Spain and Portugal Iberian Explorer

Spain and Portugal Iberian Explorer

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15 Days From

$4030

$3394

Spain and Portugal Iberian Explorer

15 Days Starting in Barcelona and ending in Porto

Visiting: Barcelona, Tarragona, Madrid, Granada, Córdoba, Seville, Carmona, Evora, Lisbon, Porto

Tour operator:

Explore!

Tour code:

SPI

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Physical rating:

Moderate

Age range:

16-99

Interests:

Cultural, History

Activities:

Sightseeing, Walking

From:
$4030
$3394 Operator discount: -$540 Exclusive Tourhub Discount: -$96 -16%

NB: Prices correct on 20-May-2024 but subject to change.

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Tour Overview

Discover the highlights and hidden gems of Spain and Portugal on this two-week journey through the Iberian Peninsula. Mix modern metropolitan Madrid with Tarragona's ancient Roman amphitheatre, and Seville's winding narrow backstreets with Cordoba's eighth-century many-columned mosque. Slurp fresh oysters in Setubal, toast your trip with cava in the Penedes region, and sink your teeth into the beloved custard tarts of Lisbon's Belem district.

Barcelona - Explore the maze of alleys and delightful squares in this iconic city

Granada - Visit the spectacular Alhambra Palace

Porto - Stroll the colourful cobbled streets to picturesque Cais da Ribeira

Highlights

  • Explore Spain and Portugal in two weeks
  • Discover culturally rich historic cities and villages
  • Try local specialties along the way, wine and tapas tasting

Itinerary

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Day 1: Join Trip In Barcelona

Location: Barcelona

Accommodation: Hotel, Sant Pau

Our trip begins in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, which is is full of energy and the perfectplace to start our journey. Founded by the Romans in 20 A.D, this enchanting city is a heady mix of iconic architecture, delicious gastronomy and cultural heritage.



The tour leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and, slightly later, our first group dinner to get to know your fellow travellers.



If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN). If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least one hour to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around a 30 minute drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 4.30pm.



There are no included excursions today and if you miss the welcome meeting, your tour leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.

Day 2: Discover The Backstreets Of Barcelona

Location: Barcelona

Accommodation: Hotel Sant Pau

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning our tour leader will take us on an orientation tour of Barcelona. Walking through the old town we will explore the "backstreets" on foot (approx. four hours). We begin heading into the Gothic Quarter. This maze of alleys, streets and small squares is the heart of the old town. Here we will see Barcelona Cathedral, an impressive example of 14th century Catalan Gothic architecture. Continuing on foot we enter El Born, a trendy district of narrow medieval streets, home to some of the oldest buildings in the city and the Picasso museum.



Heading towards the coast we wander through the tightly packed Barceloneta neighbourhood hemmed in by the harbour on one side and beach on the other. From here we take the cable car from Torre Sant Sebastia, at the foot of Barceloneta, across Port Vell to the Torre Miramar in Montjuic. Walking around this hilltop park there are fantastic panoramic views over the city and there is the opportunity to visit the castle and Olympic Park, built for the 1992 summer Olympics.



The tour will end at Ramblas with the afternoon left free to soak up the atmosphere from a café in one of the squares or wander down the myriad of winding alleys, there is always something hidden to discover. There is the option to take a 10km guided bike tour or visit the Sagrada Familia (advisable to pre-book tickets online).

Day 3: Cava Wine Tasting. Stay In The Ancient Roman City Of Tarragona

Location: Tarragona

Accommodation: B&B Hotel Centro Urbis

Meals Included: Breakfast

Leaving the city behind we drive south into the Penedes region to discover the cava production process and enjoy a tasting. Cava originates from the Italian 'cova', meaning cave. Wine production caves were used for the storing and ageing of wine, Catalan winemakers adopted the term to distinguish their produce from French champagne.



After sampling the sparkling wine we make a stop at the monastery of Santa Maria de Poblet, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the largest Cistercian monasteries in Spain. There is free time to explore and have lunch before driving onto the coastal city of Tarragona. Tarragona is a port city with extensive Roman ruins, sandy beaches and home to the Concurs de Castells (human tower-building) festival.



This afternoon we explore the historical centre and UNESCO World Heritage complex of Tarraco, the oldest Roman settlement on the Iberia peninsular, with its well-preserved Amphitheatre overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, built in the 2nd century (viewable from the outside only as closed on Monday's). Tarragona was (together with Merida) one of the two Roman capitals on the Iberian Peninsula, a really important and wealthy place in those days.

