Day 1: Madrid
Arrive at Madrid-Barajas Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the hotel.
Join a guided “Madrid at Your Doorstep” vicinity walk to begin getting acquainted with the city.
Day 2: Madrid
Madrid may very well be Europe’s liveliest capital city, a place where people eat late and stay up even later. Get your bearings with a panoramic overview or a more intimate walking tour, both of which include a visit to the extraordinary Prado Museum. Tonight, enjoy dinner and a colorful, passionate, foot-stomping show at the city’s finest flamenco venue. The capital of Spain, Madrid boasts incomparable artwork, an amazing range of architectural styles— from Moorish to postmodern—and exceptional food. Your Iberian adventure begins here as you sample some of its highlights.Featured Excursions:
Madrid panoramic city tour with Prado VisitGet a sense of Madrid’s layout and architectural highlights today with a panoramic tour that ends at one of the most famous museums in the world, the Prado. Roll along Paseo de la Castellana, the broad thoroughfare that cuts a swath through the city, past 19th-century family palaces, modern high-rises and the soccer stadium, and then take a look at the affluent Salamanca district, home to exclusive boutiques and elegant residences. Stretch your legs and pose for the camera in front of the 1929 bullring before heading through the streets of Madrid. You’ll pass a surprising range of monuments, which include tributes to Christopher Columbus and Miguel Cervantes, as well as a gift from Egypt to Spain—the ancient temple of Debod. Your next stop is the royal palace, where you’ll stroll through the grounds, and the neighboring cathedral, which was begun in 1883 and finally finished in 1993. Board the motorcoach again and wend your way through the streets of medieval Madrid—make a note of the location of Mercado de San Miguel, which you may want to explore on your own later—and glimpse the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s “living room” for four centuries.
You'll also visit the world-renowned Prado Museum. A local expert will guide you through this vast and dazzling collection of artistic treasures. Of course there are rooms devoted to Spanish masters— including Velázquez (whose Las Meninas is certainly not to be missed), Goya and El Greco, the Greek-born artist who is inextricably associated with Spain—but, given Spain’s long rule over the Low Countries, Flemish painters are also well represented. Gems by Brueghel, Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck hang here. At the end of the tour, you may remain to explore these extraordinary galleries further on your own or return to the hotel to rest up for your evening at Corral de la Morería, the legendary flamenco venue.
Madrid panoramic and active walking tour: historic center and Prado visitPut on your walking shoes, catch a ride to the Royal Palace (the motorcoach will pick you up at the hotel), and set out on an up-close exploration of old Madrid. The palace—all 2,800 rooms of it—stands amid beautiful grounds that are the perfect start for a walking tour. The palace itself is vast, housing a range of museums and national treasures, and is not far from the cathedral, so you can easily take photos of both. Head down Calle de Santiago toward Plaza Mayor; you’ll pass Mercado de San Miguel, an attractive early-20th-century marketplace whose glass walls tempt you inside, and stroll through Plaza de Ramales and Plaza de la Villa. Many of the spacious squares and broad avenues in this neighborhood date to the Napoleonic era, when Joseph Bonaparte had Renaissance and medieval churches and monasteries—as well as houses—demolished. You can still see the outline of the church of San Juan Bautista’s apse in the granite stones of Plaza de Ramales. Plaza Mayor, however, has held a significant place in Madrid’s history for many centuries; it was the site of public penance during the Spanish Inquisition, bullfights until the 19th century and innumerable royal celebrations. Board a motorcoach again for a ride that introduces you to Madrid’s Salamanca district, the gold standard for elegant shopping in the city, and the Plaza de Cibeles, with its beautiful central fountain, which is near your next destination—the Prado.
A local expert will guide you through this vast and dazzling collection of artistic treasures. Of course there are rooms devoted to Spanish masters— including Velázquez (whose Las Meninas is certainly not to be missed), Goya and El Greco, the Greek-born artist who is inextricably associated with Spain—but, given Spain’s long rule over the Low Countries, Flemish painters are also well represented. Gems by Brueghel, Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck hang here. At the end of the tour, you may remain to explore these extraordinary galleries further on your own or return to the hotel to rest up for your evening at Corral de la Morería, the legendary flamenco venue.
