SPAIN & PORTUGAL DISCOVERY
SPAIN & PORTUGAL DISCOVERY
Our 17-day Spain and Portugal Discovery itinerary allows you to experience the history and culture of the Iberian peninsula in this exciting taste of two countries.
The Iberian peninsula is a colorful and diverse area of Europe. Though the two bordering countries are intertwined in their culture and history, Portugal and Spain have two very distinct personalities. The most western part of the continent contains colorful cities, gorgeous coastlines, as well as vibrant Spaniards, and warm Portuguese themselves. Thus, creating a welcoming and magical traveling experience. On our Spain and Portugal itinerary, you’ll be able to immerse yourself into the countries’ varied and fascinating cultures by experiencing the most alluring destinations. You will begin in Barcelona. Then, it’s on to Madrid (with a day trip to Toledo). Next is Seville (with a day trip to Granada). Your first stop in Portugal is Lisbon and its surroundings. Then, finally ending in elegant Porto (with a day trip to the spectacular Douro Valley).
BARCELONA – 4 NIGHTS
Welcome to Spain! The first stop on your Spain & Portugal Discovery tour will be the colorful city of Barcelona. There is a mix of everything on this lovely stretch of the Mediterranean. Nestled between the sea and the mountains, the aesthetics of Barcelona impress from afar and close up. From the famous gems of legendary Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí to a full range of contemporary avant-garde architecture dotted in between its 19th-century promenades and thriving local neighborhoods, the city is an architectural dream.
Upon arrival at Barcelona Airport, your private driver will be waiting to take you to your lovely accommodations. Our preferred 5-star accommodation choices are plentiful and range from boutique to elegant luxury. During your stay in Barcelona, you will enjoy the following experiences:
- Have you ever dreamed of having a local friend in every city that you visit? Someone that is always looking for new spots and takes you to the best authentic places in town? On our private Welcome to Barcelona Tapas Walk tour, your personal and exclusive “foodie advisor” will meet you at your hotel to take you to find the genuine cuisine from Barcelona, beyond just tapas. You will enjoy witnessing how the city comes to life in the evening. Your guide will accompany you on a walk that traces the history of Catalan cuisine, through bars, restaurants, and wineries, sampling ‘tapas’ or fun, Spanish, finger foods. Immerse yourself in Barcelona’s culinary scene and libertine spirit, which survives in some of the best bars in town. Although tapas is one of the culinary concepts that help to define the current food scene in Barcelona, there are many others that demonstrate how eclectic Catalan cuisine is. You will be taken to places that show how the old coexists with the new. Enjoy an overall view of the gastronomy in the city, where locals eat, and why. This first ‘taste’ of Spain, through its delicious food and drinks, will certainly be a fun and informative start to your trip!
- A Private Half-day Highlights Tour of Barcelona including La Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell. Barcelona, with typical Catalan pride and creativity, remains determined to project itself as Spain’s most innovative city. It offers a staggering array of attractions. Your privately guided tour will cover how the city was reborn with the Olympics in 1992 and stress the importance of Catalan history and culture in its development. A highlight will be the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s most famous work and a worldwide symbol for Barcelona. The temple is a synthesis of his overall conception of architecture. Your guide helps you fully appreciate the fascinating and extraordinary mind and genius of Gaudi. Then, your tour will take in the Passeig de Gracia, the most stylish street of Barcelona, lined with boutique shops and art galleries. You will also see La Rambla, with its outdoor cafes, flower stands, exotic birds, and equally colorful street performers. Subsequently, you will head to Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter rests on the ancient Roman city of Barcino. Today it is full of buildings from the 13th to the 15th century. The Quarter is full of interesting shapes, peaceful plazas, and winding alleyways, with its medieval Cathedral. It is also home to the Picasso Museum and also the Roman Ruins. Last but not least, you will visit Parc Güell which Gaudí designed for his greatest patron. After the tour, say farewell to your guide and spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
- A Private Half-day Gaudí and Modernist Tour. You will begin focusing on the period that was Barcelona’s most vibrant and exciting. This was the age of visionary architect Antonio Gaudí and his contemporaries, a period of a Catalan Renaissance in the arts and literature. During the day, you’ll visit the iconic Casa Milà. It is a fantasy in stone that appears to have been carved out of the living rock. Hence, its nickname ‘La Pedrera’ (“quarry”). The building is an apartment house on one of Barcelona’s main avenues. Hidden behind an exceptional façade is a world of surprises and refined architectural details. With the help of your guide, discover and be awed at the imaginativeness and creativity of its designer. Next, you will also visit Parc Güell which Gaudí designed for his greatest patron. Lastly, visit the spectacular Casa Batlló. Originally, a home built for a wealthy businessman and an outstanding example of Gaudí’s private work.
