- Explore the Picos de Europa National Park with hiking and canoeing excursions
- Enjoy touring cities like Bilbao, Madrid, Seville, Segovia, and Granada
- Discover the coastal villages and caves on the island of Mallorca
- Visit the famous Alhambra fortress and gardens and explore Andalusian villages
- Hike along the Caminito del Rey near the town of Ronda
|Day 1||Arrive in Bilbao - Explore||Bilbao|
|Day 2||Visit cave paintings on the way to Picos de Europa||Picos de Europa|
|Day 3||Explore the park with hiking, biking, or canoeing activities||Picos de Europa|
|Day 4||Enjoy a free day in Picos de Europa||Picos de Europa|
|Day 5||Drive to Madrid via the UNESCO city of Segovia||Madrid|
|Day 6||Discover the history and culture of Madrid on a walking tour||Madrid|
|Day 7||Take the train to Granada - Enjoy a bike tour of the city||Granada|
|Day 8||Enjoy a hike in the Las Alpujarras mountains||Granada|
|Day 9||Tour the Alhambra fortress and the Generalife Gardens||Granada|
|Day 10||Hike the famous Caminito del Rey - Drive to Ronda via Antequera||Ronda|
|Day 11||Explore the town of Ronda||Ronda|
|Day 12||Drive to Seville - Enjoy a flamenco performance||Seville|
|Day 13||Explore the streets of Seville on a walking tour||Seville|
|Day 14||Explore Andalucía on an optional day trip||Seville|
|Day 15||Fly to Mallorca - Explore Colònia de Sant Jordi||Mallorca|
|Day 16||Discover the villages of Mallorca||Mallorca|
|Day 17||Explore the caves and wine region of Mallorca||Mallorca|
|Day 18||Depart Spain via Barcelona Airport|
Day 1: Arrive in Bilbao - Explore
Welcome to Spain! Upon arriving at the airport in Bilbao, you'll collect your rental car and transfer to your hotel. After settling into your accommodation, head out to explore the city, if time allows.
You can start in the center of Bilbao, at Plaza Moyua which was established in 1876 and features a beautiful fountain and gardens. Here you can admire the architecture of the 19th-century palace, Txabarri Jauregia. Walk toward the eastern side of the river and cross the Arenal Bridge, where you can view the 18th-century San Nikolas Cathedral and the Teatro Arriaga.
If you have more time, stroll through one of the city's parks, such as the hilly Parque Etxebarria with views over the city or Casilda Iturrizar Park, which is filled with gardens and fountains.
For dinner, do as the locals and hop from bar-to-bar in search of traditional pintxos, which are similar to tapas. If you'd rather have a sit-down meal, stroll through the city center or check out La Casita de Sabino and Restaurante Marisquería Serantes. Close to your hotel are some excellent choices, including Gorbea and Victor Montes.
Day 2: Visit cave paintings on the way to Picos de Europa
In the morning, you'll start your drive to the beautiful Picos de Europa National Park, which spans three provinces, including Asturias and Cantabria, as well as a small portion of Castille and León. The area is characterized by high massifs, deep ravines, alpine meadows, and large lakes. It’s perfect for those wanting to explore nature, as it's home to some of the best hiking routes in all of Spain.
Along the way, you can stop to explore the area's archaeology. Two caves feature ancient paintings, Altamira and Cueva Monte Castillo. The prehistoric art includes charcoal drawings and polychrome paintings of local animals, plants, and daily human life.
For lunch, you can stop in the village of Cangas de Onís. This small town features an arched stone bridge from the Roman times, which spans the Sella River.
Your final destination today is deep within the park, in the small town of Oseja de Sajambre. You'll be surrounded by mountain peaks, forests, waterfalls, and views into the valley. Settle into your accommodation and then explore the village's picturesque church, Parroquia de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora. If you have time, walk down to the viewpoint, Mirador de Oseja de Sajambre.
For dinner, you can enjoy a meal at your hotel's restaurant or the other two eateries in town, Meson Arcedianoand Les Bedules.
Day 3: Explore the park with hiking, biking, or canoeing activities
There is a wide range of outdoor activities available in Picos de Europa National Park, plus several mountain villages to explore. If you're interested in hiking, you can choose from several different routes, the most famous being the Cares Gorge Trail. You can also enjoy the views without the steps with a ride on the cable car, Teleferico of Fuente. In just five minutes, you'll climb nearly 2,500 feet (753 m) into the mountains, with the peaks Torre de Cerredo and Naranjo de Bulnes in the distance.
