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Escape with us this autumn to vibrant Madrid and monumental Andalucía on this 12-day deluxe program. We stay in meticulously restored historic palaces in Madrid, Córdoba, Granada and Seville — with three days to explore Ronda and surrounding hilltop towns from our lovely inn, gorgeously situated in the stunning countryside of southern Spain. Early November is harvest season, with bright and sunny days and cultural life of the region in full swing.
Start in Madrid (MAD), End in Seville (SVQ)
“If by the grace of God I become famous, half of that fame will belong to Granada, which formed me and made me what I am: a poet from birth and unable to help it.”
– Gabriel Garcia Lorca
Wed, Nov 1, 2017 • Depart the USA
Depart the USA on any regularly scheduled non-stop flight to Madrid.
Thu, Nov 2 • Arrive Madrid, Spain
Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to the 4-Star Hotel Only You, a new, thoroughly contemporary hotel on chic and trendy Calle Barquillo. Centrally located in the fashionably gay Chueca neighborhood, it is surrounded by lively restaurants, cafes, bars, and excellent shopping at many nearby shops and boutiques. Relax in its comfortable atmosphere and excellent downtown location before enjoying our evening tapas tour, setting the tone for a delicious indulgence in the Spanish way of life. Venture into the heart of Madrid de las Austrias (the charismatic “Old Austria” area, reflecting 16th and 17th century architecture in all its opulent grandeur), and visit quaint, charming restaurants and bars to taste hearty, traditional food in small-plate portions, accompanied with some pleasingly potent local wines, all amidst the joyous hullabaloo of the welcoming Madrileños. The choices are extensive and exotic (rare types and preparations of meats, fish and seafood, vegetables, eggs and cheeses and, especially, the obligatory “tortilla de patatas” – Spanish potato omelet)…‘tapear’ in Madrid is a fun and local alternative to the full-blown sit down meal. Return to hotel with overnight in Madrid.
Hotel: Hotel Only You
Fri, Nov 3 • Madrid City Tour
After breakfast in the hotel, join your local guide for a walking tour of sunny, yet mild, Madrid, with its many well-known plazas, monuments, museums and palaces. First, visit one of the capital’s most impressive sights, the immense statue and tree-lined 18-th Century Plaza de Oriente leading into the Royal Palace – the imposing and opulent Spanish royal residence, it features an outstanding collection of paintings, sculptures and tapestries as well as the Royal Armoury, considered one of the best armor collections in the world. Next, wander through the narrow streets of Madrid de las Austria (“Old Austria”) including Plaza Mayor – built during Philip III’s reign (1598–1621) – a wonderfully porticoed Baroque square, lined with impressive residences, fanciful arcades, picturesque shops and cafes. Spend time in this historic quarter of the city, and visit the peaceful Plaza de la Villa. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant.
Bourbon Madrid – named for the French “Burbon” Dynasty that initiated the 18th Century “Age of Enlightment” in Madrid after the demise of Hapsburg rule – was created in the “prado” (meadow) area of Madrid, and designed to provide a lasting architectural legacy for the Madrileños. See the many outstanding monuments: Puerta de Alcala (Triumphal Arch, 1778), Plaza de Cibeles and Cybele Fountain (1777-82), and the Congreso de los Diputados (Spanish Congress of Deputies, 1843-50). Visit the main National Art Museum, the Prado, founded in 1819, featuring one of the finest art and sculpture collections dating from the 12th to the early 19th Century, and unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art and sculpture in the world.
Time and interest permitting, we may venture into the nearby Barrio de Las Letras, located near the Plaza Santa Ana, both the “adopted” homes of Madrid’s great composers, writers and poets including Cervantes, Lope, Quevedo and Góngora.
The evening is at leisure to sample one of Madrid’s many highly recommended restaurants.
Hotel: Hotel Only You
Sat, Nov 4 • Tour Toledo
After breakfast, leave Madrid and enjoy Spain’s countryside as you drive towards the ancient municipality of Toledo – a charming town of old adobe-brick houses, stone churches and winding cobblestone streets. First recognized as a Roman fortress in 192BCE, it grew to a village, then town, and yet – most importantly – into a hallowed site for the religions of the world. This “City of Three Cultures”, marking the convergence of Christianity, Islam and Judaism in one revered area, has kept its adherence to religious tolerance throughout the generations. Outlasting turbulent times (expressly “The Middle Ages” and “The Spanish Inquisition”) it was named a “World Heritage Site” in 1986 by UNESCO for its contribution to religious harmony. See two of the remaining medieval Spanish synagogues – Santa María La Blanca and the Synagogue of El Transito. At the center of Toledo, you will find the soaring Cathedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo, a Roman Catholic cathedral in the then prevalent Gothic design. Its Sacristy contains many paintings by El Greco, Van Dyck and Goya, plus an impressive collection of medieval garments and textiles. Stop at the Church of Santo Tomé, and marvel at El Greco’s famed “Burial of the Count of Orgaz”, considered to be El Greco’s finest work. Also, The Museum of El Greco contains an extensive collection of the former Toledo resident’s unique and haunting paintings. This afternoon, on your own, you might opt to have lunch and then stroll or shop before returning to Madrid.
