Wine, cheese, tapas, pintxos — this gourmet tour around northern Spain is a treat for foodies! Start in the capital city of Madrid, where you'll go on a tapas tour around local bars to learn the proper way to order small plates paired with drinks. Then hop in a rental car and drive north to the wine country of La Rioja, where you'll tour family-run wineries and blend your own wine to take with you. Continue onward to the culinary hot spot of San Sebastian, sampling pintxos (Basque-style tapas) at traditional bars in the old city. Then finish the trip with a tour of Bilbao and an excursion into the surrounding countryside to see how Basque cheeses are produced.

Highlights

  • Create your own custom blend during a wine-making class in La Rioja
  • Discover the tradition of pintxos (Basque tapas) during a culinary tour in San Sebastian
  • See modern art at the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao
  • Learn how cheeses are made at a workshop in Basque Country
  • Sightsee and visit world-famous museums in the capital city of Madrid

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Madrid & Sightsee Madrid
Day 2 Discover the Spanish Capital Madrid
Day 3 Travel to the Wine Country of La Rioja La Rioja
Day 4 Visit Wineries in La Rioja La Rioja
Day 5 Enjoy a Guided Tour of San Sebastian San Sebastian
Day 6 Explore San Sebastian's Food Scene San Sebastian
Day 7 Drive to Bilbao & Visit the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Day 8 Go on an Excursion in the Basque Countryside Bilbao
Day 9 Depart Bilbao - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Madrid & Sightsee

Madrid
Plaza de Cibeles in central Madrid

Welcome to Spain! You'll arrive in Madrid and transfer to your hotel. After getting settled in, go on a short walk, taking in the grand architecture and historic monuments of downtown. Later, you'll join a tapas tour that takes you to some of the city's classic bars to sample local food and drink. With the help of your guide, you'll learn how to order tapas properly and how to combine each savory small plate with a corresponding drink. Then head back to your hotel and get some rest. 

Day 2: Discover the Spanish Capital

Madrid - Plaza Mayor
Dining al fresco in Madrid's Plaza Mayor

Today you'll continue exploring Madrid. Following your private guide, you will stroll through the oldest districts of the city and learn about centuries of history. Pass a 10th-century Arab wall and walk along medieval streets, stopping to admire palaces and theaters along the way. Highlights of the tour include the Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and the Royal Palace, the largest in all of western Europe. Its construction began in 1738 by order of Felipe V. Inside, you'll tour the official reception rooms, the Royal Chapel, the Throne Room, and the private chambers of King Carlos III and Queen Isabel II. Afterward, continue onward to the elegant Plaza de Oriente, the Royal Opera, and Madrid’s cathedral, Catedral de la Almudena.

Day 3: Travel to the Wine Country of La Rioja

La Rioja winery
A historic winery in La Rioja

After breakfast, pick up your rental car and get ready for a road trip. You'll drive north to the wine country of La Rioja. Enjoy a leisurely lunch before the afternoon's winemaking activity. The experience starts in a family winery with a small traditional cellar that dates back to the 16th century. After learning about different styles of wine produced in the region, you'll have a chance to blend and package your own bottle of wine. This one-of-a-kind souvenir, complete with a personalized label, is yours to take home — or drink later at the hotel! 

Day 4: Visit Wineries in La Rioja

Vineyards in La Rioja
Vineyards in La Rioja

Today you'll enjoy a full-day excursion around the wine region, visiting two wineries for tours and tastings. You will observe local wine culture in action, learn about the process of winemaking, admire the gorgeous scenery, and sample wines. Your first stop is a winery with a cutting-edge architectural design. Here, winemakers use the most advanced technologies. Your second stop is at a family-run winery where the history stretches back four generations. In between, stop for lunch at a local restaurant. 

Day 5: Enjoy a Guided Tour of San Sebastian

Sandy beaches in San Sebastian
The sandy coastline of San Sebastian

This morning it's time to leave La Rioja and drive to San Sebastian, located on a sandy bay framed by hills and lush green scenery. The picturesque old town faces the sea. With a private guide, you'll get to know San Sebastian on a tour that takes you to the beautiful beach of La Concha and the historic Victoria Eugenia Theater. Stop for coffee while taking in the opulent Belle Époque architecture and hearing about the city's cultural scene, including international film and jazz festivals.

Day 6: Explore San Sebastian's Food Scene

Culinary tour in San Sebastian
Pintxos on the bar in San Sebastian

Today you'll go on a culinary tour of San Sebastian with your local guide. Stopping in different neighborhoods, you'll visit both modern and traditional bars serving pintxos (Basque tapas) paired with locally produced wine, cider, and vermouth. Later, wander around the old town on your own, getting lost in the labyrinth of narrow streets and pausing for gourmet snacks when the mood strikes. Head down to La Concha for sunset views on the beach. 

Day 7: Drive to Bilbao & Visit the Guggenheim Museum

A view over Bilbao
A view over Bilbao

After breakfast, drive to the Basque city of Bilbao. You'll meet up with a local guide to go on a short walking tour, learning about local culture and history, then stopping in a café for lunch. In the afternoon, you'll visit the famed Guggenheim Museum. Designed by the North American architect Frank Gehry, the building is a unique landmark consisting of otherwordly metallic shapes that appear to curve and twist. The collections inside are just as fascinating. Have dinner on your own before getting some rest at your hotel. 

Day 8: Go on an Excursion in the Basque Countryside

Basque Country forest
Unusual trees in the Basque countryside

This morning a driver will pick you up for an excursion into the mountainous countryside. Your guide will explain the special relationship Basque people have with the land, pointing out farms and rural villages along the way. Cheese-making is an important tradition here. You'll stop to visit a local farm, where you'll learn all about the process of cheese production from milking cows to aging cheeses in caves. Savor a homemade lunch, featuring Basque cheeses and local produce, before heading back to Bilbao later in the day. You'll have one last Basque meal tonight before the trip ends tomorrow. 

Day 9: Depart Bilbao - End of Trip

Bilbao
Colorful buildings in Bilbao

After breakfast, head to Bilbao's airport to catch your flight out. Safe travels!

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