Get to know the major regions of Spain with this three-week getaway from north to south. Begin in Barcelona and enjoy an immersion in Catalan culture, followed by a jaunt to Basque Country to sample world-renowned cuisine. Finally, head to the mountains of Málaga and further south through Andalusia, a region rich in Moorish culture and home to historic cities like Granada, Córdoba, and Seville.

Highlights

  • Visit famous landmarks in Barcelona and tour the historic Gothic Quarter
  • Explore San Sebastian and try the renowned cuisine of the Basque Country
  • Take an architecture tour of Madrid and dine at the city's best restaurants
  • Laze on the beaches of Málaga and the Costa del Sol
  • Experience the highlights of Andalusia, including Cádiz, Granada, and Seville

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Spain, Exclusive Food Tour of Barcelona Barcelona
Day 2 Explore Barcelona on a Private Tour Barcelona
Day 3 Free Day in Barcelona or Optional Day Trip Barcelona
Day 4 Train to San Sebastián, Private City Tour San Sebastian
Day 5 Discover Getaria  San Sebastian
Day 6 Day Trip to Bilbao San Sebastian
Day 7 Train to Madrid & Self-Guided Foodie Exploration Madrid
Day 8 Historical & Cultural Tour of Madrid Madrid
Day 9 Free Day to Explore Madrid or Optional Day Trip Madrid
Day 10 Train to Granada Granada
Day 11 Private Tour of the Alhambra & Flamenco Show Granada
Day 12 Hike in Las Alpujarras Granada
Day 13 Private Transfer to Málaga, Walk the Caminito del Rey Malaga
Day 14 Explore Málaga and Outskirts Malaga
Day 15 Private Transfer to Cádiz via Ronda & Grazalema Cádiz
Day 16 Free Day in Cádiz Cádiz
Day 17 Train to Seville, Private City Tour Seville
Day 18 Discover Seville Seville
Day 19 Day Trip to Córdoba Seville
Day 20 Train from Seville to Madrid, One Last Night in Spain Madrid
Day 21 Depart Madrid  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Spain, Exclusive Food Tour of Barcelona

Welcome to Barcelona
Basilica de la Sagrada Famìlia in Barcelona

Welcome to Spain! Upon arrival at Barcelona's El Prat Airport, meet your private driver, who will take you into the city to check into your hotel and unwind. Then, take the afternoon and evening to explore Barcelona's cuisine with the help of an expert guide.

The adventure kicks off at a traditional bodega (wine cellar) and tapas bar to enjoy a glass of the city’s favorite aperitif—sweet vermouth—and locally-cured meats, cheeses, olives, and other Spanish delicacies. Your foodie excursion continues with a stroll through Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, where your guide will point out sights of interest as they lead the way to the next eatery. Afterward, head to another historic neighborhood where your guide will continue to reveal insights into the area's architecture, history, and culture. Along the way, you'll visit other tapas bars to sample traditional Catalan dishes and wine. 

Day 2: Explore Barcelona on a Private Tour

The Magic Fountain at the Plaça Espanya

In the morning, a private driver will whisk you off to Montjuïc, the famous hill overlooking Barcelona's harbor, which offers panoramic views of the city. After a stop at the Catalunya National Art Museum (MNAC), you'll visit Plaça Espanya, one of the most important plazas in the city. Next, drive to the famous boulevard Passeig de Grácia, home to two buildings by the legendary Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Stop at the Hospital de Sant Pau before arriving at the iconic Sagrada Família, the most visually-impressive church in Barcelona. 

After visiting the Sagrada Familia, head to the historic Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter), which until the mid-19th century was surrounded by medieval stone walls. Enjoy strolling the narrow winding streets before arriving at one of Barcelona's oldest indoor municipal markets: Mercat de Santa Caterina. Continue wandering past some of the city's most historic landmarks until you arrive in the trendy district of El Born, located near the waterfront. El Born is home to the famed Picasso Museum, as well as the 14th-century Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. Finish off your day with dinner at a local tapas bar. 

