- Road trip through the historic and scenic region of Andalusia
- Visit cultural heritage sites like the Royal Alcázar and the Alhambra
- Enjoy personalized guided tours through cities like Seville, Madrid, and Valencia
- Explore an organic vineyard near Barcelona with a picnic and wine tasting
- Discover Spain's smaller towns and cities, like Ronda, Nerja, and Toledo
|Day 1||Arrive in Spain – Explore Barcelona||Barcelona|
|Day 2||Discover Barcelona's Modernist architecture||Barcelona|
|Day 3||Enjoy an organic wine tasting and dinner at a vineyard||Barcelona|
|Day 4||Ride the high-speed train to Madrid - Explore the city||Madrid|
|Day 5||Enjoy Madrid with a guided walking tour||Madrid|
|Day 6||Day trip to the UNESCO city of Toledo||Madrid|
|Day 7||Explore Madrid at your leisure||Madrid|
|Day 8||Take the train to the seaside - Guided tour of Valencia||Valencia|
|Day 9||Visit Valencia's sites, squares, and gardens||Valencia|
|Day 10||Drive to Alicante - Take a guided tour of the city||Alicante|
|Day 11||Explore Alicante's inland region and scenic coast||Alicante|
|Day 12||Drive from Granada and explore its historic neighborhoods||Granada|
|Day 13||Visit the historic Muslim fortress, the Alhambra||Granada|
|Day 14||Road trip to Málaga - Visit the Picasso Museum||Malaga|
|Day 15||Wander through 3,000 years of Málaga’s history||Malaga|
|Day 16||Visit the Caves of Nerja and the region's karst landscape||Malaga|
|Day 17||Drive to Seville via Ronda and Grazalema||Seville|
|Day 18||Explore Seville's cathedral and Royal Alcázar||Seville|
|Day 19||Head to Cádiz, discovering its historic city center and foodie scene||Cádiz|
|Day 20||Day trip to Córdoba - Tour the city with a private guide||Seville|
|Day 21||Depart from Seville|
Day 1: Arrive in Spain – Explore Barcelona
Welcome to Spain!
Your trip begins in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. As a cosmopolitan city built by the Romans, you'll find a little bit of everything in Barcelona, from medieval quarters to 20th-century Modernism and Avant-garde architecture.
After arriving at El Prat Airport in Barcelona, a private driver will transfer you to your hotel. Settle into your accommodation, then head out into the city to explore. Although you'll enjoy a guided tour of Barcelona tomorrow, use your first evening to visit some of the main sites.
Enjoy a walk around Parc de la Ciutadella or a visit to the Barcelona Cathedral. Consider a tour of the Palau de la Música concert hall, a preview to the city's impeccable architecture. As the sun starts to set, take a stroll along the La Rambla pedestrian street, which offers numerous dinner options, from market food stalls to high-end bistros.
Day 2: Discover Barcelona's Modernist architecture
Barcelona is known around the world for its architecture, so today you'll trace the work of its most respected architect and representative of Catalan Modernism: Antoni Gaudí.
Accompanied by a private guide, you'll start in Park Güell, an expansive gardens with quirky architectural elements set atop Carmel Hill. You'll also visit Sagrada Familia, the iconic basilica which, despite still being under construction, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll end today's tour with visits to some of Gaudí's lesser-known works, including Casa Batlló and Casa Milà.
Discuss the rest of the tour with your guide. Barcelona is filled with different architectural styles, interesting monuments, and unique attractions, allowing you to adapt the tour to your own personal preferences.
In the evening, head to the Gracia neighborhood for traditional, family-run Catalan food; or check out the old fishermen's district of Barceloneta for seafood and casual tapas bars.
Day 3: Enjoy an organic wine tasting and dinner at a vineyard
Enjoy a leisurely morning at your accommodation, taking a morning stroll through the city, if you wish. In the early afternoon, you'll take a day trip to visit one of the nearby vineyards.
