Your tour commences this evening in Spain's cosmopolitan capital city, Madrid. Join us tonight for a welcome drink before dinner in your hotel. This is an ideal chance to meet, and get to know, your Tour Manager and fellow travellers. (D) Stay: Melia Madrid Princesa Hotel
Cordoba's Mesquita and Granada
Travelling by AVE express train we enter Andalusia and reach Córdoba late morning. Here we are joined by a local guide who will show us the major sights and take us through the famous 8th century, UNESCO World Heritage Listed Mesquita – the Cathedral and former Great Mosque of Córdoba. Later we join our touring coach and drive through to the famous city of Granada where we stay two nights. Dinner tonight is in your wonderful hotel. (B/D) Stay: Alhambra Palace Hotel
Alhambra Palace and 'My Time' in Granada
This morning we are joined by a local guide who will take us through the incredible Alhambra and Generalife Gardens. With origins dating back to the 9th century and named for its reddish walls, this fortress complex looms high over the city. In the 13th and 14th century the Moorish Emirates built the famous Nasrid Palaces surrounded by lavish gardens and courtyards. Moorish poets once described the Alhambra as "a pearl set in emeralds". This is one of the great sights of the world. This afternoon will be free in Granada's old town which boasts a mixture of original Arab and Christian architecture, the Cathedral and Royal Chapel. (B)
Stunning Ronda and Seville
Cutting through the mountains we reach Ronda. Retaining much of its historic charm, it is famous for being divided by the deep El Tajo gorge which carries the Rio Guadalevín through its centre. The 18th century Puente Nuevo 'new' bridge, which spans the 100m chasm below, has stunning views out over the Serranía de Ronda Mountains. Take timeto walk over the bridge and explore the old quarter looking for a characterful taberna to enjoy a leisurely lunch. Later wecontinue to Seville where we stay the next three nights. (B/D) Stay: Hotel Fernando III
Seville sightseeing and 'My Time'
Welcome to the home of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro. This morning we are joined by a local guide who will take us through the enormous cathedral and bring to life this wonderful capital of Andalusia. Your afternoon is at leisure. The Santa Cruz quarter is famous for its narrow streets, flowered balconies and hidden patios. Nearby are the Giralda Tower and the royal palace, the Alcazars of Seville. This evening we have included a special evening out to enjoy dinner and a traditional Flamenco show. (B/D)
Atlantic port of Cadiz, Seville and Flamenco lesson
A leisurely start today as we enjoy an excursion to the Atlantic port of Cadiz. Situated on a peninsula, the seafront is lined with centuries-old houses and behind this you will find the grand cathedral surrounded by a historic centre of honeycombed narrow streets. Returning to Seville, the rest of your afternoon is free. How would you like to learn how to dance the Flamenco? For those of you who are interested we have included a special treat as we visit a Flamenco Dancing School to try our hand at this flamboyant folk dance. Don't wish to dance? Then come along and just sit and enjoy the spectacle, as it is so much fun! Your evening is free and the old town near the flamenco school is bursting with tapas bars, lively cafés and restaurants, perfect for 'tapas hopping'. (B)
Évora sightseeing and historic Lisbon
Driving into Portugal we stop at the UNESCO World Heritage Listed town of Évora where a local guide joins us for a walking tour to discover the town's rich history which spans 2000 years. The compact centre of town is easily explored on foot and boasts a Roman temple, Moorish buildings, Christian monasteries and convents. Later we continue to the capital city of Lisbon where we stay the next three nights. Meals: B,D *18 September departure stays 3 nights at Hotel Pestana Cidadela in nearby Cascais. (B/D) Stay: Pousada de Lisboa Praça do Comercio
Lisbon sightseeing and 'My Time'
Today is spent exploring Lisbon. We meet our local guide for a tour to see the major sights of this wonderful, historical city – from the Belem Tower, to the fairytale palaces and the Discoveries Monument, built on the north bank of the Tagus River. The highlight will be a guided tour through the Jeronimos Monastery. Later we will stop to enjoy coffee and Portuguese Pastel de Nata (small, soft custard pies – served hot). Your afternoon is at leisure amongst Lisbon's grand sights, paved avenues, shops, cafés and colourful trams. (B)
Palace de Pena and old town of Sintra
Today we visit the Palace de Pena and explore the old town of Sintra. Dating back 500 years the Palace de Pena was originally a peaceful monastery until destroyed by an earthquake. Due to its fantastic hill top location Ferdinand II rebuilt it to be the luxurious summer palace of the royal family. With stupendous views – on a clear day you can easily see Lisbon – the palace is one of the greatest expressions of 19th century architectural romanticism in the world. We have included a guided visit through this UNESCO World Heritage site which is also classified as one of the 'Seven Wonders of Portugal'. Later, we will enjoy lunchtime in the delightful town of Sintra. Its noble villas and palaces prompted Lord Byron to say the town was "perhaps in every respect the most delightful in Europe". The remainder of your afternoon is at leisure in Lisbon. This evening we have included a special treat! We visit the Alcantra quarter to enjoy dinner and a traditional Portuguese Fado show*. *18 September departure has afternoon at leisure in Cascais & enjoy dinner and a traditional Portugese Fado Show in Cascais (B/D)