Day 3: Free Day in Barcelona or Optional Day Trip

The monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat
The monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat

Explore Barcelona on your own today, or opt for one of several day trips from the city. One option is to travel about an hour northeast from Barcelona to Girona. This historic city lies next to the Onyar River and is known for its cobbled streets, grand churches, and medieval Old Quarter hemmed in by stone walls. Located north of Girona is the town of Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí. Figueres is best known for the Teatre-Museu Dalí. A former theatre, it was converted by Dalí himself into a labyrinth of surrealism displaying the largest collection of his works, including many from his personal collection.

You could also travel up the Montserrat Mountains to Catalonia's holiest site, the 16th-century Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. You can reach the monastery on a 1.5-hour hike from the town of Monistrol de Montserrat, or take a five-minute ride in the cable car. Alternately, the pretty coastal town of Sitges (about 45 minutes southwest of Barcelona) makes for a perfect day trip option. The pace is decidedly more laid back here, and some of the best activities are the simplest, like strolling the long waterfront promenade or sunbathing on one of the town's many beaches. 

Day 4: Train to San Sebastián, Private City Tour

San Sebastian, in Spain's northern Basque country
San Sebastian, in Spain's northern Basque country

After breakfast, transfer to Barcelona's train station for a five-hour railway journey. Your destination is the northern Atlantic coast and the city of San Sebastian, which sits on the Bay of Biscay near the border with France. It's located in the heart of Basque Country, one of Spain's most beautiful regions and a foodie haven. Once you've checked into your hotel, head out to explore San Sebastian with a local guide. Wander the stone streets of the Parte Vieja (old quarter), and stroll along La Concha Promenade, the elevated waterfront that curves around the city's main beaches, Ondarreta and La Concha.

For great views looking back at San Sebastian, take a ferry to the famous offshore island of Santa Clara or a funicular railway up to Mont Igualdo, which offers even more sweeping panoramas from the west edge of the city. And of course, no tour of San Sebastian is complete without indulging in its celebrated food culture. San Sebastian specializes in a type of tapas called pintxos (pronounced "peen-chos"). Most bars, cafés, and restaurants in the Parte Vieja serve some version of these bite-sized, gourmet delicacies. 

Day 5: Discover Getaria 

The coastal village of Getaria
The coastal village of Getaria

A half-hour down the coast from San Sebastián is Getaria, a beautiful village rich in food culture and history: you'll arrive after breakfast to explore with a local foodie guide. Start with a stroll along Getaria's cobbled streets, until you arrive at the main port. This is one of the most popular entry points in Basque Country for fresh tuna and shiny Cantabrian anchovies. Glean insights into the area's rich fishing culture by meeting and chatting with various artisans who work on the waterfront hand-packing fish.

Afterward, visit a bodega for a tasting of various seafood dishes paired with the region's famed txakoli wine. As you drink, your guide will explain the origins and characteristics of this carbonated, dry white wine firmly rooted in Getarria's terroir. After your satisfying lunch, head off to explore the surrounding countryside as your guide reveals more insights into the roots of Basque cuisine. Finish up your day with a stop in the picture-postcard surfer village of Zarautz. Here, you can take a mini-tour of the local food scene, indulging in more pintxos and toasting new friends with glass after glass of regional wine.

Day 6: Day Trip to Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum, in Bilbao
The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

After breakfast, transfer to the coastal city of Bilbao, an often-overlooked gem of the region. Staggeringly innovative architecture, a venerable dining scene, and fertile green mountains just outside the city center combine to make Bilbao one of the great treasures of Basque Country. Explore Bilbao on a self-guided tour, starting in Casco Viejo (the historic center). Here, you can visit the 14th-century Santiago Cathedral, walk along the Nervión River, and stop at the Mercado de la Ribera, a municipal market filled with fresh produce, cured meats and cheeses, fishmongers, butchers, and plenty of pintxo bars.

You could also hop in a funicular elevator for a quick ride to the top of Mt. Artxanda, which features the best views of the city. Don't miss the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, a masterpiece of contemporary architecture housing a treasure trove of works from great artists such as Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor, and Jeff Koons. Once dinnertime rolls around, indulge in some local fare from the city's Michelin-starred eateries, buzzing pintxo bars, or family-run restaurants, each offering a unique take on Basque cuisine. 

