour

Discover the joys of small-plate tapas culture in Barcelona

Welcome to Spain! Your grand adventure begins in Barcelona, the capital of the northeastern Catalonia region. Out of Spain's 17 autonomous communities, Catalonia is the most popular among international travelers due in no small part to its great food, distinct architecture, rich history, and sun-kissed beaches. 

A driver will be waiting at the airport terminal to pick you up and transfer you to your hotel in the city. Once you've settled in, you'll meet a local guide and head out on a food tour to discover Spain's famous tapas culture. The word "tapas" literally translates to "tops," and you can find these small plates (designed to be shared) at bars, bodegas, and tabernas (taverns) throughout the country.

During this three-hour culinary experience, you'll walk around Barcelona's favorite neighborhoods, like the Gothic Quarter, ducking into alleys leading to beloved tapas spots to taste various dishes. As you go, your expert local guide will share tips and insider knowledge regarding which dishes to try. At each stop, you'll pair your bites with sips of local wine, beer, or nonalcoholic drinks.

Day 2: Gaudí Architecture Walk

See the finest examples of Catalan Modernist architecture, like La Sagrada Família

In the morning, you'll enjoy a guided walking tour of some famous landmarks designed by renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. First, you'll visit La Sagrada Família, a spectacular Roman Catholic church and UNESCO World Heritage Site. During a building tour, you'll learn all about Gaudí and this jaw-dropping masterpiece. Despite first being built in 1882, the church is still technically under construction and was only consecrated in 2010.

Afterward, you'll continue to Park Güell, Barcelona's most famous green space. Located atop Carmel Hill and offering incredible city views, Park Güell is defined by its pretty gardens and Gaudí's artistic elements. Some of the most iconic include the dragon fountain near the entrance and the mosaic-covered "serpent bench." Don't miss the local buskers performing in the park's nooks and crannies.

Later, say goodbye to your guide and take the rest of the afternoon to discover Barcelona on your own. Perhaps stroll down La Rambla, a bustling pedestrian street lined with shops and cafés that passes some of the city's most historic neighborhoods. Near here is La Boqueria, Barcelona's oldest and most famous municipal market. Dating to the 13th century, it's a gastronomic hub filled with fresh produce, food stalls, restaurants, bars, and more. If the weather is pleasant, continue down to Barceloneta, the main urban beach, to do some people-watching along the boardwalk.

Day 3: Catalonia Wine & Olive Oil Tour

Drive through the Catalonia countryside and sample fine wines and olive oils

Today's excursion takes you to the heart of Catalonia's Pla de Bages region, a historic wine-growing area between the Montserrat and Castelltallat mountain ranges. You'll start with a visit to an organic, family-run winery, where fifth-generation winemakers cultivate rare and native grapes like the red-skinned mandó and the ancient picapoll. See a typical Catalan farmhouse, wander through the vines, tour the production plant and barrels room, and join a tasting where appetizers accompany a selection of wines.

Next, discover another of Catalonia's prized products with a stop at an olive oil farm in the beautiful countryside of Vall d'Hortons. Stroll through medieval olive groves as your guide explains the cultivation of this Mediterranean staple and introduces you to varieties such as corbella and arbequina. Visit the workshop where oil is produced, then sit down to a tasting alongside locally and organically grown Catalan products like cheese, honey, and cured meats.

Day 4: Transfer to the Pyrenees via Montserrat

Visit the jaw-dropping Monastery of Montserrat, which dates to the 11th century

Say goodbye to Barcelona and hello to the Pyrenees! You'll be whisked into the mountains that border Spain and France via a private 4WD vehicle (likely a Jeep). On the way, stop for lunch in the region of Montserrat to tour the impressive Monastery of Montserrat and enjoy its commanding mountain views. Founded in the 11th century, it's still operational, as more than 70 monks call it home. The journey then continues into the high mountains, where the hiking section of the trip begins. Here, you'll stay at a family-run hotel. Besides being a cozy accommodation, it offers a first glimpse at authentic Pyrenean life.

