11 days
Duration
Destination
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Spain Short Tour | Small Group Tours Spain

Enjoy this short tour of Spain designed for mature travellers. This unique travel experience gives you the opportunity to discover Iberia in an escorted small group program. Experience a country with a rich history, diverse culture and delicious food. Once a formidable and mighty empire, Spain had access to great wealth and used this to create many of the monuments, structures and heritage sites we admire today.

The Iberian Peninsula in particular is renowned for its red wine, exotic cuisine and bustling street life. Starting in the vibrant beach-side city of Barcelona, we will travel through northern Spain into Rioja and Basque country before visiting the industrial city of Bilbao. After Bilbao we head back down to Spain's incredible capital Madrid, where we get a chance to see how Spain has contributed to the world of art.

Highlights of this short tour of Spain

The small group short tour to Spain is fully escorted and makes great use of local guides whose knowledge enhances the program. Some highlights you can expect from this vacation include a visit to La Rioja, an autonomous community in the north of Spain famed for its red wine and vast blue skies, the incredible Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the Royal Palace in Madrid. This will offer you everything you could want in a small group holiday, from the chance to sip red wine against a rugged, mountainous backdrop, to eating tapas in the bars of Barcelona, to exploring some of Madrid's amazing churches and learning of its complex religious history.

We will spend nights in the following cities:

Barcelona

The entrancing cosmopolitan city of Barcelona is one of the cultural highlights of Europe. Situated on the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula, the Catalan capital is famous for its distinctive architecture and its world-renowned food and wine. It was believed to have been founded by either the Phoenicians or Carthaginians. Under the Romans, it was known as “Colonia Faventia Julia Augusta Pia Barcino” or Barcino, which gained importance around the 3rd century AD. Towards the end of the 1800s, an avant-garde style of music, literature, art and architecture evolved in Barcelona, which led to a regional artistic and linguistic renaissance. This cultural re-birth went on to become a means of expression for Catalan nationalism. The major exponent of this ‘modernism’ in architecture was Antoni Gaudí, whose buildings and monuments have left an indelible mark on the city.

Madrid

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is situated in the geographical centre of the peninsula, on the Meseta Castellana, the Castilian Plateau, around 700 metres above sea level. With its more than three million inhabitants and another two million in its surrounding Comunidad de Madrid, it is indeed one of the liveliest and most exciting cities in Europe. Madrid has been inhabited since the Stone Age, but it developed as a medina (Arab town) in the 9th century, growing around the alcazar or castle overlooking the Manzanares River. It was eventually captured from the Muslims by Alfonso VI of Castile and Leon in 1083. Many kings spent time in this city, and in 1309, the Cortes, precursor to the Spanish Parliament, was first called in Madrid.

The last king of Spain to live in Madrid's Royal Palace was Alfonso XIII, who abdicated the throne in 1931 following a municipal plebiscite that abolished the monarchy. The Spanish Constitution of 1931, calling for the democratic election of Spain’s rulers, was legislated in Madrid. The Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, and Madrid, a bastion of the Republican forces, was besieged and bombed by Franco’s Nationalist forces. The Nationalist forces were supported by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and Madrid eventually fell in March 1939.

Following Franco’s death and the end of his dictatorship in 1975, Madrid was confirmed as Spanish capital in the 1978 constitution. The 1978 constitution also established the Spanish government as a parliamentary monarchy, with the monarch as head of state and the prime minister as head of government.

Bilbao

In the heart of Basque Country, 11 km from the Bay of Biscay, you will find Bilbao, one of northern Spain’s greatest treasures. Renowned for its famous Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao’s architectural wonders are surrounded by a ring of rolling green hills and lies on the mouth of the Nervion River. Once an industrial city, it has been transformed into a design city, where sleek new buildings sit alongside Gothic cathedrals and art nouveau train stations. At the end of 2017, Bilbao was chosen the Best European City 2018 at The Urbanism Awards 2018 and it is not hard to see why, with a new rapid transit system, a tram line and the Azkuna Zentroa, a wine storage warehouse turned cultural centre. This Spanish city has it all: vibrant history and culture, modern architecture, beautiful scenery and spectacular regional cuisine.

Calahorra

Calahorra is a town in the La Rioja region of northern Spain that has been inhabited since the Paleolithic. As the Roman town Calagurris (later Calagurris Nassica), it became an important administrative centre for surrounding regions. The town famously resisted the general Pompey—who was part of Caesar’s First Triumvirate and married to Caesar’s daughter, Julia—supporting instead his rival Quintus Sertorius, leader of the revolt against Rome. Calahorra supported Sertorius for four years until it suffered from starvation and fell to Pompey’s legate. This small town has historic landmarks dating from this era, such as ruins of a Roman aqueduct, as well as a 5th-century Gothic Cathedral, and the Casa Santa, said to house the bodies of the town’s patron saints (Emeterius and Celedonius), making it a pilgrimage site every August.