Located in a 14th-century estate, this small, organic winery operates with an interesting mix of tradition and technology. Your guided tour will walk you through the grounds of the vineyard, explaining its history, operation, and the different varietals it produces.
After your tour, enjoy a relaxing picnic within the grape vines, surrounded by panoramic views of Barcelona and the coast. Your picnic dinner will be perfectly paired with an organic wine tasting as the sun sets.
Day 4: Ride the high-speed train to Madrid - Explore the city
After breakfast in Barcelona, you'll head to the train station where you'll catch a 3-hour, high-speed train to Madrid. The journey itself is an experience; enjoy the ride, the comfortable reclining seats, and the dining cart.
Upon arriving in the Spanish capital, settle into your accommodation and set out to explore the city. Madrid has excellent shopping, particularly on Calle de Serrano and Gran Vía. If it's Sunday, check out El Rastro, an open-air flea market featuring everything from local art to leather goods to second-hand clothes. You can easily spend hours walking through this expansive market and meandering the side streets within the La Latina neighborhood.
As the sun starts to set, head to El Retiro Park to row along the lake or stroll the tree-lined paths. For dinner, peruse the neighborhoods of Malasaña for hip cafes, the Literary Quarter for tapas bars, or Chueca for slightly upscale eateries.
Day 5: Enjoy Madrid with a guided walking tour
Despite Madrid being one of the biggest cities in Europe, its city center, which houses the bulk of its monuments, is easily accessible by foot. After breakfast, you'll enjoy a private walking tour of the city accompanied by a local guide ready to divulge the historical heritage of this capital city.
The walking tour is completely customizable. What you see depends on your own personal interests, which you can discuss with your guide. A good place to start is Puerta del Sol, the central meeting point of Madrid and the radial center of all Spanish roadways. You'll also find the famous statue, El Oso y el Madroño, the bear with a strawberry tree, which has been the city's coat of arms since the 13th century.
Nearby is Plaza Mayor—a great stop for some tapas—and the Royal Palace of Madrid. There are two gardens near the palace, the Sabatini Gardens and Campo del Moro. You can't miss the impressive Catedral de la Almudena, a beautiful, baroque Catholic cathedral.
Other sites to see include the many fountains of Madrid, such as the Cibeles and Neptune Fountains, plus the Puerta de Alcalá, the Prado art museum, the Temple of Debod, and Plaza de España.
For lunch, head to the Mercado de San Miguel, which was originally built in 1916. Here you can try different traditional Spanish foods with an endless offering of tapas and meals. You can also try local wine and sherry.
Afterward, continue your tour of Madrid independently. If you didn't already visit it yesterday, enjoy your afternoon in El Retiro Park, which once belonged to the Spanish Monarchy. Spend some time amongst the beautifully-manicured gardens, fountains, walking paths, museums, and the lake where you can row a boat around the Monument to Alfonso XII. The Crystal Palace is a surreal space with a revolving modern art exhibit, a great spot to catch the sunset as it bursts through the glass.
Another idea for sunset is a rooftop bar. The terrace above the Círculo de Bellas Artes offers incredible views of the city, plus tapas and drinks. Grab dinner at a traditional tavern in the city center. The side streets around Calle de la Cruz are filled with colorfully-tiled facades and delicious Spanish cuisine.
Day 6: Day trip to the UNESCO city of Toledo
A half-hour train ride from Madrid takes you to the historic city of Toledo, which was once the capital of Spain in the 16th century. The layered city is perched atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo, its massive 16th-century fortress dominating the scene.
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 the 13th-century Toledo Cathedral and the 12th-century Church of Santo Tomé. Enjoy walking the ancient streets of this UNESCO World Heritage City, which is often described as an open-air museum.
After your walking tour, you'll learn about the steelwork that is crafted in Toledo. 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. These weapons are of incomparable quality, and you can appreciate the craftwork by viewing some of the swords at the foundry.
In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to wander Toledo before catching the train back to Madrid.
