13 days

Essence of Spain

Essence of Spain


La Boquería market

Cordoba's Mezquita

UNESCO World Heritage-listed 11th Century 'Red Castle' of Alhambra

Walled cities of Segovia & Ávila

Trip rating
  • Walk in the footsteps of Gaudi and Picasso, taste fine wines and tapas, and witness the white-washed villages that bring Spain to life. This is a comprehensive journey from Barcelona to Madrid including all the highlights down south.


    Day 1 - Barcelona

    Your trip starts today with your arrival in Barcelona. Please make your own way to the joining hotel that is centrally located (details are in your travel documents). Whilst at your discretion, we recommend arriving and departing by train where possible within Europe due to this method of transport's minimal carbon emissions. There really is much to see in Barcelona, so we recommend you arrive a few days before the tour starts in order to make a few discoveries of your own in your free time. A visit to the Picasso Museum is highly recommended, as is a trip up Montjuic Hill to see the 1992 Olympic Complex and an optional visit to Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village). In the evening we meet our tour leader and our fellow travelling companions at a Welcome Meeting (this is usually at 6 pm, but you will be advised as to the exact place and time in a notice placed near the reception at our hotel), where we are given a briefing of what lies ahead on our tour. This is followed by a Welcome Dinner in a local restaurant, where we can dine on local Catalan specialties and absorb the ambiance of this great city.

    Hotel Rialto or similar

    Day 2 - Barcelona

    This morning we explore the wonders of Barcelona - one of Europe’s most loved and dynamic cities. Our tour includes a visit to one of the architect Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces and a wonderful icon of the city – the Sagrada Familia church. Work on this church was already underway in 1882, but Gaudi took over the project in 1883 and transformed it into a structure incorporating his unique architectural style that includes a mix of Gothic and Modern-style forms with soaring and curvilinear columns and arches. Gaudi dedicated most of his life to the project until his death in 1926 and although still unfinished today this extraordinary site has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our tour also sees us venture into the narrow medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter, home to the city’s impressive cathedral and the La Boqueria - a colourful public market dating back to 1217. The remainder of the afternoon and the evening is at leisure for you to make your own discoveries.

    Hotel Rialto or similar

    Day 3 - Valencia

    We bid farewell to Barcelona today and travel by train to the city of Valencia (3 hours), our base for the next two nights. Spain’s third largest city, Valencia has a unique cultural identity with its own unique traditions and many festivals and cultural events held here throughout the year. The city is charming with a wonderful old town centre that dates back 2000 years and showcases a harmonious mix of Roman, Muslim and Christian influences in its buildings and monuments, magnificent gardens and important historical sites. After checking into our hotel we visit Valencia’s major landmark - the City of Arts and Science, a large and futuristic museum complex designed by Calatrava. A one-hour guided tour will familiarise us with the exterior of the site and enjoying free time to visit the interior. After our visit we take public transport back into the city centre.

    Hotel Itaca Consul Mar or similar

    Day 4 - Albufera Lake – Sagunta - Valencia

    This morning we take a short drive south of Valencia to discover the Albufera Lake, an important ecological site of the region. The lake is surrounded by beach, dunes, lagoons, wetlands and Mediterranean forest, and is home to six small islands. We visit the island of El Palmar and discover its typical ‘barraca’ houses. We travel by boat to the middle of the lake and learn about the important agricultural crop of the area, namely the local rice which we get to eat for lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch we transfer to Sagunta, located north of Valencia. A walk along a zig-zagging path via an old Roman theatre takes us to Sagunta’s impressive ruined castle. Sitting at the crossroads of two Roman trading routes, the castle was a former stronghold and important commercial centre that dates back to 500 BC. After visiting of Sagunta, we transfer back to Valencia.

    Hotel Itaca Consul Mar or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 5 - Granada

    We leave Valencia today and travel by bus to Granada. Along the way we travel through the distinctive countryside of the region and pass through the university town of Murcia (cathedral with Baroque façade). We stop for a visit to the charming village of Guadix, home to over 2000 cave dwellings called ‘Barrio Santiago’. Typically found through the province of Granada, no town has more of these in abundance than Guadix. The thick walls of the cave homes help to insulate against the extreme heat of summers and the cool winters and temperatures are maintained at around 19 degrees Celsius year-round. In Guadix we visit the town’s imposing cathedral, built over a Moorish mosque in Gothic-Renaissance style. We then make our way to the city of Granada - one of the jewels of Andalucia.

    Hotel Juan Miguel or similar

    Day 6 - Granada

    This morning we take a guided tour through the incredible Alhambra Palace, one of the world’s great architectural masterpieces. Dating back to the 11th century and taking its name from the Arabic for 'red castle', the Alhambra Palace represents Muslim art in its final European stages. The dominating red fortress towers, sumptuous palace decor, multitude of architectural styles and magnificent gardens of the 'Generalife' (literally meaning ‘architect's garden’), are all set against the brooding backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains and compete for your visual attention. From the soothing pathways, fountains, impeccably-maintained hedges and pools to the centuries old defensive walls, turrets and views overlooking Granada, a visit to the Alhambra Palace is certainly very memorable. The afternoon is free for you to discover the other highlights of Granada such as the cathedral and the Albaicin Quarter. 