Evening will be at leisure.
Hotel: Hotel Only You
Sun, Nov 5 • Madrid | Cordoba Walking Tour
This morning, check out of your hotel and transfer to Madrid’s Atocha Train Station – here you will board your AVE High Speed Train to Cordoba*. (Approximately: 1 hour 45 minutes). We are reserved in Business Class.
Upon arrival in Cordoba, transfer to the hotel. Hospes Palacio del Bailio, located in the picturesque “Old City” neighborhood of Cordoba. A 21st century luxury accommodation transformed from a 16th century palace, the structure retains its medieval charm, while offering all of the luxuries desired by today’s traveller. After relaxing, meet our local guide and enjoy a walking tour of Cordoba.
All will be revealed as you roam the picturesque, evocative streets in the restored heart of the city – one of the largest medieval quarters in Europe – and experience Cordoban life and history first-hand. You can see the former Jewish temple, Sinagoga de Cordoba (1315), with its un-marked exterior and cube-shaped, gem-like interior – one of the most beautiful synagogue interiors in Europe. On your walk, visit other sights honoring Cordoba’s most important sons, including the Roman philosopher, Seneca; the Arabian philosopher, Averroes, and the Sephardic Jewish Philosopher and Theologian, Rambam, with their monuments located throughout the quarter.
Our tour concludes at the greatest monument of Cordoba: the Mezquita (Grand Mosque), dating from 785AD, and one of the world’s most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture. So massive that it contains a Catholic Cathedral within, it is one of the world’s best-known pieces of religious architecture. A vast forest of hundreds of delicate marble columns and elegant arches, inlaid mosaics – sent as a gift by the Emperor of Byzantium, and its “mihrab” (the niche which denotes the direction of Mecca) all create a dazzling composition of infinite beauty. After the tour of the Mezquita, return to your hotel for an evening of leisure.
Hotel: Hospes Palacio Del Bailio
Mon, Nov 6 • Cordoba | Granada: The Albaycin
This morning, check out of your hotel and drive to Granada, travelling through hilltop villages and across the rolling Sierra Nevada. After a pleasant drive filled with beautiful Spanish landscapes, arrive in Granada and proceed to the “Old City” neighborhood and check-in to the hotel.
Located in the heart of Granada, the 5-Star Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula is a luxurious address. The hotel is a beautiful renovation and transformation of the old 16th-century Santa Paula Convent and Cloister into one of the city’s finest, most modern hotels. We will have lunch and then relax, reserving the early evening for an “Insider’s Stroll Through the Albaycin”.
GRANADA – People come to Granada from all over the world to see and visit one of the world’s most stunning monuments, the Alhambra – “…a pearl set in diamonds.” Dominating the skyline above the city, this Moorish palace was the jewel of the Moorish Kingdom in Spain – with its spectacular location, high on a hill top with the Sierra Nevada Mountains rising in the background. The Alhambra is an impressive sight with high porticoes, latticed windows, ornate carvings depicting Islamic inscriptions, and, especially, it’s mystic aura of romantic days of yore. Wander through its landscaped gardens, be stunned by the lavishly appointed rooms surrounding the inner courtyard, and marvel at the intricately inlaid tile work and gilded archways and domes. Also, discover the hidden garden paths surrounding the palace, leading you into the old neighborhoods of Sacromonte and Albaycin, each rich in architecture and history.
After a pleasant afternoon, stroll through the old Moorish Quarter of Granada – the Albaycin. Be amazed by the magnificent view of the Alhambra Palace as twilight falls, the sun casting its brilliant hues on its stunningly beautiful Moorish architecture, enhanced by the glorious natural backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Return to the hotel with remainder of evening at leisure.
Hotel: Hotel Palacio De Santa Paula
Tue, Nov 7 • Granada: Alhambra & Generalife Gardens
Enjoy a private tour of the Alhambra, the best preserved example of a Moorish fortress/palace in Europe, and one of the world’s most romantic monuments dating back more than 600 years.
