Tour begins: 5:30 PM, Le Méridien Barcelona. A transfer is included from Barcelona Airport or the Barcelona Franca train station to Le Méridien Barcelona, ideally located on Las Ramblas. Join us for a private welcome reception and dinner tonight at the hotel as you get your first taste of life in Northern Spain.
Art and Architecture in Barcelona
Walk along the tree-lined pedestrian promenade of Las Ramblas this morning with a local guide who leads you through the cobblestone lanes of Barcelona's 14th-century Gothic quarter, Barri Gòtic, a medieval warren of Roman relics, hidden courtyards, shops and alfresco cafés, to the Plaça de la Catedral. Set apart from other churches, Barcelona’s Cathedral was built between 1298 and 1460 – although its richly decorated façade, guarded by gargoyles, was added in 1870. Go inside to see its medieval origins, from its exquisitely sculpted choir stalls and elegant pillars to the fine workmanship depicted on the pulpit and the alabaster sarcophagus of the crypt of Santa Eulàlia. Your city tour continues with a drive through hilltop Montjuic, rewarding with panoramic views, and a visit to Gaudí’s unfinished cathedral, la Sagrada Família, artistically and architecturally unique, and awe-inspiring in every detail. Spend the rest of the day exploring Barcelona as you wish.
Country Roads of Catalonia
Venture into the mountains today, stopping at the saw-toothed mountain of Montserrat, just northwest of Barcelona, to visit the Benedictine monastery and see the shrine of la Moreneta, the Black Madonna. According to the legend, the statue was discovered in the year 880 by shepherds who saw a strange light in the sky and heard music coming from a cave in the mountain. Since then, it has become one of the most famous pilgrimage sights in Spain. Continue on to Cardona for a visit to the Romanesque Church of Saint Vicenç, consecrated in 1047. Enjoy lunch in the medieval dining room at 9th-century Parador de Cardona, holding court over the countryside from its hilltop perch. Drive through the snow-capped Catalonian Pyrenees to your hotel in La Seu d’Urgell for a memorable two-night stay. Dinner tonight is at the hotel, with wine included.
Pyrenees Pleasures in La Seu d'Urgell
A morning walking tour on the cobblestone lanes of La Seu d’Urgell brings you to the 12th-century Romanesque Cathedral, renowned as the finest in the Pyrenees. Following an included lunch, you have a choice of activities this afternoon – a hike with a local guide; a Catalan cooking demonstration in the kitchen of your castle hotel; a round of golf on a nine-hole course, with all equipment provided; or a 30-minute massage in the hotel’s on-site spa. Feast on a seven-course wine-tasting dinner in a medieval 9th-century castle tonight.
On to Elciego in the Rioja Valley
Depart La Seu d'Urgell this morning and head to the town of Elciego in the province of Álava in the Basque Country of northern Spain, part of the renowned Rioja wine-producing region. After stopping en route for lunch at a parador in Zaragoza, you'll arrive late afternoon in Elciego (Eltziego in Basque), home to the Marqués de Riscal winery and the remarkable five-star hotel that will be your home for the next two nights – the visionary Hotel Marqués de Riscal, designed as a 21st-century chateau by world-famous Canadian-born American architect Frank Gehry, which opened in 2006. After settling in, enjoy dinner at the hotel this evening.
Wine Tasting & Haro in the Rioja Valley
Begin today's explorations in the Rioja Valley wine region (La Rioja) with a tour and tasting at the Marqués de Riscal winery, founded in 1858, whose "City of Wine" includes your ultra-modern hotel and the surrounding winery and vineyards. Next, head to Laguardia in Basque Country for a guided visit, where a walking tour reveals this old town's wealth of historic features, including its medieval ramparts, many Romanesque churches, and the Church of Santa Maria de los Reyes with its well-preserved Gothic tower. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
Laguardia, Pamplona & San Sebastián
Leave Elciego this morning and drive to famous Pamplona, immortalized in Hemingway’s famous book, The Sun Also Rises; where you'll have the opportunity to walk the route followed during the town's celebrated annual running of the bulls. Then it’s on to coastal San Sebastián in Basque Country, where your first view of this popular oceanfront town is from the top of Mt. Igueldo. Regarded by many as Spain’s culinary capital, this ancient town also boasts great surfing beaches, stunning architecture and myriad pintxos bars tucked into the maze of medieval lanes in its Old Town (Parte Vieja). Have dinner at your elegant Belle-Époque hotel tonight.
