Welcome to Madrid! This sassy Spanish capital is known for its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks, but it also pulsates with energy. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at either 6 or 7 pm, depending on common area availability. Please double check with reception to confirm the time and place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance, passport details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a few days early. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). After the welcome meeting, and optional dinner, perhaps get into the mind of a Madrileno with some tapas and Rioja, or head to the Gran Via hotspots to dance the night away with your new friends.
Take a bus to Granada today (approximately 5 hours). Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Granada is packed with Moorish architecture, great tapas bars and natural beauty. Take a walk around the old Arab quarter of the Albaicin, a labyrinth of crooked alleys, fountains, plazas and whitewashed houses, or the 'Alcaiceria' (old silk market area) and observe the craftworks on sale that include ceramics, marquetry and leather goods. If you're feeling energetic, climb the steep streets up to the Mirador de San Nicolas for sunset views over the famous Alhambra. If you have time, perhaps check out the historic Renaissance Cathedral and Capilla Real. Granada is the kind of city to leave your guidebook behind and trust your intuition (and your leader, of course).
Today make a visit to Granada's impressive Alhambra Palace. An entrance ticket is included in the trip and grants you the visit of Nasrid Palace and the Gardens. The Alhambra was first built by the Moors as a fortress during the Muslim rule of Spain. A walk through the compound's luxurious rooms and gardens gives you an idea of the decadent lifestyle of the Moorish kings. The Alhambra is made up of three parts: the Alcazaba, the 11th-century Muslim wing which features spectacular views from its towers; the Palacio Nazaries, the centre of the complex; and Generalife, the summer palace of the sultans. This evening, unearth the restaurants in the tangled streets of the Albaicin and dine with the best views of the Alhambra.
Leave Granada behind and travel by train to the Andalucian hills and the whitewashed town of Ronda. A landscape of green forests and white limestone mountains, Ronda is the birthplace of bullfighting in Spain and was a favourite of Hemmingway and Orson Welles. The highlight of the town is the spectacular Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), one of the most photographed structures in the country. Built in 1751, it bridges the 100-metre deep gorge that splits the town in two. You can walk across it, stopping to peer over a vertiginous drop from one of its balconies. Check out the old Moorish town on one side, home to many historic buildings including the House of the Moorish King, and the newer El Mercadillo on the other side. East of the town are well-preserved Arab Baths and, of course, the famous Plaza de Toros. In the evening, find a spot from which you could enjoy a scenic sunset; this won’t be a problem in Ronda.
Take a walk through Los Molinos, the beautiful valley surrounding Ronda. You can head down into El Tajo, the gorge that separates the old and new town, and get a view of the bridge and town from below. The rest of the day is free to explore town. The Plaza de Toros is one of hte oldest bullfighting rings in the country, and adjoining the bullring is the Bullfighting Museum, which displays relics of Ronda's bullfighting history. The gardens behind offer panoramic views over the surrounding mountains, which have a long history of sheltering bandits and smugglers. Visit the Museum of Bandits for an entertaining insight into their history, or check out the prize-winning wineries and beautiful national parks that surround the town.
6 Costa de la Luz
Today you'll travel south-west to the Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light) by train. This western Andalusian coast faces the Mediterranean and North Africa and your base for the next two nights is Tarifa, a laid-back beach town endowed with spectacular rocky scenery, a sea fortress, a lighthouse and plenty of character. The afternoon is free to relax. Perhaps catch a bus to the 10 kilometre-long sands of Playa de Los Lances – a haven for kite surfers – or hole up at a beach bar on Playa de Valdevaqueros. One of the best ways to appreciate the area is simply to wander, along the promenade under the old castle, past restaurants brimming with fresh seafood, and appreciate this rare, underdeveloped stretch of Spanish coastline. The surfers lend the Old Town a laid-back, international vibe, along with hints North Africa, which lies just across the water. In the evening, why not grab some dinner in town and join in Tarifa's vibrant nightlife.
7 Costa de la Luz
Today there are plenty of optional activities to choose from. Perhaps head out on a whale and dolphin watching expedition on the Iberian Peninsula. At this unique place, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean and where Europe meets Africa, you'll have a chance to see seven different species of whales and dolphins. Alternatively, take a day trip to Northern Africa and the town of Tangier in Morocco, just 45 minutes away by ferry. Once a hotspot for artists, secret agents and millionaires, Tangier has been going through something of a renaissance of late. The city's medina and kasbah are well worth exploring, as are the cafes and patisseries around the Place de la France in the Ville Nouvelle. You can unwind and take in the charms of the city on the recently reconstructed beach promenad or one interesting option is a day tour across the border to the British territory of Gibraltar, home to the famous Rock of Gibraltar. Here you can take a cable car up to the rock’s peak, explore the caves, visit a Moorish castle and wander the main street, discovering the interesting blend of old British life and Spanish flavours.
Travel to the vibrant city of Seville. Sevillians are well known for their wit and sparkle, and the city itself is striking for its vitality and flamboyance – the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro. Seville is also famous for its oranges, tapas and flamenco, all three of which are ingrained in the fabric of the city and its proud people. As the rest of the day is free for you to explore, why not go and experience it all in person. Barrio Santa Cruz, with its multicultural history, is a great place to start. This shaded warren was designed in medieval times to provide refuge from the great Andalusian heat. Or maybe spend your evening San Jacinto, the bustling main street of the Triana quarter, and discover the interesting and adventurous food on offer.