Day 7: Train to Madrid & Self-Guided Foodie Exploration

Welcome to Madrid
Calle Gran Via in Madrid

Head to the train station to start your journey south to Madrid, Spain's capital. Madrid is a melting pot of all different types of cuisine, so you'll be sure to find something that suits your tastes here. To sample as much food as possible, visit the Mercado San Miguel, an indoor municipal market located in the center of the city at Plaza de San Miguel. The mercado (market) is over 100 years old and features over 20 food stalls, selling everything from fresh fish from Galicia to Iberian ham, artisanal cheeses, rice dishes, tapas, and more. 

When night falls, return to the city center to check out Botín, which is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest restaurant in the world. It first opened its doors in 1725 and has been doing a mean roast suckling pig ever since. No less than Ernest Hemingway described it in his seminal 1926 novel, "The Sun Also Rises," as one of the best restaurants on Earth. 

Day 8: Historical & Cultural Tour of Madrid

Plaza Mayor, Madrid
Plaza Mayor in central Madrid

In the morning, discover Madrid and explore its cultural highlights with the help of an expert guide. Once you've experienced a bit of the city, stop at a local restaurant for lunch, and take the rest of the day to explore on your own. Visit the city's expansive plazas, such as the Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol, which date back to the 15th and 14th centuries respectively. Madrid is also home to can't-miss museums like the Prado Museum and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

After a bit of culture, head to El Retiro Park. This 308-acre space is the green lung of Madrid, abounding with sculptures, fountains, a man-made lake, and a 400-year-old Mexican conifer which is regarded as the oldest tree in Madrid. There are also several must-visit gardens here, including the Jardín de Vivaces (Garden of Vivacious Plants), the Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (inspired by the Andalusia region), and a sprawling rose garden. 

Day 9: Free Day to Explore Madrid or Optional Day Trip

Toledo, with the Alcázar de Toledo perched atop the city
Toledo, with the Alcázar de Toledo perched atop the city

Take today to further explore Madrid on your own, or opt for a day trip to various locales all within an hour or so of the city. One great option is Toledo. Dramatically situated atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo, in the Middle Ages it was known as the "city of three cultures." Remnants of Toledo's Arab, Muslim, and Christian monuments 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.

Another option is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Segovia, known for the enormous Aqueduct of Segovia that runs through the city's midtown. Or visit Ávila, one of the best-preserved medieval bastions in Spain, for a UNESCO-listed fortress experience. Then there's Salamanca, a city of rare beauty that wears its historical legacy on its sleeve. It abounds with golden sandstone architecture overlaid with ochre-tinted Latin inscriptions, plus more gothic and baroque plazas and palaces than you can shake a stick at. 

Day 10: Train from Madrid to Granada

Granada
A view of Granada and the Alhambra

After breakfast, transfer to the train station for your journey three hours south to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the city of Granada. Upon arrival, check into your hotel, and take some time to relax and unwind. In the late afternoon, meet your guide for a city tour of Granada by bike. Or if you prefer a slower pace, you can opt for a walking tour instead.

Visit all the major sites, including the Plaza Nueva (the oldest square in the city), the Albaicín (the medieval Moorish center), Barrio Realejo (the historic Jewish Quarter), and the 16th-century Catedral de Granada, the largest and most opulent Roman Catholic church in the city. End the day at a local eatery, where you'll enjoy some traditional tapas and drinks. 

Day 11: Private Tour of the Alhambra & Flamenco Show

Aerial view of the famous Alhambra, in Granada
Aerial view of the famous Alhambra in Granada

Today you'll visit the Alhambra, the most iconic landmark in Granada and a site that many call the "eighth wonder of the world." This famous palace and fortress complex was constructed in the ninth century. It was once home to rulers of the Moorish Nasrid Dynasty, as well as the Royal Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. With countless rooms filled with beautifully-detailed tilework and the charming Generalife Gardens outside, this mountaintop fortress makes for an unforgettable visit.  

After the tour, take the rest of the day to explore Granada on your own. In the evening, enjoy dinner and a flamenco show. The Andalusia region is the birthplace of this evocative and romantic dance, so expect to be wowed by the performance.

Day 12: Hike in Las Alpujarras

The white villages of Las Alpujarras
The white villages of Las Alpujarras

Meet your driver at your hotel and begin the day's mountain excursion. Your destination is the Las Alpujarras de Granada region, which stretches southward from the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Granada. The area is famous for its terraced farmland and sparsely-populated white villages, which seem like throwbacks to the Middle Ages.