You can also opt for a 4-hour canoeing trip down the Sella River. The river is one of the most popular destinations in the park, hosting an annual canoeing festival since 1930. Using open-deck, two-person canoes, you can paddle down nearly 10 miles (15 km) with easy class-1 rapids.
Other options for exploring the park include mountain biking and visiting some of the villages, where you can have lunch. There are several museums to visit or you can attend a traditional cheese-making workshop.
In the evening, you'll return to Oseja de Sajambre in time for dinner.
Day 4: Enjoy a free day in Picos de Europa
After a leisurely morning at your accommodation, ask your host for recommendations on how to spend your free day in Picos de Europa National Park. There are several mountain towns to enjoy, such as Taranes in the area of Pongo, Espinaredo with its traditional alpine architecture, and Asiego with one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the park.
You can also visit the Sanctuary of Covadonga, a common pilgrimage destination with a cave chapel. Further down the road are the Lagos de Covadonga (Lakes of Covadonga), two alpine lakes with an observation deck.
You can also stretch your legs on another hike or go mountain biking in the park, then enjoy a picnic lunch high up in the peaks.
Day 5: Drive to Madrid via the UNESCO city of Segovia
Today you'll leave the mountains behind and begin your drive to the center of Spain. Your destination is the country's capital, Madrid, but you can stop in the incredible city of Segovia along the way. Segovia was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 due to its rich history and wealth of monuments.
Your guided visit will start in the city center at the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia, which features two tiers and over 150 arches. You'll pass through the old Jewish Quarter and visit the Gothic-style Catedral de Segovia where you can admire its stained glass from the 14th century. Another highlight of the city includes the Alcázar, which is a medieval castle said to have inspired Walt Disney.
As you explore these monuments, you'll walk along the main street, known as Royal Street, which is lined with many shops and restaurants. Along the way, you can visit the 15th-century Casa De Los Picos, which is adorned with over 600 granite points. You'll also pass by the Palacio de Cascales, Plaza de Medina del Campo, and Plaza Mayor.
By the early evening, you'll arrive in Madrid. Settle into your accommodation and head out into the city to find dinner. You'll discover an endless row of cafes and bars in the Literary Quarter, the perfect place to find cañas, tintos, and tapas.
Day 6: Discover the history and culture of Madrid on a walking tour
Today starts early with a full-day tour of Madrid, focusing on its history, culture, and architecture. This guided walking tour is an in-depth experience, helping you to understand how the city functions as you explore its highlights. You'll trace the history of Madrid from its medieval roots to modern times when it became the thriving capital of Spain.
You'll start at 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 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. A great way to spend an afternoon in the city is at 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.
As the sun starts to set, find 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 7: Take the train to Granada - Enjoy a bike tour of the city
This morning, you'll transfer to the city's southern station, Atocha, for the high-speed train to Granada. The train requires an early departure, arriving in the Andalucian city about three hours later. After transferring to your accommodation, you'll meet your guide for a 3-hour biking tour around Granada.
An excellent way to see all that Granada has to offer is by electric bike, which will allow you to explore both the city's old town and its surroundings. You'll explore the historic areas of Albaycin, Sacromonte, and Realejo, which are Granada's oldest neighborhoods, followed by a fun and relaxing ride out in the countryside. You'll enjoy views of the city, the mountains, and the impressive Alhambra complex.
Along the way, you'll visit some of the city's sites, including Plaza Nueva, the riverside street of Carrera del Darro, and the picturesque stone bridge near Paseo de Los Tristes. When you're in the Sacromonte neighborhood, you'll stop by its 17th-century abbey, Abadía del Sacromonte, as well as the hillside church, Ermita de San Miguel Alto. Other sites include the San Nicolas Viewpoint and the 11th-century Arabic gate, Arco de Elvira.
After your tour, you can take some time to rest before heading out into the city for dinner. Some suggested tapas bars include:
- Mirador de Morayma. A restaurant housed inside a gorgeous home in the Albaicín neighborhood, Mirador de Morayma is one of Granada’s most beautiful restaurants. The menu is a perfect mix of local cuisine and Moorish influence, and you'll dine while gazing at the Alhambra.
