This three-week tour takes you from Madrid in Central Spain to Cádiz in the south, stopping to enjoy personalized walking tours in cities like Barcelona, Valencia, Málaga, Granada, Córdoba, and Seville. Experience the best of Spain's architecture (like the works of Gaudí in Barcelona), art (like the Picasso Museum in Málaga), and history (like the distinctive cultures of Toledo) while enjoying organic wine tasting, hiking in the scenic karst region, and visiting unique towns in Andalusia.


  • 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

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Spain, Explore Barcelona Barcelona
Day 2 Discover Barcelona's Modernist Architecture Barcelona
Day 3 Enjoy an Organic Wine Tasting & Dinner at a Vineyard Barcelona
Day 4 Train to Madrid, Explore Madrid
Day 5 Guided Walking Tour of Madrid Madrid
Day 6 Day Trip to Toledo Madrid
Day 7 Free Day to Explore Madrid Madrid
Day 8 Train to Valencia, Guided City Tour Valencia
Day 9 Visit Valencia's Sites, Squares & Gardens Valencia
Day 10 Drive to Alicante, Guided Tour of the City Alicante
Day 11 Explore Alicante's Inland Region & Scenic Coast Alicante
Day 12 Drive to Granada, Wander Historic Neighborhoods Granada
Day 13 Guided Tour of the Alhambra Granada
Day 14 Drive to Málaga, Visit the Picasso Museum Málaga
Day 15 Explore 3,000 Years of Málaga's History Málaga
Day 16 Visit the Caves of Nerja & the Region's Karst Landscape Málaga
Day 17 Drive to Seville via Ronda & Grazalema Seville
Day 18 Explore Seville's Cathedral & Royal Alcázar Seville
Day 19 Discover Cádiz on a Self-Guided Tour Cádiz
Day 20 Day Trip to Córdoba, Tour the City with a Private Guide Seville
Day 21 Depart Seville  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Spain, Explore Barcelona

Leafy Trees lining Barcelona's La Rambla
Leafy trees lining Barcelona's La Rambla

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, meet your private driver and transfer to your hotel. Settle into your accommodation, then head out into the city to explore.

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. 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's Park Guell
Barcelona's Park Güell

Barcelona is known around the world for its architecture, so spend today tracing the work of its most respected architect and representative of Catalan Modernism: Antoni Gaudí. Accompanied by a private guide, start in Park Güell, an expansive garden with quirky architectural elements set atop Carmel Hill. Then, visit the Sagrada Família, the iconic basilica, which, despite still being under construction, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. End today's tour with visits to some of Gaudí's lesser-known works, including Casa Batlló and Casa Milà.

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 & Dinner at a Vineyard

Vineyard Views Near Barcelona
Vineyard views near Barcelona

Enjoy a leisurely morning at your accommodation, taking a morning stroll through the city if you wish. Then, in the early afternoon, 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 tour guide 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. Pair your sunset picnic dinner with an organic wine tasting for the perfect end to your day out before returning to Barcelona.

Day 4: Train to Madrid, Explore 

Sunset over Madrid
Sunset over Madrid

After breakfast, head to the train station to catch a high-speed train to Madrid: an enjoyable three-hour ride. Arrive in the Spanish capital and settle into your accommodation, then 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 secondhand 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 cafés, the Literary Quarter for tapas bars, or Chueca for slightly upscale eateries.

Day 5: Enjoy Madrid with a Guided Walking Tour

View of Madrid's Royal Palace
View of Madrid's Royal Palace

Today, enjoy a customizable private walking tour of the city accompanied by a local guide. Start at the Puerta del Sol, the central meeting point of Madrid, pinned by the famous statue "El Oso y el Madroño" (the bear and the strawberry tree), which has been the city's coat of arms since the 13th century. Nearby is Plaza Mayor—a great place to stop for some tapas—and the Royal Palace of Madrid, plus the Sabatini Gardens and Campo del Moro gardens. Don't miss the Baroque Catedral de la Almudena, the Cibeles and Neptune Fountains, plus the Puerta de Alcalá, the Prado art museum, and Plaza de España.