Day 5: Hike Tossal de l'Àliga Mountain

Hike around the glassy waters of Lake Montcortès and nearby mountains

Wake up for an early breakfast, which should fortify you for today's half-day hiking excursion. After eating, you'll transfer by vehicle for about 30 minutes to Montcortès, a peaceful lake surrounded by meadows and hills and backed by snowcapped peaks. From the trailhead, you'll embark on a three-hour hike up to the summit of Tossal de l'Àliga. The trail covers 6 miles (9.5 km) with no shortage of beautiful scenery. It's also a great area for birding, and common species you can spot include herons, egrets, kestrels, and (occasionally) golden eagles.

After returning to the trailhead, you'll have some time to cool off before hopping back in the car for the return trip to your hotel. On the way, you'll stop in the charming town of Baro. Later, you'll have the option to embark on another short hike or continue to the mountain resort of Sant Joan de l'Erm, where you'll overnight.

Day 6: Transfer to Sort, Pyrenees Summit Hike

Hike up to the summit of Montsent de Pallars and enjoy the views

It's another early start as you leave the hotel in the morning and transfer north to the comarca (county) of Pallars Sobira, located in the central Pyrenees. Your driver will turn off at Llesui village, then it's another 25 minutes on dirt tracks up to a trailhead. There, along with your guide, you'll embark on a 5.5-mile (9 km) hike on a trail up Montsent de Pallars mountain that takes about five hours to complete. This is another summit hike, and once you reach the top, you'll be standing at 6,168 feet (1,880 m) in altitude. Needless to say, the panoramic views here are incredible.

On the way back down, you'll take a break near the idyllic Mainera Lakes, where you'll stop and enjoy a picnic lunch. Later, at the trailhead, you'll hop back in the car and transfer about 40 minutes to the town of Sort to check into your hotel.

Day 7: Transfer to Arties, Mushroom Foraging

Marvel at the scenery and landmarks in Arties, like its Romanesque church

Meet your driver in the morning and head north to the town of Isil. There, you'll turn off onto a dirt road for another 45 minutes of driving deep into the northeast region of the Catalan Pyrenees. Depending on your guide's recommendation, you'll stop for a scenic hike through the forest in this area, which ranges from 9-12 miles (6-8 km). Unlike the mountain hikes of previous days, this is a leisurely excursion at a relaxed pace. You can even stop on the trail to hunt for wild mushrooms.

The trail will take you over pastureland, streams, and meadows to historic Montgarri, a mountain outpost with a population in the single digits. It's famous for its 12th-century sanctuary, and here you'll stop for a barbecue lunch. Later, you'll have the option to hike one of the mountain summits in the area, like Eth Tuc or Tuc de Costarjàs. Each trail covers about 6 miles (10 km) and takes around four hours to complete.

After the hike, you'll return to the Jeep and continue driving into the heart of the Pyrenees. The drive will take you through the scenic Val d'Aran region of northwest Catalonia for about 30 minutes until you reach the picture-postcard town of Arties. Dating back 1,000 years or more, Arties is surrounded by Pyrenees peaks and is famous for its stone houses, cobbled streets, and well-preserved Romanesque church. Upon arrival at your hotel, you can explore Artie's streets on your own. 

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Day 8: Hike Vall D'Aran

Enjoy nature hikes in the Arun Valley, one of the highlights of the Pyrenees

You don't need to worry about driving to any hiking destinations because today's trailhead is located right in town. From your hotel in Arties, head out on a half-day circuit hike covering 5.5 miles (9 km). Along the way, you'll pass through the dramatic Val d'Aran (Arun Valley), the only part of Catalonia on the north side of the Pyrenees. Thus, it enjoys a refreshing Atlantic climate to compliment its snowcapped peaks, glassy lakes, rushing rivers, and historic villages.

After the hike, you'll get back in the Jeep and continue west to Torla. This is another idyllic village nestled amid mountain peaks. It's also the gateway to Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that you'll visit tomorrow. In the meantime, check into your hotel in Torla and rest up for the coming adventure.

Day 9: Monte Perdido National Park Hike

Hike to Horse's Tail Waterfall on today's route

Your grand hiking tour of the Pyrenees ends strong with a morning bus ride to Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park. This 156-square-mile (404 sq km) protected area is home to some of the most impressive landmarks in the Pyrenees, including the namesake Monte Perdido, the third-highest peak in the Pyrenees.