Corral de la Moreria - award winning Flamenco performance and dinnerPassionate, intimate and highly stylized, flamenco is Spain’s archetypal performance art, melding guitar, song, dance and a unique heritage. Born in the melting pot of Andalucia, where gypsies, Moors and Jews once mingled their cultural and musical traditions, flamenco has come to represent the nation. Experience the best flamenco show in Madrid at the world-famous Corral de la Morería, a tablao (literally, a floorboard, highlighting the importance of the floor as the dancers stamp out the rhythm of the dance) in the heart of the historic district. The featured dancers and musicians—considered some of the finest in the world—are sometimes joined by visiting stars in the art form, especially when the national competitions are held in Madrid. You’ll dine on Spanish specialties as you absorb the thrilling ritual that is flamenco. Will you experience duende, the mysterious, indefinable soul of flamenco, which Federico García Lorca claimed “could only be present when one sensed that death is possible”? Only you will know—but by the end of the evening you will certainly know why this tablao is listed in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.
Day 3: Madrid (Toledo)
A one-time ancient Roman colony, medieval Moorish capital and center for religious tolerance, Toledo is said to be Spain’s spiritual heart: a timeless, UNESCO-listed city where Muslims, Jews and Christians have peacefully co-existed for three centuries. After your city tour you’ll have time to explore—and eat—on your own; the food here is so exceptional that Toledo was named Spain’s gastronomic capital in 2016.Featured Excursions:
Toledo walking exploration: city of walls, silk and swordsIt’s not far from Madrid to Toledo, but it is definitely a journey into the past. Layer upon layer of history climbs the hill above the Tagus River, crowned by the Alcázar, the fortress first built by the Romans that has been destroyed and rebuilt over and over again. Enjoy refreshments while taking in the the beautiful colonial gardens of “Hacienda el Carral” before beginning your walking tour. The moment you step through the medieval city gate into the holy city, you step into the three cultures and religions that shaped early Spain. Muslims, Jews and Christians lived peacefully together here for three centuries following the Moorish conquest in 712. The gate itself was built by the Moors—the lower part dates to the 10th century—and leads to the narrow lanes and stone houses of the Jewish Quarter. Synagogue Santa Maria la Blanca encapsulates the whole story: Built in typical Mudéjar style by Moors for the Jewish community, the synagogue was turned into a church in the 15th century, after Jews and Muslims were driven from the country, but the serene white horseshoe arches and Hebrew inscriptions remain as reminders of its origins.
Take some time to explore the area on your own after your tour: Santo Tomé is famous for housing El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (El Greco was just one of Spain’s cultural icons to reside in Toledo; Cervantes also made his home here, as did Lope de Vega), and the cathedral at the top of the hill is graced with a spectacular 16th-century silver-and-gold monstrance. Enjoy a glass of wine from La Mancha and a bite to eat at one of the nearby cafés; Toledo was declared Spain’s 2016 gastronomic capital, which gives you an idea of just how good the food is here. Locally grown saffron adds its distinctive flavor and color to many dishes, and marzipan (made with Spanish almonds) is a beloved sweet in Toledo.
Day 4: Madrid, Salamanca, Transfer to Vega de Terrón (Embark)
You’ll check out of your hotel this morning, heading from Madrid toward Portugal and your ship, which is waiting in Vega de Terrón, near the Portuguese border. Along the way you’ll visit the beautiful and historic university town of Salamanca—the “Golden City”—famous for its sand-colored buildings and abundance of churches. This is the university town where Columbus sought advice before sailing west in search of the new route to the Indies. Walk with a local expert through the Plaza Mayor, considered one of the most beautiful squares in Spain, and visit the university and the city’s astounding Food Hall.Featured Excursions:
Salamanca walking tourCalled the “Golden City” for its tawny sandstone buildings, Salamanca boasts a dozen beautiful and historic churches, including two cathedrals: the new one, built in the early 16th century, and the Old Cathedral, which dates to the 12th century and can only be entered from the New Cathedral. Walk with your guide through Plaza Mayor, lined with wonderful baroque buildings, to the university, which was founded by Alfonso IX in 1218. The ornate plateresque façade is stunning, and the interior rooms you see are equally beautiful. Salamanca’s food hall is one of Spain’s best, as you will discover when you sample chorizos, cheese, olive oil and ham with your guide’s assistance. You have time to browse through the shops on Rua Mayor and enjoy a tapas lunch on your own (your guide can recommend some great places to dine).