- One late afternoon, meet your captain at the Barcelona port. From there, set off on a 2-hour Private Sunset Sailing Excursion. Ten minutes after stepping aboard, you’ll hoist the sails, switch off the engine, and start sailing. During your boat tour, you’ll sail along the Barcelona coastline, enjoying a very different and spectacular view of the city. You can kick back and relax, or help with sailing the boat, just as you wish. A great way to enjoy Barcelona from a totally different perspective! Your tour will have you back on land in time to prepare for dinner.
MADRID – 3 NIGHTS
After checking out of your hotel, your private driver will accompany your family to the Barcelona train station. Here, you will catch a high-speed direct first-class train to the next stop on your Spain & Portugal Discovery itinerary, elegant Madrid. Your driver will be waiting for you upon arrival and will escort you to your beautiful hotel in the city center. As always, Bella Vita Travels will help you select a hotel that is perfect for you and your travel companions.
During your stay in the capital city, we will arrange for you to enjoy a selection of tours led by our expert guides, specially designed to engage and delight a range of age groups and interests:
- A Private Half-Day Tour of Madrid including the Royal Palace: Our expert guide and driver will meet you at your hotel. Together you will enjoy the architecture, history, and anecdotes of Spain’s capital. Enjoy a tour that includes some of the capital’s most impressive sights. These include Plaza de Oriente and the historic quarter including the 17th-century Plaza Mayor, a wonderful Baroque square lined with arcades filled with picturesque cafes. Go through the peaceful Plaza de la Villa where the City Hall stands. Then head to the narrow streets of Madrid called the “Austrias”. These were named after the Austro- Hapsburg dynasty which came to rule over in 1561. Much of the Austrias neighborhood today is a gastronomic center. Among the traditional favorites is the famous Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world. The nuns of the Convento nearby occasionally offer their homemade cakes too! The tour will also include an in-depth visit to the huge and opulent Royal Palace. Home to the Kings of Spain; from Charles III to Alfonso XIII, Madrid’s Royal Palace takes us on a journey through the history of Spain. Though it is no longer the royal family’s home, it continues to be their official residence. The decoration of the palace’s rooms and their layout has gradually changed over the years as the building has been adapted to suit the needs of its residents. Here, there is an outstanding collection of paintings, sculptures, and tapestries. There is also the Royal Armory, considered one of the best of its type in the world. When ready, your driver will escort you back to the hotel.
- A wonderful culinary experience is in store for you with our Private Market Tour and Cooking Class. Along with a private guide, you’ll explore one of Madrid’s famous food markets before learning the secrets of the Spanish ‘cocina’ from a local chef. You will prepare a complete, authentic Spanish menu based on seasonal ingredients. Afterward, sit down and enjoy the dishes you have prepared for lunch. Of course, they will be paired with fabulous Spanish wines.
- A wonderful excursion just a short distance from Madrid is our Private Half-day Excursion to Toledo, via high-speed train. On arrival at the Toledo train station, you will meet your local guide. From there, you will take a taxi above the city. Here, you can marvel at the overwhelming panoramic view of the former capital of Spain. Toledo is a thousand-year-old masterpiece created by various cultures including the Romans, Moors, Jews, and Christians. Its heyday was in the 16th century when it became the capital of the mighty Spanish empire. The beautifully preserved buildings of this ancient town provide striking testimony of Toledo’s rich and colorful past. The city of Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. Its location on a rocky promontory, bordered by the river Tajo in the very heart of Spain, is breath-taking. Its stone churches, brick houses, and winding streets embody Spain’s past. Some of the sites you will visit on your tour include the imposing Alcazar and its two Spanish synagogues. Then, explore the soaring Gothic Cathedral, Santo Tomé, and marvel at El Greco’s famed Burial of the Count of Orgaz. Ultimately, say farewell to your guide and head to one of the many local restaurants for lunch. Recommendations will be given! After lunch, you might opt for some strolling or shopping this afternoon before returning to Madrid.