Upon arrival, you'll embark on the Cola de Caballo (Horse's Tail) hiking trail, one of the most popular routes in the park. It's a 10-mile (17 km) roundtrip hike that follows the Arazas River, passing various waterfalls until you reach the grandest of all: the Horse's Tail Waterfall. Afterward, you'll hike back to the trailhead and transfer back to Torla. 

Day 10: Transfer to Barcelona via Ainsa

Visit Ainsa, one of the most attractive medieval villages in the Pyrenees

It's time to say goodbye to the Pyrenees and head back to Barcelona. In the morning, you'll hop in the Jeep for the ride south, stopping at Ainsa. Out of all the beautiful medieval villages in the Pyrenees, this is one of the most impressive. Perched on a hill overlooking the rivers Cinca and Ara, Ainsa is surrounded by handsome peaks and filled with historic landmarks, like its iconic castle and Romanesque church.

While here, you can stroll around its cobbled streets and visit quaint museums. There's also the option to embark on a two-hour countryside hike from town. Afterward, you'll continue on the road for about three hours until you reach Barcelona. There, you'll check into your hotel and will have the evening free.

Day 11: Fly to Venice (Italy), Food Tour

Walk along (and over) historic Venetian landmarks, like the Grand Canal

It's your last morning in Spain. Your driver will pick you up early for the transfer to the airport, where you'll catch a two-hour flight to Venice. Welcome to Italy! This country offers thousands of years of history, much of it visible on the historic streets of its cities and villages, including Venice. This cultural hub was officially founded in the fifth century in the marshy Venetian Lagoon on the Adriatic Sea. Aptly nicknamed the "City of Water," it draws over a million visitors annually who come to see its palaces and ride its romantic canals.

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel. Then, it's time to head out and experience the Venetian wonders for yourself. Today's excursion focuses on food, and you'll head off along the canals and narrow backstreets as your local expert guide reveals insight into the city's gastronomic history. Of course, there will be plenty of food along the way. Stop at a local eatery and indulge in cicchetti (the Venetian version of tapas) paired with a refreshing spritz—a classic aperitif born right in Venice.

Then, walk to the Rialto Bridge—one of the four scenic bridges that span the Grand Canal. A short stroll from here brings you to the bustling Rialto Market. Stroll around this lively epicenter of daily Venetian life and culture, tasting local products that help create the city's incomparable cuisine.

Day 12: Best of Venice Tour, Gondola Ride

Get up close to the Gothic/Renaissance architecture of Saint Mark's Basilica

There's no time to rest as this morning, you'll head out for a three-hour tour to experience the grand highlights of Venice. Meet your guide, venture down alleyways and across piazzas to the Rialto Bridge, and spend some time people-watching. The next stop is Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark's Square), where you'll soak up the atmosphere and marvel at the Gothic and Renaissance architecture—you might even find yourself serenaded by an outdoor orchestra.  

At the plaza, you'll visit the impressive San Marco Basilica. Dating to the 11th century, the exterior is a mix of architectural styles that reflect its ties to the Byzantine Empire. Inside, the basilica is famous for its high altar and thousands of square meters of shimmering, gold-leaf-covered mosaics depicting religious and historical scenes. Next, you'll visit the adjacent Doge's Palace, home to one of the world's longest-standing governments. Over an hour, you'll see all the best sights, from ceilings frescoed by Tintoretto to Veronese paintings. Then return to your hotel for a break.

Later, you'll enjoy something of a classic—a gondola tour of its romantic canals. It's a leisurely 30-minute ride along Venice's waterways under the power and guidance of a professional gondolier. It may be a popular tourist activity, but gondolas have been used as transport in the "City of Water" for well over 1,000 years. This elegant and romantic journey will leave you perfectly content as you glide on the water's surface under the Rialto Bridge, passing iconic landmarks that comprise Venice's miraculous horizon.

