- See the highlights of Madrid on guided tours of the city
- Enjoy a passionate evening of tapas and flamenco in Sevilla's Old Town
- Go hiking near Ronda, a historic mountaintop city in Andalusia
- Cycle around Barcelona's Gothic Quarter and visit Gaudí's famous buildings
- Comb the beaches and sail the coasts of the Balearic Islands
|Day 1||Arrival in Madrid - Optional Artisan Tour||Madrid|
|Day 2||Private City Tour - Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy||Madrid|
|Day 3||Private Tour of Madrid - El Prado Museum||Madrid|
|Day 4||Day Trip to Toledo||Madrid|
|Day 5||Private Transfer from Madrid to Córdoba||Córdoba|
|Day 6||Córdoba Private City Tour - Transfer to Seville||Seville|
|Day 7||Private City Tour of Seville||Seville|
|Day 8||Olive Oil Tour - Evening Flamenco & Tapas Experience||Seville|
|Day 9||Private Transfer to Ronda - Wine Tour||Ronda|
|Day 10||Hiking Ronda - Transfer to Granada||Granada|
|Day 11||Private Tour of the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens||Granada|
|Day 12||Flight from Granada to Barcelona - Private Cycling Tour||Barcelona|
|Day 13||Gaudí Architecture Tour & Markets of Barcelona||Barcelona|
|Day 14||Flight from Barcelona to Menorca - Explore||Menorca|
|Day 15||Horseback Riding in Menorca||Menorca|
|Day 16||Flight from Menorca to Mallorca - Explore Palma||Palma de Mallorca|
|Day 17||Guided Tour of Palma de Mallorca||Mallorca|
|Day 18||Mallorca Sailing Tour||Mallorca|
|Day 19||Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains - Village Tour||Mallorca|
|Day 20||Depart Spain from Mallorca|
Day 1: Arrival in Madrid - Optional Artisan Tour
Welcome to Spain!
Upon arrival at the nation's capital, you'll enjoy a private transfer to your hotel in the city center. Take some time to settle in before heading out to explore. You'll definitely want to see some of the highlights like the Puerta del Sol, one of the most historic and expansive plazas in the city. There's also Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles. Located in the city center it features a sculpture completed in 1782 and depicting Cybele, the Greek goddess of fertility, riding in a chariot pulled by lions.
In the afternoon, you can opt for a personalized introduction to Spain's cultural traditions. This is a four-hour tour during which you'll visit the workshops of some of the city's most talented artisans to witness their creativity firsthand. There are a variety of folks you can visit, including a craftsman of handmade Spanish guitars, a tailor who creates bullfighters' costumes, a manufacturer of traditional wine bota-bags (wineskins made of leather or goatskin), handcrafters of traditional Spanish capes, and more.
When night falls, be sure to indulge in Madrid's world-class culinary scene. If you want to dine amid history, head to Botín. No less than Ernest Hemingway described it in his seminal novel The Sun Also Rises as the best restaurant on earth.
Day 2: Private City Tour - Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy
Enjoy a half-day tour of Madrid led an expert local guide today. Madrid has a long history, and today the city adorns itself with that history in its architecture, public spaces, and culture. An organized tour is ideal, and your guide will reveal insight into how different time periods influenced Madrid's neighborhoods and buildings, as well as point out the most interesting sights.
One area you'll visit that's awash in splendor is the Madrid de los Austrias. It was built in the 16th century during the reign of the Hapsburg Dynasty's first ruler, Charles I. Located in the city center, it's home to one of the grandest plazas in Spain, the Plaza Mayor, which was once the heart of Old Madrid.
Also here is the Royal Palace, which was the official home of the Spanish monarchs until 1931. You'll tour both the grounds and interior of this 3,418-room monument to opulence, entering the parade ground, the bedchambers of Charles III, several salons, the Royal Chapel, and the Hall of the Crown, which displays Charles I's crown, scepter, and throne.
Later you could visit El Retiro Park. This 308-acre expanse of verdure is the green lung of Madrid, abounding with sculptures, fountains, and a man-made lake perfect for taking a boat trip. There are also must-visit gardens here including the Jardín de Vivaces ("Garden of Vivacious Plants"), Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (inspired by the Andalusia region), and a garden home to over 4,000 roses. The best time to see these blooms from May through June.
Day 3: Private Tour of Madrid - El Prado Museum
After breakfast, a private guide will pick you up from your hotel and take you on a four-hour walking tour of the city highlights. Your guide will adapt to your speed and style, whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a brisk pace to squeeze in as many sites as possible.
