AU$6,799 Per Person
- Tour TypeEscorted Tour
- Duration17 Days/16 Nights
- Tour CodeALB-18-4833
- Tour HighlightsAccommodation Accommodation includedActivity Wine tasting sessionsMeals Daily breakfast & 10 dinnersAdmission All entrance fees includedEscorted tour Experienced private English speaking guideInclusion Inclusive touring (no optional extras)Inclusion Longer staysInclusion Small group size (22-28 pax)Transportation Air-conditioned touring coachDrink Welcome drink
Immerse yourself in UNESCO listed Burgos and the rich, rolling vineyards of the Rioja, follow Spain’s Costa Verde from the wild Picos de Europa mountains to Santander, and elegant San Sebastian. Visit Biarritz and the mighty French Pyrenees, and stay in the walled city of Carcassonne. Sleep in historic Paradors and grand hotels, ride high in mountain cable cars, relax by the Canal du Midi, take time at leisure in craggy hilltop Cathar villages and sip wine and dine as the lucky locals do.
2018 Departure Dates
Start Date End Date 23 May 8 June 6 June 22 June 18 July 3 August 15 August 31 August 29 August 14 September 5 September 21 September 12 September 28 September
This itinerary is subject to change.
Day 1, Madrid
Your tour commences this evening in Spain’s cosmopolitan capital city, Madrid. Join us tonight for a welcome drink before dinner in your hotel. This is an ideal chance to meet, and get to know, your Tour Manager and fellow travellers. (D)
Hotel: Melia Madrid Princesa Hotel
Day 2, Burgos El Cid and the Rioja Region
Travelling north, we soon reach Burgos, the historical capital of the Castile and León region, which was one of the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. This stunning medieval city is a masterpiece of Spanish Gothic architecture. We have included a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Listed cathedral, where you will find the tomb of the famous, 11th century warrior, El Cid.
Later, we enter the famous Rioja region of Spain where we stay three nights in the charming town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Set on the banks of the River Oja, this town sits astride the Pilgrims Route to Santiago de Compostela – the Way of St James. The network of medieval streets within the old city walls are declared as a National Historic Site. The rich soil of the Rioja has also enabled the town to become famous for its gastronomy and local wines. (B, D)
Hotel: Parador de Santo Domingo de Calzada
Day 3, Ancient Pamplona and Logroño
Today, we visit the ancient town of Pamplona, in the Navarre Province. Whilst Pamplona is famous for its annual ‘Sanfermines festival of the bulls’, it actually has a rich and proud history dating back 2000 years. After time exploring the traditional historical centre, make sure you relax in a restaurant or café and sample the local Navarre cuisine with food drawn from the surrounding, fertile, Arga plain. This afternoon, we will visit the city of Logroño, the capital of La Rioja. Steeped in history, and mentioned in the 1000 year old Pilgrim’s guide book – the ‘Codex Calixtinus’, Logroño became an important trading and commercial capital for the whole region. Your evening is at leisure in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. (B)
Day 4, Haro, Laguardia and Marques de Riscal vineyard
This morning we visit Haro, one of Rioja’s most famous wine producing towns with its beautiful square and wonderful baroque church. After a scenic drive through the famous Rioja wine region, lunchtime is at leisure in the fortified hill top town of Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa, a walled medieval town with spectacular views across the Sierra de Cantabria. This afternoon we will make a special stop at the flamboyant Marques de Riscal vineyard. On approach the winery is a sensational sight with a design looking more like a giant chocolate box covered with huge wild colourful ribbons. Here we enjoy a vineyard tour and tasting. (B, D)
Day 5, Vitoria and coastal Santander
First stop of the day will be in Vitoria, the capital city of the Basque Country. An elegant city of parks, gardens and a beautiful main square, this is also the site of the battle in which the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon in the Peninsular War. In the afternoon we reach Santander, capital of the Cantabria region, on the Atlantic Coast. Famous for its wide sandy El Sardinero beach and glamorous hotels, we stay here the next three nights.
Day 6, San Vicente de la Barquera and Picos de Europa
There is nothing like a day in the mountains! Heading west we enjoy a relaxing morning stop in the old fishing port of San Vicente de la Barquera with its colourful boats and impressive 16th century stone bridge which crosses the estuary with 28 arches.