Day 13: Day Trip to Verona, City Tour 

Learn how romantic Verona inspired Shakespeare's tragic masterpiece

After breakfast, transfer to Venice's Mestre Station and catch a train inland to Verona. It's a scenic ride where you'll be treated to views of the beautiful Veneto countryside. In just under two hours, you'll arrive in Verona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site rich in art and culture and known for its famous opera and as the setting for Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." You'll meet a local expert guide upon arrival and hit the streets to discover the highlights.

First, head over to Piazza Bra, the city's largest square and social hub. It's the perfect spot to get your bearings and sip a glass of the local Prosecco while savoring the views of the Arena, Italy's second-largest Roman amphitheater after Rome's Colosseum. Built nearly 2,000 years ago, the Arena is one of the best preserved of its kind and is now a world-famous music venue and home to the city's annual opera festival. Stroll over to Casa di Giulietta, the house that's said to have inspired the story of the star-crossed lovers, and snap a pic of Juliet's famed balcony.

Wander through the Old Town and the Piazza dei Signori, an elegant square framed by Romanesque and Gothic churches and palaces, plus a central marble statue of Dante. Cross the Ponte di Castelvecchio, an impressive red brick medieval bridge dating back to 1350, and marvel at the artwork in the Castelvecchio Museum, located in the eponymous castle. As you go, your guide will lead you to off-the-beaten-path highlights and recommend delicious regional food for lunch, like risotto all'amarone (risotto with red wine). At the end of the afternoon, you'll return to Venice.

Day 14: Transfer to Trento, Self-Guided Tour

Walk around Piazza Duomo in Trento's historic center

In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the 2.5-hour transfer to Trento, located in the Trentino-Atal Adige region of northern Italy. This charming city is known for its rich history, which dates back to Roman times, as well as its scenic beauty defined by the surrounding Dolomites Mountains, which you'll get to know in the coming days. Today, however, you'll discover Trento's highlights and architectural gems.

After checking into your hotel, you'll begin a self-guided tour starting at the city's historic Piazza Duomo, the expansive main square. Here, you can admire the 13th-century Trento Cathedral (Duomo di San Vigilio) with its beautiful rose window and ornate facade, as well as Buonconsiglio Castle, an icon of the entire region. This massive fortress complex covers over 134,000 square feet (12,500 sq m) and was constructed over several centuries resulting in a jumble of architectural styles ranging from Romanesque to Gothic. The castle also houses the fine Trentino Museum of Art.

When you get hungry, stop at a café, osteria, or trattoria to sample some delicious Trentino cuisine. Make sure to try local dishes like canederli (bread dumplings), polenta, and local cheeses, as well as the region's famous apple cakes and delicious strudels.

Day 15: Transfer to the Dolomites, Trekking Day 1

Dolomites, Italy
Go hiking in Italy's most famous mountain range

It's time to leave Trento and head into the Dolomites for another mountain adventure. You'll meet your driver and transfer north from the city about two hours to the foot of the Ortler Alps and the Val di Rabbi. This valley is the picture of rural beauty, with livestock grazing on green meadows and pristine rivers flowing between snowcapped peaks. Here, you'll meet a guide and begin a half-day hike.

The 5-mile (8 km) route will take you through Stelvio National Park. This unspoiled protected area is renowned for its unspoiled mountain scenery, including towering peaks, glaciers, and pine and spruce forests. You'll hike into these woods, crossing suspension bridges on your way up to the mountain hut where you'll overnight. On the way, be on the lookout for resident wildlife like deer, horses, and ibexes.

Day 16: Dolomites Trekking Day 2

Cross the Saent Valley and enjoy northern Italy's mountainous terrain
Wake up at first light and marvel at a glorious sunrise over the mountaintops. Then, after breakfast, hit the trail again on a 5-mile (8 km) route out of Stelvio National Park. After about four hours of scenic trekking along grassy slopes, you'll arrive in Saent Valley, which matches the Val di Rabbi in terms of sheer beauty. After a while, you'll arrive at the foot of the Ortler Cevedale mountain group and the hut where you'll overnight. 