At the end of the tour, you'll visit the magnificent El Prado museum, which features one of the finest collections of European art in the world. This includes works by Velazquez, El Greco, and Goya. Your guide will lead you through some of these exhibits before leaving you to continue exploring on your own.
Should you choose, before parting ways your guide can recommend a good nearby restaurant or tapas bar—the perfect spot to cap your day in Madrid.
Day 4: Day Trip to Toledo
In the morning, your driver will pick you up from the hotel for the hour-long trip from central Madrid south to Toledo. This historic city was the capital of Spain in the 16th century, and enjoys a dramatic location atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo.
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 will visit these historic landmarks as well as others, including the grand 13th century Toledo Cathedral and the 12th century Church of Santo Tomé. Throughout it all, you'll tour the ancient streets of an incredible city that could aptly be described as an open-air museum. After all, Toledo does enjoy UNESCO World Heritage Status.
Day 5: Private Transfer from Madrid to Córdoba
After breakfast, a driver will meet you and you'll begin the four-hour journey by car south to Córdoba. Upon arrival in the city, you'll check into your hotel, unwind, and can spend the remainder of the day however you see fit.
If you do have the energy to get out and explore, you could take a quick stroll along the narrow streets of Córdoba's historic Jewish Quarter. Or, you could head to the western outskirts of the city and visit the ruins of the Medina Azahara, a Moorish palace-city built in the 10th century. One of the best strolls anywhere in the city is along the Roman Bridge of Córdoba, which dates to the 1st century BCE. Be sure to do so at sunset.
Day 6: Córdoba Private City Tour - Transfer to Seville
In the morning, you'll meet your expert guide for a walking tour around Córdoba's city center. You'll visit all the amazing sites, including the breathtaking Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba), a pagan temple converted into the great mosque of the Ummayad caliphate and later transformed into a Catholic church.
In addition, you'll visit 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.
You'll also have the option to meander around the winding and narrow streets of the historic Jewish Quarter. At the end of the tour, your guide will say farewell and leave you in a popular local restaurant for a traditional Córdoban lunch. After eating, your driver will pick you up for the 1.5-hour drive to Seville, the capital of Spain's Andalusia region.
Day 7: Private City Tour of Seville
After breakfast, you'll head off with a local guide to explore this ancient hotbed of culture.
You’ll visit the Seville Cathedral, a 15th-century Roman-Catholic church that's home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest gothic church in the world, and an awe-inspiring testament to pious grandiosity. You'll also see La Giralda, 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.
You'll then walk to the fashionable Santa Cruz neighborhood, which was once the Jewish Quarter in the city. It's a colorful and well-preserved part of the historic center, with many cafés and tapas bars—the perfect excuse to take a break and enjoy some small plates and local wine. You can also visit markets and local shops where 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. Not surprisingly, Seville's gastronomic scene is incredible. Know that locals love to compliment an evening of tapas with a nightcap at a favorite watering hole.
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.
Day 8: Olive Oil Tour - Evening Flamenco & Tapas Experience
In the morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you outside the city to a special locale in the countryside. One of Spain's most popular exports is its high-quality olive oil, and today you'll witness the production process firsthand on an exclusive tour of an Andalusian olive oil estate. This estate has quite the history, as it was right here back in the 17th-century that Christopher Columbus' son Hernando began exporting olive oil to the New World.
You'll tour the old manufacturing center and view the 16th-century olive-oil presses. You'll also visit the estate's working presses, which use modern methods to produce the olive oil they export today. The excursion ends with a tasting of olive oils from the estate, allowing you to put your newfound knowledge of this tasty ingredient to good use.
After returning to Seville, it will then be time to prepare for your big night out. Either in a small group or private tour, you'll head to Seville's historic old town for an evening of delicious tapas and authentic flamenco, a musical style birthed right in Andalusia.
But first the food. Your expert guide will lead you to two family-run taverns where he or she will recommend a wide selection of dishes and guide you through the meal to ensure you enjoy this traditional food like a local. Authentic tapas on offer include acorn-fed Iberian ham, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp in oil) and bacalao (salt cod). Of course, throughout the dinner, you'll pair the tapas with delicious local wines.
Your guide will then switch topics from cuisine to music—flamenco, to be precise. You'll get a fascinating overview of this culturally distinct musical genre, from its origins to its current global renown. Then you'll experience the real thing as your guide leads you to the historic Santa Cruz neighborhood. Here you'll enter a 15th-century building that hosts the evening's dance performance. It's the perfect ambiance in which to experience the power, passion, and drama of real flamenco.