Day 4: Train To Madrid. Walking Tour Of The City Ending At Mercado De San Miguel For Dinner

Location: Madrid

Accommodation: Hotel Porcel Ganivet

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning we board the fast AVE train to Madrid, arriving in the early afternoon (departing around 10:30, taking just two hours 45 minutes). After checking into our hotel, we head out for an orientation walk of Spain's busy capital city, led by our tour leader (approx. four hours). Located on the tiny Manzanares River, Madrid has its share of historic sights, great architecture, nightlife, fine dining, culture and shopping.



We begin walking through Madrid's most historic neighbourhood, Barrio de los Austrias, making a stop for coffee near the impressive Palacio Real. Our next stop is the Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid's gourmet market bursting with stalls, a great place to sample some regional specialities. After an early dinner at the market, we head Plaza Mayor, a large square framed by slate roofed red-brick buildings dating back to 1619. This day finishes with one of the best views over Madrid from the terrace at the Circulo de Bellas Artes.

Day 5: Discover Madrid's Art Neighbourhoods And Parks On Foot. Free Afternoon

Location: Madrid

Accommodation: Hotel Porcel Ganivet

Meals Included: Breakfast

Today we explore more of this energetic capital, heading to Barrio de las Letras, the Literary Quarter and Circulo de Bellas Artes. Continuing on foot we walk through lively Lavapies neighbourhood with colourful murals and art insulations adorning the walls then on to find out about the art of churro making. These fried dough sticks are deliciously crispy yet soft on the inside, they are normally eaten for breakfast dipped in hot chocolate or coffee.



This morning's walking tour ends near the vast 19th century El Retiro Park and the afternoon is left free to relax in the beautiful park, visit the nearby Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen museums, the Botanical Gardens or wander the back streets in search of tucked away tapas bars.

Day 6: Train To Granada, Explore The Moorish Albaicin Neighbourhood

Location: Granada

Accommodation: Hotel Los Angeles

Meals Included: Breakfast

We take an early morning train (departing around 7:35am, taking 3 hours 45 minutes) to the famous Andalucian city of Granada. The Arabic name Al Andalus was given to the part of Spain under Islamic control for some 800 years.



After checking into our hotel we will spend some time exploring the city on foot with our tour leader. Discovering the main highlights including the Albaicin, the old Moorish quarter, giving the city its characteristic look of white walls and narrow streets. From the viewpoint are spectacular views across to the Alhambra and Generalife with the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop. When dusk falls, we suggest a stroll around the old Moorish Quarter to see its illuminated patios.

Day 7: Alhambra Palace Guided Visit And Generalife Gardens

Location: Córdoba

Accommodation: Hotel Los Angeles

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning we have included a guided visit to the remarkable Alhambra Palace and Generalife gardens. In 1239 Muhammad al-Ahmar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty and Sultan of Granada, began work on this, one of the finest remaining examples of Moorish architecture. The fabulous decoration in stucco, both inside and outside the buildings, reveals the purest expression of a sophisticated civilisation just before its decline.



The Generalife - the summer residence of the Caliphs and surrounding gardens - are considered among the most beautiful landscaped gardens in the world.



Tickets to visit the Alhambra are limited, as such we'll keep our time in Granada flexible and organise sightseeing around our Alhambra visit. If you booked the tour late and on request within about 30 days prior to travel we cannot guarantee you an entrance ticket with the same time slot, therefore it may be that your visit to the Alhambra is unguided, though you can choose to get an audioguide if interested.

Day 8: Train To Cordoba, Visit The Mezquita Mosque. Continue By Bus To Seville Via The White Village Of Carmona

Location: Seville, Carmona

Accommodation: Hotel, Exe Macarena

Meals Included: Breakfast

Today we take the train to Cordoba. Standing on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, Cordoba was one of the most sophisticated Moorish cities and is, for many, the most beautiful city in Spain. The Moors established themselves in Cordoba as early as 719 AD, and before that the Romans had left their own mark here as evidenced by the large Roman bridge still in use. Cordoba has a wealth of treasures locked away in its back streets with secluded patios tucked behind delicate iron grills. The medieval synagogues in Cordoba and Toledo are the only two which remain in Spain today and the Cordoba synagogue dates back to the 14th century.



Upon arrival we visit the renowned Mosque (Mezquita), an extraordinary and unique building where history has superimposed two faiths and erected two oratories on the one site (local guide optional). The early massive Islamic structure dates back to the 8th century, its roof supported by a forest of 850 coloured columns. Its jewel is the gleaming and superbly decorated Mihrab, which has survived in its original state. After reconquista the Catholic king was so impressed, instead of ordering its destruction he ordered a church to be built inside instead.



