Odyssey’s Guided Tours to Spain
Rich and vibrant. Those may be the best two words to describe Spain. From the food and wine, to the music and history, everything about this beautiful country is full of life and colour. This is a country bursting with life, evident in its breathtaking landscape and compelling history. From the majestic scenery of the Pyrenees to paradisaical beaches and from Roman ruins to otherworldly contemporary architecture, there is so much to discover in this amazingly diverse country on a tour of Spain. More than just the extraordinary landscapes and art, Spain boasts a uniquely warm atmosphere. The easy going culture makes anyone feel at home from Madrid to Barcelona , whether you’re taking a stroll on Barcelona’s bustling Las Ramblas , Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, or in a local run hotel in a quiet country town just taking a wander around the plaza. On your trip, make sure to head to a local restaurant for your meals, tour the tapas bars , enjoy a glass of la rioja wine perhaps, listen to flamenco music and soak it all in. Odyssey’s Spain tours are linked to a Portugal tour that includes Lisbon.
Top Ways to Tour Spain
Spain is also one of the world’s most geographically diverse countries, spanning from the famous Costa del Sol in the south to the Picos de Europa mountains of northern Spain.
If you are looking for pleasant, sunny weather but fewer crowds, the best time to visit Spain is in the spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November). For this reason, Odyssey’s guided tours to Spain leave at the beginning of May and September. During these months, you will find that the weather is warm, without being unbearably hot, and there are less tourists to compete with when visiting popular landmarks and museums.
Spain has a single time zone (excluding its overseas territories), on Central European Time. The nation observes daylight saving time from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. It is customary to tip up to 5% of the bill at restaurants. You may just leave small change at more casual establishments. It is not customary to tip in tapas bars, even if you receive some small change back from the bartender. However, tips for good service are always appreciated.
Internet access is easily accessible, and most hotels and many cafes will offer it. It maybe patchy in the more remote areas of Spain.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Spain. Many providers will offer a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet, while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank, they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Affordable Ways to Tour Spain
Odyssey’s small group tours of Spain are designed as package holidays in which you will be part of a small group of 6 to 12 people travelling as a couple or solo travellers. This means the cost of the holiday includes accommodation, all entrances, tipping and a majority of meals and great local guides. One of the benefits of this is that there are no hidden extras with respect to cost which means that you can budget accordingly and ensure the holiday is an affordable one for you. Tours typically span between two to three weeks in duration and seek to stay typically 2 to 3 nights in each location in good 3 or 4 star hotels. As well as this, Odyssey can adjust an itinerary that will suit your dates and locations, as long as it is a section of the full tour and the price will be adjusted accordingly.
All of our tours offer free time, giving you the chance to explore different destinations on your own and visit those sites not included in the tour. Some ways that you can make sure you’re touring Spain affordably include:
- Booking your flights at the right time: Flights are not included in an Odyssey Tour and making sure that you book your flights at the right time can make a big difference to your budget. While you can find some great last-minute deals, your best chance of finding an affordable flight is to book your flight in advance and as soon as you know your dates of travel. If taking a long-haul flight, from the southern hemisphere, or flying transatlantic, it is usually recommended to book your flights between three months and seven weeks before your departure.
Eat like a Spaniard: For those meals when you are out and about, you can save money by eating as the Spanish do. Often this means having a small breakfast and then a big meal in the middle of the day. Eating a large lunch is usually cheaper than eating out in the evening, in part because it is a legal requirement in Spain to offer a ‘menu of the day’ (or menu del dia). As well as this, in many bars in Spain, when you buy an alcoholic drink, it will be accompanied by something to eat, such as a serve of paella or a tapas dish. This is a great way to try Spanish food without spending a lot of money on a fancy meal.
- Visit places for free: Lots of museums and galleries in Spain are free on certain days or at particular times during the day. While this means they are busier, if you have free time, it is worth investigating and saving yourself some money while doing your solo exploring.
What to Look for in a Spain Travel Package
When booking an Odyssey small group tour, some things to consider before you book include:
- Gratuities included: Tipping per person, per day, for all different services can quickly add up and leave you out of pocket. As well as this, it can be stressful working out how much and how often you should be tipping. When tipping is included in the price, it saves you both time and money, while giving you peace of mind that you’re not committing any type of cultural faux pas.
- Number of fellow travellers: When booking a Spain small group tour, you want to ensure that you are not going to get lost in a big crowd of people. This is particularly pertinent when visiting a popular European holiday destination such as Spain. Odyssey tours have an average of eight participants per tour with a maximum of group size of 18.
- Knowledgeable guides: Spain has a long, rich and compelling history, demonstrated by its architectural diversity, multiple museums and numerous festivals and celebrations. Ideally, you want to be able to gain a sense of Spain’s past, present and future and for this reason, an informed Program leader and knowledgeable guides are essential to a fulfilling travel experience. All Odyssey Traveller Spain tours include a Program Leader who accompanies the group for the duration of the tour. In addition, we engage local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of the different destinations in Spain, whether you be in a large city or a small seaside town.