SEVILLE – 3 NIGHTS
Next on your Spain and Portugal Discovery itinerary is beautiful Seville. Your private driver will escort you to the train station in Madrid. Then, you’ll take the high-speed, first-class train straight to Cordoba where your private driver and guide will be waiting to meet you. Before traveling to Seville, you will enjoy a private tour of this fascinating city (see below!). Afterward, your private driver will accompany you to Southern Spain’s most colorful city, Seville. Here you will have several lovely options to choose from. All of our lodging choices are located within walking distance of Seville’s incredible landmarks and fabulous restaurants. During your stay in Seville, you will enjoy your choice of the following special experiences.
After your tour, your private driver will accompany you to Southern Spain’s most colorful city, Seville. Here you will have several lovely 5-star options to choose from based on your travel style and taste. All of our lodging choices are located within walking distance of Seville’s incredible landmarks and fabulous restaurants. During your stay in Seville, you will enjoy your choice of the following special experiences.
- Upon arrival in Cordoba, meet your driver and local expert guide for a wonderful half-day tour of the Cordoba. First, you will visit the Judera (The Former Jewish Quarter) and peek into the Synagogue. Next, head on to the emblematic local neighborhoods and typical streets. You will also visit a wonderful boutique hotel made out of 2 ancient houses in the Old Town. You’ll explore the Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos as well as the Sinagoga to the Mosque-Cathedral. The highlight of the trip will be your stroll into the Mesquita. This is the former Mosque of the mighty Al-Andalus Muslim kingdom. On this tour, you’ll be able to appreciate how three different cultures; Christian, Muslim, and Jewish, came together to create this unique and fascinating city.
- No visit to Seville would be complete without a Half-day Private Tour of arguably Spain’s most enchanting city. With your private guide, be seduced by its enchanting neighborhoods. There are twisting narrow streets, stunning patios, and squares lined with orange trees. Visit the Cathedral, the largest Gothic building in the world. It features the tomb of Christopher Columbus and its 12th-century bell-tower, La Giralda, originally built by the Moors as a minaret. Afterward, explore the ornately decorated Alcazar Palace and its Andalusian gardens. Eventually, wander through the Barrio de Santa Cruz: originally the Jewish Quarter and now the prettiest quarter of Sevilla.
- A Culinary Pilgrimage to the home of Jamón Iberico with a Hiking in the Sierra de Aracena. Iberian ham has become much better known over the last few years. Therefore, it is no surprise as it’s the best ham in the world, especially if it’s the acorn-fed variety. On this excursion, you’ll visit the Sierra of Aracena, north-west of Seville. This is the most important area for the production of Iberian ham in Spain. Here you’ll first enjoy a leisurely 2-hour hike through the rolling hills of the natural park of Sierra de Aracena. Enjoy the scenic walk led by your expert guide, take in the surroundings and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Afterward, continue on for an afternoon as Spanish as can be! Iberian ham or “ibérico” ham has become much better known over the last few years, which is no surprise as it’s the best ham in the world, especially if it’s the acorn-fed variety. These hams are cured in the mountain air for up to 3 years. They are considered to be the jewel in the crown of Spanish gastronomy. You’ll visit a farm, meet the farmers and learn how the world’s most coveted pigs are raised. Then, go on to see the facilities of one of the best ham producers in the town of Jabugo, a mythical name in Spain for fine ham. An expert will show you around, explaining the processes involved in the production of ham and of other products that come from the Iberian pig. You’ll see thousands upon thousands of hams that are hanging up and slowly curing. Following this, you will be able to taste the wonderful ham along with a glass of the best fino or manzanilla sherry, a perfect pairing of food and wine! Then, head to the town of Aracena. Here, you will enjoy a gourmet lunch at the finest restaurant in the area or a simple home-style restaurant enjoying the local traditional fare. Dishes might include asparagus, artichokes, wild mushrooms, cheese, and acorn-fed Iberian pork- and don’t forget dessert (and lovely Spanish wines)! After all the food, your guide will recommend a walk up to the local castle before heading back to Seville.