After lunch we continue our journey by bus, making a stop at the pretty white-washed town of Carmona. We will take a short orientation walk, admiring the Moorish buildings and the Alcázar del Rey Don Pedro, where it's possible to go up the tower for views over the town. Drive onto Seville to arrive in the late afternoon. The capital of Andalucia is one of Spain's finest and most beautiful cities, built on the wealth of New World trade and plunder. This evening we take a stroll across the Guadalquivir River to Triana, the centre of Seville's ceramic production and home to some of the best tapas bars, our tour leader will guide us to small eateries for delicious dinner options.

Day 9: Discover Seville On Foot. Free Afternoon

Location: Seville

Accommodation: Hotel Exe Macarena

Meals Included: Breakfast

We'll spend the morning walking through the city, exploring the former Jewish Quarter, and following winding narrow backstreets leading to Mudejar palaces (a blend of Christian and Moorish styles) and baroque churches.



The afternoon is left free to explore Seville at your own pace. You might like to visit the stunning Alcázar Palace and the city's Gothic Cathedral, one of the largest in the world. Its bell tower was once the minaret of the Almohad great mosque, so impressive that the Christians incorporated it into their building. Other attractions include the General Archive of the Indias, Plaza de San Francisco, Casa Pilatos or Maria Luisa park. In the evening we suggest you take in some traditional flamenco music and dancing (optional).

Day 10: Jamon Tasting. Cross Into Portugal, Stay In The Unesco World Heritage City Of Evora

Location: Evora

Accommodation: Hotel Vitoria Stone

Meals Included: Breakfast

Today we say goodbye to Spain and drive north into Portugal. Before reaching the border we make a stop at Aracena to visit the Cueva da las Maravillas, an impressive network of limestone caverns and underground pools. In Arancena there is the opportunity to partake in Iberian ham tasting, learning about the process behind this Spanish delicacy.



We break the journey at Monsaraz, a medieval walled village situated above the great Alqueva lake, formed by an artificial dam on the Guadiana River. There will be time here for a stroll around fortified village enjoying views before continuing onto Evora, the capital of Portugal's Alentejo region arriving in the early afternoon. Being a designated UNESCO world heritage site, Evora has a rich history and several interesting monuments, including the Roman Temple, said to be the best preserved on the Iberian peninsular and the 16th century aqueduct, under which houses have been built since.



Tonight's boutique hotel is located just outside the old city walls with a rooftop terrace overlooking historic Evora, its's a 10-minute walk to the centre.

Day 11: Drive To Lisbon. Oyster Tasting At Setubal Market

Location: Lisbon

Accommodation: Residencial Florescente

Meals Included: Breakfast

Before leaving Evora this morning we visit the fascinating but eerie Capela dos Ossos "bone chapel". Heading towards the coast we stop at Setúbal, situated on the estuary of the River Sado and an important centre for Portugal's fishing industry. Will have the opportunity to savour fresh oysters at the indoor Mercado do Livramento.



Driving into Lisbon we stop in Belem to pay a visit to a traditional pastelaria and enjoy a delicious Pasteis de Belem - Portuguese custard tart. The city became the capital of Portugal after its conquest from the Moors in 1147. As Portugal built a global empire from the 15th century onwards, Lisbon became the hub of international trade and the heart of this maritime Golden Age of discovery, reflected in the monumental architecture. A devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami almost totally destroyed the capital in 1755 and therefore Lisbon appears as a carefully planned 18th century city.



In the evening there is the option to see a live performance of traditional 'Fado' music for those interested. Stemming from the word 'fate', the music of Fado can be deeply personal in its expression. Said to have been born from the songs of African slaves, the sentiments behind this soulful music are deeply linked to the heritage and hearts of the people, and as such is quintessentially Portuguese. Enjoying this performance after dinner we come a little closer to feeling a sense of 'saudade', a sentiment of nostalgia which, it is said, only the Portuguese truly understand.

Day 12: Explore Lisbon's Bairros On Foot.