For lunch, head to the Mercado de San Miguel, originally built in 1916. Here, you can try different traditional Spanish foods with an endless offering of tapas and meals, as well as 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. 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 Toledo

Rooftop View of Toledo
Rooftop view of Toledo

A short train ride from Madrid takes you to historic Toledo, a layered city perched atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo, with a massive 16th-century fortress dominating the scene. In the Middle Ages, Toledo was known as the "City of the Three Cultures," where Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities peacefully coexisted. You can see remnants of this in extant old Arab, Muslim, and Christian monuments, including the 15th-century Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, the former Roman Alcázar de Toledo palace, and the Moorish Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, which dates to the 12th century.

Accompanied by an expert guide, you'll visit these landmarks, plus the 13th-century Toledo Cathedral and the 12th-century Church of Santo Tomé, as you walk the ancient streets of this UNESCO World Heritage city. Then, learn about the steelwork that is crafted in Toledo. On a visit to the city's historic foundry, see where ancient blacksmiths forged the famous swords made from Toledo steel. The Roman general Hannibal used these in the Punic Wars and by the Christian armies in the Middle Ages. In the afternoon, take some time to wander Toledo on your own before catching the train back to Madrid.

Day 7: Free Day to Explore Madrid

Madrid's Cibeles Fountain
Madrid's Cibeles Fountain

Use today to explore areas of the city you haven't seen, admiring the unique personality of each neighborhood. For example, La Latina—the Latin Quarter—boasts the city's oldest architecture and hosts the El Rastro flea market on Sundays. Nearby Lavapiés has traditionally housed a diverse community of immigrants and is a great place to try distinct international foods, while upscale Chamberí and Salamanca are good for shopping, and Barrio de Las Letras (Literary Quarter) is 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. 

Plan your trip to Spain
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 8: Train to Valencia, Guided City Tour

The Mercado Central, one of the Oldest Markets in Europe
The Mercado Central, one of the oldest markets in Europe

Bid farewell to Madrid as you head by high-speed train to Valencia on the Mediterranean coast. After freshening up at your hotel, join a local guide for a half-day tour of this architecturally unique city, where cutting-edge buildings exist amid 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. While strolling by historic churches and castle ruins, break for refreshments like horchata (a sugary drink made with tiger nuts) and agua de Valencia (a Champagne, liquor, and orange juice cocktail).

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-listed Valencia Cathedral, a 13th-century basilica. 

Day 9: Visit Valencia's Sites, Squares & Gardens

Streets and Squares in Valencia
Streets and squares in Valencia

Spend today exploring the city's sites and streets at your leisure. 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 of Earth's oceans, faithfully recreating the most vital marine ecosystems. It's the largest aquarium in Europe and has a long underwater tunnel allowing you to view various animals like manta rays, sharks, and even beluga whales.

After lunch, take a leisurely stroll around the Turia Gardens and Gulliver Park. The gardens consist 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. 

Day 10: Drive to Alicante, Take a Guided Tour of the City

Colorful Streets of Santa Cruz, Alicante
Colorful streets of Santa Cruz, Alicante

In the morning, collect your rental car for a two-hour drive to Alicante, a port city on Spain's Costa Blanca. After settling into your hotel, meet a local guide for a city tour. Begin 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.

Next, head to the Santa Bárbara Castle, a fortification from the ninth century that overlooks Alicante from Mount Benacantil. It's a steep hike up to the castle, or you can take an elevator. Once there, enjoy views of both the city and the Mediterranean Sea. After the tour, take a look around Avenida de Maisonnave, a popular boulevard in the city's commercial district filled with shops and restaurants. Opt for dinner at a restaurant on the waterfront or in the city center. 

Day 11: Explore Alicante's Inland Region & Scenic Coast

The Hilly Inland Village of Guadalest
The hilly inland village of Guadalest

After breakfast, enjoy a drive along the Costa Blanca. 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. Its strategic mountain position allowed past rulers to monitor the area around the castle for several miles.

Around lunchtime, 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, whitewashed 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 to Granada, Wander Historic Neighborhoods

The Alhambra in Granada
The Alhambra in Granada

Today's 3.5-hour 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, check into your hotel and take some time to relax and unwind.

