Departure point: Barcelona
Every Sunday from March 29 to Oct 18
Welcome to this extensive, twelve-day tour, dedicated to Northern Spain and Portugal.
We start in Barcelona and head north-west to the regions of Aragon, Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia. Later we will relocate to Portugal and will cross this country from north to south, visiting its most beautiful cities – Porto, Coimbra, Lisbon – as the main destinations, also smaller ones – Viana do Castelo, Braga, Fatima – along the way.
The north of Spain has a unique and beautiful landscape, with amazing cities that harbor numerous highlights. These include the charming San Sebastian with excellent sandy beaches; Bilbao with its world-famous Guggenheim Museum; and many small villages that are typical for this area, like Santillana de Mar and Covadonga. You will also see the National Park Picos de Europe; the city of La Coruna, which is the most western city of Spain; and one of the main pilgrimage centers in Europe – Santiago de Compostela. The trip also includes a day in the former fisherman’s town – Porto, – nowadays known as a main port and second largest city in Portugal. Next stop – Coimbra – town with one of the oldest univercities in the world, and finally – Lisbon – the capital of Portugal.
We end off with the beautiful Spanish city of Caceres, not to be missed on your way back.
This tour starts in Barcelona and ends in Madrid.
Day 1. Barcelona – Zaragoza – San Sebastian (575km ~ 357 miles)
Departure from Barcelona at 08.00 in the morning towards Zaragoza. Spain’s fifth largest city – Zaragoza – is the capital of the Aragón region. Located south of the Pyrenees, it sits right in the middle between Barcelona and Madrid, and is home to a range of fascinating sights, from Roman ruins to magnificent Islamic architecture and a striking Baroque cathedral. We will stop in the city center so you can have a free time to explore the most notorious sights of Zaragoza: Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar and Puente de Piedra (the Stone Bridge).
A striking Baroque Basilica, it is here that many believe that Santiago – one of Jesus’ disciples and referred to as James in the Bible – saw the Virgin Mary ascend a marble pillar. A chapel was built around that pillar and later added to and renovated, until it became the stunning cathedral it is today. If you want, you can head inside to look around at its magnificent interior, then take the elevator to the top to enjoy some of the most spectacular views of the city.
Bridge Puente de Piedra (the Stone Bridge) is the oldest of all the bridges across the Ebro River. It was built in 1401 following a Gothic style. Measuring about 225 meters in length, the entire stone structure is held by seven arches, with cutwaters that help to break the water flow. It is very close to the Plaza del Pilar, so its silhouette with the Basilica del Pilar in the background has become one of the iconic images of the city.
After some free time in Zaragoza we’ll continue to San Sebastian. Arrival in early evening, dinner and accommodation.
Day 2. San Sebastian – Bilbao – Santander (205km ~ 127 miles)
Breakfast and transfer to Bilbao.
The Basque city of Bilbao is particularly well known for its avant-garde contemporary designs and fascinating architecture, especially as it is home to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, where we will make a stop to walk around and make pictures of this gorgeous and wicked structure.
Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum is the most emblematic building in the city, towering above the river like an undulating titanium ship. The celebrated modern art museum, designed by the architect Frank Gehry, resembles a huge metal ship, covered in shiny wavy patterns and quirky structures, and is just as impressive from the outside as it is from the inside. Surrounding the museum, you’ll find Bilbao’s Art District, home to world-famous artworks such as Louise Bourgeois’ Mamen spider sculpture, Jeff Koons’ Puppy and Anish Kapoor’s Tall Tree and the Eye.
Later we’ll transfer to Santander, which is the capital of Spain’s Cantabria region and offers a whole host of attractions for visitors, from history museums to art centers and beaches. You can spend the second half of the day shopping in the Mercado de la Esperanza, visiting the Palacio de la Magdalena or browsing the works in the new Centro Botín. Some highlights definetely worth to be checked in your free time in the city:
Santander has two beaches: the Playa de los Bikinis and the Playa de la Magdalena, which are perfect for sunbathing in summer or strolling along in winter.