After the performance, you'll visit yet another family-run tapas bar to cap the whirlwind evening with more incredible wines and equally delectable desserts. All in all, it's a perfect end to a magical evening in Seville!
Day 9: Private Transfer to Ronda - Wine Tour
In the morning, a driver will meet you for your journey from Seville south to Ronda, an ancient city dating back to the 6th century when it was first settled by the Celts. It's a storybook locale carved out of a mountain and situated over a deep gorge, and one of the most unique and dramatic cities in the country.
Ronda and its surrounding region are also known for producing great wines. Today, you'll enjoy a private visit to a boutique winery whose cellars are located in the ancient chapel of a former monastery. You'll enjoy an informative tour by an oenologist who will reveal the time-tested methods and traditions of the winemaking process here, as well as discuss the types of wines they produce. The tour ends with a tasting of the various wines.
After the winery, you will head into Ronda to do some sightseeing. The city itself has a well preserved historic center with an impressive Plaza de Toros (bullring) that's a physical representation of its bullfighting heritage. Most ideally, though, there are spectacular views of the gorge from many points in the city.
Day 10: Hiking Ronda - Transfer to Granada
After breakfast, you'll head to the outskirts of Ronda for a bit of hiking around the stunning countryside. There are many such routes outside of the city that pass through the green valley below. These are mostly easy day hikes, many of which can be completed in as little as an hour or two.
Some highlights of hiking around this bucolic landscape include passing by local farms and olive groves as well as hiking up ridges for more incredible views of Ronda and the valley. You might even pass by limestone caves and old hermitages that date back hundreds of years. As an added bonus you'll see beautiful displays of wildflowers and almond blossoms along the trails. Capping the experience will be a picnic lunch featuring seasonal produce.
Afterward, your driver will pick you up for the two-hour drive east to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the city of Granada. This 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.
Day 11: Private Tour of the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens
Granada was once the last bastion of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) when it was ruled by the moors. You can see examples of this history in the form of Granada's most famous landmark, the Alhambra, which receives more than two million visitors annually. In the morning, you'll meet an expert guide for a private tour.
This imposing Muslim fortress was built atop a hill overlooking Granada and dates to the 9th century. It was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Nasrid Dynasty and served as a Moorish palace until 1492 when after the Christian reconquest it became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and on a tour, you'll walk through its grand halls and stroll the Generalife Gardens, which are filled with colorful flowers and fountains and offer panoramic views of the city down below.
After the tour, You'll have free time to enjoy Grenada on your own. You can walk around the labyrinthine streets of the Albayzin and Sacromonte quarters, the well-preserved historic neighborhoods of the city. In areas such as these, you can visit the Granada Cathedral, Royal Church, Alcaicería (old silk market), and Madraza (medieval Koranic school).
Day 12: Flight from Granada to Barcelona - Private Cycling Tour
In the morning, a driver will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the airport, where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight to Barcelona. Upon arrival, you'll take another private transfer to your hotel. After checking in and unpacking, it will be time to head out and explore this jewel in the crown of Catalonia.
However, you won't be doing so on foot—you'll be touring this popular city by bicycle as you ride through its most famous area: the medieval Gothic Quarter and its trendy El Born neighborhood. After meeting your guide and hopping on the bike, you'll then be underway. As your guide leads you on a three-hour tour, he or she will point out the rich history of these neighborhoods as you pass Roman ruins, the grand Plaça Reial, and the gothic Barcelona Cathedral, which dates to the 13th century.
But the tour doesn't end here. You'll cycle from the Gothic Quarter through Ciutadella Park, one of the largest green spaces in the city, and all the way to Barceloneta Beach. This is the main urban beach in the city, and it's always a hub of activity, lined as it is with cafés, restaurants, beach, bars, and discos. Riding along the promenade fronting the water is the perfect way to cap your cycling tour of Barcelona's most famous areas.
Day 13: Gaudí Architecture Tour & Markets of Barcelona
After breakfast, a local guide will meet you at your hotel for an exclusive architecture tour. The destinations are some of the most astounding works by the legendary Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí.
First, you'll visit Park Güell. Located atop Carmel Hill in north Barcelona, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fine example of Gaudí's boundary-pushing modernist style. It also features pretty gardens and views of the city. Plus, this lively park is a great place to see local musicians busking.