Use the afternoon 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: Guided Tour of the Alhambra

Views of the Alhambra and Granada
Views of the Alhambra and Granada

Discover one of Spain's most famous 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 fortress is comprised of several palaces and gardens, set atop a hill with panoramic views of the city. During your visit, learn about the long history of the palace, starting in the 13th century. Explore its architecture, elaborate gardens, and grandiose halls. The complex is large, and it will take most of the day to walk its grounds. After the tour, your guide will recommend some places near the fortress for dinner. End your day strolling around one of Granada's oldest neighborhoods, Albaicín. Here, you'll find several viewpoints overlooking the city, the mountains, and the Alhambra.

Day 14: Drive to Málaga, Visit the Picasso Museum

Lively Squares in Málaga
Picturesque plaza in Málaga

After a leisurely breakfast, 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, 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, including olives, almonds, grapes, and raisins.

Day 15: Explore 3,000 Years of Málaga's History

The City of Málaga
The city of Málaga

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, explore the city's architecture, culture, and legends. 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 designs. Near its entrance are the ruins of the Roman Theater, which dates back to the first 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, where you can enjoy several tapas bars. For lunch and dinner, sample the local cuisine of fish and seasonal vegetables.

Day 16: Visit the Caves of Nerja & the Region's Karst Landscape

Beaches and Caves of Nerja
Beaches and caves of Nerja

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 for 5 miles (3 km). 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 and relax a bit at your hotel, then head out for dinner in the city center.

Day 17: Drive to Seville via Ronda & Grazalema

Ronda, Spain
The cliffside town of Ronda

Today's road trip will take you westward through Andalusia, ending in Seville, the region's capital. Along the way, stop in Ronda, a place to special Ernest Hemingway, who described it as the perfect town for a romantic trip. As you enter Ronda, walk along the cobbled streets and admire the elevated views from its famous stone bridge. Due to its proximity to the Mediterranean, the area around Ronda enjoys a microclimate 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 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. Stop in Grazalema, a picturesque "white village" that has been inhabited since Roman times. Leave Grazalema via a mountain road called Puerto de las Palomas, which features viewing points at 3,795 feet (1,157 m). Once you arrive in Seville, stroll through its famous Plaza de España and grab dinner in the city center before heading to bed.

Day 18: Explore Seville's Cathedral & Royal Alcázar

The Gardens of Seville's Real Alcázar
The gardens of Seville's Real 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. The cathedral is known for its famous bell tower, La Giralda. Nearby is the Royal Alcázar, a palace used by many cultures across the centuries and populated today by members of the royal family. Here, you'll find more signature elements of Andalusia, including gardens, archways, stone floors, and tiled walls. 

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. There are many other sights to see in Seville, and you can customize the rest of the tour to your personal preferences. In the evening, explore some of the highlights from your tour and find a traditional tavern in the Santa Cruz neighborhood.

Day 19: Discover Cádiz on a Self-Guided Tour

The City Hall of Cádiz
The city hall of Cádiz

Today, enjoy a self-guided tour of Cádiz, one of the most historic cities in southern Spain and the site of Spain's first constitution, 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. Cádiz is also a wonderland for foodies, and is home to the Mercado Central de Abastos. Dating back to 1838, this is Spain's oldest indoor municipal market, featuring more than 150 stalls of restaurants, tapas bars, fresh produce vendors, fishmongers, butchers, and more.

Near the market and along the waterfront of Cádiz is the Paseo Campo del Sur. 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 known for its beaches, too, 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.

Day 20: Day Trip to Córdoba, Tour the City with a Private Guide

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
The Mezquita of Córdoba

In the morning, a two-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 former Great Mosque of the Umayyad dynasty, which was later transformed 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. When the tour is finished, return to Seville for your final night in Spain.

Day 21: Depart Seville

Farewell, Andalusia!
A view over Seville city center

Enjoy your final breakfast in Spain. Then, meet your driver for a transfer to the Seville Airport in time to catch your flight. Adiós!

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Map of Culture & History in Spain: Madrid to Andalusia - 21 Days
Map of Culture & History in Spain: Madrid to Andalusia - 21 Days
Written by Ramon Tormos, updated Aug 30, 2023