- Enjoy an evening of Flamenco and Tapas. Your guide will transform into a translator as you ́re joined by a local of the Sevillano flamenco community, the most famous in the world. Learn about the true world of flamenco from the performers themselves. With roots tracing from Andalusian, Islamic and Gypsy origins, flamenco is a combination of intricate guitar playing, powerful singing ranging from the exuberant to the sorrowful, and passionate yet graceful dancing. A visit to Spain without a flamenco experience is not complete. Your host for the evening will provide a deeper understanding of its origins, its meaning, and its place in modern-day Spain. Enjoy an excellent performance before combining the evening with another of Sevilla’s defining art forms, tapas! Sevilla is the home of the tapas and has the largest number of bars per inhabitant anywhere! Of course, for this, it offers an amazing range of food. The variety is extensive, encompassing seafood, salads, cured hams, cheeses, red pepper dishes, the obligatory Spanish potato omelet, and so on. Who could be better than a local resident to show you the ropes into the world of Spanish food? Introducing you to the intricacies and/or delightful simplicity of Spanish cuisine amidst an informal, authentic setting is a special experience. ¡Buen provecho!
LISBON – 3 NIGHTS
Your Spain & Portugal Discovery tour continues crossing over borders. From Seville, your private driver will accompany you across the border into the small, but beautiful, country of Portugal and its exciting capital, Lisbon.
Bathed by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and cradled by Spain to the East, Portugal has a lot to offer. Its friendly people, fascinating history, world-class foods, wines, and luxurious hotels, will have you immediately falling in love with this tiny, welcoming country. Portugal’s diverse climate and geography allow many different experiences in a small amount of space. From the Douro Valley’s terraced vineyards in the north to the craggy beaches of the Algarve on the southern coast, Portugal offers something for everyone. Located on seven picturesque hillsides overlooking the Rio Tejo, the city boasts a postcard-perfect panorama filled with cobbled alleyways, ancient ruins, red rooftops, a spectacular bridge, and cathedrals along a bustling cosmopolitan atmosphere.
In Lisbon, you will stay in one of our preferred 5-star accommodations. The lodging choices are plentiful and range from boutique to elegant luxury. During your stay in Lisbon, you’ll enjoy our favorite tours plus some free time to explore the city on your own.
- A Private Full-day Lisbon Highlights Tour. First, your tour will start in the Baixa district. The neighborhood was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake and has beautiful cobbled streets, named after the artisans who traded in the area. You can’t miss the famous Elevator de Santa Justa, a remarkable iron elevator built in the late 19th century and designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a student of Gustave Eiffel. Secondly, you’ll go to the Alfama district. Known as the “soul” of the capital city, it is adorned with steep winding alleys, hidden landmark churches, echoes of tunes of fado music, and stunning views of the Tagus River. Since the 5th century, Alfama was inhabited by the Visigoths, and remnants of a Visigoth town wall remain but it was the Moors who gave the district its shape and atmosphere. In Moorish times this was an upper-class residential area. The earthquake brought down many of its mansions (and post-Moorish churches) and the district reverted to a working-class, “fisherfolk” quarter. Next, you continue to the Castle of St. Jorge, formerly a Moorish citadel. Here you can see Lisbon sprawling along the banks of the Tagus River estuary. From the city’s hills, you can look toward the Atlantic, and let your thoughts run free. You’ll then have a break for lunch at a lovely river or seaside restaurant. Next, you have a sweet stop at the nearby 19th-century factory converted into a pastry shop for a gourmet treat with Pastéis de Belem (delicious custard tarts typical of this neighborhood of Lisbon). Lastly, end the day with a very special private vintage yacht cruise along Tejo river where you’ll be able to enjoy panoramic views of the Belem district, Discovery Monuments, and Belem Tower.
- A Private Day Trip and Tour to Cascais and Sintra. This morning you’ll start your day by meeting your private chauffeur. The first stop is Cascais, a formerly quaint fishing village that became a popular resort favored by European nobility and kings in the early 20th century. Today it is a colorful cosmopolitan town with elegant pedestrian streets, luxuriant villas, fashionable shops, restaurants, and bars. Upon arrival, you’ll enjoy a private guided tour of the seaside village. Next, continue to Sintra, an extraordinary town with a surreal mixture of history and fantasy, protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. During the afternoon, your expert guide will lead you on a private guided tour of Sintra’s historical center and visit the colorful Pena Palace. You will return to your hotel in Lisbon in the early evening.