The Palacio de la Magdalena is situated on the vast Magdalena Peninsula, on the edge of the city, and has become somewhat of a symbol of Santander. Built between 1908 and 1912, it’s one of the best examples of this style of architecture in the whole of northern Spain. The palace was used as a summer residence for the Spanish royal family between 1913 and 1930, and today is open for visitors and grand events.
One of the most impressive buildings in the city is the Santander Cathedral, which simply can’t be missed.
Dinner and night in Santander.
Day 3. Santander – Santillana – Covadonga – Oviedo (320km ~ 199 miles)
Breakfast. This day you’ll be travelling throughout one of the most beautiful Spanish National Parks – Picos de Europa, which is characterized by high massifs, deep ravines, lush mountain meadows and vast glassy lakes.
First our stop for today is in Santillana de Mar.
This town has often been referred to as one of the most beautiful villages in the whole of Spain, let alone just Cantabria. Sitting on the coast and surrounded by verdant green mountains, it offers the best of both worlds. Think caramel-colored architecture and steep, cobbled streets, perfect medieval stone and timber houses. Santillana del Mar was built around the collegiate church of Santa María and is also dotted with old defense towers and Renaissance palaces.
After some free time, we’ll continue to Covadonga, – a place, located at the western edge of Picos de Europa, and is visited by thousands of people every year. Notorious sight – Chapel of Covadonga.
Sanctuary of Covadonga is located in a mountain grotto and features an image of the Virgin Mary – Virgin of Covadonga. This sight is an important site in Christian history. It was where Christian forces in Iberia defeated a Muslim army at the Battle of Covadonga, marking the beginning of the Spanish Reconquista. But though the cave is now linked to Christianity, it’s believed it was first a site for prehistoric pagan worship.
Another stop and a time to admire the Holy Cave. Later continuation to Oviedo. Arrival, dinner and overnight.
Day 4. Oviedo – La Coruna (347km ~ 216 miles)
Breakfast and departure the very northwest corner of Spain – La Coruna (or A Coruna, how locals say).
A Coruña sits in the very northwest corner of Spain, in the autonomous community of Galicia. A vibrant coastal city with plenty in the way of culture, history, gastronomy (it’s famous for its seafood) and natural sights. Enjoy a panoramic city tour upon arrival and, later – a free time. Sights you’ll see during the city tour, and on same you can take a closer look later, while exploring city on your own:
Torre de Hercule – the oldest working lighthouse in the world, the Tower of Hercules has become somewhat a symbol of the city. Built in Roman times, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are also some lovely nature walks around the area.
Galerias – A Coruña is known as the ”Glass City” due to its unique architectural style of constructing galerías – enclosed glass balconies – onto the side of its buildings. Most date back to the 19th century and feature patterns, as well as colors and embellishments.
Castillo de San Anton – a 16th century fortress set on a small island, connected to the mainland via a bridge. Today the castle houses the Museo Arqueológico e Histórico – Museum of Archeology and History.
Estrella Galicia is one of Spain’s best-loved beers and its home is here in A Coruña. It was founded in 1906, and it’s still possible to visit the original location of the first Estrella Galicia brewery in the neighborhood of Cuatro Caminos. The site is now the brewery-restaurant ”Estrella de Galicia”, and you can enjoy food and fresh, unpasteurized beer straight out of the brewery.
Accommodation, dinner and night in La Coruna.
Day 5. La Coruna – Santiago de Compostela (75km ~ 47 miles)
Breakfast in hotel in La Coruna, then transfer to Santiago de Compostela. In Santiago we’ll have a proper city tour with the visit to its Cathedral. City is renowned for its shrine of Saint James the Great, and was built to accommodate thousands of pilgrims that would (and still do!) gather there every year. The architecture and atmosphere of the city are impregnated with history and visitors may feel like they’ve taken a step back in time. Some highlights of the tour:
The Cathedral of Santiago de Composetela – you simply cannot go to Santiago and not visit its cathedral. Built during the 1300s, the changes over the subsequent centuries have added Gothic and Baroque features to its Romanesque architecture. The grand Plaza del Obradoiro leaves enough room to admire the Cathedral’s impressive size and design, and through the front doors you will find the Portico de Gloria, the Corticela chapel and the relic of Saint John.