The Alpujarra enjoys a micro-climate fed by melting snow from above, turning the mountains here into a green oasis. It's the perfect environment for a three-hour mountain hike. Trek through the isolated region with your private guide, taking this opportunity to enjoy nature and visit the white towns. The people who live here are known for their unique and delicious gastronomy derived from self-sufficient farming practices. Discover the flavors of this culture when you sit down to lunch in a local restaurant. Afterward, return to Granada, and spend the rest of the evening relaxing or exploring the city on your own.

Day 13: Private Transfer to Málaga, Walk the Caminito del Rey

A bridge on the Caminito del Rey
A bridge on the Caminito del Rey

After breakfast, meet your driver and set off on your private transfer to Málaga. En route, stop near the village of Antequera to walk the Caminito del Rey. This "King's Path" walkway is so named because Alfonso XIII crossed it for the inauguration of the Conde del Guadalhorce hydroelectric dam in 1921. Consisting of a mile-long (3 km) boardwalk suspended on the cliffs 328 feet (100 m) above the Río Guadalhorce, the Caminito del Rey affords breathtaking views at every turn.

Keep in mind that the Caminito walk can only be done in one direction (north to south). Allow about four hours for the 4.7-mile (8 km) hike, as you'll want to savor the views. The Caminito is quite steep, so prepare to be thrilled by the experience. After the walk, hop back in the car to continue the drive south to Málaga. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and take the evening to relax. 

Day 14: Explore Málaga & Outskirts

Málaga
Málaga's waterfront

Explore the coastal city of Málaga, one of the crown jewels of Andalusia. Located at the top of the Costa del Sol, this ancient metropolis has more culture and history than many of the resort towns further south on Spain's famous riviera. Málaga dates back a whopping 3,000 years to Phoenician times, and it just so happens to be the city that produced Pablo Picasso. After a hearty breakfast, take to the streets for an up-close-and-personal discovery of Málaga's culture and history.

Don't miss the Alcazaba, an Islamic fortress that dates to the 11th century when the region was ruled by the Moors. Other sights include the remodeled Port of Málaga (perfect for a waterfront stroll), and the 16th-century Málaga Cathedral. As for culture, ace museums include the Pompidou Centre and the Picasso Museum, which houses 200 works by the master of cubism and Málaga's favorite son. To get away from the crowds, you could also head about an hour east of the city by train to the fishing village of Nerja—famous for the Caves of Nerja, a series of caverns that stretch 5 miles (3 km).

Day 15: Private Transfer to Cádiz via Ronda & Grazalema

Ronda, Spain
The cliffs of Ronda

Get ready for an incredible Andalusian road trip. After breakfast, head off to the ancient port city of Cádiz, located in the southwest of Spain. Break up the drive with a stop in the village of Ronda, famously frequented by Ernest Hemingway. Not only will you get to walk the cobbled streets and admire the elevated views from Ronda's famous cliffside bridge, you'll also get the chance to partake in a wine tour.

Then head to Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park—a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of wild landscapes featuring towering limestone peaks, deep gorges, and storybook hamlets. Stop in Grazalema, a picture-postcard village that has been inhabited since Roman times. Leave the town on a mountain road called Puerto de las Palomas, which features viewpoints at 3,795 feet (1,157 m) in altitude. From here, you'll have dramatic views over the provinces of Cádiz, Málaga, and Seville. After marveling at the landscape and allowing plenty of time for photos, hop back in the car for the final leg of the journey to Cádiz. 

Day 16: Free Day to Explore Cádiz

The inviting Paseo Campo del Sur waterfront promenade
The inviting Paseo Campo del Sur waterfront promenade

Enjoy a self-guided tour of Cádiz, one of the most historic cities in southern Spain. It was the site of the creation of Spain's first constitution, which was passed in 1812 in the Church of Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, establishing national sovereignty from France. Cádiz is also a Nirvana for foodies, and there's no better spotto be inducted into its gastronomic culture than the Mercado Central de Abastos. Dating back to 1838, Spain's oldest indoor municipal market features more than 150 stalls comprised of everything from restaurants to tapas bars to fresh produce vendors, fishmongers, butchers, and more.