PORTO – 3 NIGHTS
The last, but definitely not least, stop on your Spain and Portugal Discovery itinerary will be the lovely riverside city of Oporto, otherwise known as Porto. After checkout this morning, your private driver will accompany you north to Porto. Along the way, you’ll visit some of central Portugal’s most interesting and charming villages.
- Start your journey in Óbidos, a medieval village from the XII century, inside the castle walls, where you can find a lot of handcraft stores mixed with churches and charming guest houses. This village is also known for its chocolate and cherry liquor. Next, you’ll head north along Atlantic West Coast, where you will see the biggest pine tree forest in Portugal right before arriving in Nazaré, a fisherman’s village and a famous surf spot. Here fish is king and you’ll have a chance to wander through the fish market before enjoying a delicious fresh seafood lunch. Your last stop will be Aveiro, a city on the west coast of Portugal set along a lagoon. It’s distinguished by its canals navigated by colorful boats (Barcos moliceiros), traditionally used to harvest seaweed. Not far from its core, known for art nouveau buildings, is the Cathedral of Aveiro, with its prominent bell tower. The Museu de Aveiro, housed in a former convent, has a lavish tomb made of marble.
After this full day of exploring the central coast of Portugal, it’s on to charming Porto. Bella Vita has a wonderful selection of 4 and 5-star elegant hotels for you to choose from. During your stay in Porto, we will arrange for your choice of the following special experiences:
- Our favorite way to start any trip to Porto is with our Private Half-Day Walking Tour of the city. Porto was made for exploring on foot and today, you’ll do just that. Taking in the city’s historic center with its network of alleys, tile-fronted churches, and varied monuments. Porto was designated a World Heritage Site in 1996. Overlooking the Douro River, it was the Romans who give the city the name Portus, or port, in the 1st century BC. With your private guide, visit some of the city’s key historic sites. Begin with the neighborhood of Praça da Ribeira and its winding, cobbled streets. Then, Porto’s main thoroughfare, the architecturally impressive Avenida dos Aliados. Next, the beautiful São Bento railway station, whose walls tell the history of Portugal through more than 20,000 tiles. Afterward, São Francisco church, a fine example of Baroque ornamentation. Lastly, the historic Livraria Lello bookstore said to have inspired JK Rowling!
- No trip to Porto would be complete without a Private Port Lodges of Porto Tour and Tasting. Across the Douro river, facing Porto, you’ll visit the city of Gaia, home of more than 60 Port wine lodges. You will enjoy a guided visit and tasting at the19th-century Graham’s port cellar. Then, you’ll have reservations for lunch at the acclaimed on-site restaurant Vinum or their outdoor casual café. Following lunch, you’ll visit a second port lodge, Real Companhia Velha. This is an older traditional lodge dating back to 1756, for an exclusive visit and tasting. These Port wine lodges are two of the most iconic producers in Douro Valley.
- A Portuguese Market Tour and Traditional Cooking Class. Accompanied by your local private guide, you’ll discover the secrets of Portugal’s many unique ingredients and cooking techniques. After a trip to the market, you’ll create (and then enjoy!) a full Portuguese meal, all accompanied by the country’s delicious wines.
- Private Full-Day Douro Valley Excursion with Lunch and Boat Ride: Today you’ll enjoy a full-day tour through the spectacular Douro Valley, named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, where you can see the unique view of the vineyards all along the hills. You will visit Amarante, Meso Frio, and in the heart of the Douro region, Rgua and Pinho. During the day, you’ll visit two vineyards where you can see all the Port wine process and, of course, taste it. A traditional lunch will follow at one of the classic quintas (wineries). You’ll also enjoy a scenic boat ride on a traditional Portuguese rabelo down the Douro River to enjoy the panoramas of the vineyards from below. Afterward, your driver will accompany you to your Porto hotel in the late afternoon.
On your day of departure, you will have a private transfer to the airport.
If you are not yet ready to go home, we can add several options to your Spain and Portugal Discovery tour. A few days on the Costa Brava? Or a visit eno-gastronomic haven of San Sebastian and the Rioja wine region? Or head to the Azores Islands or the Algarve coast for a bit of sun, sea, and fun? The choice is yours and we would be happy to design your trip as you wish.