Casco Historico (or Historical Center). We’ll take time to explore the little streets around the cathedral and you will find lots of hidden squares, like the Plaza de Cervantes, with beautiful statues and intricate fountains. The district is alive with activity, and as you walk around the old streets you are likely to chance upon a mass or the gathering of a procession. There are also lots of cafés and restaurants where later on during the day you can sit down to enjoy some Spanish tapas and watch the world go by.
On your free time in the afternoon you can visit:
San Francisco Convent – if you’re feeling hungry you should head over to the San Franciscan convent, which housed Franciscan monks in the 18th century. The monks have now moved to a more modern building and the old convent serves as a restaurant. The food is delicious, and they offer a special Pilgrim menu with typical convent or monastery dishes. The unique food, combined with the architecture and décor, will make for an unforgettable experience. If you have time, check out the chapel and Holy Land museum next door.
Alameda park – this is a beautiful park with wonderful views of the cathedral and the old town from the Ferradura walk. Alameda park is great place to seek peace and quiet away from the busy center. One of the park’s many statues is Las dos Marias (”the two Mary”), which depicts a fun piece of local history, when two women became famous during the 1950s and 1960s by walking through the city center every day at 2pm sharp, dressed and made up in what was considered an eccentric manner, and flirting with the university students.
San Martin Pinario Monastery – this 10th-century baroque Benedictine monastery and church has a beautiful stairway and its walnut choir stalls made by Mateo de Prado are considered the most impressive in Galicia.
Dinner and accommodation.
Day 6. Santiago de Compostela – Rias Bajas – Vigo (90km ~ 56 miles)
Breakfast, then transfer thru beautiful area of Rias Baixas (”lower rivers”).
Rias Bajas is a set of largest estuaries in the area. The coastline of the province boasts three magnificent inlets surrounded by cliffs, islands, ports, hills, beaches and stunning landscapes that make it a perfect destination to visit. On both the coast and inland, you’ll definitely enjoy unforgettable views.
First stop is in the small town, called O Grove, in the Isle of Toja (Isla de la Toja – a small peninsula in the area). O Grove is a privileged location, a place that stands out for its history and traditional fishing. Highlights to see on your free time:
Chapel of the Shells – it was built for San Caralimpio and the Virgen del Carmen. It stands out because its structure is decorated with scallop shells and its conservation level is very high.
Aldea dos Grobits Village – the ”Grobits” – fictional creatures that, as story tells, – live in the depths of the thermal waters in the Island of the Toja. On some special days, the soil of the well is transformed into water and the grobits rise up the well. They walk among the centenary pines, playing among them and when they are tired, they go to these houses to rest.
O Grove Beaches offer the ideal complement with international prestige. Starting from one of the most famous beaches for surfers – A Lanzada, you can continue with recognized and appreciated sites such as ”Dogs beach”. The other beaches are: As Pipas in Reboredo, Area Grande, Area da Cruz and Raeiros. Most of them have plenty of places to eat nearby and to enjoy spectacular views.
Later we will continue to Vigo. Arrival and accommodation. In the evening you may walk around Vigo’s beautiful Old Town.
Vigo’s old-town is set on a slope that meets the estuary at the old port, with alleys that lead onto handsome arcaded squares like, for example, – Praza da Constitución. This is the part of the city where fishermen’s houses and grander buildings like plush townhouses, and the 19th-century church of Santa María were set side-by-side. Almost all were built with Galician granite, which gives the old-town a dignified atmosphere distinct from many Spanish old quarters. Many of the street names correspond to old trades, and in streets like and Calle de las Ostras Rúa Cesteiros you can still find basket-weavers – the craft, locals were mastering for hundreds of years.
Arrival to Vigo, dinner and overnight.
Day 7. Vigo – Viana do Castelo – Braga – Porto (150km ~ 93 miles)
Breakfast as usual. Departure towards Portugal and crossing the border to arrive first to Viana do Castelo – a town, located between the mouth of the river Mino and Porto.