Day 7: Explore Madrid at your leisure
Today is a free day to explore areas of the city you haven't seen—or return to those you've enjoyed—admiring the unique lifestyle of Madrileños.
Each neighborhood of Madrid has its own, unique personality. Some of the areas outside the city center are the most entertaining, with the truest glimpse of typical life in Madrid. La Latina (also known as the Latin Quarter) is home to the oldest architecture in the city. It also hosts the El Rastro flea market on Sundays. Nearby is Lavapies, a neighborhood that has traditionally housed immigrants and expats, many from African and Middle Eastern countries. It's a great place to try different international food.
The posh neighborhoods include Chamberí and Salamanca, which are great for shopping or having an upscale meal. You can also shop along Gran Vía, a large boulevard lined with beautiful buildings, clothing stores, and theaters. Huertas is a great option for sightseeing and getting lost within the streets of Madrid, as is Barrio de Las Letras (the Literary Quarter), which is also known for its tapas and relaxed atmosphere in the evening. But if you're looking for the best nightlife, head to Chueca and Malasaña.
If you'd like to enjoy more sightseeing, consider visiting the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, which hosts the home games for the Real Madrid football team. There are also plenty of museums to discover, including the popular Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, where you can see works from Dalí, Miró, and Picasso.
Madrid is a great city to just wander and discover. Walk the streets, turn corners, pop into shops, eat tapas, and simply enjoy its energizing atmosphere.
Day 8: Take the train to the seaside - Guided tour of Valencia
Bid farewell to Madrid as you head to the train station for your high-speed train to the city of Valencia. In about two hours, you'll arrive on the Mediterranean coast. From the train station you'll transfer to your hotel where you can settle in and rest. Then you'll meet a local guide for a half-day tour of the city.
Valencia is architecturally unique, with cutting-edge buildings existing next to one of the most well-preserved historic centers in Spain. The city's distinct culture reveals itself in its gastronomy—after all, this is the place that gave the world paella. In Valencia, a perfect pastime is strolling by the historic churches and castle ruins of the city center while breaking for refreshments like horchata (a sugary drink made with tiger nuts) and agua de Valencia (a champagne/liquor/orange juice cocktail).
You'll enjoy all of this and more on your walking tour. Start with the major highlights, including the Plaza Del Ayuntamiento, where Valencia's baroque City Hall is located; the historic Mercado Central, which, having opened in 1839, is one of the oldest municipal markets in Europe; the 15th-century Llotja de la Seda, a Valencian-Gothic fortress that was once a financial center when the city dominated the global silk trade; and the UNESCO World Heritage Valencia Cathedral, a 13th-century basilica.
Afterward, you'll wander the city's side streets to properly absorb Valencia's culture and atmosphere. For dinner, try one of these recommended restaurants:
Raco del Turia. You can't leave Valencia without trying the city's flagship dish: paella. This family-run restaurant is one of the city's best, as it's located in a historic home with a chef who's been perfecting the recipes for decades. Try one of the signature dishes, such as the Paella del Senyoret (seafood paella) or the Paella Valenciana (with rabbit, chicken, vegetables, and snails).
- Restaurant Navarro. Located in the very heart of Valencia, this flawless eatery has been serving excellent Mediterranean cuisine since 1951. Highlights include the gazpacho, hake in cream sauce, and seafood paella. Any dish pairs perfectly with the restaurant's signature sangria.
Day 9: Visit Valencia's sites, squares, and gardens
Now that you have a sense of the layout of Valencia, enjoy today at your leisure, exploring the city's sites and streets. You can't miss the City of Arts and Sciences, a massive, architecturally-unique complex that houses the interactive Prince Philip Science Museum and an open-air oceanographic park.
Valencia's aquarium is one of the most-visited in the world. L'Oceanogràfic, as it's known, is a celebration to Earth's oceans, faithfully recreating the most vital marine ecosystems. It's the largest aquarium in Europe with a long underwater tunnel that allows you to view various animals like mantas, sharks, and even beluga whales.