A day in seaside San Sebastián
Join a local guide for a walking tour along the cobblestone streets of the historic Old Town before spending the rest of the day and evening exploring more of seaside San Sebastián on your own as you please... perhaps sampling typical Basque food and enjoying the town's many waterfront activities, including world-class surfing.
Bilbao, The Guggenheim & Oviedo
Visit the iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao this morning, discovering its collection of modern art as you wish. Designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry (who also designed the Hotel Marqués de Riscal, where you stayed in Elciego), the museum is a showcase for large-scale, site-specific contemporary works of art by international and Basque artists, as well as exhibiting a selection of modern art from the Guggenheim Foundation’s collection. Continue on to the Cantabria region, stopping for lunch and time at leisure in the perfectly preserved medieval town of Santillana del Mar. Wind your way through hills and valleys to Oviedo this afternoon for an overnight stay at a restored 18th-century hospice that was featured in the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Enjoy dinner in a local restaurant this evening.
A Pilgrimage to Santiago
Explore Oviedo on a walking tour this morning, seeing a mix of historic and artistic monuments from various periods across the centuries. Stop for lunch along the coast en route to the world-famous pilgrimage town of Santiago de Compostela – where, upon arrival late this afternoon, you'll have an opportunity to join your Tauck Director to walk the final stretch of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) before checking in to your hotel, the historic Parador de Santiago de Compostela (also known as Parador de los Reyes Catolicos). Considered to be one of the oldest hotels in the world, it has welcomed travelers since the 15th century. Dine tonight at your choice of restaurants in the parador.
Sights of Santiago de Compostela
When what was believed to be the grave of St. James the Greater was discovered in this region of what is now northern Spain in the ninth century, hundreds of thousands began making the arduous pilgrimage along El Camino de Santiago – the Way of St. James – on foot to visit it. Legend has it that a bright star led a shepherd boy to the forgotten tomb of the apostle; today your local guide leads the way on a guided walking tour of the town's historic quarter and a visit to the world-famous 11th-century Romanesque Cathedral of St. James, home to the relics of the saint. Following lunch at your historic parador, the rest of the day is free to spend as you like, walking in the footsteps of pilgrims who have made their way here from around the world for centuries.
Fly to Madrid for a Two-Night Stay
Depart Santiago de Compostela this morning and fly to Madrid for a two-night stay in Spain's historic capital city. Upon arrival, follow an orientation tour of the city with a guided lunch tapas tour through the historic Barrio de las Letras, a neighborhood that was home to Cervantes and other great Spanish literary lights during the Golden Age. Later, check into your genteel hotel, set within a former 19th-century palace within walking distance of Madrid's Royal Palace and the Teatro Real Opera House. Spend the remainder of the day and evening exploring Madrid on your own and enjoying dinner as you please.
Exploring Madrid & The Thyssen
Join a local guide for a morning tour of Madrid's landmark sights that includes a walking tour of the vast Plaza Mayor and the Mercado San Miguel. Then enjoy a guided visit to the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, whose exhibits span the history of art from the 13th through 20th centuries. The remainder of the afternoon and evening are yours to spend as you wish in Spain's storied capital city. We invite you to join us this evening for a farewell reception and dinner at your stylish Madrid hotel, converted from a 19th-century palace and boasting spectacular, historic gardens in the very heart of the Spanish capital.
Tour ends: Madrid. Fly home anytime. A transfer from the Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques to Madrid–Barajas Airport or Madrid Atocha train station is included. You should allow a minimum of three hours for flight check-in at the airport.