Viana do Castello – visually stunning town, who’s architecture includes Baroque, Manueline, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau styles and influences. Especially beautiful is an Old town, with its cobbled streets and emblazoned buildings. Viana do Castelo is also an excellent spot to buy jewelry and home to many shops specializing in Portugal’s ”gold filigree” – a form of intricate metalwork – specialty of this area.
Free time, later continuation to Braga.
The city, immersed in historical and spiritual surroundings and acclaimed as a youthful center. Within the café-filled center, students from the nearby university meet to socialize and discuss ideas, while a short distance away tourists will enjoy seeing the famous Bom Jesus do Monte (Bom Jesus Sanctuary) and the oldest cathedral in the country. Braga is part of the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO too, and it’s the third largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and Porto.
Free time to explore Braga. Later we’ll departure to Porto. Arrival in early evening and accommodation.
Day 8. Porto
Breakfast in the hotel, then we’ll head to a proper city tour of Porto. There are plenty of things that this lively and extraordinary city has to offer. Slightly timeworn and weathered, the gray skies and dated buildings add character, while the twinkling lights along the Douro River reflect off the water and illuminate a central part of the city. Pair these features with the reserved yet friendly locals, the charming trams, beautifully adorned architecture, and the wine, and Porto’s charm may put anyone under its spell. Here are some highlights of the tour:
Porto’s bustling Ribeiro district is the most eclectic part of the city, inviting everyone to sit by its banks from locals to students and tourists. As a historical center and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is lots to see here, and the picturesque quality of the river, cafés, buildings, and statues only adds to the allure.
Porto’s Cathedral: (Sé do Porto in Portuguese) is the most important religious edifice in the city and has been declared a National Monument. It is situated in the upper part of Porto. The building looks a bit like a fortress with crenels from the outside. The Cathedral sits on a square with a column in the middle which offers impressive views over the city, the Douro River and the wine cellars on the waterfront.
Palacio da Bolsa is a 19th-century Stock Exchange Palace – the neoclassical product of a combined effort from several architects. It was created in the late 19th century to attract European businesses but today stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national monument.
Igreja de Santa Clara – the 15th century Santa Clara church may actually be one of the most exquisite examples of Portugal’s 17th century woodwork, reflecting Baroque and Rococo styles.
Dom Luís Bridge – Porto’s bridges are well known, but the Dom Luís Bridge is perhaps the most popular. This metal, double-decked arch bridge is a popular spot for photographers looking to snap a unique angle of the city and an easy way to traverse over to Vila Nova de Gaia and its wineries. Opened in the late 19th century, it was the longest arch bridge at the time.
Later we will continue our tour with a visit an antique wine cellar, experience the wine-making process and definitely taste famous local fortified wine – Port, which in many cases get served straight from the barrel.
On the second half of the day fell free to explore the city on tour own. Some suggestions:
Experience Livraria Lello – this bookstore is one of the most beautiful in the world and has become extra famous as one of JK Rowling’s favorite haunts when she lived in Porto (and began developing the Harry Potter series). There is no doubt that the Livraria Lello & Irmão, which has been in business since 1906, is one of Porto’s most popular and busiest landmarks; there is even a cover charge to enter. Centrally located, near the locals’ favorite Piolho Café and a block from Igreja do Carmo, it’s easy to find, but be prepared to stand in a line to enter.
Appreciate the city’s azulejo art – azulejo (ceramic tiles) are unique to Portugal in the way they are used to decorate buildings, streets, and homes, and this is especially noticeable in Porto. A few landmarks popular for their stunning artistic and cultural mosaics include the Estação São Bento, the Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, and the Igreja do Carmo. To see some amazing displays, you won’t need to try hard because azulejos are practically everywhere in the city.
Eat traditional and local treats – it’s impossible to visit Porto and not eat well. The gastronomy scene is among the best in the country and restaurants serve all sorts of recipes from the most traditional to modern and sophisticated. Porto is also a city that knows its comfort food.
