- See the most famous sights of Madrid on a guided walk
- Visit the Ribera del Duero wine region
- Take a guided walk through Salamanca, one of the most ancient cities in Spain
- Travel the pilgrimage route and stop at beautiful locales in Galicia
|Day 1||Arrive in Madrid, Evening Tapas Experience||Madrid|
|Day 2||Madrid City Walk, Jamón Carving & Flamenco Show||Madrid|
|Day 3||Drive to León, Explore Salamanca||León|
|Day 4||Drive to Ribeira Sacra via Astorga||Monforte de Lemos area|
|Day 5||Boat Excursion in Ribeira Sacra, Drive to Vigo||Vigo|
|Day 6||Drive to Santiago via the Camellia Route||Santiago de Compostela|
|Day 7||Cooking Class, Explore Santiago de Compostela||Santiago de Compostela|
|Day 8||Depart Spain|
Day 1: Arrive in Madrid, Evening Tapas Experience
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 highlights like the Puerta del Sol, one of the city's most historic and expansive plazas. There's also Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles, with its 18th-century sculpture depicting Cybele, the Greek goddess of fertility, riding in a chariot pulled by lions.
In the evening, you'll dig into Madrid's culture with a local expert guide leading you on a two-hour walking excursion that stops at some great tapas bars. You'll visit Barrio Las Letras, known as the "literary quarter," a historic neighborhood in the city center that was once home to Spanish literary legends like Cervantes and Quevedo. Besides visiting some historical sites, you'll also stop at Calle Huertas for a bite at one of the many tapas bars that line the street.
Day 2: Madrid City Walk, Jamón Carving & Flamenco Show
After breakfast, a private guide will pick you up from your hotel and take you on a half-day walk through the city. This excursion covers all the highlights of Madrid's long history, from the times of the Habsburgs and the Bourbons to the present day. This includes a stop at the opulent Royal Palace, the former residence of the King and Queen of Spain. You'll also visit the expansive Plaza Mayor, the shopping area along Gran Vía, and El Retiro Park, the "green lung" of Madrid.
The experience culminates with a workshop offering delicious insight into one of Spain's most renowned delicacies: Jamón Iberico. On a tasting with an expert, you'll learn to differentiate various types of this cured meat as well as how to carve it properly. You'll also learn about the finished product's curing process and pricing structure. The tasting experience includes samples of the highest quality of three different hams.
After the workshop, you'll return to your hotel to rest. Then in the evening, you'll head to the Corral de la Moreria for a flamenco show. The Corral might be the most famous tablao (live flamenco venue) in the country. But it's more than a popular dance hall; ever since it opened its doors in 1956, it has hosted performances by some of the most accomplished flamenco performers in the world.
Day 3: Drive to León, Explore Salamanca
In the morning, you'll pick up your rental car and begin your road trip. Your first destination is the northern city of León, but you'll first stop about 2.5 hours west of Madrid, in Salamanca. Sitting on hills by the Tormes River, this city wears its historical legacy on its sleeve. Salamanca abounds with golden sandstone architecture overlaid with ochre-tinted Latin inscriptions, plus plenty of Gothic/Baroque plazas and palaces. One highlight is the Plaza Mayor, which is particularly beautiful when the lights go on. Despite dating back to Celtic times, the city's spirit is modern and youthful due to the large student population at the Universidad de Salamanca.
You'll walk through the city with a private guide, stopping for intermittent breaks in Salamanca's cafés for refreshments. After experiencing the culture and history of the place, it's time to hop back in the car for the two-hour drive north to León. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and relax and recharge after your full day.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Drive to Ribeira Sacra via Astorga
Today you'll drive west from León into the Galicia region of Spain. You'll witness Galicia's beauty firsthand as you drive west from Léon into the Ribeira Sacra region. The rivers Sil and Miño wind through the green mountains of this unspoiled area, dotted with monasteries and hermitage sites that date back to when the first Christians arrived in the 12th century. Make a stop in the village of Astorga, the starting point of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage for many hikers and cyclists.