After lunch, enjoy a leisurely walk around the Turia Gardens and Gulliver Park. The gardens consists of a long green space that encircles the city and is popular with cyclists, joggers, and families.
Head back to your hotel for a little rest before enjoying another dinner in Valencia. Try the other restaurant recommended from yesterday, or find something different on your own. There are plenty of taverns and bistros out near the beach, allowing for great views of the sea as you dine.
Day 10: Drive to Alicante - Take a guided tour of the city
In the morning, you'll collect your rental car for a 2-hour drive to Alicante, a port city on Spain's Costa Blanca. After settling into your hotel, you'll meet a local guide for a city tour. In Alicante, everything from industry to culture revolves around the water, and this tour reflects that.
It begins with a stroll down the colorful Explanada, the coastal promenade. Flanked by towering palms on each side, the Explanada is just west of one of the city's expansive beach, Playa del Postiguet.
Nearby is the hilly Santa Cruz neighborhood. Known simply as El Barrio, it comprises the historic center of the city and is famous for its curvy streets, narrow alleys, and brightly-painted homes with hanging balconies overflowing with flowerpots. It's a trendy spot too, with many options for tapas and nightlife.
Then you'll head to the Santa Bárbara Castle, a fortification from the 9th century that overlooks Alicante from Mount Benacantil. It's a steep hike up to the castle, or you can take an elevator. Once there, you'll enjoy views of both the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
After the tour, you can opt for dinner at a restaurant on the waterfront or in the city center. Take a look around Avenida de Maisonnave, a popular boulevard in the city's commercial district filled with shops and restaurants.
Alicante is famous for fruits like grapes and cherries, and fresh seafood like mullet, tuna, cod, and red prawns. The best way to sample as much regional cuisine as possible is finding a trendy tapas bar in the city.
Day 11: Explore Alicante's inland region and scenic coast
After breakfast, you'll enjoy a drive along Alicante’s Costa Blanca. You'll see coastal mountains taper down to the sea, creating beautiful bays and coves with golden beaches. Inland, you'll find historical, white-washed towns, many with views of the sea.
Your first stop will be Guadalest, a tiny inland village located north of Alicante and home to just 200 residents. It's set atop a mountain, offering panoramic views of the region and the Mediterranean Sea. You can visit several historic landmarks in Guadalest, including the Guadalest Castle, a fortification built in the 11th century by Muslims. It's strategic mountain position allowed past rulers to monitor the area around the castle for several miles.
Around lunchtime, you'll head back to the coast and to the town of Calpe, known for the Peñón de Ifach, a huge limestone rock. The town also hosts medieval ruins and ancient Roman baths fashioned out of sea pools. Calpe's crescent beach is a great spot to enjoy a fresh seafood lunch.
The last stop of the day is the town of Altea. This coastal village is known for its well-preserved historic center with narrow, white-washed streets. Enjoy a late-afternoon coffee, horchata, or glass of wine on a patio café before returning to Alicante for the evening.
Day 12: Drive from Granada and explore its historic neighborhoods
Today's drive takes you to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the city of Granada. Located in Spain's southern autonomous community of Andalusia, Granada 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.
The afternoon will be yours to explore Granada. Start with the major sites, including the Plaza Nueva (the oldest square in the city), the Albaicín (the medieval/Moorish historic center), Barrio Realejo (the historic Jewish Quarter), and the 16th-century Granada Cathedral, the largest Roman Catholic church in the city.
End the day at a local eatery to enjoy some traditional tapas and Mediterranean cuisine.
Day 13: Visit the historic Muslim fortress, the Alhambra
Today will be dedicated to discovering one of Spain's most historic and cultural landmarks, the Alhambra. A private guide will take you through this UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as Granada's biggest treasure and the final bastion of Al-Andalus (the name given to the Iberian Peninsula by the Muslims in the Middle Ages).