After your tour of the UNESCO-designated Old Town, you will continue to Vega de Terrón, the river port where you will board your ship and begin your exploration of Portugal and the upper Douro region.
Day 5: Barca d’Alva (Castelo Rodrigo), Pinhão
A tiny village surrounded by mountains, Barca d’Alva is your base for today's adventures. Go medieval today at Castelo Rodrigo, both the name of a hilltop castle as well as the village that surrounds it. It has been singled out as one of Portugal’s 12 historic villages for its medieval beauty. The view from the top is incredible and the village is a charming place to ramble, relax and replenish.Featured Excursions:
Castelo RodrigoRide through wonderfully scenic countryside—the region is noted for its honey, which derives its flavor from the fields of wild lavender and the almond groves you’ll pass—to Castelo Rodrigo, the name of both a castle and the village it shelters. The castle ruins stand high atop Marofa Mountain, telling the tale of border strife and Portugal’s struggle for independence in a single structure. Construction on the citadel began in 1209 under the auspices of the king of Leon, but it became part of Portugal within a century—though its local lords sided with Spanish rulers from time to time over the next four centuries. That’s why the palace adjoining the castle lies in ruins: Outraged citizens destroyed it after its lord sided with Castile. Take in the amazing view from the ancient stone walls, then step down through the tiny cobbled lanes of the village, passing the old pillory, the Manueline church, and the town’s market square. It’s not all history, of course. You’ll also get to sample delicious local treats, such as honey, almonds, olive oil and cheeses, and a newly restored tea-house invites you to relax over a cup of tea or a cool drink.
Day 6: Pinhão, Régua
Today is all about wine, which has been cultivated in the Douro River Valley since ancient Roman times. You’ll get a crash course in the history of making Port during your visit to the Douro Museum, then head to the hills to a prestigious wine estate, where you can sip Port while savoring marvelous views. Or, take a scenic drive to a family-owned quinta, where you’ll have a firsthand look at grape harvesting.Featured Excursions:
Douro Museum and Port wine historyThe Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine-growing district in Europe. Why? What makes Port the wine it is? Learn about the region’s unique geology and winemaking history—Romans planted vines in this region 2,000 years ago—during a special lecture at the Douro Museum. Exhibits laid out in buildings that were once home to Port winemaker Real Companhia Velha let you see how the process of making Port evolved over the centuries: You’ll find the tools of the trade and even a rabelo (a boat that carried wine from the vineyards to Porto) on display. An interactive map shows where the quintas are and how the region developed; and by sniffing vials of concentrated fragrance, you can learn to identify the many aromas that a good Port exhibits. It’s fun and informative—plus you can sample some regional Douro wine.
Quinta do Seixo guided tour with tastingAs you journey through the hills to Quinta do Seixo, a prestigious Port wine estate, you will see a unique landscape that has been shaped by wine growers for two millennia. The stone terraces curving around the steep slopes hold soil that is largely the creation of human intervention: People have laboriously broken up the native silver schist stone over the centuries and turned it into usable sandy earth; it’s called “anthroposoil.” The process of producing Port wine is a fascinating blend of tradition and modernity; the steepness of the slopes requires that grape vines be tended almost entirely by hand, but the wine itself is made using the most modern techniques. You’ll tour the state-of-the-art facility and sample some exceptional Ports in a tasting room whose wall of windows looks out over spectacular views of the Douro Valley.
Vineyard hike and wine tasting at a local quintaAlthough many Port wine estates are owned by international corporations nowadays, the tradition of the family-owned estate remains strong. Start this expedition in pretty Pinhão, heading up into the hills to a family-owned quinta, where you can get a firsthand look at how the vineyards are tended and grapes harvested. Although some 80 varieties of grapes are approved for the creation of Port, six grape varieties dominate. Discover which ones are grown here and learn why.