Day 17: Dolomites Trekking Day 3, Transfer to Lake Garda

Pass waterfalls and other natural wonders in the Saent Valley

In the morning, you'll begin hiking down the mountains on a route with no shortage of natural splendor. This relatively easy 3.7-mile (6 km) trail is lined with plenty of colorful flora, like rhododendrons, as well as native animals. It also leads to the Pra di Saent, a beautiful alpine meadow that's the gateway to the region's famous waterfalls.

After crossing some bridges, you'll arrive at the Saent Falls, the most majestic waterfall system of all. The impressive cascades here can reach heights of about 98 feet (30 m). After marveling at the falls and snapping photos, you'll continue hiking to the end of the trail and meet a car for the transfer to Italy's Lombardy region and Lake Garda, the country's largest lake. 

Day 18: Desenzano & Sirmione Tour

Hop on a boat in Sirmione, the most famous village on Lake Garda

The best way to experience the romantic villages around Lake Garda is on a walking/boat tour. And that's exactly what you'll do on today's full-day excursion. In the morning, you'll meet your guide in the town of Desenzano del Garda (known simply as Desenzano), located on the southwestern shore of the lake. Its origins date to Roman times, and you'll even get to visit a Roman Villa with well-preserved and intricate floor mosaics. Other highlights include stops at the colorful Venetian harbor and lakefront promenade. Don't miss the bustling outdoor market if you're here on a Tuesday. 

Then, hop on a boat for a scenic ride to Sirmione. This town occupies a narrow peninsula that juts up from the south end of the lake. While here, you'll tour the well-preserved historic center, known for its medieval and Renaissance architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and charming squares. The most famous of all is Scaliger Castle. This 13th-century fortress dominates the entrance to town, and from its ramparts, you'll be treated to incredible views of the lake and mountains. Feel free to browse the high-end designers and boutique shops in town before returning to your hotel.

Day 19: Lake Garda Spa Day

Enjoy a spa day on Lake Garda at Sirmione or other natural springs

Besides its famously scenic beauty, Lake Garda is also a popular wellness destination. There are world-class spas all around the lake, many of which take advantage of the area's thermal springs, which have attracted visitors since Roman times. Today, you'll do as the Romans did and luxuriate and rejuvenate in natural springs heated by a fault line in the earth's crust that runs through the region.

There are plenty of spa options to choose from around Garda. For instance, you could revisit Sirmione, the most famous spa bath of all, thanks to baths heated by the Boiola spring at the bottom of the lake. These sulfurous waters hover around 93°F-96°F (34°C-36°C) and offer various therapeutic benefits, from alleviating arthritis and respiratory conditions to soothing skin conditions and reducing stress.

Meanwhile, in the hills above Lazise, on the east side of Lake Garda, you'll find Colà, a delightful little village. It's famous for the Villa dei Cedri Spa, which is set amid a beautifully landscaped garden with centuries-old cedar trees, lush greenery, and scenic pathways. This is the place to come if you want to relax after a long hike amid natural beauty and panoramic views of the lake. The spa offers a range of beauty treatments and wellness services, including massages, body scrubs, hydrotherapy, and more.

Day 20: Day Trip to Valpolicella & Wine Tasting

Sample some of the Valpolicella region's best wines

Leave Lake Garde after breakfast on a wine tour of the surrounding Valpolicella region, known as the "Land of Red Wines." On this tasty full-day excursion, you'll visit two wine estates to taste a few of the region's celebrated reds, like Amarone and Valpolicella Classico. A real treat is a sampling of Recioto, an uncommon dessert wine made from dried grapes, not unlike raisins, resulting in a deeply rich and sweet flavor profile.

In between wineries, you'll enjoy scenic drives through the enchanting Valpolicella hills, stop for lunch at a local trattoria, and, time permitting, visit a lovely hilltop village to enjoy vistas over the vineyards and countryside. On a clear day, you can even see as far out as Lake Garda. At the end of the day, you'll transfer back to your hotel.

Day 21: Transfer to Milan, Depart

Until next time, Italy!
Meet your driver in the morning for the transfer west from Lake Garda to Milan. The drive takes about two hours, and when you arrive, you'll continue to the airport, where your flight home awaits. Arrivederci!

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Map of City Culture & Outdoor Adventure in Spain & Italy - 21 Days
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