This three-week itinerary delivers everything you could want in a Spanish holiday. It begins in Madrid before moving south to Andalusia, with its Moorish architecture and flamenco flavor. You'll then discover the food and culture of Barcelona, capping the trip in the Balearic Islands, where you'll explore postcard coves and the azure waters off Menorca and Mallorca.

Highlights

  • 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

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
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 Boqueria Market Guided Tour - Cooking Class Barcelona
Day 15 Flight from Barcelona to Menorca - Explore Menorca
Day 16 Horseback Riding in Menorca Menorca
Day 17 Flight from Menorca to Mallorca - Explore Palma Palma de Mallorca
Day 18 Guided Tour of Palma de Mallorca Mallorca
Day 19 Mallorca Sailing Tour Mallorca
Day 20 Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains - Village Tour Mallorca
Day 21 Depart Spain from Mallorca  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Madrid - Optional Artisan Tour

The Fountain of Cibeles, in Madrid
The Fountain of Cibeles, in Madrid

Upon arrival at the nation's capital, enjoy a private transfer to your hotel in the city center, then freshen up before heading out to explore such highlights as 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 guided introduction to Spain's cultural traditions focusing on artisans workshops, such as 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

The Royal Palace, Madrid
The Royal Palace, Madrid

Enjoy a half-day tour of Madrid led an expert local guide, perhaps beginning with the splendor of the Madrid de los Austrias area, built in the 16th century during the reign of the Hapsburg Dynasty's first ruler, Charles I. Here you'll find the grandiose Plaza Mayor, once the heart of Old Madrid; plus 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, including the parade ground, the royal bedchambers, 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

El Prado Museum, Madrid
El Prado Museum, Madrid

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

Toledo and its iconic Alcázar
Toledo and its iconic Alcázar

In the morning, your driver will take you to Toledo, capital of Spain in the 16th century and boasting a dramatic location atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo. In the Middle Ages, Toledo was known as the "City of the Three Cultures," where hristian, 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

The Roman Bridge of Córdoba
The Roman Bridge of 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

The Mezquita, in Córdoba
The Mezquita, in Córdoba

In the morning, you'll meet your expert guide for a walking tour around Córdoba. 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. Plus, you'll visit the 14th-century Alcázar de los Reyes. 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

Aerial view of Seville and the Cathedral
Aerial view of Seville and the Cathedral

After breakfast, you'll head off with a local guide to explore this ancient cultural capital, including the 15th-century Seville Cathedral, claiming to boast 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 the fashionable Santa Cruz neighborhood: once the Jewish Quarter in the city, today 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. Later, return to your hotel to relax, or continue to explore the town and its incredible gastronomic scene. 

Day 8: Olive Oil Tour - Evening Flamenco & Tapas Experience

Flamenco is part of Seville's history
Flamenco is part of Seville's history

In the morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you to an Andalusian olive oil estate for an exclusive tour. You'll tour the old manufacturing center and view the 16th-century olive-oil presses, and the estate's working presses, ending with a tasting of olive oils. 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 with your expert guide for an evening of delicious tapas and authentic flamenco, a musical style birthed right in Andalusia. 

First, head to two family-run taverns serving such authentic tapas as acorn-fed Iberian ham, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp in oil) and bacalao (salt cod), paired with delicious local wines. You'll  then get a fascinating overview of flamenco, from its origins to its current global renown, before experiencing a dance performanced in the historic Santa Cruz neighborhood. 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

Ronda
Ronda

In the morning, a driver will meet you for your journey south to Ronda, an ancient city dating with a dramatic location carved spanning a deep gorge. 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, before you indulge in a tasting of the winery's 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

One last hike near Ronda
One last hike near Ronda

After breakfast, head to the outskirts of Ronda for hiking a bucolic landscape enriched by local farms and olive groves, and including hiking ridges trails 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

The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada
The Alhambra, overlooking Grenada

Granada was once the last bastion of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), highlighted by Granada's most famous landmark, the Alhambra--deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll meet an expert guide for a private tour of this imposing hilltop Muslim fortress dating from the 9th century and which served as a Moorish palace until 1492 when after the Christian reconquest it became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. 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

Welcome to Barcelona
Welcome to Barcelona

In the morning, a driver will transfer you to the airport for a flight to Barcelona, where you'll be transferred to your hotel. After freshening up, head out and explore this jewel in the crown of Catalonia by bicycle. After meeting your guide and hopping on the bike, you'll then ride through the medieval Gothic Quarter and its trendy El Born neighborhood. 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