Later, we drive through the dramatic La Hermida Gorge and venture into the Picos de Europa, northern Spain’s highest mountains. In the small mountain town of Potes, we enjoy a typical Picos lunch of ‘Fabada’ – the local mountain stew with beans and sausages, and a glass of Orujo schnapps. At Fuente De, we will enjoy a spectacular cable car ride which will take you high up into the jagged mountains, offering terrific views across this remote national park. (B, L)
Day 7, Santander, Altamira Caves and Santillana de Mar
This morning is at leisure to go shopping and explore the exciting city centre. Maybe take a walk to the Magdalena Palace on the headland with its lush green gardens and sweeping views across the beach and estuary. In the afternoon, we will take a drive along the coast to visit the Altamira Caves museum with its stunning ‘neocave’ (replica), on the site of the original UNESCO World Heritage Listed cave system. A local guide will join us to explain how the actual original cave structure and paintings of bison, wild horses deer and other animals have all been accurately reproduced, using the original painting techniques and materials. A unique and fascinating visit! Later we will enjoy a relaxing stop nearby in one of Spain’s most beautiful towns – Santillana de Mar – with its private noble palaces and romanesque church. The town is also famous for its local handicraft and local produce. Your evening is at leisure. (B)
Day 8, Castro Urdiales, Bilbao & San Sebastián
Following the Costa Verde or ‘Green Coast’, we enjoy a morning stop at Castro Urdiales with its colourful fishing fleet and Knights Templar castle. Later, we continue to Bilbao, one of Spain’s largest cities, to enjoy lunchtime in the charming Casco Viejo – the old quarter. Here you have the chance to see the world famous Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, with its extraordinary swirling, groundbreaking design.
Leaving Bilbao behind, we will cross the lush green hills of the Basque country to reach the chic coastal city of San Sebastián, one of Spain’s most elegant cities. We will spend three nights here. (B, D)
Hotel: Mercure Monte Igueldo
Day 9, San Sebastián sightseeing and ‘My Time’
This morning, an expert local guide will join us to bring San Sebastián to life. We begin up at the famous Monte Igueldo to take in the amazing views across the horse shoe bay, and the city ringed by mountains. Following that our guide will take us on a guided walk through the narrow streets and old port, before introducing us to the city’s famous tapas bars. San Sebastián is noted as the gourmet capital of Europe so it is a perfect time to really focus on enjoying some Pintxo, the local name for tapas, washed down by a glass of local white wine called Taxkoli. The rest of the day is free to explore and shop in this lively, cosmopolitan city. (B)
Day 10, Seaside Saint Jean De Luz and Biarritz
Crossing the border into France, we pass through the small town of Ciboure, birth place of the famous composer Ravel. Our first stop of the day will be in the delightful seaside town of Saint Jean De Luz where Louis 14th, the ‘Sun King’, married Maria Theresa of Spain in the 17th century. Later, we will continue to the elegant seaside resort of Biarritz, on the Bay of Biscay. Patronised by European royalty since the 1800s Biarritz is still a very chic and thriving beach resort, with a big surfing influence. Biarritz, with its distinctly French feel, is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll along the seaside promenade. Tonight, we enjoy dinner in a local restaurant. (B, D)
Day 11, City of Pau, Lourdes and Tarbes
Crossing into Aquitaine in France we reach the city of Pau. Time to take a stroll along the Boulevard des Pyrenees or visit the Château de Pau, birthplace of France’s King Henry IV. On a clear day the views of the Pyrenees are excellent.