- Taberna Más Que Vinos. This lovely little bar/restaurant is a short walk from Granada’s main streets. The wine list is extensive and the tapas are made using fresh and local ingredients.
- Taberna la Tana: With fantastic wine and tapas (the bartender is a sommelier) at reasonable prices, this restaurant gets popular as the night goes on. It's best to make a reservation or stop in early before it gets too crowded.
- Bodegas Castañeda: Cheap, crowded, and perfectly chaotic, Bodegas Castañeda is the type of bar you go to for an aperitif and a tapa. It's one of the oldest and most established tapas bars in the city.
- Los Diamantes: Another excellent tapas bar in Granada, this place serves amazing fried seafood. It's the type of place that is crowded with tourists and locals alike, and you’ll have to elbow your way up to the bar to order. The atmosphere here will certainly introduce you to a typical Spanish meal. So shout your order, drink your beer, eat your fish, and then repeat.
These are just a few suggestions for Granada eateries. The city is filled with fine dining options, casual bars, and hip spaces with trendy menus. You can also find traditional street food and teahouses. Just wander the streets or ask your host for more suggestions.
Day 8: Enjoy a hike in the Las Alpujarras mountains
Today's adventure takes you one hour from Granada into the Las Alpujarras Mountains, which stretch south from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Historically, the range was sometimes spelled "Alpuxarras", suggesting that it may derive from Arabic, meaning "grassland".
You'll enjoy a 3-hour hike based on your interest and physical abilities. Your options range from easy to difficult, with most crossing through small mountain villages with only a few hundred inhabitants. The locals of these towns have spent centuries maintaining the medieval structure of the buildings and streets.
Your hike will start in a historical region known for its geographical isolation and gastronomic traditions based on farming. Your guide will show you the locals' way of life, which is rich in tradition and history.
Along the way, you'll stop for lunch in one of the villages, enjoying the region's typical cuisine. Afterward, you'll return to Granada where you can spend the evening at your leisure.
Day 9: Tour the Alhambra fortress and the Generalife Gardens
This morning you'll enjoy a visit to Granada's most popular site, the Alhambra. This famous palace/fortress complex was first constructed in the 9th century and was later renovated and expanded as a palace for the rulers of the Moorish-Muslim Nasrid Dynasty. After the Christian Reconquista in 1492, it became the Royal Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
With countless rooms and the extensive Generalife Gardens, which are filled with colorful flowers and fountains, this mountaintop fortress makes for an unforgettable visit. You can opt for a private visit or a guided group tour.
After your tour, you can wander back into the city center and enjoy the rest of the day at your own pace. Continue to see the sites of Granada, relax along the canal, sip wine and nosh on tapas, or do a bit of shopping. At sunset, you can't miss the views of the city at one of the lookouts. Snag a spot at Mirador de la Lona or Mirador Ojo de Granada for views of the more modern side of the city, or watch the Alhambra glow from Mirador de Los Carvajales.
Day 10: Hike the famous Caminito del Rey - Drive to Ronda via Antequera
In the morning, you'll collect your rental car at the Granada train station and make your way to Parque Torcal. With a professional guide, you'll discover the landscape of Torcal de Antequera following the famous route of Caminito del Rey. This takes you high above the ground and along rocky cliffs where you'll explore hidden nooks and impressive points, which include a large number of fossils. You'll learn all about the geological processes that formed the Torcal, as well as its local fauna and flora.
After the hike, you'll visit two dolmens, which are megalithic burial mounds dating to 3,000 BCE. After completion of the chamber (which probably served as a grave for the ruling families at the time), the stone structure was covered and built up into the hill that can be seen today. When the grave was opened and examined in the 19th century, archaeologists found the skeletons of several hundred people inside.
After lunch in a local restaurant, you'll explore the village of Antequera to visit its 11th-century fortress, the Alcazaba of Antequera. You can also enjoy the Royal Collegiate and the Roman Baths.
You'll continue to Ronda and arrive by early evening. After settling into your accommodation, enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants in the town's historic center.