Stone walls dating to Roman times encircle Astorga; within them, you'll find many medieval churches, convents, and hospitals. On a guided walk along its cobbled streets and via Plaza Mayor de Astruga, you'll see these landmarks plus the most famous of all: the Episcopal Palace. This late-19th-century modernist masterpiece by Antoní Gaudí is one of only three buildings designed by the legendary architect that exists outside his home region of Catalonia.
After walking around Astorga, stop at a restaurant for a traditional lunch. Be sure to try a Galician specialty like a roast suckling pig or polbo á feira (boiled octopus with paprika and olive oil). Other regional favorites include caldo gallega (a hearty broth of potatoes, beans, greens, and pork), fried padrón peppers, and queso de tetilla, a soft, cone-shaped white cheese known for its buttery taste. After lunch, continue to the Ribeira Sacra region and your hotel near Monforte de Lemos.
Day 5: Boat Excursion in Ribeira Sacra, Drive to Vigo
You'll have the day to enjoy the Ribeira Sacra, a mountainous river canyon of unparalleled beauty. Since the 12th century, this area was primarily home to monks and hermits who came to live ascetic lives near the confluence of the rivers Sil and Miño. Sil winds between green mountains and through canyons, affording some uniquely incredible views. Enjoy them on a 1.5-hour boat excursion, where you can bask amid gorgeous scenery of sloping hills, high plateaus, cypress, and chestnut trees.
Ribeira Sacra is also a fertile grape-growing region with Designation of Origin (DO) status for its wine production. It's uniquely referred to as "heroic viticulture" because most vineyards here are terraced due to the steepness of the mountains and hills. With so many vines hanging off the sides of hills and canyons, the simple act of grape harvesting in Ribeira Sacra requires much dexterity and agility.
After the boat ride, you'll head to a local guesthouse, where the friendly hosts will prepare a homemade meal for you to enjoy. Then hop back in the car and drive a couple of hours west to the coastal city of Vigo, where you'll spend the night.
Day 6: Drive to Santiago via the Camellia Route
In the morning, you'll begin the hour-long drive north from Vigo to Santiago de Compostela. But first, stop to smell the flowers—literally. The region of Galicia is home to over 8,000 varieties of camellia, an exotic far-east plant typically found in China and Japan. Spain began importing them in the 18th century to fill the gardens of Galician aristocrats. Eventually, they spread to public green spaces, too.
Accompanied by a guide, you'll drive along the Route of the Camellia, a network of flower-rich areas, stopping at some of the most ornate camellia gardens in rural pazos (country homes). Enjoy the wide variety of colors in bloom. In the afternoon, you'll reach Santiago de Compostela. This historic city is Galicia's capital and the culmination point of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and have the remainder of the day free.
Day 7: Cooking Class, Explore Santiago de Compostela
After breakfast, discover the secrets to Galician cuisine in a cooking class with a private chef. You'll prepare (and eat) some of the region's most popular dishes, like fried padrón peppers and savory empanadas stuffed with fish, shellfish, or meat. Be sure to try queimada, the famous "Galicia fire drink." Made with a liqueur called orujo (similar to grappa), it's mixed in a clay bowl with sugar and lit on fire until the flame turns blue, then served hot.
In the afternoon, you'll embark on a guided walk to the main sites in Santiago. This includes Obradoiro Square, at the east end of which sits the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Construction on this Romanesque/Gothic/Baroque church began in the 11th century over the site of what is believed to be the burial place of the apostle Saint James the Great. It's been a religious pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages and marks the end of the famous Camino de Santiago walking route.
Other stops include Colexio de San Xerome (San Jerónimo College), a learning institution dating to 1501; the 16th-century Hospital de los Reyes Católicos, a hospital built to treat weary pilgrims after their arduous journey; the Pazo de Raxoi (Raxoi Palace), an 18th-century neoclassical palace that's now Santiago's City Hall; and the 18th-century San Fructuoso Church.
Day 8: Depart Spain
It's time to say farewell to Spain! Depending on your flight or train reservation time, squeeze in one more morning of sightseeing. At the designated time, you'll return your rental car to the airport or rail station and start your journey home.
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