In the afternoon, we will also make a stop in the pilgrimage city of Lourdes where in 1858 a vision of the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared before Bernadette Soubirous in the Grotto of Massabielle. Later, we reach Tarbes where we will stay the next two nights. (B, D)
Hotel: Le Rex
Day 12, Hautes-Pyrenees & Pic du Midi
Today, we drive into the heart of the Hautes-Pyrenees and classic Tour de France country. At 2115 metres high, the Col du Tourmalet is the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrenees, and one of the most famous climbs on the Tour de France bicycle route. As we climb up higher and higher we see bike signs showing the distance to the top, and the gradient over the next kilometre! Often passing struggling cyclists we will make a stop at the large statue of the famous rider Octave Lapize, gasping for air as he struggles to make the climb. In La Mongie we will board a large cable car which will take us up to the summit of the Pic Du Midi de Bigorre. At 2877 metres or nearly 10,000 feet the views are stupendous. Because of the reliable, clear, blue skies they built a massive white observatory up here, and it is like a scene from a science fiction movie. Here there is also an observatory museum, restaurants and deckchairs to sit in and relax and enjoy the panoramic views – one way down onto the broad French plains and the other along the massive Pyrenees into Spain. Memorable! (B)
Day 13, Mirepoix and Abbey of St Hilaire
A leisurely start today as we head across the vine covered hills to enjoy lunchtime in the perfectly preserved time capsule of Mirepoix. Without doubt this is one of the most beautiful medieval town squares in Europe, with its colourfully painted, half-timbered houses that date back to between the 13th and 15th centuries. Sitting atop centuries old wooden rafters carved at the ends with monsters, animals and gargoyles, these rows of shuttered houses provide shady covered walkways for cafés and shops. We are now in the ‘Pays Cathare’, or Cathar country, in the lovely Languedoc Roussillon region. Just south of Carcassonne near Limoux we will make a special visit to the Abbey of St Hilaire, a jewel of Romanesque architecture. Originally dating back possibly 1300 years, the more recently added Abbey church and 14th century cloisters are a delight. The Benedictine monks of the Abbey are also credited with inventing the sparkling wine known as Blanquette de Limoux, a full century before their counterparts created ‘bubbly’ in Champagne! Our stay for the next three nights is right in the very heart of the massive, UNESCO World Heritage Listed, walled city of Carcassonne. (B, D)
Hotel: The Best Western le Donjon
*23 May departure stays at Mercure Carcassone Port de la Cite Hotel
Day 14, Carcassonne sightseeing and ‘My Time’
Dating back to Roman times, the existing 13th century fortress city of Carcassonne is an extraordinary timepiece. This morning we are joined by a local guide as we explore the ramparts and old town of Carcassonne. The medieval castle, with its gigantic double walled fortifications and 53 watchtowers, is the 2nd most visited site in France outside of Paris. We have also included entrance into the château of the Counts of Carcassonne. The rest of the day is completely free to wander amongst the cafés, shops and boutiques within this exceptional town. (B)
Day 15, Minerve, Le Somail and Canal du Midi
A leisurely start as we crisscross the Canal du Midi and then head into the Languedoc hills, to the dramatic gorge and perched, stone village of Minerve. In 1210, during the Cathar Crusade, Simon de Montfort destroyed this village stronghold and burned alive 140 ‘heretics’. Today, Minerve boasts a small, sleepy, 12th century church surrounded by cobbled streets and narrow alleys, craft shops and restaurants. Perched by the ravine, the town is delightful and the scenery dramatic. Make sure you walk down to the Cassiere River and through the cavernous tunnel which drills right under and through the hillside.
Later, we descend through the vineyards of the Minervois region to stop and explore the picturesque hamlet of Le Somail, sitting astride the Canal du Midi. Take time to relax in a canal side café and enjoy an aperitif, and cross the humped back bridge to the massive antique library on the far tow path. Delightful! Dinner tonight will be in a local restaurant. (B, D)
Day 16, Figueres and Barcelona
Heading into Spain we reach the Girona province where we will enjoy a morning stop in Figueres. Time to stroll amongst the shops of the tree lined La Rambla, the city’s shaded central avenue, and stop in one of the café filled squares. Make sure you visit the Placa Gala, with its Dali statutes and the Salvador Dali museum housed in the old municipal theatre. In the afternoon we reach the vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Barcelona.
On arrival we will enjoy a panoramic drive past many of its famous sights, including Gaudi’s incredible Sagrada Familia Basilica. Tonight, we will enjoy a farewell dinner. (B, D)
Hotel: Crowne Plaza Barcelona Fira Center
*23 May departure stays at H10 Universitat Barcelona
Day 17, Barcelona
Your tour ends today after breakfast.(B)
- All excursions, scenic drives, sightseeing and entrances as described
- Fully escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
- Travel in a first class air-conditioned touring coach
- 16 nights specially selected hotel accommodation
- Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
- 27 meals – including breakfast daily (B), ‘Fabada’ mountain lunch in Potes (L) and 10 dinners (D)
- Tea, coffee and a complimentary beverage with all included dinners
- Hand-selected experiences - cable car rides Picos de Europa and Pic du Midi
- Local guides as described in the itinerary
- All tips to your Tour Manager, driver and local guides
- Personal audio system whilst on tour
- Free WiFi on most coaches and at hotels
- If you would like to arrive a few days ahead of your tour, or extend afterwards we can often arrange accommodation at the same hotels used on this tour. Please contact us for details.
- Guaranteed group departure with 10 people or more.
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