- Unique locations: Spain has something for everyone and when looking for a Spain travel package, it is useful to consider where you might want to visit and the kind of holiday you would like. Odyssey Traveller offers tours that allow you to travel all around Spain and others that allow you to immerse yourself in one city. The Via de la Plata Walking Tour, for example, will guide you on an unforgettable trip through the longest of the pilgrim routes in Spain, an ancient causeway that has been in use for centuries.
- Culture and History: When visiting somewhere like Spain, you want to return with a better understanding of Spanish traditions, art, architecture, history and culture. Odyssey offers a wide range of educational, cultural and heritage journeys will let you see a side of Spain you don’t always get from the history books. Walk through well-preserved Roman ruins, watch traditional flamenco dancing, visit the oldest university in Spain and marvel at the Casas Colgantes (“Hanging Houses”) called as such as they appear suspended over a ravine.
- Time of the tour: Spain is beautiful and interesting regardless of the time of the year but peak season is definitely during the summer from the beginning of June to the end of August. During this time, the most popular destinations in Spain, including Barcelona and Madrid, experience a massive increase in tourism. For this reason, it is best to visit during the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) and to look for tours that start during this period. There will be less traffic and more temperate weather
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including the train and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Spain has an extensive high speed train network connecting most of the country as well as links with Portugal and France. The network is comprised of a mid and long distance train system and AVE (high speed trains). Barcelona offers great bus and metro transport to get around the city and visit all the main sights.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our long stay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Weather, & environment
Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal and is bounded to the north by the Pyrenees, which separate Spain from France. The Balearic Islands, Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, lie about 190 kilometres south-east of Barcelona, while the Canary Islands lie off the west coast of Africa. The tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African mainland also belong to Spain.
The Pyrenees stretch roughly 400 kilometres from the Basque Country in the west to the Mediterranean Sea. The peaks exceed 1,500 metres in some points, the highest standing at 3,404 metres. Spain is dominated by its vast central plateau, the Meseta, divided by several chains of sierras. The higher northern area includes Castile and León, while the southern section comprises Castile-La Mancha and Extremadura. In the south the plateau drops abruptly at the Sierra Morena, beyond which lies the valley of the Guadalquivir. Sierra Nevada lies to the south-east of Granada. It is part of the Baetic Cordillera, which runs parallel to the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean coast stretches from the French frontier in the north-east down to the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow strip of water linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic and separating Spain from North Africa.
Spain’s climate varies from temperate in the north to dry and hot in the south. The best months are from April to October, although mid-summer, July and August, can be excessively hot throughout the country except in the coastal regions. Madrid is best in late spring or autumn (though there are advantages to travelling in shoulder and off seasons). The central plateau can be bitterly cold in winter.
World Heritage sites
Spain boasts the third largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It has 46 sites listed, which you can view on the official site here: (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/es). While every single site has something of value, there are a few highlights:
Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada. The Alhambra is currently the only preserved palatine city of the Islamic period. It is a vast complex of fortress and gardens, set in a picturesque district that blends Moorish and Andalusian architecture.
The Santiago de Compostela (Camino de santiago) is a heritage listed Christian pilgrimage route, with the routes of Camino Francés and Northern Spain as optional extensions. The awe-inspring cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is also a notable heritage site.
Antoni Gaudí’s seven buildings in and around Barcelona testify to his exceptional creative contribution to the development of architecture and building technology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Festivals & events
Spain hosts a number of cultural, culinary, and religious events throughout the year. From La Tomatina in Bunol, to the many celebrations of Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Carnaval, you will certainly be able to find something that suits your schedule and taste. Other events include Fiesta de San Isidro Labrador in Madrid, honouring the city’s patron saint and marking the start of bullfighting season; Festa Major de Grácia in Barcelona where locals compete for the most elaborately decorated street; and San Sebástian International Film Festival, a two-week festival that begun in the 1950s.
- Spain by Jan Morris
- The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal
- Moorish Spain by Richard Fletcher
- The Revolution and Civil War in Spain by Pierre Broue and Emile Temine
- Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country’s Hidden Past by Giles Tremlett
Eating & drinking
Spanish food is one of the country’s main attractions and a key driver of tourism. While foreigners often think of Spanish food as one category, it actually varies widely based on the region. Some popular regional dishes include Paella Valenciana from the Eastern region town of Valencia, and Iberian Ham and Jerez Vinegar from the Andalusía region. Spanish wine is also very popular and with different varieties of grapes grown throughout the country, the most popular is the rioja wine region. There’s a great variety of wines on offer, from Tempranillo to Syrah to Verdejo, again la rioja wine is very popular.
Olives are grown in different regions in Spain, mainly in Andalucía and Catalonia. The country is the world’s biggest virgin olive oil producer, one of the main ingredients in Spanish cooking. It’s estimated Spaniards consume approximately 9 litres of olive oil per person each year!
Health & safety
As of writing, smarttraveller.gov recommends exercising normal safety precautions when travelling in Spain. While much of Spain is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. Demonstrations and strikes affecting transport services and traffic can occur at minimal or no notice; we advise you to monitor local media and be prepared to adjust your travel plans. Pickpocketing is popular in tourist areas and on public transport, so keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Plugs in Spain have two round pins (type F), so make sure to pick up the right adaptor before your trip.
Articles about Spain published by Odyssey Traveller:
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Spain:
Responsible Travel Tips For Spain
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, The more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Before departing on your trip, contact your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.