Today is a free day to discover Seville, but checking out the world's largest Gothic cathedral is an absolute must. You can also the climb the cathedral's adjoining Moorish tower, known as La Giralda. While you may have to line up, it's worth it for the views over the city. Visit the magnificent Alcazar, a complex of palaces used by Moorish and Christian rulers through the ages, and now gaining international fame as a shooting location for Game of Thrones. Wander through the fragrant gardens and examine the Moorish and Mudejar architecture. If you feel like an injection of culture, explore Seville's Museum of Fine Arts or the Archaeological Museum. As Seville is the tapas capital of Spain, be sure to sample some of the tasty morsels on offer in one of the city's many tapas bars. In the evening, catch a local flamenco performance with the group (included). Charged with emotion and drama, this powerful, fiery show is a real highlight.
Continue to Cordoba by train. Discover the mesh of Muslim, Jewish and Christian cultures in the architecture and cuisine of this southern city. Visit the famous Mezquita, with its golden arches and intricate columns, once the third largest mosque in the world and one of the most beautiful. It was consecrated into a Roman Catholic cathedral in the 13th century when the Christians reconquered Cordoba. Time permitting, you might stroll through a labyrinth of cobbled laneways in the old quarter, discovering open squares and quirky cafes. The evening is free to sample more delicious Spanish cuisine. Salmorejo (a cold soup made of tomatoes, bread and olive oil served with chopped up boiled egg and cured ham) is a specialty of Cordoba, as is rabo de toro (oxtail soup). There are also plenty of good-value eateries in the Juderia (Jewish Quarter).
Take a train and head east to the coastal town of Valencia (approximately 5 hours). Known for being the Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean, Valencia has a large port, beautiful beaches, restaurants and a beach promenade along the waterfront. The Old Town is set back from the seafront through, and in the centre you will find the beautiful monuments and historical buildings. Busy markets, clean beaches, picturesque hills and a fascinating mix of old town and new town makes up the best of Valencia. Over the next couple of days, you have a lot of free time to wander around the city and see the sights. Perhaps rent a bike from one of the many bike stations that are dotted around the city. Cycle through the park that runs through the centre of the city to the impressively designed Museu de les Ciencies Príncipe Felipe (Arts and Science Museum). Valencia is also built with separate cycle paths, so it's really easy to get around. This evening perhaps head out to bar-hop and eat tapas in the Ciutat Vella (old town).
Take the day to explore. You will hop on a bike today and pedal along Turia Park all the way to the iconic city of Art and Science. This activity is done in leisure pace and you certainly don’t need to be an expert to participate. After cycling, why not visit the 13th-century cathedral, which houses what's claimed to be the Holy Grail, and climb the 207 steps of the Miguelete tower for the best views of the city. For something a little quirkier, head to the Museum of the Fallas, which contains a history of the Valencia fire festival and giant papier mache figures that have been spared from the burning. The Museo de Bellas Artes has Spain's second-biggest art collection, housed in a beautiful 17th-century convent. There are also many fine parks and gardens, or you may want to head to the beach of Playa de la Malvarrosa to soak up some sun. To try the paella that Valencia is famous for (rabbit and chicken), do as the locals do and head to the restaurant area of Las Arenas for a hearty and reasonably priced lunch. Tonight, maybe head south to Ruzafa, one of the city’s coolest areas, where the locals only start to head out as the clock strikes midnight.
Today take the train up the coast to Barcelona (approximately 3.5 hours). Barcelona's quirky character and fabulous Catalan cuisine mixes seamlessly with a groundbreaking art scene, Gothic architecture, superb dining and a non-stop nightlife. In the afternoon, there are plenty of options to keep you busy. Wander the labyrinthine streets of the old Gothic Quarter and navigate your way through the throngs of tourists along La Rambla, Barcelona's famous tree-lined boulevard. Maybe grab a fresh juice at the colourful La Boqueria market while you're there. Perhaps pay a visit to the Picasso Museum, the National Art Museum of Catalonia or the Museum of City History to brush up on your local knowledge. Take the funicular to the top of Montjuic or Tibidabo for panoramic views of Barcelona and the harbour. The heart of Catalonia prides itself as a gastronomic centre and so this evening perhaps head out to taste the reputation for yourself. You can take a tapas crawl through rustic Catalan dishes in the funky neighbourhood of El Born.
Join your leader on an orientation walk around Barcelona today. See some of the city's main sights, including a visit to Antonio Gaudi's incredible La Sagrada Familia Cathedral. The architect worked on this hugely ambitious project for decades until his death, and it remains in constant construction. Along with the Camp Nou football stadium, it is possibly the city's most iconic landmark. Gaudi was the master of the unique Catalan Modernista architecture for which Barcelona is famous, and his work is dotted all over the city. Perhaps check out the Neo-Gothic mansion of Guell Palace, or the wave-inspired structure of Casa Batlo. For more insight into the artist himself, head to the Gaudi House Museum inside Parc Guell, which is home to more colourful sculptures, including a long mosaic-covered bench overlooking the city. For something a little different, perhaps have a poke around the Old Santa Creu Hospital. For your final night, perhaps finish the day with a sip of red wine from a porro – a traditional glass pitcher.
Today your Spanish adventure comes to an end in the morning. There are no more activities planned and you're free to leave the accommodation at any time after check-out. If you'd like to spend a few more days in Barcelona, then our reservations team can help book accommodation (subject to availability).