    Hotel Juan Miguel or similar

    Day 7 - Cordoba

    We learn more about the importance of olive oil production in the Andalucia region with a visit to an oil mill, where there will also be the chance to taste the different olive oils produced here. We then continue our journey to the city of Cordoba, home to the Mezquita - a rare site which has served as both a mosque and a cathedral throughout the centuries. Today a cathedral stands within the centre of this amazing mosque - an interesting example of the inter-play of Christian and Muslim cultures in Spain. We discover this supreme example of Islamic architecture on a comprehensive guided tour which continues outside of the Mezquita and explores the charming quarters and hidden corners of Cordoba. 

    Hotel Itaca Colon or similar

    Day 8 - Seville

    This morning we leave Cordoba and head to Seville.

    On arrival in Seville we embark on a visit of the city with our local guide. Our tour includes the Giralda Tower and the famous Seville Cathedral, one of Europe’s largest cathedrals and home to Christopher Columbus’ elevated tomb. We also explore the quarters of Santa Cruz and Triana. The rest of the day is free, so you may wish to take an optional visit to the Alcazar.

    This evening we regroup for a dinner and flamenco show, featuring the famous dance of Andalucia.

    Hotel Alcazar Sevilla or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 9 - Jerez de la Frontera – Cadiz – Seville

    A full day excursion from Seville sees us travelling south to the city of Jerez de la Frontera. Jerez is synonymous with sherry within the region of Andalucia. We have the opportunity to sample the famous sherry at one of the city’s bodegas. We then visit the Atlantic coastal city of Cadiz where we discover its winding streets, white washed buildings and charming squares. 

    After lunch transfer back to Seville and free time for our last night in Andalucia.

    Hotel Alcazar Sevilla or similar

    Day 10 - Madrid

    Today we travel from Seville to Madrid on the AVE high speed train (2.5 hours). Upon arrival in Madrid we settle into our hotel before heading out on a walk through the Old Quarter of Spain’s capital. The rest of the day is at leisure. Madrid is our base for the next three nights.

    Hotel Regente Madrid

    Day 11 - Toledo – Madrid

    This morning we pay a visit to the city of Toledo. The unique old town of this city sits on high craggy rock and is encircled by the Tagus River. As a former capital of Spain, Toledo has immense historic significance and holds many architectural treasures. Examples of buildings from most architectural periods in Spain’s history can be seen here, ranging from Gothic to Baroque. We explore the city with a local guide and pay particular attention to the Alcazar, an impressive stone fortification located in the highest part of the old town. After our visit to Toledo, we drive back to Madrid for a free afternoon. A visit to the one of the city’s most important museums or art galleries, including the Prado, Thyssen or the Reina Sofia, is recommended.

    Hotel Regente Madrid

    Day 12 - Ávila – Segovia - Madrid

    On a full day trip we discover the UNESCO World Heritage listed art cities of Ávila and Segovia. The ancient city of Ávila on a hilltop is famous for is its well-preserved city walls and 90 towers that date back to the 11th century. As part of our guided tour we visit Ávila’s prominent cathedral which is said to be the first Gothic style church built in Spain. In Segovia, we discover some of the country’s best Roman monuments. The impressive aqueduct originally spanned for 16 kilometres and had 118 arches with remnants still visible today. Segovia’s ancient medieval fort is also striking and dates back to the 11th century, with the Alcazar serving as a royal palace for many years. After our full day of exploring some of Spain’s best historical sites, we make our way back to Madrid. Tonight we join together for a final farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

    Hotel Regente Madrid
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 13 - Madrid

    Our tour ends after breakfast in Madrid. With so much to see and do in this great city, you may wish to extend your stay with a few nights of post-tour accommodation in Madrid – please inquire at the time of booking.

  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • The services of Peregrine's expert English-speaking local tour leader
    • Explore the wonders of Barcelona including the Sagrada Familia church, medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter, home to the city’s impressive cathedral and the La Boqueria
    • Visit the island of El Palmar and discover its typical ‘barraca’ houses
    • Guided tour of the incredible Alhambra Palace
    • Sample the famous sherry at one of the city’s bodegas in Jerez de la Frontera
    • Visit the unique old town of Toledo, sitting high on the craggy rock
    • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed art cities of Ávila and Segovia
    • Gratuities for essential services in tour package

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Arrival and departure transfers
    • Departure taxes
    • Visas
    • Travel insurance (compulsory on all trips)
    • Meals (where not listed as included in the itinerary)
    • Optional additional tours or activities during free time
    • Gratuities for tour leader
  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PEES
Group size 1 - 16
Start City: Barcelona, Spain
End City: Madrid
Style: Small Group

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