Declared a UNESCO “World Heritage Site” in 1984, the Alhambra was a courtly city where the sultans of the Nasrid Dynasty – rulers of the last Spanish Moorish kingdom – reigned over a lavish court before its demise in 1492. In addition to the ornately decorated palaces of the sultans, our guide will take us to the adjacent military fortress offering magnificent views of Granada and the surrounding mountains. We will take our time wandering the halls, and exploring the living quarters, harems and throne rooms of this extraordinary architectural masterpiece, then leisurely walk through the gardens to The Palacio de Generalife, the “twin” palace to the Alhambra. Another architectural masterpiece, it was the official summer retreat/country estate of the Nasrid Emirs of the Emirate of Granada, and famed for its beautiful Generalife Gardens, abundant with flora and fauna, stunning reflection pools and beautifully flowing fountains.
Return to hotel for evening at leisure. For dinner this evening, we recommend dining at one of the many restaurants offering fantastic views of the Alhambra at night.
Hotel: Hotel Palacio De Santa Paula
Wed, Nov 8 • Granada | Ronda
After checking out of your hotel, enjoy a relaxing drive across the Spanish Sierra to the small, ancient city of Ronda (first settled by the Celts in the 6th Century BC, then occupied by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and Christians). Famous for its very defensible location, Ronda is perched along a gaping gorge over the Guadalevin River – dividing the city into two defined areas: “La Ciudad” (the “Old Moorish Quarter”), and “Nuevo Ronda” with its “new” 16th Century architecture. Explore the “Old Quarter” – a favorite haunt of Hemingway, Orson Welles and the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke – a picturesque cluster of buildings seemingly clinging to the white limestone cliff-sides, offering fantastic views and photo-ops. The spectacular bridge, Puento Nuevo (taking from 1751-1793 to successfully complete), spans the gorge and the view looking into the valley below is heart-stopping! From here, visit other points of interest: the lively main square, Plaza de España; Casa del Rey Moro, leading into Mina, the 300-step Islamic staircase cut directly into the cliff-side and descending to the bottom of the El Tajo gorge (118m/390ft); and MuseoTaurino, displaying a collection of bull-fighting memorabilia and connected to the Plaza de Toros, Ronda’s premier professional bullring. Ronda is considered the birthplace of modern bullfighting, and this bullring is possibly the most beautiful in Spain – it was here, in the 16th Century, when Philip II of Spain established the Real Maestranza de Caballeria, a training facility for developing horsemanship and teaching bullfighting techniques. Lunch is included in the city.
After touring the city, transfer to the gorgeous 5-Star Hotel La Fuente de la Higuera, nestled in the rolling hills outside of Ronda. The hotel is a luxurious, rural property catering to relaxation – enjoy beautiful views of the Andalusian countryside in this renovated olive mill, where traditional Spanish architecture meets 21st century high-design at a “country” inn. In the evening, enjoy dinner on your own at the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, serving traditional Spanish cuisine featuring locally grown produce.
Hotel: Hotel La Fuente de la Higuera
Thu, Nov 9 • The White Villages & Local 'Foodie' Experiences
If you enjoy fresh country air, spectacular natural landscapes and enchanting rural villages serving Andulasian food and wine, then this is the perfect day for you!
This morning, after breakfast in the hotel, embark on a full “Foodie” day tour of Ronda and its surrounding countryside where the famous White Villages are located.
Zahara de la Sierra – Imagine a village of “white-washed” (i.e. “white villages”) houses sharing the land with acres and acres of olive groves…the town, the trees slowly wrapping upward and upward around a craggy, rocky mount… a fairy-tale castle commanding the very highest point … and from the castle’s tallest turret, an awesome, breathtaking view of the rippling blue-azure lake in the dark forest miles and miles below… – Zahara de la Sierra is, perhaps, the most beautiful of Spain’s “white-washed” villages. In addition to its beauty and un-deniable charm, the city is also known throughout the country for its delicious olive oil; today, visit an 18th century olive mill just outside the village and enjoy tasting home-made breads dipped into the richly flavored oils.
Grazalema is quite possibly the most archetypal of the “white villages” and is reached following a beautiful, meandering drive from Zahara. Tucked into the pocket of the park’s highest mountain, a white streak amongst dark green pines, the village is famous for its cheeses, cured meats and the impressive wildlife and bird-watching in its vicinity. This is an ideal place for tasting artisanal cheeses and local wines and/or stopping for lunch.