Day 11: Explore the town of Ronda
A leisurely morning will let you explore the town of Ronda. Built astride a huge gash in the mountains carved out by the Río Guadalevín, Ronda is a brawny town with a dramatic history littered with outlaws, bandits, guerrilla warriors, and rebels. Despite its modest size, Ronda's location atop El Tajo Gorge and its status as the largest of Andalucía’s white towns have made it very popular with tourists.
Ronda's also home to cultural significance, as the place where modern bullfighting was invented in the late 18th century. You can visit a bullfighting museum in the Bullring of the Royal Cavalry of Ronda. The town’s fame was spread further by its close association with Ernest Hemingway (a lover of bullfighting) and Orson Welles (whose ashes are buried in the town).
South of the gorge, Ronda’s old town largely dates from Islamic times, when it was an important cultural center filled with mosques and palaces. Further north, the grid-shaped 'new' town is perched atop cliffs, with parks and promenades looking regally over the surrounding mountains. You can't miss the famous bridge views at Ronda Bridge View Point, which is just one of many viewpoints in the town. You can also visit the 13th-century bathhouse, Baños Arabes Yacimiento Arqueológico, and walk along the old Walls of Ronda.
Outside of Ronda, you can explore the wine route to visit some of the wineries in the area, the closest being Samsara Winery.
Day 12: Drive to Seville - Enjoy a flamenco performance
Driving from Ronda to Seville will take you just under two hours. Along the way, you have the option to visit some of the region's other "white villages".
Your first stop will be in Grazalema. Here, you can sample the renowned payoyo cheese and explore the streets of Spain's most popular white village. Afterward, head over to Zahara de la Sierra where you'll visit a nearby olive mill, learning about the production of olive oil and tasting different varieties.
After lunch in Zahara de la Sierra, you'll continue your journey inland, up and over the mountains to your hotel in Seville. Upon arrival, settle into your room before venturing out to explore the city. Tomorrow you'll enjoy a walking tour of the Seville, so for tonight, you can simply stroll through its famous Plaza de España and grab dinner in the San Lorenzo neighborhood. In the evening, you'll enjoy a traditional flamenco performance.
Day 13: Explore the streets of Seville on a walking tour
After breakfast, you'll explore Seville with a local guide. Start at the Seville Cathedral, a 15th-century Roman-Catholic church that's home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. You'll also view La Giralda, which is 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.
Then, travel back to the era of the Christan conquest when you visit the Alcázar of Seville. This royal palace was commissioned for King Peter of Castile in the 14th century and was built over the site of a former Muslim fortress. It features well-manicured gardens, and the building itself is one of the finest examples of Mudéjar architecture in the nation.
After visiting the Alcázar, stroll through the fashionable Santa Cruz neighborhood, which was once the Jewish Quarter of the city. It's a colorful and well-preserved part of the historic center, with many options for cafés and tapas bars. You can also visit crafts markets and local shops where seasoned 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 on your own. If you decide to head out for the night, do like the locals and enjoy an evening of tapas with a nightcap at a wine bar.
Day 14: Explore Andalucía on an optional day trip
You have several options on how to spend your free day in Andalucía. You can simply stay in Seville and enjoy the city's many museums or cruise along the Guadalquivir River, or you can opt to visit a different city on a day trip. Some suggestions include:
- Doñana National Park. Wildlife lovers, particularly those with an avid interest in birds, will be delighted to learn of Doñana National Park. This protected nature reserve features wetlands, towering pine forests, and ever-changing dunes. The park is a hotbed for migratory birdlife, with an extensive trail network through marshy bogs and along the coast. Visit the impressive Palacio del Acebrón and El Rocío Hermitage. If you're looking for a spot for lunch and a lazy afternoon, head to Playa de Matalascañas. This beachfront promenade is the perfect place to relax with drinks and tapas.
- Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Sanlúcar de Barrameda, also locally referred to as simply Sanlúcar, is best known for horse racing and sherry. Nearby Bajo de Guía, a great place to simply hang out and enjoy the beach. Deeper into the city you'll find the Convento Descalzas which features a baroque altarpiece. You can easily combine this city with a visit to Doñana National Park.
- Córdoba. The city of Córdoba is characterized by the colossal La Mezquita Mosque that sits in the heart of the city and dates back to 784 AD. This building features a vast prayer hall with ancient and intricate Byzantine mosaics. For anyone interested in Moorish architecture, a visit to the Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos is a must. This immense palace complex features beautiful gardens and dates back to 1328 AD. Córdoba was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and has been perfectly preserved ever since.