Near the market, in the central old town area of Cádiz, is the Paseo Campo del Sur. This is a perfect place to take in the view of the majestic bell towers that comprise the 17th-century Catedral de Cádiz, which dominates the skyline. There's also an inviting beach in the city center in the form of La Caleta, the most popular stretch of sand in town. If you aren't merely content on land, consider a half-day sailing tour around the tranquil Bay of Cádiz and down the coast. In the evening, explore the city's famous restaurant scene for some great seafood. 

Day 17: Train to Seville, Private City Tour

The Seville Cathedral is the largest gothic church in the world
The Seville Cathedral is the largest gothic church in the world

After breakfast, transfer to the train station for a short journey north to Seville. After refreshing at your hotel, join a local guide to explore this ancient capital of Andalusia. First, visit the 15th-century Seville Cathedral, claiming to contain the tomb of Christopher Columbus: this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest gothic church in the world, and an awe-inspiring testament to pious grandiosity. Next, travel back to the era of the Christian conquests at the Alcázar of Seville, the 14th-century royal palace of Mudéjar architecture built atop a Muslim fortress, with manicured gardens.

Later, walk over to the fashionable Santa Cruz neighborhood, which was once the Jewish quarter of the city. This area offers many options for cafés and tapas bars—the perfect excuse to take a break and enjoy some small plates washed down with local wine. 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, return to your hotel to relax, or continue to explore the town. 

Day 18: Discover Seville

It doesn't get more old world Andalusian than the Plaza de España
The Neomudéjar Plaza de España

Use today to explore Seville on your own. If you haven't done so already, make sure to stroll over to the Plaza de España. Located in the Parque de María Luisa, this plaza may look like the epitome of old-world Spain, but it was actually built for the Ibero-American Exposition in 1929. The architectural styles of the government buildings here, as well as the moat and central fountain, are a mixture of Renaissance and Moorish revival. The surrounding park was designed by a famous French landscape artist. It features gazebos, pavilions, tiled fountains, ponds, and a rich variety of flora and fauna. 

Don't leave Seville without seeing a flamenco performance. Andalusia is the birthplace of flamenco, a truly romantic and evocative dance. You'll find many tablaos (bars) and theaters hosting live flamenco in the Santa Cruz neighborhood. Also here is the Museo del Baile Flamenco (Museum of Flamenco Dance). Located in an 18th-century building, the museum displays costumes and memorabilia, but also offers classes, recitals, guitar and singing lessons, and evening tango shows on the patio.

Day 19: Day Trip to Córdoba 

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba

Today, take a 40-minute trainjourney northeast to Córdoba, yet another romantic city filled with historic Mudéjar architecture to discover at your own pace on a self-guided tour. Start at the city's 8th-century Mosque-Cathedral (Mezquita), once the second-largest mosque in the world. It was converted to a Roman Catholic church after the Reconquista in the 13th century: inside you'll find an impressive Renaissance nave as well as towering columns and high double arches. Other features include the minaret/belltower, the dome covered in gold mosaic, and the mihrab (Muslim prayer niche).

After visiting the Mezquita, you can opt for an afternoon visit to Medina Azahara. Located on the outskirts of the city, this medieval Moorish palace and town was commissioned in the 10th century by the first Caliph of Córdoba. Built over nearly 300 acres, Medina Azahara was the de facto capital of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain). Stroll among its ancient ruins to get a vivid sense of how this archeological site was once the heart of government. A museum here reveals further insight into the ruins. At the end of the day, return to Seville and enjoy your evening. 

Day 20: Train to Madrid, One Last Night in Spain

Welcome to Madrid
Cibeles Fountain in Madrid

After breakfast, transfer to the train station for a three-hour journey north to Madrid. Once you arrive, hop in a taxi for the drive to your hotel. Check in and spend the rest of the day enjoying the city however you wish. Perhaps you'll want to do some more sightseeing and discover some of the landmarks and locales you might have missed out on during your first visit.

Day 21: Depart Madrid

Farewell, Spain
An aerial view of Madrid

Meet your driver in the morning for a private transfer to the airport. This concludes your three wonderful weeks in Spain. Adios!

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Map

Map of Spain North to South: Basque Country to Andalusia - 21 Days
Map of Spain North to South: Basque Country to Andalusia - 21 Days