This imposing Muslim fortress comprises several palaces and gardens, set atop a hill blending art, nature, and panoramic views of the city. During your visit, you'll learn about the long history of the palace, starting in the 13th century. You'll explore its architecture, elaborate gardens, and grandiose halls. The complex is large and will take most of the day to walk its grounds.
After the tour, your guide will recommend some places near the fortress for dinner. Whether you'd like traditional Andalusian food, Mediterranean food, or just an array of tapas, there are plenty of places to enjoy a meal. End your day strolling around one of Granada's oldest neighborhoods, Albaicín. There are several viewpoints overlooking the city, the mountains, and the Alhambra.
Day 14: Road trip to Málaga - Visit the Picasso Museum
After a leisurely breakfast, you'll drive 1.5 hours to Málaga. This port city has experienced quite a rejuvenation over the past few years, quickly becoming a destination of culture, style, and art. Málaga is certainly poised to be known for art, as it's the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. You can see exhibits dedicated to the cubist master at the Picasso Museum, located in the historic center.
Upon arrival in Málaga, you'll settle into your hotel and then head out into the city. Start your exploration by sampling Málaga's cuisine. You'll find plenty of great tapas bars and restaurants, particularly in the neighborhoods near the waterfront and along Calle Marques de Larios. You'll also notice common ingredients used in the cuisine of Málaga, which includes olives, almonds, grapes, and raisins.
Day 15: Wander through 3,000 years of Málaga’s history
Málaga is an excellent destination for history buffs, as you can explore 3000 years of history without even leaving the city center. Through a customizable private tour, you'll explore the city's architecture, culture, and legends.
You'll start at the hillside Alcazaba de Málaga, a citadel built by the Hammudid dynasty in the 11th century. This is Spain's best-preserved citadel, with beautiful courtyards, gardens, fountains, and intricate wall work. Near its entrance are the ruins of the Roman Theater, which dates back to the 1st century BCE. From here, walk down into the city center and visit the 18th-century Cathedral of Málaga.
The heart of the city's historic core is perfect for meandering and admiring the architecture and stone streets. Wander to the Plaza de la Merced where you'll find a statue of Picasso, the city's most famous resident. Then make your way to the grand market, Mercado Central de Atarazanas. Here you can enjoy several tapas bars.
For lunch and dinner, sample the local cuisine of fish and seasonal vegetables, along with olives, almonds, grapes, raisins, and delicious baked goods. Check out the waterfront or the historic area along Calle Marques de Larios, which offers some excellent restaurant options.
Day 16: Visit the Caves of Nerja and the region's karst landscape
After a hearty breakfast, spend today away from the crowds and out of Málaga. The city's surrounding region is just as impressive as its historic core.
Start east in the fishing village of Nerja. Known for its coastal cliffs and beautiful beaches, the town is also famous for the Caves of Nerja, a series of caverns that stretch 5 miles (3 km). Not only do these caves feature hanging stalactites and columns, but they also include a theater that holds regular concerts.
Next, drive up to the surrounding mountains and visit El Torcal de Antequera, a nature reserve known for its karst landscape full of unique rock formations. There are several walking and hiking paths within the reserve. The higher you get, the better the views.
Return to Málaga in time to relax a bit at your hotel, then head out for dinner in the city center.
Day 17: Drive to Seville via Ronda and Grazalema
Today's road trip will take you through the scenic region of Andalusia, ending in Seville, its capital city. Along the way, you'll stop in the village of Ronda. This village is a special place to many people, including Hemingway, who once described it as the perfect town for a romanic trip.
As you enter the village, walk along the cobbled streets and admire the elevated views from Ronda's famous stone bridge. Due to its proximity to the Mediterranean, the area around Ronda enjoys a micro-climate perfectly suited for growing grapes. There are many family-run wineries in this region specializing in a wide variety of red wines, including cabernet sauvignon, grenache, merlot, syrah, and petit verdot.