- Carmona. The small town of Carmona lies just 20 miles (33 km) northeast of Seville. Sitting on a rocky ridge in central Andalucía, the township is best known for its rich wine and olive oil trade, as well as grains and cattle. Throughout your day you can sample some of the best varieties at the private shops or restaurants that line Carmona’s winding streets.
- Cádiz. Cádiz is one of Spain’s best-kept secrets, especially for international travelers. This is a thriving and lively city that is steeped in history and culture. To this day, Cádiz is the home of the Spanish Navy and you can often see Navy battleships resting in port. There are over 100 watchtowers along the Bay of Cádiz, the most famous of all is the Torre Tavira. Cádiz Cathedral was constructed in baroque style, with climbable turrets and panoramic views. In the afternoon, you can try the city's renowned tapas at its numerous bars and cafes.
- Jerez de la Frontera. The Andalusian city of Jerez de la Frontera, often referred to simply as Jerez, is one of the most famous Sherry-producing cities in Spain. Within the city limits, you'll find several traditional bodegas and cellars from which you can sample and buy different varieties of sherry. Before you indulge, visit the aristocratic home of Palacio del Virrey Laserna, considered to be the gem of Jerez de la Frontera. You can easily combine a trip to Cadiz with a visit to Jerez de la Frontera.
In the evening, you'll return to Seville.
Day 15: Fly to Mallorca - Explore Colònia de Sant Jordi
After breakfast, head to the airport to return your car and catch your flight to the island of Mallorca in the Balearic Sea. You'll arrive at the airport in Palma, Mallorca's capital and largest city. After collecting your rental car, you'll drive along the island's southwest coast to your accommodation in the small, coastal city of Colònia de Sant Jordi.
After settling into your hotel, spend your evening leisurely strolling through the streets of Colònia de Sant Jordi. Grab dinner and a drink at one of the waterfront restaurants, and watch the sunset at one of the city's beaches.
Day 16: Discover the villages of Mallorca
Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands, with picturesque interior villages, beautiful coastline, and a small mountain range in the north. Today you can enjoy the island at your own pace, visiting some of the villages. Suggestions include:
- Fornalutx. As one of Spain's most beautiful villages, Fornalutx offers cobbled streets, stone houses, and mountain views, plus plenty of walking trails to explore Mallorca's nature.
- Sóller. This town is the perfect place to find a souvenir, as its home to many of the island's crafts, including leather, jewelry, and olive oil.
- Valldemossa. Known for its monastery, the Carthusian Monastery Valldemossa, the Old Town is filled with narrow streets, typical stone architecture, and views over the valley.
- Artà. The artsy town of Artà has a hilltop monastery to discover, as well as some of the best traditional food on the island.
If you prefer to linger by the sea, there are plenty of coastal villages to explore. These include Porto Colom with its colorful exteriors, Port d’Andratx with clear, turquoise waters, and the long beaches of Port de Pollença.
In the evening, return to your accommodation for a little rest and watch the sunset on the local beach.
Day 17: Explore the caves and wine region of Mallorca
You'll continue your exploration of Mallorca with a trip to a beautiful cave network. Along the way, you'll enjoy a scenic drive through Paseo Maritimo to Porto Cristo, a lovely fishing harbor located on the eastern part of the island. Here you'll visit the famous Drach Caves which has the largest underground lake in Europe.
As you explore the caves, you'll make your way to the lake to enjoy a small concert where musicians in boats perform the illumination show, The Sun Rising. Afterward, you'll head to Mallorca's wine region where you can learn about the island's history of wine production and enjoy a wine tasting.
After lunch, you can opt for a short hiking excursion on the island, exploring the Serra de Tramuntana with its panoramic views and deep ravines. One option is the route to Massanella, the second-highest peak of the island, which offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. For a more demanding route, you can take the trail around the Tossals-Verds Massif, which leads through wild ravines and over rocky ridges. One of the most beautiful hikes on the island, however, is the route through the Barranc de Biniaraix near Sóller.
Day 18: Depart Spain via Barcelona Airport
It's time to say goodbye to Spain. In the morning, you'll return your car to the airport in Palma, then catch your flight to Barcelona. From here, you can either extend your trip on your own and explore the streets of Barcelona, or catch your flight home.