Then you'll head to the famous boulevard Passeig de Grácia. It's home to upscale boutiques as well as another masterpiece by Gaudí: the Casa Milá apartment building, which is nicknamed "La Pedrera" because its facade resembles a stone quarry. Originally built for the aristocratic Milà family around 1906, the result is an iconic work of Catalan-modernism architecture.
Later, you'll stop at a few of Barcelona's best local markets to taste a range of Spanish culinary delights with the help and guidance of your expert guide.
Day 14: Flight from Barcelona to Menorca - Explore
In the morning a driver will transfer you to the airport where you'll catch a one-hour flight to Menorca. One of four islands in Spain's Balearic Archipelago, Menorca is ideal for travelers who prefer a tranquil beach holiday to the constant partying of its western neighbor Ibiza.
You'll arrive in Menorca's capital city, Maó, where you'll pick up your rental car and drive to your hotel. After checking in and unpacking you can relax for a bit before heading out to explore the island.
If you just can't wait to hit the beach, there are many options around the capital. Es Calo Blanc is located about five miles south of the city and just south of the airport. There may not be much in the way of sand here, but the rocks hugging the cove are good spots to lay your towel and make great platforms for diving into crystalline lagoons. Cala d'en Tortuga, a few miles northeast of Maó, is another great option located in S'Albufera National Park, a nature reserve.
Punta Prima is about the same distance outside the capital and located near the southern tip of the island. There's a large beach here and ample parking, but know that it tends to get crowded. Sa Mesquida Playa is just a couple miles from Maó on the east coast, and it's a gem. It features a long and crescent-shaped sandy beach hugged at either end by promontory hills that protect the cove from wind.
If you're a bit of a foodie, be sure to try the island's famous Mahón cheese. Named after Menorca's capital, this is a smooth hard cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk. It's unique in that it has a somewhat salty, spicy flavor mixed with fruity and sweet aromas. Whatever your opinion of it, Mahón cheese has passed the test of time—Menorcans have been producing it on the island for over 700 years.
Day 15: Horseback Riding in Menorca
Today you'll enjoy a leisure activity perfectly suited for an island with a stunning coastline like Menorca: horseback riding.
In the morning you'll drive 25 minutes to the eastern edge of the island near the medieval city of Ciutadella. It's a historic and beautiful city, but now's not the time for strolling its old cobbled streets.
Instead, you'll visit the rocky coast south of Ciutadella, home to some of the most gorgeous coves on the island. Here you'll saddle up and begin the 2.5-hour horseback ride along the famed Camí de Cavalls (Path of the Horses). This is a coastal route that various occupiers of Menorca, from the Moors to the British, used to patrol the island for centuries. You'll pass beautiful coves like Cala Fustam, an isolated spot hiding a white-sand virgin beach and turquoise waters.
After the ride, you'll transfer back to your hotel in the capital. In the afternoon, you'll have free time to continue exploring the city on your own. If you're a history buff with an interest in archeology, there are some fascinating sites in and around Maó.
Right outside the city are the megalithic monuments of Trepucó and Talatí de Dalt. These are the remains of settlements from the Talaiotic culture, a society that existed during the Iron Age. Another archeological gem near to the capital is the 19th-century Mola Fortress. This impressive stone stronghold was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II of Spain to protect Maó's port.
For more history, visit the Museo de Menorca. It offers fascinating exhibits detailing Menorca's cultural timeline over the centuries and includes ancient sculptures, ceramics, tools, and jewelry. Plus there's also 19th-century art, antique furniture, and photographs.
Day 16: Flight from Menorca to Mallorca - Explore Palma
In the morning you'll have some remaining free time to enjoy Menorca. Feel free to spend it shopping, visiting a café, or lazing on one of the island's beautiful beaches. In the afternoon, you'll return your car to the rental office and take a 40-minute flight west to Mallorca, the elder sibling of Menorca.
In fact, Mallorca is the largest of the Balearics and a popular destination for tourists and holidaymakers the world over. It's ideal for travelers of all stripes because here you have it all: beautiful Mediterannean coast and beaches, coves and inlets hugging turquoise waters, ancient villages, mountains perfect for hiking and cycling, a variety of local wineries, and great nightlife and shopping in the capital city of Palma de Mallorca.
Upon arrival at the airport in Palma, you'll pick up your rental car and transfer to your hotel in the capital. Take some time to relax before heading out to explore. Not only is Palma de Mallorca an exciting metropolitan capital, but it's also a medieval historic gem. All around you'll find Moorish fortresses, royal palaces, and Gothic landmarks.