La Sagrada Familia, a Gaudí masterpiece
La Sagrada Familia, a Gaudí masterpiece

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: Boqueria Market Guided Tour - Cooking Class

Fresh produce at the Boqueria Market
Fresh produce at the Boqueria Market

In the morning you'll embark on a guided, small-group tour to the gastronomic epicenter of Barcelona: the Boqueria Market. Open since 1835, this is the most famous covered market in the city. Each day over 200 vendors open their stalls and sell everything from fresh produce and spices to fresh fish, cured meats, and artisanal cheeses. Plus there are plenty of tapas bars and restaurants here serving high-quality Catalan cuisine. 

Because this market is so big and hectic (it receives over 40,000 visitors each day), it's best to let your expert guide lead the way and direct you to the best stalls. After touring the Boqueria and picking up any artisanal products that strike your fancy, you'll head to a local kitchen to partake in a cooking class. Under the guidance of an expert instructor, you'll learn to make traditional Spanish specialties including paella (and enjoy them during a group lunch).

Day 15: Flight from Barcelona to Menorca - Explore

Es Calo Blanc, Menorca
Es Calo Blanc, Menorca

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 and relax for a bit before heading out to explore the island. If you just can't wait to hit the beach, Es Calo Blanc (about 5 miles/8 km south of the city) has rock platforms on which to lay your towel and for diving into crystalline lagoons.

Cala d'en Tortuga, in S'Albufera National Park, is another great option located, as are Punta Prima, near the southern tip of the island, and Sa Mesquida Playa, with a long, crescent-shaped sandy beach cusped by promontories. If you're a bit of a foodie, be sure to try the island's famous Mahón cheese: this is a smooth hard cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk, and unique for its 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 16: Horseback Riding in Menorca

Cala Fustam, Menorca
Cala Fustam, Menorca

Today, you'll drive 25 minutes to the eastern edge of the island near the beautiful medieval city of Ciutadella, with cobbled streets tailor-made for strolling. The surround rocky coast south of town is riddled with gorgeous coves, where you'll saddle up for a 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, with free time to continue exploring the city on your own. History buffs might head to Maó to visit the megalithic monuments of Trepucó and Talatí de Dalt and the 19th-century Mola Fortress--an impressive stone stronghold 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 17: Flight from Menorca to Mallorca - Explore Palma

The city of Palma de Mallorca
The city of Palma de Mallorca

In the morning you'll have some remaining free time to enjoy Menorca. In the afternoon, 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 Mediterranean 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 18: Guided Tour of Palma de Mallorca

The Royal Palace of La Almudaina
The Royal Palace of La Almudaina

This morning join a local guide for a tour of Palma, focusing on its many historic landmarks, such as the Catalan-Gothic style Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma. This expansive Roman Catholic church (with Art Nouveau restorations by Antoni Gaudi) was built in the 13th century over the site of a former Moorish Mosque that stood atop the citadel of a Roman city. You'll also visit the Royal Palace of La Almudaina (today the official island residence of the King and Queen of Spain), overlooking the Bay of Palma; plus the Capilla de Santa Ana Romanesque chapel commissioned by King James II. 

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 19: Mallorca Sailing Tour

Sail from one stunning cove to another on a boat tour
Sail from one stunning cove to another on a boat tour

After breakfast, depart for a half-day (optional full-day) sailboat tour along the beautiful Mallorcan coast, with rocky coves, and a vast expanse of water as blue as the cloudless sky. Your 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 20: Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains - Village Tour

Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains
Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains

A driver/guide will pick you up in the morning and transfer you to the Tramuntana Mountains, on the northwest side of the island; with their grandiose limestone forumations, they're a hiker's dream. You'll enjoy a moderate hike that takes between 1.5-3 hours offering breathtaking views of the coast from its many lookout points. You'll also visit some of the historic mountain villages famous in the area, including 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 21: Depart Spain from Mallorca

Farewell, Spain!
Farewell, Spain!

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!

Map

Map of Spain Highlights: Madrid, Andalusia, Barcelona, & the Balearic Islands - 21 Days
Map of Spain Highlights: Madrid, Andalusia, Barcelona, & the Balearic Islands - 21 Days