Another night in Porto.
Day 9. Porto – Coimbra (120km ~ 75 miles)
Breakfast, then transfer to Coimbra. Coimbra was Portugal’s capital for 124 years between the 12th and 13th centuries, but this classical city is still often eclipsed by metropolitan Lisbon or distinguished Porto. Coimbra is mainly about its University – the city’s 700-year-old patrimonial jewel. Founded in 1290, it is the oldest institution of higher education in Portugal and one of the oldest universities in the world. It made a UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2013.On your free time you’ll have the opportunity to explore it. Some facts:
As is the case across Portugal’s other regal cities, Coimbra and Coimbra’s University showcase an exemplary mix of old vs new, modern versus traditional, and has moved forward holding strong to ancient customs while flourishing progressive initiatives. Among the University’s eight academic faculties, extra recognition is noticed towards science, technology, and medicine/pharmacy, keeping in line with the country’s focus on technological and scientific advances.
At Coimbra University, you may first notice the student uniforms, and you’re not alone if they remind you of Hogwarts. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling began writing the first book of the HP series in Portugal, and the similarities may hit you like a quaffle to the face.
Coimbra University’s Joanina Library is considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It seems fitting that some of Portugal’s greatest writers and poets were also alumni of Coimbra University, including Luís de Camões (the ”Portuguese Shakespear”), José Maria Eça de Queiroz, and Almeida Garrett.
Dinner and night in Coimbra.
Day 10. Coimbra – Fatima – Lisbon (222km ~ 138 miles)
Breakfast in the hotel, then transfer towards Fatima – one of the world’s largest Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world – the Santuário de Fátima (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima). A destination to explore, the short tour and a free time here to feel and appreciate this sacred place. Some facts about Fatima:
Portugal is known as a Catholic country filled with dramatic monasteries and ancient churches, but the Sanctuary of Fátima is one of the most sacred Catholic destinations in the world, that receives around 5 million visitors every year. Here, between 13th May and 13th October 1917, three shepherd children are believed to have witnessed six apparitions of the Virgin Mary, who imparted various messages and predictions about the future. During the last of these apparitions it is said that around 50,000 observers witnessed the sun moving around in the sky in a way which defied the laws of cosmology.
Among the various buildings associated with the sanctuary, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary (Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário) is a solid limestone church built between 1928 and 1953 in Neo-Baroque style. The basilica has a 65-metre-high bell tower and there is a large statue of Our Lady of Fatima above the main entrance to the church.
Across the square from the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary – the Basilica of the Holy Trinity (Basílica da Santíssima Trindade) is a relatively austere, modern structure built between 2004 and 2007 to accommodate the crowds who flock here on the anniversaries of the apparitions. With a seating capacity of over 8,000 this is among one of the biggest Catholic churches in the world.
Later we will return to Lisbon. Arrival, accommodation and a night in the capital.
Day 11. Lisbon
Breakfast, followed by a tour around Lisbon with a local guide. Lisbon offers a rich and varied history, a buzzing nightlife and is blessed with a glorious year-round climate. It is a bustling and exciting city, that boasts a wide choice of activities and fascinating tourist attractions. The city has a welcoming atmosphere, while still embracing its deep-rooted heritage and extensive history. Some of the highlights of the tour:
Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries) – this 50m tall sculpture is a monument to the Portuguese ”Era of Discovery” and to ”Henry the Navigator”, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan – total of 33 statues line the sides of the monument, each representing an important figure from that epoch: monarchs, cartographers, and scientists stand alongside explorers, artists, and missionaries.
Belem Tower. The Torre de Belém was built in the 16th century as a military fortress and ceremonial entrance to the city. And yet, despite its primary function as a defensive structure, the tower’s delicate ornamentation, which includes arcaded windows, intricate sculptures and Moorish-style watchtowers, make it a real architectural marvel.