Day 17: Guided Tour of Palma de Mallorca
In the morning you'll meet a local guide for a four-hour historical tour of Palma. Like much of southern Spain, the Balearic Islands have been occupied by various empires and cultures over the years. This includes everyone from the Romans and Visigoths to the Muslims, Christians, and even the Bourbons. Although Mallorca has officially been a part of Spain since the 13th century, you can still see many remnants of this history in Palma's historic landmarks.
One you'll visit is the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, or simply the Palma Cathedral. This expansive Roman Catholic church was built by the Catalan Crown of Aragón in the 13th century over the site of a former Mosque that had been erected during Moorish rule. And even that sat on the site of the citadel of a previous Roman city.
Palma Catedral is designed in the Catalan-Gothic style and is one of the largest such churches in Europe. It has been restored over the years, and in 1901 legendary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí took over duties, adding a distinct Art Nouveau interior. You can see a fine example of his contribution in the wrought iron canopy over the main altar.
Just opposite the cathedral is another stop on the tour: the Royal Palace of La Almudaina. Its position overlooking the Bay of Palma made it strategically important, which is why the Moors built a fortress there in the 10th century (before that the Romans occupied the site). Like with the Palma Cathedral, the Christians under King James II of Majorca built this Gothic fortified palace over the Muslim fortress after the conquest of the 13th century.
A tour of the palace involves visiting the three grand staterooms, the royal staircase, and the royal apartments. You'll also visit the Capilla de Santa Ana, a Romanesque chapel that was commissioned by King James II. Today the palace is the official island residence of the King and Queen of Spain.
About a mile west of Palma is the 14th century Castell de Bellver. Perched on a hill amid pine woods, this unique Gothic castle (it's one of the few round fortresses in Spain) was another of King James II's pet projects. Here you'll enjoy incredible 360-degree views of Palma plus tour the castle. Features include a moat and drawbridge, three defensive towers, and the imposing Torre del Homenaje (the fortress' keep). Inside is an open-air courtyard with Roman arches that often hosts evening concerts.
Day 18: Mallorca Sailing Tour
After breakfast, you'll drive to the port to depart for a half-day (optional full-day) sailboat tour along the beautiful Mallorcan coast. Make no mistake, it's the 344 miles (555 km) of gorgeous coastline that makes Mallorca the Balearic's most popular destination for summer holidaymakers. Rocky coves string the island like pearls, and running from its shores out to the horizon are vast expanses of water as blue as the cloudless sky.
This boat tour will take you to various points on Mallorca, and each has its virtues. The eastern side of the island is home to some postcard beaches like the white sands and crystalline waters of Cala Formentor. Further south you'll find pine-shrouded coves guarding turquoise waters, like at Caló des Moro. And on the west side are some attractive rocky inlets comprised of small cliffs perfect for diving.
On the boat, you can pick your pleasure. If you want to relax and sunbathe on the deck between cove-hopping, no problem. If you prefer something more active, there will be ample time for swimming and snorkeling (equipment provided). Whenever you feel peckish feel free to indulge in some of the complimentary snacks on board; and if you book a full-day tour, you and the other guests can sit down and enjoy a full lunch.
Day 19: Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains - Village Tour
A driver/guide will pick you up from your hotel in the morning and transfer you to another of Mallorca's natural highlights: the Tramuntana Mountains. Located on the northwest side of the island, these limestone mountains with sharp ridges and handsome bluffs are a hiker's dream. You'll be enjoying a medium difficulty hike that takes between 1.5-3 hours and requires no more specialized equipment than hiking boots or athletic shoes. Expect breathtaking views of the coast from many lookout points.
You'll also visit some of the historic mountain villages famous in the area. These include the carless hilltop hamlet of Valldemossa, the tranquil cove and rocky beach of coastal Deià, and Sóller, with its rickety wooden cable cars and long waterfront promenade.
These villages have long been home to painters and writers from across the globe, attracted to the area by the relaxed way of life, endless sunny afternoons, and the ideal location between a pine-covered hillside and the glimmering Mediterranean sea. Valldemossa, in particular, is home to the 14th century Real Cartuja, a well, a well-preserved Carthusian Monastery. Here the composer Frédéric Chopin and his lover George Sand rented rooms in the winter of 1838.
Day 20: Depart Spain from Mallorca
In the morning, a driver will meet you and transfer you to the airport. You'll then catch a flight back to mainland Spain, where you'll meet your connecting flight home. Adios!