Continue west to Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, a national park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The landscapes here are wild, featuring towering limestone peaks, deep gorges, and historic hamlets. You'll stop in Grazalema, a village that has been inhabited since Roman times.
You'll leave Grazalema via a mountain road called Puerto de las Palomas, which features viewing points at 3,795 feet (1,157 meters). Enjoy dramatic views over the provinces of Cádiz, Málaga, and Seville.
The final leg of your journey is to Seville, where you can settle into your hotel before exploring its historic city center. Tomorrow you'll enjoy a walking tour of the city, so for tonight, just stroll through its famous Plaza de España and grab dinner in the San Lorenzo neighborhood.
Day 18: Explore Seville's cathedral and Royal Alcázar
Follow a local guide through the cultural city of Seville, discovering its history, monuments, and other highlights. Start at the Seville Cathedral, the world's biggest Gothic structure of its kind. Nearby is the Royal Alcázar, a palace used by many cultures across the centuries and populated today by members of the royal family. You'll find more signature elements of Andalusia, including gardens, archways, stone floors, and tiled walls. Your guide will lead you through both of these monuments, divulging their histories.
After lunch, continue your tour with a stroll around the pebbled streets of the Santa Cruz district, the old Jewish quarter of Seville. The second-largest Jewish community in Spain was established here, and its also home to the Giralda bell tower, the symbol of the city.
Because there many other sights in Seville, the rest of the tour can be customized to your personal preferences. In the evening, explore some of the highlights from your tour at night and find a traditional tavern within the Santa Cruz neighborhood.
Day 19: Head to Cádiz, discovering its historic city center and foodie scene
You'll have the entire day to enjoy a self-guided tour of Cádiz, one of the most historic cities in southern Spain. It was the site of Spain's first constitution, which was passed in 1812 in the Church of Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, establishing national sovereignty from France. Here you can also visit a historic square where the charter was once read aloud, the Plaza de San Antonio.
But Cádiz is much more than historical landmarks and beautiful churches; it's also a wonderland for foodies, home to the Mercado Central de Abastos. Dating back to 1838, this is Spain's oldest indoor municipal market, and it features more than 150 stalls of restaurants, tapas bars, fresh produce vendors, fishmongers, butchers, and more. The market is most alive on Fridays and Saturdays.
Near the market and along the waterfront of Cádiz is the Paseo Campo del Sur. Some say that Cádiz and Havana are sister cities, using this promenade as proof. It's a perfect place to take in the view of the majestic twin bell towers of the 17th-century Catedral de Cádiz, which dominates the skyline.
Cádiz is also known for its beaches, with La Caleta as the most popular stretch of sand in town. It's easy to spend all your time on the beach, but you can also enjoy the water with a half-day sailing tour around the tranquil Bay of Cádiz and down the coast. Tours usually include a glass of Cádiz's regional Garum red wine.
In the evening, explore Cádiz's foodie scene. Taberna Casa Manteca is renowned for serving simple tapas like chicharrones and goat cheese. The appropriately-named Café Royalty is a great choice for opulent dining in Renaissance style. Try the tortitas (pancakes) and/or homemade chocolate cake.
Because Cádiz is a port city, you can also expect great seafood. For the freshest in the city, check out restaurant El Faro de Cádiz. This traditional eatery was once a sailor haunt and now serves a variety of fish and seafood, including dorada (gilt-head bream), sea bass, oysters, and crayfish.
Day 20: Day trip to Córdoba - Tour the city with a private guide
In the morning, a 2-hour road trip will take you to Córdoba. A private guide will lead you through the city and to its many historic sites. Start at the Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba), a pagan temple that changed to the great mosque of the Ummayad dynasty and, later, into a Catholic church.
Your next stop is 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. Afterward, meander around the narrow streets of the historic Jewish Quarter.
After the tour, you'll return to Seville for your final night in Spain.
Day 21: Depart from Seville
Enjoy your final breakfast in Spain. A driver will transfer you to the airport in Seville in time to catch your flight.