Location: Lisbon

Accommodation: Residencial Florescente

Meals Included: Breakfast

Our morning walking tour (approx. three hours) takes us through some of the different bairros (neighbourhoods) of Lisbon as an introduction to this great city. Built on seven hills, you can see the typical trams negotiate the undulations of Lisbon's cobbled streets, and the varied and interesting buildings while intricately painted Portuguese tiles throughout the city never fail to impress. We walk up Alfama Hill and enjoy the views across the River Tagus from the Miradouro de Graca viewpoint before continuing our walk, passing under the Arco da Ragusta to end at the Time Out Market, where there are is a variety of Portuguese food, sweets, and drinks on offer in this traditional food hall. The afternoon has been left free for further exploration of Lisbon, you could visit the fascinating MAAT museum or Calouste Gulbenkian museum.



In the evening there is the option to see a live performance of traditional 'Fado' music for those interested. Stemming from the word 'fate', the music of Fado can be deeply personal in its expression. Said to have been born from the songs of African slaves, the sentiments behind this soulful music are deeply linked to the heritage and hearts of the people, and as such is quintessentially Portuguese. Enjoying this performance after dinner we come a little closer to feeling a sense of 'saudade', a sentiment of nostalgia which, it is said, only the Portuguese truly understand.

Day 13: Follow The Coastline To Porto, Visiting Obidos And Aveiro

Location: Porto

Accommodation: Hotel Moove Centro

Meals Included: Breakfast

Today we head north along the Atlantic coast to Porto, making several stops along the way.



Obidos is considered to be one of the most picturesque and well preserved medieval towns in Portugal. The town prospered after becoming part of the royal estate from the 13th century and within the walls you can visit the castle and lose yourself in the maze of narrow streets and little squares with fine examples of religious and civil architecture from the town's golden days. In the course of the morning we will try Ginjinha, a local liqueur made from sour cherries, which is an acquired taste.



Our next stop today is Aveiro, a charming town known as the Venice of Portugal. We take a short walk along the canals, admiring the Art Nouveau architecture and colourful Moliceiros boats, with free time for lunch. Finally we reach Porto in the late afternoon. Portugal's second largest city after Lisbon, offers visitors a range of architectural and cultural attractions. This evening you might like to visit the nearby city of Matosinhos where you can sample a barbequed fish dinner on the seafront.

Day 14: Porto Walking Tour And Port Tasting. Free Afternoon

Location: Porto

Accommodation: Hotel Moove Centro

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning our tour leader will take us on a walking tour of colourful Porto (approx. two hours). We'll stroll down the cobbled streets to Cais da Ribeira - undoubtedly the most picturesque spot. This characterful quayside is dominated by the tall outline of the two tiered Dom Luis I Bridge, built in 1886 by an assistant of Gustave Eiffel. Here, ancient houses with laundry-draped balconies stand high above the waterfront looking out over the river, where several old boats lie moored at the water's edge. Despite the decline in the use of this harbour, with its fish market and restaurants, it continues to have character and bustle reminiscent of its lively past. Following our tour we include a visit to a port lodge. The history and processes involved in making these white, ruby and tawny delicacies are most interesting, and we'll get to enjoy a port tasting.



This afternoon is free for you to further discover Porto. There are a number of fascinating buildings to visit whilst walking in the heart of the city. You may choose to climb the tower of the 18th century Baroque Igreja dos Clerigos, which affords superb views across the city. You may consider venturing further afield and taking the train or a local bus the short distance to the attractive towns of Guimaraes or Braga. Porto offers a good selection of restaurants to celebrate the end of our journey this evening.

Day 15: Trip Ends In Porto

Location: Porto

Meals Included: Breakfast

The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Porto.



There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Porto at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Porto Airport (OPO), which is about 30 minutes' drive.

Check out our Q&As

  • I'm going on a walking/cycling trip-do I need to train?

    It will depend on the grade and how fit you already are. Check the trip page for details of the walking or cycling grade and how far you’ll be walking/cycling each day. For moderate or challenging trips in particular we’d recommend doing some walks or cycles before you leave to build up your fitness and prepare you for the distances being covered.

  • Who will be my travelling companions on the tour?

    We have a wide range of ages nationalities on our small group trips and they come from all walks of life.

  • Should I get travel insurance?

    Yes–it is a condition of booking that you are fully insured when travelling with us

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    At Explore, we're the experts in adventure travel. Our small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981. Today, Explore is one of the most trusted travel companies in the UK with over 500 trips to more than 120 countries.

  • Can I join the tour once it has departed?

    Yes, but there are no concessions for doing so, and we must have a record in your booking advising as such before the trip departs.

  • Am I contributing to any charity by booking the tour?

    Being a responsible company is a large statement, something that has to be entwined within the very fibre of a company. Discover the charities and partnerships we support as part of this at https://www.explore.co.uk/about/sustainability/charities-and-partners

  • What happens if I need to change my holiday date once I’ve booked?