Burgos

The medieval town of Burgos served as an important commercial centre and capital of the unified kingdoms of Castile and Leon for five centuries. The city’s significance in the Middle Ages can be seen in its lush architecture and notable pieces of art. The Burgos Cathedral, constructed from 1221 to 1567, is hailed as a comprehensive example of the evolution of Gothic architecture, leading to its being listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Another important Gothic landmark is the 15th century Cartuja de Milaflores (Milaflores Charterhouse), once the recreational residence of Henry III of Spain, restored by his son John II with the help of Spain’s top architects, sculptures, and painters.

This Spain Short Tour is limited to 14 travellers. This tour is featured in our brochure as "Discovering Iberia - Short Tour". Odyssey offers a long version of the program that includes Portugal and southern Spain as well.

You can learn more about Spain and see all other tour departures on our country profile. For more details on this tour, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.

 

External & Internal Articles about Spain

The following list of articles are either published by Odyssey Traveller for mature aged and senior travellers or carefully selected from external sources to maximise their knowledge and enjoyment of Spain when visiting:

Frequently Asked Questions About Spain

The best time to visit Spain is during the spring and fall, offering the traveller the best combination of good weather, fewer crowds, but a lively time in the cities with lots of activities to choose from. At Odyssey Traveller, we make it a point to travel during this “shoulder season”, the months between peak season and low season; this is why our small group tours to Spain depart in May (spring) and September (fall). This schedule avoids the massive crowds in April travelling to Catholic Spain for Easter, the unbearably hot days of August, and the sub-zero temperatures of a Spanish winter.

The history of Spanish architecture is shaped by Spain’s successive rulers. The Romans and the Visigoths left behind their distinctive styles and building techniques. Moorish invasion in the 8th century brought Islamic influences to the Iberian Peninsula, which eventually gave rise to the Mudejar style (12th to 17th centuries) which was a blending of European Christian and Islamic influences in architecture. For the most part, Spain was also influenced by the architectural movements of the Continent, but in the 17th century, it would develop its own vernacular strand of Baroque, called Spanish Baroque. Baroque, as we’ve written before, is characterised by elaborate designs, luxurious materials, and ornate extravagance, and had its roots in Renaissance Rome and spread from Italy to the rest of continental Europe. Spanish Baroque, commonly seen in religious buildings, was at times more elaborate and indulgent than the Baroque style that developed on the Continent.

Of course, discussion of Spanish architecture will not be complete without mentioning Antoni Gaudi, whose unique style was inspired by various architectural eras–Mudejar, Gothic, Baroque–but after 1902 “his designs elude conventional stylistic nomenclature“. The famous Catalan architect worked in Barcelona, and we will get the chance to visit his iconic constructs on this tour

Paella is one of the most well-known dishes in Spanish cuisine, and a dish you may have already tried at your local restaurant. But authentic paella originates from the Valencian region. “Paella” in the Valencian regional language, means “frying pan”. Ingredients for Paella Valenciana include chicken or rabbit, rice, beans, and saffron for seasoning and colour. A seafood paella swaps the meat for seafood.

Gazpacho is a tomato-based soup and is Andalucian in origin. Made from ripe tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, bread, peppers, and cucumber blended together, this soup is served chilled, sometimes in glasses. This may strike some as strange at first, but it is a refreshing savoury treat in the heat of summer.

A tapa is an appetizer in Spanish cuisine, and one staple tapa is patatas bravas (“brave potatoes”), in which potatoes are cubed, fried, and often served with a spicy tomato sauce.

Jamón, or cured ham, is also a staple, made by salting a leg of ham and hanging it to dry. Jamón Serrano (“of the mountain”) comes from white pigs and is what you’ll commonly see in Spain. Another type, Jamón Iberico, is more expensive and comes from black pigs. Thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth jamón are a good salty accompaniment to wine before having your main dish.

Articles

Barcelona-Spain

Barcelona Travel Notes

13 mins readEuropeSpain

Barcelona is one of the cultural highlights of Europe. Situated on the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula, the Catalan capital is famous for its distinctive architecture and its world-renowned food and wine.

La Sagrada Familia Gaudi, Barcelona

15 of the Best Places to Visit in Spain

8 mins read

15 of the Best Places to Visit in Spain Spain is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations, attracting 82.8 million international visitors in 2018. We have collected the 15 best places to visit in…

Tour Notes
  • Group size is limited to a maximum of 18 participants.

PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

Overview: Upon arrival in Barcelona, we will come to the hotel individually. Our tour begins with an orientation and welcome dinner.