Obidos, Nazaré and Porto
Travelling north we enjoy a morning stop in medieval Obidos. Known as one of Europe's most romantic medieval villages, you will find picturesque cobblestone streets lined with colourful houses adorned with geraniums and bougainvillea and whitewashed churches – all of which is encircled by the walls of a 12th century castle. Lunchtime will be spent in the traditional fishing village of Nazaré. Here we have also included a funicular ride up to the overhanging village of Sitia, to take in the breathtaking views of the coastline. We continue to Porto where we stay three nights. (B/D) Stay: Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel
Porto sightseeing and 'My Time'
After a city tour with a local guide, we cross the River Douro to Cais de Gaia. The city's stunning skyline is enhanced by the picturesque boats and the soaring Dom Luis Bridge. Here we visit one of the port wine warehouses to sample this famous brew and enjoy tapas lunch with a view over Porto. The rest of the day is completely free. Visit the Avenida dos Aliados – a sloping boulevard lined with grand buildings, and the medieval streets and dark alleyways of the Ribeira which meander down to the riverfront square ("Praça da Ribeira"), the most picturesque spot in the city. Here you will find traditional boats moored by the quayside, overlooked by colourful trader's houses. (B/L)
Bom Jesus Sanctuary and Wine Tasting
First stop on our full day excursion is at Braga where we take a funicular train up to the famous Bom Jesus Sanctuary. Built in 1784, this twin towered neoclassical church sits on top of a hill, above an enormous baroque staircase lined with chapels. Lunchtime will be spent amongst the medieval streets and historic monuments in the birthplace of Portugal – Guimarães. Later in the afternoon we sample Vinho Verde at the Aveleda Wine Estate with its magnificent gardens. (B)
Scenic lunch cruise on River Douro
Crossing the country we join the River Douro at Régua where we board a vessel to cruise up the most scenic stretch of the Alto Douro River to Pinhao. Exclusively chartered for our use, your cruise includes a port aperitif and tapas lunch with wine and tea or coffee. Relax as we cruise past vineyards and riverside wine estates. Later we continue into Spain and arrive in Salamanca where we stay two nights. (B/L/D) Stay: Hospes Palacio de San Esteban, Salamanca
Salamanca sightseeing and 'My Time'
Salamanca has a largely pedestrian centre and the city brims with striking monuments and buildings such as the ancient university and cathedral, many of which are constructed out of golden stone. After a fascinating walking tour with a local guide, enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Make sure you relaxin a café on Plaza Mayor, one of the finest squares in Spain. (B)
El Valle de los Caidos and El Escorial
Passing the walled city of Avila we spend the morning in El Valle de los Caidos (The Valley of the Fallen). Set in the woodlands of the Sierra de Guadarrama hills, the enormous Basílica de la Santa Cruz is remarkable as it is actually underground – hewn out of the centre granite ridge which is topped by the tallest memorial cross in the world. We spend lunchtime amongst the leafy squares of El Escorial before visiting the massive palace monastery complex of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Later we continue to a hidden gem of a city – Segovia. (B/D) Stay: Hotel Real Segovia
Segovia sightseeing and 'My Time'
This morning we have included a guided walking tour to discover this amazing city. Dating back to Celtic times, the beautifully preserved hill top town revolves around the huge main square which is flanked by the massive cathedral, heritage buildings, picturesque restaurants and al fresco cafés. In one direction a winding street will lead you to the impressive Alcázar – the fortified stone palace that juts out on a rocky crag, surrounded by sheer cliffs. Down another street you will find the astonishing Roman Aqueduct that cuts high across the base of town. The rest of the day is at leisure to explore this splendid town. (B)
Toledo sightseeing and 'My Time'
Arriving into Toledo mid-morning, we are joined by a local guide who will take us on a city walking tour. Toledo has a wealth of monuments. Christians, Arabs and Jews lived together here for centuries hence it is sometimes called the "city of the three cultures". Here you will find a city crammed with churches, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues. Highlight of your day will be a visit to Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo, which many consider to be Spain's finest cathedral. The shopping is excellent and the rest of your day is free. This evening we enjoy a farewell dinner in your historic hotel. (B/D) Stay: Parador Toledo
After breakfast we will transfer you to Madrid where your tour ends late morning. Drop off points will be the city centre followed by the airport. We recommend you book flights or trains that depart Madrid after 2pm. (B)