    We want to be as clear as and as honest as possible about what happens if you decide to that you no longer wish to travel on your trip. Our booking conditions have details of the costs you’ll incur when you cancel-these charges depend on how long it is before your planned departure.

  • What is the accommodation like?

    We choose comfortable accommodation in the best locations possible. We opt for small, local and family-run accommodation where we can, as opposed to large chain hotels. We typically use hotels that are the equivalent of European 3-star, and you’ll usually have an en suite room. Occasionally, where we want to get off the beaten trail we may stay in more basic accommodation.

  • What Ethical Travel credentials does the tour company have?

    Sustainability is embedded within the fibre of Explore, it emanates from the inside out. But as we enter a new decade it is clearer than ever that our world needs help, and Explore has created a sustainability strategy based on the 2015 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    Our flexible booking and safety policies mean you're protected before and during your travels with us. Receive a full refund if your trip is cancelled, transfer your trip free of charge up to 10 days before departure minus any irrocoverable costs.

  • Do I need to be very fit to book with you?

    All our trips require some level of active participation. This could be on a cultural trip, trek, safari, expedition or voyage. It is in the interests of all members of the group that everyone should be capable of fully participating in the activities of their chosen trip.

  • What documents will I receive before I travel?

    Final documents will include a comprehensive trip itinerary, climate and country information, budgeting and packing advice visa and passport information and details on optional activities available.

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Yes on most of our trips. Most trips are based on customers sharing twin-bedded rooms. If you book a group trip as an individual, you will share a room with someone of the same sex. However, on many trips we offer the opportunity to pay a supplement to pre-book a single room, known as our single room option. On some trips a single room will be provided every night, on others it will be provided o

  • Do we have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel

    It’s now a condition of booking a trip with us that customers should have one of the following before they travel - — Be vaccinated against COVID, having received the full recommended course, and allowing enough time for immunity to take effect. Full vaccination includes any booster required to keep the vaccine valid. — Have taken a negative test (rapid antigen or PCR) within 72hrs of departure.

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?

    Explore will only offer hotels that have specific COVID-19 protocols in place and comply with local government guidelines. We will ensure these measures include; enhanced room cleaning, ventilation, social distancing, regular cleaning and disinfection of high frequency touch points in public areas, food safety, staff re-training and minimising contact within the properties.

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I booked for my husband and I to go on the Peru Encompassed trip with the 3 day Amazon extension trip tagged on the end, we also booked to go to Lima few days early to get over the jetlag and see something of Lima before setting off on the group trip. Everything was booked for us by Explore! with seamless ease and without any hitches. This was the first time I had booked onto an organised trip so I was a bit concerned it might not be for us. How wrong I was. We were a group of 9, ranging from 30s to 60s, and a mixture of couples and singles and different nationalities. As a group we gelled really well and chose to spend most of our free time together which made the trip great fun. As for the trip itself, it surpassed all expectations. The Peru Encompassed trip was superb. I don't think any other country offers so much culture, wildlife, specular scenery and amazing food, all of which we experienced in abundance on the trip. We had a local tour guide for the whole trip who was fantastic and then expert guides joined us on different legs of the journey. We learned so much as a result. The highlights for me were visiting the local market in Arequipa with our guide and sampling lots of different fruit and street foods, the day on Lake Titicaca and of course Machu Picchu itself. We booked an additional trip to go back ourselves the second morning which was great as we could do a different route around the ruins and get different views from the afternoon before. Our final highlight was the additional 3 day trip to the Amazon staying at the Hacienda Conception. The lodges were immersed in the jungle which was wonderful if noisy! the food was fab and the daily trips provided were excellent. It was a great relaxing way to end the trip although it did rain quite a bit. Both my husband and I said our trip to Peru was one of the best trips we have ever done.

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Excellent company

07-Dec-2022

Excellent company, there are so many trips, you really get looked after. Everything is dealt with by your Tour Leader, all logistics are taken care of and usually things go smoothly, I only use explore because I know what to expect each time, that makes me happy, with a stress free holiday

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Book with Confidence

  • Free Date Changes

    Explore! allows you to make 1 free date changes, as long as the change is made at least 60 days before the start of the tour.

  • Low Deposit

    Explore! requires a minimum deposit of 10% or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 60 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of explore! charges.

    Up to 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 59 days before tour starts: Forfeit 30% of booking price.

    At 41 days before tour starts: Forfeit 60% of booking price.

    At 27 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 13 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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