The area around Ronda is becoming well-known among enthusiasts as a producer of very good red wines and, to a smaller extent, whites which are being made in what are principally boutique wineries. We will visit a winery, handed down for generations, and share their incredible enthusiasm for, and pride in their craft. Our winery for lunch is the Descalzos Viejos. This is a family owned cellar, actually built into a church, in what once was a monastery for the Descalzos Viejos monks. With the Retamero and Salesi families as your hosts, you’ll find it difficult to decide just which is more spectacular: the hospitality, the views, or the wines you’ll be tasting, perhaps including a prize-winning, twice-gold, 2010 Pinot Noir.
Return to your hotel and enjoy the evening at leisure.
Hotel: Hotel La Fuente de la Higuera
Fri, Nov 10 • Ronda | Sevilla - Flamenco!
This morning, check-out of hotel and drive to Sevilla. En route enjoy a stop in the municipality of Utrera, set in a beautiful countryside of olive groves, ripening wheat and sunflowers.
Seville – Captivating and beautiful, the capital of Andalucía intoxicates and excites. It is the city of toros and matadors, the enticing Flamenco, Carmen and Don Juan; its history and culture give rise to pride, tradition, passion and joy. It’s arguably Spain’s most beautiful city and we urge you embrace all it offers: an incredible history, irresistible charm and its many idiosyncrasies. Sevillanos are fun-loving people who take great pride in their customs and traditions.
Check into Hotel Alma Palacio de Villapanes, located in a quiet area of Seville’s downtown historic center. Originally built in the early 18th Century, this gorgeous, Baroque-style palace was re-converted into a stylish 5-Star property in 2010. In the early evening, transfer to the centre of Sevilla for a local Flamenco Show.
With roots tracing from Andalusian, Islamic, Sephardic and Gypsy origins, Flamenco is a combination of intricate guitar playing, powerful singing – ranging from the exuberant to the sorrowful – and passionate, sultry, dancing. A visit to Sevilla without experiencing this true Spanish “medio de expresión artística” is not complete… Be mesmerized by the sizzling dancers, feel the pounding rhythms and thrill to the passion of authentic Flamenco! Return to the hotel for overnight in Sevilla.
Hotel: Hotel Alma Palacio Villapanes
Sat, Nov 11 • Sevilla: Private Walking Tour
After breakfast in the hotel, with our local guide, step out into, arguably, Spain’s most beautiful city for a Walking Tour of Seville.
Our tour includes the enormous cathedral, La Giralda – with the lower two-thirds of the tower originally built as a minaret in 1184 AD; the upper third in Spanish Renaissance style completed in 1198 AD; and adorned with a crowning bell tower, added in 1568 – is the largest Gothic building in the world. In close proximity lies the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede (Seville Cathedral), equally ancient and ornate, containing the tomb of Christopher Columbus; both were cited as World Heritage Sites in 1987 by UNESCO. Also, visit the ornately decorated Alcazar Palace and its Andalusian Gardens. Originally a Moorish palace, it was re-built and designed by Mudejar craftsmen for the Christian royalty after the expulsion of the Moors in the 17th century.
Once you have emerged from the Alcazar’s gardens, wander through the Barrio de Santa Cruz, originally the Jewish Quarter and now perhaps the prettiest quarter of Sevilla. See the equally lush Murillo Gardens, located next to the Paseo de Catalina de Ribera – a palm-lined walkway blending arbors, fountains and foliage. Afternoon and evening at leisure to continue your own exploration of this beautiful city.
This evening enjoy a Farewell Dinner to celebrate a successful tour.
Hotel: Hotel Alma Palacio Villapanes
Sun, Nov 12 • Departure to the USA
This morning, check out of your hotel and transfer to Seville Airport, where you will board your departing flight to the USA. …Adiós España!
A boutique hotel in the very heart of Madrid. The carefully designed interiors by Lázaro Rosa Violán complement the beauty of the building (a former Palace, dating from 19th century) and give the hotel an eccentric touch with colonial-style color.
The palace is an old manor notable for its grand limestone construction and its 4 one-of-a-kind courtyards filled with flowers, fruit trees and aromatic plants. The glass-floored central courtyard reveals an impressive Roman Villa from 1st Century BC.
This beautiful hotel, one of the best five-star hotels in Granada, is a 75-room restored masterpiece that was also declared an artistic and historic monument.
The luxury suites Hotel “La Fuente de la Higuera” is probably the most romantic accommodation in the countryside of Ronda and in the whole of Andalucía, Spain.
Built in the XVIII century for the first Torreblanca de Aljarafe Marquis, this excellently renovated, architecturally rich luxury hotel blends classical elegant style, modern design and Andalucian culture.
|Rates||Double Occupancy||Single Occupancy|
International airfare; Items of a personal nature; Sightseeing/admissions when not with our guide; Meals other than breakfast, unless specified in included list; Drinks with meal (except the Tapas tour); Gratuities.