Jeronimos Monastery. The undisputed highlight is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Construction of this former monastery began in 1501 and, as designs became increasingly elaborate (fueled by trade with Asia), it eventually took nearly a hundred years to complete. Today, it stands as a testament to the prosperity of Lisbon at the height of the Portuguese empire. Check out its impressive cloisters, replete with ornate sculptural details and masterful stonework, and pay your respects to the major historical figures buried here, including Vasco da Gama and celebrated poet Luís de Camões. Entrance and tour inside.
Alfama Quarter. A maze of narrow, winding streets, Lisbon’s Alfama quarter is the oldest and most historical part of the Portuguese capital, having survived the great earthquake and subsequent fires and tidal waves of 1755 almost intact. Mostly traffic-free these days except for the occasional 100-year-old tram creaking and rattling through, this ancient labyrinth of twisting lanes and cobbled stairways is in many ways the heart and soul of the Portuguese capital.
Enjoy an evening in Lisbon on your own. Please do not miss on opportuntiy to try famous pastel de nata (egg tart) – local culinary’s iconic pastry, who’s recipe dates back to the 16th century. You can buy it in any coffee/bakery shop.
Another night in Lisbon.
Day 12. Lisbon – Caceres – Madrid (613km ~ 381 miles)
Breakfast. Departure towards the Spanish border to reach the province of Extremadura, and the city of Caceres – a beautiful place, founded by the Romans in 25 BC. Visit to Cáceres will bring you back to the old medieval era. The streets climb and twist among hoary palaces and mansions. As you turn your head up, you can see the skyline decorated with gargoyles, spires, and gigantic storks’ nests. The fortress has been serving as defensive walls since the 16th century. You will have a good hour and a half there, so, go ahead and check the main highlights, they are very close to each other:
Plaza Mayor – town’s most-lively square. There are several must-see places located in Plaza Mayor. Climb up the steps from the Old Town and turn left. You will see the great Torre de Bujaco, or Bujaco Tower. At the top of the tower, you will be treated to a storks’ eye view of the Plaza Mayor. To climb the tower, you need to spend 2 euro.
Next to Torre de Bujaco, at the top of the stone stairs, you will see Arco de La Estrella, (Star Archway). This archway serves as a traditional entrance to the Old Town. Built in the 18th century, this archway is considered to be the most important gate in Cáceres.
The essential part of travelling to Cáceres is what lies inside the fortress. As you enter through Arco de la Estrella, several antique buildings greet you. If you walk left from the archway, you will find Palacio de Toledo-Moctezuma, built between the 14th and 15th centuries. Though you can only visit the palace from the outside, the front-facing architecture is worth seeing.
Additionally, the small streets in the Old Town have different small shops selling local products, such as homemade pastries and sweets. Other local products definitely worth trying are goat cheese (Torta de Casar) and fig cake.
After a break you will take the highway towards Madrid. Arrival and end of the tour.
- Accommodation in **** hotels
- 7 breakfasts, 7 dinners
- modern and air-conditioned bus
- multi-lingual tour escort
- sightseeing tours with local guides in Santiago, Porto & Lisbon
- tickets to Santiago’s Cathedral
- visit to wine cellar with a tasting of Porto wine
- travel insurance
- free Wi- Fi on board
- municipal tax in Porto
- Air Tickets
- Any Meal not mentioned in inclusions.
- Any services, activities, Taxes not mentioned in Inclusions
- 5 % GST
Terms & Conditions
- Mentioned prices are valid till 31st March’2021.
- Mentioned prices are based on per person on twin sharing
- Prices are Dynamic & Subjected to Change as per travelling dates.
- Children less than 4 years old: free, without granted seat in the bus
- Children between 4 and 7 years old: 25% discount off adult price, in a triple room with adults
- Teenagers between 8 and 18 years old: 5% discount off adult price
- Seniors (65+ years old): 5% discount off adult price
- Third person in triple room: 5%
- Discounts cannot be combined.
Cancellation & Refund Policy:
10% paid at the time of reservation is non-refundable. The other 90% is fully refundable if cancelled in no less than 3 weeks (e.g., if you paid 100% upfront right away). There are no refunds for cancellations made in less than 3 weeks to go before the trip.