Day 7: Régua (Lamego), Caldas de Aregos
One of Portugal’s top pilgrimage sites is our destination today, Our Lady of Remedies in Lamego. The church sits high above the town, accessible via hundreds of zigzagging steps adorned with beautiful blue and white tiles. After seeing the sights with a local expert, enjoy a tasting of locally made wines at a picturesque quinta.Featured Excursions:
Lamego city tour with a sparkling wine tasting at the Quinta da PachecaIn tranquil and charming Lamego, two ornate towers at the top of a hill beckon you to climb more than 600 steps—each landing of this amazing stone stairway is adorned with mosaics made of Portugal’s famous blue and white tiles—to reach the spectacular church, Our Lady of the Remedies. Fortunately, you’ll get the view without the climb, as a motorcoach will carry you to the top. You may walk down these steps, admiring both the beautiful tile work and the stunning scenery, if you wish. Later, you can enjoy a glass of local wines at the Quinta da Pacheca.
After visiting, you can relax onboard as your ship cruises the serene Douro, the third-longest river on the Iberian Peninsula, enjoying the scenery and perhaps sipping a glass of a wine. A scattering of farmhouses and olive and almond groves share the shores with vineyard terraces, along with the occasional chapel that marks places where the river used to be particularly treacherous. The Douro may be tranquil now that dams have tamed it, but many lost their lives transporting wine barrels from the vineyards to Porto, and these riverbank chapels commemorate the dead. Do you notice that some terraces seem to have been abandoned? Those are old terraces whose vines were destroyed by phylloxera; olive trees, oleanders and other greenery are taking over those areas.
Day 8: Entre-os-Rios (Amarante)
The family-owned Quinta da Aveleda looks like something out of a fairytale, with its lush flower gardens, peacocks and swans, shady terraces and whimsical follies—the perfect place to relax over a glass of vinho verde, the preferred drink of the region.Featured Excursions:
Quinta da Aveleda visit with gardensOne family has owned Aveleda, a quinta in the heart of the vinho verde region, for 15 generations. The Guedes family has cherished their estate with a care that is evident in both the wines they produce and in the grounds, where you’ll find charming follies—a thatched house for geese, quaint moss-covered stone structures, a miniature “Swiss chalet”—manicured lawns and flower gardens, peacocks flaunting their colors, and graceful swans swimming in meandering streams. Ramble through the cool green gardens, then relax on the terrace, with its marvelous view of the vineyards, and sample some vinho verde, or green wine. “Green” in this case does not refer to the color but rather to the youth of the wine, which is fresh, slightly effervescent and low in alcohol—after just one sip you’ll understand why vinho verde is so popular among the Portuguese that very little of it is exported.
Day 9: Porto (Guimarães)
Guimarães or Porto? That’s the question of the day today (you really can’t go wrong either way). Guimarães is the town where Portugal was born and its well-preserved architecture and stylish young residents make it a pleasure to visit. Or opt to explore one of Porto’s oldest neighborhoods, picturesque Ribeira, considered the soul of the city.Featured Excursions:
Guimarães: the cradle of Portugal“Portugal was born here.” So the sign on the city wall proclaims. Guimarães was home to the first king of Portugal, Afonso I, who managed to win his kingdom’s independence in the 12th century from neighboring suzerains. The wonderfully well-preserved Old Town, with its unique architecture (houses here combine granite with half-timbering) and charming little plazas, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; overlooking it is the grand castle that appears on Portugal’s coat of arms. Rove with your guide from the castle toward the beautiful main square, the Largo da Oliveira, and to the splendid Monastery and Church of Our Lady of Oliveira and the 14th-century Gothic Padrão do Salado. But remember that despite these historic beauties, Guimarães has the youngest population of any city in Europe, so the pedestrian area is full of lively cafés and fun shops. Guimarães happens to be in the midst of the Minho wine-growing district, home to Portugal’s beloved vinho verde.
Porto shopping experienceIn the evening, a special Gala Dinner will be prepared for you.
Day 10: Porto
There’s much more to Portugal’s second city than its eponymous fortified wine—historic architecture, cutting-edge design, fabulous food and wine, and a hip, laid-back vibe. Discover its many charms with your choice of distinctively different tours today. Today you cruise to the mouth of the Douro and Portugal’s second city (after Lisbon), Porto, which gave its name to the nation’s most famous export, Port wine, and to the nation itself. The city is a fascinating combination of historic buildings and cutting-edge architecture, tradition and vivacious modernity.Featured Excursions:
Porto city tourOf course it is the longtime hub of the Port wine trade, but Porto is also much more. Colorful multistory townhouses sheathe the hills that climb precipitously from the Douro estuary, medieval alleys snake through UNESCO-designated neighborhoods enclosed by 14th-century walls—which were erected on Roman foundations—and baroque church towers crown the hilltops. The Clérigos Tower is an unmistakable landmark, visible from almost anywhere in the Old Town—in fact, at one time sailors used it as a guide to navigate their way through the estuary. Get a feel for this vibrant town, which is simultaneously profoundly urban and moodily romantic, with a panoramic tour. Take in the UNESCO-designated, 19th-century Stock Exchange Palace, seeing its famous Moorish Revival–style Arab Room, before visiting Porto’s austere hilltop cathedral and the bustling pedestrian shopping street, Santa Catarina.
Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Porto walking tour with local tastings and vintage tram ride
Day 11: Porto (Disembark), Óbidos, Transfer to Lisbon
You’ll disembark this morning and board a motorcoach, heading south through Portugal’s picturesque countryside toward Lisbon—but you’ll stop in fascinating Óbidos before you reach the colorful capital city. The tiny whitewashed village of Óbidos is so charming that Portuguese kings traditionally gave it to their brides as a wedding gift. Need we say more? Climb up to the imposing hilltop castle for spectacular, Instagram-worthy photos of the countryside and the sea beyond.Featured Excursions:
Guided stroll through ÓbidosÓbidos, a hill town that has entranced visitors since the 13th century, is so charming that the kings of Portugal traditionally gave it to their queens as a wedding present. In fact, as you stroll along the cobbled streets past whitewashed baroque churches and dazzlingly tiled houses, you’ll spot a couple of gifts the queens of Portugal gave their little town over the centuries: The pillory standing in front of the church of Santa Maria was presented by Queen Lenore in 1492, and the aqueduct— still intact—was funded by Queen Catherine in the 16th century. A great castle stands guard atop the hill and crenellated medieval walls still enclose the town; if you climb to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the countryside and the sea beyond.
Day 12: Lisbon
Everything old is new again in the Portuguese capital, which is undergoing a remarkable rebirth of late. Get to know this hilly metropolis with a city tour that shows you all the top sights and treats you to a unique pastry with an intriguing (and delicious) history. Dynamic, colorful and picturesque, Lisbon will continually surprise you. Glorious historic architecture reflects the wealth brought in during the “Age of Discovery,” when the Portuguese owned the seas, but it is also a modern center of finance and international trade.Featured Excursions:
Lisbon city tour with visit to the Church of the Jerónimos MonasteryWhen you gaze out at the Tagus River, tile-roofed houses climbing the hills behind you, you are looking at the port where Portugal’s empire began. Here the kings of the newly independent nation launched an age of exploration—and then poured the profits of their new trade routes and colonies into their capital. Do you see the square tower rising from the water? Belém (the name comes from Bethlehem) Tower, built in the 16th century to guard the port, has housed cannons, prisoners and royalty over the centuries; its ornamented façade might strike you as unusual for a fortress, but that is typical of Lisbon—even fortresses have beautiful ornamentation. Another landmark nearby, the 20th-century Monument to the Discoveries, commemorates these voyagers and their founding patron, Prince Henry the Navigator. Leave the riverfront to embark on your own voyage of discovery: Head inland a short distance to the Jerónimos Monastery, which will have you reaching for your camera. A masterpiece of Manueline architecture—the Portuguese late-Gothic style is named for King Manuel I—erected during the 16th century and decorated with sculptures and elaborate scrollwork, Jerónimos Monastery is another shining example of Portugal’s golden era.
Note: Please note that we do not visit the cloisters at Jerónimos Monastery.
Not all landmarks are architectural, however. Take a break and enjoy one of the city’s iconic pastries, the cream custard tart known as pasteis de nata, at Pasteis de Belém, which has been baking these yummy treats since 1837, before experiencing the rest of your panoramic motorcoach tour through the Rossio—the busiest square in Lisbon.
Your local guide will make suggestions for lunch. You can choose to remain downtown and explore on your own or return to the hotel. Shuttles are available to take you to and from the hotel this afternoon, which is yours to spend as you please.
Day 13: Depart Lisbon
You’ve experienced the best of Spain, Portugal and the pristine Douro River, but now the journey comes to a close. If your cruise/tour package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Lisbon Portela Airport for your flight home. Your Uniworld adventure may be over, but we know you’ll enjoy the memories you’ve made for years to come.