Once part of the Aragonese Empire, Catalonia is now an autonomous Spanish province, proud of its distinctive language and culture. Stretching from the Mediterranean to the Pyrenees, it was here that the Romans first landed on the Iberian peninsula and founded a new “colonnia” on the site of a previous Carthaginian settlement, the area now forming Barcelona’s “Barri Gotic.” Catalonian heritage is a mixture of old and new as ancient churches and monuments vie for attention with the Modernist school of Gaudi and Dali. The Catalonian capital reflects this contrast with architecture ranging from its Gothic cathedral to Gaudi’s modernist Sagrada Familia.

(D)

Accommodation: 3 nights at Amister Hotel or similar.

Overview: Today, we enjoy a full day tour around Barcelona, visiting the Miró Foundation, the National Museum of Catalan Art and Park Güell, a World Heritage Site since 1984. The evening is free to relax or to discover one of the many local restaurants for dinner. (B).

(B)

Accommodation: Amister Hotel or similar.

Overview: Today we will continue to explore Barcelona. We will view the main sights of the city, walk along the Paseo de Gracia, and walk through the Barrio Gothic. Entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art is included. We will have lunch individually, and afternoon touring takes us to the Pauau de La Musica Catalana, with a guided tour and entrance to Sagrada Familia cathedral.. Dinner tonight is at own arrangements.

(B)

Accommodation: Amister Hotel or similar.

Overview: In the morning we will visit the the Picasso Museum and then transfer to the train station where we will take the high speed train from Barcelona to Zaragoza. The journey takes approximately 2 hours. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure and dinner is at our hotel this evening.

Zaragoza was founded by the Romans in 25 BC, features some of Spain’s best examples of Mudejar architecture.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at Parador de Calahorra or similar.

Overview: This morning we will travel to Pamplona, famed for the running of its bulls. We will meet our local guide for a tour of the city. After lunch at own arrangements, we carry on to Bilbao.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at Tryp Bilbao Arenal Hotel or similar.

Overview: We will view the main sights of the port city of Bilbao with our guide, who will show us the city’s highlights. Today’s highlight is the amazing Guggenheim Museum, where we spend 2 to 3h viewing their collection of contemporary works of art. We will stop at Mercado de Ribera where we can get some lunch (own arrangements) before continuing on to Burgos. We arrive at our hotel in time for dinner.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at Meson del Cid or similar.

Overview: Today we will have a city tour of Burgos in the morning including entrance to the Cathedral. We will drive to Segovia with a stop for lunch in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and view the Roman Aqueduct before continuing our journey to Madrid where we stay for 4 nights.

Madrid is the capital of Spain and Europe’s highest capital city, located close to the country’s geographical centre on the Castilian Plateau. With a population of over 3 million, it offers a rich treasure chest of Spain’s art and ancient monuments.

(B)

Accommodation: 4 nights at Quatro Puerta Del Sol or similar.

Overview: Today we have a full-day tour exploring the highlights of the city, including entrances to the Royal Palace and the Museo Reina Sofia, Spain’s national museum of 20th century art. Later in the evening, we will meet our local guide again for  a Tapas tour to sample the local cuisine across a series of bars. After a post-dinner walk to Mercado San Miguel we return to our hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Quatro Puerta Del Sol or similar.

Overview: Today we will join our local guide to explore the nearby city of Toledo. We will visit the Synagogue de Santa Maria la Blanca, Sante Tome Church, the cathedral, and view the outside of Alcazar. Dinner this evening will be at a local restaurant.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Quatro Puerta Del Sol or similar.

Overview: In the morning we make our way to the Prado Museum and meet our local guide for a tour of the museum. The remainder of the day is free for you to continue to explore the city.

Accommodation: Quatro Puerta Del Sol or similar.

Overview: After breakfast, the tour will end.

(B)

1
Explore the beautiful city of Toledo.
2
Marvel at Madrid and the architectural splendours of the Catalan Barcelona.
3
Experience La Rioja, the mountain kingdom of Navarra, and neighbouring Basque Country with its astounding Guggenheim Museum.
4
Explore the history of Iberia and its measured way of life.
5
Sample the famous red wines of Spain and enjoy the rich texture of its street life.

What’s included in our Tour

  • 10 nights of hotel accommodation.
  • 9 breakfasts and 6 dinners.
  • Transport and field trips as indicated.
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local English speaking guides.
  • Touring by comfortable and modern coach.
  • Gratuities and necessary tips.
  • Services of an Odyssey Tour Leader.
  • Detailed tour information booklet.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • Return international airfare and departure taxes.
  • Comprehensive international travel insurance.
  • Airport transfers.
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
Short Spain tours
Small Group Guided Tours to Spain and Portugal Barcelona Park Guell
Malaga, Andalusia, Spain.
Barcelona Cathedral. Spain.
Discovering Iberia Barcelona Casa Batllo Gaudi Spain
Guggenheim, Bilbao
Sagrada Familia
San Marcos, old hospital for pilgrims of the Way of St. James, Leon, Spain
Casa Batlo, Antonio Gaudi, Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia Gaudi, Barcelona
Avila, Spain